What a great day for a ballgame, especially with rookie sensation Cole Hamels on the hill looking to close out a four-game sweep against Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs.
It’s a tough time to be stuck at the office. This would be a perfect afternoon to fire up the grill, turn on 1210-AM and crack open a cold one.
Life is indeed good for Phillies fans. Their team, once left for dead, has clawed back to within 1.5 games of the National League Wild Card lead, with some surprisingly good odds on their side. The offense is clicking, and the bullpen is on a roll. They travel an easy road the rest of the way, facing mostly sub-.500 competition with nothing to play for. Plus, the addition of Jamie Moyer gives them five stable arms the rest of the season.
Two starters have been red-hot. Jon Lieber is one of them. The other is today’s starter Cole Hamels (6-6, 4.40 ERA), who can be counted among the best pitchers in the NL since the all-star break. Here’s how he ranks since the turn:
Strikeouts: 59 (3rd)
Wins: 4 (5th)
K/9 IP: 11.71 (1st)
WHIP: 97 (2nd)
Like the rest of us, the team must get a charge when Hamels throws. The Phils have given him 52 runs of support in his six wins, so those numbers should be seen in that context. Still, he’s indeed missing some bats with three solid pitches in his bag of tricks, and takes the mound with the poise of a World Series winner.
The Phils (64-62) held on to beat the Cubs 2-1 last night for their fifth straight victory. Ryan Howard hit his 44th homer of the season, and is just four away from tying Mike Schmidt’s Phillies record set in 1980.
Jimmy Rollins, the subject of Rich Hofmann’s column in this morning’s Daily News, doubled in the winning run in the top of the ninth inning. Hofmann’s piece basically reiterated what a lot of fans have known for a long time: as Jimmy goes, so goes the offense. While Chase Utley is commonly considered the team’s best all-around player, Rollins shouldn’t be far behind, if at all. J-Roll is the team’s best defender, and having a career year with both the bat and glove.
The Cubs will turn to ace Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.35 ERA) to salvage the final game of this series. Zambrano leads the league with 173 strikeouts.
Thurston replaces Burrell in LF
Joe Thurston will make his first career start in left field today, replacing Pat Burrell against the right-hander Zambrano. The 27-year-old former Dodger was used primarily at second base this season and got a hit in last night's game.