It’s actually scary how consistent this team has been throughout the season. I’m not talking game to game because every team will have a bad game every now and then. During the course of 162 game schedule teams will have their bad days and Saturday afternoon was a prime example. The Phillies continued their consistent play this weekend as they took 2 of 3 from the Mets. A sweep against the Mets might have been what everyone wanted, but taking the series is all they need to do. After the series win in New York they head to the windy city to take on the struggling Chicago Cubs. They start a 3 game series at the friendly confines of Wrigley field tonight at 8:05.
The best team in baseball has now won 7 consecutive series and 10 of their last 11. Perhaps the strangest part of this is they have only had a series sweep in 1 of those 11 series. This team has also not lost back to back games since the 3rd and 4th of June! They have only been swept in a series once this season and that was a 2 game series. The Phillies have yet to really get on a role and go on a long winning streak and that hot stretch will come eventually. They are now a major league best 59-35 and have maintained their 3.5 game lead over the 2nd place Braves. Shane Victorino is on track to be activated from the disabled list before tomorrow night’s game but the team will have to play the entire series without all-star third baseman Placido Polanco. The team will need Mickey Mart to continue his excellent play while filling in at 3rd.
Meet the Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are in the middle of yet another forgettable season in the long history of their franchise. They enter the series tonight in 5th place in a mediocre division with a 38-58 record. The Cubbies have been outscored by a staggering 98 runs so far this season that is tied for the 2nd worst run differential in the bigs. The Cubs offense currently ranks 7th in the majors in batting average, 16th in runs scored and 17th in homeruns. Their bats have not been the major reason for the demise of the 2011 Cubs; their struggles are more of a result of their poor pitching.
During the offseason the Cubs sent a large package of prospects to Tampa in exchange for right handed starter Matt Garza. So far this season the trade hasn’t worked out as Garza is just 4-7 on the season. Their pitching is statistically one of the worst in the majors; they rank 29th in ERA and last in quality starts. Their bullpen has had its share of problems over the last week but their starting staff has been the worse of the two. Their starters have the highest starters ERA in the majors at 5.23! As a pitching staff, they have just 2 shutouts. For comparison, Cliff Lee had more shutouts by himself during the month of June.
Monday July 18, 8:05: RHP Roy Halladay vs. RHP Rodrigo Lopez
If there ever was a statistical mismatch between two starters, tonight’s game is a prime example of that. The Phillies will send their ace of aces to the hill to oppose journey man starter Rodrigo Lopez. Halladay enters the game tonight with 9 days of rest since his last start and 5 days of rest since he pitched in the all star game. It will be interesting to see if the extra rest will cause Halladay to be rusty or whether it will give him a must needed boost for the 2nd half. He has not lost a decision in his last 10 starts and the team is 10-0 during those games. Doc enters the game 11-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He has pitched in 4 career games against the Cubs, in those games he is just 1-3 with a 3.24 ERA. In his 2 career starts at Wrigley Field he hasn’t pitched very well, in those games he is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA.
The Phillies will face their former teammate and journeyman pitcher tonight when the Cubs send Rodrigo Lopez to the hill. In 2009 the righty pitched in 7 games (5 starts) for the Phillies, in those games he went 3-1 with a 5.70 ERA. The Cubs acquired Lopez from the Braves earlier in the season after he started the season with the Braves AAA team. He has pitched in 13 games (4 starts) for the Cubs this season, in those games he is 1-2 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Lopez has pitched very well over his last 2 starts as he is 1-0 and has only given up 3 runs in 13 innings during that span. The journey man pitcher has pitched in 6 games (4 starts) against the Phillies, in those games he is 1-1 with a 5.74 ERA.
Tuesday July 19, 8:05: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Matt Garza
Lee was able to bounce back last weekend against the Braves after a poor outing in Toronto. He pitched 8 strong innings while only giving up one run on a solo home run by the streaky hitting Dan Uggla. Like Halladay, Lee also received some rest during the break and will be pitching on 9 days of rest since his last start and 6 days since he pitched in the all star game. Lee enters the game with a 9-6 record, a 2.82 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. While Doc has not been great against the Cubs, Lee has been dominate. In 5 career starts against them, he is 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA. In 2 starts at Wrigley, he is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Current Cubs hitters are a combined 24-86(.279) while facing Lee during their careers.
The 27 year old pitcher has been a disappointment for the Cubs for far this season. After starting his career in the heavy hitting AL East, many people thought his numbers would improve significantly being able to face the pitcher and facing the Pirates and Astros instead of the Red Sox and Yankees. So far this season Garza is just 4-7 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. Right now his season ERA is identical to his 3.97 career ERA. Garza has faced the Phillies in 2 regular season games in his careers, in those games he is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA. But he did face the Phillies during their magical run in 2008, he received a no decision in a game 3 Phillies win but he lasted just 6 innings and gave up 4 runs. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 14-53(.264) while facing Garza during their careers.
Wednesday July 20, 2:20: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Ryan Dempster
Everyone has been waiting for the 23 year old to fall back to earth, but Vanimal has continued to shut down the opposing hitters. He ran into some trouble in the 6th inning on Friday night, but he finished the game giving up just 1 run. In his 5 starts since rejoining the team in mid June, he has given up just 3 runs! Worley is now 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 1.25 WHIP so far this season. He has the lowest ERA among the starters on the team! That is an amazing feat for a rookie on a team with a normal rotation, but this team might have one of the greatest starting rotations in the history of the game. Wednesday afternoon’s game will be his first career appearance at Wrigley Field and against the Cubs. I still don’t think that Worley will ever be a top of the rotation starter for the Phillies and be able to keep his ERA in the low 2’s. But the kid (he is a year younger than me, I can call him a kid) doesn’t seem fazed by anything and he will continue to try to prove everyone wrong. Worley’s combination of talent and mental toughness will allow him to be a solid major league pitcher for the next decade.
Dempster is coming off of his best start of the season as he pitched 8 shutout innings against the Fish on Friday. But it has been far from a successful season for Dempster so far this season. He currently is 7-6 with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Over the previous 3 seasons, Dempster had pitched in 200 plus innings and had an ERA south of 4. He has a weird hitch in his delivery that hitters might finally being getting comfortable against. The righty has not had a lot of success against the Phillies during his career. In 23 games (16 starts) against them, he is 5-4 with a 4.90 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 22-68(.324) while facing Dempster during their careers.
While a series against the Cubs doesn’t excite many people because of their record, it is still a series in one of the most oldest and historic parks in the game. Just seeing the ivy on the outfield wall makes you appreciate all that baseball has to offer. The upcoming series is a prime example of having to take care of business against the bottom tier of the league. It’s no secret that the Cubs are not playing very good baseball right now and the Phillies have to take advantage of this during the series. This is a team that they should sweep, but this Phillies team has not had a lot of success sweeping teams this season. So I will predict the Phillies will take 2 of the 3 games against the Cubbies.
Brotherly Love Nation Writer