Pitcher Scott Mathieson represents the final link to complete a chain outstanding starts, as the Phils look to take all four games with the Mets this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
Nobody could have expected that Jon Lieber, the same pitcher who surrendered thirteen hits and nine earned runs in 4 2-3 innings a little over two weeks ago, could rebound for three lights-out starts, including last night’s complete-game shutout.
Isn’t it funny how a pitcher no team wanted, so far, would have helped a contending team as much as any player moved by July 31 deadline. Lucky for the Phils, he’s helping their own playoff cause.
On the subject of "not knowing how good you have it until it’s gone," it’s such a sad indictment knowing that Chris Coste would still be floundering in Scranton Wilke-Barre had it not been for an injury to Sal Fasano. If this season accomplishes one thing, I hope the club begins to think outside the box when it comes finding ways to use talent already at their disposal. Coste hit another home run in a 3-for-3 night at the plate.
Back to Lieber, the player considered among the most disappointing this season. I never thought we'd see that kind of outing from him again. Suddenly, the pitching staff – clearly the biggest weakness all season long – is quite formidable. Now the pressure is firmly on Brett Myers to put excuses aside and break out of his late-season swoon.
Every team in Wild Card contention has a Scott Mathieson (1-3, 6.24 ERA), who will be looking to ride this moment and notch his first quality start since July 5. The Mets, however, appear to have found their answer at No. 5 in John Maine (2-3, 2.64 ERA), challenging Mathieson and the Phils for the second time this month. On Aug. 6, Maine scattered three hits over six innings.
Unfortunately, the Phils gained no ground on the Reds last night. However, the Reds are inching closer to toppling St. Louis from atop the NL Central. The Reds beat the Cards 7-2.
Shane Victorino has showcased more across-the-board talent than Aaron Rowand, and like Coste, falls into the category of players that could help the team as an everyday player as early as next season. In his brief time in Philadelphia, the Flyin' Hawaiian has showcased an arm that’s second to none, greased-lightening speed, and a certain spark that ties the lineup together to generate big rallies.
Meanwhile, Rowand is the lineup's oddest peg. He's not a power hitter, he doesn't make contact and he doesn't have great speed. He's 0-for-his-last-11 and has been a drag on the offense since June.
In the spirit of thinking outside the box, the Phillies need to take a hard look at center field next season. Rowand is in the second season of 2-year contract he originally signed with the White Sox. Next season, Rowand can pick up a $3.25 player option, or if he does not exercise the option, the Phils may exercise a $5 million team option. At this point, it’s very difficult to justify the investment.