Saturday, July 3, 2010

Would you like to ride with Batman?

I don't know if anyone remembers this commercial, but it was from the mid-1990s, and it involved a football coach checking on one of his players who was on the receiving end of a shell-shocking tackle. The coach asks him, "Who am I," to which the player responds plainly, "You're coach." The coach then asks the player, "Who are you?" The player beams at him with confidence as he proclaims, "I'm Batman!"

The Phillies offense has been afflicted with a case of mistaken identity, though the new person is not a masked vigilante with a killer suit and a car that fills the military with envy (I just wanted to share the memory of that hilarious commercial). Philly is more akin to Two Face, dominated by an evil side that can't score runs. The only upside is that every once in a while, Harvey Dent re-emerges to dispose of enemy pitching.

I guess Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf were like the Joker, a new threat the Phillies had no idea how to overcome, and Paul Maholm was the familiar crime boss who was easy to put away (despite the lefty coming in with a 3-1 record and 3.29 ERA against Philadelphia). The Phillies jumped all over him early in a 12-4 thrashing that finally gave them a win at PNC Park. No matter what team the Phils face, when they hit the cover off the ball like they used to do on a regular basis, it seems to occur at random, and these outbursts are surrounded by three- or four-game stretches of bewilderment. It's a dizzying pattern to follow and is not making much of a dent (no pun intended) in the division.

I'm glad Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth finally listened to my pleas, ending their respective RBI droughts of six and eight games. They combined to drive in four runs - the kind of production you want to see out of at least one of them every game with Utley and Polanco out of the lineup. Ironically, their help wasn't really needed tonight, but J-Roll and Victorino aren't going to combine for six hits and the cycle too often.

Ben Francisco finally got the home run monkey off his back, and his increased playing time over the last few weeks has helped his hitting. I'd expect to see him out there more and more. It may still be too early to tell, but it appears as if 38-year-old Raul Ibanez is on a career decline.

Kyle Kendrick is dealing with his own Two Face issues, but the better half that he showed throughout all of Spring Training - and easily won him the fifth spot in the rotation after J.A. Happ went down - returned in his first-ever complete game. This is the fifth straight game in which a Philly starter has gone at least seven innings, but the team is just 2-3 in that stretch.

This is a group that is fully capable of winning, even regaining first place in the East, without Chase Utley or Placido Polanco. There's no doubt in my mind of that. I'm just not sure they believe that right now. I feel like I've said this way too much, but tonight's win was a good start back to that confidence. They need to find their inner-Batman and continue to take care of the bad guys.

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