As fans we’re a greedy bunch. I heard some people saying if the Phils hadn’t blown game one of the Nats series it would have been a sweep. Are these people lying? Nah, but there are lies of omission. It’s true the Phils had a 3-2 lead entering the 8th inning Friday night, but Mike Adams and Jake Diekman gave up three earned runs on 18 pitches to lose the game Lee had set them up to win. It was Lee’s 4th WG in seven starts this year. What the fans weren’t saying was how unlikely it was that Roberto Hernandez would out pitch Gio Gonzalez yesterday.
Everyone enjoyed watching Hernandez go 7.1 innings of four-hit shutout baseball yesterday, but who can honestly say they saw it coming? Hernandez has pitched as expected. He’s the team’s 5th starter. Even a 5th starter can crank out a gem or two in a long season. Yesterday was one of those days for Hernandez. After a first inning that saw Hernadez give up two walks, a single and 20 total pitches things became relatively calm for the veteran righty. In the 5th through 8th innings Hernandez recorded 10 outs on 34 pitches. He allowed just one single and no walks in that time.
After Hernandez gave up a line drive single to Denard Span to lead off the 8th, his 2nd hit of the day, Frandsen bunted him to second base, Enter Mike Adams who was called in for the third straight day. Adams job was to get one tough out – Jason Werth, which he did on a weak ground out to second base. Bastardo walked LaRoche than struck out Rendon to finish the inning.
It was Papelbon time and for the 11th straight game Paps got the job done. Eleven appearances, eleven innings since Paps now infamous implosion game against the Rangers. Since that night he’s given up just six hits, two walks and no earned runs. He’s lowered his ERA from 20.25 to 2.19 and has racked up nine saves. In those 11 appearances the competition has slashed .162/.225/.162 against him, with all six hits he’s allowed being singles.
With the exception of the middle game of the series the Phils bats were pretty quiet, but got the job done. Particularly impressive of late has been Marlon Byrd. He’s hitting .286 and leads the team with 22 RBI’s. He’s also connecting when it counts. Byrd has a .406 BA with RISP and his OPS is 1.066. Yesterday Byrd batted cleanup and it makes sense to keep him there sandwiched between Utley and Howard. The original thinking was Byrd was coming in to protect Howard, but he’s hit so good with RISP that it makes sense to break up Utley and Howard and have Byrd bat in the cleanup spot. We’ll see if Ryno keeps him there.
Tonight the Phillies (16-14) begin a two-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays (14-17) at Citzens Bank Park. When they’re done they’ll head up to Toronto and play two there. Tonight the Phils will see old friend J.A. Happ. Happ was runner up for Rookie of the Year for the Phils in 2009 with a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA. He’s never approached those numbers since. From 2010 to the present Happ is 27-37 with a 4.67 ERA. Happ’s pitched in three games out of the bullpen this year but tonight is his first start. He enters the game with no decisions and an ERA of 4.15.
He’ll be opposed by Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 3.52 ERA) who got some extra time off with the rain and scheduled off days. Kendrick made his last start on April 24th, 11 days ago. Although he gave up 10 hits in 5.2 innings he held the Dodgers to one earned run in a Phils win where Kendrick didn’t factor into the decision.
Tomorrow night the Jays throw young right hander Drew Hutchinson (1-2, 3.82 ERA) at the Phils. The 23 year-old righty only has 17 career starts to his name and less than 100 IP. In his last three starts Hutchinson is 0-1 with two no decisions. He’s got a 3.93 ERA over that span but has also struck out 23 in just 18.1 innings of work. An interesting thing to note about Hutchinson is how his fastball has picked up velocity since coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s the first player I’ve heard to do that.
Cole Hamels (0-2, 6.75 ERA) will oppose Hutchinson tomorrow night. Hamels was originally scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Nats but came down with the flu. Hamels still has only two starts this year and one was to his nemesis the NY Mets. Though the Mets came into their last meeting with Hamels last in most offensive categories they lit Hamels up pretty good. He racked up over 100 pitches and couldn’t get out of the 5th inning. Hamels hasn’t pitched much against the Blue Jays in his nine-year career, starting just three times. He has an 0-2 record and an ERA of 6.75.
Hamels is ultra competitive even with his own team mates, and tonight that may be a good thing. The Phils have been getting some excellent starts the past three weeks and you know Hamels would like to join the party and post a W tomorrow night. If the Phils can get Hamels on track, the bullpen continues to steady itself and they can generate more offense from Asche and especially Dom Brown, the Phillies will be a good team. I know I just threw three “If’s” at you, but getting Hamels on track shouldn’t be too difficult. He’s been one of the most consistent starters in the game since his debut in 2006.
It appears that Adams, Bastardo and Papelbon are beginning to form a strong back end of the bullpen. The rest of the pen is fairly unreliable but they could be getting some help from Ethan Martin soon, and perhaps even the flame-throwing Ken Giles. Though it’s not the Phillies habit to rush players they might make an exception in Giles case if he continues to pitch well. The Phils are desperate for another right handed arm and 100 mph is 100 mph. If Giles can continue locating his pitches (27 K’s & 5 BB’s in 14 innings) the call may come. The Phils want to win this year and I think they’d be willing to gamble Giles career somewhat to bring him up.
That leaves Asche and Brown. I believe Asche needs to play every day to reach his ceiling for this season. He had two hits and a double Friday night and a HR Saturday night, but found himself on the bench yesterday. I know Gonzalez is a tough lefty pitcher, but if Asche is going to be an every day player he has to get AB’s against tough same hand pitching. Plus it’s not as if Galvis or Nix have been hitting the cover off the ball demanding more time with their play.
With Dom Brown I don’t know what to think. I would keep running him out there and see if he can get his swing back. If he can’t I think the Phils have to seriously consider Darin Ruf as an option. If not Ruf maybe a Mayberry/Brown platoon. They have to do something if Brown’s May is anything like his April when it comes to production.
The bottom line is out of eight starting position players Brown has the lowest slugging percentage…lower even than that of the powerless Revere. He also has the 2nd lowest BA, about 20 points higher than Asche. How did a player that led the team in XBH’s, HR’s, RBI’s and SLG% last year just fall off the table this year? Perhaps it was just a bad month. Let’s hope so. Last year in April Brown only batted .233 and slugged just .372.
If the Phils can get the bottom of the order going along with some of the other good things that are going on, they could very well be in the race when the trade deadline comes around. If that’s the case I think Amaro will go for it this year. He almost has to. He has the largest payroll the Phils have ever had and the core may not have another run in them after this year. This could be the last shot. If it is, I expect Amaro will push all his chips into the center of the table.