The Phillies are winning the games they're supposed to win, but last night's unrelenting display proved they're no longer on equal footing with the cellar dwellers of the National League.
Here's what I liked most from last night. With the Phillies still in control, but the Nationals within striking distance, the Phils punched the Nationals squarely in the chops with a leadoff triple from Michael Bourn, followed by a two-run jack from Jimmy Rollins, putting the game out of reach 9-3. On a raw night for baseball, another team – possibly the Phils from a week ago – would have rushed to pack up and go home.
The last few nights have been good therapy as the Phillies continue to claw toward .500. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand are locked in. Pat Burrell is hitting balls he wouldn’t normally hit and driving in runs. As a team, they’re manufacturing runs better. And Jon Lieber showcased something we wouldn't have expected two months ago: dominance. The box score won’t reflect it, but aside from the 4th inning, which included a misplay by Rollins, Lieber worked ahead of hitters and painted the black all night.
How much is a byproduct of the opposition? The debate continues. Truthfully, Washington trotted an especially bad crop of pitchers to the mound, perticularly in relief. Rule 5 picks and Triple-A lifers abound. It’s a shame what’s happened to starter John Patterson; he’s a shadow of his former self.
Take nothing away from the Phils. They still need to win these games. They just happen to be doing so in convincing, inspired fashion.
Game chat: Hamels aims for series sweep
Preview: Cole Hamels (2-0, 2.57 ERA) is coming off the best start of his young career, a 15-strikeout shutout over the Reds, becoming the youngest pitcher to notch 15 strikeouts in a game since Mark Prior in 2003. Shawn Hill (1-2, 2.92 ERA) has been one of the few bright spots for Washington. He'll try to help the Nats avoid their first sweep against the Phillies since 2005. Aaron Rowand tries to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.