Mayberry gets taste of postseason drama

Raul Ibanez, who usually starts against righthanders, is 3 for 8 with 4 RBIs in the first two games.
Raul Ibanez, who usually starts against righthanders, is 3 for 8 with 4 RBIs in the first two games. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)

He will start ahead of Raul Ibanez in left, taking his first-ever at-bat in the playoffs.

Posted: October 04, 2011

ST. LOUIS - John Mayberry Jr. is still relatively new to the big leagues, yet he's already written some dramatic moments into his resume.

His first game in the majors on May 23, 2009, he hit a home run off Andy Pettitte at Yankee Stadium. On opening day of this season, he singled home the winning run in the ninth inning for a 5-4 win over Houston.

But as Mayberry has already sensed, there is drama and there is postseason drama. Everything is heightened because, well, that's just the way it is on the big stage.

"You have to keep in mind that this is still baseball," he said Monday following the Phillies workout at Busch Stadium for Tuesday's Game 3 of the National League division series. "Obviously it's at a higher level and the stakes are higher, but the game is actually the same."

That is what Mayberry will be telling himself as he prepares to take his first ever at-bat in the playoffs. The 6-foot-6 native of nearby Kansas City is expected to start in left field because St. Louis will have lefthander Jaime Garcia on the mound.

Garcia has been troublesome for the Phillies, who scrounged out only one earned run off him in 15 innings this season. So far, though, he hasn't been too difficult for Mayberry, who is 3 for 6 against Garcia.

If Mayberry has a book on Garcia, he's not saying what's in it.

"I don't know," he said when asked to explain his success against Garcia. "You've got to give him credit. He's a great pitcher. He has great stuff and you're in for a battle each time he steps on the mound. I don't think anybody really feels comfortable against him. That's part of being a really good pitcher. I guess I've been fortunate in the past and hopefully I can continue it."

Charlie Manuel stopped a bit short of naming Mayberry his starter in left field for Game 3, saying, "I've been thinking about that. More than likely that's what I'll do, probably."

Manuel reads the stats, and they pretty much tell him he must start Mayberry ahead of Raul Ibanez. For the most part, Manuel has employed them as a platoon the past two months and it's been a successful strategy. Ibanez starts against righthanders, Mayberry against lefties.

Mayberry has started 18 of 19 games against lefthanders since he was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley on July 4, and he's earned those starts with a .306 average, .358 on-base percentage, and .595 slugging percentage against lefties. Among his 34 hits against lefties, eight are doubles and eight are home runs.

Ibanez is 3 for 8 with four RBIs the first two games of the NLDS, but he batted .211 with a .232 OBP against lefthanders. Neither Ryan Howard nor Chase Utley have hit lefties well this season, so the Phillies may be relying on Mayberry to hit Garcia more than they'd care to admit.

Of course, Mayberry isn't about to put all that upon himself. Yes, he said, he's excited for the opportunity to contribute to the offense after playing only two innings as a defensive replacement in Game 1.

"I've seen a couple games. I've gotten in there for a couple innings, so I'm not completely new to it," he said. "Obviously, the atmosphere is a little bit different. Everything's more heightened, so I'm excited to get out there and get going."

He said the veterans on the team have helped keep him loose, and that the 39-year-old Ibanez has been a positive influence on him.

"I think you can attribute that [looseness] to the veterans on this team - Ryan, Jimmy [Rollins], the guys who have been in several postseasons in a row, and it carries over to the rest of the team," he said. "Their attitude, their approach to things kind of trickles down to the rest of the guys.

"And I've said it all along, my relationship [with Ibanez] has been great. The past two years, I've had the opportunity to talk to Raul probably more than anybody else. He's a great person, even more so than a baseball player, and that's kind of why we've coexisted sharing playing time."


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at rparrillo@phillynews.com or @rayparrilloinq on Twitter.

 

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