The bats once again decided to take another series off as the Phillies were only able to score 5 runs during the 3 game set. They were able to get strong performances from all three of the starters this weekend. Today Oswalt received the loss because the bats made a mediocre pitcher look like Cy Young. But even with the inconsistent offense they were able to take 2 of 3 from the defending American League Champions. The best news that came out of Philly this weekend wasn’t the series win over the Rangers; it was the news that our beloved second basemen Chase Utley will phinally rejoin the team tomorrow night!
There was a time during the spring where there was some doubt that Utley would even be healthy enough to play a game during the season. Some thought that season ending surgery might be the only option, but the team elected to go the route of rest and rehab and it seems to have worked. Utley is not out of the woods yet, there remains a lot of uncertainty of how his knee will hold up with the daily grind. The rigors of a major league schedule can be demanding on a normal player, but Chase plays the game different than most. He only has one gear and that is full out on every play and in every game.
Even with all of the injuries and offensive struggles, the sky is not falling on the 2011 Phillies. It’s comical how a team that has the best record in the National League can be surrounded by some much negativity and criticism. If you would listen to the sports radio shows, you would think this team is in last place. They are currently 28-18 and a 1.5 games ahead of the Florida Marlins for the 1st place in the division. There tough twenty game schedule will finally come to an end as the Cincinnati Reds come in for a 4 game series. They are currently a respectable 8-8 during that stretch where they have played some of the top teams in the NL and the defending AL Champs. The Reds will go into the series 25-22 and are 2.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. They are the defending division champions and fell victim to the Phillies during the NLDS last post season. Cincinnati posses a very balanced lineup led by slugger Joey Votto and have a rotation full good but not great pitchers. They were just swept in a 3 game series by their in state rivals and they will be hungery to break their losing streak when the series starts.
Monday May 23 7:05: LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo
Hamels pitched brilliantly to earn his 5th win of the season Wednesday night against the Rockies. He went 8 innings and allowed just 1 run on five hits before handing the ball over to Madson to collect the save. Hamels looks to be in midseason form and has been the teams 2nd best starter so far this season. On most teams that wouldn’t’ sound like much, but in a rotation that this team posses, it’s a huge complement. Cole is now 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA through 9 starts. He is currently T11th in the majors in strike outs and is 2nd among pitchers with just 9 starts. Cole has been brilliant against the Reds during his career. In 7 regular season starts, he is 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA. That obviously doesn’t include his performance against them in last year’s division series, he pitched a complete game shutout and only allowed 5 hits as he fist pumped the Phillies to the next round. Current Reds hitters are 27-112 (.241) against Hamels during their careers.
The Phillies bats will get their chance at facing a pitcher who will start the game with an ERA over 4 for the 2nd game in a row. Arroyo is coming off one his worst starts of the season, he went 7 innings but gave up 5 runs as he was handed his 4th lose of the season. The 34 year old right hander is now 3-4 with a 4.11 ERA through 9 starts this season. He has not had a lot of success against the Phillies during his career, in 7 starts (8 games) he is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA. His last start against the Phillies came in last season's division series; he lasted just 5.1 innings and gave up 3 runs (1 earned run). He received a no decision as his bullpen wasn’t able to hold the lead. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 9-26 (.346) while facing Arroyo during their careers.
Tuesday May 23 7:05: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Johnny Cueto
A lot of phans were disappointed to see Worley leave the rotation when Blanton came off the disabled list earlier this month. He will now get his chance to show the team and phans what he can do as Blanton heads back to the DL. Joe has dealt with discomfort in his elbow since he returned, and it remains unclear why he was even brought back. Worley has done everything that you could expect from him so far this season; he has won both of his starts and only gave up a combined 1 run in them. He is now 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA and impressive 0.94 WHIP. Worley has also struck out 15 hitters in his 16 innings of work and is holding hitters to a .161 average. Tuesday night will be the first time Worley has faced the Reds and the first time any current Reds hitter has faced him.
