Philadelphia Phillies Stalking Another World Series Berth

August 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

When Chase Utley slid into second base at Cincinnati on June 28 and thrashed his right thumb in the process, you could hear the big groan let out of Philly.

With Shane Victorino not being the typical menace to opposing pitchers that he usually is,  Jayson Werth being tossed around in weekly trade rumors, and Brad Lidge sauntering in from the bullpen to close games and looking less and less like his old dominating self, it just didn’t look good for the Phillies.

Maybe this just wasn’t going to be a great year. It happens. After back-to-back World Series appearances and one title to brag about, maybe the dealer just got tired of hooking the Phillies up with ace, king suited. You need some luck to win.

The Phillies played .500 ball in June, Utley went down, and within three-and-a-half weeks they trailed the Braves by seven games.

Atlanta had been rejuvenated by Jason Heyward’s emergence—although he closed out the first half on the DL, too—and had enjoyed a strong year from Troy Glaus. Tim Hudson teamed up with Tommy Hanson to anchor the rotation, and Billy Wagner brought some stability to the bullpen.

The New York Mets were hanging around. The Florida Marlins had some guy named Josh Johnson starting the All-Star Game for the National League. Word is, he is pretty good.

So that seemed to be it for the 2010 Phillies, and who could complain that much if they caught a little bad luck this year?

But then Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. fixed up a package of players that got Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros. No, getting Oswalt couldn’t compare to dealing for Cliff Lee the year before, but it was quite a move. Oswalt is a difference maker.

Philadelphia managed to hang on and play two games better than .500 in July, enjoying a little burst of energy when top prospect Dominic Brown came up to make his debut in place for Victorino. Brown had a couple hits on his first night in the big leagues, and it was a lift that the Phillies needed.

And now here we are, almost halfway through August, and the Phillies sit 2.5 games behind the Braves and continue to put the pressure on a young Atlanta team that is now being tested like the Phillies have been all season.

After dealing with his own thumb issues earlier on in the summer, Heyward had to be scratched prior to a game on Tuesday night because of a sore knee. He said he hurt it in Monday’s game. Welcome to the long grind of a big league season, rookie.

We forget that he’s a young man who would be entering his senior year of college this fall if he decided to go to school. He’s getting what many old timers would call experience.

Chipper Jones also went down in a heap Tuesday evening, injuring his knee trying to make a play in the field. Some within the Braves organization don’t think it’s a day-to-day thing.

“Chip’s going to be out a while probably,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Chip doesn’t think it’s bad, but that’s him. I don’t know.”

If Heyward continued to stay healthy and produce, Matt Diaz hit better than .240, and Troy Glaus duplicated his first half where he hit 14 home runs, maybe there would be enough offense to piece around Brian McCann and keep the ship afloat.

But Glaus went 39 games without going deep until he belted a homer Tuesday night. There just simply hasn’t been a lot of help, and the onus to keep the Phillies fighting for air has fallen on an unproven pitching staff, save for Hudson and Wagner.

Like a good veteran team would, it appears that the Phillies are beginning to smell blood in the water. The New York Mets fooled us for a little while and then became the Mets again, and the Florida Marlins traded Jorge Cantu to the Texas Rangers and look comfortable with accepting another mediocre year.

That leaves only two teams at the top of the National League East, and the Phillies are trying to prove that they have guile to go with ability.

On Wednesday evening, when word came that Utley has been cleared to begin hitting again, Roy Oswalt went out and spun seven shutout innings against the woeful Los Angeles Dodgers. Lidge struck out two in the ninth inning, and now all of a sudden the Phillies have won seven of their last 10, and 15 of their last 19.

The club will not rush Utley, however. He had surgery on July 1, and the Phillies predicted he would miss eight weeks. They absolutely will not force him to return until he’s ready. They can afford to wait for Utley until September, but they can’t afford to lose him again when he returns.

The Phillies hope to get Victorino back soon. Brown will be sent back down, it appears, as he has struggled since his debut, hitting only .237. The Phillies are also waiting on Ryan Howard, who went on the DL with a sprained ankle after hurting it August 1.

Howard had 23 homers before he got hurt and kept the lineup revolving around him in the absence of Utley. Somehow, someway the Phillies have used Werth’s .395 OBP and a lot of spare parts to keep the wheels turning towards another October.

Nobody is talking about Roy Halladay this year—possibly because Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, and Stephen Strasburg have gotten all the hype among N.L. arms—but he has quietly posted a 2.34 ERA in 185 innings. He’ll likely win 20 games again, exceed 230 innings, and lead the Phillies back to October.

Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels—who has enjoyed a nice rebound year—are still the best one-two-three the N.L. has to offer.

We will see if the Braves can hold on. If they indeed with the division, they will have earned it.

At a time when we like to point to the next big thing in baseball, the Phillies know more than any other club that the last seven weeks of the season are the longest seven weeks of the season.

Veteran teams hang on and ride it out, while young teams feel the pressure and wilt.

If you closed the book on the 2010 Phillies a few weeks ago, it’s time to pick it up and start reading again.

The two-time defending N.L. champs are still here, and they are only going to get better.


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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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