The first-place Marlins make their first visit to Philadelphia this evening, as the Phillies continue their homestand with eyes on five in a row.
It seems like yesterday when the Phils were wrapping up April and we wondered how much of it would change in May. We wondered if Ryan Howard would warm up, and he has. We wondered if Pat Burrell would cool down, and he has. To coincide with the start of Charlie Manuel’s "Hittin’ Season," Shane Victorino, Geoff Jenkins and others have started producing, while others, like Pedro Feliz, have had their moments. Chase Utley endured his first mini slump of 2008 only to bounce back as he usually does. If April belonged to Burrell and Utley, May belonged to the role players: Jayson Werth and his eight RBI night; Greg Dobbs and Chris Coste hitting for high average.
On the mound, Brett Myers got worse. Opponents are hitting .348 off Myers in May. Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton have been fine recently. Cole Hamels was roughed up his last start, but held opponents scoreless for 16 innings before that.
The supreme constant has been bullpen. This from a team that used 28 different pitchers last season. Except for the addition of Rudy Seanez on April 3, the pitching staff has remained the same, with no real call for change.
The only thing missing is a long winning streak, which the Phils can build on tonight. They’ve won a season-high four straight to climb 7 games above .500. (31-24). This is the time when clubs start to separate, and the Phils would love nothing more than to catch Florida by the fin and distance themselves from New York and Atlanta.
They looked good against short-staffed Colorado. Can they keep it up against fully-loaded Florida? They have a good chance as long as Myers can revert to the pitcher of old. He’s lost six in a row, but in his defense, he could use a little help. The Phillies are averaging just 2.5 runs a game during his last six starts and have been outscored 32-15.
The Fish have pestered Myers and the Phils before. Bad things happen when the Phillies play Florida. It’s a nasty little rivalry with bad blood and brutal finishes, as Myers knows too well. It was against Florida when Myers pulled his shoulder and made his first career trip to the DL. Overall, Myers went 0-2 with two saves and a 10.13 ERA in seven games - one start - versus the Marlins last season and is 5-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 18 career starts against them.
Mark Hendrickson (7-2, 4.14) makes the start for Florida. The 6-9 left-hander has been nice surprise for the cash-strapped club, who signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million deal after being non-tendered by the Dodgers this winter.