Barry Zito is set to pitch his Giants to victory over Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in a key East-West battle of National League postseason contenders in the series opener between these Wildcard-leading clubs Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. In order to get that win, Zito will have to stop giving up the long ball in one of America’s most homer-friendly parks. For Zito, the mission of keeping the ball in the stadium is simple, and the execution will tell the tale. Zito surrendered two solo homers in a no-decision against the Cubs in his previous outing and has surrendered at least one home run in five consecutive games (8 HR total). The last time that happened was June 20-July 11, 2004, while he was with Oakland.
Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt is trying to keep the hot Phillies rolling toward yet another October berth in hopes of a World Series ring to match the one they earned two years ago. In order to do that, he’ll have to do what he did in his previous start for his new team – DOMINATE. Oswalt, the former Astros ace who came to Philadelphia in a Trade Deadline deal, looks like he’s getting used to the red and white uniforms and pinstripes. He had his best start for the Phillies in his previous outing Wednesday against the Dodgers. Oswalt pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out five in the 2-0 victory. Oswalt is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts thus far with the Phillies.
”In the stretch is when you need to make your best pitches,” Oswalt said. “I felt real good with my mechanics tonight, made some good pitches and was able to get out of the jam. I felt strong tonight. I was able to use my lower half most of the night to kind of carry me through.”
Giants: Starters need a pick-me-up
Giants starters have not registered a victory over their past 12 games, as San Francisco’s starting staff has posted an 0-7 record with a 5.88 ERA (42 earned runs in 64 1/3 innings) in that stretch. The past five wins have been recorded by five relievers (Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Chris Ray, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson). The last Giants starter to win was lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who did it on Aug. 3 in Colorado. This is the longest stretch this season that the Giants have gone without a starter earning a win and the longest such stretch since San Francisco starters went 16 games without a win from Sept. 7-23, 2007, according to Stats, LLC. … Sunday’s 8-2 loss to the Padres marked the first game in the Giants’ past 11 that wasn’t decided by three runs or fewer. The Giants have played a Major League-high 85 games this season that have been decided by three runs or fewer and are 45-40 in those games.
Phillies: Starters have had a pick-me-up
Over their past 23 games, in which they’ve gone 18-5, Phillies starting pitchers have posted a 10-4 record with two complete games and a 2.78 ERA (47 earned runs in 152 innings). They have allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 of the 23 starts in that span and have gone six or more innings in 18 of those 22 games. … Outfielder Jayson Werth is hitting .394 (37-for-94) with three homers, 10 RBIs and 18 walks over his past 26 games since July 19. The Phillies are 18-8 in those games. Werth is batting .282 (31-for-110) against left-handed pitchers this season.
The Giants have posted 16 wins in their final at-bat this season, which is tied with Texas for third-most by any Major League team. The Braves (19 wins) and Phillies (18 wins) are the only teams with more. … The Phillies have played in 23 shutouts this season and are 13-10 in those games. That is the third-most shutouts in the Majors played in by one team, trailing the Mets (28) and Dodgers (26). The 23 shutouts are the most for the Phillies since 2003, when they were part of 23 and also went 13-10 in those games.
Chase Utley inched closer to his return to the big leagues, going 0-for-3 in his second rehab game for Class A Clearwater on Sunday. Utley grounded into a double play, grounded out to third and flied out to left, also committing an error in seven innings at second base. Utley is scheduled to play both games of Clearwater’s doubleheader on Monday, likely serving as the designated hitter for the second game. Asked if he could be with the big club on Tuesday, manager Charlie Manuel said it was “a probability.”
“I think he’ll let us know,” Manuel said. “I trust him. I definitely think he’ll be very truthful to us.” Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock wasn’t quite as forthcoming about a possible Tuesday return for Utley.
”We’re going to reevaluate him after the games tomorrow, and we’ll go from there. It’s a day-to-day thing,” Proefrock said, adding that the team needed to see Utley “swing the bat with authority.” Utley has been out of the lineup since June 28 with a right thumb sprain. Philadelphia has more than treaded water since, going 25-17 with Wilson Valdez getting most of the playing time at second base (Cody Ransom, Placido Polanco have shared time). Utley is batting .277 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 72 MLB games this season.
Manuel warned, however, that even with the rehab assignment, it might take Utley a little while to regain his stroke at the plate.
” Hopefully Utley’s strong and he comes out hitting. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
The Phillies remain hopeful that Chase Utley can be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s series with the Giants. They are not as optimistic about Ryan Howard’s return. After working out on his sprained left ankle Saturday, Howard was a little sore Sunday. The rain at Citi Field prevented him from doing further field work before Sunday night’s game. No one commented on Howard’s trip to Dorney Park sporting a protective boot.
”Our trainer thinks Howard’s doing well,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “But at the same time, Tuesday or Wednesday might be a reach.” Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock felt the same way indicating that Howard is indeed making positive progress. Manuel and Proefrock did diverge on whether Howard would require a rehab assignment before rejoining the Phillies. Manuel said Howard never has been a player that needed a lot of extra hitting, and that it’s “reasonable” for the first baseman to come back without facing pitching in the Minors. Proefrock, on the other hand, envisioned a rehab assignment for Howard.
”At this point, he’s going to need some sort of rehab, and he’s not even ready for that,” Proefrock said.
Because the Phillies have been able to still close ground on the first-place Braves without the right side of their infield, they’re remaining cautious with Utley and Howard.
”With all these guys, we’re not going to put them in a situation when they’re not ready to play,” Proefrock said. “We want them for the rest of the season. We don’t want them back intermittently.”
Dobbs gets first start of year at first base
With Ross Gload nursing a strained right groin, Greg Dobbs got the nod at first base for Sunday night’s rubber game with the Mets. It is Dobbs’ first start since July 30, and his first of the season at first base, where he’s played a total of five innings this season. Dobbs has started 19 games in his career at first.
“I’m alright with him there,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “That’s where we used to play him.” Make no mistake, Dobbs is in there for his offense. Manuel cited his 7-for-13 record against starter Mike Pelfrey. Those numbers include a home run and a double. The news isn’t great for Gload, who Manuel thought might be available to pinch-hit on Saturday. That’s not the case on Sunday, with Manuel saying he wasn’t sure Gload would be able to run to first base if he put the ball in play. Having newly acquired Mike Sweeney as a veteran first baseman does ease the blow but Manuel wants his full bench compliment for the stretch run and potential postseason. Expanding the rosters on September 1 should help everyone get healthy.
“Gload’s not 100 percent,” Manuel said. “[The disabled list] is a possibility. We’ll see if we start getting Utley and Howard back. That could be something we might do if he’s not ready to go [on Tuesday].”
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com