David Murphy: Doc? Phils' offense still No. 1 worry

Cole Hamels improved to 8-1 even though he allowed a pair of two-run homers, thanks to Ty Wigginton's six RBI.
Cole Hamels improved to 8-1 even though he allowed a pair of two-run homers, thanks to Ty Wigginton's six RBI. (AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES)
Posted: May 30, 2012

NEW YORK - Cole Hamels is good. Damn good. But he is not good enough to rewrite the laws that govern our universe, which means there will be days like Monday, when a couple of unfortunately located pitches turned into a couple of two-run home runs that blemished an otherwise dominant afternoon. This matters because the Phillies entered the afternoon having won just five of the 25 games in which they allowed an opponent to score more than three runs, and because they finished it having increased that number to six, thanks to Ty Wigginton's go-ahead single in the seventh inning that helped propel them to an 8-4 victory over the Mets.

The moral of the story is that the Phillies need to score runs, and they need to score them with enough regularity that a pitcher like Hamels can make a mistake or two without feeling like all hope for victory has also exited the field of play. Monday, they did that. Still unknown is whether they can do it consistently.

We bring this up because Roy Halladay is scheduled to have his right shoulder examined Tuesday, which has sparked a flurry of speculation about the way Ruben Amaro Jr. might try to fill the void should he find himself without his ace for an extended period of time. But for all of the talk about a potential reunion with Roy Oswalt, who is at home in Mississippi eyeing a midseason return, the Phillies' offense remains the team's biggest question mark.

"When you look around, the problems that we have, we have to have people that can step up and do the job for us over the course of the year," manager Charlie Manuel said. "The last 5 years, we've been getting those guys. We've got some work to do. We've got our work cut out on our team. We have to come out like we did today, play loose and try to play right and try to outplay the other team."

Unless there is some serious Roy Hobbs stuff going down in the delta, Oswalt is not going to be the difference between the team you hope to see and the one you have seen up to this point. That's not to say that Amaro should ignore all phone calls from the 662. But he should consider the fact that both Oswalt and Halladay were in the fold last season when the Phillies lost to the Cardinals in the National League Division Series. And nearly 2 months into the 2012 season, the offense still has not proved that it has the balance and potential to support even the most dominant of rotations.

It has shown some signs of life over the last month. In winning 12 of their last 18 games, the Phillies have hit 18 home runs while averaging better than 4.5 runs per game. They are averaging nearly five runs per game during the month of May.

On Monday, Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr. looked a lot like the players the Phillies hoped they would be at the start of the season. Wigginton, acquired in a low-budget trade with the Rockies during the winter, drove in six of their eight runs while going 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the third inning and a three-run homer in the ninth that broke the game open. Mayberry, meanwhile, hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot off Mets lefty Jonathan Niese in the sixth inning. Twice, Hamels allowed a two-run, game-tying homer. And twice, the Phillies' offense regained the lead.

"Getting it right back was huge," said Hamels, who pitched eight innings to improve to 8-1 with a 2.43 ERA. "For us to be able to battle and get those runs and then have the huge ninth inning, you have to give credit to the hitters, the way they were working counts."

But days like Monday have been scarce this season. Mayberry's homer was just the second by a Phillies leftfielder this year, the second-lowest total in the NL. Their .713 OPS at the position ranked 10th out of 16 teams. Their 23 RBI ranked 11th. Heading into the season, Mayberry was the team's greatest hope for the position, due in large part to the 15 home runs he hit in 296 plate appearances last season while batting .273 with a .341 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage. Thus far, that production has not translated into a full-time role. The 28-year-old is hitting just .238/.277/.344 with nine extra-base hits and 11 RBI in 130 plate appearances.

Even without Halladay, the Phillies know they have two ace-level starters in Hamels and Cliff Lee. Second-year starter Vance Worley, who has battled inflammation and a bone chip in his pitching elbow, is a big key. With Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick and some veterans at Triple A who have pitched well, the Phillies know they have some depth.

What they don't know is whether they have the means to create enough runs for whoever happens to be standing on the mound. Monday was a positive sign.

Contact David Murphy at murphyd@phillynews.com.

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