On April 30, the struggling Phillies arrived in Cleveland expecting to play a team that was also suffering from early-season inconsistency. What a difference two weeks can make. The Tribe embarrassed the Phillies, completing a two-game sweep by a combined score of 20-2. They’ve gone 9-3 since against some stiff competition (Twins, A’s, Tigers and Yankees) and now sit only a half-game out of the AL Central lead.
It was those two losses that triggered Cliff Lee to proclaim that the Phillies needed to play with more pride. With the Indians in Philly on Tuesday and Wednesday for another two-game series, now is their chance. The Phils are coming off a successful West Coast swing, taking four of seven from the Giants and D’Backs. Their starting pitching was great on the road trip, but will be put to the test against an Indians offense that has scored the sixth most runs in baseball.
Jonathan Pettibone takes the ball on Tuesday night for the Phils. He was a model of consistency through his first three major league starts (all Phillies wins), throwing strikes and making opposing hitters put the ball in play. While the 22-year-old regressed a bit last week in San Fran – he allowed seven hits and four walks – he still kept his team in the game. But issuing four free passes won’t fly against a potent Cleveland lineup. The Tribe has four regulars with OPS’ over .800, and five if you count Ryan Raburn. For comparison, the Phillies have one; Chase Utley. Pettibone’s outing tonight should be a telling barometer for Phils fans wondering if his performance thus far is sustainable.
The Phillies offense will face Scott Kazmir for the first time since beating him twice in the 2008 World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays. Kazmir’s career has been a disaster since then, culminating in a stint with an independent league team last season. The Indians took a chance on the former All-Star and it has paid off over his last two starts, in which he has gone 2-0 and racked up 17 strikeouts in only 12 innings. The Phils are always susceptible to good left-handers (see Patrick Corbin last Thursday), but were able to get to a previously unhittable Madison Bumgarner a week ago.
While scoring 25 runs in seven games as they did last week out West is no large feat, the Phillies did seem to come up with more clutch hits than they had over any stretch this season. Nearly a quarter of the way into the season, it is clear this lineup is far from special… and will therefore need all the clutch hitting it can get.
Lineup: Rollins SS, Frandsen 2B, M. Young 3B, Howard 1B, D. Young RF, Brown LF, Ruiz C, Mayberry CF, Pettibone P
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