By Fred Guzman
Although Philadelphia is assured of finishing the regular season with baseball’s best record, it is equally true that the Phillies have staggered to the finish line. Such, too, is the case for their centerfielder, Shane Victorino.
Granted, the Phillies claimed their 100th win of the season on Monday night, rallying to a 4-2 win over Atlanta that complicated the Braves’ wild-card hopes. Atlanta’s once-confortable edge has dropped to one game over St. Louis with the games down to a precious few.
Cliff Lee pitched six strong innings for his 17th win, Jimmy Rollins homered and Raul Ibanez drove in a pair runs, leading the NL East champions past their closest division rivals to start the final series of the campaign.
It was Philly’s second straight win, but the team had lost eight in a row before then. In many ways, Victorino’s recent production has mirrored that of his team.
Yesterday, he contributed a double and triple while scoring a pair of runs. The three-bagger was Victorino’s16th of the season, tying him with Jose Reyes of the New York Mets for the major-legue lead.
It also reversed a recent slump during which Victorino’s average slid from a high of .314 about a month ago to a current mark of .280. In the previous nine games, Victorino had gone 5-for-37 – a 135 average — while driving just a single run.
Victorino also ranks seventh in the NL with 94 runs scored. He’s stolen 19 bases in 22 attempts – one of the best success rates in baseball.
Most impressively, Victorino’s OPS – the combination of his on-base and slugging percentages – ranks fourth among major-league centerfielders, trailing only MVP candidates Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox and Curtis Granderson of the Yankees.
Things haven’t gone nearly as well for Maui’s other major-league , catcher Kurt Suzuki, and his team, the Oakland Athletics.
Suzuki is batting .238 – 21 points under his career average – with a respectable 14 homers but just 43 RBI. Defensively, Suzuki has been solid, ranking third among AL catchers by throwing out 38 would-be base-stealers.
The Athletics, meantime, are 72-88 as of Monday night, trailing the AL West champion Texas Rangers by 22 games.