The Phillies have been dealing with injuries all season. It is the nature of the game. More often than not, I have heard players say this season is a marathon and it’s all about surviving to the end. Recently it seems management has been filling out more disabled lists than line up cards.
The most recent, and most devastating entry might be that of Roy Oswalt. Oswalt lasted only two innings of his last start against the St. Louis Cardinals before removing himself with tightness in his lower back. It is the same injury that plagued Oswalt earlier in the season. Oswalt has always been a gamer and the type of pitcher you could count on to pitch through almost anything. While Pat Gallen points the finger to the dozer, he also states that only once in the past 10 years has Oswalt not started at least 30 games in a season. The guy is durable. He won’t, however, allow himself to become a liability. Which is why we now wait to get the final verdict. Rehad or retirement.
While many questions were raised about whether or not Oswalt was rushed back to pitching after his earlier back issues and a trip home to Weir, Mississippi the Phillies as an organization has handled their players well. However, could some decisions about the rotation (ahem ahem Joe Blanton) and the bullpen come back to haunt the Phillies?
Michael Baumann entered the brain (sort of) of the decision makers to ask a similar question about closers. Enter Dr. Strangeglove on pitcher usage. The Phillies have used four different relievers in the closer role this season as Brad Lidge has yet to pitch in a game. Baumann highlights Ryan Madson and asks when is it the right time to bring him in.
It’s been an up and down week for the Phillies. As a team they did win four of the seven games this week Sunday to Sunday. Cole Hamels was on the losing end of two of those tough luck losses. He pitched brilliantly in both his starts this week but has nothing to show for it. He allowed two earned runs against Seattle and Oakland but ended up losing both games 2-0 and 4-1, respectively.
Hamels has now pitched six straight games where he has allowed two or fewer runs. He also has gone at least 6.1 innings in each one of those starts. Low run support is nothing new to Hamels, or to the rest of the Phillies staff for that matter. Runs and home runs are down for this Phillies team but a National League leading team ERA of 3.07 is why the Phillies sit atop the Majors with the best record (49-30).
Cliff Lee backed up his complete game shutout last week with another complete game shutout this week. Lee has not lost in the month of June (4-0) and goes out everytime expecting to go the distant.
“There’s total gratification,” Lee said. “Every time I want to throw the whole game, there’s no doubt about it.”
Michael Stutes recorded two wins this week out of the bullpen and Roy Halladay notched his fifth complete game today for his 10th win of the season. He leads the National League in complete games, innings pitched and strikeouts and is tied for the lead in victories.
As I said before the Phillies have a tough schedule coming up before the All Star break. They will face Boston this week and then the Atlanta Braves before the festivities at Chase Field in Arizona begin. Currently, the Braves are 4.5 games back of the Phillies in the National League East. Out of the other five divisions of baseball, Atlanta would be the division leader in four of them. Only the Yankees have a better win percentage than Atlanta.
From here on out, it will not get any easier for the Phillies. The bats need to come alive. The pitching is what is keeping this team afloat. It will be interesting to see how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. handles this year’s trade deadline. For the past couple years he has always gone after pitching. It seems almost undoubtably he will go after a hitter this time around.
One name linked to the rumor mill is the Padres’ Ryan Ludwick. He is a right handed bat that would be a defensive upgrade to Raul Ibanez but could also provide some pop coming off the bench. Gallen entertains the rumors and discusses some of the other names the Phillies could be looking at like Heath Bell and Chad Qualls.
Good week, Phillies still on top.