Phillies Notebook: Lineup Potent Again In Blowout
PHILADELPHIA—Do anything 162 times, and you’re bound to encounter a few surprises.
When “it” happens to be baseball, a few more.
So it shouldn’t have shocked anyone that after Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick appeared to be shaking off some early stumbles – he allowed 5 hits and 2 home runs through 4, but just 2 earned runs – the ominous skies opened.
Just like that, a rain delay was called.
Kendrick may well have been derailed.
If so, the bullpen would’ve been needed to protect a then-3 run lead – for 5 innings.
This, right before a 6-game road trip. Had the bullpen blown it and the Phillies lost, it would’ve been the third straight series loss to open the year, and second in a row to unworthy foes in the Royals and Mets.
Almost dumb luck.
The list is surely longer than this, but such are the perks of offensive explosions.
They make bad luck burn less.
For the second straight night against a shaky Mets starter, the Phillies lineup exploded in a 7-3 win at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.
"I think there's something to be said for everything being contagious," third baseman Michael Young said. "Starting pitchers feed off each other and hitters can, too."
They dropped 5 in the first inning. Chase Utley and Domonic Brown both went yard, Utley for 2 runs, Brown for 3. Brown’s bop made for 6 straight batters to open the frame.
Laynce Nix launched a pinch-hit homer just right of Chickie’s in the fifth.
It turned out that the rain delay was but a speed bump in the evening itinerary. It lasted just 27 minutes. Kendrick was able to resume, and pitched though the sixth inning.
Nothing wrong with some insurance, though.
Maybe especially for a team that, just last Friday, before their first game in front of the home crowd against the lowly Kansas City Royals, watched a 4-0 first-inning lead unravel.
“We just started getting good balls to hit, and we just started swinging the bats good,” said manager Charlie Manuel.
“We’ve started doing better.”
Some may say the output indicates the offense has arrived. Others might quip that, with the way the Phillies have put runners on base and in scoring position and not gotten results, it’s what was supposed to happen all along.
“It’s called baseball,” said Ryan Howard. “You’re going to have stints where you get guys in. You’re going to have stints where you don’t get guys in. That’s why you keep going out there, you keep swinging.”
Either way, after opening the year 5 for 28 (.178) with men in scoring position, the Phillies have utterly raked in their last four, going 13 for 29 (.448) for a more than reputable RISP.
Maybe the most garden tool-in-hand guys have been Chase Utley, 34, and Young, 36.
Utley has gone 5 for 15 (.333) in his last four games, with 2 walks and 2 stolen bases – the walks coming in an 0 for 2 outing on Tuesday against the Mets, maybe serving as Exhibit A for the beauty of bases on balls.
Young has gone 10 for 16 (.625) over the span with 3 RBI and 3 extra-base hits.
So far, Utley’s hit .345 with a .998 OPS.
Young, too, has hit .345 – with a 1.053 OPS.
Whatever you want to call them, maybe the least likely duo for an astronomical early season are bringing the best out of the rest.
John Mayberry has contributed. He went 0 for 4 on Wednesday, but went 2 for 4 with his first home run, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored Tuesday.
Brown may be coming around. He’s working only a .223/.258/.333 line through 9 games, but he went 1 for 3 with a rare bit of plate patience on Wednesday for a walk.
Even Howard, while he’s not enjoying a streak per se is at the very least competent at the plate. In his last four games he’s 4 for 16 (.250), right on pace with his career batting average, and hit his first homer on Tuesday.
(Though he has 7 strikeouts over the span.)
Still, every last bit helps.
And for this Phillies lineup, consistent bunches of little bits have finally become one big bit.
Big enough to not get bit by surprises, anyway.
“Right now, we’re knocking guys in,” Howard said. “Hopefully we can sustain that for a long, long period of time.”