Phillies Semi-Weekly Report Card #6

Record since last Report Card: 5-1

Overall Record: 24-13 (1st in division)

contrerasA second straight strong week saw the Phils take over the best record in the NL and a 5-game lead in the division, which is easily the biggest lead for any team in baseball.  The team was apparently unaffected by a start-and-stop beginning of the week, thanks to a rain-out on Tuesday, another rain-out for the second game of a double-header on Wednesday, and an off day on Thursday. 

Of course, an injury update is needed.  First, the bad news, Brad Lidge is back on the DL with an elbow problem.  It’s a shame, because he was really starting to show some positive signs, but now it just seems like it will be hard for the team to move forward under the assumption that he will be the closer.  Carlos Ruiz missed a few games with a knee injury, which left the Phils with their third-stringers at shortstop (Wilson Valdez) and catcher (Paul Hoover) for the Milwaukee series, which they swept anyway.  The really good news is that Jimmy Rollins and Carlos returned to the line-up on Monday night in the 12-2 rout of the Pirates.

Position Players:  It was the best showing from this group since they dominated over the first 8 games of the season.  They scored 9 runs or more in 4 of the 6 games.  Considering that stat, nobody had a monster week, though Victorino and Howard each had 10 hits, with Howard adding a grand slam and 6 RBI against the Pirates on Monday.  Ruiz stayed hot at the start of the week, going 4-5 with a homer in a win in Colorado.  His replacement, Hoover, made a huge contribution in the Brewer series, going 5-10 with 3 walks and scoring 6 runs in the 3-game sweep.  Solid contributions continued from Utley, Werth, and Polanco, while Ibanez continued to be the lone disappoinment offensively.

Grade: A

Starting Pitchers:  It wasn’t a spectacular week for the starters, especially compared to last week, but they were solid and they deserve credit for continuing to prevent over-exposure of the short-handed and not-so-great bullpen.  The starter went at least 6 innings in every game, which really goes a long way towards making your bullpen look better than it is. 

In his third start of the season, Joe Blanton looked pretty good again but he ended up with yet another unimpressive line.  He’s a had a little bad luck and could be on the verge of being the guy he was last season.  Halladay, pitching in his hometown of Denver for the first time, fought his way to a no-decision on a day when he didn’t have his best stuff.  Surprisingly, his start was the only game the Phils lost on the week.  Hamels and Kendrick closed out the week with two strong starts.  Hamels gave up back-to-back solo shots to the Brewers in the 6th inning, but was unscathed aside from that in his 6.2 innings of work.  Kendrick went 8 strong against the lowly Pirates, giving up 2 runs for his second win.

Grade: B

Bullpen: Another nice week from these guys, which is impressive with Lidge and Madson both out.  On the other hand, with the starters eating innings and the offense putting up big numbers, they weren’t pitching in many pressure situations and they were well-rested.  Any week that goes by without Nelson Figueroa appearing in a game is probably going to be a good week for this team.

Jose Contreras has been the story, and he’s taken over the closer role.  It will be interesting to see if he gives it up at any point for the rest of the season.  In 13.1 innings so far, he’s given up 1 run and struck out 18.  On Friday, he came into the game with the Phils leading 10-6 with one out in the 9th, and runners on 1st and 2nd.  He walked the first batter he faced, to load the bases, then threw two balls to the next batter, who represented the tying-run.  After a timely visit from Rich Dubee, Contreras unleashed a series of perfectly placed high-90’s fastballs and splitters to strike out the next two batters and end the game.

With Contreras unavailable on Sunday, J.C. Romero got the save opportunity and he responded with a 1-2-3 9th inning to secure the 4-2 win.

Grade: B+

Up Next:  The homestand that began last night continues.  One more with Pittsburgh, then two with the Cubs, and Boston comes to town over the weekend.  The rotation, starting tonight, sets up as Halladay, Moyer, Blanton, Hamels, Kendrick.  That means Halladay will be on the hill against the BoSox on Sunday.

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