Going into the season, the Phillies offense didn’t appear to pack much power and runs were expected to be hard to come by. Well, that’s happened. Their .214 batting average is 14th in the NL. .271 on-base percentage is 15th. 13 home runs rank ninth. Hey, that’s 10 more than Atlanta.
Starting pitching was believed to be better than a year ago. That’s been true for the most part. Their ERA is 3.30 which will take all season long.
Bullpen was expected to be questionable. However, the relievers are finding their roles and the pen has been much better. Remember the pen gave up 11 runs in 7.2 innings in the first three games.
Outfield defense is vastly improved which helps the pitching staff. Outfield offense is another story.
Fundamentals and base running were emphasized in spring training. Each must have been left in Clearwater. Twice a runner advanced and was out on an infield fly rule and twice Wednesday night sacrifice bunt attempts failed.
Maikel Franco, 23, was expected to challenge for the home run crown and lead the offense. Well, he’s hit two homers, the last coming April 13. Since then, 3-29, .103 with nine strikeouts. The other night he was robbed of a three-run homer. Lest we forget Mike Schmidt’s first full season in the majors: .196, 18 homers, 52 RBI.
Aaron Nola, 22, was expected to lead the starters. He’s 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA after three starts. He’s only walked three while striking out 23 but he’s given up 12 runs in 19 innings. The offense has averaged 2 runs per his starts. Greg Maddux’s first full season in the majors: 6-14, 5.67 ERA.
Slow starts don’t mean Franco and Nola are no longer a big part of the future. Major League Baseball is tough place to play. Adjustments are being made by enemy pitchers and hitters. Franco and Nola are young talents who are learning. They will have a lot of fun before the season is over.
Three games in Milwaukee this weekend are the start of 16 road games in the next 19 for the Phillies . . . Lone three home games are next weekend against the Cleveland Indians . . . Phillies were swept in seven games by the Brewers a year ago . . . Since Miller Park opened in 2001, Phillies are 25-24 there . . . Ryan Howard is a .282 hitter in 31 games at Miller Park, six homers, 27 RBI . . . Franco has never played there and Nola has never faced the Brewers . . . Ryan Braun is a Phillies killer, .381, 18 homers, 49 RBI in 55 games . . .Happy birthday today to Mickey Morandini who turns 50.
Minor League Report
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (8-6) won 6th in last 7 games, blasting 17 hits in a 10-2 romp in Syracuse. Everyone in the LV lineup had a hit with six different players having multiple hit games. 2B Taylor Featherston extended his hitting streak to 11 games. RF Cedric Hunter, 3 H. SS Ryan Jackson, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI. 1B Tommy Joseph, 2B, HR (2), RBI. WP: Adam Morgan (1-1), 7-6-2-2-1-6; as a hitter, 1B, 2B, RBI. LH Hoby Milner made AAA debut, 5 SO in 2 scoreless innings . . . Zach Elfin (2-0, 0.64), 6:15 tonight in Pawtucket.
Reading Fightin’ Phils (9-5) open a 6-game homestand, 7:05 tonight. Anthony Vasquez (2-0) opposes New Hampshire.
Clearwater Threshers (10-5) won 7th in last 8 games, 1-0, over Daytona. WP: Ranfi Casimiro (3-0), 6-3-0-0-2-6. SV: Victor Arano (1). LF Cord Sandberg, 2 of Clearwater’s 4 singles; 9-14 in last 4 games, raising average to .348 . . . Elniery Garcia (2-0, 0.00), 6:15 tonight vs. Brevard County.
Lakewood BlueClaws (3-12) started road trip with 10-3 win in Greensboro. WP: Shane Watson (1-1), 7-5-1-1-1-8. SS Emmanuel Marrero, 4-4, HR (1), 3 RBI. 3B Jan Hernandez, 2-4, HR (1), RBI, 2 R. 2B Josh Tobias, 2-5, 3 RBI. DH Jose Pujols, 3-5, RBI. CF Zachary Coppola, 12-27 in a 7-game hitting streak . . . Luke Leftwich (0-1), 7 tonight in Greensboro.
I’ll be signing my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies, on the following dates:
**Tomorrow, Saturday, April 23, AB Sports, Concord Mall, 4737 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803; 1-3 p.m. (www.absports.com).
**Saturday, April 30, Main Point Books, 1041 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010; 1-2 p.m.
**Sunday, May 22, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA; 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
**May 26, Maris Grove Theatre, 200 Maris Grove Way, Glen Mills, PA, 19342; 2-3 p.m.
**August 14, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA; 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Follow me at twitter: @ShenkLarry