By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
In Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Citizen’s Bank Park, Roy Halladay had another outstanding performance. He struck out 10 and allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings of work. He pitched well, but for the fifth time, Halladay walked away without the win.
That’s because the Phillies offense once again failed to live up to its end of the bargain and produce runs. Playing against a San Diego squad that is quite frankly not a good team at all, the Phillies certainly stunk up the joint in the worst way and had plenty of chances to put one in the win column.
The Phillies only run came in the second inning on an RBI double from second baseman Freddy Galvis that scored John Mayberry Jr., who also reached on a double.
The Phillies were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left 12 men on base. On a night that it looked like the Padres were looking to give the game to them, the Phillies found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at just about every important juncture of the game.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and Padres starting pitcher Edinson Volquez struggling with his command, Phillies first baseman Ty Wigginton inexplicably swung at the first pitch and hit a harmless flyball to right field to end the inning. The approach to that at-bat did not sit well with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
“But you gotta remember one thing the pitcher’s in trouble,” Manuel said. “That’s what we talk about strike zones and when the pitcher is in trouble and you’re hitting with the bases loaded with say nobody out or one out and things like that, you can definitely get a good ball to hit.
“That’s when the zone becomes smaller. He has to bring the ball over the plate. It takes a lot of patience. It’s easier for me to talk about, it’s hard to do. He’s got to throw the ball over the plate. I’m going to get something to hit and it’s going to be what I want to hit. When you don’t do that, you stand a good chance of making an out, striking out and not hitting the ball good.”
One of the players who didn’t deliver when there were runners in scoring position was Hunter Pence, who had two chances to come through for the Phillies when the game was on the line. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Pence hit a harmless fly ball to second baseman Orlando Hudson and Wigginton grounded out on force play at second to end the inning.
With Jimmy Rollins on third with the tying-run in the bottom of ninth, Pence struck out to end the game. After the game, a visibly frustrated Pence said he had no answers for his own or the team’s struggles in those potentially game-changing situations.
“Getting runners in with one out and runners on third,” Pence said. “That’s the thing, especially me that I’m generally pretty confident in. Today I got my pitch and it’s just not happening right now. I don’t know what it is. … I feel like I’m a better hitter than I’m hitting. I gotta keep pushing and we have to come back tomorrow and win.”
For all the talk of blaming the Phillies hitting woes on the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, this was the same team that prided themselves on getting the job, whether it was hitting or clutch pitching, no matter who was out with injuries.
But throughout this season guys like Pence, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino have gone through their times when they weren’t hitting as well as they should. At some point of this season, those guys need to be on the same page when it comes to their approach to hitting and coming up big when they have runners in scoring position.
The stark reality for the Phillies is that Howard and Utley aren’t coming through that door to rescue the Phillies struggling offense anytime soon. Even when those two big guns come back, it will not be in a blaze of glory because it make take a while for both players to be a 100 percent. When Howard and Utley finish doing their tour of rehab assignments, the rest of lineup has to hit well enough so that teams won’t be so quick to pitcher around their big hitters.
Of course, the person that fans will feel bad for is Halladay (3-3), who consistently does his best to keep the Phillies in the game. What beat Halladay was a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning by pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman that was caught by Pence in foul territory. When Pence’s throw arrived at the plate, it look Cameron Maybin was going to be tagged out by Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz, but he managed to slide under the tag.
It was that kind of a night for Halladay, who saw his team blow several scoring chances in the late innings.