The Phillies are facing the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m not talking about the chance to overtake the Wild Card, or topple the Mets. I’m referring to that rare opportunity when a city infused with football fans looks for solace elsewhere. The Eagles are embarrassing, the Phillies are exciting. Sure last night’s Phils game was a hot mess – as they let an 11 run lead slip away – but it wasn’t as bad as the game at the Linc. I’m not looking to hate on the Eagles, but I hope Philadelphians will hold out at the start of this football season in hopes of a renewed contract with our baseball team. In many ways, the Phillies are a lot like the Eagles of a couple years ago – a solid team of stars, who consistently compete but can’t quite get the job done. Fortunately for the Phils, their window will still be open for another 3-5 years. Nonetheless, now is the time.
The Phils are 1.5 out of the Wild Card and 2.5 behind the Mets going into tonight’s game. A game which will feature a returning Cole Hamels. This is a big game for the brash young pitcher. Although he’s been injured plenty of times before, he has yet to return to the team during a critical time in the season. The team has been rolling without him and can ill-afford a disruption in that flow. We all know Cole is great, and he knows it himself, but can he handle pitching while not at 100%? Is his ego too big to not be dominating all the time? At first consideration, I thought this might be a problem, but then I remembered one of Cole’s strong suits is his versatility. While he does not have a dazzling array of pitches at his disposal, he has the keen ability to recognize during a game which pitches are working and which are not. Furthermore Hamels can aptly execute any of his three main pitches (fastball, curve, change-up) to get outs.
The Phils will need as much as they can get out of Cole tonight. Charlie is going to have him on a short leash with a pitch count that will top out around 70. This means the bullpen will certainly come into play tonight. Going into last night’s game, the ‘pen had posted a 0.93 ERA in the last four Phillies victories. Plus the last five wins overall were garnered by Geoff Geary (2), Brett Myers, Tom Gordon and Antonio Alfonseca. Last night was a different story as six guys made the trip from the bullpen to the mound to try to stop the team from hemorrhaging runs. The team escaped with the win, but it’s certainly not a formula the Phils are looking to tonight as the pressure will be on both Cole and his relievers.