What's going on with the Phillies?
A lot has happened since the Mets won two out of three against the Phillies to start the second half of the season. New York's rivals from the other end of the turnpike dropped 20 of their next 25 games, fired their veteran manager, and made a host of roster changes. One of those changes is not the return of Ryan Howard, as Philadelphia's star first baseman appears to be staying on the disabled list for the remainder of the season. Howard suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee back in early July, and the Phillies need him to return to his former mashing self if they hope to contend for the playoffs in the near future.
While Howard is locked in to play for the Phillies next season, starting pitcher Roy Halladay is not. No wonder he was so eager to return from the disabled list on Sunday and show that he can still throw a baseball. Two runs allowed in six innings in Philly's 9-5 win over Arizona is pretty delightful when you've got an ERA of 7.81 for the season, but what's most important for Halladay is to show that he's healthy. The legendary right-handed pitcher is probably not going to have his $20 million option for 2014 picked up by the Phillies (but you never know with Ruben Amaro Jr.), so every solid start he makes between now and the end of the season could be a big factor in determining his next contract.
Who are these guys?
Roger Bernadina is a guy many Mets fans are familiar with from his long tenure with the Washington Nationals. Despite his loyalty, however, Bernadina was cast aside by the franchise when it traded for David DeJesus last week. The Phillies took advantage and snatched by Bernadina to help fill the void in center field left when Ben Revere hit the disabled list with a broken foot. There's a lot of truth to the notion that Bernadina is a better player than Michael Martinez, and in four games with the Phillies so far, "The Shark" already has a home run and a pair of sweet catches.
Cody Asche is a 23-year-old third baseman who was considered by many to be the top batting prospect in Philadelphia's system before he was called up in late July. Asche was hitting .295/.352/.485 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley season, and since that's in the International League, we can take those numbers semi-seriously. 95 strikeouts in 404 at-bats at that level don't make a strong argument for the batting average to hold up, but Asche appears to have some power that he can grow into. The one good thing about Howard being on the shelf is that Asche can play every day and give Phillies fans a glimpse of a future in which he shines on a bad team. David Wright knows how that feels.
Who's on the mound?
Monday: Cliff Lee vs. Zack Wheeler
Speaking of shining on a bad team, have you guys seen Lee lately? He's still really good. That's terrific news for the Phillies, because they are stuck with him until 2015 (and maybe 2016 if his option vests). Seemingly indestructible in the strikeout-to-walk category, Lee's on major weakness is giving up the home run ball, which he did three times in his last start against the Mets. That was back on July 21, which New York fans will remember as one of the many days in which Matt Harvey was awesome. Lee will get a chance to match-up against another young Mets pitcher tonight when Wheeler takes the hill. After looking very raw during his first handful of starts, Wheeler has been pleasantly effective in his past few outings.
The last time I wrote about Kendrick he was looking like a nice little surprise asset for the Phillies, but since then he's been dreadful. Kendrick started the stretch of poor pitching with a bizarre start against the Mets on July 19 in which he struck out a season-high seven batters but still allowed six runs in 5.2 innings. I guess that's what that powerhouse Mets lineup can do to you sometimes. Anyway, Kendrick has not been much better since. He's allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts. Meanwhile, Niese has been nothing short of terrific with 18 strikeouts and four walks in his last 13 innings pitched. Despite his lack of sizzle, Niese is still a very important part of New York's future, so it would be delightful to see him keep up his excellent pitching.
Sizzle! That's what this match-up has! Dice-K! (that's what they used to call him, right?) Hamels! Great pitching! Well, at least one of these pitchers has been trending towards "great" lately. That's Hamels, who we kind of knew wouldn't have an ERA above 4.00 all season. Predictably, Hamels has been his excellent self lately, with 29 strikeouts and three walks in 38 August innings. It seems like just yesterday that Phillies fans were toting Hamels as the next big thing, and now he's all grown up at 29 years old and at the start of a huge contract. The good news for the Phils is that Hamels (unlike Howard) has made his deal look like a good one from the start thanks to an ERA that has steadily decreased since his early season troubles.
Thursday: Ethan Martin vs. Matt Harvey
Martin, like Asche, is a Phillies prospect who could be a big part of the team in future years. After a rocky MLB debut against the Braves on August 2, Martin put together three decent starts before getting pulled in the first inning against the Diamondbacks on Saturday (three walks, three hits, three runs allowed). Martin's early departure made it all the more remarkable that the game ended up lasting 18 innings and over seven hours. He'll try to be a bit better on Thursday, when he'll face Harvey, whose WHIP is still 0.93 despite giving up 13 hits to Detroit over the weekend. The Mets have only been victorious in a single Harvey started since he dominated the Phillies for seven innings on July 21.
What about some GIFs?
Darin Ruf hits a game-tying home run in the 8th inning on Saturday night. This is fun to watch when you realize that the Phils eventually lost in 18 innings and that they are doomed to mediocrity for the next five years
Seeing fans wave giant faces of players/celebrities is kind of starting to get old. You know what never gets old? Jimmy Rollins striking out.
Phillie fan drops foul ball, gets scolded by wife.