Series Preview - Phillies @ Braves (August 14-16)
August 14th - Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.02) vs Jair Jurrens (9-8, 3.01)
Joe Blanton has turned his season around fast since the end of June, turning in 6 straight quality starts, going at least 7 innings in all but one of them, and only walking 3 batters over that span. Overall for the season after these hot 2 months, Blanton's stats have normalized to around the same level as last year. His K:BB is nearly twice that of last year, while his homer rate has gone through the roof, leading to the comparable FIP. Blanton's GB:FB is also at the lowest rate its been over his career, which should be a slight bit worrisome to Philly fans.
JJ's last 2 starts have both been absolute stinkers. Not coincidentally, they've come against the Dodgers. Now, the Dodgers are off the schedule, and those starts can become part of the past. In his last 9 1/3 innings of work, Jurrjens has allowed 17 hits (lord!) and 8 runs, walked 5, let 2 balls leave the yard, but hey, he's struck out 10. The walks are the absolute crux of his problems, as they always have been. Cut them in half, and less issues will arise. Mark my words.
August 15th - Cole Hamels (7-7, 4.77) vs Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.12)
Its been a god awful season for the reigning World Series MVP. He's only posted one month with an ERA below 4.00 (May, 3.31), but strangely enough, most of his peripherals still look completely fine. I'm sure I mentioned this the last time we had a series with Philly, but his strikeout rate is nearly identical to last year, while his walk rate has actually dropped. The big kicker is his homer rate, rising by 0.29 compared to last year. He's just been terribly unlucky, with the .331 BABIP (a rise of 60 points from last year), and the 70.8 % strand rate (a drop of 5.2% from last year). I still honestly believe he can turn it around...the numbers back me up. But WILL he? It might just be one of those seasons where nothing goes right.
Kenshin Kawakami continued his spottiness on Saturday against the Dodgers, shutting them out for 7 awesome innings while only allowing 4 hits. He also recorded a GB:FB over 1 for the second straight start, though fly balls in Dodger Stadium aren't total killers like they are elsewhere. Kawakami was really stretched to his limit in the game however, throwing 125 pitches (by far a season high, his highest previous total was 113, and that was back in May). In fact, it was only the third time since the end of May he's gone over 100 pitches. You have to think that fatigue will come into play in this start, and I'm really hoping that the bullpen won't have taxing nights on Friday & Sunday.
August 16th - JA Happ (8-2, 2.75) vs Javier Vazquez (10-7, 2.90)
JA Happ is just not that horribly good, sorry to break it to many of you Phillies fans out there. He's striking out less than 7 per 9, while walking around 3. His homer rate is fine, at 0.89. Happ has been RIDICULOUSLY lucky, with a .256 BABIP and 84.1% strand rate. Don't. Drink. The. Kool. Aid. He's a good 3 or 4, but for people to claim that he's got potential on par with Hanson is absurd.
Javier Vazquez on the other hand, is better than what we're getting. In his last start against LA last Sunday, Javy didn't allow a run over 8 innings and tacked another 7 strikeouts onto his near league leading total. Overall right now, 7 of his last 9 outings have been of the quality, and his durability as been awesome, and 12 of his last 13 starts have lasted at least 6 innings. His ERA has nicely settled into this high 2, low 3 range, and quite frankly, I'll take that in exchange for Tyler Flowers and a bunch of filler. Good times!
Dinger nation in Atlanta on Wednesday, with FOUR bombs by the Braves, two of which by newbie Adam LaRoche. Martin Prado apparently got the memo about the extra base hits, throwing down a homer and a pair of doubles. The complaints about the walks still stand. Prado then handed that memo to Garret Anderson, who added a double and a homer on Wednesday. Thank god for that.
The team is on a nice roll right now, winning 5 straight and 7 of 8. Sweeping a short 2 game series against the Nats doesn't seem like too big of a deal, but considering how we've fared against them for the mostpart this season, its something we definitely needed. We currently sit 5 out in the division and 3 and a half out in the wild card...and look at that, the first place Phillies are coming to town! A sweep this weekend would really tighten things up in the east.