PHILLIES: Living on a Prayer

If the Phillies do happen to make the playoffs in 2010 (a big IF at this point), they may want to think about sending a portion of their postseason check to Carlos Marmol and the rest of the Chicago Cubs, as their meltdown of all meltdowns on Saturday has the potential to spark the Philadelphia clubhouse like nothing else has been able to do over the first three months of the season.

Down 1-0 in the ninth (with another brilliant start by Cole Hamels ruined), and just three outs away from losing their third straight game at Wrigley Field to start off the second half of the season, the Phillies needed something rivaling a miracle when electric closer Carlos Marmol strolled to the mouth in an attempt to give the Cubs their third consecutive win.

Well, they got one.

In the form of Carlos Marmol himself.

The implosion of Cubs closer Carlos Marmol was a precursor to a comeback win for the Phillies

After sending down the Phillies in order just the previous day for his 17th save of the season, the enigmatic closer (Sound familiar Phillies fans?) this time around gave up two hits, walked five, and inherited all four runs (one on a wild pitch) that crossed the plate for the Philadelphia in a crazy ninth inning that ending up giving the Phillies a much needed three-run lead. For the Phils, it was the second time in the last week they would come back from a deficit going into the 9th, and like the previous game against the Reds last Saturday, the bullpen was able to secure the come from behind victory. To complete the role reversal, the Phillies closer notched his 7th save of the season with a relatively calm (by Lidge standards) scoreless bottom half of the inning which in the process ended Philadelphia’s losing streak at two.

Big win. Actually, let me rephrase. HUGE win. Could be a real season changer.  But it doesn’t disguise the obvious.  The Phillies continue to struggle to produce runs when their best pitchers are out on the mound, and their overall play out of the gates this second half has not be close to satisfactory. With all that said, the Phillies win combined with losses by both the Braves and Mets put Philadelphia in second place in the NL East for the first time in July, and also cut their deficit to Atlanta to 4.5 games in the standings.

At the end of the day, you will not be able to find a better possible outcome for a team that was clearly outplayed for 8 innings on the road in one of the more hostile environments for an away team in all of baseball.

Other Notes

: Good to see Placido Polanco back in the lineup. His RBI single to tie the game up in the ninth with the Phillies down to their final out was a tremendous piece of hitting. Him and his .318 BA have surely been missed over the past 2 1/2 weeks.

:  The Phillies are still struggling mightily in the run support category when either Roy Halladay or Cole Hamels are pitching.  Going into Saturday’s game, Philadelphia’s bats have only been able to produce just 57 runs in the last 20 combined games started by the two pitchers. That’s an average of 2.85 runs per game. To put this struggle into perspective, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who by virtually every statistic have the worst offense in all of baseball, still average 3.21 runs per game. Wow.

: Speaking of the Phillies somehow making the playoffs, I got in a semi-argument today about Ryan Howard’s MVP chances. The other person said that if the Phillies make the postseason, then Ryan Howard should be the MVP of the league. For someone who has been an advocate of Ryan Howard all-season long like myself when countless people have been complaining about his power numbers being down (Funny, I don’t hear many complaints now though), it was tough to side the other end of that argument. However, as a baseball fan, I just couldn’t agree with the statement. First of all, it depends who else makes the playoffs. If the Phillies make it to play in late October, then which other contending NL East team (Mets or Braves) would miss out on the postseason?

That alone will eliminate at least one candidate right there.

Second of all, for all those who don’t understand the translation of MVP, it means “Most Valuable Player”. With that said, I can’t state with any sort of confidence that Howard is the player in the NL who is most VALUABLE to his teams’ success. He should undoubtably be in the discussion, but at this point of the season, he may not even be in the top three. Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, and New York’s David Wright, and St. Louis’s Albert Pujols have each put their respective teams on their back at points this season. While Howard may have slightly better stats then the four mentioned above (leads the NL in RBI’s), he hasn’t done that yet. Whether it has been because of  a “lack of power”, injuries to the rest of the lineup, or above average starting pitching, he simply hasn’t carried Phillies through stretches of games in the way we have been accustomed to seeing in years past.

Well, not yet at least..


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The Philly Phour

July 2010
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