Results tagged ‘ slump ’

Heart of the Lineup Still Silent

utley and howard.jpg

It’s pretty remarkable the Phillies still have a chance to win the NLCS, despite the fact Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have no RBIs in the series.


Utley is hitting .158 (3 for 19) with three walks, two strikeouts, three stolen bases and four runs scored. I’m not sure what is more amazing: he has no extra-base hits or he has scored four runs despite being on base just six times. Utley also has hit just .182 with one homer and four RBIs in his last nine postseason games, dating to Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.

Howard is hitting .294 (5 for 17) with three doubles, one walk, nine strikeouts and one run scored. He has not homered in nearly a month (Sept. 25 against the Mets). He has struck out 27 times in his last 51 postseason at-bats over 14 games. He has just one home run and three RBIs in that stretch, dating to Game 1 of the 2009 World Series.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 1962 New York Yankees are the last team to win a best-of-seven series without getting one RBI from its cleanup hitter. Mickey Mantle hit cleaneup in that year’s World Series, which was played against the San Francisco Giants.

“I’ll go 0-for-whatever if we win,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Of course, the Phillies stand a much better chance of winning tonight if they hit Jonathan Sanchez early and often. The Phillies’ Nos. 3 and 4 hitters could help make that happen.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

Another Annual Late Season Skid, or Something More?

howard upset.jpg

It looks grim, but you wonder if this is one of those tease-me moments the Phillies have had in the past.

The Astros, who booked their October golfing and fishing trips in June, just swept the Phillies in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have lost six of their last eight to enter tonight’s series against the Padres at Petco Park (the Padres have the best record in the league, by the way) three games behind the Braves in the NL East and a half-game behind the Giants in the NL wild card.

Time to panic?

“You’re going to go through lulls,” Jayson Werth said. “But in the back of our minds I think we know that, especially after what we’ve accomplished the last three years in September, there is ultimate confidence. And that’s not an illusion because we’ve proven that. We know what we’ve done. We know what we can do.”

Before the Phillies overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games to play to win the 2007 NL East, the Phillies had lost seven of their previous 11 games. Before they overcame a 3 ˝ game deficit with 16 games to play to win the 2008 NL East, they had lost eight of their previous 14. Before they cruised to their second consecutive NL pennant last season, they lost seven of 12 to finish the season.

Is this current eight-game stretch their annual hiccup before they go on a tear? Or is this one different?

“The one thing about our team that has been really impressive to watch is the ability to turn it on when we have to,” Brad Lidge said. “I think that’s obviously what’s put us where we’ve gone the last two years and hopefully it’ll get us there this year. When our backs have been against the wall and when we have to do something we will do it.”

Before the Astros took it to the Phillies, the Phillies and Twins were the hottest teams in baseball. They both went 22-7 (.759) from July 22 – Aug. 22. The Phillies still would be hot if the offense had not flat lined. The offense, which cost Milt Thompson his job in July, has hit just .206 and averaged just 2.1 runs per game in their last eight games. The pitching staff has done its job. It has a 3.19 ERA in that stretch.

Petco Park is a great place to pitch, so you would expect Phillies pitchers to continue to throw well. But will the offense come around? The lineup has a great reputation, but reputations only go so far. In fact, just three players in the lineup are above their career OPS averages (on-base-plus-slugging percentage). The rest are quite a bit below:

  • Jimmy Rollins: -.063 from career OPS (.765 career/.702 this season)
  • Placido Polanco: +.002 from career OPS (.762 career/.764 this season)
  • Chase Utley: -.069 (.896 career/.827 this season)
  • Ryan Howard: -.096 (.946 career/.850 this season)
  • Jayson Werth: +.068 (.842 career/.910 this season)
  • Shane Victorino: -.021 (.770 career/.749 this season)
  • Raul Ibanez: -.037 (.823 career/.786 this season)
  • Carlos Ruiz: +.080 (.736 career/.816 this season)


The Phillies placed Danys Baez on the DL with back spasms. Antonio Bastardo has been recalled to take his place.


The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

Ice Cold Bats

lee 0928.jpgYorman Bazardo
? Really?

The Phillies got just two hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings last night against Bazardo in an 8-2 loss to Houston at Citizens Bank Park. That would not be noteworthy, except Bazardo was 0-2 with a 9.55 ERA.

The Phillies have lost five of their last seven games, and while they certainly have problems in the bullpen the offense simply has not put teams away. Here are the pitchers the Phillies have faced in those seven games and their records and ERAs before they faced the them:

  • Monday vs. Houston: Bazardo.
  • Sunday in Milwaukee: Dave Bush (5-8, 6.22 ERA)
  • Saturday in Milwaukee: Braden Looper (13-7, 5.12 ERA)
  • Friday in Milwaukee: Manny Parra (10-10, 6.42 ERA)
  • Thursday in Milwaukee: Jeff Suppan (7-10, 4.76 ERA)
  • Wednesday in Florida: Rick VandenHurk (2-2, 4.24 ERA)
  • Tuesday in Florida: Anibal Sanchez (2-7, 4.50 ERA)

Here are the next three pitchers the Phillies face:

  • Tuesday: Wilton Lopez (0-0, 10.38 ERA)
  • Wednesday: Brian Moehler (8-10, 4.86 ERA)
  • Thursday: Felipe Paulino (2-10, 6.06 ERA)

Six of those 10 pitchers have a 5.12 ERA or higher. Five of them have a 6.06 ERA or higher. No pitcher has better than a 4.24 ERA.

