Before the Phillies embark on a nine-game roadie that sends them through Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco, problems have begun to surface. J.A. Happ will not make his scheduled Wednesday start because of a sore forearm (that damn pronator!). Kyle Kendrick starts tonight and has not been the same person we saw in Clearwater. The bullpen is struggling a bit, and the offense took a few nights off. Now, a 6,257 mile journey will jet them across the country as they begin with a battle against their division rivals.
Atlanta poses a few obstacles: they’ll throw young stud Tommy Hanson at them first. Hanson did struggle against the Phillies last year in his two starts (6.43 ERA/1.86 WHIP) but the kid has all the talent in the world to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. He’ll get a real test with the Phillies high-caliber O tonight. Wednesday is a prime-time matchup as Roy Halladay goes up against Tim Hudson. Expect many zeroes. Then, Thursday, two old heads go head-to-head as Jamie Moyer battles Derek Lowe.
We know who has the advantage with the sticks, however, everyone will be keeping an eye on Jason Heyward. The 20-year old is starting off like he’s been around for a decade, sporting a .302/.423./.581 split line, to go with 15 runs batted in, tied for 2nd in NL. It’ll be exciting to see how the Phils staff handles the burly lefty hitter. On the other side, if the offense can explode right away for the Phillies, their confidence can only grow as they dance through the U.S. for the next week-plus. It’s also a game that can set the tone for the rest of the year, should they smack around Hanson. He’ll have that memory to last all summer.
When it’s on to Arizona this weekend, a place where the Phils have had success lately, they’ll be lucky enough to see the bottom of the D’Backs rotation. No Dan Haren or Edwin Jackson – no, they get to see Kris Benson, Ian Kennedy, and old pal Rodrigo Lopez on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. Sigh of relief there, although Arizona’s offense is still quite potent with Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton in the middle of the order – so don’t sleep on the Snakes
The Phillies then hit San Fran on Monday where it appears they’ll miss out on Matt Cain, but still see Tim Lincecum. San Francisco has been one of the hottest starting team in the National League at 8-5. They’re also just behind the Phillies in run differential to begin the season at +27 (Phillies are +29, they rank 1/2 in MLB).
It’s one of those gut-check road trips that shows where the rest of the league stands in comparison to the defending NL Champs.