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Phillies-Pirates Preview

AP - Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are struggling without two very big bats.

Another strong effort on the mound may be just what they need to compensate for that lack of offense Sunday afternoon when they conclude this season-opening three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Philadelphia (1-1) has started the season with Ryan Howard (left Achilles' tendon surgery) and Chase Utley (tendinitis in right knee) on the disabled list.

Howard had a team-high 33 homers and 116 RBIs last season, while Utley had 11 and 44, respectively, as injuries limited him to 103 games.

Those absences are being felt by the Phillies, who are hitting .221 with 14 strikeouts while scoring two runs through two games. They're 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

"That's not good hitting," said right fielder Hunter Pence, who is 1 for 8 with an RBI in two games. "We're kind of sporadic; we're getting runners in scoring position and then not getting the balls to fall right there."

Those offensive issues caught up with Philadelphia on Saturday, as it was held to seven hits in a 2-1, 10-inning loss at Pittsburgh (1-1). That came two days after they capitalized on a gem from Roy Halladay, who yielded two hits in eight innings of a season-opening 1-0 win over the Pirates.

Saturday's defeat wasted a strong effort from Cliff Lee, who yielded one run and two hits in six innings.

"Overall, I felt he did really good. We just couldn't get no runs," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Vance Worley will try to give the Phillies a third straight strong performance on the mound in his season debut. The right-hander was a revelation for Philadelphia last season, gaining a spot in the rotation after injuries to Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. He finished 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and was third in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Despite his impressive regular season, Worley was moved to the bullpen during the playoffs, allowing one run and three hits in 1 1-3 innings over two appearances.

That may be a reason why Worley isn't taking his spot in the rotation for granted.

"It's no different (from last season)," Worley told the team's official website ahead of his first meeting with the Pirates. "I'm not going to assume I have the job won. I'm going to have to continue to earn that spot."

Pittsburgh is having its own problems at the plate, hitting .131 while going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Alex Presley has been a rare bright spot with three hits in two games, including a walkoff single Saturday.

James McDonald gets the ball looking to build on his best season in the majors. The right-hander went 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 31 starts in 2011, setting personal bests in wins and strikeouts.

He was much better at home than on the road, compiling a 5-2 record and 3.19 ERA in 16 starts at PNC Park.

McDonald, though, is trying to shake off a difficult spring. He was 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA while serving up a team-high four homers in six outings.

McDonald is 0-2 with a 6.97 ERA in four appearances - two starts - against the Phillies. He was reached for three runs and three hits while walking a career high-tying five over four innings in a 7-3 home loss to Philadelphia on June 5.

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