Series Preview: The Phillies

Current record: 38-33, 2nd place in NL Central, 1.0 game back

Up Next: Philadelphia Phillies, 34-40, 5th place in NL East, 9.0 games back

Season Series: 2-1

Notes: The Phillies are not the powerhouse team that has won the NL East for the past five seasons. 1B Ryan Howard has not played yet after rupturing his Achilles in last year’s playoffs. 2B Chase Utley has been out all year with chronic knee issues, but may make his season debut this week. Fill-in second baseman Freddy Galvis is out for the season with a back injury and was just hit with a 50 game PED suspension too. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay is out until at least late July with a strain in the back of his shoulder. Still, the Phils have a few dangerous bats in Hunter Pence (.271/.334/.458) and Carlos Ruiz (.351/.420/.569).

Familiar Faces: Ty Wigginton, Erik Kratz

Probable Pitchers
Monday: RH Jeff Karstens (0-1, 12.0 IP, 5 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
vs. RH Joe Blanton (6-6, 91.0 IP, 74 K, 5.04 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Karstens makes his return to the rotaion after missing over two months with shoulder and hip injuries.

Tuesday: LH Erik Bedard (4-7, 72.0 IP, 69 K, 4.13 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
vs. RH Vance Worley (3-4, 68.0 IP, 61 K, 2.78 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Wednesday: RH James McDonald (6-3, 90.1 IP, 83 K, 2.19 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)
vs. TBA

The Phillies played a doubleheader yesterday and haven’t announced their starters for Wednesday or Thursday yet. Both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels pitched on Sunday, so expect a spot start from a minor leaguer.

Thursday: RH A.J. Burnett (8-2, 75.0 IP, 62 K, 3.24 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
vs. TBA RH Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 67.0 IP, 46 K, 5.24 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)

Kendrick pitched on Saturday so he’s my best guess for this spot.

No lineups yet.

More Tough Matchups On The Horizon

The Pirates have scored 11 runs in six games. An average of 1.83 runs/game. The team batting average is .199. What do you expect when a team of average (at best) bats faces some of the best pitchers in the league? Here are the opponents’ starting pitchers for the Pirates’ first twelve games.

vs. Roy Halladay, 1-0 L

vs. Cliff Lee, 2-1 W
vs. Vance Worley, 5-4 W
vs. Clayton Kershaw, 2-1 L
vs. Chad Billingsley, 4-1 L
vs. Chris Capuano, 3-2 L
vs. Ian Kennedy
vs. Daniel Hudson (*not announced yet, my projection.)

And here are the results of last year’s NL Cy Young award voting (from baseball reference):

Rank Tm Vote Pts 1st Place Share WAR W L ERA SV IP ER BB SO WHIP
1 Clayton Kershaw LAD 207.0 27.0 92% 7.0 21 5 2.28 0 233.1 59 54 248 0.977
2 Roy Halladay PHI 133.0 4.0 59% 7.4 19 6 2.35 0 233.2 61 35 220 1.040
3 Cliff Lee PHI 90.0 0.0 40% 6.9 17 8 2.40 0 232.2 62 42 238 1.027
4 Ian Kennedy ARI 76.0 1.0 34% 5.5 21 4 2.88 0 222.0 71 55 198 1.086
5 Cole Hamels PHI 17.0 0.0 8% 5.4 14 9 2.79 0 216.0 67 44 194 0.986
6 Tim Lincecum SFG 7.0 0.0 3% 4.4 13 14 2.74 0 217.0 66 86 220 1.207
7 Yovani Gallardo MIL 5.0 0.0 2% 2.7 17 10 3.52 0 207.1 81 59 207 1.215
8 Matt Cain SFG 3.0 0.0 1% 3.9 12 11 2.88 0 221.2 71 63 179 1.083
9 John Axford MIL 2.0 0.0 1% 2.7 2 2 1.95 46 73.2 16 25 86 1.140
9 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2.0 0.0 1% 3.0 4 3 2.10 46 77.0 18 32 127 1.039
11 Madison Bumgarner SFG 1.0 0.0 0% 2.8 13 13 3.21 0 204.2 73 46 191 1.212
11 Ryan Vogelsong SFG 1.0 0.0 0% 3.7 13 7 2.71 0 179.2 54 61 139 1.252
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/11/2012.

The Pirates face six of the ten starting pitchers to get votes as the best pitcher in the National League last year. When does it get easier? Matt Cain‘s one of the best pitchers in the league, Daniel Hudson has nasty stuff. Ian Kennedy broke out in a big way. Last year Ryan Vogelsong struck out 8 in 5.2 innings against the Pirates in the first start of his comeback year. The much-maligned Barry Zito threw a complete game shutout in Colorado in his  last start. Joe Saunders threw seven shutout innings in his first start of the year.

Seriously, the Pirates could easilty be looking at a 4-8 record when this stretch is over. If they want to be better, then:

1) Their own pitching needs to keep up the good work. Allowing only 2.5 runs/game has kept the Pirates in every game so far.
2) The bats need to find a way to string some hits together. Also, take some more walks. You can be selective while still being aggressive. Seven walks in six games is woeful.

Let’s hope they pick it up this weekend in San Francisco. The Pirates starters are slated to be James McDonald, Charlie Morton (season debut) and Kevin Correia. I’ll see you Monday with the Weekend Wrapup.

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