Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just for Starters...

This week featured a string of successes from the Phillies' rotation.

Monday: The Return of Joe Blanton. That alone is a success for the rotation, especially having lost J.A. Happ to the DL. Blanton looked like his normal self - he threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed 4 runs, and struck out 4. Normally, the Phillies would be able to outscore 4 runs, but the St. Louis Cardinals staff, led by the impressive 23-year old Jaime Garcia (3-1 with a 1.13 ERA on the season) held them to only 3. Nelson Figueroa also allowed 2 runs, and Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless ninth. The only loss of this week for the Phillies: 6-3, Cardinals.

Tuesday: A fantastic pitchers' duel between Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright. Both threw 8 innings, allowed 1 run each, and Hamels struck out 8 while Wainwright struck out 6. Hamels started to pitch the ninth, but allowed 2 doubles and was removed for Lidge. 1 run scored, but Lidge finished out the inning. Jose Contreras pitched the 10th, and in the bottom of the 10th, on the fourth pitch of the inning, the Phillies hit a home run to win the game. The batter? None other than Carlos Ruiz. By the way, Ruiz is hitting .315 on the year. 2-1, Phillies.

Wednesday: Kyle Kendrick lives to see another day. With the return of Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ not far behind, Kendrick's struggles in his past few starts seemed to suggest that he would not have it for much longer. Wednesday night, he was spectacular, throwing seven scoreless innings, striking out 3. Between Kendrick and Cardinals starter Brad Penny, it seemed like if someone was going to dominate, it would be Penny. Penny struck out 6 in 6 innings, but allowed 3 runs. All three runs came on home runs by Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino. By the way, Chase Utley is leading the team with 8 home runs right now, but tied for second are Victorino and Jayson Werth with 6 apiece. Also, Juan Castro removed himself from the game in the bottom of the seventh and he now is day to day with a mild calf strain. Danys Baez and Contreras followed Kendrick with one scoreless inning each as the Phillies shut out the Cardinals. 4-0, Phillies.

Thursday: Roy Halladay keeps on doing what Roy Halladay does. Halladay pitched 7 innings, struck out 9, and allowed 2 runs, only 1 earned. Former Phillie Kyle Lohse was only able to get through 4 innings, allowing 5 runs, 3 earned. The 3 earned runs came from a home run by Jayson Werth. Halladay is now 6-1 with a 1.45 ERA. Chad Durbin and Baez pitched scoreless innings to finish the game. Not a whole lot to say about this one except that so far, Halladay has been everything this team could have hoped for. 7-2, Phillies.

Friday: If I were to predict one complete game shutout this week, I would have expected it to be Halladay. Instead, it was Jamie Moyer, who made history last night as the oldest player to pitch a complete game shutout. He allowed only 2 hits, struck out 5, and walked none. He was facing a depleted Braves lineup that was without stud rookie Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and Yunel Escobar, but remember Moyer is 47 years old. He had thrown two other two-hit shutouts, 1 in 1986 (before I was born!) and then another 20 years later in 2006. The Phillies offense backed him up plenty, scoring 7 runs with the 2-6 hitters in the lineup all having multi-hit games. By the way, Charlie Manuel announced that Brad Lidge would be moving back into the closer role. But Lidge wasn't needed Friday night. 7-0, Phillies.

All five starting pitchers this week threw at least 6 innings and allowed a total of 7 earned runs. I wouldn't expect Moyer to dominate in this way every time he goes, but to see Kendrick and Hamels turn around and have such big successes bodes really well for the rotation going forward. Especially Hamels, who the Phillies would like to see regain ace status, forming that great 1-2 punch with Halladay. Also, if they can keep the bullpen from being overworked, that will lessen the blow of losing Ryan Madson for a spell. What a great start to the month of May.

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