Not many would have guessed at the beginning of the season that a 4-game series against the worst team in the National League and 2nd worst in all of baseball would be such a huge turning point for the Phillies. But this series with the Pirates has become just that. With 7 players and major contributors on the DL, a banged-up back-up catcher and 2 losses to the Bucos already behind them, the Phillies next two games could make or break their season.
The Phillies are five games behind the Braves after last night’s 0-2 shut-out loss to the Pirates. They do have a series with the Braves next, but if they lose 3 or even 4 games in this Pirates series, they will not have much left to bring to the Braves series. Getting whipped by a last place team will mean that they have allowed the injuries to win.
Plus, last night this team looked like it was sleep-walking. Like the energy and confidence has been sucked right out of them. The only player who still looked determined was Jamie Moyer, who pitched six solid innings and allowed only one earned run. Moyer has been rock solid in his last several starts. The rest of the team looks like runny oatmeal.
Oddly enough, the only position player showing some life is back-up Wilson Valdez. Even Jimmy Rollins said after the game about Valdez, “My man right here, he’s got some swag.” Last night was the 3rd multi-hit game for Valdez in his last 4 games. He has also hit 2 home runs in those games. While it is great to see a bench guy step-up like this, where is the rest of the team?
Charlie Manuel said yesterday that he moved Raul Ibanez to the 2-spot in the lineup because “he is a high on-base percentage guy.” Really? Because every starter on the team has a higher OBP than Ibanez who is in 11th place at .322. Not to mention, Ibanez had only 5 hits in 96 at-bats in the month of June. What part of this screams 2-hole hitter?
It is moves like this that make people wonder. It appears that Manuel is grasping at straws trying to get his team back into action. What the Phillies really need is a bucket of ice down the pants to wake them up.
The team did get a small bit of good news. Back-up catcher Brian Schneider has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb; yes, the exact same injury Chase Utley was said to have. Except, Utley wound up with a torn ligament where Schneider says he just needs a few days to rest and can play in an emergency. Schneider is one of the tough guys; you have to love that.
So it boils down to these next few games. Will the Phillies fold under the pressure or come out swinging? They have overcome a lot in years past so there is no reason to think they cannot do it. But this time, if they cannot get back on track fast, it may be too big a hill to climb later. Game time tonight is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography