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Phillies must fix problems on West Coast road trip

Time is now for slumping Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants Papelbon earned the save in Monday's 6-2 victory over San Francisco, the first game in the Phillies' West Coast swing.

The Phillies have hit a critical juncture. After going 5-4 during a stretch against three sub .500 teams, the Phillies were 15-18 entering the second game of Tuesday night's West Coast trip. The swing started Monday night in San Francisco, with a 6-2 victory over the red-hot Giants.

"We have our work cut out for us," Delmon Young said. "But you have to realize that we're within striking distance. Considering all that has gone wrong, we're just a couple of games behind. One thing I've learned being on teams that have been in the playoffs is that you don't have to be in first place all season, you need to be there when it counts. This is a veteran team that knows how to get it done."

But how much gas is left in the tank with this aging core? Roy Halladay is on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. The offense has been Jekyll and Hyde for much of the season. Some games, the Phillies put up crooked numbers. Other games, they get blanked on just a couple of hits.

"I don't think anybody knows for sure what's up with the Phillies," a NL scout said. "Sometimes the bats show up and sometimes they don't. I think when they come back from this trip, you'll have a pretty good idea where this team stands."

This is the earliest the phrase 'buyers or sellers' has been bandied about during the Charlie Manuel era. It could go either way.

"I still think it's early," Ben Revere said. "I think we can win some games out West. We've yet to get on a roll. Delmon has just come up. I think Domonic [Brown] is starting to come into his own. [Ryan] Howard has yet to get hot. He's the kind of guy that can carry a team. Michael Young has just hit since he's been here and Chase Utley has been great."

Utley, who leads the team with six homers, and Young, who has the most Phillies hits with 34, have been better than expected. But can both players keep it up over a long season? Can the Phillies expect Howard to get into one of his grooves?

"It's possible that Young and Utley can play well all season long, and I think Howard has at least another season of big RBI numbers in him," the NL scout said. "The other possible upside is Cole Hamels? He has to get better."

Hamels has been scuffling with command. He's 1-4 and among the league leaders in walks along with the Giants' Tim Lincecum.

Solving your problems in San Francisco's AT&T Park isn't going to be easy, but the Phillies put themselves in such a position by going 14-18 out of the gate.

"It's not too late," Revere said. "We have to turn things around. We still have time. We just have to win."

Inside the numbers: Power outage

The Phillies are struggling in general. That's certainly no secret.

At the plate, the team has been dreadful. The Phillies rank 24th in the entire major leagues in batting average (.239), and 27th in both slugging (.377) and on-base-percentage (.298).

Despite a recent power surge from Ryan Howard and Dom Brown, the Phils are also near the bottom in home runs and RBIs. And when they do get runners on, they often stall.

"They've been inept when it comes to a man on third with less than two out," a NL scout said. "It's got to be frustrating for Charlie [Manuel]. It's not his fault that they're not scoring in that situation."

 
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