Phils can't muster enough offense vs. Bucs

Phils can't muster enough offense vs. Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies catcher Brian Schneider grabbed his throbbing left thumb and jogged to the mound in pain in the second inning Thursday night at PNC Park.

"Not another one," he said to himself.

No kidding.

Schneider injured his thumb on two different pitches in a 3-2 loss to the lowly Pirates, who entered the night with the worst offense and second-worst pitching staff in the National League. He left the game in the fourth inning, but should be OK. If he is not OK, Schneider would just be another casualty in a season of injuries that have many Phillies fans wondering if this team can remain in contention in the National League East without some of its principal players.

"I'm checking myself to see if I'm OK," said Cole Hamels, who recovered from a slow start to allow just five hits, three runs and two walks while striking out eight in seven innings. "It's tough, but that's baseball. I believe in '07 we had a lot of guys get injured, but we still pushed through and were able to win it. We have a tough team. We're very resilient. We believe in each other, and I think guys are going to pick it up. Some guys are injured and some guys will come in and pick it up."

The Phillies have lost three of their last four games, scoring just eight runs in those losses. Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, who ran the show while Charlie Manuel served a one-game suspension for arguing with umpire C.B. Bucknor on Tuesday in Cincinnati, said the Phillies need to put together a good week offensively to get back on track.

But is it too much to expect from this offense considering the circumstances?

Philadelphia has to play without second baseman Chase Utley for approximately eight weeks and Placido Polanco for approximately three to four weeks. Utley had surgery Thursday for a torn ligament in his right thumb. Polanco is out with inflammation in his left elbow.

Those are major losses.

Since Utley became an everyday player in 2005, no second baseman in baseball has more homers (154) and RBIs (534) or a higher on-base percentage (.390) and slugging percentage (.532). And while his numbers are down this season, he had hit .367 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 13 games before he landed on the DL.

Polanco hit .318 with five homers and 27 RBIs before he aggravated his elbow injury Friday against Toronto. He also played fine defense at third base.

"Our bench has done an outstanding job," Mackanin said. "[Dane] Sardinha comes in and gets a big hit in the ninth inning. [Wilson] Valdez hits the home run. He's been outstanding for us. Schneider has been hitting the ball well. Those guys have picked up some of the slack that's missing, but certainly you hate to lose Polanco and Utley."

Schneider and Valdez hit three-run home runs Tuesday against Cincinnati. Sardinha hit a three-run homer Wednesday, and Valdez hit a solo homer in the third inning Thursday to tie the game at 1. But they can't be counted on forever. The Phillies need their big men -- Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez -- to carry the load.

They were 3-for-20 on Thursday.

Pirates right-hander Daniel McCutchen started the night 0-3 with an 11.00 ERA. He allowed six hits and two runs (one earned run) in 5 1/3 innings. Pirates manager John Russell pulled McCutchen when Werth reached on an error with one out in the sixth inning, but the Pirates' bullpen did its job.

"We were about to get him, I think," Victorino said of McCutchen. "I think he was on the ropes. That's why he went and got him. I mean, he pitched well. I'm not taking anything away from the guy, but Russell probably felt like we were on the verge of getting him. That's why he came out and took him out after [78] pitches, unless he was on a pitch count. But early on, he definitely used his changeup effectively."

Victorino expressed his frustration that the Phillies have lost consecutive games after solid pitching performances from Roy Halladay and Hamels.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't beat anybody when these guys pitch like that with the offense that we're supposed to put up," Victorino said.

Those offensive numbers seem more daunting these days without Utley, Polanco and Carlos Ruiz in the lineup.

It won't get any easier anytime soon. They will be without them for a while.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.