NEW YORK - The Phillies' inability to score a single run was the primary focus after the first two games of their series with the New York Mets.
But the fact that the Phillies were unable to throw out a single New York baserunner attempting to steal was largely ignored. The Mets, second in the National League with 47 stolen bases entering Thursday's games, had three steals Tuesday and four more Wednesday.
"We have to hold them on better, and we also have to be quicker to the plate," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's how you stop it. They have good speed and when they get guys on, they use that speed. The last two games they did a good job of it."
The four stolen bases Wednesday came with Brian Schneider behind the plate. He was filling in for Carlos Ruiz because the Phillies' starting catcher has a sore shoulder that he said has been bothering him for a while.
Ruiz returned to the lineup Thursday for the rain-delayed series finale.
"He says he's OK to play, so I put him in there," Manuel said.
Although the prevailing opinion in baseball is that bases are stolen off pitchers, Manuel still wasn't thrilled that Ruiz revealed his shoulder injury Wednesday.
"He shouldn't have said that because we don't want you guys broadcasting that his shoulder is hurt," Manuel said. "I know you guys have to know everything, but there are a lot of things that you don't have to know. If they don't know his shoulder is hurt, then they might not run. I'm not upset he said it, but it's like when you don't have somebody in the bullpen available, it makes it much easier" on the other manager.
Manuel later said that Ruiz' shoulder is strong enough to throw out runners provided his pitching staff gives him the time. Entering Thursday, Ruiz had thrown out just six of 28 runners attempting to steal (21 percent). Ruiz did, however, throw out Angel Pagan in the second inning Thursday.
The worst percentage of his career in a full season was 24 percent in 2008.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee also addressed the stolen-base issue Thursday, strongly dismissing the idea of implementing a slide step for his pitchers.
"We're not going to change nothing," he said. "We're not going to have Jamie Moyer at 47 years old trying a slide step. I've seen so many . . . slide steps go out of the . . . ballpark. You're worried about a guy stealing a base and you hang a slider and it lands 40 rows up. You can take that slide step and stick it as far as I'm concerned."
Without question the most infamous slide step in Phillies history occurred in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Mitch Williams used a slide step on the pitch that Joe Carter blasted into the left-field seats for a championship-clinching home run.
Dubee said his pitchers need to pay attention to the runners and get the ball to the plate quickly without using a slide step. He said Joe Blanton might be the best at doing it, but he lost his focus Wednesday.
"Joe hasn't given up many stolen bases in a long time," Dubee said. "He's 1.2, 1.3 [seconds] to the plate. All of a sudden he was 1.5 [Wednesday]. He had a bigger lean and a longer load."
And the Mets ran wild.
The Phillies, meanwhile, remain last in the National League with 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts entering Thursday. Manuel continues to insist that the running opportunities have not been there and also noted the absence of injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins for most of the season.
"I agree" with Manuel, second baseman Chase Utley said when asked about the Phillies' lack of steal attempts.
Utley has stolen one base in two attempts after stealing a career-high 23 bases without being caught last season.
Dubee said closer Brad Lidge looked "fine" during his 40-pitch bullpen session Thursday and the pitcher said he came through it well. Lidge, on the disabled list for the second time this season because of an elbow injury, said he threw sliders and fastballs.
Lidge was scheduled to fly with the Phillies to South Florida after Thursday's game, then drive to Port St. Lucie, Fla., for a one-inning Saturday rehab assignment with the team's single-A Clearwater team. Port St. Lucie is the site of the Mets' single-A team.
Dubee said Lidge would pitch out of the bullpen for Clearwater because the Phillies want him to warm up in the pen the same way he would at the major-league level. Dubee said he didn't know how many rehab outings Lidge would need before rejoining the team. The righthander has not pitched since picking up his first save of the season May 9 vs. Atlanta.
Also, lefthanded starter J.A. Happ (left forearm strain) threw a 50-pitch bullpen session Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. He is scheduled for a live batting-practice session Sunday.
The Phillies held a players-only meeting before Thursday's game, but it wasn't to talk about the AWOL offense. The team voted to play its makeup game against the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 2 at Coors Field. The game was postponed because of inclement weather earlier this month. The makeup date will come at the end of a six-game West Coast trip to San Diego and Los Angeles. It will also force the Phillies to play 23 straight days.