Cueto started the season on the disabled list and has only made 3 starts so far this season. He is currently 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in those 3 starts. The righty is coming off his worst start of the season, he hadn’t given up an earned run in his previous 2 starts, but he gave up 3 in just 5 innings on Thursday night. Cueto is another starter who the Phillies have had success against; in 4 starts he is 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA. Despite his poor numbers versus the Phillies he has a good slider to go along with his fastball that sits in the low to mid 90’s, he is the type of pitcher that has dominated the Phillies during their current rough stretch. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 10-53 (.189) while facing Cueto during their careers.
Wednesday May 24 7:05: RHP Roy Halladay vs. LHP Travis Wood
The Phillies gave Doc another lead on Friday night and this time he wasn’t going to let it get away. He went 8 innings and only gave up 2 runs. Like most of the runs he gives up, both on Friday night we not on hard hit balls. Elvis Andres stole home as part of a delayed double steal to get the first run and a 1 out ground out got the 2nd run home late in the game. Halladay has gone at least 7 innings in all but 2 games and only given up 3 or fewer runs in all but 2 as well. He is almost so good that we become spoiled, you have to really look at his numbers as a whole to truly appreciate the pitcher he is. He is now 6-3 with a 2.21 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Doc has made 4 regular season starts versus the Reds, he is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA those games. And you might remember a certain performance he had last year in the division series, he became the 2nd pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. Thursday will be his first start against them since that historic October day. Current Reds hitters are 32-114 (.281) against Halladay during their career.
The last time Wood started a game against the Phillies, he almost pitched a Perfect Game. Chooch was able to break up the perfecto in the 9th with a leadoff double and then Jimmy drove in Valdez in the 11th for the walk off win. That was the only start he has made against the Phillies during his carer. Wood gave up 4 runs on Friday night in 5.1 innings despite only giving up 3 hits. Normally when you see that kind of line you would think that he either gave up a few homeruns or he walked a lot of batters. But he did neither, he didn’t allow any homeruns and he only walked 2 batters. Wood is now 3-3 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 1-15 (.067) while facing Wood during their careers.
Thursday May 26 1:05: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Homer Bailey
Lee was brilliant last night against his former team; he pitched 8 shutout innings, struck out 10 while only giving up 5 hits. Clifton dazzled the Philly Phaithful has he also added a hit and a stolen base on top of his masterpiece. He is now 3-4 with a 3.37 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and is 2nd in baseball with 78 strikeouts (2nd on the team too). Lee has made 8 starts against the Reds; he is 4-2 but has a 4.69 ERA in those starts. His last start against Cincinnati was while he was a member of the Mariners. He pitched a complete game shutout as he propelled Seattle to a 1-0 win. Lee has the capability to go on a stretch of starts we he is unhittable and it would be great to see him do that now. Current Reds hitters are 32-114 (.281) against Lee during their career.
Bailey's young career has not gone as smooth as many thought it would. It hasn’t been bad but it wasn’t the start many had imagined for the former 1st round pick and highly touted prospect. He has made 60 career starts in his young career and is just 19-17 with a 4.85 ERA in them. Homer just hasn’t been the top of the rotation type of pitcher many thought he could be. But he is just 25 and has had a great start to the 2011 season. Bailey is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP through 4 starts this season. He has gone at least 6 innings and has given up 3 or fewer earned runs in all of his 4 starts. Current Phillies hitters are a combined 7-26 (.269) while facing Bailey during their careers. Chooch is 2-3 against him, so it will be interesting to see what Charlie does with him during the day game on Thursday.
All eyes will be on 2nd base tomorrow night as Chase makes his return to the Phillies lineup. With the current offensive struggles and the love affair the city has with him, I would expect the ovation to be VERY LOUD for Chase every time he is up. It will be interesting to see if Manuel decides to ease him into the lineup by letting him bat 6th or 7th for a few games, but I suspect Charlie will bat him third because Chase hits 3rd. Utley’s health and Browns progression to the big leagues might be more important than the win/loss record of this series. I due suspect Chase will give the offense a initiaL spark as the Phillies will take 3 of the 4 games.