The week started out promising enough. After getting swept by the Marlins last weekend, the Phillies took the show on the road, first stopping in Chicago to take on the Cubs.
Tuesday, behind the a solid outing by starter J.A. Happ, the Phillies escaped the series opener with an extra-inning win off of newly acquired Ben Francisco’s 12th inning home-run. The Phillieshad the lead heading into the ninth, but closer Brad Lidge failed to nail down the save, but settled in just enough to allow the game to go into extra frames. Happ went six allowing just two runs.
Wednesday, The Pedro Martinez Show debuted in Philadelphia as former Cy Young winner Martinez notched his first win in pinstripes. Although Martinez wasn’t razor sharp, he pitched well enough to earn the win as the Phillies offense exploded for 12 runs. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez all homered in the cause and the Phillies coasted to a 12-5 victory. Martinez allowed three runs in five innings of work and the bullpen allowed the extra two runs during mop-up duty.
In the series finale, Cliff Lee got the ball for his third start as a Phillie. Lee ran into early trouble, but settled in and later dazzled, allowing just one earned in eight innings of work. Lee notched his third striaght victory with the Phil’s as the team completed it’s first series sweep at Wrigley Field since 1984.
Prior to the series starting, The Phillies announced that starter Jamie Moyer would be demoted to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez. Moyer, understandably, was not happy about the move, but for the betterment of the team, it was a necessity. Moyer hasn’t been pulling his weight and one has to laud the Phillies front office for making the tough decision.
After sweeping through Chicago, the Phillies hopped a plane headed for southern lands as they took on their division rival Braves in a three-game, weekend series.
Although the offense seemed anemic and befuddled by Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, they pulled out their fourthstraight win behind the late-inning heroics of Ryan Howard. Howard homered in the ninth to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead and despite looking shaky, Brad Lidge was able to get the save. Starter Joe Blanton was effective and allowed just two runs, one earned, through seven innings. He didn’t have his best stuff, but the Braves couldn’t put together the big inning.
The Braves had jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before Chase Utley’s two-run bomb gave the Phillies the lead in the fourth. In the bottom half of the inning the Braves tied the game, setting the stage for Howard’s game winner.
Saturday, in an afternoon special, dubbed ace Cole Hamels went to work and appeared to return to his olden days form. Hamelsdidn’t overwhelm the Braves line-up, but he did keep them at arms length, holding them to just two runs through six innings of work. The Phillies offense struggled against another Braves righty, but managed to score three off triples by Victorino and Pedro Feliz and a bomb from Jayson Werth for the lead in the seventh inning.
In what seems to be baseball’s version of Groundhog Day, Brad Lidge again blew the lead in the bottom of the ninth, finding a new way to do so, by throwing wildly to first-base as opposed to home plate. For those keeping score at home, that was Lidge’s eighth blown save of the season.
Lidge’s eighth blown save soon became Lidge’s fifth loss as he walked two batters to load the bases and surrendered a walk-off RBI single to Atlanta’s Omar Infante to give the Braves the series split.
The Phillies will go for the series win this evening on a nationally televised game at 8 p.m.
The Phillies are still 6-4 in their last ten. Although the obvious chinks in the armor were exposed, they still maintain a four game lead over the Marlins and a five game lead over the Braves. Of course that could all change by games end tonight, the Phillies are still leading.
The Starting pitching has not been the problem. Over their last 28 games, the starters have combined for a 2.94 ERA and two complete games. Most importantly, they have recorded 19 quality starts in that span and despite a few hiccups from Hamels and Moyer, they have been among the best in baseball over that span.
This past week was no different. They received fine performances from all starters this week and with the exception of Martinez’s debut Wednesday, they recieved a quality start from the rotation each of the other nights.
The bullpen as a whole last week were also good, and despite being banged up with injuries, have held their own. Lidge’s struggles have continued to be a concern and the Phillies and Lidge need to rectify the problem if they intend on winning this division and possibly repeating as champions.
The Phillies bats were hit or miss. Overall as a line-up they weren’t terrible. In fact they were pretty average. It was their lack of clutch hitting that was most worrisome and trends are telling me that they are once again relying on the almighty long-ball. If history serves as a good indicator for the future, this reliance on the home-run is a recipe for failure.
As the saying goes, “Those who live by the long-ball, die by the long-ball.”
The Phillies are in dire need of some small-ball CPR.