The Phillies have won two in a row at the hands of the surging Pirates looking to make it three at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday. This comes along with the good news that Chase Utley hit a mammoth home run in Triple A and is on the verge of returning. This series comes off the heels of the disappointing loss of both games of a double header on Sunday where Charlie Manuel got testy with the media while being questioned for his in game strategy. Manuel took Cole Hamels out of a one run game in the 8th inning after walking two of the first three batters he faced. Manuel brought in Antonio Bastardo who surrendered a homer to Carlos Pena on the first pitch he threw. Manuel also brought Michael Martinez in to pinch hit when some thought Juan Pierre would have been a better option. Joe Madden out foxed Manuel when he intentionally walked Jim Thome who pinch hit in the 8th. The intentional pass tied Thome with Mickey Mantle for 7th place on the all time walks list, but in the context of the Phillies-Rays game it was important because it was an unexpected and shrewd move on Maddon’s part , first base wasn’t open and more importantly it limited Charlie Manuel’s bats off the bench later in the 8th.
The Phillies returned home to face a Pirate team which has been hot of late. The Phillies won game 1 in the battle for the Keystone State in convincing fashion 8-3. Joe Blanton got his 7th win on fireworks night in South Philly and was aided by Jimmy Rollins who continued to swing a hot bat who led off the game with a double and scored on a Hunter Pence single and homered in the 4th inning. The Pirates didn’t help their situation by committing 4 errors. Game two was closer, with the Phillies pulling out a 5-4 victory. Vance Worley earned his 4th victory of the year, allowing three runs on 6 hits through 6 innings. Carlos Ruiz continued his outstanding season at the plate hitting his 10th home run of the season, a career high, Ty Wigginton also homered. Perhaps more important to most Phillies fans is the news that Chase Utley could be returning to the lineup on Wednesday. He went two for five with a 400 ft home run in Triple A Lehigh Valley and said he feels good and ready to return to the regular line up. This is what Phillies fans have been waiting for all season, the absence of their 3 and 4 hitters has left morale low and offensive production lower, Utley’s return could also spark fan interest as attendance has slowly began to decline at the typically full Citizens Bank Park. Whether or not the Phillies will be getting the five time all star and powerful left hand bat back or the older looking player with sore knees is yet to be determined. It will probably be somewhere in between but it will take a monumental effort for the Phillies to get back into the playoff picture, the slow start never really picked up and now they would have to win 2-3 games in every series for the rest of the season to make up the necessary ground. It’s unlikely, but strange things happen in this game, if Ryan Howard can return and return to form and Doc Halladay comes back and dominates the Phillies may have a prayer. Cliff Lee would have to start winning some games, not exactly a ridiculous request of a man making over 100 million dollars.
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Written by Tom Bopp