On paper, it looked like the Phillies would dominate the series versus the Nationals and they would leave Washington with no less than a series win. But as everyone knows, the game is not played on paper. Even though the Nationals may not be a championship contender this season, they do have the talent to beat you if you don’t play your best. The long 162 game schedule becomes a grind and it can be a challenge to bring your best effort to the ball park each day. After the Phillies were able to take the 1st game of the series behind a subpar effort by their ace, the Nationals were able to take the next two games to win the series.
Despite the series loss to the Nats, the Phillies still own the best record in the National League with a 34-22 record. They are currently 2 games ahead of the Marlins and 3.5 games ahead of the Braves for first in the division. After dropping 2 of the 3, they are just 3-3 on their 9 game road trip against the Mets, Nationals and Pirates. When you play games against the bottom half of the league, it is critical that you play better than .500 baseball if you want to make to the postseason.
Tonight will be the 1st game of the season that the Phillies will get their “real” lineup as Shane Victorino was activated from the disabled list earlier today. To make room for Victorino, the Phillies had to option John Mayberry Jr. to the Iron Pigs. It had been a rare feet for the team to have their everyday lineup over the last 2 seasons as key players have been marred with various injuries. Tonight Charlie has decided to bat Shane 5th in the lineup but it will be interesting to see the different combinations that he will use in the coming weeks.
The Phillies start a 3 game series tonight against their in state “rivals” the Pittsburgh Pirates. For some reason, winning games in Pittsburgh has been a problem for the beast of the NL East. The Pirates are currently 26-29 and are just 5.5 games out of first place. That may not seem like a successful season but when are the Pirates, it is. They are in the middle of one of the worst stretches any sports team has had to experience as they haven’t had a winning season since 1992. Their best player is Andrew McCutchen, who at just 24 has already showed the potential to be a super star in this league.
Friday June 3, 7:05: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Jeff Karstens
Hamels has won his last 3 starts and is now T2nd in baseball in wins. He has proven to be the Phillies second best pitchers and might give doc a run for the Cy Young award in the National League. Last Saturday night against the Mets, Hamels went 7 innings and only gave up 2 runs while striking out 10. The Phillies bats were able to rally from behind in the late innings to get him the win. Hamels is now 7-2 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and is 6th in the National League with 78 strikeouts. He has made 4 starts against the Pirates during his career, in those starts he is 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA. In 2 starts at PNC Park, he is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA. Current Pirates hitters are 19-68 (.279) while facing Hamels during their careers.
The former Yankees draft pick has had a strong start to the season. Karstens is 3-4 with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He has spent most of his career shuffling between the rotation and the bullpen and this season isn’t different. Karstens has pitched in 12 games this season and he has started 8 of them. He has pitched in 3 games and has made 1 start versus the Phillies during his career. In those games he is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA. His only start against the Phillies game last season in Pittsburgh, he went 6 innings giving up 5 runs on 9 hits while receiving a no decision. Current Phillies hitters are 12-43 (.279) while facing Karstens during their careers.
Saturday June 4, 7:05: RHP Kyle Kendrick vs. RHP Charlie Morton
Kendrick has done a great job out of the bullpen this season, but he will get another chance at starting tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. His 2 starts this season couldn’t have been any different. In his 1st start of the season against the Braves, he pitched 5 scoreless innings while only giving up 2 hits. When Blanton was scratched from his start, Kendrick was told he was going to start just minutes before the game and it defiantly showed. He lasted just 3 innings while giving up 5 runs. Kendrick has had success while facing the Pirates during his career. In 4 starts he is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA. 2 of those starts have been at PNC Park, he is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA while pitching there. Current Pirates hitters are 10-36 (.278) while facing Kendrick during their careers.
Morton has already ready tied his career high for wins in a season and won over twice the amount of games he won all of last season. In 2010 he went just 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA. So far this season, he is 5-2 with a 2.51 ERA through 10 starts. The 27 year old righty has given up just 4 earned runs over his last 4 starts. Morton has made 3 starts versus the Phillies during his career, in those starts he is 0-2 with a 9.75 ERA. His last start versus the Phillies came at The Bank; he lasted just 4 innings while giving up 6 runs. Current Phillies hitters are 13-33(.394) while facing Morton during their careers. Jimmy Rollins is 5-7 against Morton in his career.
Sunday June 5, 1:35: RHP Roy Halladay vs. RHP James McDonald
Halladay has struggled during his last 2 starts and has given up a combined 21 hits in those games. Despite his “struggles,” his ERA barely moved and went from 2.21 to 2.56 over that time. Doc is now 7-3 with a 2.56 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a National League leading 91 strikeouts. He has made 3 starts versus the Pirates during his career, in those starts he is 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA. In his last start against the Pirates, he received the loss despite pitching a complete game and allowing just 2 runs. Doc has made 1 start at PNC Park, he received a no decision even though he failed to give up a run in 7 innings. Current Pirates hitters are surprisingly 7-16 (.438) while facing Halladay during their careers.
The former Dodgers reliever has rebounded after a poor start the season. After his first 4 starts of the season, he was 0-2 with a 10.12 ERA. Now after 11 starts, he is 3-3 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. McDonald has gone at least 6 innings and hasn’t surrendered more than 2 runs in his last 3 starts. He has pitched in 2 games against the Phils and hasn’t given up a run in 1.1 innings. Current Phillies hitters are 0-1(.000) while facing McDonald during their careers.
It will be fun to see the Phillies offense play at full strength for the first time this season. The offense has received a lot of criticism and we will begin to see if improvements need to be made to help this team win in October. If the lineup can produce, then Ruben can focus on improving other things or finally being able to keep our best prospects in our system. I predict the Phillies will take 2 of the 3 games in Pittsburgh before returning home for their next home stand.