The Phillies were able to take 1 of the 2 games from the Rockies due to excellent starting pitching by Cole Hamels on Wednesday night. His great pitching performance was needed again because the offense was only able to score one run against a pitcher they have owned in the past. Over the last 5 games, the Phillies have scored just 6 runs, last night Rockies 1B Jason Giambi drove in 7 runs by himself. It may seem ungrateful to be criticizing a team that has the best record in the National League, especially with the dreadful years the phans have had to endure during the history of the franchise. But with the teams past performance and the players they have acquired since the 2008 World Championship, it has given the phans a World Series or bust expectation.
Just as it seemed like they were starting to get healthy, they will likely have to send two more key players to the disabled list. Today the Phillies place Victorino on the disabled list and it looks like Joe Blanton will head there in the next few days. Less than 24 hours after we heard Ruben tell us that Brown would not be called up, the Phillies announced earlier this afternoon that he will be joining the big league team tonight! He is not in tonight’s lineup likely due to a Wilson being a lefty but he should be in tomorrow when they are facing a right handed starter. The conventional and likely replacement for Blanton in the rotation would be Vance Worley who has already started 2 games in place of Blanton this season. They have also recalled the always popular David Herndon and sent Scott Mathieson back to AAA. The Phillies have yet to place Blanton on the DL.
Tonight the Phillies will start the first of the overplayed interleague play. Personally I would be ok if they would limit it to 2 series a year or completely get rid of it all together. But with the added revenue that it generates for the league, it is here to stay. They welcome the defending American League Champions Texas Rangers to town for a 3 game series. Texas has cooled off after a hot start and are now just 23-21. They currently hold a 1 game lead over the A’s and a 1.5 game lead over the Angels. Like the Phillies, they have dealt with their own share of injuries and the Phillies will catch a slight break with them this weekend. Earlier in the week it looked like they might get Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton back in time for the series, but now they won’t return until Monday at the earlier. Even with the absence who those two sluggers, their lineup is still potent and includes the likes of Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.
Friday May 20 7:05: RHP Roy Halladay vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Doc has pitched back to back complete games and has given up a total of 4 earned runs during those games and he still received the loss in both of the games. But in both of those games, the Phillies bats have given Doc the lead at some point during the game. He is the ace of this staff and the best pitcher and if he gets a lead in a game, it is his job to keep it that way regardless of the overall run support. This may seem overly critical of a great pitcher, but he has garnered that high of expectations with his recent performances. Doc has still had a very good season; he is now 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA. He will make his first start against the Rangers while in a Phillies uniform. Overall he has made 19 starts (20 games) against them; in those starts he is just 7-7 with a 5.36 ERA. Current Rangers hitters are a combined 23-91(.253) while facing Halladay during their careers.
When Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies over the offseason, it then gave C.J Wilson the number one spot in the Rangers rotation. He has had a solid start to the season; he is now 4-2 with a 3.37 ERA through his first 9 starts. But he has struggled over his last two starts he is 0-1 and has given up 9 runs (7 ER) in just 12 innings. Last season Wilson went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA. The 30 year old lefty has held lefties in check; they are hitting just .183 off of him during his career and .212 on the season. This is compared to righties hitting .260 off of him during his career and .262 during this season. Wilson has appeared in 2 games versus the Phillies during his career, both where out of the bullpen. In those two games he has pitched 2 innings and has given up 1 run. Current Phillies hitters are just 3-24 (.125) while facing Wilson, but they are mainly because of the 1-17 Ibanez has against him. Hitters other than Raul are 3-7 against him.
Saturday May 21 7:10: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Colby Lewis
Lee will make his first start against a team that he took to the World Series last season. Texas hitters will see if they can do what most hitters couldn’t do against their former teammate during their post season run last season. Lee’s return hasn’t gone the way Clifton and most phans expected as he has not been great. He is now 2-4 with a 3.84 ERA on the season and hasn’t won a game since April 14. In his last 5 starts, the Phillies are just 1-4. But Lee has always been a big game pitcher and you can bet he will want to impress his former team. He has made 10 career starts versus Texas, in those starts he is 6-3 with a 5.55 ERA. Over the last 3 seasons, he has made 4 starts against them and is 3-1 with a 4.68 ERA. Current Rangers hitters are a combined 33-108 (.306) while facing Lee during their careers.
Like Wilson, all of the Rangers pitchers have been bumped up one spot do the departure of Clifton. Lewis is coming off his best performance of the year when he pitched a complete game shutout at the hands of the White Sox. He gave up 5 hits and no walks while striking out 7 Chicago hitters. He is now 4-4 on the season with a 3.81 ERA. Lewis has rebounded after a poor start to the season, after 4 starts he was 1-3 with a 6.95 ERA. With interleague play, you will get a lot of players facing teams that they are not used to facing. With Wilson being in the American League his whole career, he has yet to face the 4 time defending National League Champs during his career. Ross Gload is the only current player to have faced Lewis; he is hitless in his only at bat against him.
Sunday May 22 1:35: RHP Roy Oswalt vs. LHP Matt Harrison
Oswalt returned Tuesday night and pitched for the 1st time since mid May, he did allow 7 hits in just 5 innings but he only allowed 1 run. He did he tough task of keeping the light hitting offense in the game. Oswalt is now 3-1with a 3.09 ERA on the season but he has not earned a win since April 21. Roy has given up 2 or fewer runs in every start he has made but one and the start against Arizona where he had other things on his mind. It was great to see that he had regained the velocity on his fastball that he had reportedly missed during his rehab start. Oswalt has made 12 career starts versus the rangers; he is 4-6 with a 4.54 ERA in those starts. Current Rangers hitters are a combined 17-57 (.298) while facing Oswalt during their careers.
Harrison is the kind of pitcher that old Phillies teams would crush, he has a career ERA over 5 and a career WHIP over 1.5. But this isn’t your slightly older brothers Phillies offense. He is 3-4 with a 4.27 ERA on the season. He has pitched very well in all of 2 starts, going at least 6 innings and given up 3 or fewer runs in 6 of his 8 starts. Right handed hitters have hit better against him during his career, they are batting .289 against him, while lefties are hitting just .266. Like Lewis, Harrison has not faced the Phillies during his career. Current Phillie hitters are a combined 6-18 (.333) while facing Harrison during their careers.
Tonight the Phillies enter interleague play losing 4 of their last 5 games. This is not a good thing for a team who typically struggles in interleague play. While players like Martinez, Orr or Valdez are not going to start hitting the cover off the ball, the Phillies lineup is full of players who are still capable of producing. Polanco, Howard, Rollins and Ruiz are in the midst of a slump, Raul seems to be the only player who currently hitting. The good news for the Phillies after last night’s horrible 7-1 loss is that the best pitcher in baseball will be pitching tonight. They will also send 2 great pitchers to the hill the following nights. It might be a stretch to think that this lineup will all of a sudden become an offensive juggernaut, but it’s not unreasonable to think they will hit better than they presently are hitting It’s a long season and it only May there is a lot of baseball left to be played. I predict the Phillies will bounce back and take 2 of the 3 games from the defending American League Champs.