By: Greg Frank
The Phillies kept their winning streak going out in Colorado as they left Philadelphia having won three straight and now head to San Francisco with a 6-game streak. While the Phillies have been clicking on all cylinders as of late, if there’s a team to slow them down, it’s the Giants. Dating back to last regular season, and including the playoffs, the Giants are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Phillies. After winning the first game of the 3-game series last week in Philadelphia against the Giants, the Phillies had won 6 of their last 7 games, only to be cooled off the next two nights and lose the series to the Giants. Here, the Phillies come in having won 6 straight with an offense that now features Hunter Pence in the 5-slot behind Ryan Howard. Will the Giants cool them off for a 2nd time in as many weeks?
The series opener is a battle of lefthanders as the Phillies send Cliff Lee to the mound while the Giants turn to Madison Bumgarner. Lee is coming off of a win in his last start at home against Pittsburgh, while Bumgarner got lit up in Cincinnati his last start allowing 7 runs (5 earned) on as many hits in 4 innings pitched taking the loss. Friday night’s game has Vance Worley slated to go for the Phillies, who was masterful in beating the Giants 7-2 last week in the only Phillies win of the series, as Worley earned his first career complete game. San Francisco will send another lefty out to the hill Friday night as Jonathan Sanchez gets the nod. Sanchez is known for his command problems from time to time, however, he has thrown a no-hitter in his career and has the ability to shut down the opposition. Saturday the Phillies and Giants play a matinee in a rematch from one of the pitching matchups in the series last week in Philadelphia. Cole Hamels (12-6, 2.62 ERA) toes the rubber for the Phils while the Giants have Matt Cain (9-7, 3.10 ERA) on the bump in that one. It was Cain who came out on top when these two collided in Philadelphia. To close it all out on Sunday, as of today, 8/4/11, the Phillies have Roy Oswalt scheduled to return from the disabled list and pitch against Tim Lincecum, who also beat the Phillies last week in Philadelphia.
For the first 8 innings of the Colorado series there wasn’t much to cheer about offensively for the Phillies. But when John Mayberry Jr. connected deep to left off Rockies closer Houston Street to tie the game at 3, everybody seemed to wake up. After the 8th inning of Monday night’s game, in the final 20 innings of the series the Phillies scored 16 runs. Don’t expect Giants closer Brian Wilson to be blowing any saves the way Street did in the 1st game of the Colorado series so the Phillies must cash in on their chances early on against the starters for the Giants. If there’s one player who has contributed the most during this 6-game winning streak offensively it has to be the big man Ryan Howard. Howard was 4-13 in the Colorado series but 3 of those hits were homers as he totaled 6 RBIs all in the last two games of the series. Throw in his 4-for-4 game last weekend against Pittsburgh and he’s been the main source of the Phillies offense, hitting well over .300 in his last 10 games. San Francisco struggled to score in the first two games of their 3-game series against Arizona as they scored only 3 runs in those two games, both losses. However, in the 3rd game they broke out with 8 runs in an 8-1 win, lead by Carlos Beltran’s 3-5 day with two runs scored and an RBI. Maybe the final game of the Arizona series was a telling sign of what’s to come for the Giants offensively, and if that’s the case they will be tough to beat down the stretch. Or maybe the Phillies pitchers will prove the 8-1 San Francisco win to be merely a fluke. Only time will tell.
While some prognosticators are forecasting a rematch between these two teams in the NLCS, for the Giants, they have to get to the playoffs first. Last year the Giants clinched the NL West on the final day of the regular season. This year looks like it will be another nail biter for San Francisco. Currently, the Giants hold a 1-game lead in the NL West over Arizona, who recently gained a game on the Giants having taken 2 of 3. Arizona is 2.5 games behind Atlanta for the National League Wild Card. Basically you’ve got 3 teams fighting for 2 spots in the NL. While the Giants can get into the playoffs via the divisional title again or the wild card, and still be seen as a threat regardless, they must get there first. While they did show some vulnerability in those two games they lost to Arizona this is the perfect opportunity for the Giants to let people know they’re not going away. For the Phillies the situation is a little bit different. They hold baseball’s best record at 71-39 and also hold an 8-game lead in the National League East. While there aren’t questions about the Phillies fate, as it seems evident they will playing baseball in October, this Giants team has given them fits lately. As said in the overview the Giants are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Phillies dating back to last season and until the Phillies can prove to be able to beat this team on a consistent basis, there will still be question marks as to what went wrong against the Giants and what is it about the Giants that the Phillies can’t seem to handle. So this series gives the Phillies a perfect opportunity to push those questions aside and prove that there is no team that they cannot beat. While the situations for both teams aren’t the same, these two teams always bring out the best in the other, and I expect that to continue. Some late nights for us here on the East coast, then a couple of late afternoon first pitches…buckle up Phillies fans. This is going to be fun.
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