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Phils lucky to be going home tied

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If I am the Philadelphia Phillies, I have to be tickled pink to be returning home with at least one win under my belt, given the way my team has swung the bats through the first two games.

One night after going hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Phillies were a putrid 1-for-15 in those same situations in Thursday's 4-2 Game 2 loss.

"I'm concerned about us hitting with guys on base, because it looks like at times we might be trying a little too hard," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

Such was the case in the Phils' second, when with two runners on, no outs and trailing by two, Shane Victorino swung at the first pitch and fouled out to third. Aside from the fact that he swung at the first pitch, why the heck is Victorino not bunting in that situation? Especially given the way the Phils have been swinging the bats.

I guess you can make the argument that Victorino is one of the few Phillies who has come up with big hits this postseason, but you have to at least try to advance the runners in that spot.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies' 0-for-19 drought with runners in scoring position to start the World Series was the longest since the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers went 0-for-22 for the entire four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

It's hard to lay the blame on just one culprit since it has been a team-wide epidemic, but the NL's last two MVP's have come up extremely small, going a combined 0-for-8 with RISP.

At least Ryan Howard is hitting the ball, though. He hit a big double last night and is 8-for-21 over his last five postseason games. However, he has just two RBI in that span and, of course, is still waiting for his first postseason home run.

I kind of get the feeling that once Howard hits one, he is not going to stop. He usually racks up his homers in bunches. It is already going to be a borderline maniacal crowd in Philly on Saturday, if the big fella happens to get a hold of one early in that one, Citizens Bank Park may cave in.

Jimmy Rollins could be a concern, though. The reigning MVP is 0-for-10 in this series and is hitting just .191 this postseason.

"The only thing I've seen the last couple of days, Jimmy is swinging hard. He's swinging hard. And that comes from trying too hard," said Manuel. "But...he's capable of coming out and hitting the ball hard four times the next time he plays. That's kind of the way the game goes at times."

BIG GAME JAMES RETURNS

James Shields wasn't great on Thursday, but he did enough to get the job done. He was in trouble constantly, but pitched his way out of it inning after inning.

"Bottom line is that our team gave us a 2-0 lead right from the get-go," said Shields. "We ended up scoring another run, 3-0. They gave me enough confidence to get the job done and make my pitches. Maybe if it was a tied ballgame it would be a little bit different story. I might have put too much pressure on myself. The team did a great job going out there and getting the early lead, giving me some confidence and I made some key pitches in some key situations."

Of his four strikeouts, three came with a runner on third and less than two outs. You can't ask for much more than that, as he lived up to his "Big Game James" reputation.

"I've told everybody, it was just a couple of players in the minor leagues, and they just started calling me "Big Game" in the minor leagues," Shields added. "It was kind of a joke at first. I ended up pitching a couple of good games in the minor leagues and they say, you know, my whole organization is calling me "Big Game." They don't call me by my first name anymore. When I got called up to the big leagues the writers kind of got a hold of that, and they just started calling me that. I don't think I have any added pressure as far as that goes."

Shields scattered seven hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings to get his second win of the postseason.

WEATHER PERMITTING

Although the forecast seems less ominous than it did at the beginning of the week, heavy rain is still expected for Saturday in the Philadelphia area. There hasn't been a World Series game postponed by rain since Game 4 of the 2006 series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

LOOKING AHEAD: GAME 3 STARTERS

Tampa's Matt Garza tries to follow up a sensational American League Championship Series on Saturday, when the World Series is set to shift to Citizens Bank Park for Game 3 between the Rays and Phillies.

Garza earned ALCS MVP honors for the Rays by going 2-0 against Boston, while surrendering just two runs in 13 innings. He was brilliant in Game 7 against the Red Sox, allowing just a first inning solo home run and two hits over seven innings to secure Tampa's first-ever AL pennant.

Prior to the ALCS Garza had gone winless in six starts, including a setback to the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS.

The 24-year-old righty, who was 11-9 this season with a 3.70 ERA, was 4-6 in 15 road starts this season with a 4.53 ERA. He has never faced the Phillies.

Philadelphia turns to Jamie Moyer, who was one of its most consistent starters during the season, but has been anything but that in the playoffs. Moyer, 45, has lost both of his postseason starts, giving up eight runs in just 5 1/3 innings.

The 22-year veteran, who will be making his first career World Series start, was blistered by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLCS, as he allowed six runs and six hits in 1 1/3 frames. He had been 16-7 in the regular season with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts.

Moyer has faced the Rays 15 times over the course of his lengthy career, and is 8-4 against them with a 2.85 ERA.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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