Philadelphia Phillies Need to Play Smart after Sloppy Game Three Loss

Rick SchneeContributor IOctober 4, 2008

Game Three of the NLDS highlighted the one glaring deficiency that the Phillies have not been able to overcome so far this postseason: a sluggish offense. Take away Shane Victorino's amazing (but let's face it, unlikely) grand slam in Game Two, and what do the Phillies have? One run.

Take away Mike Cameron's misplay of Chase Utley's fly ball in Game One, and what do the Phillies have? One run.

How many runs did the Phillies score tonight? I think you see where I'm going with this.

The Phils left 16 men on base in Saturday's game. Let me say that a little louder: They left 16 men on base!!!

That's unacceptable in any situation, let alone the playoffs. Everyone has been willing to ignore this weakness because, frankly, they were winning games. But I said the same thing after Game Two as I did after Game One: What's going to happen when we don't have Hamels or Myers on the mound to carry the team?

Tonight we saw the answer. Jamie Moyer had trouble finding the strike zone, was only able to last four innings, and the Phils could only give him one run of support.

I'm glad that Ryan Howard finally got two hits, but Utley was still only 1-for-4, and Pat Burrell was once again hitless. This means that the meat of the Phillies' lineup is still only 4-for-28 in the series, which comes to a paltry .143 batting average.

Is this supposed to be okay just because they won the first two games? What happens when they get to the NLCS? And while I'm on the subject, this brings up two points that have been on my mind.


1. Ryan Howard

Every team in baseball plays an exaggerated shift on Howard when he comes up to bat. Howard knows this. His batting coach knows this. And yet nine times out of 10, he hits right into the shift.

Why doesn't he ever just hit a ball the other way? Does he not know how to do this? And if he doesn't know how, why doesn't someone teach him? Why doesn't he practice it over and over and over and over and over until he figures out a way to beat the shift?

Isn't it embarrassing for him to do exactly what the opposing team expects him to do every single time? Come to think of it, why doesn't he ever lay down a freakin' bunt? The third baseman is all the way over at shortstop. Even as slow as he is, if Howard could lay a bunt down the third-base line, there would be no one to field the ball. He'd get to first easily.

I guess big stars that get paid $10 million a year are just too important to be bunting.


2. Pat Burrell

I really hope the Phillies don't re-sign him next season. His 0-for-8 stat line in the playoffs so far just emphasizes his uselessness. And don't try to tell me he walks a lot. He's batting fifth in the lineup. He's not getting paid to walk—he's getting paid to drive in runs.

The Phillies need to be more patient at the plate in Game Four, just as they were against CC Sabathia. In the ninth inning on Saturday, they had the bases loaded with no outs and looked poised to start a huge rally.

Then, Pedro Feliz swings at the first pitch and hits into a double play. To make matters worse, because of foolish baserunning by Victorino, the one run that did score on the play was called back. They can't keep making these mental errors and let the Brewers think they have a shot at this thing.

Look, I wasn't expecting a sweep. I knew that that would be too much to ask. But with Joe Blanton pitching on Sunday, the offense needs to show a little more heart and a little more brains.