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A Look Ahead: Into the Home Stretch

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Tue, August 25, 2009 08:00 AM | Comments: 63
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The Phillies are smokin’ hot right now and unfortunately for the lowly Pirates, a buzz saw is heading straight for the city of three rivers. The Phillies ship sets sail as they take on the Bucco’s in a three game series starting tonight at PNC Park, in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Phillies come into the series having won their last three, taking three of four from the New York Mets. The Phil’s head into the series 8-2 in their last ten games, currently sitting at a season high water mark of 22 games above .500. They still sit first place in the NL East and have held that position since May 30th.

The Pirates meanwhile are a dismal 19 games back in the NL Central and have had a complete estate sale this season, losing numerous starters to deadline deal trades. They are 5-5 in their last ten and 51-71 overall.

In the series opener, Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton takes the ball, carrying a 8-6 record and a 3.86 ERA. Blanton has been pitching out of his mind the past two months and saw a season-high plus seven ERA dwindle to it’s current mark. Although Blanton looked shaky in his last outing, he still went eight strong and allowed only three earned.

Pittsburgh will counter with righty Russ Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf has been decent for the Pirates this year, sporting a 4.15 ERA. In his last ten starts, he has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of them.

Wednesday Cole Hamels will look to get back on track after surrendering four runs to the Mets last Friday. Hamels has not shown the MVP caliber arm that he displayed last October and has most of the Delaware Valley wondering whether what we see is what we are going to get from the lefty. Facing the Pirates line-up can be a good remedy for a slumping pitcher, but Hamels has failed to feast on the weaker teams in baseball as well.

For the Pirates, lefty Paul Maholm gets the start. Despite being struck by come-backers in his last outing, he still pitched a solid game, lasting into the eighth inning. Maholm has been a bit of a Phillieskiller in his career going 3-1 lifetime with a 3.71 ERA in five career starts.

Closing the series out on Thursday for the Phils will be rookie sensation J.A. Happ. Happ has been stellar and all of the usual cliche’s to describe his performance this year have been well exhausted. Happ is 10-2 with a 2.59 ERA, good for fourth in the National League.

For the Buc’s, Flemington, NJ native Charlie Morton will get the start. Morton snapped a four-game losing streak in his last start however allowed 10 earned runs in just one inning in the start before that. Morton is 3-6 overall, with a plus five ERA. In his lone appearance against the Phillies, last season, he allowed five runs in two innings of work.

Following the Pirates series, the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park to take on the Atlanta Braves in a series that could make or break the Braves season. Starting the week, the Phillies had a seven game lead on the Braves, but a bad series against Atlanta could find the Phillies getting hot around the collar.

The three-game set kicks off on Friday with the Braves Tommy Hanson taking the mound. Hanson, like Happ, is being heavily considered for Rookie of the Year honors. Hanson is 9-2 this season with a 3.12 ERA. Although he has been tough to hit all around, left-handed batters have had some success against him, batting .275.

On Saturday, the Braves will send out righty Derek Lowe, who has given the Phillies fits this season. Obviously burned up about last years NLCS performance against the Phillies, Lowe has only surrendered two runs and nine hits against the Phils in two starts this season, including a brilliant opening night performance in which he held the Phillies scoreless over eight innings. He enters the week 12-8 with a mediocre 4.48 ERA.

The Braves have yet to announce Sunday’s starter, although it is likely to be youngster Jair Jurrjens. Also, the Phillies have yet to announced this weekends starters, however they will likely send out Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton.

The Phillies have been on a two month tear and despite a hiccup or two, show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Everyone with exception of Raul Ibanez, isĀ hitting the ball, and even Ibanez is showing signs of breaking his post All-Star break slump.

Ryan Howard has been ridiculous at the plate over the past couple of weeks and is entering his annual late season slug-fest. Jayson Werth has been equally as hot and the combination of the two can and will carry the Phillies into the extended season.

This week it’s easy, the Fightin’s need to SWEEP the Pirates. Two of three is o.k, but they are a bad team, a really bad team, and there is no reason the Phillies can’t beat them into submission. Winning two against the Braves would be a success, but if they take care of business against Pittsburgh, two wins against the Braves is not imperative.

