Pitching-strong Phils get lift from bats

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and catcher Carlos Ruiz celebrate their win against the...

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and catcher Carlos Ruiz celebrate their win against the Toronto Blue Jays. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:05 PM ET

From the cover of Sports Illustrated's Baseball Preview issue to dominating the National League's staff at the all-star game, the Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation has been the baseball story of 2011.

The starting staff, led by Roy Halladay, has a combined 2.99 earned-run average, the best in the major leagues.

But the Phillies' collection of all-star bats has been nosing in for its share of the headlines during August, a promising trend for the Phillies.

After all, inconsistent offence is what doomed the team's World Series hopes in 2010.

This year, before the all-star break in July, the Phillies were averaging 4.2 runs a game and were shut out five times. Since the break, the Phillies have been scoring an average of 5.1 runs a game. They haven't been shut out in nearly two months, since June 19.

The improvement in offence gained some momentum when general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. traded some of the Phillies' top minor-league prospects to Houston for all-star outfielder Hunter Pence on July 29. With Pence, the Phillies are scoring 5.3 runs a game.

"We know it's no easy task to face this lineup because there are so many hitters you have to bear down on," Pence said. "Normally there are two (solid hitters) in most lineups. We go (Jimmy) Rollins, (Shane) Victorino, (Chase) Utley, (Ryan) Howard, myself, (Raul) Ibanez ... there's no break.

"And don't forget about Chooch (Carlos Ruiz). If you sleep on him, you get hurt, too."

Pence has hit safely in 12 of his 14 games with the Phillies and is batting .327 during that stretch. But the guys in front of him also have contributed.

Howard, a career .293 hitter after the all-star break, is batting .333 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in the 14 games since Pence has arrived. The two hitters in front of Howard carried the team's offence for an even longer stretch.

Victorino and Utley are batting a combined .321 with 49 extra-base hits during the team's past 52 games.

The Phillies, who are first in the NL East with a 78-41 record, open a three-game series at home Tuesday night to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Halladay will go for his 16th win of the season, which would be tops in the NL.

Third baseman Placido Polanco could be back in the lineup after missing six games because of a sports hernia injury. 


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