Rangers Rebound, Blank Phillies 2-0 in Series Finale

Both the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers must feel as though they’ve been looking into a mirror during their weekend interlegaue series.  Both teams are missing star players (Chase Utley for Philadelphia;  Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton for Texas) and both teams are struggling mightily to concoct the winning formula to solve their problematic hitting equations.   Furthermore, both clubs have found a niche in wasting away strong pitching performances due to their shortcomings at the plate.

In Sunday’s series finale, neither team accomplished much with the bats, but the Rangers were able to generate just enough and the Phillies couldn’t generate anything at all, as the Rangers avoided being swept with a 2-0 shutout win over the Roy Oswalt and the Phillies.

You almost have to wonder just exactly how much worse it can possibly get for the Phillies on offense.   We’ve all asked, and will continue to ask, what the Phillies can do to fix the offense?  They’ve got Domonic Brown back, and the news of Chase Utley’s impending return tomorrow night will surely bring a much needed welcomed addition out of the No.3 spot.  But neither Brown nor Utley should be looked up as the offensive saviors and it’s highly murky how healthy Utley truly is and how this is going to play out.  But, regarding Sunday’s game, it’s gotten so bad that Ryan Howard, Philadelphia sole source of power, attempted to bunt for a hit in the bottom of the ninth.  Charlie Manuel continues to remain positive in mind and strong in spirit, tirelessly reiterating that the offense is going to get better and the Phillies are going to hit.  At this point, I’d love to know how many people are drinking Manuel’s Kool-aid.

They range from Josh Johnson to Tim Hudson, from Jake Westbrook to most notably Matt Harrison.  In one form or another, they’ve all feasted on the futile Phillies offense, and they’re just a few to mention.  Harrison didn’t imitate Nolan Ryan on Sunday, but he took a five-hitter into the ninth inning on Sunday and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz finished off the final two outs of the game for the win.  Harrison finished with three strike outs and three walks on 117 pitches, but gave the Rangers a strong start and every chance to win the game. 

Harrison’s counterpart, Roy Oswalt, did pretty much the same thing but the results didn’t back up his effort.  Oswalt struck out three, walked two on just six hits and only one of the Rangers’ runs against the right hander were earned.   Mitch Moreland’s RBI double to left field gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the sixth, and Craig Gentry’s suicide squeeze attempt was successful in the top of the eighth, scoring Adrian Beltre after Beltre led off the inning with a double off reliever J.C. Romero, then advance to third on Moreland’s ground out to second.

The Phillies managed a few threats in the game, but little else.  Their best chance was in the bottom of the second when the Phillies had runners on second and third with two outs, but Placido Polanco’s ground out ended the threat.  The Phillies had a runner reach second in bottom of the first and got a runner to third in the fifth, but couldn’t take advantage. 

Harrison and the Rangers added to the Phillies’ funk.  The last time they scored three or more runs in a game was May 13.   They scored five runs in the first two game of the series for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and were lucky to walk away with two wins.  Today, however, they ran out of luck and provided no help for Oswalt.  After getting eight hits on Saturday night, they followed up today with five hits.   Oswalt suffered his first loss at Citizens Bank Park, as the Rangers deal Oswalt his first blemish (10-1).  Oswalt was 6-0 in eight starts since he joined the Phillies. 

Help might be on the way.  With the addition of Brown, Utley’s return and the return of Shane Victorino from the DL soon, the lineup, you’d have to believe the offensive woes will subside.   It seems as though now is the best and maybe the most desperate time for Utley to return to the lineup.  Despite taking two out of three from the Rangers, the problems may not be vanishing anytime soon, particularly if Utley cannot remain in the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

It seems that the Phillies are getting desperate to come up answers for their offense. 

Having Ryan Howard, your cleanup hitter, laying down a bunt attempt might be as desperate as it gets.

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