Fresh off a successful 4-3 road trip, highlighted by Sunday’s complete-game shutout over the Padres, the home town nine return to Citizens Bank Park to face the Washington Nationals tonight at 7:05 ET.
Preview: If history is any indication, this series is a toss-up. The Phillies lead the season series 3-2, but lost the 2006 head-to-head matchup 10-9, including a back-breaking series loss the final week of the season. Besides the absence of Alfonso Soriano and loss of Nick Johnson to injury, there isn’t much difference between this group and last year’s model. The no-name pitching staff, without the likes of Pedro Astacio and Ramon Ortiz, might actually qualify as an improvement. Dimitri Young has stepped in a produced. Ronnie Belliard has been impressive enough to earn a contract extension. And they still have a few horses left in the bullpen and some veterans, like Brian Schneider, who’re always ready to deliver a crippling blow. They won’t go down without a fight and are seeking their third-straight win.
Meanwhile, the Phils are coming off a high-energy win over the Pads. Coupled with Monday’s off day, the Phils will do themselves some good by jumping on the Nats early and keeping that mojo working. They’ll face right-hander Jason Bergmann (2-5, 4.46 ERA) for the second time this season. He looked good in his earlier starts against them and has a pretty good slider if I remember correctly.
This is an important game for Kyle Kendrick (4-1, 4.40 ERA), who’s trying to bounce back from his worst start. The Dodgers raked Kendrick from the first inning on, allowing seven hits and five runs over 5 1-3; he’s lucky he didn’t allow more.
Powered by the league's best offense, the Phillies should hold an edge all series, but with Kendrick on the mound, their mediocrity at home and a park conducive to high scoring, no game should be taken for granted.
Howard awarded: Ryan Howard, who led the National League with five home runs and a .500 (11-22) batting average, has been named Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week for the period of July 16-22, 2007. Howard also led the N.L. with 13 RBI, 27 total bases, 10 bases on balls, a slugging percentage of 1.227 and an on-base percentage of .636.
The Phillies had four other nominees: Aaron Rowand (.355, 1 HR, 8 RBI), Chase Utley (.379, 1 HR, 7 RBI), Shane Victorino (.343, 2 3B, 5 RBI) and J.D. Durbin (2-0, 0.60 ERA, 6 SO).
Best of the press notes: Jose Mesa currently ranks 11th on the all-time MLB list with 998 career appearances. He needs two more to be the 11th pitcher in MLB history to reach 1,000. He would become the third pitcher on that list to reach 1,000 as a Phillie. Kent Tekulve pitched in his 1,000th game as a Phillie in 1988 and then Dan Plesac did it in 2002.
-- The Phillies are tied for third in the NL with 26 come-from-behind wins this season. Only the Rockies and Dodgers (28 each) have more.