4/25 – 5/1
As I speculated last week, the Phillies are relying heavily on their starting rotation. The juggernaut group of aces Ruben Amaro Jr. has put together has somewhat disguised the fact that the Phillies offense is wavering. The combo of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee at the top of the rotation is daunting in itself. If for some reason you survive that onslaught, next up is Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
But as we all know, games can’t always be won depending solely on the starting pitchers. Many factors come into play during nine, sometimes more, innings.
Lee has fallen victim to this twice this week. In two starts Lee has thrown 14 innings and allowed only five runs. In return the Phillies offense provided him with no run support in both starts and only one run in those games.
There is no obvious pattern to the Phillies offense this year. The only real measurable success the team has had is against lefties. They are 8-1 this year facing south paws. This stat is a little odd considering last night’s lineup featured only one pure righty with Placido Polanco.
Overall it was a pretty mediocre week for the Phillies. They, once again, turned below average pitchers into Cy Young caliber arms. Even in Halladay’s complete game win over the Mets they only managed two runs off starter Jonathon Niese. Against Arizona, Ian Kennedy threw a complete game three hit shutout against the Phillies while striking out 10.
It’s not that the offense is non-existent, it’s just that it doesn’t show up when it needs to. Yes, John Mayberry Jr. came through the other day with a game tying sole home run that paved the way for Polanco’s sac fly to give the Phils the lead and ultimately the win for Halladay.
And kudos to the team for giving Vance Worley a nice cushion to work with when he got the call to fill in for Joe Blanton. The Phillies scored eight runs in the six innings Worley pitched. He allowed only two hits after being called up from Lehigh Valley. Ryan Howard hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and knocked in six runs.
The next two days the Phillies only managed three runs in 23 innings for Halladay and Lee after scoring eight for Cole Hamels and 10 for Worley.
All in all, the team still boasts the best ERA in the East and second best in the National League (3.07). There are going to be many one run ball games and the Phillies will end up on both sides of the equation. This week alone, the Phillies had a 2-1 win and a 2-1 loss. This probably won’t be the last week that happens.
For the offense there were some bright spots this week. Not since his rookie season has Ryan Howard been seeing the ball this well. Howard has been in the top five of MVP voting since he put Phillies pinstripes on and has always been dubbed one of the premiere hitters in the league. He is guy that can hit for tremendous power while hitting for a high average. This season he has moved closer to the plate in order to reach the outside pitch better. He is learning that the ball doesn’t have to go 500 feet to be effective.
In last night’s game, Howard took an outside pitch to left field to score Mayberry for the Phils only run of the night. Howard leads the National League with 27 RBIs and his second on the team with a .286 batting average. Mayberry is hitting .313 but with 70-less at bats.
This week Howard had six hits, three home runs and eight RBIs; by far one of his best offensive weeks. Not to be outdone, Polanco has continued his assault on National League pitching increasing his team leading batting average to .385. He is hitting over .450 during his current 11 game hitting streak.
I wonder if flip flopping Polanco and Jimmy Rollins in the batting order would change things up at all. Rollins only has five RBIs in the season and Shane Victorino has been working the count better and managing to get on base more. Victorino has a five game hitting streak and has been on base in six of the last seven games. Rollins, who has nine hits and 5 walks in his last seven games could be on base as well for Polanco in the third spot. It’s a small tweak, but could result in more runs for the offense.
And yes I am fully aware the offense leads the East in runs scored but these runs are coming in bunches, all at one time. Blow out games are fun to watch but they make those 2-1 losses with Lee on the mound that much more frustrating to watch.
Some notes from the week:
-Roy Oswalt should be returning to the team Thursday for a bullpen session. He left the team to go home to check on his family during the storms that hit the central United States producing deadly tornados. Cole Hamels will most likely start Tuesday on his spot, on normal rest.
-Joe Blanton is on the DL, adding to the list of injured Phillies. Carlos Ruiz is not there yet, but has been out with a tight back.
–Chase Utley played the equivalent of a three inning simulated game. Could we see him back earlier than expected?
-The Phillies set a new team record for most wins in April (18), Polanco for hits in April (41), and Howard for RBIs in April (27).
-Halladay begin his start against the Mets with 18 straight strikes. His first ball was thrown against Jose Reyes, in his second time through the line up.
The Phillies are 18-9 on the season which is tops in the National League. The month of May will provide some challenges playing the Marlins, the Braves twice and interleague against Texas. April was fun, but May will be tough. The offense needs to back up the pitching.