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A Look Ahead: Showdown With The Central

So far in the month of July, the Phillies have been good. Real good. With the exception of the Braves, the Phils have beat their opponents with relative ease. But let’s be honest, the Phillies have beaten up on some pretty bad teams.

This week the Phillies will recieve their true test as they take on the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. They will also take on the Padres for a make up game on Thursday.

This week will help to determine how the Fightin’s stack up against true playoff contenders.

The week kicks off with the Cubs coming in for a three game series. They have been lukewarm as of late, going 6-4 in their last ten. Overall the Cubbies are 47-43 for the season but are only 20-25 away from Wrigley Field. Although the Phillies have a losing record at home, they have been better as of late, winning nine of ten in their last home-stand.

The Phillies kick off the series with Rodrigo Lopez on the hill who has been decent in his last two starts, despite leaving early in his last game with shoulder soreness. Following Lopez, the Phillies will throw out red hot Joe Blanton and Jaime Moyer. Moyer is coming off a strong outing against the Marlins allowing only one hit through seven innings, while Blanton’s previous start was rained out. He had given up two runs in that start but the game was reset.

The Cubs will counter with left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly, followed by right-handers Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano.

Lilly, the Cubs lone all star has been stellar in Chicago but not so much on the road. Harden meanwhile has been good on the road and Zambrano is on fire in his last four starts posting a 2.25 ERA in those games.

Following the Cubs series, the Phils will take on San Diego in a make up game from earlier this year. The Phils will face right-hander Kevin Correia who is overall 6-7 with a 4.34 ERA. Cole Hamels will get the nod in Thursday’s match-up.

Finally the first place Cardinals come to town for a weekend series starting Friday night. Right-hander Joe Pineiro will get the start for St. Louis and will face rookie of the year candidate J.A. Happ. Pineiro has been good this year despite his 8-9 record. Run support has been his biggest issue.

The Cardinals also come into the week going 6-4 in their last ten. Overall the Cardinals stand with a 51-43 record and have been good on the road this season.

The bottom line is the Phillies have a tough week ahead of them. The offense has been firing on all cylinders and has been clutch when needed.

Jimmy Rollins has continued to hit the ball well posting a .375 batting average last week. He will need to continue to set the table for the Phillies who can’t lose when he scores a run.

Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard are also on a tear right now and will need that to carry over into this week.

Chase Utley was below average last week, but drove in some pretty important runs in the series against Florida. However, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino need to pull it together this week  as they both seemed hung over from their all star appearances.

The week ahead will be challenging for the Phillies, no doubt. For the first time this month they will face teams with records above .500. If the Phillies come out of the week with a winning record, they will have done so against playoff caliber teams. They may even be able to increase their lead in the division and prove to the rest of the league that they are serious contenders in the National League.

A bad week for the Phillies doesn’t necessarily spell disaster but it will prove that their 12-3 record in July to this point was merely a by-product of beating up on some bad teams.

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