10/20/10 6:48 PM ET
Breaking balls causing hitters problems
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
"We're basically a fastball-hitting team," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday. "A count will go 3-1 or 2-1 or 2-0 or something like that, and they'll throw us a breaking ball, we swing at it and we put it in play and dribble it. Those counts two or three years ago, those were fastballs, because they would look and see the middle of our lineup and they didn't want to get down to our third and fourth hitter or even fifth hitter, but at the same time, those other guys got more fastballs. They've gone to school on us.
"We talk about that a lot. Our guys like to swing. ... And you can talk about these things, but they've got to hit home and you've got to work on improving on those things. It definitely might take a while. But the league kind of has adjusted to some of our hitters if you sat there and watched the games."
Ibanez sits, Francisco starts in left field
SAN FRANCISCO -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Tuesday it's getting too late to start making changes.
Well, maybe not.
Manuel made a significant change to his lineup Wednesday before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Giants at AT&T Park. He replaced Raul Ibanez in left field with Ben Francisco to put another right-handed hitter in the lineup against Giants rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
"I talked to Raul and I feel like Raul is trying too hard and overswinging, chasing bad balls," Manuel said. "The swing is getting long. Plus, I wanted to put another right-handed hitter in the lineup. That was probably the biggest reason. But at the same time, I like Francisco because he did finish the season hitting the ball good."
Francisco has had just one plate appearance since Oct. 3, but has hit .284 with six doubles, six home runs and 18 RBIs in 88 at-bats against lefties this season. It includes a .344 on-base percentage and a .544 slugging percentage.
Ibanez has hit .267 with 12 doubles, two triples, four homers and 23 RBIs in 187 at-bats against left-handers, including the postseason. It includes a .307 on-base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage. But Ibanez has hit just .130 (3-for-23) with one double, two walks and seven strikeouts in the postseason. He is hitless in 11 at-bats with one walk and five strikeouts in the NLCS.
Manuel not shocked by offensive woes
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Phillies are supposed to be a better offensive team than this, which brings manager Charlie Manuel to one of his most popular sayings:
Watch the game.
He talked about his team's offensive struggles Wednesday before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Giants at AT&T Park. The Phils have hit just .203 in the postseason and just .194 in the NLCS, scoring just nine runs in the first three games.
Manuel is not shocked that his team has struggled at times.
"I see gaps in our hitting," he said. "Basically what I see that you don't see -- you see our hitting from two years ago. I see our hitting today. Does that make sense? You follow that? You see the numbers. You see the homers. I haven't been seeing those today.
"Really, our offense is down. And I'm not talking about one guy. Our offense basically is down. I guess that happens sometimes. But when I get right down to it and I find out the reason, I'm going to try to correct it, because I want our guys to hit just like they used to."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.