The Phillies are flying high this week after a big series win against division rivals the Atlanta Braves. Both series this week were played within the division. The Braves were the first real test for the Phillies who opened the season against Houston and then welcomed in the Mets for a three game series.
Philly took two out of three from both New York and Atlanta despite uncharacteristic outings from two of their top pitchers. Cole Hamels wasn’t able to make it out of the third inning in his game against the Mets April 5th. It was his shortest outing since 2006, his rookie year where he allowed nine runs (five earned) in two innings against the Cubs.
The Phils dropped to 3-1 with that loss. A 4-0 mark would have been the first time the Phillies opened the season with four straight wins since 1915. Oh well, always next year.
Cliff Lee suffered the other and only loss for the Phillies this week. The Braves roughed up the lefty for six runs in 3.1 innings. Charlie Manuel felt Lee‘s arm angle was off all night. “He was up mostly all night. It was hard to get his breaking ball over.”
Mechanics are easy to fix so look for Lee to come back strong in his next start.
The bullpen was exceptionally brilliant this week. Young Antonio Bastardo was asked to come in and throw two innings in Lee‘s loss. Bastardo allowed Chipper Jones‘ 2,500th hit and then struck out the next six hitters swinging. This kid has pitched great all season going 4.2 innings without allowing a run and striking out nine. Could he be the closer-in-waiting?
Offensively the Phillies have picked up where they left off last season. Do we miss Chase Utley? Of course we do, but luckily for Charlie the rest of the team is picking up the slack. The Phillies lead the National League in hitting (.344) and runs scored (56). They lead the East with seven home runs.
Shane Victorino went off this week starting a five game hitting streak where each game he had at least two hits. Against the Braves he went 9-13 with a home run out of the lead off spot. Carlos Ruiz ‘pinched’ in with a pinch hit grand slam on Saturday and set a career high for RBIs in a game with five.
As a fan base you have to be excited for the way this team is hitting but it would be irresponsible to expect them to keep it up. There is no way they can maintain this kind of output. However though, all eight position players are hitting above .300 except for Raul Ibanez (.258).
I have not looked at other team’s numbers, but am confident that the Phillies may have the best bench right now. Ross Gload, Michael Martinez, John Mayberry, Pete Orr and Brian Schneider are a combined 12-30 with three home runs already. Manuel is very confident bringing these guys in late in games when they need a hit or baserunner.
Phillies are 7-2 atop the East with Florida two games back. Up this week, the Phils and Phillies Nation will be traveling to Nationals Park to play Washington then back for a weekend series with the Marlins.