As the Phillies sprint toward the All-Star break, the team currently finds itself in third place in the surprisingly competitive NL East, at 40-33.
On Monday night, the Phils will begin a seven-game road trip that takes them to Cincinnati for three, then Pittsburgh for four.
The Phillies lineup has really turned it around following a slumpalicious few weeks from May 18-to-June 12, sporting a 9-4 record and scoring 6.3 runs per game since the latter date. The hitting should continue in the friendly confines of Great American Smallpark.
- While the Phils will travel for seven games in seven days against the NL Central, the Braves begin a six-game homestand Monday night against the Washington Strasburgs. After three with the Nats, Atlanta follows with an off-day, then three more versus the Marlins.
- The Mets have a full week ahead, as they travel to Puerto Rico for three with the Marlins, then to Washington for four with the Nationals.
(After facing the Pirates, Indians, White Sox, and Royals, Stephen Strasburg will face two division rivals in one week – he’ll do battle with Tim Hudson Monday night, before taking on R.A. Dickey and the Mets on Saturday afternoon.)
The Braves have come back to earth a bit, losing four of six, with one of the two wins – game two vs. Detroit – being given to Atlanta by an admitted mistake from home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
Success on the Purview?
The Phillies, a team that should go 5-2 at the very least during this road trip, are only 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta. The teams will meet for a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park from July 5-7, so a return to first place could be on the horizon if the Phils play up to expectations.
The pitching matchups for the next seven days are as follows:
- Mon: Kyle Kendrick vs. Johnny Cueto
- Tues: Joe Blanton vs. Mike Leake
- Wed: Roy Halladay vs. Aaron Harang
- Thurs: Cole Hamels vs. Daniel McCutchen
- Fri: Jamie Moyer vs. Ross Ohlendorf
- Sat: Kyle Kendrick vs. Paul Maholm
- Sun: Joe Blanton vs. Jeff Karstens
Let’s scout the opposing pitchers:
- The last time Cueto faced the Phillies, he allowed nine runs in 2/3 of an inning in a 22-1 Phillies win.
- Leake, an impressive rookie, does not have the look of a pitcher that will shut the Phils down. He is 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA, but he has allowed plenty of baserunners (1.41 WHIP) and been aided by a high left on base percentage – Leake has stranded over 80% of baserunners while the MLB average is 71% this season. It is not as if Leake possesses some superhuman ability to make hitters strand runners in scoring position, so his return to the norm would come at a welcome time this Tuesday.
- Harang has been semi-effective of late, but honestly has not been good since 2007. He, too, allows a ton of baserunners and surrenders far too many homers.
- Of the four opposing pitchers, three are #6 starters – pitchers that would not currently be in the rotations of 3/4 of major league teams.
- The lone lefty, Paul Maholm, has an impressive history vs. the Phillies. In six starts, Maholm is 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA. The Phillies have hit a paltry .245/.313/.384 vs. the southpaw.
At the sake of jinxing things, six of the next seven games look very favorable for the Phillies. The Reds, a JV-version of the Phils, do not match up well with our boys.
And despite the Phillies’ lack of recent success in Pittsburgh, three of the four opposing pitchers, for lack of a better term, blow hammer.
Let’s go Phils!