Monday, July 21, 2008

The Fightin' Phils

Don’t look now, but your fightin’ Phils are becoming just that.

To put it kindly, this is not exactly the way the Phils wanted to come out of the blocks in the second half of the season. The Phillies dropped two of three in South Florida. But it was the way they went about their business that got the veins in manager Charlie Manuel’s neck bulging.

The Phils were sloppy. They played poor defense. Their offense continues to be anemic. And they continue to struggle with the kind of fundamentals – such as moving runners – that is supposed to be taken care of here in South Florida a few months earlier, as in spring training.

After the Phils wasted another gem from Cole Hamels, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Marlins in 11 innings, Manuel apparently had seen enough.

The skipper aired out his troops after the loss, letting them know he’s none too happy with their offense and lethargic play.

The Phillies were one for six with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.

This team simply does not do the little things that make an offense go when they are not hitting home runs. How many times have they got a runner into scoring position on second base with less than two outs and the next batter fails to move the runner to third? They don’t sacrifice especially well. They don’t hit behind the runner. They don’t take pitches. They continue to pop out or strike out in key situations.

There are signs that Manuel may not be the only one tiring of the Phils’ act. After another no-decision in a game in which he gave up just two runs on four hits, young star Cole Hamels was starting to sound frustrated.

That would give him something in common with Pat Burrell. He sounds like he’s getting more and more ticked with the idea of being lifted for late-innings defense, then missing key at-bats when the game goes into extra innings.

They have a day off today, then go into the cauldron of the Big Apple.

The Phils are now in a dead-even tie with the Mets, with the Marlins just a half-game back.

Maybe they can take out some of their frustration on the New Yorkers. Either that or they will have to do what they did last year, come from behind to catch the Mets down the stretch.

I don’t think they can count on the Mets folding up the way they did last year. Maybe there’s something about being in first place in the NL East that makes teams play tight.

The Phils need to figure it out. And soon.

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