Sam Donnellon: Which Phillies offense will show up for postseason?

"At any point we can go off and score a bunch of runs," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I know we can." (Evan Vucci/AP)
"At any point we can go off and score a bunch of runs," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I know we can." (Evan Vucci/AP) (Jonathan Tannenwald)
Posted: September 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - There are two ways to look at this:

The Phillies' red-hot September has masked a seasonlong flaw in their offense that will be exposed in October.

Or . . .

"From our offensive standpoint, I know we can do better," Charlie Manuel said last night. "We can be very dangerous. Because at any point we can go off and score a bunch of runs. I know we can."

It's the final chapter yet to be written after a choppy regular season that will end almost sneakily as the best of the four playoff seasons, at least by record. Winning a Joe Blanton start for the 10th time in the last 11, the Phillies beat the Nationals, 7-1, for their 95th victory of the season.

Blanton starts are a great launching point to this discussion. The clock turns back a year or 2 each time he has pitched over the last 2 months. The Phillies have averaged 7.1 runs over the 11 games in that span.

Some of that undoubtedly is due to his status as a fourth starter, meaning he often is matched up with the other team's lesser arms. But as any good Phillies fan knows, who is on the mound is hardly an indicator of how the team will hit in that game. Over only the previous 2 weeks, the Phillies have scored two runs in a game started by Florida's Adalberto Mendez, three runs in games started by Atlanta's Brandon Beachy and the Mets' Dillon Gee, and three runs in a game started by Mets lefthander Pat Misch.

The Phillies also scored only one run Tuesday against Jason Marquis, but they get a mulligan for that game. Similarly, last night's output was generated by the bats of Ben Francisco and Mike Sweeney - a hopeful sign about bench strength, but certainly no barometer of an improved or consistent offense.

"We've been scoring as many as it takes to win," Shane Victorino said. "Do we want to score 10 a night? Of course. But as long as at the end of the night you get a 'W,' that's all that matters."

Well, of course. But that brings us to this slightly unnerving thought: The Phillies' 21-6 record this month has come mostly against the National League East, a division of teams hobbling from key losses, particularly pitchers.

The Marlins lost Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco; the Braves, Jair Jurrjens and now, it seems, Martin Prado. The Mets shut down Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez.

I know, boo-hoo-hoo, who cares? No one was hit harder this season by injuries than the Phillies. And, yeah, that has something to do with the unevenness of their offense. But that offense was close to intact in September. And the Phillies' now-you-see-it-now-you-don't offense remained in character.

"I think having these games and off days, it allows guys to rest," Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross said. "I don't think it has anything to do with them physically. It's a mental break. Because you have an awful lot of guys on this team that are here early; they're putting an awful lot of time in. It's not necessarily physical work. It's a lot of going over what pitchers have done to them in the past, what they've done recently.

"They've put a lot of time in that people don't see. So they're not going to be flat at all. They've been in the postseason for 4 years. They know what it's all about. There is that second season. And they've been very good at it."

Yes, they have.

The Phillies played 14 postseason games in winning the 2008 World Series. They scored three runs or fewer in six games, winning three of them. They managed to split the first two World Series games at Tampa Bay that year despite going 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.

They scored three runs or fewer only three times last postseason, and scored 82 runs over 15 postseason games - an average of 5.5 runs a game. They scored 27 runs in six games against the Yankees.

The Yankees scored 32.

Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt were not on that team. Neither was Cole Hamels, at least not the guy who resurfaced this summer. The back end of the bullpen seems solid again, more defined certainly than at this time last year. And even on nights when they win with three runs or fewer, the swagger has clearly returned.

Can the Phillies can win it all with just that? Probably. It will fry the nerves and keep you teetering on the edge of the couch all October, but teams have won titles with much less.

But if the runs start coming? If these final days produce the kind of offense that marked last season's aborted run?

Well, Charlie hit it right on the sweet spot last night. "Dangerous," he said. *

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