The Phillies and Pirates spent many years battling in the same division until they were separated in 1994. Both teams and fan bases had a similar rivalry to that of the current one between the Flyers and Penguins. Since Pennsylvania’s two teams were put into different divisions, the rivalry between the two has all but faded. The dying of the rivalry isn’t the complete work of being in different divisions. From 1994-2006, neither of PA’s teams were able to reach the postseason. Now after the Phillies have established themselves as perennial World Series contenders, the Pirates are trying to do the same. This weekend the teams will battle it out in Philadelphia in a 3 game series that starts tonight.
Regardless of what people may be trying to say, the Phillies can still win the World Series after losing a 3 game series in July. It amazes me how much people over react to a 3 game series. The Giants sent their 2 best pitchers to the hill during the series, while the Halladay and Lee had to watch the entire series from the dugout. The Phillies have now lost back to back games and a series for the first time since early June. But even with this “losing streak”, the Phillies still have a 5 game lead over the recently slumping Braves. The Phightin’s 65-39 record is still good enough for the best record in the bigs.
Meet the Pirates
The Pirates have been the surprise team in baseball this season. Their relentless play and a weak division have put them right in the middle of the NL Central Race. Despite being 5 games over .500, they are just 1.5 games out of first place. Their young bats have had some big hits for the Bucs this season, but their main reason for their resurgence is their excellent pitching. Their pitching staff enters the series with a 3.32 ERA, which is good for 6th best in the majors. They are led by Jeff Karstens, the young arm of James McDonald, Paul Maholm and Roy Halladay imitator Charlie Morton. The pen led by Closer Joel Hanrahan has the 4th best bullpen ERA in the majors.
While the Pirates offense hasn’t been great as they are rank 25th in homeruns and just 26 in runs. They still have some bats in their lineup that can beat you. Their biggest bat is potential and maybe emerging superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen. The 24 year old along with 2ND Baseman Neil Walker give the Pirates some nice pieces to build around.
Friday July 29, 7:05: RHP Roy Halladay vs. RHP Charlie Morton
Halladay was the pitcher who ended the Phillies 4 game losing streak in early June and the Phillies will ask Doc to do the same thing tonight. Doc pitched 7 solid innings and only gave up 2 runs on route to a 7-3 Phillies win. Last Sunday he showed that the effects of his start in Chicago were behind him as he pitched 8 innings and received his 12th win of the season. Doc is now 12-4 with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP on the season. He has been dominate against the Pirates during his career but that hasn’t always translated to the win column, in 4 career starts versus the Pirates he is 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA. Current Pirates hitters are a combined 14-41(.341) while facing Halladay during their careers.
During the off season Charlie Morton knew that his time in the big leagues might be running out and he would have to start pitching better if he wanted to remain in the majors. So he looked around and noticed how successful Cy Young Winner Roy Halladay had been. Morton decided he would try to emulate Doc’s windup and try to become the kind of pitcher Roy is. So far, this strange plan has really worked out for the 27 year old.
“I like watching (Halladay) pitch. I think watching him has really helped me a lot. I’ve admired what he has done in his career, too.” Charlie Morton said “But for me to say that I spent all offseason trying to overhaul my delivery to look like him is blown out of proportion a little bit.”
He is currently 8-5 with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 18 starts this season. This is compared to his 2-12 record last season with a 7.57 ERA. Morton has made 4 career starts versus the Phillies, in those starts he is 1-2 with a 7.11 ERA. In his one start at the Bank, he lasted just 4 innings while giving up 6 runs. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 17-49(.347) while facing Morton during their careers.
Saturday July 30, 7:05: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP James McDonald
There are certain games where a pitcher doesn’t have his best stuff; Lee’s start on Monday was a prime example of that. He probably could have lasted longer than his 4 innings but Manuel decided to pull Lee in favor of a pinch hitter in the 4th inning, ironically Francisco grounded into a double play that killed the rally. Lee is now 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP so far this season. He has made just 1 career start versus the Pirates during his career, in that game he earned the win as he went 7 innings while allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. Current Pirates hitters are a combined 13-41(.317) while facing Lee during their careers.
McDonald was shipped to the Pirates at the trade deadline last season from the Dodgers. During his time in LA, he was used primary as a reliever but Pittsburgh thought he had the ability to start in the majors. McDonald has always had the stuff to get hitters out but he always had trouble with his control on his pitches. It seems as though he has started to figure things out and that is great news for the Pirates. So far this season he is 7-4 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. The 26 year old righty has pitched in 3 regular season games (1 start) versus the Phillies, in those games he is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA. In 2 games out of the pen during the regular season against the Phillies, he has pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 3-11(.273) while facing McDonald during their careers.
Sunday July 31, 1:35: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Jeff Karstens
Worley gave up more runs in a start than he has since May, you would think that this would mean that Vance got lit up. It is actually just the opposite; the Vanimal pitched his first career complete game as he surrendered just two runs on 3 hits. The 23 year old isn’t scared of anything and you have to love the demeanor he shows on the mound. So far this season Worley is 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. You could argue that the young righty has been the team’s best starter over the last month. He has never pitched against the Pirates or any of their current players.
Like most Pirates players, Karstens has had a career year. He currently has a career 20-32 record with a 4.37 ERA. The 28 year old has had a huge resurgence during this year. This season he has been a completely different pitcher, he is 8-5 with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.07 ERA. The former Yankees prospect has been one of the best pitchers in the NL so far this season. He has pitched in 4 games (2 starts) against the Phillies, in those games he is 0-0 with a 3.32 ERA. Two of those games (0 starts) came at Citizens Bank Park, in those games he is 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 15-60(.250) while facing Karstens during their careers.
Earlier this week the Phillies lost a series and back to back games for the first time since early June. They will try to take some of the frustration they had from their previous series out on the Pirates. It seems odd to even consider the Pirates have a tough opponent because they have been basement dwellers for so long but they are a going to be a challenge for the Phillies this weekend. If the Pirates end up winning the Central, there is a very good chance that the Phillies will be there first round opponent. Both team’s GM’s will be busy on the phones all weekend trying to improve their squad before the non-waiver trade deadline on Sunday at 4 PM. Outfielder Hunter Pence could be in the Phillies lineup as early as tomorrow or Amaro could decide the the price for Pence is way too high. Regardless of what happens off the field, this weekend should be an interesting few days for the Phillies and their Phans. I predict the Phillies will win 3 hard fought games against a tough opponent and get a much needed sweep.
Brotherly Love Nation Writer