Fregosi finds lineup with pop For Phillies, it was missing ingredient

April 27, 1993|By Paul Hagen | Paul Hagen,Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- When Jim Fregosi walked into the South Philadelphia darkness Friday night, the Philadelphia Phillies manager couldn't have been too displeased.

After all, his team had bounced back from a rainout and a loss to win. Curt Schilling had kept the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that was struggling at the plate, struggling by pitching a shutout. They still were in first place of the National League East.

But Fregosi also knew something else. He knew the Phillies weren't hitting very well as a team.

Some kind of a mix-up with the bats, he had told the media earlier, making light of it. It wasn't anything to get worried about. Still, the Phillies were 20-for-111 in the previous three games, scoring a total of seven runs.

That wouldn't do. Some kind of change was in order.

He had given Mariano Duncan his first start of the season at shortstop Friday night. Saturday, he had resolved, Pete Incaviglia would be in left field, even though Los Angeles would ++ be starting right-handed pitchers the next two games.

By the time Fregosi strolled out of Veterans Stadium into the balmy, summer-like evening Sunday, the subtle changes he had made had paid big dividends.

Incaviglia homered for the second consecutive game, driving in three runs in all. The Phillies completed a sweep of the Dodgers, 5-2, before a phestive Phanatic's birthday crowd of 53,030.

In the two games since Incaviglia went into the lineup, the Phillies scored a total of 12 runs.

The here-and-now is that the Phillies, a team that didn't have a three-game sweep to its credit last year, has three this season.

The here-and-now is that the Phillies padded their lead over second-place Montreal in the NL East to 2 1/2 games.

The here-and-now is that, for the time being, Fregosi apparently will be content to run out Duncan -- who was supposed to be the third alternative behind Juan Bell and Kim Batiste -- at shortstop.

But the mind wanders back to the first week in April. There was Incaviglia, contemplating a platoon.

"I think sometimes I stay on the ball better against right-handers. I think left-handers might get me out better. . . "

And there was general manager Lee Thomas, noting that Incaviglia could be a hot-and-cold hitter.

"But when he gets on one of his streaks . . ."

Incaviglia seems to be on one of his streaks now.

"When I'm swinging the bat well, I think I can hit anybody," he said. "I've been working a lot with [hitting coach Denis Menke]. I've shortened my swing and I'm starting to feel comfortable with what we're doing.

"For a week or so there, I was lost. I wasn't seeing the ball well and I was pulling off pitches."

He also wasn't playing much as the Phillies faced a string of right-handed starters. "It's nice to get back on the horse again and try to help the ballclub," he said.

The help started in the first inning, when the Dodgers' starter, knuckleballing right-hander Tom Candiotti, struggled with his control.

Second baseman Mickey Morandini singled with one out. Candiotti walked the next two batters, first baseman John Kruk and third baseman Dave Hollins, to load the bases. Then he walked catcher Darren Daulton to force in a run. Hollins came home when Incaviglia grounded out to shortstop.

Incaviglia came to the plate again in the third with Hollins on first and one out and hit a 2-0 knuckleball to left for a home run, giving Phillies starter Tommy Greene all the runs he would need.

"Hitting that pitch is tough, like trying to catch a butterfly," Incaviglia said. "But it's like [knuckleballer] Charlie Hough always told me. If it's high, let it fly. If it's low, let it go."

Getting three runs in the bottom of the first was a boost for Greene, who struggled while giving up a run in the top of the inning.

"He battled with his control," Fregosi said.

He battled successfully, though. While he pitched behind in the count most of the day, Greene didn't allow another hit until third baseman Tim Wallach led off the seventh with a single. In between, only two Dodgers reached on walks.

Greene ended up pitching seven innings. David West pitched the eighth and Mitch Williams got his seventh save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"I didn't feel like I had a very good rhythm," said Greene, 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA. "I was just trying to keep the ball down, make some good pitches, keep the ball in the park."

For what it's worth, Duncan has started seven games this year. The Phillies have won all of them. He apparently will stay at shortstop until further notice.

This is a good illustration of why the Phillies were willing to pay Duncan $2 million this year, even though he didn't have a regular spot in the lineup going into spring training.

"Sometimes you just have to be patient," Duncan said. "It's still early. I was a little surprised to find myself playing, but I don't think that makes me the shortstop. I just have to be ready for anything. For now, I'll try to go out, get my hits, make all the plays."

The Phillies drew up a plan coming out of spring training, all neat and pretty.

It didn't include Incaviglia in left field against right-handers, and it didn't include Duncan playing shortstop on a regular basis.

But there's only one thing worse for a baseball team than making changes in the blueprint. And that's not making adjustments when necessary.

NO APRIL FOOLS

At 13-4 (.765) heading into last night's game, the Philadelphia Phillies are threatening their all-time best April winning percentage. The top six:

Year .. .. Record .. .. .. Pct.

.. .. 9-2 .. .. .. .818

.. .. 11-3 .. .. .. .786

.. .. 11-3 .. .. .. .786

.. .. 14-5 .. .. .. .750

.. .. 7-3 .. .. .. .700

.. .. 7-3 .. .. .. .700

Source: Phillies Media Guide

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