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71-game-thread-can-we-beat-the-guys-in-first | July | 2008 Articles

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7/1 Game Thread: Can We Beat the Guys in First?

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Double update You can listen to me on The Free Radical, an interview I did last Thursday. Update This just in: Chipper's (probably) gonna play tonight! I'd imagine this would be a big psychological lift for the team. I wouldn't be too surprised if he was taken out in the late innings, but having him back -- especially after we kept hearing he was headed back to the DL -- is a huge, huge bonus. Well, this series is kind of important. The good news is we're catching the Phillies on their back feet, as they're 3-11 in their last 14 games. The bad news is that we're not much better, as we're 6-8 in our last 14. But the composition of our teams is fairly different. With Chipper on the shelf, we can't hit to save our life, but we have a pretty good pitching staff. (3.69 team ERA, best in the league; 3.85 starters' ERA, best in the league, and 3.40 relievers' ERA, third-best in the league.) Meanwhile, Philly leads the league in team ERA and has an awesome lineup, but an utterly mediocre pitching staff after Cole Hamels. They score a ton of runs, so it doesn't matter that they give up a few more. On the other hand, while Philly has a fantastic offense, many of the individual players are off their pace from a year ago. They don't have a single regular batting over .300. Catcher Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard are both batting .215, and Jimmy Rollins and Howard both have OPS+ under 100. However, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell are still raking, and Jayson Werth and Chris Coste have thrived in backup roles. If we had a backup outfielder and backup catcher as good as Werth and Coste have been, we'd be in first place, and I'm so not kidding. So it's a balanced attack, especially as you can't really take your eyes off Rollins and Howard, who may have already had their career years, but are still dangerous hitters nonetheless. The starting rotation is another story. They aren't good. The infuriating Brett Myers has pitched his way out of the starting rotation again, and the rest of the guys aren't much better. Adam Eaton is pitching slightly worse than his career 4.71 ERA, Kyle Kendrick still can't strike anybody out, and Jamie Moyer is a 45-year-old #2 starter a year off a 5.01 ERA. All three have actually been overachieving, and their results still haven't been very good. The one thing their rotation does have is durability: their top 5 starters have started every game this year. With Myers' ineffectiveness, that will change, but thanks to Kris Benson's utter stinkbomb in AAA, their minor leagues don't have too many good options waiting in the wings. Pitching was always their weak point going into the year, and now would be an excellent time to exploit that weakness. Charlie Morton goes tonight, and will face another tough challenge, following starts against the Rangers, Angels, and Brewers. Thus far, he's pitched like he belongs. If we can sweep the Phillies, we'll be back at .500. Keep your eyes on the prize, guys.

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