The Phillies, who have played in more 1 or 2-run games than any team in baseball, find themselves just 3.5 games back of the Mets for the division lead. Ryan Madson and the Phils take aim at a sweep this afternoon to pull even closer.
If the Phillies get to October, they will have overcome more early adversity than any other team with a fighting chance (so that rules out Kansas City). Here's a list:
-- Starting pitching.
-- A horrendous, deflating home showing the first two weeks of the season.
-- Failing to make timely hits.
-- Defensive gaffs and baserunning blunders.
-- Little production from the bottom of the order.
These are the reasons the Phillies have no business being in the NL East mix. Instead, they are right there. They have won 7 of their last 10 games to separate themselves from the Braves and pull closer to the front-running Mets.
The Phillies are getting tough. The Phillies are 18-16 in close games, which is the most nail-biters in baseball. They come into this afternoon with the second-best road record in the National League. Their bullpen has been rock solid of late, and they’ve received three consecutive good starts from Brett Myers, Cory Lidle and Cole Hamels. Finally, they have become the aggressor.
The Diamondbacks came into this series red-hot after a four-game sweep of Atlanta. In game one, the Phillies put out the fire, making perhaps their biggest statement of the season by getting past Brandon Webb’s start with a come-from-behind victory. Yesterday, they made Russ Ortiz pay for all those skin-of-the-teeth starts he used to have against the Phils when he was with Atlanta. Ortiz never impressed me.
Ryan Madson (5-3 6.04 ERA) takes the ball in an ideal situation against a rookie pitcher. Right-hander Dustin Nippert will be making his season debut. He went 7-1 with a 3.47 ERA at Triple-A Tucson.