For Phillies, It's a Three-For-All

The Phillies have the best record in baseball. They have the largest lead of any first-place team in baseball. But they also have one of the most inconsistent, hard-to-figure-out offenses in baseball.

The Phillies enter a three-game series in St. Louis with a formula that's almost been steel-proof through their first 73 games. Score more than three runs and win. Score three runs or fewer and ... good luck.

Charlie Manuel's impatience with his offense grew over the weekend in Seattle when his team dropped two of three games to the Mariners. The Phillies scored a total of two runs in their two losses, including being shut-out and held to only three hits in a 2-0 defeat to Seattle's Jason Vargas on Sunday. Manuel had to be asked twice about his hitters' approach against Vargas.

"How many runs did we score?" Manuel answered with his own question. "How many hits did we get? Then I'm not very pleased with it."

The Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in 25 of their 28 losses this season. In nearly half of those games, they've scored one run or less, including enduring five shutouts and eight games with only one run.

On Sunday, the Phils credited Vargas.

"He mixed it up well," Ryan Howard said. "He didn't necessarily have to throw stuff for strikes. He threw it enough for strikes to where it kind of got us to get a little out of our element. Guys were out in front of pitches. But you've got to tip your hat. He threw well."

Manuel wasn't in the mood for compliments, however.

The Phillies are 14-25 this season when they score three runs or fewer. It's a testament to their starting pitching that they've managed to win 14 of those 39 games.

When the Phils score more than three runs, they're almost unbeatable at 31-3.

Notes and Quotes:

  • Roy Halladay will try to become the first 10-game winner in the major leagues this season when he takes the mound on Tuesday night in St. Louis. Halladay leads the National League with 414 strikeouts, four complete games and 112 1/3 innings. The Phillies haven't lost in any of Halladay's last six starts. He is 4-0 with a 3.14 ERA in that span, striking out 41 while walking three in 43 innings.
  • Chase Utley, who has been voted in as the National League's starting second baseman for five consecutive seasons, is making a late push to make it six. When the latest round of balloting results were released on Monday, Utley was in third place, behind Brandon Phillips of Cincinnati and Rickie Weeks of MIlwaukee. But Utley trails Phillips, the leader, by only 459,184 votes. Utley enters Tuesday hitless in his last nine at-bats and is batting .253 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 24 games since returning from a right knee injury.
  • Ryan Howard has reached base safely in 19 consecutive inter-league games, following the Phillies' 2-0 loss to Seattle on Sunday. Howard is tied for first in baseball, with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, for the most home runs (27) in inter-league games over the last six seasons.
  • Jose Contreras got the final two outs of the eighth inning in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, extending the Phillies' bullpen's scoreless streak. The Phils relievers haven't allowed a run in 17 innings, spanning eight games. Contreras has pitched back-to-back scoreless appearances since allowing a total of six runs in three consecutive games earlier this month.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42 - The number of innings since the Phillies last hit a home run against a left-handed starting pitcher. Ben Francisco hit a two-run home run off Cincinnati's Travis Wood on May 25.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've gone farther." - Manager Charlie Manuel, who played professionally in Japan, on having to fly all the way out to Seattle, only to lose two of three games.

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