MIAMI - Not even Aristophanes could have dreamed up the farce that the Phillies endured during their shutout sweep at the hands of the Mets. But the Father of Comedy once wrote that the wise learn many things from their enemies, and the Phillies seem to have taken at least one lesson away from their National League East rivals:
There is no shame in scrapping.
Manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that both he and third-base coach Davey Lopes have encouraged Shane Victorino to bunt more often throughout this season, and after watching the Mets small-ball his team to death for 3 days, he sounded convinced that his speedy centerfielder can wield a similar bat.
"Definitely," Manuel said when asked whether he would like to see Victorino bunt more, something he did successfully in 2008 but has shied away from since. "I've talked to him about it. Davey Lopes has talked to him about it . . . He's done it some, but he could do it more."
On four different occasions in the series, a Mets position player bunted to reach base, move runners, or both. In the first inning of the Phillies' 8-0 loss Tuesday, Luis Castillo bunted Jose Reyes to second; Reyes then stole third and scored on a groundout. In the fifth in that game, Reyes reached on a leadoff bunt single, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single. The next day against Joe Blanton, Angel Pagan dropped a bunt single in the sixth inning that also moved David Wright to third. Pagan then stole second, setting up a two-run double by Rod Barajas.
On Thursday, Luis Castillo bunted runners to second and third in the third inning against Cole Hamels, although the move was later thwarted by an inning-ending bases-loaded doubleplay.
But the Mets didn't teach the Phillies anything they didn't already know.
In 2008, Victorino began to use the bunt as a significant weapon against opposing defenses. In 22 bunt attempts, he singled nine times, moved a runner five times, and batted .529. But last season, he attempted to bunt only nine times, four of them coming in sacrifice situations, and none of them resulted in a base hit. This year, he has attempted three bunts and has reached base via single twice.
Not only can a bunt put a runner on base, particularly during periods when traditional hits are hard to come by, but it also can pay dividends down the road.
"What it does is bring the infielders up a little bit more for him," Manuel said.
The Phillies saw that happen to them against the Mets, who knocked groundballs past infielders playing shallow a couple of times. With their bats lacking in power over the past week, a little bit of small ball might be what the manager orders.
Placido Polanco continues to battle tendinitis in his left (glove) elbow, one reason Manuel gave him last night off. Polanco, who said last week that the condition affects him primarily at the plate, has suffered soreness in the joint ever since he was hit with a pitch in a 2-0 win against the Braves on April 21.
While his elbow has improved since the initial injury - he entered last night hitting .357 with a .397 on-base percentage in his last 17 games after going 8-for-53 in the first 13 games after the injury - the Phillies continue to monitor it and treat it daily.
Righthander Brad Lidge (elbow) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session tonight for Class A Clearwater. Lidge has said he hopes to be activated early next week, although the Phillies have declined to address a timetable for their closer . . . Phillies players voted in favor of making up the May 11 rainout against the Rockies on Sept. 2 - union rules require their approval because it will mean a stretch of 23 games without a day off - but the league has yet to make the new date official. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.