Sep 212010
Phillies CF Shane Victorino

Phillies CF Shane Victorino

September 21 Philadelphia Inquirer:

“In retrospect, it should be no surprise that Shane Victorino has wound up as the Phillies‘ leadoff man.

No disrespect to Jimmy Rollins, whose season has endured more interruptions than a State of the Union address, but Victorino these last two weeks has been the best first-place hitter the 2010 Phils have had.

In the 14 games since he most recently assumed the injured Rollins’ spot at the top of the batting order, the gabby centerfielder has gone 22 for 58 (.379), scored 13 runs, walked 7 times, and had 7 RBIs. The Phillies, not coincidentally, have won 12 of those contests and, after Monday night’s 3-1 victory over Atlanta, now lead the second-place Braves by four games with 11 to play.

Monday, when the calendar said September but the chill, the rally towels, and the tension level implied October, Victorino once again tormented the Braves, whose manager, Bobby Cox, once referred to him as “that [expletive] Superman.”

As the jowly Cox scowled in the third-base dugout at sold-out Citizens Bank Park, Victorino singled and stole second in the third, his 34th steal. Then in the fifth inning of a 1-1 game, he raced all the way to third when Braves rightfielder Jason Heyward mishandled his low line drive.

A few pitches later, on a Placido Polanco ground ball, Victorino scored the tiebreaking run, launching the Phils to their significant series-opening victory.

“He got a correct lead,” said manager Charlie Manuel of the beneficial baserunning decision. “He moved when he saw it hit, and when he saw it hit the ground, he took off.”

While Victorino has taken off on the field in September, what he’s done outside the lines has, in a different sense, made him the Phils’ leading man.

Let’s face it, these Phillies are loaded with reluctant stars. The players you might expect to be out front seem to prefer the shadows.

Chase Utley and Roy Halladay are intensely focused and reluctant interviewees. Rollins, despite being the team’s longest-tenured player, doesn’t do many endorsements or make many postgame pronouncements. Ryan Howard does Subway commercials but is hardly the big cheese when it comes to publicity. Cole Hamels has cut back on his accessibility. Jayson Werth, as he demonstrated in discussing his new agent on Monday, can be curt.

On a first-place team, when the demands are as nonstop as the ticket requests, somebody’s got to step into the limelight, shake the hands, answer the questions, sell the cars, pose for the photos.”

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