New York Mets (74-78) at Philadelphia Phillies (92-61)
R.A. Dickey, RHP (11-7, 2.92 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (7-6, 5.04 ERA)
Time: 7:05, Citizens Bank Park
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 80
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The interesting news from Charlie Manuel’s pre-game chat was that Jimmy Rollins could be ready to return on Sunday. It’s something we’ve heard before during this hamstring healing process, however, Manuel said he may even be ready to pinch hit before that. Rollins took part in a simulated game yesterday and by all accounts looked great. Let’s hope.
Today, I was interview by Mets Gazette Editor Frank Gray who asked me a few questions about the upcoming series. Here’s the interview in full.
Mets Gazette: How deep do you see the Phillies going in the playoffs? Why?
Pat -If the present is any indicator of the future for the Phillies, then they have an outstanding chance of winning the World Series for the second time in three years. However, I don’t want to jinx the team by looking too far ahead. Every single day, manager Charlie Manuel says we’re worried about today’s game, not tomorrow, not yesterday. It’s that mantra that has helped them succeed throughout a tumultuous season, even though it’s cliche as hell.
But since you’re asking me to look ahead (and assuming the Phils are in with a magic number of 4) I will say that at this point, they may very well have the best team in baseball. They are certainly the most dangerous. So with that said, I see them making it back to the World Series and I don’t think there are many people out there who would disagree.
Mets Gazette: Your team strengths and weaknesses?
Pat- For about two months in the middle of the summer, we were shown the Phillies weaknesses. They fell into a slump of epic proportions, something we haven’t seen around here in a few years. Amazingly, they’ve turned it around with a complete 180 and now it seems they have no weaknesses, only strengths. Here are a few of both.
Strengths: -Obviously, the rotation beginning with Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt. As I outlined a few days ago, this triumvirate has a chance to become one of the greatest of all time with a solid October. This strength might be the biggest strength of any team in the hunt for the playoffs. And as we all know, pitching wins you titles, and the Phils have three of the absolute best in the game. Lucky them.
-Another strength is their “been there/done that” attitude. Most of these players have witnessed postseason baseball firsthand over the last few season, so they know what to expect. They understand the grind and how a new season changes things completely. All season, through thick and thin, this Phillies team has been as even keeled in the clubhouse as you’ll see out of a team, and that serves to help them once the playoffs begin.
-I’ll choose one more, even though they have a bevy of strong points. This one may come as a shock, but the back of the bullpen has been a real source of stability for quite some time now. Ryan Madson missed two months after kicking a chair in the clubhouse. He’s now back and pitching some of the best baseball of his life. He also has a relatively fresh arm, although since coming off the DL in early July, Manuel has used him the most out of any other reliever in baseball. Post All-Star break, he’s pitched in 40 games but has been ridiculously good, sporting a 1.14 ERA over 39 1/3 innings. Brad Lidge, who many left for dead after a lost 2009 campaign, has been nearly as beneficial to this team after the break. His ERA stands at 2.23 since the midsummer classic, and he’s saves 20 games in his last 22 appearances. What was once a beleaguered part of the Phillies has been a boon for a team that needs some stability in an otherwise up-and-down pen.
Today’s lineup: Victorino CF, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Ibanez LF, Ruiz C, Valdez SS, Blanton P
Your gameday beer: Yards Love Stout
Anything from Yards is a friend of mine. They just make damn good beers. My favorite is Yards ESA, but this Love Stout is intriguing. Right now, it’s cask conditioned at Grey Lodge Pub in Northeast Philadelphia, another enticing factor. Since I’v never tried the Love Stout, I can’t say first hand how it looks or tastes. But by all accounts, it’s a very dark beer with a dark head that has a chocolate and coffee aroma. For you java lovers, this could be gold. If your in Philly, get down to the Grey Lodge and order a burger med-well with one of these and enjoy the game. -Pat Gallen