Phil Sheridan: Phillies veer off script

Posted: October 19, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - Cole Hamels made very good pitches. Matt Cain made very good pitches.

The Giants, whose lineup is cobbled together from spare parts, found a way to score three runs against the hard-luck Hamels. The Phillies, with their lineup of All-Stars and MVPs, flailed away as if Nolan Ryan was out there dealing.

Simple game, this baseball. And the simple truth is that the Phillies are suddenly in very real peril of being roadkill on the San Francisco Giants' journey to the World Series. The two-time National League champions have unleashed their Big Three – Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hamels – and have one win and two losses to show for it.

This was not the way the script read.

"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."

After the Big Three, the Phillies will start The Other One, Joe Blanton. The Giants will start the wonderfully named Madison Bumgarner. Blanton is a 29-year-old who has a 2-0 record in five postseason starts. Bumgarner is a 21-year-old rookie with 20 major-league starts on his resume, including a win over Atlanta in the division series.

Let's keep this simple: If the mighty Phillies, with their rings and trophies and huge contracts, can't score a few runs off Madison Bumgarner, they have no business being in the World Series.

"If you don't hit, it doesn't matter how good the pitching is," Shane Victorino said. "We scored nothing. 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."

The Phillies have gotten one excellent start, from Oswalt, and two very good ones from their trio of aces. Given more support, Halladay pitched well enough to win Game 1. Hamels was even better Tuesday afternoon, mixing a perplexing curveball and accurate cutter effectively among the fastballs and changeups he built his career on.

Perfect through three, Hamels fell victim in the fourth inning to precisely the kind of crafty hitting the Phillies couldn't manage against Cain.

Edgar Renteria led off by taking Hamels' high fastball to right for a single.

"I didn't think he could catch up to the pitch, especially kind of up and in," Hamels said. "Most of the time he hasn't been able - at least what I saw in video he wasn't able to catch up to that, certain guys. But you do. You try to make that sort of pitch, and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. . . . He was able to really fight off the pitch and get it off into the outfield."

After Renteria was sacrificed to second, Hamels struck out Buster Posey. That brought up Pat Burrell with two outs. The longtime Phillie laid off Hamels' changeups and drew a walk. Next up was Cody Ross, who is arguably the least popular man in Philadelphia these days.

"He's definitely hot," said Hamels, who managed to keep Ross in the ballpark for the first time. "He's been hitting pitches that most normal people can't hit at this time."

One of them was a good pitch down in the strike zone that Ross golfed over third baseman Placido Polanco. Renteria scored. Burrell went to third. The next batter, Aubrey Huff, hit a ball that a diving Chase Utley got a glove on. Burrell scored and it was 2-0, even though Hamels didn't throw a single pitch he'd throw differently.

"In the game of baseball, you're going to make great pitches and you're going to get lucky a few times with guys hitting it right at guys," Hamels said. "And then sometimes you make the right pitches and they're able to find the hole."

The Giants added a run when Juan Uribe's line drive short-hopped Utley and bounced away, allowing Aaron Rowand to score all the way from second.

So Hamels got no run support and not much defensive support, either.

"Unfortunately," Hamels said, "in order to win a game, you have to score some runs, too."

After the game, Utley and Raul Ibanez stared intently into laptops, watching video of their at-bats. They couldn't have liked what they saw. Against the righthanded Cain and Brian Wilson, the closer, the two lefthanded hitters were 0 for 7. Utley grounded out twice with men on base. Ibanez struck out twice and hit into a game-ending double play.

Despite all this pitching, the Phillies are halfway to elimination. If they don't start to hit, they're going to be spending a long winter wondering what hit them.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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