Now that Hurricane Irene has blown into and out of town over most of the Eastern Seaboard (west as far as the Ohio River Valley), all that remains is to drain the swollen rivers, calm the raging seas and clean up the debris of fallen trees and scattered weekend plans. Irene’s storms and winds washed out most of the MLB games in the Eastern Time Zone as Florida, the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic region, New York and New England all had a taste of the postponement blues. Fortunately the damage was minimal and there was enough warning to make accommodations in the schedule, rescheduling series or games over the final five weeks of the regular season.
The rest of the country still had baseball as usual including some jockeying in divisions like the American League Central, National League Central and National League West. Not much has changed dramatically as San Francisco still trails Arizona (3 games), St. Louis has lost pace with Milwaukee (10.5 games) but has a serious tangle with Cincinnati (3 games back) if either wants to catch Atlanta (10 games in loss column) for the NL Wildcard. Detroit has the AL Central by half a dozen games while Texas remains the favorite (by 2 games) over Anaheim in the AL West. Chicago, Cleveland (6 games back in Central) and the Angels all stand to do battle with the AL East loser for that American League Wildcard. Minnesota claims to still be a contender despite having 77 losses on the season (more than Tampa, Seattle, Toronto and Oakland and tied with Baltimore). Tampa is 6 games behind the Yankees who trail Boston by a couple. All three were idle this weekend but should prove themselves with a flurry of September games – especially head to head. Boston and the Yankees face off this week and again in September. Thirteen games separate NY Yankees (78-52) from Cleveland (65-65) so we can safely draw the watermark somewhere around there.
Philadelphia, like many of their east coast brethren, had battened down the hatches on Citizens Bank Park after Friday night’s 6-5 walkthrough against the Marlins. Roy Oswalt was peppered pretty well but the offense almost bailed him out. Florida and Philadelphia will make up the missed games a day-night doubleheader Sept. 15. The first game will start at 2:35 p.m. ET, with the second game scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m. ET. The Phillies originally moved Sunday’s game against Florida to Saturday afternoon to serve as part of a day-night doubleheader. They then announced on Friday that only the 1:05 p.m. ET game would be played on Saturday, with the other game moved to Sept. 15.
Now, the game originally scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28 (game No. 71), will be the 2:35 p.m. opener of the Sept. 15 twin bill, while the game originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27 (game No. 70) will be the 7:35 p.m. nightcap. Canceling the game was not on the agenda when the team and baseball officials conversed after the game was called. The Marlins are traveling from Atlanta and will stop in Philadelphia on Sept. 15 before heading to Washington. The Phillies will be traveling home from a series in Houston.
“The league always expects you to do everything you can to compete the full 162 [games] within the parameters of the season,” Phillies President David Montgomery said in his official statement to the press regarding the rescheduled games.
This does afford Manager Charlie Manuel to afford his players some additional unexpected rest – including Cole Hamels (returns from 15 day DL on Monday), Placido Polanco (back with groin injury) and of course other regulars who rarely take a day off. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz will benefit from this extra respite – as they are all generally solid performers in September. Jimmy Rollins is slated to return from the DL by second week in September and Hamels gets the start Monday in Cincinnati. Now the Phillies pitching rotation will have a chance to be set up to the liking of Manuel and Rich Dubee. Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madsen, Brad Lidge and Hamels will all benefit from extra rest because they will have little extra time off over the next month.
At 83-46, the Phillies have maintained their 6 game lead for quite some time and seem in no danger of whittling that down anytime soon. The plan is actually to coast through the next two weeks in order to get everyone healthy taking advantage of expanded rosters after September 1 so that the occasional member of the Four Aces might be skipped in the rotation or someone like Ryan Howard gets an extra day off now and then. It also affords players like John Mayberry, Michael Martinez, Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload and Ben Francisco to work in some extra AB which should prove valuable for their utility postseason roles. Even Brian Schneider (veteran of 14 MLB seasons) says he wouldn’t mind catching an extra game or two over the next couple of weeks. One area of concern is balancing the concept of skipping Roy Oswalt or Cole Hamels in the rotation with keeping these pitchers sharp for postseason.
“They are professionals but they can’t turn it on and off like a light switch,” Charlie Manuel will tell anyone who will listen.” Pitchers need regular work so they can stay sharp. Hitters too – and not just batting practice but live pitching. It is now more important than ever to establish and maintain regular regiments ensuring that starters get their running and bullpen work completed and relievers are used the way we will need them come October.”
Planned callups for September include several players who might find themselves in contention for postseason roster spots such as Domonic Brown, Pete Orr, Dane Sardinha, Scott Podsednik and a slew of pitchers. Eddie Bonine, Scott Mathieson, Juan Perez, Mike Zagursky, Drew Naylor, Phillipe Aumont, Brian Bass, Ryan Feierabend and possibly even Justin DeFratus are some of the more likely. Joe Blanton and Jose Contreras will not return to active duty in 2011 but it is possible that Bonnine, Bass or Aumont could get the nod for a spot start until Hamels returns. Halladay, Oswalt, Worley, Lee and Kendrick will retain their rotation schedule until rosters expand but Manuel will have more options depending on what he decides his pitchers need to be ready for October. Generally, Manuel tends to go with his horses until they blow a tire but with recent postseason early exits, there is cause to rethink his usual modus operandi.
Then again, when has Charlie Manuel ever over-thought anything?
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