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On the Defensive

The Phils made it through the weekend with two wins, but lost their struggling MVP.  Ryan Howard was moved to the disabled list with the earliest expected return date of May 25.  Howard said he first felt the left quad injury back during the first game of Spring Training.  In Clearwater and during the early parts of the season, it was apparent that something was bothering him even while he swatted the occasional dramatic homer.  Howard’s ingury saga plays out a bit like Tom Gordon’s in that the two All-Stars tired to play through injuries during Spring Training figuring they would work themselves out.  Instead those ailments were carried into the season and affected their play.  The loss of Howard does however pave the way for Chris Coste to return from AAA Ottawa.   Also, it means more Greg Dobbs as he will continue to pick up starts at first base against right-handed pitching as he platoons with Wes Helms.

In the nationally televised games over the weekend, fans across the country experienced the beauty that is the best defensive outfield in the National League – Cubs were regularly gunned down on the basepaths.  The team as a whole is tied for sixth in the league in team fielding percentage (.984) going into Sunday’s game, but the outfield is tops with 18 outfield assists, including 12 in last 19 games.

At the corners, Shane Victorino’s 6 assists in right and Pat Burrell’s 5 assists in left both lead the league.  Aaron Rowand is tied for the league lead in center with 3.  Other Phillies right-fielders have combined for an additional 3 assists.  Props must also go to the catchers, Carlos Ruiz and Rod Barajas, for applying the tag and holding onto the ball.  They both also have perfect fielding percentages and only a single passed ball thus far in the season.  This return to consistent well-played defense is crucial if the Phillies expect to contend for a playoff spot.  The four-game series that is about to commence at Citizen’s Bank is also pretty important as MLB heads into interleague play.  Wednesday night will feature Cole Hamels (5-1) against Jeff Suppan (5-3) as well as Ryan Howard MVP bobbleheads.  Although fans would rather see the real Phillies first baseman, the games should still be exciting.

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