The Phillies haven’t entered a game in first place in the division since May 30th. You wouldn’t have guessed it though, as they rocked the Florida Marlins 10-6 (the score doesn’t justify the true margin of victory), and played tonight like they’ve been in first all year.
Ok, we all know Marlins’ starter Andrew Miller isn’t exactly Randy Johnson, although you can’t blame anyone for mistaking the two based on the fact that Miller is about 7′ 5″, throws lefty, and sports similar facial hair for some reason (it’s 2010, right?). And with the way Cole Hamels has been pitching over the last month and a half, it’s almost unfair to opposing lineups, especially with All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez sitting out tonight’s game. But with all things being equal, it just feels right for this team to be in first place come September.
The aforementioned Hamels was his dominant self tonight, going seven scoreless innings, scattering four hits and striking out five Marlins’ hitters. It almost seemed as if he forgot that the team was actually scoring runs for him, and was pitching as if it were a 0-0 game going into the 7th inning instead of having a 9 run lead. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see the transformation Cole’s gone through since last season (remember the little temper tantrum late last season in which he threw his arms up in the air towards Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins?). He seems to have his 2008 World Series MVP mojo back. Here’s to hoping he keeps that through (at least) September.
The Phillies offense has been the other big story lately. They scored their ten runs tonight on 16 hits and took 4 walks. Impressively, only two of their runs came off the long ball, a two-run opposite field shot by Ryan Howard in the bottom of the fourth inning. Howard drove home six runs total in the ball game, and went 3-5 at the plate. Shane Victorino (1), Chase Utley (2), and Carlos Ruiz (1) added RBIs, as well. Every starter had a hit tonight, including Hamels who nubbed an infield single to third base in the bottom of the fifth inning.
After the Phillies built their comfortable 10-0 lead after seven innings behind Hamels, Nate Robertson was called upon out of the bullpen for mop up duty. Its safe to say he won’t see the field in a long time, as he gave up six runs in the top of the 8th inning on four hits. David Herdnon and Ryan Madson combined to close out the last four Marlins’ batters.
On a concerning note, Jimmy Rollins pulled up limp once again after hitting a double to left field, and scoring on a Ruiz single. He first showed signs of injury while stopping at second base, and later looked even worse as he hobbled into home plate. He was visibly wincing after he stood up from his slide into home, and immediately walked back into the locker room. Wilson Valdez replaced Rollins at shortstop. The injury is being termed “hamstring tightness.”
With the win tonight, the Phillies were able to keep their 0.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who beat the Pirates 9-3 to avoid being swept in Pittsburgh. The Braves begin a four game series tomorrow against the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been reduced to playing the role of spoiler after virtually falling out of contention on both the NL Central Division race as well as the Wildcard race.
The Phillies have the day off tomorrow, after a stretch of 24 games in 23 days. They’ll begin a weekend series at the NY Mets on Friday with Roy Halladay throwing against Jenrry Mejia, who’s making just his second start of the season.