By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the shelf with injuries, you knew the Phillies were going to start the 2012 season having to come up with creative ways to come up with runs.
The Phillies lost three of their first four games because their offense sans their power hitters was completely out of rhythm.
Of course, Phillies fans went into worry mode even though there’s well over 150 games left.
In Wednesday’s 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins, the Phillies may have found a lineup geared to playing the small ball that both general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel talked about last October in aftermath of their loss in the National League Division Series.
With speedsters like lead-off man Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino along with Hunter Pence and rookie second baseman Freddie Galvis who run hard and create havoc on the basepaths, the Phillies demonstrated that they can come up with the big inning with small ball.
The big inning of that game was the Phillies third inning where ten men came to the plate and scored five runs on four singles and just one extra-base hit. This inning happened mainly because the Phillies were aggressive on the basepaths.
After pitcher Roy Halladay grounded out, Pierre got the festivities going with a single to right. He stole second on a play that replay showed he was clearly out. But since the umpires called him safe, Pierre eventually scored on single by Placido Polanco, who took second on the throw to the plate.
With Polanco in scoring position, Rollins gets a single to left. He not only drives home Polanco, he takes second on a fielding error. A Pence single brings home Rollins. The Phillies rightfielder takes second on the throw and is driven home by Victorino, who would eventually steal second.
Later in the inning, Victorino steals second and then scores on a two-run double by Galvis to give the Phillies a huge lead and that was your ball game.
What should ultimately stand out here is that the Phillies were aggressive on the basepaths, stealing bases and hustling for the extra bases when they could. But in order for it to work on a consistent basis, they still have to get those singles and those extra-base hits.
“I think it’s going to be a blue print even those guys (Howard and Utley)get back,” Victorino said. “There’s no reason to change. We’re going to be built on that and why not use it and make it a part our game—whether it be bunting or stealing bases in that situation.”
In the locker room after Monday’s, Phillies leftfielder Juan Pierre told me that all the Phillies needed was to string a few hits and that would get the ball rolling. He turned out to be prophetic…at least for Wednesday’s game
“Victorino can run, Jimmy can run and I can run, I think that’s the ideal. My job is to go out there and create runs and put pressure on the defense,” Pierre said. “We got enough veteran guys in here that can calm down and stringing some hits together will definitely help that.”
With the Phillies starting rotation of starters like Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley, the speed game, if it’s consistent will definitely help a group with arms capable of shutting any team down.
“We have a lot of ways to score runs,” said Halladay, who allowed just one run on seven innings against the Marlins. “Anytime you have speed, three or four guys that are base-running threats, can bunt and do the little things, you always have a chance to score runs. That’s a hugh addition for us and we have some guys that can really swing it, too.”
If the Phillies can do the small ball thing consistently until Howard and Utley come back, they will be tough to beat.