Saturday, August 09, 2003

Wacky, Wild Stuff

I haven't watched much of the Phillies lately, but unlike earlier in the season, the Law of Inverse Viewing no longer seems to be in effect. After getting stomped by the Giants at PacBell last night, Larry Bowa & Co. have fallen into a wild-card tie with Florida, which has used smoke and mirrors to fashion an unexpectedly strong second half of the season.

After scoring only 11 runs in three games at Coors Field -- you practically get that just for showing up, like the 400 points one garners simply for signing one's name on the SAT -- the Phils were three-hit by a quartet of San Francisco no-names. Randy Wolf got strafed for four runs in five innings, and Jose Mesa, in his first appearance since getting booted from the closer's slot, was taken into McCovey Cove by Barry Bonds. The media let Mesa off the hook, noting that an umpire blew what should have been an inning-ending double play call.

The Phillies' wildly inconsistent offense mirrors the season as a whole. Nine- and 10-run explosions are followed by lame, one-run efforts. Even with Marlon Byrd seemingly solving the season's earlier lead-off problems, the team still can't score regularly. Going into the season, left field and third base were supposed to round out a fearsome offense anchored by Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. And though Mike Lieberthal has provided nice punch from behind the dish, Pat Burrell's and David Bell's disastrous seasons have rendered the Phils' attack merely average.

Phillies brass thinks Burrell will discover his stroke, but now that Bowa has been giving Ricky Ledee many more at-bats, that may be wishful thinking. Once Bell recovers from his achy back, he may prove professional enough to contribute as projected. But it sure looks as if the Phils will go only as far as their pitching takes them this year. Which means the bullpen needs to continue rocking, Kevin Millwood needs to rediscover his dominance, Wolf needs to pitch like the All-Star he was a month ago, and Brett Myers needs to forget that he's not even 23 yet and in his first full big league season.


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