Inside the Phillies: Injuries cast a pall on great Phillies comeback

Carlos Ruiz , who strained his right hamstring, is checked on by Charlie Manuel. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Carlos Ruiz , who strained his right hamstring, is checked on by Charlie Manuel. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Posted: May 21, 2013

It was 4:47 p.m. Sunday when a beaming Charlie Manuel sauntered into his team's clubhouse. He found Freddy Galvis, shook the diminutive hero's hand, and disappeared to pack for an eight-game road trip. As Galvis described his elation upon hitting an unbelievable home run that sealed a 3-2 Phillies victory to a throng of reporters, Kevin Frandsen jumped up and down to make Galvis laugh.

A few lockers away, Carlos Ruiz struggled to pull green shorts over his wrapped right leg. Across the room, Ryan Howard dismissed the notion that a left knee injury that apparently has afflicted him since spring training was serious. Both players did not join their teammates on the charter flight to Miami. Both are bound for MRI examinations Monday morning in Philadelphia.

And this moment so embodied the 2013 Phillies, a team that has hopelessly flirted with a .500 record for weeks. Even on an overcast day when they won the most improbable of games, they were still forced a bitter taste.

The Phillies are married to this team, for better or worse, and this was the sort of day when you shake your head in bewilderment. There is no elixir in the minors. They have scored 156 runs in their first 44 games, the fewest since the 1988 Phillies started with 154 runs. That team finished 65-96.

Then again, it is all relative. By the time the Phillies landed in Miami late Sunday night, they stood just two games behind vaunted Washington in the National League East and trailed Atlanta by 41/2 games. Four of the majors' five worst offenses, as measured by OPS, reside in the NL East. The Phillies are flawed; so is everyone else.

"We stayed with them," Manuel said. "Something good happened for us at the end. That's how you have to do it. You just have to keep playing. When you're not scoring a lot of runs, you just keep trying to improve."

More games like Sunday's can flip the narrative. The Phillies were not supposed to win, not after being blanked for seven more innings Sunday. Not when Cliff Lee, who pinch-ran for Delmon Young in the ninth and represented the tying run, was picked off. Not when flamethrower Aroldis Chapman stared down the bottom of the Phillies' lineup: Erik Kratz, Freddy Galvis and a pinch-hitter.

Kratz blasted a 98-m.p.h. Chapman fastball. Three pitches later, Galvis hit a 95-m.p.h. one just inside the left-field foul pole and Citizens Bank Park erupted in a jubilation not often experienced these days. This was Chapman's 158th career appearance; never before had he surrendered two homers in one outing.

Manuel loves home runs, comebacks, and a fearless attitude. He could bask in the wake of this one. But once the Phillies boarded their flight, the manager had to consider life without Ruiz - and possibly Howard.

Ruiz appears headed to the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Catcher was already a weak link in a putrid lineup. Phillies catchers had a .563 OPS before Sunday, which ranked 29th in the majors. They led all of baseball in 2012 with an .861 OPS. That, of course, was done on the strength of Ruiz's career season.

Less is known about Howard's injury, which is concerning, too. He said his left knee has hurt since spring training.

"I've been able to tough my way through it," Howard said.

Those are not the words the Phillies want to hear from their slugger, who is in the second season of a five-year, $125 million mega-deal. The roster is so overcome with uncertainty that when $12 million setup man Mike Adams said his strained back felt "a lot better, actually" after playing catch, he could not say whether he would avoid the disabled list.

"I don't know how to answer that," he said.

No one knows what to make of this team. Maybe the path to .500 lies in Miami, where baseball's worst team resides. But nothing - a dramatic Sunday the latest evidence - comes as expected for these Phillies.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @magelb.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|