Inside the Phillies: Offense has been lagging

Phillie Jimmy Rollins (right) celebrates with teammates Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz after hitting a grand slam in Friday's game against the Braves. The Phils need more of this type of offense.
Phillie Jimmy Rollins (right) celebrates with teammates Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz after hitting a grand slam in Friday's game against the Braves. The Phils need more of this type of offense.

Charlie Manuel says the output "is definitely down."

Posted: October 03, 2010

The Phillies' lineup that opened the season six months ago in Washington ended up being a lot like one of those early flying experiments that predated the 1903 work of the Wright brothers.

The blueprint looked great, but the actual machines barely got off the ground.

And now, as the Phillies prepare for their fourth straight trip to the postseason, the least potent offense of Charlie Manuel's six seasons as manager looms as this team's biggest concern.

Manuel is acutely aware of his team's shortcomings offensively and he's not afraid to talk about it.

"Our offensive production is definitely down," the manager said as the Phillies prepared for their final regular-season series against Atlanta Friday. "I don't care what anybody says."

Nobody argues the point. This Phillies team has scored fewer runs than any of Manuel's previous five. Seventy-five times this season, the Phillies have scored three runs or fewer, which is 18 more than any of Manuel's other teams.

At times, the manager known for his patience has been on edge because of the offense's inability to consistently produce runs. The most notable instance was near the end of the Phillies' first road trip following the All-Star break.

"What can I say?" Manuel said at the time in St. Louis. "We come out here about every day and do the same thing. We don't score. We don't hit. We don't score enough runs."

Even with the Big Three - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels - primed to shut down opposing teams, the Phillies could have problems if they cannot score themselves. This is the team that went a dozen games from May 22 through June 4 without scoring more than three runs. They were blanked five times in the process.

Go through one of those stretches in the postseason and you can disappear in a hurry.

"I look sometimes and I see spots in our lineup when you can go along for a couple innings pretty easy," Manuel said.

Other people see it, too. A National League scout said recently that this Phillies lineup is not as intimidating as its playoff predecessors.

"They all have some holes, but they still have a lot of good at-bats with runners in scoring position," the scout said.

Manuel's hope is that when the postseason begins, the offense will kick into gear the way it did at the start of the season.

The starting eight of Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz got off to a great start during the team's season-opening road trip.

But before the home portion of the schedule began, Rollins was out with a strained right calf, and it was a sign of things to come for the Phillies shortstop and the majority of the starting lineup.

As it turned out, the opening-day lineup started only 14 games this season because of a long list of injuries. Barring another injury, they will be intact again when the postseason opens Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

We still don't know if Rollins will be at the top of the Phillies' lineup. He has been batting first since returning Tuesday from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 15 games, but Manuel said he isn't sure if he'll bat his shortstop or Victorino first.

"I have to see where Jimmy is at," Manuel said. "That will tell me."

Rollins may have provided the answer with his sixth-inning grand slam Friday night in Atlanta.

Manuel says he knows exactly what to expect from opposing teams after the sixth inning of these postseason games.

"The last couple of years, teams have stocked up left-handed pitchers on us and, at times, they've offset us that way," Manuel said. "That showed up in the World Series last year, and I expect to see that from teams again."

That will be the test that Howard, Utley and Ibanez will have to pass in the late innings. If, as expected, the Phillies face the Cincinnati Reds in the first round, they'll get their first glimpse at Cuban rookie Aroldis Chapman, a lefty who has been clocked at 103 m.p.h. and is holding opposing left-handed hitters to a .182 average.

"We're definitely capable of getting hot and putting up some runs, but our offensive production all along has been down," Manuel said. "Of course, all those guys have been out, and we haven't them playing."

The second season is about to begin and the first team will get another chance to take flight.


Inside the Phillies:

Blog response of the week

Subject: Roy Oswalt to pitch Game 2 of the division series.

Response from CosmoK at 9:13 a.m. Thursday

"My goodness, I remember having this debate last year, and what a different 12 months has made for the quality of this pitching staff! I love Pedro, but he, 2009 Hamels, Lee, and the rest of that crew, do not even compare in any way to the 2010 staff. There is no wrong answer here, and Charlie will push the right buttons to ensure the Phils jump on WHOEVER 2-0 next Wednesday/Friday."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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