Phils looking home for momentum

Posted: April 09, 2014

The Phillies arrived home no better or worse than when they departed for a six-game, season-opening trip. They won three, lost three, and led at one point in every game but Sunday's 8-3 clunker against the Cubs. Given that, Ryne Sandberg lamented the .500 record.

The manager, however, thought it best to stress the good developments.

"Never satisfied," Sandberg said. "But the fact that we had a chance to win more games than we did, that's a positive thing we leave with."

Down the hall from the closet-size manager's office at Wrigley Field, Jimmy Rollins said what everyone was thinking. The chances to win were nice and all. The lack of wins was not.

"It could have easily been 4-2, or even 5-1," Rollins said. "Not a bad week, not a bad week, but it could have been better."

The Phillies start a 10-game homestand Tuesday, a day later than expected because of Monday's postponement, and this is the team's best chance at generating a much-needed quality start. After Milwaukee's three-game stay, Miami and Atlanta come to Citizens Bank Park for an April barometer of where the Phillies stand in the National League East.

It was possible to view Sunday's loss through different prisms. The Phillies were 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position; the absence of timely hitting prevented them from sweeping Chicago. But, at least, there were Phillies runners on base.

The Phillies' on-base percentage in six games was .349, the kind of early improvement the club wanted to see after a .306 clip in 2013.

"We've been getting hits, so that's a good thing," Rollins said. "Some games we got hits with runners in scoring position, just enough runs scoring on some big hits."

No one produced a better week than Chase Utley, who leads the team in just about every major offensive category. He batted .458 (11 for 24) with five extra-base hits. He drove the ball with vigor, a trait that was missing for six weeks in Florida.

What has Sandberg most impressed is his entire team's performances against lefthanded pitching, albeit in a small sample size. The Phillies have an .879 OPS in 105 plate appearances vs. lefties. (It was .679 in 2013.)

In addition to Utley, both Domonic Brown and Ben Revere had success vs. lefthanders. Ryan Howard has as many hits (three) against lefties as he does righties.

"He's swinging the bat well," Sandberg said. "I like him staying in the middle of the field the way he's doing. He's going to left-center field with pitches. He's driving the ball.

"He's squaring the balls up and he's having real good aggressive swings and contact. And also, he's swinging at strikes. That's a good combination for him."

Rollins noted that Utley and Howard have not produced at the same time "in maybe about four years." One week, of course, does not make a season.

The Phillies won just 73 games in 2013, their lowest total since 2000. But they still posted a winning record - 43-38 - at Citizens Bank Park.

"It's time to get back home," Rollins said. "Open up, get it going there, put some wins together. Get the fans back in the seats. Get it back to the baseball that we know and they know."

And what is that?

"Walking away 9-1," Rollins said, "would be the way I'd like to do it."


Phillies Home Opener Guide

Traffic information can be found at www.511pa.com, www.511nj.org or by calling 511 before or after the game.

Mass transit:www.septa.org

Tickets: Standing-room-only tickets go on sale at noon at the first-base ticket windows.

Citizens Bank Way party, beginning at 1 p.m. and free for fans, includes a live performance by Go Go Gadjet.

Phillies batting practice begins at 1:13 p.m.

Gates open at 1:35 p.m. All fans will receive a Citizens Bank Park commemorative banner.

Brewers batting practice begins at 2:13 p.m.

The "Leadoff Walk," when the Phillies make their way from 10th Street into the ballpark and onto the field, begins at 3:13 p.m. Fans not yet in the ballpark at the time can line up on 10th to see the players.

The Philadelphia Boys Choir and Men's Chorale will sing "Philadelphia Pride" and "America the Beautiful" beginning at 3:34 p.m.

Player introductions begin with the Brewers at 3:40 p.m.

Jacquie Lee, last year's runner-up on The Voice, sings the national anthem.

First pitch is 4:07 p.m.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb inquirer.com/phillieszone

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