After scoring 12 runs in a four game span in San Diego, the Phillies head to Arizona for a three game series with the under-.500 Diamondbacks. A little over three runs per game is to be expected at Petco Park against a good, young Padres pitching staff. An uptick in run production over the next three games is needed. And all the ingredients are there for it to happen.
At 8-12, Arizona doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat on the surface. Their pitching staff has given up the second most runs in the National League while their offense has posted just one more run that the Phillies (96 to 95). It’s the perfect opportunity for the Phillies offense to finally step on the gas, open up the throttle, and score in heaps.
Arizona’s team ERA is a league-worst 5.16 and they are allowing opposing clubs to hit .281 against them, the second-worst average in the NL. Starting pitching has been the biggest issue. The rotation has only pitched 112 1/3 innings, the fewest in the National League, while compiling a 5.85 ERA. What better way to end your seven-game, scoring-challenged road trip?
It has now been 13 straight games of four runs or less for the Phillies. The inability to break out for more has put pressure on the pitching staff, most notably the bullpen. With so many close games, Jose Contreras was overworked, likely a factor in his DL-stint. Ryan Madson has complained of arm fatigue already, but he says he’s fine and will close. Brad Lidge and JC Romero are also out. Antonio Bastardo will be leaned upon heavily, and someone from the group of Herndon, Kendrick, Baez, Zagurski, and Stutes will also play larger roles. In the end, it’s all about the bats.
Winning a few games against an inferior team by four, five, even six runs might be asking a lot. It might also be imperative to keep the key bullpen pieces from being overused. Getting a guy like Kendrick a few innings in the series may actually go a long way. Getting newcomer Michael Stutes some innings can give Madson more of a breather. Not having to use Madson more than one time in this series would be a moral victory.
So basically, score some runs, Phils. This ain’t the ’95 Braves rotation you’ll be seeing this week.