Charlie Manuel did not mention Shane Victorino - or any other player - when he criticized some Phillies on Monday for being unprepared to defend their World Series championship.
The centerfielder did, however, miss most of spring training because of the World Baseball Classic, and admitted that the experience left his swing rusty and unready for regular-season pitching. Combined with leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins' horrid start, Victorino's sub-.300 on-base percentage in the second position in the batting order have made scoring runs difficult for the Phillies in the early part of the season.
But Victorino was a catalyst in last night's 11-4 win against Milwaukee, a game that was delayed 78 minutes by rain in the seventh inning. He went 2 for 4, walked, drove in a run, scored two runs, and gave Jamie Moyer a key defensive play. He also chirped when two Manny Parra pitches sailed near his head, apparent retaliation for the two times Moyer hit Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder.
After the game, Manuel noted Victorino's progress. "Victorino had some good at-bats," he said. "We had some real good at-bats. Our hitting, especially early, was real good."
Both hitters at the top of the Phillies' order have started slowly, but Manuel said before the game that Victorino's issues would be more difficult to correct than Rollins'. The shortstop, like Chase Utley, has a simple swing - and the fewer moving parts, the easier it is to make adjustments.
Victorino has a longer swing, complicating his recovery from slumps. He missed most of spring training while playing sparingly for Team USA in the WBC, and has yet to recover his mechanics. In his first 11 games, he batted .222 with a .288 on-base percentage. After last night, he is batting .245.
"A big arc means that your swing is longer," Manuel said. "At times it can take you quite a bit of time [to make adjustments]. You have to work like heck to get it down."
But Victorino looked better against Milwaukee, and the Phils were energetic the day after Manuel's comments. In the first, they scored five runs, beginning with a double by Jayson Werth. Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz then drove in runs with successive singles. By the end of the inning, nine Phillies had batted, and the team had scored four times.
The Phillies increased their lead in the third, when Feliz hit his first home run of the season. They scored five two-out runs in the fifth, and Feliz drove in Werth for another run in the sixth.
In addition to his offensive progress, Victorino contributed defense that helped stabilize Moyer early in the game. With a runner on first and one out in the second, eighth-place batter Jason Kendall dunked a ball into shallow right field, seemingly a single that would have allowed Parra to sacrifice and allow the top of the order to bat in the inning.
But Victorino charged the ball and threw it to second, forcing out Bill Hall by a step. Parra then grounded out, ending the inning. From that pivotal moment, the Phillies built their lead.