After being swept by the red hot Brewers the 3-6 Phillies welcomed the Marlins to town. The Marlins started the season 5-1 but had lost four straight heading into their series with the Phils. The Phils have had good success against what’s been a bad Marlin team the last few years. Things looked like it might be different this series with Jose Fernandez pitching game one of the series. Fernandez pitched excellent against the Phils last year giving up just one run in three starts covering 18 innings. Friday night wasn’t his night as the Phils jumped on Fernandez for eight hits and six runs in four innings. The Phils never looked back on their way to a sweep.
Chase Utley led the way as he has all season for the Phils. He’s hit in every game he played this year and leads the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. In the Marlins series he was 7-12 with one HR, three doubles, five runs scored and four RBI’s. Utley’s had the best 10-game stretch of his great career and is literally carrying the Phillies this year. The much maligned Phils bullpen did it’s job in the series too. They pitched 12.2 innings allowing only seven hits, three runs, three walks and 11 strikeouts.
Coming to town for a four-game series tonight is the first place Atlanta Braves (8-4). The Braves have been hit by a slew of pitching injuries this year, but as usual they keep churning out good young pitchers. In the series opener the Braves will throw free agent acquisition Ervin Santana (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In Santana’s only start he threw eight innings of three-hit shutout ball against the Mets. He’ll be opposed by the Phils Roberto Hernandez (1-0, 4.35 ERA). Hernandez, a free agent pickup the Phils signed to fill out their rotation has given them one good effort against the Cubs, and a not so good game against the Brewers. You can expect this kind of inconsistency from Hernandez all year, as he’s never regained the form he had with the Indians in 2007. That year Hernandez was 19-8 and finished 4th in the Cy Young voting. Since then Hernandez is 40-64 with a 5.03 ERA. The Phils hope he can eat some innings and keep hem in enough games to steal some wins.
Tomorrow night the Braves will send David Hale (0-0, 2.89 ERA) to the mound to face the Phils Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.50 ERA). Hale is a 26 year-old right hander the Braves drafted in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. In his two starts this year Hale has only lasted 9.1 innings while allowing 10 hits, seven walks and only six strikeouts. The usually dependable Lee is off to a bit of a shaky start for the Phils. In 18 innings he’s allowed 29 hits. Where Lee has not struggled is with is SO/BB ratio. He has 15 K’s and only 1 BB in his three starts this year.
Wednesday the Braves have 2nd year pitcher Julio Teheran (1-1, 2.84 ERA) schedule to pitch against the Phils A. J. Burnett. It’s unlikely Burnett will make this start due to an aggravated groin he suffered in his last start, but he’s not been ruled out yet. Teheran has been the model of consistency so far this year. He hasn’t allowed more than 2 earned runs in any of his three starts. Lifetime he’s 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA against the Phils. If Burnett isn’t ready the Phils are expected to call up David Buchanon to make the start. Buchanon is a 7th round draft pick of the Phils in 2010 and was a late cut in spring training. In three starts at Lehigh Valley Buchanon is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He pitched just one inning in Sunday’s start in anticipation of starting in Philadelphia Wednesday night.
The series finale features two young pitchers, 23 year-old Alex Wood (2-1, 1.89) against the Phils Jonathan Pettibone (0-0, 1.80). Wood will be making his 15th major league start Thursday. Lifetime the 6′ 4″ right hander is 5-4 with a 2.89 ERA. Pettibone, also 23 years of age, will be making his second start of the season and 20th in his young major league career. Lifetime against the Braves Pettibone is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
The Phils need a split in the series to go .500 on the seasons longest home stand. A 3-1 series victory would pull the Phils even with the Braves in the standings and make this a very successful home stand, especially in light of being swept the first three games. After the Braves series the Phils will head out west for a 10-game road trip that takes them to Colorado, LA and Arizona.
It’s far too early to call any series a must win, however if the Phils can take the series it may re-ignite some fan passion here in Philadelphia. Last Friday against the Marlins the Phillies attendance was 22, 283. It was the smallest crowd in Citizens Bank Park since they had 20,956 fans on July 31, 2006. Last year the Phils were 8-11 against Atlanta. Winning division games, especially against the Braves and Nats will be critical if the Phils want to stay relevant this year.