Chase Utley leads the National League in several offensive categories. Credit: Getty Images
For the most part,the Phillies offense was held in check in two interleague games against the Los Angeles Angels this week.
Maybe Thursday’s day off will help jump-start the offense, which fell 4-3 on Tuesday and was shutout 3-0 on Wednesday.
The Phillies were also set back by some defensive lapses, most notably multiple errors by third baseman Cody Asche that wound up costing Cliff Lee a win in what was an otherwise solid start.
The Phillies could be getting the perfect opponent to help end the mini-slump this weekend as the equally offensively challenged Cincinnati Reds come to town.
The Reds are ranked 28th in the major leagues in runs scored and 23rd in batting average.
If the Phillies’ makeshift bullpen can get into gear to help the solid starting efforts of Lee, Kendrick and Hamels, the Phillies could find themselves closer to the .500 mark by the end of this three-game set.
Utley remains red-hot
The Phillies haven’t had a spectacular season through their first 38 games.
But Chase Utley has.
The 35-year-old second baseman still has a team-best batting average of .343.
He has three triples, three homers, 20 RBI and boasts an impressive .571 slugging percentage.
“You know what? He’s driving the ball and having quality at-bats,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He just continues to swing a hot bat for us.”
His three triples, along with 17 doubles lead the entire National League.
Utley also has seven go-ahead hits, showing that his timely hitting in the middle of the order is more than just for the stat books, it helps the Phillies win games.
It seems his hot-hitting has rubbed off a bit on his mid-order teammates.
Marlon Byrd is hitting at a .295 clip in the No. 5 spot, and Ryan Howard looks more comfortable at the plate as he collects more and more opposite field hits. His average is up to .251.
Ruf nears return
The Phillies have been missing a certain amount of pop in their lineup, and perhaps Darin Ruf will be able to provide it soon.
The Phillies took him off the disabled list, where he has been since spring training, and assigned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley Thursday.
The only reason he wasn’t called up to the big leagues is due to his shortened stint in Clearwater. The slugging first baseman and outfielder needs some more at-bats before he will be deemed Big League ready.