After a stellar end to the first half of the season, The Phillies will send five out of eight of their position players to compete in the 2009 All-Star game in St. Louis. Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino will all start for the National League team while Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth will sit in as reserves. Coach Charlie Manuel will lead the squad along with the rest of the Phillies coaching staff thanks to the World Series appearance in 2008.
Ryan Howard will take center stage in the Home Run Derby in a ball bark in which Howard has had great success.Howard will face the likes of Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Brandon Inge, Nelson Cruz, and Joe Mauer. Howard, a Missouri native, appeared in the Home Run Derby in 2006 and took the trophy.
Chase Utley will appear in his fourth consecutive All- Star game, starting all four, while Howard will make his second appearence. Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth will all be making their All-Star debut.
After the much needed break, the Phillies resume action and start the second half of their season on Thursday in Florida against the second place Marlins. The Phillies will enter the four game series with a four game lead over the Fish and look to put miles between themselves and the rest of the division.
The Phillies head to Florida as one of the hottest teams in all of baseball winning nine out of their last ten. The Marlins however are just 5-5 during that stretch and again seem to be returning to earth after getting hot in late June. Overall the Phillies have played well against Florida going 4-2 so far this year. Included in those wins was a laugher that featured outfielder Cody Ross as a pitcher. The Phillies offense has definitely feasted on the Marlins pitching this year averaging six runs per game against them.
As hot as the Phils are, they could easily take three of four from the Fish. Doing so would put the Phillies in a nice spot to enter the final week of July. Going into August with a commanding division lead isn’t a must, but would sure help their chances at clinching their third straight division title.
The season is only half over, but the Phillies are sitting pretty and have a better winning percentage than this time last year. If these winning ways continue, we in Philadelphia will not be holding our breath, waiting for inevitable late September collapse from our friends in New York, to clinch the division. The Marlins and Braves are two dangerous teams and the Mets are mediocre at best. The Phillies however are leaps and bounds better and the second half of the season should prove that.
Enjoy your Phils in the All-Star game and enjoy the weekend showdown with the Marlins. It promises to be exciting. What a great time to be a Phillies phan.