10. Ryan Madson and Billy Wagner
Not brilliant, but the fast-learning setup man and veteran closer have been taxed hard during this stretch. Manuel has shown exceptional confidence in Madson, who’s never inserted into an easy situation. Wagner has faced less pressure but has struggled more, especially when he picks away at left-handers with his slider. Still, Madson and Wagner represent the bright spots in the pen.
9. No. 1 and 2 hitters scoring runs
Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Kenny Lofton have delivered timely hits and have helped bust innings open. After 87 ABs, Lofton has an OPS of .966 and 19 runs already, while Jimmy Rollins is among the league leaders in runs with 36. Polanco is third on the team with 25. The leadoff men are crossing home plate somehow, and that’s what counts.
8. Bullpen trimmed the fat
No big mystery that shedding Terry Adams 12.83 ERA and 2.67 WHIP would help. Tim Worrell’s 9.82 ERA and 2.22 WHIP are gone, as are his chances of ever working as a setup man are forgotten as he continues to hang out on the DL.
7. Pat Burrell
The Bat is the feel-good story of the year. The knock was his season thus far was a series of streaks, but during this run he’s been steadily good. His line of .313 BA, .409 OBP, .520 SLG is what you want out of a cleanup hitter, and his home run yesterday turned into the game winner. Seeing how far he’s come since 2003, Phans should make him an All-Star. I did my part.
6. The Platoons
There’s no better word to describe the center field and infield platoons than effective. Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton play better as part timers, and represent Charlie Manuel’s best strategy of the season. As for the controversial second base platoon, it’s worked during this stretch as Polanco and Utley are both hitting against LHP and RHP respectively. The biggest asset, however, comes late in games, as the platoon has allowed Utley and Polanco to be inserted into big late-inning situations, and boy has that worked out well.
5. Chase Utley
Phans love his grit, and they should. His game-winning grand slam against San Francisco sent shockwaves through the city, letting fans know the Phillies were back. I’ll go so far as to say Utley’s slam was the most important moment of the season.
4. Favorable Schedule
The Phils are finally seizing the moment at Citizen's Bank Park. After a grueling April and May, including two stops in Florida and two in Atlanta, they kicked off this home stand by sweeping the ice-cold Giants.
3. Starting Pitching
To a man, every one of them has done enough to keep them in ball games without any one of them, including Myers, being especially brilliant. Randy Wolf’s victory yesterday was typical of the good-to-very good outings lately. They will need to improve this area at tad, especially Jon Lieber, if they are to keep charging.
2. Bobby Abreu
A run-producing machine, Abreu got hot in late May and hasn’t really cooled down. If it wasn’t for Derek Lee of Chicago, Abreu would get the national recognition he deserves. He's second in OPS (1.058), tied for second in slugging (.598), and tied for second in HRs (14). He’s even made some good grabs in left field. Bobby Abreu is the No. 1 reason to listen to WFAN and not WIP on your drive home.
1. Hitting with RISP
Last but not least, hitting when it counts. That’s been the difference. Like a body moving as one, men are hitting with confidence. They’re second in the NL behind the Nationals in OBP with RISP with .373, second in runs with 217, and fifth in batting average with .274. To compare, with none on, they’re only hitting .264 with a .335 OBP. What an incredible stat.
What an incredible turnaround.