Philadelphia has endured 124 years of losing and only one world title. The symbolic high water mark for professional sports futility would be set in front of the home crowd if rookie Kyle Kendrick can’t hold off the Scott Rolen and Cards tonight when baseball's second half resumes.
Preview: After a week of sports talk radio, it’s hard to know whether fans are more pumped for the 10,000th loss or for the Phils to hit the ground running. After a couple days rest, you can bet the players are reenergized. With all that could happen tonight involving the fans, let’s hope the Phils take it personally and unleash hell on Scott Rolen and the Cards. They may fall short of able bodies, but you can’t deny the Phils have played hard.
Winning only goes as far as the next day’s pitcher. Can Kendrick handle it? Can he stay out of the history books? So far, he’s handled everything thrown his way. The 22-year-old right-hander will attempt to remain undefeated when he toes the rubber for his sixth start. He’s a perfect 3-0 with a 4.40 ERA.
Coming off a disappointing first half of their own, the 40-45 Cardinals are a dangerous team to have in the rearview mirror. The defending World Series champs are 7 ½ games out in the NL Central, and a major reason why are the struggles of Rolen and Albert Pujols. Manager Tony LaRussa is also hoping for a better second half from free agent disappointment Kip Wells (3-11, 5.92 ERA), who’s getting a second chance in the rotation after a demotion to the bullpen.
Keys to the series: The rotation needs to start setting a consistent, deep pace. Asking six innings from Kendrick is fair, but asking the same from Adam Eaton, tomorrow night’s starter, isn’t enough. Eaton continues to look like the Wild Card who could tip the balance between contender and pretender. The Phillies can demand dominance from All-Star Cole Hamels – although no one demands more from Hamels than Hamels.
The staff finished the first half with an NL-worst 4.91 ERA. That must change. Frankly, the only fix will have to come from the outside. The Phillies are trying to get people to believe "Gordon and Myers may represent the club's two significant trade deadline acquisitions," as written on the Phillies’ Web site today. If that’s the case, it’s time to find some other way to spend the summer. Seriously ... Gordon? Why should anyone believe his 39-year-old arm isn’t fried? His was smoked in a Gulf Coast League rehab assignment. For those keeping score, it’s the lowest rung of professional baseball. As for Myers, the Phillies can no longer dance around his non-existent timetable.
Save your optimism for other areas, like Wes Helms. Helms should get a fresh start at third base. He has a history of better second halves and his swing looks noticeably quicker lately. Bet on Helms to win back his playing time during the second half.
Other random predictions: Aaron Rowand will keep hitting his way to a lucrative new contract. Pitchers will start getting careless with Ryan Howard again like they did last season. Chase Utley starts showing signs of wear.