That being said, a sweep of the Braves could spell the end of Atlanta’s hopes for the division title. If the Braves sweep the Phil’s, they will give an injection of life to a team that can be dangerous, as they head into the final month. One win against the Braves and they merely inch a bit closer, no more no less.

My advice; STEP ON THEIR THROATS. No mercy.

By the way, heading into the week, the magic number stands at 33. Sweep the Bravos and we could see that number plunge into the 20′s. Just something to consider.

Avatar of Jason Bintliff

About Jason Bintliff

Jason Bintliff has written 55 articles on Phillies Nation.

Jason Bintliff is a Phillies season ticket holder and avid fan for 28 years. He was a former free lance writer and contributor to various baseball blogs. He is also the proud son of the owner of Lena Blackburns Baseball Rubbing Mud.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    Did anyone catch the Rockies-Giants game last night. I actually stayed up to watch it. 1-1 going into the 14th inning. The Giants had bases full and got a triple to knock in three. 4-1 Then the Rockies loaded them with a 4-2 score. Spill hit a granny to win. 6-4. WOW. 4 games up in the wildcard. Looks like a few years ago with the Rockies. I rather play them then the Giants. Giants pitching scares me.

     
  • Posts: 0 philsphan

    No magic numbers!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Maverick

    Has anyone checked out the AD for steroids on the right side of the homepage. Idk who the nation is solicitiing for AD $$ but i like it. You should throw up a couple links to porn sites also.. they pay big bucks.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer but I have a bad feeling about this Pirates series… everything is in line to leave our guys looking ahead. Let’s not forget that the Pirates are still a professional baseball team and we are heading into their house. Oehlendorf is getting a lot of national media attention and people are beginning to see why the Pirates held onto him. Maholm gives us fits and Morton is a local guy… he was probably a Phillies fan at one time… he might have a little extra motivation. With that being said, if we take 2 of 3, I’ll be ecstatic… I’ll be even happier if we take 2 of 3 from the Braves.

    What I would really like to see is Jamie pitch on Thursday against Morton in Pittsburgh and Happ pitch on Friday against Tommy Hanson at home. Rookie of the year battle…

     
  • Posts: 0 Cadillac Time!

    Uh no! Please no magic #s!!!!!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Joey

    I agree. I want nothing to do with the Giants. get me the Rocks or even the braves and ill take my chances with the Cards! Whats wrong with magic numbers? superstitous a bit?

     
  • Posts: 0 Maverick

    Giants are much better draw then the Rockies. Sure they Giants have good pitching but so do the rockies and unlike the Giants the Rockies can hit….as demonstrated last night.

     
  • Posts: 0 Maverick

    btw anyone notice the Phils are 19 games over 500 on the road!
    thats insane. 40-21. I dont feel like doing the math but the winning % is rediculous.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joey

    The thing that worries me about the Giants the most is you have to figure Lincecum would pitch game 1 and 5 in a 5 game series. Games 3 and 4 would be in San Fran where they are the best home team, were the best road team. Thats probably a push. So if we split 3 and 4 and they Lincecum going twice you could feel good about any five game series if youre a Giants fan. Obviously the same could be said for the Phils but I like the other matchups better.

     
  • Posts: 0 Maverick

    magic number is irrelevant. what matters is the braves series this weekend. We can put them away… or make it a race heading into september if we get swept. Thats momentum i wouldnt want to give them.

    that said.. with the importance of the braves series coming up… i can see how the pit series could be a trap… and if phils lose focus they could easily drop 2 out of 3

     
  • Posts: 0 JD

    I prefer the Rockies also pitching wins titles as the Phils proved last year. That cold air starts blowing and the bats cool off. That is a weakness of the Phils. producing runs. Up with hope down with Giants there pitching scares me and so does the Braves…

    I dont think this will be a trap series for our boys they dont get caught up in that…Charlie does a good job of keeping everyone focused on the day at hand.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I don’t know about whether I prefer the Giants or the Rockies… The Rockies took care of us in 2007 and it would suck to see them repeat that one more time –even though now we have the “post-season experience” but I bet the memory getting swept in that series is still there…

    Or the Giants, and Lincecum going out there for 2 games, and Matt Cain matching up against Hamels or Blanton… Scary. They could even go with a 3-man rotation…

     
  • Posts: 0 Maverick

    here’s a thought…. the rockies are hot right now and the Dodgers not so much… its possible LA loses the division lead… and becomes the wildcard favorite.

    i wouldnt mind them playing the Dodgers first round..

