The Phillies offense has finally started to come alive and we are beginning to see how good this team can be. After taking the final 3 games from the Cubs over the weekend, they took all four games from the slumping Fish. With the talent the Phillies have in the starting rotation, they will obviously not need to be the powerhouse offensively that they were in 08 and 09. There record when they score four or more runs in staggering. The Phillies have now won 7 in a row and still hold the best record in baseball with a 44-26 record. They are 5 games ahead of the Braves in the division and are 4.5 games ahead of the Giants for the best record in the National League. The Phillies now head to the Pacific Northwest to play 3 games with the Seattle Mariners.
Even though the offense was a lot better recently, this is a team that will live and die with their pitching. The Phillies rotation is home to arguable the two best pitchers in the game right now with Halladay and Hamels each having a major league best 9 wins. Right now the Phillies staff is first in the majors in ERA, quality starts, save percentage, complete games and shutouts. They have also allowed the fewest walks and have allowed the 3rd fewest homeruns. You could say that this pitching staff is living up the massive hype they received over the offseason. The Phillies bats are about right where they need to be for this team to be successful, they are currently 7th in the NL in runs and it looks like they should only continue to rise as they play more games with their everyday lineup.
Meet the Mariners
The M’s are entering the series a half game behind the Rangers for 1st in the AL West with a 35-34 record. They were able to avoid the weep on Wednesday by winning the final game of a 3 game series against the Angels. The general makeup of the Mariners has a similar dynamic to the Phillies as they rely heavily on their Starting Pitching for their success. They are currently 6th in the Majors in ERA and are 5th in BAA. The Mariners starting rotation is led by reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, rookie flame thrower Michael Pineda and the often injured but talented Eric Bedard.
Their offense has not been as good as even the “struggling” Phillies lineup. They are currently 28th in the majors in runs scored and rank 29th in OPS. Over the last decade they have been led by future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki who is in the midst of his worst season in the majors as he is batting just .269. The rest of their lineup is nothing to write home about as 1B Justin Smoak might be the only other dangerous bat in the lineup. They recently promoted their top prospect 2B Dustin Ackley to the majors and he will make his MLB debut tonight. Baseball America ranked Ackley the 12th best prospect in the majors coming into the season. Safeco Field is one of the biggest parks in the game and a speedy centerfielder is a must. The M’s centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez is one of the game’s best defender and can cover more ground than Nnamdi Asomugha. The M’ are a prime example of a team trying to win with pitching and defense.
Friday June 17th, 10:10: RHP Roy Oswalt vs. RHP Michael Pineda
On Sunday Roy was able to get his first win since April 21! After he gave up 3 on five hits in the 1st innings, he settled down and only gave up one more hit in his final 6 innings. Oswalt was able to hang in there long enough for the Phillies bats to regain the lead and hand it over the seemingly lights out bullpen to wrap up the game. He is now 4-4 on the season with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Despite the strong performance Sunday, his fastball still seems to be missing the zip that we saw last season. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to regain the few MPH he lost over the last few months. Tonight he will be making his 3rd career start versus the Mariners. In those two starts he is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA. Both of those stats came while he was pitching in his home park, so he has never started a game at Safeco Field. On the season, he is 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 6 starts away from the Bank.
Michael Pineda might be the biggest and most pleasant surprised in all of baseball this year. The 21 year old right-hander is now 6-4 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He is coming off his worst start of the season on Saturday, he went just 5.1 innings and gave up 6 runs (5 ER) on 8 hits. Baseball America ranked Pineda as the 16th best prospect and 6th best pitching prospect in all of baseball coming into the season. He was also ranked by them as the Mariners 2nd best prospect. Their scouting report says that his fastball sits in at 93-97 MPH but he has thrown as hard as 101 at times. He also throws a slider and a changeup and all 3 pitches come out of the same arm slot. Pineda has the size to intimidate many hitters as he stands at 6-7 and weights approximately 260 LBS. This will be the first time that the Phillies will face Pineda.
Saturday June 18, 10:10: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
Worley as recalled from AAA Lehigh Valley yesterday in a move where they DFA former major member of the pen J.C. Romero. Vance will get another chance to start for the team after they sent him down to the minors to get stretched out. He made 3 starts in his recent demotion and went 2-0 while only giving up 3 runs in 19 innings. Worley has made 4 starts and has pitched in 6 total games for the big club this season. In those games he 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA. He is coming off of his worst start as a professional back on May 29th; Worley lasted just 3 innings and gave up 8 runs (5 ER) on 12 hits. The poor outing not only sent him back to AAA but raised his ERA from 2.14 to 3.75. With the recent success from Kyle Kendrick, Worley will need a successful start to remain in the rotation. Tomorrow nights start will be his first against the Mariners.
The young Worley will be opposed by the reigning AL Cy Young winner and arguable the 2nd best pitcher in baseball Felix Hernandez. He has struggled over his last 2 starts as he has given up 17 hits and 8 runs during that span. King Felix is having a down year compared to his past performances; he is just 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Even though he is just 25, he has already pitched in parts of 7 seasons and has won 78 games. Hernandez has logged over 235 innings, struck 215+ and had an ERA under 2.50 in each of the last 2 seasons. Tomorrow night will be his first start against the Phillies during his career. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 8-36 (.222) against Hernandez during their careers.
Sunday June 19, 4:10: LHP Cole Hamels vs. LHP Jason Vargas
Hamels left Tuesday night’s start with what was called a knot in his back. Both the Phillies and Hamels have downplayed the injury and said that it is very minor. It looks as though is on track to start on Sunday unless there is something they haven’t told us. Cole has been phenomenally so far this season and might be the best lefty in the game right now. He is currently 9-2 with a 2.49 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Over his last 6 starts he is 5-0 and has allowed a total of just 8 runs in a combined 44 innings! In 6 starts on the road this season, he is 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA. He will become a FA after the 2012 season and if he continues his performance, Hamels will be a very rich man. Current Mariner’s hitters are a combined 3-31 (.097) against Hamels during their careers.
The Phillies bats will be excited to see Vargas after having to face Pineda and Hernandez in the previous two nights. This isn’t a knock against Vargas, but he isn’t the caliber pitcher that his teammates are. Vargas is currently 4-4 with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 14 starts this season. He is 0-1 and has given up 8 runs on 13 hits over his last two starts. Vargas is now on his 3rd team as a professional and has a career 4.57 ERA. He has pitched in 3 games (1 start) against the Phillies, in those games he is 0-0 with a 9.45 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 2-7 (.286) against Vargas during their careers.
The Phightin’s enter the played out interleague play as one of the hottest teams in baseball. We will see how well the bats will be this series while they face a very talented M’s staff in one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the game. It will be interesting to see how Charlie using the DH this series, will he try to give Gload some regular at bats or will he use it to give some regulars a day off in the field? Charlie may want to use Gload against two righties over the next two days, but it remains to be seen if Gload’s hip injury would even let him run the bases. Since the injury has been made public, Manuel has pinch ran for him every time he would get on base. The first two games of the series look to be challenge but there is no reason that they shouldn’t win the final game of the series. I expect the Phillies to win one of the first two games and then take the rubber game on Sunday to take the series.