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Playoff Baseball

This weekend saw a playoff-like atmosphere surrounding Citizen’s Bank Ballpark as the Phillies battled with the Reds for a chance to play in October; ultimately though, the Phils came up short.  The Reds took the series which saw all three games decided in the final inning.  In the end, it was the Reds’s new-and-improved bullpen that out peformed the Phillies.  Tom Gordon blew a save and took a loss over the weekend and Ryan Madson gave up three runs yesterday.  But the games were in Philly so the Fightin’s had chances to come back in the bottom half of the final innings but failed to seal the deal.  Specifically, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard both had opportunities in the Phillies losses but struck out.

It is hard to place blame on Howard who is now tied for the most homers in the majors.  He drove in the tying run last night in the bottom of the night as well as hitting his 41st home run in the sixth.  Twice he came through in the clutch as Chase Utley inexplicably slumped throughout the weekend.  Yesterday he went 0-6 yesterday with three strikeouts, which followed a 0-4 Saturday and a 2-6 Friday.  Chase, representing the tying run, also ended Sunday’s game with a weak dribbler back to the pitcher.  Still, Utley and Howard are young guys, and I find the Phillies’ reliance on them a bit disproportionate.  Eleven months ago, I pondered this same issue as the then-rookie Ryan Howard was leading the Phillies late season resurgence.  Veterans Pat Burrell and Mike Lieberthal certainly do not hold a reputation for late inning heroics, and Jimmy Rollins – who had an excellent weekend – is inconsistent at best. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have become leaders by default.

The pitching this weekend was concerning. If this team decides that they really want to become legitimate contenders in this wild card race they better not have repeat performances of this weekend.

Scott Mathieson going 3 1/3 innings?

The bullpen’s job is to bridge a lead into the ninth, not to to pitch 5 2/3 to stop the bleeding. Since Gillick and Manuel are showing faith in this kid. Scott better start going deeper into games while keeping the team in them. These games are far too important to give away. If not, we may see the ongoing sequel known as Gavin Floyd take his place in the rotation for the stretch run.

On deck, the Phillies start a four game series against the New York Mets. Tonight, the Phils send Steve Carlton Jr. to the mound, Cole Hamels, against 3 time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. Pedro has been stellar since coming off the DL with a bum hip. He has gone 2-0 with a 3.26 ERA.  Cole  has been hot over his last three starts. He has only given up 5 runs since allowing 7 runs against the Braves on July 24th.

I’d like to see good crowds for all four games this series. There is nothing worse then having your stadium taken over by Mets fans.

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