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I like your thinking, Mav…

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    And I agree with your post, Chuck P… on paper, the series against the Pirates looks easy as A-B-C, but these are the type of games in which we set ourselves up for an upset… just when you think you’re cruising…..
    Nothing to really worry about, but I’m really not expecting a sweep… especially with that Hamels vs. Maholm matchup.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Listen guys,….ANY series in the playoffs is scary……because it’s the playoffs. It’s like a brand new season and all bets are off. Absolutely ANYTHING can happen. We have to approach each series and each game as if that opponent is the most challenging of the year. Period.

    That said…..I think I would prefer the Rockies in the first round over the Giants because of the pitching issue. In the NLCS the Dodgers would be the team to face but, after last year, they may have something to prove. The Cards just flat out scare me for some reason. Pitching, Pujols, the Tony LaRussa factor, and a whole lot of intangibles.

     
  • Posts: 0 Keystone

    Mav, you could be right, and as it stands right now the Phils are matched up with the Cards not the wild card winner. But there is a lot of baseball left and anything can happen.

     
  • Posts: 0 Fatalotti

    I would never say that it’s impossible for the Giants to beat us in the first round, but WHY is everyone so afraid of them? Yes, Lincecum is ridiculous, but since joining the NL, Cliff Lee has been worlds better than even Lincecum, and I’ll take Lee vs. the Giants lineup any day of the week over Lincecum vs. this lineup. Remember, last time we faced Lincecum, the Phils were mired in an offensive slump, where they couldn’t even hit Yusmeiro Petit. Of course Lincecum was going to shut them down. I understand the Phils won’t get 6 HRs against, him, but in this park, it just takes one swing from Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez et al, and those 2/3 runs could be more than enough with Lee.

    As far as the rest of their pitching, Happ/Blanton can easily go toe to toe with Cain, and Blanton/Happ is much better than Sanchez. We have been a good home team since July started and we are a GREAT road team. We have a much, much better record than the Giants, and we are playoff tested (see WS championship last year). Certainly, you don’t want to overlook any team ever, but why are we so scared of the Giants??

    Please answer that to me….

     
  • Posts: 0 SDO

    I don’t see the Giants heading into the postseason with the way the Rockies are playing.

     
  • Posts: 0 Mike D.

    I have a bad feeling about the Pirates series as well. Local guys always seem to beat us, Malholm always seems to beat us, and Pedro is due for a bad start. And I’m worried about the Braves series, because of Lowe, Jurjiens, and Hanson. Not saying our guys can’t match them, but I don’t know if our offense can. I wonder if we’ve peaked too early.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    If the Wild Card winner comes out of the WEST … then whoever has the better record of the East or Central winner plays the Wild Card team

    So if the Rockies win the Wild Card .. and we finish with a better record than the Cardinals.. we would play if the Rockies.. Dodgers vs. Cards

    If the Cards have a better record, they get the Rockies.. Phillies vs. Dodgers

    I personally think the Giants suck.. Lincecum and Cain are awesome, the other 60% of their games are started by pitchers that are terrible, and they have no offense at all ..

    I think the Rockies are smoke and mirrors.. they don’t really have anything great pitching-wise.. (but I could be wrong)

    I think the Braves are the team to watch.. best rotation top-to-bottom maybe in all of baseball??? And their lineup, when healthy.. can score with anybody.. Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Garret Anderson, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche .. Escobar, Martin Prado, Ryan Chruch … not the best lineup ever, but I think they have the best “team” of the Wild Card contenders … their bullpen might hurt them

    Marlins are horrible, and the Cubs aren’t getting anything from Bradley, Soto.. and Ramirez has been hurt all year … their streak will continue to 102 years

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    it is WAY too early to be talking about which guys will stay hot and carry us into the postseason … Werth and Howard are both VERY streaky … and are due for cold spell in the coming weeks, hopefully followed by a hot streak to end the season.

