Saturday, July 18, 2009

Phils take first two from Fish, open 6 game lead

The Phils have picked up right where they left off at the break, taking the first two from the Marlins, opening up their division lead to six games. After another dominant outing from Jamie Moyer against the Fish on Thursday, don't underestimate the important of what Cole Hamels did last night.

Hamels has been bad lately. We know it and he'll say it. The games he has won, like the 22-1 victory over the Reds, he didn't pitch in much adversity. Well, last night he did, and Hamels passed the test.

Chase Utley's two-run shot in the first inning gave Hamels a 2-0 lead before taking the mound. That lead quickly shrunk to one run on Chris Coghlan's lead-off homer. Phillies fans thought, 'here we go again,' and Hamels could have very easily become frustrated and flustered.

Instead, he settled in very nicely until the rain delay ended his night too soon. He pitched five innings, allowing just the one run on four hits and one walk, while striking out five. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't hold the lead but anyone who stayed up late enough saw the Phils rally to score two in the 12th; all starting with a Jimmy Rollins base hit.

Brad Lidge was shaky at best last night, but picked up the save. He did have these less than dominant performances during his perfect season in 2008, but that doesn't allow the fans to take it any easier on the Pepto when Lidge enters a tight game.

The Fish are now tied with the Atlanta Braves at six back, and the Mets are fading fast at eight and a half back. New York has lost their first two after the break, falling to Atlanta 11-0 last night and losing Gary Sheffield in the process. The Mets need a miracle to salvage anything out of this season.

The Phillies need to, at least, take one of the next two from the Marlins; keeping the Fish six games back. Obviously, sweeping them and taking an eight game lead in the division could end Florida's season and put the Phils in a commanding lead. Tonight's match-up of Joe Blanton vs. Josh Johnson should be a good one. Each pitcher has thrown seven shutout innings at the opposite team this season.

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