Along with six stolen bases, the fleet-footed right-fielder banged out 10 hits this series, including his first home run.
The top of the Phillies lineup set the table about as well as the team could have possibly hoped this series. Along with Jimmy Rollins, Victorino has emerged as a legitimate stolen base threat and now has 13 on the season, second most in the National League.
Both men are finding ways to get on base without drawing walks. Rollins (.368 OBP) hasn’t walked in 11 games, while Victorino (.386 OBP) has just one free pass in eight games, yet their OBP has stayed level or improved. While Rollins’ home run stroke has tailed off, the multi-hit games keep coming. J-Roll has 17 on the season, and Victorino added multi-hit performances in every game this series.
There have been numerous comments on dropping Rollins further down the lineup to capitalize on his power. However, the more table-setting we see, the harder it will be for Charlie Manuel to do it. Manuel has never kept Rollins away from the leadoff spot for very long and may be less likely to do it now that the top two men are in sync.
What the Phillies need now are the power hitters to start driving the ball, particularly Pat Burrell, whose selective approach hasn’t translated into run production. Burrell drew a walk in all four of his at bats last night before being lifted for Michael Bourn, leaving it up to Aaron Rowand and Wes Helms, who went 1-for-8 and stranded seven. Bourn, who stole two bags, eventually scored on a bang-bang play at the plate.
So far, Burrell has been a powerless hitter. He was held without an extra base hit over the weekend and has just one XBH over his last 10 games, a double on Thursday night. His only home run came on April 6, the fourth game of the season.
One wonders whether it’s time for a change, but what would that entail exactly? Batting Burrell second? Or seventh? Rollins fifth? Frankly, nothing seems to make any more sense than just waiting for the bats to come around in their usual spots.
Instead of a lineup shuffle, an alternative might be to start filtering in some other players. Candidates would include Bourn, who showed his one-of-a-kind ability to create runs last night in the seventh. Bourn can play all three outfield positions well and has yet to start a game.
Moreover, Helms' addition has not only been meaningless, but costly. The third baseman hasn't homered yet and is sporting a sub-Barajas .343 slugging percentage. He actually cost the Phils two runs because of his glove last night, including a botch job on a routine play. After that, I can assure you we'll see less Helms, more Abraham Nunez. Managers don't have patience for that kind of horrendous play, especially when the bullpen is in pieces.
Third base is one area where the Phillies may need to think outside the box and start looking beyond the current choices. As poor as Helms is defensively, Nunez costs them just as much with his bat. Perhaps the answer lies in Triple-A, or on another club.
Who pitches if Garcia can't? Freddy Garcia bruised his left shin by slamming into a utility vehicle shagging baseballs during yesterday's batting practice. The team indicated they will not dip into the minor leagues for a replacement and will wait to see whether Garcia can go this afternoon. If he can't, the team suggested going with bullpen alternatives.
One avenue could be to start left-hander Fabio Castro. The Diamondbacks are hitting .225/.298/.336 against lefties and there have been indications Casto may be better as a starting pitcher. Castro spent the offseason starting games in the Dominican Republic and was dominant. A probable plan might include Castro for several innings, followed by Clay Condrey, who can work long innings, then the usual suspects in the back-end of the bullpen.
Perhaps a better alternative is to purchase the contract of left-hander J.A. Happ from Triple-A Ottawa. There are a couple reasons why the Phillies would call on Happ. His turn in the rotation falls today and he's probably first on the list of minor league pitchers to get an emergency start. Plus, he's pitching well. In five games, he's 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA, 21 H, 31 SO, 14 BB.
Remember, Gillick was unafraid to try this with another young left-hander almost one year ago to the day. That decision went pretty well.