It seemed the Phillies were content with just winning 2 of the 3 games in a series and didn’t mind not sweeping teams. Then the Phillies traded for Hunter Pence and they realized that they could just sweep every series they played. I know that this is not what happened but it sure seems like it. The Phillies were playing very well before getting the lanky outfielder, but sine his accusation they have taken it to a whole new level. Since they acquired Pence on July 29, they are 11-1! The only game they have lost during this stretch was against a two time Cy Young winner. Tonight the Phillies return home to take on the Nationals for a 3 game series.
They had a 16-4 record on their grinding 20 games in 20 day stretch and had a franchise best 10 game road trip by going 9-1. This may be the greatest Phillies team we have every witnessed. The Phightin’s enter the series with the Nats with a 77-40 record and are 8.5 games ahead of the Braves in the division. This is the team’s best 117 game start since 1976 and the best 117 game start in the majors since 2004.At this point in the season, the 2011 Phillies would be 11 games ahead of the 2010 Phillies team that won 97 games. While nothing is ever guaranteed in baseball, I believe we have to just sit back and enjoy the amazing baseball we get to witness every night and worry about the future when it becomes the present.
Meet the Nationals
A familiar face is back in Philadelphia this weekend. Jayson Werth and what is left of his beard is back in the city he called home for a few seasons. While he was in a Phillies uniform he went from a former first round pick that couldn’t stay healthy to a World Champion and an all-star. He then used his success as a Phillie to cash in on a massive free agent deal he received from Washington. While the Nationals have a bright future with Zimmerman, Strasburg, Harper and many more, the 2011 Nationals are not a great team. They are having a solid season but are hardly in the middle of the playoff race. Washington is currently 56-61 and are 21 games behind the Phillies for first place. They rank 23 in runs scored, 28th in batting average and 28th in homeruns. There pitching staff is improved from last season, they rank 11th in ERA but rank just 23rd in BAA. The Nationals could be a threat to the Phillies over the next few seasons but right now they are just battling Florida for 4th place.
Friday August 12, 7:05: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Livan Hernandez
It looks like there is a good chance that a Phillies pitcher will win the Cy Young this season but we just don’t know what Phillie it is yet. (Kershaw is the only non Phillie that I believe has a chance.) Hamels was the sleeper pick for the award around Philly, I thought he had a good chance but I ultimately believed he would be beat out by Doc. Cole has become not only one of the Phillies best pitchers but one of the best pitchers in the game. The addition of his cutter over last year and half have made him almost unhittable at times. He has learned from other Phillies great pitchers and has learned that at times a ground ball is just as good if not better than a strikeout. Cole was one out short of a shutout during his last start as he gave up a 2 out solo home run before retiring the next hitter to get the win and the complete game. Hamels is now 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He has made 19 career starts versus the Nationals, in those games he is 10-3 with a 2.61 ERA. Current Nationals hitters are a combined 33-140 (.236) while facing Hamels during their careers.
The Nationals will send the Livan Hernandez to the hill tonight to face Hamels. He is in the middle of a rough year after posting a 3.66 ERA last season. It seems like the “36” year old is finally showing his age. The soft tossing righty got hit hard by the Rockies during his last start as he gave up 9 runs in just 3.2 innings. He is currently 6-11 with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 24 starts this season. Hernandez has made 30 career starts versus the Phillies, in those games he is 12-11 with a 3.65 ERA. He hasn’t had the same success against the Phillies while pitching at Citizens Bank Park; in 8 starts there he is just 2-5 with a 6.14 ERA. Hernandez is the type of pitcher that could give the Phillies a lot of trouble, as he is a right handed version of Jamie Moyer. If they can be patient and make him bring the ball over the plate, they can do a lot of damage against him. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 59-182 (.324) while facing Hernandez during their careers.
Saturday August 13, 7:05: RHP Roy Oswalt vs.LHP John Lannan
Oswalt’s first start back from the disabled list didn’t go as well as he would have liked, but if he didn’t work his way out of a few jams. It could have easily been a lot worse. He gave up an astounding 12 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings and somehow only surrendered 3 runs. But the good news is he seemed to have good life on his fastball. It was sitting around 91-92 and hopefully that will go up a little as he gains some more arm strength. He will be facing the team that he struggled against when he made his Phillies debut last season. Country Roy is currently 4-7 with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP in his 14 starts this season. He has pitched in 18 career games (16 starts) versus the Nats, in those games he is 5-4 with a 3.12 ERA. Current Nationals hitters are a combined 33-118 (.280) while facing Oswalt during their careers.
Whenever I hear the name John Lannan, I like most phans remember the time he hit Chase with a pitch in 2007 and sent him to the disabled list. This is something that he will always be remembered for amongst the Philly Phaithful. He has always had moderate expectations and has never really lived up to them. Lannan was sent back to the minors last season after being the team’s opening day starter. At 26 it seems as though something as clicked for him this season. He is 8-7 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 24 starts this season. He had gone 13 straight starts against the Phillies without receiving a win until earlier this season. In his 14 starts against the Phillies, he is 1-10 with a 5.96 ERA. In his 5 starts at the Bank, he is 0-4 with an 8.02 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 74-232 (.319) while facing Lannan during their careers.
Sunday August 14, 1:35: RHP Roy Halladay vs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang
After facing a NLCS and World Series MVP the 1st game, then facing a former NLCS MVP, the Nationals will have to face 2 time and reigning Cy Young winner and the best pitcher in the game in Roy Halladay in the series finale. Doc has quietly put together another terrific season and is the right in the middle of the Cy Young race. For some reason he seems to almost be lost in the shuffle at times on this team. Hamels is the home grown and blossoming pitcher, Lee took less money to return to Philly and then there is Doc who just quietly goes about his business and pitches lights out. It’s hard to imagine that the best pitcher in baseball might be under appreciated but I truly believe he is. Doc is currently 15-4 with a 2.51 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP so far this season. He has pitched in 15 career games (14 starts) versus the Nationals, in those games he is 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA. Current Nationals hitters are a combined 48-195 (.246) while facing Halladay during their careers.
The Nationals starter pitcher for Sunday’s game hasn’t officially been announced as of today. But looking at their past rotation, it looks like former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang will pitch. He won 19 games for the Yankees in back to back season but has had a lot of injury problems over the last few years. As a result he has only pitched in 30 games in the 3 seasons since those back to back great years in 2006 and 2007. He has made 3 starts this season and has improved in each start. He gave up 4 ER (6 runs) in his first start, then just 2 ER (6 runs) in his 2nd before giving up just 1 hit and no runs in his last start on Tuesday night. Wang is currently 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 3 starts this season. He has pitched in just 1 game against the Phillies, in his 3 innings of work he gave up 2 runs on 6 hits.
The Phillies enter the series playing their best baseball of the season and maybe in the history of the franchise. They are just coming off of a much needed day off yesterday after playing a game on 20 straight days. Hopefully they didn’t lose any of the magic they had during that stretch and will come out playing the same level of baseball. The Nationals are far from a push over but they are not a team that should play at the level the Phillies can play. If the Phillies take care of business and play the way they can play, they should have no problem with the pesky Nats. A sweep will give them an amazing record of 80-40! I predict the Phillies will take all 3 games and sweep the Nationals.