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Rich Hofmann: Phillies' offense is off and running

FIREWORKS DANCED in one corner of the sixth-inning sky. It appeared that they sprang from somewhere in South Philadelphia, green and red mostly, briefly outshining the Phillies' offense. But only briefly.

FIREWORKS DANCED in one corner of the sixth-inning sky. It appeared that they sprang from somewhere in South Philadelphia, green and red mostly, briefly outshining the Phillies' offense. But only briefly.

If the last two games are any indication . . . 15 runs . . . 20 runs . . . we have entered the portion of the schedule where the scoreboard totals will be measured in runs, hits, errors and megawatts. It is what this lineup can do sometimes.

It creates a false impression, too, of a Phillies' offense that comes up either huge or tiny. It just isn't so.

"But everybody remembers the 13, the 15, the 20," said Jamie Moyer, the starting pitcher/beneficiary last night when the Phillies throttled the Colorado Rockies, 20-5.

"The fans, when they come to the games, this is what they want to see," Moyer said, and there could be no argument. Moyer talked about purists, and how purists still like to see a well-pitched game, and how purists like 2-1, and how purists recognize that it takes all facets to win games during a major league season.

It was suggested that there isn't a purist under age 40. Moyer laughed. "You're probably right," he said.

And so, the scoreboard numbers spin like bells on a slot machine and the ballpark continues to sell out. The Rockies had never allowed more runs on the road than they did last night. Chase Utley had six RBI, a career high. Seven different Phillies players knocked in runs. Records were either set or threatened all night.

And Moyer - who has received run support this season of eight runs, 10 runs, 11 runs, 12 runs and then last night - could smile and say, "It's great. To me, it's not about the run support. It's about us winning."

But it is about the run support. This offense, now second in the National League in runs scored, has nonetheless been hammered this season because of its overall inconsistency. The criticism has come from within and from outside the clubhouse.

It has made for fine conversation but it has been only that. This season really has not been about droughts, deluges or any other accidents of nature. This offense really has been more consistent than anyone seems to want to recognize.

It's a simple enough tabulation - takes 5 minutes. Look at the National League East, and add up the number of games when each team scored at least four runs.

Those are the games in which the team's offense really gave it a fair shot at winning in 21st century major league baseball.

So, the totals:

Phillies . . . 33

Mets . . . 32

Braves . . . 30

Marlins . . . 28

Nationals . . . 25

What does this suggest? That the first four teams are reasonably close, as you can read in the daily standings. If this division race is not at least a three-car pileup on Sept. 1, most people will be shocked.

But the truth is, despite the last two games, games you cannot help but admire, the Phils have been the most consistent scoring team in the division all season. This has not been a season of feasts, famines, plagues, locusts, or any other Biblical reference material.

But Moyer is right. Twenty runs is what will stick in the memory of both fans and opposing pitchers. Moyer is honest enough here. He talks about the effect that these kinds of nights have on opposing pitching staffs that visit the Citizens Bank Shooting Gallery.

There are 11 or 12 pitchers in the other clubhouse, Moyer said, "and none of them want to be here because of the ballpark. That can play to our advantage."

It was a night when Moyer (now 5-3, 4.45 ERA) could give up a three-run homer in the first inning and survive, a night when the Rockies would become the 30th franchise that he has beaten, making him one of only six major leaguers ever to accomplish the feat, also making him old.

He says he does not pitch differently with a gargantuan lead. He says you cannot afford to pitch differently, especially not here. He says, "It's nice to go out and put up zeroes. I hope that helps our offense."

It appears that the offense needs little help right now. The weather has turned, a long homestand is upon them, and what seems to have happened every summer lately appears to be happening again. Built to score runs, built to mash the ball, the Phillies have commenced mashing.

In the end, though, the four-run and five-run nights will eclipse the nights like last night. At least, they had better eclipse them. *

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