Charlie Manuel makes plea for a right-handed hitter

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At 47-28, the Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball.

They allow an MLB-best 3.2 runs per game, and trail only the Yankees and Red Sox in run differential.

But this team could be better, and Charlie Manuel knows it.

The Phillies manager is making a rather public plea for help for his lineup, and a solid right-handed hitter tops his wish list, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.

“We could use a hitter in our lineup,” he said Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. “At least one. We could definitely use a solid right-handed hitter.”

If the Phillies were to add a right-handed hitter, he would ideally be able to pick up some at-bats in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Phillies’ No. 5 hitters are batting just .207 with a .609 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In fairness, Placido Polanco is a good hitter (though he has no power), Carlos Ruiz is serviceable enough at catcher (you’ve got to love the .370 OBP), and Shane Victorino is a switch-hitter who destroys left-handers (.362/.464/.787).

Also, the Phillies are 15-6 against left-handers this season, so it’s not like they’re helpless from the right side. What Manuel really should have said was this: “I really miss Jayson Werth. Without Jayson, we don’t have anyone with a sweet beard who can put the fear of God into a left-handed pitcher.”

Of course, Werth is hitting .172/.313/.344 against southpaws this season, so never mind.

The bigger issue here, as far as the Phillies are concerned, is money. Their payroll for 2011 is at $175 million, the second-highest in baseball and just $3 million shy of the luxury tax threshold. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is already on record as saying “you will not see a major move this year.”

Salisbury reports that Oakland’s Josh Willingham interests the Phillies, and San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick, Kansas City’s Wilson Betemit, and Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs are also possibilities. Of course, even Manuel admits that the money issue could be “a huge problem.”

Still, it never hurts to ask. After all, Manuel asked for a pitcher last season and ended up with Roy Oswalt. Not too bad.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.