Winning is winning, but Cincinnati, Houston and Washington spoonfed the Phillies' offense with some pretty ordinary pitching.
Eric Milton, Matt Belisle, Chris Sampson, Jason Bergmann and the so-called relief that followed provided the perfect spark to get the Phillies’ motor running. Warm weather doesn’t hurt, 15 strikeouts from Cole Hamels doesn’t hurt, and if Charlie Manuel’s "Thanksgiving Dinner" before Saturday’s game made everyone feel whole again, fantastic. It still doesn’t change the part about how the Phillies have won four straight over the garbage bins of the National League.
Are the bats finally clicking? I’m skeptical. Is Pat Burrell, the singles hitter, a situation worth getting excited about? What about Wes Helms, who’s only been a marginal improvement over David Bell, without the glove? Between Burrell, Helms and Ryan Howard, the Phillies have three home runs. Is anyone still taking Howard’s slump lightly? I'm no longer on that boat.
There are positives, to be sure. Aaron Rowand, the seven hitter, is hitting the ball well. Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino are hitting in similar ways: good average; good speed; little power. Jimmy Rollins has carried the team, and it appears Chase Utley has turned the corner. All positives. As a team, their collective on-base percentage is quite high, but it has a lot to do with all the wildness they faced (Scott Olsen, Oliver Perez) over the first few weeks.
Much of the focus has been on the recent offensive outburst, but the unsung heroes are in the pitching staff. At worst, Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia kept them in ballgames. Jamie Moyer was effective yesterday, and of course, Hamels was dynamite Saturday.
The single biggest surprise may be new setup man Antonio Alfonseca. Alfonseca has been throwing a heavy ball topping 93-94 with a lot of movement, and his success this season hasn't been a fluke. Alfonseca is enducing grounder after grounder. That’s how you rock it at Citizens Bank Park.
Perhaps of equal importance, his emergence means Geoff Geary and Ryan Madson can be repurposed into suitable roles. There are certain situations where the team can really depend on these two, and they're getting those opportunities now that Alfonseca, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers have been assigned to the big innings.