Atlanta Braves (48-34) at Philadelphia Phillies (42-38)
Derek Lowe (5-3, 4.53) vs. Roy Halladay (9-7, 2.42)
Time: 7:05, Citizens Bank Park
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 94
TV: Comcast SportsNet/ESPN
There haven’t been a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the Phillies recently. From bullpen implosions to losing Chase Utley and Placido Polanco for the indefinite future to dropping three of four to the perennially meek Pirates (and I’m not talking about their lone All-Star representative), the Phillies have suffered the kind of body blows that normally put a contender on the mat.
But though they are staggering like Rocky Balboa in his first bout with Apollo Creed, the Phils still have their feet under them. And starting tonight, with a three-game series at the Bank against the resurgent Braves, they have a chance to quickly regain their balance and make up lost ground in the NL East. And not only that, but to kick off this all-important series, the Phillies have the man who is unquestionably their ace, Roy Halladay.
But as good as he is, Halladay is not immune to failure. And just like his teammates (and in large part because of them), Doc has fallen on hard times recently, losing four of his last five starts, most recently on a two-run, eighth-inning homer by Jay Bruce on Wednesday in a 4-3 loss after having been staked to a 3-0 lead. Following a dazzling 6-1 start to the season, Halladay has sunk to a confounding, and in many ways stunning, 9-7. But there are always other considerations, and in this case a major one is that in those four most recent losses, Halladay received a grand total of seven runs of support. Not exactly a lot to work with, even for a pitcher with a 2.42 ERA.
I don’t have any hard numbers, but since mid-May the Phillies have seemed to play more nervously when Halladay is on the mound. In that span, the offense has scored more than three runs just once (the 9-0 blowout against the Blue Jays in the “road” series at CBP) and the defense even has seemed to play with less efficiency (and with so many starters out, that likely will be the norm for a while).
So, yes, it is still early July and the All-Star Game has yet to be played, but plain and simple, these next three games are the most important of the season so far.
Phillies Lineup: Rollins SS, Victorino CF, Ibanez LF, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Dobbs 3B, Valdez 2B, Sardinha C, Halladay P
Your gameday beer: Ayinger Brau-Weisse
Ayinger Brau-Weisse pours a very light, golden color, and has a standard citrus and floral taste. The beer is slightly bland and is very dry, almost like champagne. It’s not hard to drink by any means. Ayinger, however, rarely disappoints. And it comes in a cool bottle, so there’s that.