Just one sizzling performance by a big bat could tip the scales in the Phillies’ favor.
Ninty-seven wins never felt so much like 87 and it’s all because the Phillies, a team of perennial MVP candidates, went through the season without experiencing greatness at the plate. Carlos Ruiz had a fine season by Carlos Ruiz standards. Jayson Werth’s final totals were terrific, but hardly exceptional. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed gobs of time and barely left a mark. A season of fits and starts carried into the Division Series, where the Phillies relied almost entirely on pitching and the Reds’ mistakes. As they get set to stare down the barrel of the Giants’ guns, it might be a good time for the offense to become magical again. Through the first two rounds in ‘09, Howard hit .355/.462/.742 with two homers, 14 RBIs and took home NLCS MVP hardware. Utley homered five times including a pair of two-tater efforts in Game 1 and 5, both leading to victory.
It’s a nice idea to believe the Phillies can simply pitch their way to a title. After all, they didn’t need much offense to take care of the Rays in 2008. But they needed some, and against the Giants, they’ll need more bounce from the bat rack than they showed in the previous series. The chances of repeating a no-hitter, five-hitter and receiving a gift-wrapped game like they did in Game 2 are unlikely, and the Giants’ rotation is of a higher caliber than the Reds. But if Howard and Utley are producing like they're capable of producing, the Giants will have no answer.