Instead, they had a centerfielder whose batting average has hovered around .250 most of the season.
"Very, very, very frustrating. But I don't look at it that way. I just kind of look past what's happened up to this point. There's nothing I can do about it," a suddenly hot Victorino said reflectively after knocking out a pair of doubles and a single in last night's 10-6 win over the Marlins at the Bank.
"Obviously, everybody around me is probably wondering what's the reason. But I can only look from right now forward. I can't change what I've done. Obviously I'd like to be hitting .290, .300. But I'm not. So I have to make the best of what I am and what I'm doing now."
What he's doing now is pretty good. In his last three games, all Phillies wins, he's 8-for-16 with four stolen bases and six runs scored.
While Placido Polanco drove in the game-winning run against Florida on Tuesday night, it was Victorino who made it all possible by singling and stealing second in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and nobody on.
And all of this became just a little more vital after the bottom of the third inning, when Rollins limped off the field with what was diagnosed as tightness in his right hamstring.
Manager Charlie Manuel said after the game that Rollins was also dehydrated, that the preliminary report he got from the medical staff was good and that his impression was that the injury might not be serious.
On the other hand, Rollins has been on the disabled list twice already this year with right calf strains. And hamstrings can linger. Until further notice, then, it will most likely be up to Victorino to get on base, set the table, rattle the opposing team with the threat to run, ignite the offense.
Which, remember, wasn't the role the Phillies had envisioned for him this year. When Manuel drew up his ideal lineup this spring, he had Victorino batting sixth or seventh. The move down in the order was dictated by the acquisition of Polanco and the feeling that, freed from the strictures of situational hitting that come with batting second, he could blossom into a more productive hitter.
It didn't exactly work out that way. Yes, he already has a career-high 17 homers. But batting sixth or seventh, he's a combined 26-for-177 (.222).
He also spent a couple weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal strain but insisted neither that or being moved in the batting order accounts for the fact that he had hit a combined .292 in 2008-2009 but just .257 at the start of play last night.
"No, no, no. Some people are going to say that. They're going to try to find an answer," he said. "But, personally, I think that has nothing to do with anything. I knew what was going to happen going into the season. Maybe it was an adjustment I had to go through. But I'm not going to sit here and make excuses and say that's why I had a bad year. I just don't think I've done the things I needed to do. I just wasn't getting hits.
"Honestly, right now, I'm not doing one thing different."
In a season in which injuries and unexplained slumps have meant the reputation of the vaunted Phillies' offense has far outstripped its actual output, there has been no shortage of analysis of the individual hitters.
Chase Utley's swing has been endlessly dissected. Ryan Howard's batting average, homers and strikeouts are charted like stock-market trends. Raul Ibanez has been written off (and then written back in again). Jayson Werth's extended midseason slump caused civic angst. Rollins' offensive struggles have been a stark counterpoint to his continued defensive brilliance.
Somehow, Victorino has managed to dodge most of the scrutiny. On a team full of stars, he remains a fan favorite. And he's acutely aware of a couple things: 1. That he can't change what's happened up to this point.
2. That he can make it all a moot point if he plays well enough in the last month and on in the postseason.
"You're as good as your last game. You're as good as what you're doing now," he pointed out. "I'm just looking to finish this season strong and help this team win. That's what it's about. People forget about what happened in the first 5 months if you have a great September and a great playoffs."
Victorino's contributions on the field are starting to catch up to his giving off it. And at just the right time.
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