Charlie Manuel has been trying everything to provide the Phillies’ offense with a spark. Manuel has been somewhat handcuffed for most of the season without his projected everyday starters in the lineup. However, Manuel has all of his players now, so there should be no more excuses.
But, at the same time, Manuel shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for the offense. The responsibility should be on the players, too. Nonetheless, one of Manuel’s main jobs right now is to get this offense going, and he finally did something that worked.
After the Cubs beat the Phillies, 4-3, in 11 innings in the series opener Thursday, meaning the Phillies had scored three or fewer runs in four straight games, something had to be done. On Friday night, Manuel shuffled the Phillies’ lineup around by flip-flopping Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco. Victorino was moved back to batting second in the order and Polanco hit fifth.
Although Polanco has hit second for most of his career and had only hit fifth 10 times in his career, this move worked like a charm. Polanco hit a grand slam against the Cubs, his 100th career home run, and the Phillies cruised to a 7-5 victory.
Polanco moving to the No. 5 hole in the lineup worked so well that Manuel had Polanco batting there once again on Saturday. The Phils put up a seven-spot once again and won, 7-1. Chase Utley was the one who shined in this game, as he had four RBI, including a two-run double and a two-run home run, which was nice to see. Maybe Utley is finally starting to get healthy and find his rhythm.
Maybe the whole team is finally starting to get healthy and this offense will finally start to take off. The Phillies are 26-3 (through Saturday) in games in which they score four or more runs, which is the best mark in baseball. That certainly speaks to the Phillies pitching, and it also speaks to the fact that if this offense starts clicking, the Phillies will be an unstoppable force, not only in the regular season, but in the postseason as well.
After finishing off the week against the Cubs on Sunday afternoon, the Phils will face a good test with four games against the division rival Florida Marlins. Then the Phils will hit the road to play interleague games against one of Cliff Lee’s former teams, the Seattle Mariners.
CLOUD NINE: Roy Halladay pitched seven scoreless innings Friday night to become the first pitcher in the majors to win nine games this season. Halladay could have probably gone the distance, but with the Phils owning a 7-0 lead, Manuel thought he could get the final six outs with his bullpen and save Halladay’s arm for later in the season. Manuel was right about his bullpen, but just barely. They gave up five runs and made the game much more interesting than it had to be, but the Phils escaped with a 7-5 victory.
LEE RETURNS TO FORM: Cliff Lee must have read my notebook from last week where I ripped him for not living up to his hype. If not, something else sure did motivate him. Lee went 2-0 on the week with a 0.60 ERA.
Lee had a bad omen coming into Saturday’s game, though, because he had 10 strikeouts in his previous start. For whatever reason, this season Lee tends to struggle in the start after a 10-or-more strikeout performance, but that was not the case Saturday. Lee pitched eight innings, giving up only one run and four hits while striking out seven and walking two. Lee is now 6-5 with a 3.41 ERA and his 107 strikeouts (one more than Halladay) lead the National League.
IS CONTRERAS HURT AGAIN? Jose Contreras started out as the Phillies dominant closer, converting all five of his save opportunities, but then came the injury to his right elbow and Contreras was on the DL for a month. Since returning from the DL, Contreras has allowed six earned runs in seven appearances, so it begs the question: is Contreras hurt again? Time will tell. It would certainly be a loss if Contreras is hurt, but with the way that Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo have been pitching, it is not as big of a loss as it seemed like when Contreras went down the first time.
WORLEY BACK UP TO THE MAJORS? The Phillies have a doubleheader with the Marlins on Wednesday, and Kyle Kendrick will probably pitch the afternoon game of the day-night doubleheader. But who will pitch the night game?
Because of the off day on Monday, the Phillies could pitch Halladay on regular rest, but it seems that Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee want to give their starters extra rest whenever possible, especially guys like Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels, all of whom are in the top 10 in the National League in innings pitched. Therefore, Vance Worley would be a candidate to pitch on Wednesday night.
I don’t like the Worley option. If I were the Phillies, I would make a decision on Worley. Either keep him down in the minor leagues or keep him up in the major leagues. Don’t keep bouncing him around.
So far this season, Worley has pitched for the Iron Pigs as a starter, the Phillies as a starter, and the Phillies as a reliever, and he has made multiple trips back and forth from Lehigh Valley to Philly and back to Lehigh Valley. At some point, no matter how confident a kid might be, that type of movement has to mess with his head. Therefore, I would either pitch Halladay on Wednesday or I would give Worley a chance again until Blanton comes back, either moving Kendrick back to the bullpen or consider moving him to another team.
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