Inside the Phillies: With their full lineup, Phillies think they will be offensive vs. Cardinals

If you were to suggest that the Phillies offense was on par with their opponent's in this National League division series that starts Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, you'd probably be told to seek immediate psychiatric attention.

The Albert Pujols-led St. Louis Cardinals topped the National League in runs scored, batting average, and on-base percentage and were tied for first with Milwaukee in slugging percentage.

The Phillies, on the other hand, ranked seventh in runs, ninth in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage, and seventh in slugging percentage. It could just as easily be argued that the Phillies are the least-threatening offensive team still playing in the postseason. They scored three runs or fewer 77 times, which is seven more than any of the other teams that still have a chance to win the World Series.

These Phillies' offensive numbers bear little resemblance to the ones posted by the 2008 World Series champions, but a lot of resemblance to the 2010 team that scored three or fewer runs 75 times during the regular season and in three of their four losses to San Francisco in the National League Championship Series.

The Phillies hit .215 in the postseason last year and .216 in the NLCS.

If that happens again in 2011, it probably will not matter that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. assembled the best starting rotation on the planet, because at some point a lack of offense will likely prevent the Phillies from achieving their ultimate goal.

There is reason for hope here. In fact, there is reason to believe that the Phillies offense can be every bit as good or even better than the big bats of the Cardinals, who arrived at the ballpark Friday afternoon as baseball's hottest team.

When healthy, an infrequent occurrence this season and last, the Phillies still have an offense to be feared. That's significant because the Phillies go into Game 1 of this series with the Cardinals as the healthier team. St. Louis likely will be without leftfielder Matt Holliday, who is nursing a finger injury.

"We're in the best health we've been in all year," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Circumstances permitting, Manuel's lineup card for Game 1 against former Phillies righthander Kyle Lohse will look like this: Jimmy Rollins, SS; Chase Utley, 2B; Hunter Pence, RF; Ryan Howard, 1B; Shane Victorino, CF; Raul Ibanez, LF; Placido Polanco, 3B; Carlos Ruiz, C; and Roy Halladay, P.

"I think it's kind of uplifting when we know we're going to have our full lineup out there," Howard said. "Especially when we went through September and I think you could count on one hand the number of times we went out there as a full lineup."

Actually, you don't even need all your figures on one hand to count the total number of times Manuel's eight regular position players were on the field together in September. It was four. And you don't need all your fingers and toes to count the number of times the eight regulars were together during the 162-game regular season either. That number was 17.

"Oh, it's great when you have the whole lineup healthy," Victorino said. "To me, the last four days of the season really represent what this team is capable of doing. We were playing a team with a lot on the line, and we got the job done."

With few exceptions, the Phillies always got the job done when they had their eight regulars on the field. In those 17 games - 10 with Domonic Brown in right and seven with Pence - the Phillies went 14-3, batted .273 as a team - 20 points higher than their season average - and scored four or more runs 13 times.

After Pence replaced Brown as the rightfielder, the Phillies went 7-0 and batted .309 in the games when they had their starting eight on the field.

"When we go out there as a whole, we showed how good we could be," Victorino said. "It's obviously a good sign that everybody is healthy. When we get to go out there and play as our regular eight plus the pitcher, I think that's a positive not only for us offensively but also on defense. It helps in more aspects than one."

The Phillies appeared to be in excellent physical and mental health as the start of the playoffs finally arrived. That eight-game losing streak hanging over their heads last week at this time was replaced by a four-game winning streak that helped the Cardinals earn this trip to Philadelphia.

Now, the Phillies want to cruelly cut the cord on the Cardinals' season.

"Yeah, I heard a quote a long time ago," Game 1 starter Roy Halladay said. "I came here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. I think it's true. We're all well aware of how good the [Cardinals] are. We obviously have a lot of respect for what they've done and how they've played, but you have to be confident going in that you're going to be able to beat them."

That confidence is high for the Phillies, and it will surge even more if the eight regulars (and John Mayberry Jr.) remain healthy through the entire postseason.

 


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.