    MAGIC NUMBER TALK SHOULD BE BANNED UNTIL IT IS LESS THAN 5 GAMES!

     
  • Posts: 0 Mike D.

    By the way, Adam Eaton apparently got the win for the Rockies last night. What the hell?

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Having trouble gettinggood seats to a game. Anyone ever sit in the pavillion? Are the seats OK?

     
  • Baseballbriefs.com tracking back A Look Ahead: Into the Home Stretch…

    Baseballbriefs.com tracking back A Look Ahead: Into the Home Stretch…

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    @ psujoe … if the Pavillion is like 211-207 …and 232-236 they are pretty good seats!

    I like sitting up a little higher (not nose bleeds) but if I could be 1st row of the 2nd level, on the first base side.. that is a dream seat to me

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Thanks Don, on section 201?

     
  • 40-21 is a .658 winning percentage – fantastic. Myers had a good inning in a rehab appearance, throwing his fastball over 90 mph. Phils will need Myers in the post season. Can you imagine Lidge closing against the Cards with the Phils up by 1 and Pujols coming to the plate with a runner on base? Lord help us!

     
  • Posts: 0 joedad

    2 of 3 is fine. You can never expect to sweep a team no matter how good your team is or how bad the other team is.

    If the Phils win 50% of their remaining games, the Braves would need to win 71% of their remaining games to overtake the Phils.

    I’d like to see the fans bring the playoff atmosphere to the Braves series and rattle their pitchers to help make that magic number lower.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    201 should be 2nd level… almost hanging over Ashburn Alley and the Bullpens??

    you would get a better view on TV, but if you want to get down to a game then its nice to have a seat instead of standing-room ..

    for $5 more per ticket.. I would try to get something in 206-to-211 .. but they might be gone?

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Don, There’s really nothing left out there. 201 is the best available for 3 people. My son doesn’t stay put long so I’m just going to grab them and get what I can get. Thanks for your help.

    As far as the playoffs go it’s way too early to know who we should be most concerned about. That said, the Cards really helped themselves out by picking up Lugo, Derosa and Holliday. I wish they would make the first round a 7 game series. just oo much can happen in 5.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I would check out stubhub.com … you might be able to find just any seats on there for like $18-20 ?? worth a shot, depending on what game you are looking for..

     
  • Posts: 0 cas

    Whaddya mean “no magic numbers” talk? I’ve been counting down since it got below 100!!!! I expect we’ll be in the 20′s by the time this weekend is over. This should be one September where we’re not sweating out the final weekend, but are rooting for other division races based on who we want to play. That’ll take a lot of the fun out of it all, but we can all relax a little more. And, Chris, you’re right. This is one of the worst blogs I’ve ever seen for grammar, spelling and punctuation. I was an English major in college, and reading this stuff drives me insane!

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I think that the Phils can win 2 out of 3 (both series) but I’m not willing to predict a sweep for either… the Pirates have won 5 of their last 6. You have to think that, at some point, that team is going to realize that they can win with what they’ve got. I mean, the shock of losing everyone set them back but there is still talent… not enough to match up with legitimate contenders day in and day out but they have a couple of pitchers that can keep it close and some very good young players… not sleeping on the Poo-rates.

    Would hate to see the Cards in the first round… let them play San Fran and I’ll gladly take whoever is left (Rox or Dodgers).

    Braves have managed to stay afloat and that is a scary proposition… Vazquez, Lowe, Jurrgens and POTENTIALLY this guy…

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090823&content_id=6583226&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Tommy Hanson is pushing JA Happ for Rookie of the Year …

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    Chris: If you’re referring to Jason Bintliff’s post, and not some of the posted comments, I disagree that it is a “grammatical abortion.” I’ll grant that there are some missing or misplaced commas and apostrophes, and that the penultimate paragraph contains some confusing modifiers in the sentence about the Braves “injecting life.” But I don’t think it’s all that horrible, and I’ve certainly encountered worse.

    As far as proofreading is concerned, it’s not all that easy to spot one’s own errors. We tend to only skim our own material because we think we already know what’s been written. Not only that, but the writer may not even be aware of the usages of its and it’s, or other subtleties of English.

