Rollins in the middle of Phils' woes
Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel has a marvelously simple way of breaking down the game.
“We usually are a hit away from winning the game,” Manuel said after last night’s crushing loss against the Dodgers, one that mimicked a lot of Phils’ games this year. “We’ve been in mostly all of our games. But we have a hard time. We need one hit at times – a sac fly or anything to score a run. I don’t know what to tell you.”
I don’t either, Charlie.
I do know one thing, however. This is not something that has suddenly afflicted the Phils this year. An inability to hit in the crunch has been something of a hallmark of this team the last couple of years. Witness what happened to them in the playoffs against the Cardinals.
Last night was just the latest example. CLICK HERE for Jack McCaffery’s game story.
A lot of this is about your leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins. He is once again taking some heat for his offense, and not without merit.
Rollins, who signed a new three-year deal in the off-season, was supposed to be the catalyst for the Phils’ new approach to hitting preached after the Cardinals’ debacle by GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
I was cynical that this veteran team was going to change its stripes, Rollins in particular.
He’s never exactly been the prototype leadoff hitter. He doesn’t seem to work counts. Like so many of his teammates, he’s a free swinger. That’s not the leadoff man’s job. He has to get on base. Too often Rollins does not, flying out or hitting weak grounders on pitches he should not be offering at.
In the third inning last night, with the Phils already looking at a 3-0 deficit, the Phils mounted a rally. John Mayberry doubled. He scored on a single to right by Freddy Galvis. Pitcher Vance Worley sacrificed him into scoring position. Up steps Jimmy Rollins. Pop out to shortstop. Forget scoring Galvis, he didn’t even advance the runner. Luckily, Placido Polanco got Rollins off the hook by homering to tie the game.
Later in the game, Rollins showed he still has some legs by busting it on a ball hit to the gap in left-center for a triple. But he broke for home on a hard grounder to a drawn-in shortstop and was dead at the plate. He was tagged out standing up.
Even with two hits last night, Rollins is hitting an anemic .242.
Most of the talk from last night will surround unhappiness with the way home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn was calling balls and strikes. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly got tossed. After the game Phils’ closer Jonathan Papelbon openly ripped Reyburn after surrendering the game-winning run.
Right now pitching is not the Phils’ problem. It’s hitting, especially hitting in the clutch, just as it’s been now for two years.
And Rollins is right in the middle of the problem. Even when he’s batting leadoff.