Outfielders need to step up offense; Phillies drop another to the Nationals

Of Calkins Media

PHILADELPHIA — Pete Mackanin is desperately looking for any kind of spark from his corner outfielders.

On Saturday night, he went to the ultimate length of desperation- playing Darin Ruf in the outfield.

"We needed to get a little offense in there," the Phillies manager said before the second game of a three-game set against the Washington Nationals. "He's at least has a hit off (Washington starter Max) Scherzer."

Of course, that doesn't hide what Ruf's main weakness has always been – his glove. That was illustrated in the top of the first when Ruf caught a fly ball in left from Bryce Harper, but dropped the throw to the plate in trying to get Michael A. Taylor. Anthony Rendon moved up from first to second and would later score as part of Washington's three-run opening frame off Aaron Nola during Washington's eventual 8-1 win before 30,320 at Citizens Bank Park..

But Philadelphia's outfielders have been — with the exception of Odubel Herrera — poor to this point in the early season.

After Ruf's 0-for-4 with three strikeout performance on Saturday night, the Phillies leftfielders were hitting .081 (3-for-37) with 1 home run, 1 RBI and 13 strikeouts — the worst mark in all of baseball.

The only competition may be from the Phils' rightfielders. After Cedric Hunter's 0-for-4 performance on Saturday, Phils rightfielders were hitting .150 (6-for-41) with 0 homers, 1 RBI and 14 strikeouts. They entered Saturday as the 28th ranked RF in baseball- ahead of only the Mets and Twins.

Combined, that's 9-for-78 (.115) with a homer, 2 RBIs and 27 strikeouts.

"You can't get around it," Mackanin said before Saturday's game. "It's not good. You have to either get those guys going or do something."

The odd man out on Saturday night was Peter Bourjos, who is hitting .152 early in the season. Bourjos was out taking early batting practice on Saturday with hitting coach Steve Henderson.

"It looks like he's pressing right now," Mackanin said. "Hendu has him working on his approach. So I just wanted to give him a little blow."

Of course, Ruf is just a stopgap measure for an outfield that needs offensive help. If the current guys don't get it done, then the caravan from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs will probably kick up in a couple of weeks.

"In the short term, if we don't show improvement, we will make a change," Mackanin said. "We'll see."

When asked if Nick Williams was a potential option right now, Mackanin said "not yet." It is likely that David Lough and Will Venable would get a look before Williams at this point to buy time down the road for the young kid.

"Not too far in the future, we'll have to do something if these guys don't come around," Mackanin said.

Meanwhile, Nola struggled again as Phillies starting pitching struggled for the second night in a row against the high powered Washington lineup. Nola surrendered a single to Ryan Zimmerman in the first that increased Washington's lead to 2-0. That was followed by a Daniel Murphy triple into the right field corner for Washington's 3-0 edge.

That's all Scherzer would need. He shut the Phils lineup down to one run over seven innings of work, with only Cameron Rupp's solo homer in the fifth spoiling the shutout. To add insult to injury, he would also add a two-run double off Nola in the fourth.

Bryce Harper then continued his torrid streak at Citizens Bank Park with a two-run homer in the sixth to increase the lead. Harper has now had at least two hits and a homer in each of his last five games at Citizens Bank Park.

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