ST. LOUIS -- Phillies fans these days are desperately awaiting the unknown return date of injured All-Stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to help pull their club out of the National League East cellar. But until that time, Shane Victorino is doing his part to pick up the slack.
Victorino is riding a six-game hitting streak entering Friday's game against the Cardinals in which he's batted .478 with four multihit games. During that stretch, he has five doubles and has struck out just once. He's raised his average from .229 on May 1, to .270.
"I'm doing nothing different than I did, it's just a matter of going out there and doing it," Victorino said on Friday. "It's just one of those things. Right now, everything seems to be clicking. I just have to keep finding it, keep working at it -- staying focused and working hard."
Victorino's one of the guys keeping the Phillies' offense afloat. But he feels any of the other guys in the clubhouse are capable of lifting the team on any given night.
However, the center fielder also thinks it's important that no one makes it a point to try and be the one guy to replace Howard or Utley's production.
"You don't want to add too much to your plate, meaning that those guys alone, their presence in the lineup, is a lot. They're great players. They're missed," Victorino said. "But, obviously, if you go out there and try to add things to your plate and try to pick up a lot of the load, instinctively, you kind of do things differently. You want to be the guy, and I think more than anything, you're just going out there, just staying focused and going out there and playing the best you can. I think that's what it's all about."
Manuel sticks with Chooch in cleanup spot
ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Ruiz has been hitting so well as of late that Charlie Manuel doesn't have any qualms with keeping him batting cleanup. Ruiz was penciled in the fourth spot Friday against the Cardinals, his third straight game in the four-hole and his third time there this season.
"He's been getting all of the hits for us. He got on more last night. He's been hitting real good," Manuel said. "We've had some trouble scoring runs, and I started putting feelers out. Pretty soon I figured I wanted to move Hunter [Pence] out of fourth, give him a breather. I felt like it might help him fill some holes. He might have been trying too hard. And Chooch was the one guy that was hitting the ball so I put him in there."
Pence has hit fourth 41 times this season, but he was batting third against the Redbirds.
Ruiz continued his stellar season at the plate in the series opener at Busch Stadium, in a 10-9 Phillies victory. He finished 3-for-5 with three singles a day after taking a hard foul tip off of his throwing wrist against the Washington Nationals. Ruiz began Friday batting .414 in May, with 19 RBI, and his .366 average was fourth-best in the league.
Manuel noted that Ruiz will likely be given the day off on either Saturday or Sunday, but the manager still isn't 100 percent sure which game it will be.
Manuel also had third baseman Placido Polanco, who was batting .284 this season, hitting seventh on Friday for just the third time this season. Juan Pierre was in the two-hole. Manuel said the move comes in hopes of adding more balance to his lineup.
Pence bringing a patient approach to the plate
ST. LOUIS -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has noticed Hunter Pence being more patient at the plate. Not only has that resulted in Pence walking more, but Manuel thinks the new approach has helped Pence's confidence, as well.
"He definitely wants to do much, and thinks he has to do a whole lot," Manuel said before Friday's game. "I think Hunter is one of those guys, he doesn't necessarily need a lot of attention, but I think if you put a lot of expectations on him and he feels like he has to do it, he has to be real good. But no, just be yourself."
Pence has walked in seven straight games entering Friday. He had walked only six times in his previous 16 games before beginning the seven-game streak. During that stretch, Pence saw his batting average and on-base percentage drop to their lowest points in all of May. He was hitting .243 with a .291 on-base percentage on May 14.
Since then, Pence has brought his OBP up to .325 and is batting .254.
The Phillies are back at .500 (23-23) for the ninth time this season. It's the fifth time in May, and the first time since Sunday, when they were 21-21.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel called reliever Chad Qualls a "two days on, one day off" kind of pitcher on Friday. Qualls went 1 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 10-9 victory on Thursday, and gave up a towering 456-foot homer to David Freese in the seventh inning. Manuel said he's still confident in using Qualls, who's pitched back-to-back days five times this season, against the Cards this series.
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.