Even with Roy Oswalt going for his 100th career victory, the visiting Astros present a nice opportunity for the Phils to turn their season around, beginning tonight when they counter with their appointed No. 1.
It’s getting difficult to write. Hell. It’s getting hard to watch. And it’s only April 13. The 2-7 Phillies are off to their worst start in 20 years. "The Phillies are just playing lousy" was how Rich Hofmann said it in the Daily News. The bullpen would appear to be an ongoing crisis until the team makes a move. No lead is safe ... if they can get a lead. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are walking hand-in-hand toward the Medoza line. Howard hasn’t been able to "flip the switch," not that opponents are handling him the same way. Pitchers appear to be jamming him. Utley isn’t hitting or getting on base. Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins are the only players hitting with much consistency. Defensively, Wes Helms is as bad as advertised. Besides a handful of dominant starts, nothing has gone well.
But I digress. Time to play the card. "It's a long season."
The latest loss was pretty conventional and rated low on the agony scale. Tom Glavine and Jamie Moyer both exited in the 6th with Glavine holding a 4-3 lead, emblematic of where these old war horses are in their careers. The Mets won 5-3, about what you’d expect against the Mets in their own building.
The offensive funk is familiar territory. Phillies have faced a lot of lefty starters so far this season, and once again, the lefty-batting meat has lost their thump. Howard and Utley improved last season against left-handers, but generally the team will struggle against southpaws.
The Phillies have an opportunity to readjust as they see three righty starters this series. After Oswalt, Jason Jennings and Woody Williams create a diminuendo of dominance. With Myers, followed by Cole Hamels and Freddy Garcia, on paper the 2-7 Phillies have a slight edge against he 3-5 ‘stros. Even Houston’s bullpen is in shambles. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are the only hitters with much wallop.
For the series to unfold as planned, Myers (0-1, 6.75 ERA) needs to pitch like he’s supposed to pitch. Myers allowed six runs and eight hits - six for extra bases - in 4 1-3 innings in the Phillies 8-5 loss to Florida on Saturday. Myers is 2-1 with a 4.28 ERA in five career starts against Houston and won his only start against the Astros in 2006.
For Houston, Oswalt (1-0, 1.08 ERA) goes for his 100th career win. On Saturday, he tossed a five-hitter in a 5-1 win over St. Louis.