The Phillies need to win just two of their final six games to clinch no worse than a tie in the National League East. They need to win just three to win outright. You have to think the Phillies can beat two of these Astros pitchers before the Marlins come to town this weekend, right?

The problem is nobody other than Ryan Howard is hot at the top of the lineup, and even he isn’t on fire. Here are the September averages for the everyday eight: Jimmy Rollins (.261), Shane Victorino (.227), Chase Utley (.222), Howard (.294), Jayson Werth (.239), Raul Ibanez (.268), Pedro Feliz (.227), Carlos Ruiz (.319) and Paul Bako (.286).

The Phillies are dragging down the stretch, which is not a good sign for the postseason. But the Astros sure are setting them up nicely with the next three pitchers they face.


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Bloody, But Unbowed

william_ernest_henley.jpgI just left the Phillies clubhouse, where I heard a player quote an English poet in regards to the team’s offensive struggles.

That’s a first.

The Phillies have scored 11 runs in their last six games, including tonight’s 4-0 loss to the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. They have hit .244 overall and .152 (7-for-46) with runners in scoring position in that span. But it has much been much worse than that. The Phillies have hit just .241 overall and just .208 with runners in scoring position since July 26, averaging just 4.1 runs per game after averaging 5.5 runs per game their first 96 games of the season.

If it has been frustrating for you to watch at home, it has been even more frustrating for the players in the clubhouse.

What’s the solution?


“You’ve got to keep grinding and keep fighting,” said Raul Ibanez, who is hitting .133 (10-for-75) in his last 21 games. “I think it was Shakespeare who said, ‘My head is bloody, but unbowed.’ Keep fighting.” 

That was the first time I had heard a player quote Shakespeare, so I gave Ibanez major points. I still do. But I looked up the quote and William Ernest Henley actually wrote those famous words in the poem Invictus, which is Latin for unconquered.

The poem seems to fit some of the team’s offensive struggles. Sister Marion Hoctor, professor of English at Nazareth College of Rochester, New York, talked about the poem after Timothy McVeigh left it as his final message to the world before execution in 2001: “The poem is powerful expression of stoicism — you fall back on your own resources, you don’t fall back on religious resources. If you are going to truly be ‘invictus’ — which is Latin for unconquered — you must be true to your own convictions. So ‘Invictus’ means ‘I have not been conquered.’ … He’s saying ‘I’m in possession of my fate, I have been strong, I haven’t cried, or winced’ in the face of the ‘bludgeoning of chance.'”

There you have it.


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Losing Their Lead, Losing Their Cool

victorino 0810.jpgIt’s not that the Marlins swept the Phillies this weekend.

It’s how it happened that bothered Charlie Manuel the most. So he held a 20-minute team meeting following Sunday’s 12-3 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

You can bet Manuel did most of the talking.

“Today’s game got me a little bit,” he said. “I’ll be very honest with you. Today’s game, how we played, things that happened in the game, how we went about it and things. It was not about how we played yesterday or nothing like that, and not because we lost three games in a row.

“I was upset kind of with how he played today. I felt like we lost our composure and we did some things that we usually don’t do, and we didn’t play like we usually play. … We’re not the team that you saw on the field today. I think that we definitely can be much better than that. We are better than that.”

What was said? 

“Whatever I said is my business,” Manuel said. “I hope my message was sent.”

This was a bad weekend for the Phillies. They had a chance to step on Florida’s throat. They had a chance to kill its spirit. If the Phillies had taken 2 of 3, they would have had an eight-game lead in the National League East with a little more than a month and a half to play. But now it’s down to 4, giving the Marlins a feeling they could actually upset the Phillies.

That’s the last thing the Phillies wanted.


The Phillies have lost eight of their last 11 games. They’re averaging 2.9 runs per game in that stretch, which is the worst average in the Majors.


Shane Victorino‘s ejection in the seventh inning might have been the most bizarre ejection I’ve ever seen.


I would expect Pedro Martinez to start for the Phillies sometime this week. An announcement could come Monday because I don’t see how the Phillies can wait to announce their pitching probables until Tuesday, when they open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Jamie Moyer might get pushed out of the rotation at this point. Signs just point that way.

“When I need to be addressed or spoken to, I’m sure I’ll be spoken to or I’ll be told what’s going on,” Moyer said. “We don’t make the decisions here. We just work here.”


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