The 2011 Phillies record stands at 71-39, best in the Major Leagues (3 games ahead of next team and 32 games over .500). They were the first team to post 70 wins on the season (did so in their 109th game) and they did it with style. Philadelphia finished off a three game sweep of the Colorado Rockies (at hitter-friendly Coors Field no less) with a tidy 8-6 victory following a 5-0 win in Game 2. Game 1 turned out to be an extra inning nail-biter thanks to John Mayberry’s two-out 2-run HR to tie it in the ninth and Shane Victorino’s solo shot to ice the game 4-3 leading off the tenth. This is their second consecutive series sweep and the second-fastest Phillies squad in franchise history to reach 70 wins (1976 Phillies did it in 104 games).
While the Four Aces have dominated headlines, this Phillies team is starting to hit the cover off the ball – despite ranking 13th in runs scored (484), 16th in BA (.252) and 10th in OBP (.324). Naturally their pitching ranks first in categories like ERA (3.12), Quality Starts (72) and WHIP (1.16) – not to mention wins (71). Halladay (14-4, 2.55 ERA), Hamels (12-6, 2.62 ERA) and Cliff Lee (10-7, 3.14) have a combined 482 IP ranking them 1, 3 and 5 in the NL. Halladay (6) and Lee (4) are also first and second in CG while all three rank in Top 5 in strikeouts.
Ryan Howard has caught fire this past week including his first HR of the season off a left-handed pitcher (a 173-AB drought until he parked one off Colorado’s Matt Lindstrom) going 2-4 in the game with a double, HR and 4 RBI (season total of 87 RBI leads the league over Matt Kemp with 84, Howard’s 24 HR places him fourth). Chase Utley has been on a tear recently as well (raising his BA to .289 with 8 HR and 33 RBI in 60 total games) and new number 5 hitter Hunter Pence (6-24 in a Phillies uniform with 3 doubles & 3 RBI since donning #3 in red pinstripes) seems happy with his new teammates. Shane Victorino (.302, 10 HR, 39 RBI, 15 SB, 65 R) has contributed all year despite hitting first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh in the juggled Phillies lineup. Charlie Manuel seems to like Shane hitting second between Rollins and ahead of Utley, Howard and Pence. Placido Polanco has also returned from the DL with back issues.
Brad Lidge has returned from shoulder and elbow injury, surgery and rehabilitation to make his 2011 debut and this week he even managed his 100 save as a Phillie and first of the season. The save was Lidge’s first since Sept. 24, 2010. Lidge has 223 saves in his career.
Ironically, Lidge will not be notching a lot of saves as his closer’s job from 2008-2010 has fallen into different hands. First it was Jose Contreras when Lidge was shelved during 2011 Spring Training. When Contreras was sidelined, Ryan Madson took over and then Madson joined the ranks of the walking wounded, turning the closer’s role to a tandem of former Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo. Now that all but Contreras have successfully returned from various injuries, Manager Charlie Manuel can mix and match from among his many choices. Madson should fall back into the ninth inning role after taking a leave to be with his wife in Los Angeles. The Madsons are expecting a baby so Ryan should rejoin them during the upcoming San Francisco series. Down the stretch Madson should be the closer with Bastardo, Lidge and Stutes all sharing setup duties.
Kyle Kendrick should return to the bullpen when Roy Oswalt returns to the starting rotation. Oswalt (bulging back disk) went on the 15-day disabled list June 24. He threw a bullpen session July 19 and a simulated game July 22. He made rehab appearances for Class AAA Lehigh Valley on July 27 and Aug. 1, and he is expected to rejoin the big-league rotation during the Aug. 4-7 series at San Francisco.
Cliff Lee will take the ball when the Phillies begin a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants tonight. It will mark the first time Lee has pitched at AT&T Park since surrendering seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-7 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series. On July 31, 2009, Lee made his Phils debut at AT&T Park and flirted with a no-hitter. The Giants didn’t get a hit off Lee until there was one out in the sixth inning of a 5-1 Phils win.
Naturally the Phillies feel the need to prove they can beat the Giants having lost the 2010 NLCS – especially because San Francisco won 2 of 3 (Cain and Lincecum beat them while the Phillies pummeled Barry Zito) when the two teams squared off at Citizen’ Bank Park last week. Carlos Beltran joined the Giants for his San Francisco debut the final game of that series.
The Phillies are 30-21 on the road this season and have posted 17 wins in both June and July (18 in April, 16 in May). They are 3-0 in August thanks to the sweep in Coors Field and would like to come out of the four game series in San Francisco with at least a split.
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