Yesterday the Phillies proved why it will be difficult for the team to go on a prolonged losing streak at some point this season. The reason is PITCHING. After the bullpen spoiled a solid start by Roy Oswalt Friday, Hamels went out and tossed a great 7 innings of baseball only giving up 2 runs. They used some timely hitting and a bit of luck to take the lead in the 8th inning on a sac fly off the bat of Chooch. A loss would have placed them in tie for 1st place in the division with the fish, but instead they send the Marlins out of town trailing by 2 games. The rain out on Saturday made a series win impossible but they continued their streak of not losing a series with the victory yesterday. They are now 4-0-1 in the 5 series they have played this season.
“Anytime you win the game, it’s good,” Charlie Manuel said. “Whether you win ugly or win beautiful, it’s positive. It’s always positive when you’re winning.
In addition to the win yesterday, the Phillies finally received some good news on the injury front. Since the start of spring training it seems that any injury news for the club has been bad news but hopefully that trend comes to an end. Over the weekend Chase Utley started to run the bases and it is now looking like a matter of when not if he returns to the team. But they will have to remain cautious with the knee of Chase because a small setback could push his return date back by months. We also learned that the injury to Roy Oswalt doesn't appear to be serious and he should avoid a DL stint. Both Roy and Dubee are very confident he will be able to make his next start and it appears the injury has little to do with his past back problems. Oswalt will throw a bullpen session before today's game and if everything goes good, he is a go for his start on Thursday.
The Brewers enter the 3 game series with a respectable 7-8 record. But they had a rough weekend down in Washington. They lost the 1st game of the series on Friday night and then they lost both games of the double header yesterday. The team who was picked by many to win the NL Central is now 2 games behind the defending division champion Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers have had some injury problems of their own as their newly acquired former Cy Young Winner Zack Greinke started the season on the DL. Greinke, along with Corey Hart both appear to be nearing a return to the team but it won't happen at any point during this series.
Phillies Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy was able to finally break his drought without an RBI with a base hit during Thursday nights game. Rollins has had a solid start to the season, he has just not had the numbers you would expect from your 3-hole hitter. He is currently batting .298 with 10 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. But for the Phillies to be able to consistently score runs, they need to get more production from their third hitter. Rollins has been Werth like with runners in scoring position this season, as he has just 3 hits in 15 at bats with RISP. He has had success in limited at bats against tonights starter Shawn Marcum. In 7 at bats Rollins has been able to record 3 hits for a batting average of .429.
Brewers Prince Fielder
After this season, Fielder will be a free agent and will have an opportunity to cash in on a lucrative long term contract. A great year from the "big" 1st baseman could earn him an even bigger contract. So far this season Fielder has been great. He currently leads all of baseball with 16 RBI's and has a solid .321 average. Fielder has has success against tonights starting pitcher Joe Blanton. He is 4-11 in his career against Blanton with one home run. The massive left hander's bat at middle of the Brewers lineup is a crucial part of the teams success.
Monday April 18 7:05: Joe Blanton vs. Shawn Marcum
It is no secret to Phillies Phans that Joe Blanton has had rough start to the 2011 season. Blanton has been awful through 2 starts, he is 0-1 with a Adam Eaton like 10.45 ERA. But Blanton has a solid track record and its only a matter of time until he turns things around. He has said that the problem is fixable and we will see tonight if he has made any progress on it. The rain out on Saturday pushed his start back till tonight. It looks like an unlucky break for Blanton as he has worse career numbers versus the Brewers than he did against the Marlins. In 4 career starts versus the Brewers, he is 2-1 with a 5.61 ERA.
Marcum was acquired via a trade in the off season with the hope of giving the Brewers a three headed monster at the top of their rotation. Many thought Marcum could put up much better numbers making the move from the hard hitting AL East till the NL Central. So far this season, it looks like that is the case. In 3 starts this season, he is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA. Marcum has made 3 starts against he Phillies and all 3 have been at Citizens Bank Park. In those 3 starts he is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA. His fastball only sits in the mid to high 80's, so he isn't going to over power you with his stuff. But he can throw a lot of different pitches to keep the hitters off balance and he is the kind of pitcher the Phillies have struggled against in the past.
Tuesday April 19 7:05: Roy Halladay vs. Randy Wolf
Roy Halladay seemed to be on cruise control through the 1st 8 innings of Wednesday nights start versus the Nationals. But Washington tried to spoil the party with a 9th inning rally. Doc was able to get out of the jam after giving up 2 runs and earn his 2nd victory of the season. His struggles in the 9th inning raised his ERA to a massive 1.23 through 3 starts. Surprisingly he has struggled in his 2 starts versus the Brewers, in those starts he is 1-1 with an un-Doc like 5.54 ERA.
The Wolf Pack will likely be back to watch Randy Wolf make another start against his former team. He has had a decent start to the season as he is 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 3 starts. Wolf, who wasa 1997 2nd round pick of the Phillies has made 5 career regular season starts against he Phillies. In those regular season starts he is 2-2 with a 5.10 ERA. He is no stranger to Citizens Bank Park as he has made 28 career starts there. He is 10-7 with a 4.24 ERA in his games at the Bank.
Wedneday April 20 7:05: Cliff Lee vs. Chris Narveson
There are few words that can describe Lee's performance on Thursday night and dominate is one of them. Lee bounced back after a poor outing in his previous start giving the best pitching performance in baseball of the young season. Lee needed just 99 pitches to throw a complete game shutout against he Nationals. He only gave up 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 12 Nationals. Lee has made one start versus the Brewers in his career and didn't have good results. In the September start at Miller Park in 2009, he gave up 7 runs and 9 hits over 6 innings. But it is way to small of a sample size to know if this trend is likely to continue. I would expect Lee to put together another solid outing and continue to lower his ERA to a respectable level.
Narveson has given up just 3 runs in18.2 innings so far this season. Yet 99% of baseball fans have no clue who this guy is. The 29 year old lefty has never fully lived up to his 2nd round selection by the Cardinals in he 2000 draft. He has made 36 starts and has a 4.49 career ERA. He made one start versus the Phillies last season in Milwaukee, he received the loss after going 5.2 innings giving up 4 runs.
This is a big series for the Phillies against one of better teams in the league. If they are going to lose a game in the series, it looks like the 1st game of the series might be the one. Tonight, the Phillies will face the Brewers best pitcher of the series, while the Phillies 5th starter will take the hill. The next two nights the Phillies will give the ball to former Cy Young winners. I predict the Phillies will win 2 of the 3 games and will continue their streak of being unbeaten in a series.