The Race is on…

Race for the N.L. East Division Title…

Looking at how the Phillies have been playing of late, I thought this division was going to be the closest run contest, but having seen how the Rockies and Dodgers are playing, the N.L. West could produce the biggest upset in September.

The teams in the N.L. East will all play a major role in the way this division unfolds during September, everybody plays everybody, so I am going to do a brief review of each team and the role they could play.

The Washington Nationals (47-90) in my opinion will have the biggest impact on the outcome of this division race. There current strategy seems to be reviewing players and setting up the team to go into the off season, so they can best decide who to trade and who to keep, plus they are looking at what areas they will need to fill during the off-season so as to not end up with the worst record in baseball in the 2010 season.

The Nats play everyone in the division which means they will be a spoiler and a helper, who they will help and who’s hope’s they will spoil is yet to be seen. They could even have a hand in the N.L. West with (2) 3 games still scheduled against the Dodgers. They host 3 games against the Phillies starting today (Tuesday, Sept 8th) and with the way the Phillies have been playing of late anything could happen.

The New York Mets (62-75) currently are in an ‘argumentum ad misericordiam’ state. They cannot decide if self-pity or pity from the fans right, considering the new stadium, the pre-season hype then the injuries, the ball park not very player friendly and of course the cross town Yankees doing so well, they are desperately seeking a ‘It’s NOT our fault’ acceptance from the not so fair weather fans.

Although they do play everyone in the division, the role of the Mets is more likely to be a deciding factor in where and how the Marlins and Braves finish.

The Atlanta Braves (70-67) are fighting to hold onto a winning record and at the same time desperately trying to stay in the wild card race. They are only 8 games back in the division race, but with Florida and the Phillies ahead of them, they would have to sweep both team during games this month and they only have 3 against the division leading Phillies. the wild card has it’s own challenges, currently 7 1/2 games out they have to hope the 3 teams ahead of them completely collapse.

They will probably be more inclined to spoil the chances of the Marlins while maintaining a winning record this year.

The Florida Marlins (72-65) are the FISH with a WISH. It’s tough to decide which is the hardest task for them, the wild card or division, both are very hard mountains to climb. Currently standing 6 games back in the division and 5 1/2 games back in the wild card it’s a 50/50 chance to make either one. They do have 6 games left against the Phillies and they did sweep the Phillies at CBP and the Phillies have been struggling of late, so there has to be hope in the hearts of the Marlins fans.

The Philadelphia Phillies (77-58) have a hard schedule ahead, with just 2 days off, but 2 double headers to play. They will play 6 games outside of the division, tough games against central division teams, but more importantly the in division games are critical. With Florida and Atlanta hoping for a shot the Phillies will have to bring the best of the season together to finish out on top.

A team in turmoil at the moment, with the starting pitching being the only element of the team delivering a winning performance, the offence needs to step up and the bull pen needs to refocus. the offense it’s all about the players, Raul Ibanez seems to be on a slow climb from his slump, the rest of them have to become more consistent, the bull pen is solid except for 2 or 3 players, who Charlie seems to favor.

It’s all about choices and this man has some to make…

Make the right choices and the Phillies can be in the post season shooting for a repeat, the wrong choices and the season ends October 4th.

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September/October… the Final Countdown…

What’s in store for the Phillies
as we enter the final month of baseball, okay so the regular season runs
into October this year, but it’s only 4 days.

33 Games in 33 Days…

So the end of season
schedule is not being kind to a team trying to go back to back World
Series Champions, they have a full month and beyond. During September
they will play 30 games, in fact lets go from here to the regular season
end, 33 days to go, 33 games to play and somewhere they will get 2 days
off and play 2 double headers. Being 7 1/2 games up in the NL East is
certainly an advantage, but with this schedule it will definitely make
it a challenge to maintain. Finishing off the season is going to make
them tired even before post season play begins, at best you can hope for
a strong showing in the first half of September, so they can rest some
of the key players leading up to post season.

Offense and Defense…

 

The same guys that have
been producing the offense, (some days it may not have been much
offense
), are producing stellar defense. These guys are playing
every game like it is October baseball, they are making plays like it is
the last out, they are truly supporting every pitcher that takes the
mound.

The pitching staff seem to
be turning things around, yes your going to have the occasional game
where the opposition hit you around, those days make you more intense
the next time out. 

Starting Pitching…

 

 

Cliff Lee, took
his first loss in a Phillies uniform, which was okay, this way there are
no added strains on him to go perfect to season end. He can now pitch
his game and do what he does best.

Cole Hamels, last
2 games have been more like the Hamels we know from last year, hopefully
he has his game back and we can move forward. His confidence was such
that his game against the Giants this week saw him stealing a base, the
first of his career and he also went a solid 9 shut out innings giving
up just 2 hits in that game.

