Utley: Making outs can be 'contagious'

Utley: Making outs can be 'contagious'
April 24, 2013, 5:30 pm
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They heard what the manager had to say. They understood the message. Fixing the issue isn’t quite as easy as listening, though.

“Hitting can be contagious,” Chase Utley said prior to Wednesday’s Pirates-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. “So can making outs.”

Indeed. The Phillies made quite a few of those in rapid succession on Tuesday evening in a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh. Charlie Manuel wasn’t pleased with the Phillies’ offensive effort (or lack of same). The Phils got just four hits and managed only two of those against starter Jeff Locke – an unspectacular left-hander who entered the game with a 5.17 ERA.

The Phillies are 22nd in slugging percentage in Major League Baseball and 24th in on-base percentage. They have 14 home runs as a team. Only eight other clubs have fewer.

The question is how they remedy the issue. Manuel decided to alter the lineup for Wednesday evening's outing, moving Utley into the two-hole while putting Michael Young – who has a 14-game hitting streak – third in the order.

“You want to make good adjustments and work at it, but the last thing you want to do is press,” Young said. “That’s never going to be a benefit to anybody. The biggest thing is to trust yourself.”

Manuel talked at length in the dugout about the team staying patient, working counts, and also doing a better job against fastballs. The Phillies have a .701 OPS against fastballs this season which is 85 points below the National League average. They lead the N.L. in grounding into double plays, and they have drawn only 49 walks – the fourth fewest in baseball.

“Our goal is to put together good at-bats and try to get some consistency,” Utley said. “You know, sometimes you run into tough pitchers.”

About that: The Phillies will run into an awfully tough pitcher on Wednesday when they face Wandy Rodriguez. The left-hander is 2-0 with a microscopic 0.56 ERA.