Frankly, I had them penciled in for a loss last night. They just seemed to be due for a lugubrious effort and, sure enough, they delivered, as it were. The fact is, they aren’t hitting all that much at precisely the moment their biggest worry, starting pitching, has come around and been nothing short of tremendous. And then there is the fielding, which continues to haunt them.
It all added up to a 3-2 loss that wasted a good start by Cory Lidle, who needed one, and an inning of effective relief by beleaguered Ryan Madson, who needed one even more. The loss went to Ryan Franklin, who gave up a leadoff double in the ninth, an intentional walk and a game-losing throwing error on a bunt by Brewers’ catcher Damian Miller.
The lack of hitting is coming from a few quarters the Phillies absolutely depend on. Bobby Abreu has not been a productive hitter for nearly an entire season stretching back to last year’s All-Star game. He may be walking a lot, but he sure isn’t hitting. He isn’t driving the ball or getting good swings. Jimmy Rollins is in a huge funk following the end of his hitting streak, and, as we all know, Jimmy doesn’t walk. As for Pat Burrell, always streaky, he is in one of those funks where he looks lost at the plate, taking a lot of called strikes.
Marcus Hayes put is this way in his Daily News piece this morning:
Phillies leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins and cleanup hitter Pat Burrell have been especially lacking as the offense has sputtered.
Burrell is 1-for-12 in his last three games, with six strikeouts in his last eight at-bats. He was 0-for-4 last night. He twice struck out with runners on base and he also grounded into a doubleplay. It is the sort of mini-slump Manuel likes to nip in the bud.
"He might be getting into a little funk," Manuel allowed. "It might be time to rest him. Let him think about it."
Rollins is 1-for-19 in his last four games. He hasn't scored in the last three.
"I'm not saying I won't change the lineup," Manuel said. "Jimmy gets us going."
Burrell needs to think about it? Sorry, Charlie, but Pat needs to stop thinking about it and hit what is thrown. Failing that, he should at least swing now and then. As for Jimmy, he is back to his old habit of swinging at the high ones, especially when batting right-handed. Just when everyone thought J-Roll had learned his role and some plate discipline, he reverts to his old form. It's time to make some tough decisions about Jimmy. This lack of production out of the lead-off spot cannot go on forever and in Shane Victorino the Phils may have a solution.
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Commenter extraordinaire George S. noted in an email that the Phils gave up three hits in last night’s game when they were in a “dramatic shift” and that all might have been outs in a more conventional alignment.
The reality is the Phillies have been employing “dramatic shifts” for quite some time now against players such as Carlos Delgado, Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn and Geoff Jenkins among others. Once in while the shift might be called for, but not every series let alone every game.
Who is responsible for this, ah, shift in strategy? (Sorry about that.)
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The medical report on Mike Lieberthal is not good. An MRI confirmed he has a deep bone bruise and “minimal, stable fracture” of the knee. I don’t know how “minimal” or “stable” a fracture has to be for a catcher to recover quickly, but given Mike’s history neither he nor the team can be much consoled. The only good news here is that the ligaments and tendons are not affected. After the best start he has had in years this is an unfortunate break for Mike, who may be out two more weeks…or longer.
It also means Sal Fasano and Carlos Ruiz will be splitting the catching duties for the foreseeable future.
Last night we got to see Fasano at his best and worst. His block of the plate on a throw by Burrell was impressive. Getting picked off first base was not, especially when he’d just watched slightly more nimble Chase Utley almost get picked off. This is what we can expect from a journeyman catcher: good one moment and terrible the next. If he were more consistent he wouldn't be a journeying sort of man.