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A Look Ahead: The Dog Days

August is here and the Phillies are sitting comfortably in first place in the N.L. East.

The Phillies come back home to the friendly bounds of Citizens Bank Park after embarking on a seven game road trip that saw the pinstripes win only three. Despite the 3-4 record, the Phillies still maintain a commanding lead in the division, up five games over the Marlins.

A day off Monday and it’s back to business.

Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies come back to Philly, leaders in the race for the Wild Card over the Giants by a half a game. The Rockies have been streaking as of late, winning their last four games. They are 6-4 in their last ten and are making the rest of the league take notice.

The series kicks off with Jamie Moyer taking the hill against Rockies right-hander, Jason Hammel. Hammel is 5-6 overall and sports a 4.66 ERA. He is coming off his worst start of the season, a five running shellacking against the Mets. He failed to finish the second inning.

Moyer on the other hand is coming off a hot July, going 4-1 for the month with a 3.30 ERA. The old veteran looks to spin some of his magic against the Rockies, an upstart team that Moyer tends to feast on.

Wednesday night Rookie of the Year candidate, J.A. Happ gets the nod against Rockie lefty, Jorge De La Rosa. Happ has lost his last two starts, but now that the trade deadline has passed, the Phils hope he can focus again on pitching  and not moving to Canada. Uncertainty still looms for Happ as he may find himself back in the bullpen when newly acquired Pedro Martinez is back to fighting shape.

De La Rosa is 9-7 overall with a 4.68 ERA. The Phillies will probably have a tough time with De La Rosa as he has been tough to hit in his last few games and pitches lefties extremely well. He is also much better on the road than in Denver.

The series wraps up on Thursday and Cliff Lee make his first appearance in Philadelphia as a good guy. Lee gets the ball coming off a spectacular debut for the Phil’s, pitching a one run complete game. Lee isn’t quite as sharp in the day as he is at night but has posted a 2.11 ERA in the last month.

Aaron Cook toes the rubber for Colorado in the finale. Cook is 10-3 with a 3.88 ERA. He is a ground ball pitcher which will be a good strategy at Citizens Bank.

The weekend series will showcase a showdown between the N.L. Easts two top teams as the Marlins come to town for a weekend thriller.

The Marlins are making noise, having gone 7-3 in their last ten. Despite being five games back on the Phillies, they haven’t given up the fight and still have both the wild card and the division in their sight. A good weekend against Philadelphia and they could start to make things interesting again. A good series or possibly a sweep for the Phillies and the Marlins could be buried.

Joe Blanton starts for the Phils on Friday and will face the Marlins Ricky Nolasco. Blanton has been the most consistent starter for the Phillies and brings a very respectable 4.02 ERA to the match.

Nolasco is one of Florida’s hottest pitchers. Don’t let his 5.00 ERA fool you, he has been real  good as of late, retiring the last 14 batters he faced against Chicago. In his last three starts he has only surrendered three earned but has only gotten one decision, a win over San Diego.

Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer finish the series, with Moyer having great success against the Fish, who can never seem to figure him out.

The Phillies have been decent at the plate, but as stated earlier, have lacked timely hitting. The long ball was absent but should return for role call once the Phils get back home.

This week a little bit of run support will go a long way. The Phillies could very well put another amazing streak together and win five of six. They play the Marlins really well and the Rockies, although good, just don’t match up well against the Phillies.

A good week and the Phillies faithful may start to practice counting down from 50, which is where the Phillies magic number should stand.

A bad week and the divisional noose will start to tighten and the Marlins will inch ever so closer to over taking the front-runners.

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