Northeast Times

Phils’ offense might need more than Utley and Brown

On the sur­face, the Phil­lies are in an en­vi­able po­s­i­tion at the mo­ment. 

Their 28-18 re­cord (at the time of this writ­ing) ranks them atop the Na­tion­al League, and second in all of base­ball, just be­hind the Clev­e­land In­di­ans and their sur­pris­ing 29-15 re­cord. 

The Phil­lies also have four of the best pitch­ers in the game — any one of which most oth­er teams would love to have — in a five-man start­ing ro­ta­tion. Add to that the pretty big con­tri­bu­tions from guys who wer­en’t even sup­posed to be here this year and al­most any team would be bet­ter off in the stand­ings.

To any­one who is pay­ing at­ten­tion, however, things are not as peachy as the Phils and the fans would like them to be. 

As you prob­ably know by now, the Phils’ of­fense is noth­ing to brag about. 

Even though they lead the league, the Phil­lies have scored just three or few­er runs in 27 of their first 46 games. Of those 27 games, they sur­pris­ingly have won 11, but most of those have res­ul­ted from stel­lar pitch­ing. 

If not for the four po­ten­tial Cy Young can­did­ates, who knows where the Phil­lies would be right now?

Their 146 runs scored for the sea­son ranks them 23rd among the 30 ma­jor league teams, two be­hind the lowly Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als and just three ahead of the per­petu­ally me­diocre Pitt­s­burgh Pir­ates. 

They also have just the 19th-best team bat­ting av­er­age (.245) in base­ball, a long way away from St. Louis’ lead­ing .282 av­er­age.  

Help is on the way, though, for those who want to get ex­cited. The Phils re­called top pro­spect Do­mon­ic Brown last Fri­day; on Monday, the team ac­tiv­ated second base­man Chase Ut­ley.

Brown is a total X factor at this point be­cause he has yet to prove a single thing on the ma­jor-league level. Whatever he provides, though, can­not be worse than what Ben Fran­cisco has been turn­ing in on a daily basis, but to ex­pect Brown to make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence is way too op­tim­ist­ic for the mo­ment. 

Ut­ley’s ac­tiv­a­tion and in­ser­tion in­to the start­ing lineup on Monday def­in­itely cre­ated an air of ju­bil­a­tion among fans pri­or to the start of the cur­rent series with the Cin­cin­nati Reds. 

A few words of warn­ing seem ap­pro­pri­ate. First, no single play­er can have the im­pact of­fens­ively that the Phil­lies need right now. 

The gap between where they are and where their po­ten­tial puts them is much big­ger than one man can fix. 

Second, Ut­ley is com­ing off a pretty sig­ni­fic­ant in­jury. Just how of­ten he can play — and how pro­duct­ive he can be — re­mains to be seen. 

But he is Chase Ut­ley; he has been known to do great things. The one pos­it­ive ele­ment that a healthy and pro­duct­ive Ut­ley can provide is a sense of nor­malcy for a team that has been bat­tling the in­jury bug for most of the sea­son.

If he can step in and settle this start­ing lineup, with oth­er starters shif­ted back to where they are ac­cus­tomed to play­ing, then bet­ter days pos­sibly could re­turn. 

Charlie Manuel, the Phil­lies skip­per, needs to be care­ful with Ut­ley, too. The per­en­ni­al all-star has played through ma­jor in­jur­ies be­fore, but he has been ex­tremely will­ing to take his re­hab slowly and smartly this time around. 

To me, that says he real­izes this could be a much big­ger is­sue if he tries to play through it. 

I do not want to put a damper on Ut­ley’s re­turn; I too am ex­cited to see him back on the field for the Phil­lies.

There’s just a need to keep things in per­spect­ive when it comes to think­ing that this of­fense will sud­denly be a hit ma­chine. ••

Colum­nist Matt God­frey can be reached at mgod­frey@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at mgodfrey@bsmphilly.com.

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