JA Happ, has
been the rookie with a veteran look, he has been excellent all year,
even when the chips are down, he stays focused and pitches his game. He
is without a doubt prime candidate for ‘Rookie of the Year‘ this
year.

Joe Blanton, the
Hulk‘, the ‘Work Horse‘, when you see him pitch it is
obvious he enjoys what he does and he stays in command and doesn’t get
phased by anything, he’s had good numbers this year and his second half
is as usual, very good.

Pedro Martinez,
the newest member of the starting rotation, who has not yet produced
what you would call a quality start. Facing 2 rain games that lasted 2
and 3 innings for him and 2 other games where he was seemed to be still
trying to find his way back in the majors. We will have to see how he
does this week against the Giants, a team the Phillies don’t produce
much offense against, will Martinez be able to keep it close, we will
see this week.

Jamie Moyer, Although
Moyer is now in the pen, I have included him here, simply because he has
taken the 2 rain delay games from Martinez and been outstanding, he has
also pitched reasonably well all year as a starter, still holding the
most wins as a Phillies starting pitcher this year. With the 2 double
headers the Phillies will be facing I think his role will be very
important, especially as one is against the Marlins, a team he has
dominated.

The Bull Pen seems
to have had some rest of late, although there are some deep issues still
to be resolved, I haven’t included a breakdown for them here, because I
think we need a little more time into September to see if the looming
post season is going to spur them on or if we will continue to see the erratic
side of the pen. I will mention thus far the only two I am comfortable
with are Eyre and Park, but we will continue to watch and see how Lidge
and Madson perform during the next week, along with some notables like
Durbin, Walker and Taschner, now he’s back up.

With the ability to load up
the team with new faces in September, the Phillies have chosen to be a
little more conservative, holding room for some of the DL players to
make an impact in the post season, assuming the Phillies maintain the
current state of play and make the post season of course.

More to come over the
weekend, with a look at bench players and the expected return of DL
players…

 


Cliff Lee’s, Debut in Philadelphia at CBP…

Cliff Lee made his debut in Philadelphia at CBP, the anticipation of the crowd was high, all things considered, the pressure on Lee must have been huge. After his shut out in San Francisco, would the fans be expecting to much and could Lee deliver another solid game in front of what is now his home crowd.

The first inning, he seemed to show a few nerves, but that was to be expected, what wasn’t expected was for J-Roll to miss-judge a ball and let it go into the outfield. This allowed a runner to be on 3rd with 1 out, setting up a fly ball RBI in the 1st for the Rockies. Yes it was a tough play for Jimmy, but he has made that play many times before, he sets his own standards and that wasn’t quite it.

It didn’t take Jimmy Rollins long to correct his earlier miss-judgment, he was hitting and running bases straight out of the gate. He didn’t need his red/orange shades to make himself look cool, he was doing that just by his actions.

His first 3 at bats he hit a single, double and triple, yes a cycle would have been nice, but for someone who less than 8 weeks ago was hitting right around the .200 mark and was struggling to even get to first base, was now producing multi hit games, stealing bases and scoring runs and that is the driving force leading the Phillies offense.

The Phillies scored in the bottom of the 1st Utley’s sac fly, driving Rollins in, then Bako hit a home run, his first of the year, in the 5th, followed by Victorino’s RBI hit to drive in Rollins again. Rollins finished 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored.

Lee may not have been the domination  machine he was in San Francisco, after all, we had that from Happ last night, but he did give the Phillies a solid 7 innings, with 112 pitches, giving up just 1 run on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 9, great job Cliff Lee and I am sure the fans in Philadelphia will soon make you a fan favorite, it seems almost everyone else on the team is anyway.

The bullpen did there thing… HOORAY!!!… Madson pitched a solid 8th inning giving up just 1 hit, Lidge came out in the 9th to close the game out and collect his 21st save of the year, and do so giving up just 1 hit.

Phillies win the series with the Rockies 2-1 and since the Marlins chose to give the Nats a 4 runs in the 8th inning and go on to lose the game in Washington, the Phillies go to a 7 game lead in the NL East, of which I might add is currently the largest divisional lead, over a 2nd place team, in the majors, that may change by nights end.

The Phillies welcome Florida to won for a weekend series, and tomorrow night the Phillies workhorse Joe Blanton takes the mound in a bid to keep the Phillies winning home stand moving onward and upward.

Around the majors, well not around, around, just in New York, this for me is an interesting month, the Yankees and the Red Sox duel it out 7 times this month, why is that so interesting for me, well I have suggested, or maybe even predicted, a repeated October World Series match up between the Phillies and the Rays, therefore the need for the Yankees and Red Sox to beat each other up and give the Rays a chance to make up ground is crucial to my prediction becoming a reality…