At the outset of the 2011 season, most prognosticators (including Las Vegas oddsmakers) tabbed the Phillies and Red Sox as World Series favorites (myself included).
What happened to good pitching always beating good hitting? That may be true in All-Star games (Carl Hubbell mowed down 5 consecutive future Hall of Famers on strikeouts in the 1934 All-Star Game – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin) or in Spring Training but the MLB postseason is not the Grapefruit League. The 2010 San Francisco Giants beat the Phillies in the NLCS and Texas Rangers in the World Series with superior pitching – but they also got some help from timely offense. Harvey Haddix and Lew Burdette combined for the best-pitched game of all time (May 26, 1959) where Haddix registered 8 K in 12 perfect IP (allowed one hit in the 13th), only to be countered by Burdette who allowed 12 hits but no runs in his 13 frames. Haddix and Pittsburgh lost the game in the bottom of the 13th because it only takes one run to win the game. Even a staff of Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and Bob Feller can’t win unless they have some modicum of offense.
The Phillies pitching staff ranks best overall in wins (49), ERA (3.05), SHO (11), QS (53), ER (244), BB (207), CG (9) while Philadelphia (1.19, 3rd overall) leads Boston (1.28, 8th) in WHIP. This series will help prove the not-so-old-adage that good pitching beats good hitting… except (of course) when it doesn’t.
The Red Sox are a superior hitting team – possibly the most feared lineup in baseball – who happen to have good pitching. The Phillies are a diamond-studded team of moundsmen who could use some help finding the bat rack (and have lost one of their four aces). No one in the Phillies starting lineup has an average better than .300, while Boston boasts three (Gonzalez, Ortiz, Ellsbury). David Ortiz (17 HR) is a DH and may not see much action in a National League park but Adrian Gonzalez is on pace for 160 RBI and is currently hitting .359. Six Sox regulars (Pedroia, Lowrie, Saltlamacchia, Youklis, Ortiz & Gonzalez) are hitting at least .250 (with Carl Crawford on DL). For the Phillies, Shane Victorino (.298) and Placido Polanco (.292) are closest to .300 while Chase Utley (.265), Ryan Howard (.261), Jimmy Rollins (.261) and Carlos Ruiz (.257) lap the field of Raul Ibanez (.240), Ben Francisco (.218) and Domonic Brown (.206). John Mayberry Jr. (.231) and Pete Orr (.230) are in AAA while pitchers Vance Worley (.250), Cole Hamels (.242) and Cliff Lee (.222) might be asked to take over one of the corner outfield spots.
Cliff Lee (8-5, 2.87 ERA) has been unbelievable in the month of June going 3-0 allowing 13 hits and one earned run in 24 IP, racking up 21 strikeouts to just 5 walks over this time. Lee hopes to close out the month with another strong effort (two shutouts back-to-back first time since 1964 for Phillies starter) tonight vs. Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86 ERA, 11 QS, 7.73 K/9IP). Vance Worley (2 wins in 7 starts, allowing 32 hits and 11 ER in 29 IP and totaling 22K vs. 12 BB) will take the ball in Game 2 vs. John Lackey (5-6, 7.36 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 5.49 K/9IP). Cole Hamels (9-3, 2.51 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 13 QS, 104 IP, 19BB/103K) will finish the series against Boston lefthander Jon Lester (9-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.78 K/9IP). Another area of concern is the bullpen. The Phillies are without Brad Lidge, JC Romero, Jose Conteras and Ryan Madson (15 SV, 1.19 WHIP) who has been placed on the 15 Day DL with a deep hand bruise. Rookie Michael Stutes (2-0, 2.38 ERA in 24 G, 1.19 WHIP, 8.74 K/9IP) and sophomore Antonio Bastardo (3-0, 0.96 ERA in 31 games, 0.86 WHIP, 33K in 28 IP) will likely be asked to take over the late inning roles while Scott Mathieson (5H, 2 BB, 3 K in 3 IP) will join David Herndon and Danys Baez to bridge the gap.
Phillies hope that their starters go the distance in games one and three while Worley may need the bullpen to finish off game two. Boston sports a bullpen consisting of Jonathan Papelbon (13 SV, 39K in 29 IP), Bobby Jenks (14K in 12 IP) and young Daniel Bard (2.55 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 14 Holds & 8.41 K/9IP) along with Dan Wheeler and Hideki Okajima.
No doubt that this will eventually come down to Hitting vs. Pitching. While there will be no DH for these games under National League rules, it also allows the option of bringing David “Big Papi” Ortiz off the bench as a pinch hitter. The best pinch hitter the Phillies can counter with is Ross Gload (.298) who is also limited by injuries. Will Domonic Brown (.206, 4 HR, 11 RBI) emerge renewed from his meeting in the manager’s office? Can Ben Francisco (.218, 6 HR, 26 RBI in 179 AB) or Raul Ibanez (.240, 8 HR, 32 RBI) lock up a corner outfield spot for the second half of the season? Is this the final litmus test before the Phillies make a deal to trade for more offense?
|“O” is for … Offense?||Phillies||5/7/2011|
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org