So, here we sit. The Milwaukee Brewers (44-50) are farther back then they would like to be and with their backs up against the wall, they must sweep a series. The Philadelphia Phillies (42-54) on the other hand will not sit idly by and let the Brewers do so. Both the Brewers and Phillies are on backwards paths from last year and are trying to salvage what they can from their seasons. The teams’ struggles have been all too apparent, and with both teams losing their previous series before this one, they are both hungry for wins. The Brewers will try to rally behind Randy Wolf, Zack Greinke and Marco Estrada, all who will make starts in this series. The Phillies on the other hand have struggling pitching, especially in two pitchers who are absolutely dominant otherwise, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Even Vance Worley hasn’t looked as sharp as he did in 2011. Offensively, both teams look to turn it around, but it’s an uphill battle.
For this preview, I asked John Stolnis, a staff writer at That Ball’s Outta Here, a few questions regarding the city of brotherly love. That Ball’s Outta Here is FanSided’s Philadelphia Phillies blog so be sure to check them out! Here’s what John had to say about his team:
- RtB: First off, what’s up with the Phillies? 2012 looks about two steps back from last year.
- John: Two steps? Try 22 jazillion steps! Last year the Phils won 102 games, and even though they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year, they were still the favorites to win the division again in 2012. However, this was based on the assumption that the Phillies’ starting rotation would be as awesome as they were last year. But the odds of that happening was virtually impossible, which is what’s happened this year. Halladay had a shoulder ouchie that left him largely ineffective for the first two months, then put him out of commission for another month and a half. He’s only just come back now. Lee also spent two weeks on the disabled list earlier in the season, and has had probably the unluckiest season in Major League Baseball history (I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s a blog. That’s what we do). Lee, to be fair, has also been pretty ineffective at various times.
- Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both missed the first half of the season, with no real replacement at either position. Unless you count Ty Wigginton and Freddy Galvis/Mike Fontenot/Michael Martinez as viable Major League replacements. Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and especially Jimmy Rollins, also underproduced in the first half under the weight of greater expectations. The offense has been getting older for years now and frankly, Howard and Utley simply aren’t All-Star players anymore.
- And finally, a horrific bullpen has had a dramatic effect on this team. No lead was safe and nightly implosions by the likes of Michael Schwimmer, Joe Savery, Jake Diekman and Chad Qualls made it virtually impossible for the Phils to either hold a lead or stage late-game comebacks.
- RtB: Aside from their previous injuries, why are Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee struggling so mightily this season?
- John: Well, for Halladay, it HAS been injuries. There really is no other reason, other than possibly his age. Halladay, at 35, is no spring chicken, and this could be the beginning of the end for him. Or, it really is his shoulder. As for Lee, he actually threw extremely well in the first part of the season, but the fact that he went winless for so long started to have a mental effect on him, in my opinion, and he started to get hit around in June. He seems to be back on his game now, but this appears to be one of those lost years that pitchers and players sometimes get hung around their shoulders.
- RtB: Is Cole Hamels going anywhere or is the Phillies’ offer keeping him there?
- John: Rumor is that the Phils are prepared to offer him a 6-year, $130 million deal. I have no idea if that’s accurate. I don’t think that’s quite enough money to keep him, but I think it’s close enough that the conversation will continue. The fact the Phillies went to six years is a huge sign that they’re serious about keeping him. Ruben Amaro Jr. usually gets his man, and I think, in the end, Hamels stays a Phillie.
- RtB: Philly is playing worse at home than on the road. What’s up with that?
- John: That’s a great mystery. Citizens Bank Park has always been a huge advantage. A lot of the problem could be the weight of expectations that the home crowd places on the Phils. The Phillies seem more relaxed and focused when they play on the road, and much tighter when they’re playing in front of the battery-throwing masses of Philadelphia. But when you’ve got an offense that struggles to score runs, it doesn’t matter if they’re hitting in the top of the inning or the bottom of the inning. They’re just not scoring. Citizens Bank Park is a home-run hitters park, and the Phillies really don’t have any home run hitters anymore. They’re a pitching-first team playing in a homer haven. That’s a bad recipe.
- RtB: What is something the Phillies will want to be cautious of in this series against the Brewers?
- John: Uh, the left fielder. If Ryan Braun isn’t one of the two or three best hitters in the National League, I’d like to be informed of who is sitting ahead of him. Joey Votto is the only hitter in the Senior Circuit that can claim to be as good as Braun, and the fact he’s playing as well as he is without a lot of help in the lineup, and without his old buddy Prince Fielder, makes him even more amazing. Greinke will also be a tough nut to crack, although he hasn’t had the best couple of weeks, so perhaps the Phils are catching him at a good time. And, who knows, Greinke may not even be a Brewer by the time the Sausage-Eaters come to town.
Here are the projected pitching match-ups for this series:
- Monday: Wolf (3-6, 5.60 ERA) vs Halladay (4-5, 3.96 ERA)
- Tuesday: Greinke (9-3, 3.57 ERA) vs Lee (1-6, 3.72 ERA)
- Wednesday: Estrada (0-4, 4.10 ERA) vs Worley (5-6, 3.82 ERA)
Thank you again to John Stolnis for taking the time out to help with the preview. Be sure to check out That Ball’s Outta Here for everything Philadelphia Phillies related. As always, good luck to the Phillies, but go Brew Crew!