The Phillies left eight more runners on base, in Saturday's 2-0 loss in San Francisco. Phillies' starter Joe Blanton was excellent, permitting two runs, on seven hits, in seven strong innings. He continued trekking towards a sub-4.00 ERA, leaving the proceedings on Saturday, with a 4.02 ERA. (After four starts, Blanton's ERA was at 8.41. Some more favorable BABIP and HR/9'ing, allowed Blanton to post a 1.21 July ERA.) Typically, Blanton's effort on Saturday night would have been sufficient to secure a win. However, Giants' ace Tim Lincecum was in top form, and silenced the Phillies' bats.
The Phillies have been rather hideous with runners in scoring position on this road trip. They have been fortunate that some strong pitching has enabled them to split the first six games of the road trip. Batting .103 with runners in scoring position, makes scoring a bit difficult. Should Phillies fans be concerned about that ugly stat? Probably, not. There are some small sample size BABIP issues at play here.
There may also be some fatigue issues impacting the bats. The Phillies played twenty-seven games in July (20-7!). They had one game postponed, so they had to report to ballpark twenty-eight times, in thirty-one days. The sizeable Phillies' All-Star contingent had to report to the ballpark thirty times in July. With all of the games, and all of the the traveling, combined with the daily drain of having to overcompensate for the rostering of "ballplayers" named Bako/Bruntlett/Mayberry/Walker/Register, it isn't surprising that the bats would be a bit on the tired side. The August schedule includes four days off, all Mondays, so the Phils should be able to replenish their strength for the stretch run. There's nothing to worry about, especially with Cliff Lee and Disco Ben Francisco now on the ballclub.
Well, maybe there is a little more than nothing to worry about. Starting catcher Carlos Ruiz hasn't played since Thursday, when he was behind the plate for Tyler Walker's attempt at (four strikeouts in one inning) making history. Ruiz followed up his .174 June average, with a .172 average in July. Is Ruiz troubled by a nagging injury? A DL stint would by Ruiz, would create a Phillies' catching combination of Paul Bako, backed up by Paul Hoover. THAT is the stuff of nightmares.
Also troubling is a potential playoff matchup against the pitching-rich San Francisco Giants. Lincecum, Matt Cain, and a rejuvenated Barry Zito are an imposing trio. But it could be even worse than that. What if Saturday night's pitching masterpiece was authored by the Tim Lincecum CLONE? There have been few reported sightings of Lincecum Clone, since the end of the World Baseball Classic. What if the Clone shut down the Phillies on Saturday night, while the original Lincecum went to see the new Harry Potter movie (Again. For the 18th time.)? Even though the Phillies' offense is far superior to that of the Giants, it would be tough to beat four Lincecums, in a five-game series (or six, in a seven-game series). As advanced as the Phillies' organization is in the area of cloning technology, their clones are all pitching at lower levels, and won't factor in to the 2009 postseason.
Hamels faces the Giants on Sunday, as the Phils try to escape the West Coast with a 4-3 road trip. The aforementioned rejuvenated Barry Zito will be on the slab for the Giants. Look for Hamels to try to out-ace new acquisition Cliff Lee.