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Phillies must find bats, or go the way of the Yankees

Oct 20, 2010, 3:04 AM EDT

ibanez-101019

They say that pitching wins championships, and while the adage is up for debate, one thing seems clear: no matter how good your pitching is, you have to figure out how to scratch out a few runs at some point.

The vaunted New York Yankees offense hasn’t been able to do it against the Texas Rangers, scoring only 11 runs in four games, with five of those coming in the eighth inning of Game 1. The Philadelphia Phillies have experienced similar problems, scoring six runs in a Game 2 victory over the San Francisco Giants, but only three runs total in Games 1 and 3, both defeats.

The Yankees and Phillies are both big-budget powers who met in the 2009 World Series. They both sport lineups dotted with All-Stars and MVPs, and yet both are failing to put together consistent production at the plate.

The Yankees squared up Texas Rangers starter Tommy Hunter often on Tuesday night, but were unable to come up with the big blow when they needed it, stranding 21 runners. They then watched A.J. Burnett and a beleaguered bullpen fall apart late. Now staring at three win-or-else games, including a potential matchup against the untouchable Cliff Lee in Game 7, the Yankees appear to be, in all likelihood, finished.

The Phillies are an even more puzzling case than the Yankees, as their powerful lineup goes hand-in-hand with what many think is the best starting rotation in baseball. Yet after one start for each of the “Big Three” of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, they are staring at a 2-1 deficit against the San Francisco Giants.

After hitting just .212 as a team in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, the Philly offense was a concern heading into the NLCS against the Giants’ vaunted pitching staff. But even so, this level of ineptitude is a surprise. Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino are both hitting .182. Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz are at .222. Chase Utley is at .100, albeit with a .308 on-base percentage. And Raul Ibanez is a big, fat 0-for-11. Only Ryan Howard (.364) has been consistently dependable.

Charlie Manuel was his usual unflappable self after Tuesday’s defeat, putting it in simple terms (from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer):

“Look, when you don’t score no runs, you don’t get no hits, it’s hard to win the game,” Phillies manager-poet Charlie Manuel said. “But I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. I can sit here and talk about it. I can go in and talk to them about it, but when the game starts tomorrow is when we can do something about it.”

And Shane Victorino sounded like Charlie Jr. with this Yogi-esque gem: “I don’t know why we’re not hitting. We’re not going to sit here and worry about why we’re not hitting. We’re going to think about when we’re going to hit.”

Will the Phillies find their bats in time? We’ll find out on Wednesday when they face Madison Bumgarner, a Giants rookie who has a 3.00 ERA over 111 innings this season, and who held the Braves to two runs over six innings in his only NLDS start.

The Phillies counter with Joe Blanton, the much-maligned portly right-hander who will be making his first start since Sept. 29 and should be very well rested. Perhaps too rested.

Philly is still in decent shape. They still have the “Big Three” lined up for the final three games of the series, and while Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain are formidable, there is no Cliff Lee waiting in Game 7. They also get to finish the NLCS in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park.

Perhaps the Phillies should juggle their lineup, shifting Rollins to the top of the order and pushing Ibanez down — way down. But in reality Manuel is right, he has a ready-made lineup of stars, and there isn’t much he can do other then make a couple tweaks and wait for them to hit.

Game 4 would be a good time for them to start.

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  1. dmccarrie - Oct 20, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    Take Ibanez out of the line-up and replace him him Ben Fransisco. Especially against a lefty today. That’ll load the Phils up with righties against this rookie and give them a better chance to score.

    Thing is that when these guy break out they’ll break out big time and for a stretch. Hopefully that breakout will start tonight.

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 20, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    GO GIANTS WOOOOOO!

  3. Jonny 5 - Oct 20, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Ibanez for Fransisco? not a bad idea. Ben kinda sucks in the OF. But Raul has been terrible batting. I say it might be an even swap, but the Phills need to score runs. And Raul ain’t gettin’ it done.

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 20, 2010 at 12:22 PM

      JRoll for Exxon?

  4. 5daughters - Oct 20, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    While I appreciate the contents of this well written article I have to say how really frustrated I am w/ the overt slant of announcers and sports journalists toward the east coast teams. Ok, I’m a Giants fan – but gimme a break – how about saying a bit about how well they’re doing rather than focusing on what the Phils need to do to win… The Giants haven’t won the WS since 1954 and never as the SF Giants. The Rangers are only one of three franchises who’ve never been to the ‘big stage’. Surely there’s a story here – if the east coast bias announcers/writers would bother to mention it. It can’t always be about adulation of the Yanks, Phillies, Bosox, Braves… and oh, representing the West Coast: the Dodgers. It’s time that the announcers (what is w/ those Fox and and TBS announcers – dreadful!!) give it up a bit more for the Giants and Rangers – this, even though they’re hoping for a Phll/Yanks WS. Go Giants!!!

  5. wfturner - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    “They also get to finish the NLCS in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park.”

    Well let’s see, if the Giants win today and tomorrow they won’t get to. But that possibility is lost on our friends the East Coast journalists.

  6. jasonburg - Oct 20, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Hilarious. The East Coast media still doesn’t get it. It’s not that the Phillies “aren’t hitting”… it’s that the Giants have the best starting rotation in baseball. I laugh every time I hear the Phils’ admittedly very good first three pitchers described as the “Big Three”… did you clowns pay any attention whatsoever to what the Giants’ rotation did in September? Of course you didn’t, because the baseball universe apparently ends at the Mississippi River. This is why I refuse to watch ESPN.

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