Apr 30, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 2 of 18

Since the baseball season is long (a marathon, not a sprint they always say). Let's keep track of the Phillies 2009 season in digestible bites. A weekly wrap-up doesn't give justice to the ups and downs that a team goes through because it's so uneven.Therefore, I've decided to summarize the season in 9 game swaths, the equivalent of 3 series, barring rainouts and schedule unevenness. Plus, 9*18=162...I like even numbers.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 2

Slice Record: 6-3
Cumulative Record: 10-8
Standing at Slice's End: 0.5 games behind suddenly reeling Marlins
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Brewers, Padres
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Marlins, Nationals
Wins to Remember: Scoring 7 runs in the 9th to defeat the Braves 7-3 on April 24, 2009. Recovering from 2 different 4 run deficits with 2 grand slams to win 13-11 against the Nationals on April 27, 2009.
Loss to spill milk over: Giving up 4 runs in the 9th to lose to Padres 8-5 on April 18, 2009.
Nobody's perfect: But Brad Lidge was close for awhile
Bats do help: When facing Dave Bush (no-hit the Phillies until the 8th inning) and Braden Looper
New favorite opposing pitcher: Cody Ross, outfielder, Marlins
Nemesis Alert: Josh Johnson
Needs a 4 leaf clover and a rabbit's foot: Cole Hamels
Hitting Heroes: Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Pedro Feliz, Shane Victorino
Need Adjustments: Jimmy Rollins, Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Scott Eyre
Holding the Fort Down: Clay Condrey, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Jaimie Moyer

Let's call them the April comeback kids. The wins at Florida and against Washington were especially noteworthy, showing all you need is a decent bullpen and really potent bats to compete in the NL East. Ibanez and Utley are tearing up the league right now with Ibanez leading the league in .SLG and total bases. Feliz is drawing walks and flashing power and Howard's strikeout rate has declined since last year. On top of that production, Matt Stairs is the man, and I won't hear anyone else say otherwise. The team still has an .OPS above .800; that is really, really good. J-Roll...where hast thou gone?.....first base is but 90 feet away for you to tend to.

The pitching has improved enough to not be a complete liability. Hamels has shown flashes of returning to form, but a Prince Fielder line drive to the shoulder probably is not one of the top 100 feelings in the world. Myers is volatile like an organic solvent, and Blanton has shown himself to be hittable (14.6 H/9 IP). The middle bullpen has been solid with Condrey, "Everyday" Durbin, and Madson holding the opponents down until the offense decides to score after inning 7. It would be nice if the team ERA dropped below 5 at some point this season.

Overall, sweeping the Marlins in Florida was a great way to punctuate April, and allows them to clinch a winning April record for the second straight year. Game on, division rivals, game on. The race has truly begun.

A peek ahead: The conclusion of the Nationals series, the first and second series against the Mets, and an encounter with the Cardinals

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