Monday, June 30, 2008

Say A Not So Fond Farewell To Interleague Play

Their vaunted offense continues to offend most nights of late as the Phillies dropped their sixth straight series. Mercifully, they concurrently concluded interleague play finishing with a 4 - 11 record against much of the cream of the AL. If nothing else the Phils learned this about themselves: they ain't ready for Prime Time.

Incredibly, back in the friendly confines of the NL East they also still managed to cling to first place as the rest of their immediate competition fared only slightly better. Their lead is down to one, however, with series against Atlanta and New York looming. By this time next week the Phils could be in the middle of the pack unless they right the ship quickly. Signs are not good.

With the notable exception of Brett Myers (more on him in a moment) the Phillies have generally received better than expected pitching during their current slide but they haven't been able to score runs consistently.

When the starting lineups for the Phils and their opponents are posted each night it's quite evident the Phils don't match up well from 1 - 9. Ryan Howard may be leading the league in RBI's and Chase Utley may be tied for the major league lead in home runs, but their numbers are misleading. Howard continues mired in the low .200's, many of his rbi's soft, while the gaudiest of Utley's numbers came before his recent slump. Ultey did throw a couple of multi-hit games into the mix over the last four or give outings, but he, too, lacks consistency. He still looks uncomfortable at the plate though I noticed yesterday he isn't looking the ball into the catcher's mitt as much as before.

Meanwhile, J-Roll's is mired in a pretty big slump and Pat Burrell's last multi-hit game was in mid June. Geoff Jenkins can't buy a hit; nor can Carlos Ruiz. You want frustration? Normally stoic Chris Coste barked at the umpire when he was called out on strikes late yesterday afternoon. (The pitch was inside.)

Brett Myers appears on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation. No matter what anyone says, I believe he is hurt. True, he's never had the smarts to pitch, but normally he gets by despite his limitations above the shoulder on his stuff alone. But with his fastball lost in action and his mechanics still a mess, one has to believe a veteran like Myers is favoring his shoulder or arm. Whatever the real root of his problem is, the Phillies cannot afford to keep sending him out there. His awful start over the weekend was the shortest of his career. Up until then Myers was willing to talk and take the blame for his poor outings this season. Now, he has chosen to remain silent. The Phils need to shut him down and are reportedly considering skipping his next start.

Only a few weeks ago the Phils had climbed to twelve games over .500 and had opened up a good lead on the Marlins, Mets and Braves. They were also fun to watch. Now, it is painful to watch them struggle, especially with the bats. No one looks good; indeed, many look terrible. They remain five games over .500 at this juncture and still have a chance to straighten things out, but they can't wait one more series to do so.

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