On Wednesday night, you probably drank yourself to sleep while watching the Flyers give up 10 goals and miss out on an opportunity to sweep the Pens in the first round of the NHL playoffs. If that was case, be glad it worked out that way, because it means you saved yourself from having to watch Cliff Lee throw 10 incredible shutout innings as the Phillies fell to the Giants (the Giants!) 1-0 in 11 innings.
Wednesday’s game was a microcosm of the first few weeks of the season. Quality pitching with no run support is the same as abysmal pitching with no run support because you have to get people to cross the plate to win a game. To say that the Phils offense has been anemic thus far would be gross understatement. At this point, Ruben Amaro should get on the phone with Dr. Dre’s people to see if we can get a hologram of Chase Utley to bat in the three-hole.
The Phils have only scored 37 runs so far in 2012. Last year, they had accumulated 70 runs by this point. Jimmy Rollins has only walked twice, Placido Polanco is batting .179, and entering last night’s game against the Padres, the team ranked in the bottom three in the NL in six offensive categories.
The team has combined to hit a measly six home runs. In 2008, Burrell alone had four dingers himself after 11 games. Hunter Pence leads the team with seven RBIs. There are two Dodgers—Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier—who EACH have more RBIs than every Phillies outfielder combined. That’s a problem.
Philly has always struggled to hit for Cole Hamels, but the bats seem to be employing a mentality of equal-opportunity disappointment this year. They’ve posted two or fewer runs in eight games already this season. In 2011, they didn’t hit that mark until a week into May, and they had won two of those contests.
The good news, though, is that they started 2012 with a 5-6 record. That’s the same record they had after 11 games in 2008 and 2009. It’s not terribly impressive, but they’re playing .500 baseball without Ryan Howard. They’re doing it without Chase Utley. They’re doing it without a legitimate left fielder and with a jumbled lineup full of journeymen and utility players. Offensively, the Phils should be concerned. But, realistically, 5-6 isn’t that bad, especially for a team that’s notoriously slow out of the gate. And, luckily, the Phils are continuing a West Coast road trip with a series in San Diego’s Petco Park—a place they haven’t lost at in an eternity.
National League East baseball is going to be tough in 2012. The Marlins and Nats significantly improved their teams, and the Mets (the Mets!) are messing everything up by winning some baseball games. If the Phils keep at it, and rely heavily on sturdy starting pitching with a few clutch hits and fluke bursts of offense prowess—like the seven-spot they posted against Miami last Wednesday or the eight they hung on the Mets last weekend—they can remain incredibly competitive until their lineup is restored to normal.
Plus, when you’ve got Halladay, Lee and Hamels each taking the bump every fifth game, some are bound to go your way.