With ace hurler Cole Hamels on the mound, the Phightinâ Phils have a fightinâ chance to take two out of three from the formidable Nationals, no small feat considering the offensive struggles this series. The rubber match begins at 7:05 p.m.
Preview: The Phillies offense has spoiled fans all season, so putting the past two games in perspective is certainly difficult. Scores of 4 and 2, what the Phils scored the last two nights, represent fairly standard totals for teams like Arizona and San Diego, the NL West and Wild Card leaders, respectively.
Nobody has scored fewer runs than the Nationals, who play all their home games in a massive wasteland better suited for government weapons testing. The low totals this series are no surprise.
These are the games that define the No. 1 starter role. Hamels (13-5, 3.64 ERA) has won four of his last five decisions and enters the contest with 150 strikeouts (4th NL) and 160.2 innings (8th NL). I make special point about the innings because he's already blown past last season's Major League total. Durability was once a major concern. Knock on wood; the Savior shows no signs of slowing.
For Washington, right-hander Joel Hanrahan (2-0, 2.76) will be making his first start against the Phillies and fourth Major League start overall. The 25-year-old former second round pick of the Dodgers limited San Francisco to one run and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 3-1 victory last Thursday.
Best of the press notes: Since July 1, the Phillies bullpen has posted a 3.11 ERA (39 ER, 113.0 IP), the 3rd-lowest mark among NL bullpens behind COL and WSH ... For his career, opponents are hitting .219 (50-228) against Hamels with RISP, including .169 (12-71) in his last 17 starts. The guyâs just ice cold.
Food for thought: The Phillies denied Ryan Howard the long-term contract he was seeking last off-season, opting for a raise over last yearâs salary. Howardâs people had reportedly asked for Alfonso Soriano-type money. Last year's MVP will be four years from free agency and will become a super-two after the season, meaning heâll face four years of arbitration eligibility. Considering his season, which has not been as productive as â06, what is the best course of action for the Phillies?