Phillies offense going boom or bust

The Cardinals' Skip Schumaker makes a diving catch of Carlos Ruiz's fly to center in the ninth inning. Ruiz scored the Phillies' second run in the seventh after being intentionally walked.
The Cardinals' Skip Schumaker makes a diving catch of Carlos Ruiz's fly to center in the ninth inning. Ruiz scored the Phillies' second run in the seventh after being intentionally walked. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 05, 2011

ST. LOUIS - Three-run homers hide a lot of blemishes, although it must be noted that they never had much luck disguising the hole in David Bell's swing.

But the one Phillies pinch-hitter Ben Francisco belted into his club's Busch Stadium bullpen to decide Game 3 did exactly that.

Francisco hit the third, but by far most important, three-run homer in this NL division series that, thanks to his career's most magical moment, the Phillies now lead, two games to one.

As a result, no one in the victors' quietly confident clubhouse or among their relieved fans in Philadelphia was complaining about the Phillies' schizophrenic offense, the one that generated 15 runs in the series' first 12 innings and none - on just four hits - in the 12 that preceded Francisco's Matt Stairs-like moment.

While that boom or bust tendency might unnerve their fans, the Phils insist it's just the way they roll.

"I've seen it so many times," said Brad Lidge. "Our games are like that a lot for six or seven innings. But we realize that it just takes one inning for us, as long as we've kept them down on the other side.

"We have big innings all the time, where we get, like, three runs, four runs, five runs," he said. "I think we know that if we can keep ourselves right there within reach, then at the end of the game we're going to get those runs at some point.

"These guys believe in that."

Shane Victorino agreed that the Phils offense, like the stock market, has bull-bear cycles. But he suggested that - in Game 3, anyway - against Cards starter Jaime Garcia, there might have been another explanation.

"The sun and shadows and everything were pretty tough," Victorino said of the 4:07 p.m. local time start. "I'm not going to stand here and say that that changed things or dictated everything else that happened. But it did make it a little tough, and we all talked about it."

The Phils centerfielder said that when he finally got on base with a seventh-inning single that triggered the three-run outburst, he and St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal discussed the visual conditions.

"He said, 'How you handling it?' It was pretty tough the first couple of at-bats," Victorino said. "Not to take anything away from the pitching. I'd never do that. But late in the game the sun was out of the way. I just wanted to get on some way and somehow."

It might seem odd to be discussing a troubling offensive characteristic for a team that is averaging six runs a game in this series and that, despite getting just seven hits Tuesday, is still hitting a respectable .265.

Still, while Francisco's dramatic home run obscured the maddening tendency Tuesday, the further the Phils advance in this postseason, the more it figures to become an issue.

Against the Cardinals, they burst out of the gate with 11 runs in Game 1. Then in Game 2 they added four in the first three innings off Chris Carpenter.

And then the silence came.

They managed one hit, a Jimmy Rollins single, in the final six innings of Game 2 off the Cardinals bullpen. And through six innings against Garcia, who always seems to stifle their big-swinging habits, they had just three hits and no runs.

Don't sweat it, Lidge counseled.

"We've done it so many times [scoring key runs in big bunches] that now we expect it," he said. "That's kind of the attitude of our team now. We expect to be a winner. We expect our guys to get hits in the clutch when we need them."

As the Phils bats went cold Tuesday, even manager Charlie Manuel - positive-thinking, no-big-deal Charlie Manuel - seemed fidgety.

"I'll get a little butterflies," Manuel said after his team's late-inning awakening. "The game was right there, and we played good, and we caught the ball, and we got them out when we had to."


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz," at www.philly.com/fitz

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|