    The answer would be to have someone else do the proofreading, but I doubt most bloggers have the time to search out their favorite English teacher.

    Most the writing on this site is pretty decent. Sometimes a particularly egregious error shows up, but the writers of such are most always informed of this by readers, and gradually improve upon their skills. Commas just don’t fall into the egregious category. Sure, the writing isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across. It is far from an “abortion.”

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Wagner to the Sox 2010 option off the table.

    Cards are the team that concern me the most.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Don M… how do you feel about my idea?

    Give Jamie the ball on Thursday and let Happ face Hanson on Friday… let ‘em settle it on the field!

     
  • Posts: 0 Nationals#1

    yes please no magic numbers

     
  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    If you are looking to get good seats, check Ebay auctions closer to the date of the game. Look at the actual auctions and not the BuyItNow people. I have gotten some really good seats for face value and usually less.

    The Giants ain’t making the playoffs. They are already fading. I would not be surprised if the Rockies catch the Dodgers. And the Dodgers get the Wildcard. That is the best case scenario for the first round for the Phillies. As long as the Phillies have more wins than the Cardinals, the Phils would get the Dodgers in the first round and then let the Rockies and the Cardinals battle it out. The Dodgers are looking horrible right now. They needed a series with the Cubs just to get some wins. BTW, the Cubs are horrible. Where are all of those Lou Pinella fans now?

     
  • Posts: 0 Nationals#1

    spelling and grammar errors were a rarity in the tim malcolm era, and magic numbers didn’t exist

     
  • Posts: 0 Nationals#1

    haha don m my mom’s company has season tix that are a row back from your dream seats… they are definitely great seats

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    My seats are 10 rows back in left field… love them. Close to concessions, home run balls, great for heckling…

    My company seats are 5 rows back right behind the Phillies dugout (you are on TV when lefties are at the plate)… being that close gives you a different feel for the game. You’re almost in awe at how close you are. Sometimes you forget about what’s going on in the game because you’re too busy picking your jaw up off the ground.

     
  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    This weekend against Atlanta basically decides what kind of September we will have. If we can sweep the Braves then we can sit back and relax. If the opposite happens then we will have to sweat out the month. If its a 2-1 series either way then its not a huge change either way and things remain more or less the same.

    Go Phils!

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I’m sorry – off topic. Apparently Myers has been clocked at 94 in Lakewood. I have seen, as we all have, the highlights of some of his games. From what I saw, his curve looked pretty sick, as well. He’ll be back in the pen, and I suspect the back end of it before long. I realize he has not pitched to a major league batter in a while but I confess to being somewhat excited.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Chris. Relax. While I commend you on having your copy of “The Elements of Style” on your bookshelf, perhaps you oughta not bust it out when reading blogger posts. You ever read Cormac McCarthy? No commas for miles. How about Don DeLillo or Thomas Pychon? (My apologies for what seems like gratuitous flaunting of knowledge of modern literature.) Nothing but run on sentences, and commas, to the point where one lone sentence, in itself, can constitute a paragraph, a chapter, or perhaps even a novella, while all the while confusing, and even boring, the living hell out of the reader, who is probably looking for nothing more than a pleasant way to the whittle the time away. I’m sure you get the picture.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think I sat in 209 once, and just thought it was a great view… the closer to the infield, the better (in my opinion) and 1st base side gives you the most action.

    I’ve been in 121, and 122 like 5 times this year… GREAT SEATS.. but like $60 each.. so the ones in the 209 area are reasonable, and a great view!

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Agree, Dip… sometimes, it’s ok to point out an honest error (a misspelled name or something silly like that) but it is just a blog. Get over yourself… if you think that you can do it better, start your own grammatically correct blog-site. There is really no need for that on here… this post is a grammatical abortion… really? Call me stupid but I don’t even get that sentence. If you had phrased it like this; “This post should have been a grammatical abortion…” that would make sense to me but the post “is” not a grammatical abortion. The post exists, with errors… but that’s normal. No one is perfect.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Honestly, there is no such thing as “nosebleed” seats at CBP.. that’s one of the reasons why I love it… Even in the last row of section 400 the view is very good… much better than the highest section of the Nats stadium, for example.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Don… did you see my post at 2:56?

     
 
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