Inside the Phillies: Fans' impatience with Phillies rivals the cold weather

Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley follows through after hitting an RBI-single off St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley follows through after hitting an RBI-single off St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Posted: April 23, 2013

The chill in the air at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night was not just from the first-pitch temperature of 50 degrees that continued to drop as the 31/2-hour game wore on.

Uncomfortable Fahrenheit degrees are always erased by the calendar over the course of a baseball season. When April turns to May and May to June, a more pleasant climate will follow.

Curing the other ills and chills that have crept into these parts will not be nearly as easy. The offense has gone cold and the reception from the crowds has become increasingly frigid, too.

A better brand of baseball than the Phillies played during the first three weeks of the season is the only way to thaw the chilly fans. At least those who stuck around until the ridiculously late-night finish Sunday left as satisfied customers when the Phillies scored four times in the bottom of the eighth inning to win, 7-3, salvaging a split of the four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Struggling Ben Revere, the target of the fans' wrath when he hit into an inning-ending double play that quashed a potential sixth-inning rally, gained personal redemption with an RBI single off Mitchell Boggs in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie.

The thick tension that filled the air for much of the night finally was fully released when catcher Erik Kratz followed with a three-run home run.

Before that moment, voices of discontent could be heard throughout the ballpark.

"Eagles!" one fan shouted just before the national anthem was played.

Even Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory would have recognized the sarcasm when Chase Utley stepped to the plate to lead off the sixth inning and was reminded by a fan that nobody was out. Five innings earlier, Utley had sprinted from second to home on a routine fly out to left field by Michael Young that was only the second out of the inning. The result was an inning-ending double play.

Domonic Brown was the target of fan discontent in the top of the fourth when he let a Matt Adams single drop in front of him. Two batters later, he received a Bronx cheer for catching a routine fly ball.

The cries of displeasure reached a crescendo in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh innings. With the score tied, 2-2, and the bases loaded with one out, Revere grounded into a double play to end the sixth.

The top of the seventh started with a throwing error by Utley that allowed Jon Jay to reach second base. Jay eventually scored the go-ahead run, and another enthused Eagles fan - doesn't anybody remember 4-12? - started spelling the football team's name, a routine that used to get a lot of play when the Phillies consistently reached the 90-loss mark at Veterans Stadium.

Manager Charlie Manuel knows there is no easy solution to the Phillies' problems. The "Time Travelin' Phanatic" DVD all the kids received before the series finale against the Cardinals as part of the Phillie Phanatic's birthday celebration does not have a segment in which the hitters return to their 2006-2009 form.

The manager also knows that one night with one big inning does not mean everything is OK.

"I mean, one night doesn't change it up," the manager said before the game. "We need consistent hitting. We're talking .300 or better. That's what I consider good."

That kind of hitter soon will rejoin the Phillies. Catcher Carlos Ruiz's scheduled return is less than a week away. Barring a rainout, he is eligible to return from a 25-game suspension Sunday against the Mets in New York. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Ruiz was feeling better Sunday after taking a foul ball off his right wrist Friday during an extended-spring-training game in Clearwater, Fla.

X-rays over the weekend were negative, but Amaro said Ruiz would have another X-ray Monday as a precautionary measure.

"He took some dry swings, which was good, so he's improved," Amaro said. "We just want to be cautious and make sure there's nothing small in there."

Ruiz was arguably Manuel's best player a year ago, but he will return to the lineup with the word Phillies on the front of his jersey, not a capital S. The Phillies went 45-50 in his starts a year ago, although many of those games did not have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup.

At this point, any potential offense is like chicken soup - it can't hurt. In making his first all-star team last season, Ruiz reached career highs in batting average (.325), doubles (32), home runs (16), and RBIs (68). He also batted .368 with runners in scoring position, and the Phillies could sure use a clutch hitter.

They finally got some clutch hits in the eighth inning Sunday, but it was only one night for a team that needs to string a bunch of them together.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow @brookob on Twitter.

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