Charlie worked his magic over the last series by switching up the lineup to help spark the Phillies offensive outburst. He moved Jimmy back to the leadoff spot, shifted Victorino to 2nd and moved Polly to number 3. They scored 18 runs on 35 hits on route to a three game sweep of the Washington Nationals. The biggest story of the 3 game sweep was the emergence of Raul Ibanez, whose recent struggles were no secret to most fans. Raul caught fire against Washington pitching going 8-12 with 2 homeruns, 3 doubles and 5 RBI’s in the 3 game series.
With all of the “struggles”, injuries and overall negativity from a lot of people, this team is tied for the best record in baseball and is on pace to win 113 games! That’s not bad for a team that hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders yet. The Phillies will end their 9 game home stand this weekend as they welcome the Atlanta Braves into town for a 3 games series. They will enter the series with the Braves, in 1st place in the NL East with a 21-9 record. The Braves come to town on a 5 game winning streak and are perhaps playing their best baseball of the season. They are now 18-15 in third place in the division, 4.5 games behind the Phillies. The Braves possess a starting rotation that is one of the best in the game and have a very capably lineup that hasn’t really clicked yet.
Phillies Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins
Charlie wanted to put this duo back to back in the lineup to take advantage of the speed and stolen base ability the two have. Rollins is batting .280, with 27 stolen bases and has scored 108 runs in his 172 career games versus the Braves. But he is 12-62 (.194) against Lowe and Jurrjens. Flyin is hitting .275 lifetime versus Atlanta with 19 stolen bases and 49 runs scored. With the ability of both pitching staffs, it looks like runs are going to be at a minimum this weekend. Jimmy and Shane played a crucial part in setting the table against the Nationals and this would be a huge boost to the team in this series.
Braves Dan Uggla
I picked Uggla as my key player in the last series and his performance was “Uggla”. In the 3 game series back in early April, he went 0-11 with 4 strikeouts, helping the Phillies take 2 of the 3 games. The Phillies have kept the free swinging second baseman in check during his career; he is batting just .235 in 91 games against the Phightin’s. He has also struggled against the Phillies probable starters as he is just 9-66 (.136) against them. His right handed bat will be needed once again as the Phillies will send two lefties to the mound again this weekend.
Friday May 6 7:05: Cliff Lee LHP vs. RHP Derek Lowe
Lee’s return to the Phillies hasn’t gone as great as many had thought it would, as he is just 2-2 with a 3.66 ERA. Now I’m not saying he been a flop, he just hasn’t meet the tremendously high standards that many had set for him. Most pitchers in baseball would love to have a “slow” start and have the ERA that Cliff has right now. Lee is coming off of a solid outing Sunday night against the Mets; he went 7 innings and only gave up 1 run. The great pitching of Chris Young and the struggles of the Phillies bats wasted the effort and gave Lee a no decision. Lee has had very little success against the Braves during his career. While its only 4 starts, he is 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA against them. I would expect Lee to rebound off the poor start he had versus the Braves in early April and have a very good outing.
Mid way through last season it looked as though Lowe’s long career was coming to an end, but he was able to put together a strong September and he has carried some of that success over to this season. Lowe is now 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA on the season. One of those losses came against the Phillies earlier in the season, he pitched a good game but he was out pitched by Hamels. Lowe has been in the majors for a long time and has had a lot of starts against the Phillies. In 19 games (15 starts), he is 7-5 with a 3.48 ERA. He has had a lot of success against current Phillie hitters; they are just 29-151 (.192) against him.
Saturday May 7 7:05: RHP Kyle Kendrick vs. RHP Julio Teheran
Today we learned that Oswalt will be scratched from his start tomorrow night and we will get the of watching Kyle Kendrick pitch. Oswalt could be headed from the DL but he still would be eligible to start next Friday if the Phillies make the move retro active to ten days ago. Kyle will make his first start of the season as he was sent to the bullpen when the team acquired Lee in the off season. Despite a lot of criticism, he has actually pitched well out of the pen this season. Kendrick is currently 1-2 with a 2.08 ERA this season. Atlanta is one of the team's he has had success against. In 9 starts he is 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA. Since he has been in the pen all year, he isn't stretched out and won't be able to throw a lot of pitches. Charlie has said that he will only be able to throw 65-75 pitches.
The Braves have decided to move Jurrjens back to Sunday and will call up top pitching prospect Julio Teheran to start on Saturday. Many thought that he would have to wait atleast to Septmeber call ups and perhaps till 2012 to join the Braves. But the Braves have shown a willingness to fast-track players if they feel they are ready. Teheran has made 5 starts a AAA and has allowed a total of just 6 earned runs. He is just 20 years old but he projects as a top of the rotation type pitcher. According to Baseball America, he has a fastball that sits in the 94-96 range, a change up and a curve ball. His change up has received higher grades then his curve ball. Baseball America had him ranked as the number 5 prospect in baseball this season, it was the highest ranking they gave to a pitcher this year. Keith Law, of ESPN.com ranked Teheran as the number 6 prospect in his rankings in February.
Below are the links to both scouting reports of Teheran, but you have to be a ESPN Insider and have a Baseball America subscription to access them.
Sunday May 8 8:05: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens
Hamels has been tremendous and has rebounded very well since his poor start against the Mets. Since that cold April night, Hamels is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA and has 37 strikeouts in 5 starts. Even with the poor first start, he is 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA on the season. One of those 6 starts was against the Braves; he got the win as he pitched 7 scoreless innings while only giving up 4 hits. His start on Sunday will be his 21st career start versus Atlanta; he is 10-5 with a 3.72 ERA against them. Hamels is coming off of a complete game 5 hitter against the Nats on Tuesday night; he gave up just one run while striking out 6.
Jurrjens had a lot of injury problems last season and spent the beginning of this season the DL, but he has always showed a tremendous ability to get hitters out when he is healthy. In just 4 starts this season, he is already 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA. He has gone at least 6 innings in every start and has failed to give up more than 2 runs in an outing yet this season. Jurrjens has also had a lot of success against he Phillies during his young career, the 25 year old is 3-3 2.56 ERA in 9 starts against the Phillies. His numbers are even better are the Bank, in 5 starts he is 2-1 with a 1.87 ERA.
The Phillies begin a tough stretch of their schedule and it is very important to get it off to a good start. Starting this weekend, they will play 7 straight series against teams that are currently over .500. Most people had the Braves as the Phillies main competition in the division and some even had Atlanta winning the NL East. I predict the Phillies will win 2 of the 3 games. The game that I think will be the toughest is tomorrow nights game, . but I see another series win for the best team in baseball and they will then head down to Miami to take on the 2nd place Fish starting Monday.