For every breakout game for the Phillies' offense there are five nights like last night's woeful sixteen inning debacle. Two runs in sixteen innings after scoring two runs the night before. All of us can make a big deal over finally having the expected starting eight in the lineup, but the truth is the fill-ins hit just as well...or as poorly depending upon your perspective.
Cole Hamels was the victim of the Phils offense against last night, making one mistake to Carlos Lee. Jimmy Rollins' two out ninth inning solo home run tied the score and got Hamels off the hook for this loss, which would have been the lefty's fourth straight defeat. In three of those games he yielded a total of four runs. He's going to have to pitch shutout ball going forward just to stay even.
The evening was low-lighted by the usual failure to hit with men in scoring position and by Ryan Howard's ejection in the 14th inning for arguing vociferously over a checked-swing third strike. Howard may have been right about the call, but in every other respect he was an idiot. That was not the time to get tossed, especially when the Phils had to use Roy Oswalt as both a left-fielder and final batter of the evening. Regrettably, Howard cannot put together a consistent approach at the plate. By this point in his career one would hope he would know the strike zone. He doesn't. Unless the pitcher makes a mistake, Howard will oblige by making a few of his own.
Let's not blame this one entirely on Howard, however. Utley hasn't hit since his return. Shane Victorino has become the next best thing to an automatic out from the left side of the plate. Jayson Werth gets picked off second base to kill rallies. Jimmy Rollins, home run notwithstanding, is seeing a decline in his production for three straight seasons now.
The real shame, of course, is that the starting pitching has been terrific except every other time Kyle Kendrick takes the ball.
The awful truth is this is not a playoff team. Only the inconsistency of the other contenders allows them to stay close.