Monday, June 23, 2008

Floundering Phils fail against AL's best

(AP Photo/H. Rumph, Jr.)
One week ago, I wrote a post about how difficult the coming week was going to be for the Phillies. I figured it would be quite an accomplishment if the Phils could win half their games against the two best teams in the American League, the Red Sox and Angels. Well, as we all know by now, the Phillies didn't even come close to splitting the week, instead, after a promising win in the first game against the Sox, they finished the week with five straight losses. The Phils fell flat on their face, and this has allowed the NL East to tighten back up again, with the Marlins 1 game out, the crappy Mets 3.5 games out and even the Braves 4 games out of first.

The reasons for the slide are plentiful. Many would site the starting pitching as the biggest problem, but the bats also fell silent when they went up against good pitching. In the last five games, the Phils have scored 9 total runs. This is unacceptable from a team that has racked up 20 runs in a game twice this year. The Angels pitching especially did a number on the Phils, with Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver making an otherwise potent offense look weak, including former Superman Chase Utley, who has seen his batting average drop 30 points since June 2nd.

On the flip side, even Cole Hamels couldn't save this team from a string of bad pitching outings. The starters continually give up runs in the early innings of the game, putting all of the pressure on the offense to come from behind. When the offense isn't hitting, this pitching staff simply isn't good enough to pick up the slack. Hamels is the only pitcher you can trust when the playoffs roll around and every game is tight and low scoring.

This next week gets a little easier for the Phils as they will be facing a pair of teams that are a notch or two below the Angels and Red Sox. The A's are first up starting tomorrow, and Oakland is another team with great pitching that could cause problems. Luckily, next weekend the Phillies will take on the terrible Texas Rangers pitching, including former Phillie Vincente Padilla, so that should be a cure for all that ails this offense.

Of course, everything begins and ends with pitching. It is looking more and more likely that the Phillies will be pursuing another pitcher at the trade deadline this year, and with names flying about like C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, there seems to be plenty available. The Phillies are going to need to pull the trigger on some kind of deal because what they are currently sending to the mound could pitch them right out of playoff contention.

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