NEW YORK -- When it comes to offensive production, the Phillies’ outfield has been a sinkhole during the first month of the season.
Phillies outfielders entered Saturday afternoon’s game against the Mets at Citi Field with the second-worst combined on-base and slugging percentage (.562) in the majors. Only the Miami Marlins’ outfield at .548 had a worse OPS than the Phillies outfielders.
It was a long time coming, but the Phillies finally got some thunder from their outfield in beating the Mets, 9-4, Saturday (see Instant Replay).
Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix combined for four hits and five RBIs in 13 at-bats. Brown and Mayberry both homered to key a five-run fifth inning.
“That’s definitely good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve got to get it more often.”
Mayberry started in center field as Ben Revere got his third day off with a strained left quad muscle. It’s not clear which is hurting more, Revere’s quad or his batting average (.207) and on-base percentage (.242). It’s likely that Revere will get another day off Sunday as Manuel could stick with the right-handed hitting Mayberry against Mets’ lefty Jonathon Niese.
Eventually, the Phillies will insert Delmon Young into their outfield. He’s in the home stretch of his rehab from offseason ankle surgery. Young is currently playing on minor-league rehab at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He got a planned day off Saturday night.
The Phillies arrived in New York after three straight losses to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They scored just seven runs in those three games and were a dreadful 4 for 29 with runners in scoring position.
In two games against the Mets -- both wins -- the Phils have scored 13 runs while going 7 for 18 with runners in scoring position.
“We’ve got to do better,” Brown said. “This is more like we’re capable of.”
Most of Saturday’s offense came at the expense of Mets’ right-hander Shaun Marcum, who lasted just four innings in his first start of the season, and lefty reliever Robert Carson, who was tagged for four hits and five runs in the fifth inning.
All this offense helped make a winner out of 22-year-old Jonathan Pettibone in his second big-league start. Pettibone was not sharp -- he threw 96 pitches in five innings -- but he protected the lead well, minimized damage and picked up his first big-league win.
He even came away with a souvenir from the game. As he spoke with reporters he reached into his locker and produced a ball that looked as if it had been retrieved from the bottom of nearby Flushing Bay.
Ah, the ol’ fake game ball trick.
As Pettibone laughed about the fake game ball, equipment man Phil Sheridan was gathering up an official scorecard and some legitimate game balls to give Pettibone a proper souvenir from his first win.
“It was definitely a battle from the first pitch on,” Pettibone said. “My teammates picked me up.”
Pettibone, called up when John Lannan went on the disabled list, has earned another start.
“He’s in our rotation right now,” Manuel said. “He deserves it.”
The Phillies, 11-14 on the season, are 4-11 in games started by Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. They are 7-3 in games started by Pettibone, Lannan and Kyle Kendrick.
“Someone is going to pay for that,” Manuel said. “Our top three starters will get hot.”
Pettibone actually helped the offense with his first big-league hit, a single that started a three-run rally in the third.
On the mound, he survived allowing three straight runners to open the fourth. He allowed just a sacrifice fly to keep things in check.
The Phillies’ offense did its most damage in the fifth inning. Jimmy Rollins doubled and Michael Young walked with one out. Ryan Howard then came up and scorched a one-hopper toward shortstop Ruben Tejada. If Tejada comes up with the ball, it’s a double play. He did not come up with it, however. Rollins screened him just enough and the ball rocketed into the outfield for an RBI hit. Brown (a three-run blow) and Mayberry (a solo shot) followed with homers off Carson to give the Phils an 8-2 lead.
Howard has hit the ball hard in both games. He crushed a long homer to center in Friday night’s game.
If Tejada had been able to handle Howard’s smash in the fifth inning and start a double play, it could have been a backbreaker.
Manuel was more than happy to take the hit.
“That’s baseball,” he said. “Sometimes things go your way. The other day, Cliff Lee pitched real well but gave up a couple Texas Leaguers. There’s a lot of luck in baseball. You can’t put a percentage on luck. There’s a lot of things that happen in a game that comes down to inches. When you’re going bad those little things can go against you.”
The Phillies’ offense will get another boost Sunday when Carlos Ruiz returns from suspension (see story). Manuel said Ruiz would hit fifth or sixth in the lineup.
“He got a lot of big hits for us in the clutch last season,” Manuel said. “We’re going to be better when he’s back. The guys here have done a good job, but Chooch is our regular catcher.”