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Phillies need bats to become noisemakers

Phillies need bats to become noisemakers

PHILADELPHIA -- The quiet that envelopes a ballpark when the visiting team takes Game 1 of a postseason series is the sound of tonal shift. All those raucous fans and waving towels give way to a silent hush, accompanied by a sense of surprise and, perhaps, a little bit of fear.

This wasn't the sound the Phillies were expecting to encounter in the wake of Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night. They were cast as heavy favorites and cloaked in confidence. They had arguably the best pitcher in the game on the mound and every expectation of adding to a seven-game winning streak in postseason series openers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the final out. The Giants outpitched, outhit and generally outplayed the Phillies, en route to a 4-3 win. They neutralized Roy Halladay, swiped home-field advantage and cued the sound of silence.

Oh, yes, there is little doubt the silence will quickly give way to those raucous cheers and chants of the Philly faithful when these two clubs take the field again for Game 2 on Sunday night. But the pressure now rests in the home dugout.

"It's very important," Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez said, "to have a short memory."

In one sense, that's an easy outlook, because the Phillies' performance at the plate this postseason has largely been forgettable. And as the tone shifts and the focus rests on Game 2, it is clear that those bats need to come alive. Otherwise, a Giants team few were giving a shot in this LCS just might waltz into the World Series.

"It's good to get a win the first game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "And this is the club that we all knew that we had to get through to get to where you want to go. But the important thing was to get a win off the start to give the team a sense of confidence."

On the other side, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel entered this series with the confidence that comes from having three superb starters in Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels lined up in the rotation. Yet for all the attention placed on "H2O", there is the growing concern over an offense that ranked second in the NL in runs scored in the regular season but has, for the most part, sputtered here in October.

Sensational southpaw
Lowest opponent average vs. Phillies
Rank Player Avg.
1. Rob Dibble .150
2. Tim Scott .158
3. Joe Hoerner .160
4. Floyd Youmans .162
5. Rawly Eastwick .163
6. Rich Robertson .165
7. Marv Grissom .169
8. Stan Belinda .170
9. Frank Smith .171
10. Jonathan Sanchez .175
Minimum of 30 innings

In the wake of Game 1, Manuel said he had plenty to think about, including some potential retooling of the batting order to generate some sort of spark. That could include a return of Jimmy Rollins to the leadoff spot, even though Rollins, with one hit and two walks in 17 plate appearances, has been virtually invisible in the first four games of this postseason.

Keep in mind that the Phillies' No. 1 and 2 hitters, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco, are a combined 5-for-31 this postseason. And given that the leadoff spot is where Rollins is most comfortable, Manuel said he is not above slotting him back in that spot, regardless of his struggles.

"I'll think about that," Manuel said. "I'll think about a whole lot of things. We need to put together more offense."

With left-hander Jonathan Sanchez on the mound for the Giants, Game 2 might be the right time to elevate Rollins in the order. The switch-hitting Rollins was abysmal from the left side in this injury plagued season (.218 average, .657 OPS) but respectable from the right side (.297, .773).

"It's a lefty tomorrow, and the right side's been working for me all year long," Rollins said. "Whatever Charlie wants me to do is what I'll do."

Putting this one in the Spin Forward, too.

Ravishing Roy
Highest winning percentage after the All-Star break among active pitchers
Rank Player W-L Pct.
1. Roy Oswalt 77-25 .755
2. Johan Santana 65-23 .739
3. Tim Hudson 83-37 .692
4. Andy Pettitte 118-55 .682
5. CC Sabathia 78-41 .655
Minimum 60 decisions

But the Phillies have problems that extend beyond the leadoff spot. With a .212 team average, they are struggling to generate opportunities. With a .172 (5-for-29) average with runners in scoring position, they are struggling to take advantage of what few opportunities they have.

The main offender is cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, who has one extra-base hit and eight strikeouts in 15 at-bats this postseason. He is just one of several areas of concern for Manuel, now that the Phillies are in an 0-1 hole.

"If I could go in there and tell them something that's going to help them hit and things like that, believe me, I will," Manuel said. "They're definitely trying. I mean, sometimes that's the way it goes. And they're going to come out, and they're going to try hard tomorrow. Maybe they'll try even harder. Maybe too hard. I don't know."

As for the Giants, the mission in Game 2 is clear: Go for the throat. Only two of the 19 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in the NLCS have been unable to finish what they started, so history is on their side if they take care of business Sunday. And with Sanchez on the mound against a struggling lineup that leans left, the possibility of grabbing that 2-0 lead is distinct.

For the Phillies, the silence in that scenario could prove deafening.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, CastroTurf. Follow @castrovince on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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