WASHINGTON - Call it the power-hitting paradox. The more you try, the more likely you are to fail.
The notion is the exact opposite of the underlying premise of most results-based endeavors.
But Geoff Jenkins is veteran enough not to fall into the trap. And for that reason, the Phillies rightfielder says he will simply continue to swing, despite the fact that his two home runs are the fewest he's hit this late into any of his 11 major league seasons.
"I guess to put it plain and simple, I think you just want to go out and have good at-bats and keep hitting balls hard and keep hitting line drives," Jenkins said. "Homers are just longer line drives."
Make no mistake, over the past month, he has been putting together good at-bats. Last night, he went 2-for-4 against the Nationals, his third straight multiple-hit game.
Since going 0-for-4 and watching his batting average tumble to a season-low .216 on April 16, Jenkins is hitting .329.
But the one number that has been noticeably lacking is home runs.
Over the course of his career, Jenkins has averaged a home run every 21.2 at-bats. This year, he has hit just 2 in 120 at-bats.
In the series opener against Washington 2 nights ago, Jenkins hit a long drive to deep rightfield that looked like it might leave the park. Instead, it bounced off the wall for a double. He also had a would-be home run hit the top of the fence in a game against Cincinnati, and has come up just short on at least one other occasion.
But even though a notch doesn't appear in the home run column, those are good swings.
Manager Charlie Manuel has a saying that he will repeat several times in any given month: A home run is nothing more than a well-hit fly ball that comes down behind the fence.
In layman's terms, don't swing for the fences. Home runs will happen.
"People can tell you guys if they try to hit some runs, you might hit some, but you won't hit more than 20 a year, I guess," Manuel said. "But in that 20 you might hit .200 or .150 or .220."
But Jenkins' average isn't atrocious. In fact, he entered last night hitting .275, just two points below his career average. And that's why Manuel said he thinks the home runs will come.
Over the course of the season, Jenkins said he has made a small change in his approach at the plate. He is keeping his hands a little farther back, giving himself a more efficient "load" during the early part of his swing. The tinkering is paying dividends: Over his past 10 games, he is 9-for-26 (.346).
The home runs?
He, too, thinks they will come.
"I've always been a power hitter," said Jenkins, who hit at least 20 home runs in seven of his first 10 major league seasons, "and that will come with good swings."
Greg Dobbs might not be able to play the field but he can still pinch-hit. Last night, Dobbs came through with a game-winning single in the top of the ninth to score Eric Bruntlett in the Phillies' 1-0 win.
Charlie Manuel would like to be able to use Dobbs against Washington's righthanded starters. Dobbs, however, tweaked his back during batting practice Monday.
The injury, which occurred when he bent over to field a ground ball in the outfield, is not serious.
"It's just tight," Dobbs said.
The Phillies have had trouble driving in runs recently, and never was that more evident than in the second and fourth innings 2 nights ago, when Geoff Jenkins led off with doubles only to finish stranded on base each time. In both situations, Pedro Feliz made an infield out following Jenkins' extra-base hit. Feliz entered last night hitting just .167 with runners in scoring position this season.
Charlie Manuel said yesterday that when Feliz struggles, it is sometimes because he is not aggressive enough at the plate.
"When he loads up and he gets a good swing at the ball, he moves it," the manager said. "Sometimes he kind of feels for the ball. He gets defensive instead of offensive."
Righthanded pitcher Chad Durbin, who threw 66 pitches Sunday in a loss to the Blue Jays, said he might be available to pitch an inning tonight after being down the last 2 days . . . Greg Luzinski, Dickie Noles and Lee McDaniel will represent the Phillies at the MLB draft in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on June 5. *