Uhh, ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. Uhh, we’re going to be heading into to some unexpected turbulence pretty soon here. At this time we’d recommend you fasten your seatbelts, and uh, please remember your sanitary bags on the backs of the seats in front of you.
It’s been difficult this year to predict who on this Phillies squad will pull the rest of the team out of a funk, or who will keep a good thing going. Last week, when it seemed like it was going to be a long series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick, both coming off not so encouraging outings, were able to stymie the opposing offense to get the wins. On Friday night, Jamie Moyer pitched a complete game shutout, the oldest player in MLB history to do so, in the team’s 7-0 victory in game one of this weekend’s series against the Atlanta Braves. Coming in to the season, it was widely viewed that the bullpen would be the team’s weakness. However, during early stretches in April, it was the bullpen who worked the most and saved games. After a rough stretch in late April, the ‘pen is back to being productive.
After the Phillies took a 4-0 lead going into the top of the 5th inning, highlighted by solo homeruns from Jayson Werth and Placido Polanco, Cole Hamels ran into some trouble. The first 5 Braves’ batters reached base in the fifth inning, starting with a walk to pitcher Kenshin Kawakami followed by 4 straight singles, resulting in 3 runs. Cole was able to wiggle through the rest of the inning without giving up any more runs, and left the game after 5 innings with a 4-3 lead. After Hamels’ day was done, the bullpen, with Chad Durbin in the 6th and 7th, Contreras in the 8th, and Lidge getting the save in the 9th, slammed the door shut through four perfect innings of work. Durbin struck out four of the six batters he faced, crushing any momentum Atlanta picked up during the 5th inning. Shane Victorino added a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the 7th to add some insurance.
In a year which has been hard to predict, it’s clear that the Phillies are determined to put their mid-April swoon behind them. They certainly helped their cause during this recent homestand, going 7-3 over ten games versus the Mets, Cardinals, and Braves. One thing that is for sure is that the team is winning right now with a few important pieces on the DL, and with inconsistent play coming from different aspects (offense, starters and relievers).
The Phillies have been lucky, so far, that the timing of the inconsistencies have for the most part not overlapped for extended periods of time. The ups and downs for the offense, the starting pitching, and the bullpen have been so pronounced its enough for analysts to want to purge like passengers on a plane flying through a thunderstorm.
Make no mistake, though, if this team gets healthy and lives up to it’s full potential, it could be a fun second half of the summer.