|Pitching the Phillies into Contention|
Written by Zach Greenberg (Contact & Archive) on August 26, 2008
The Phillies had high expectations for the 2008 season. They were expected to take part in another division race, despite the fact they had lost their starting centerfielder in Aaron Rowand. We are well into the season, and the Phillies are in the middle of another division race.
The Phillies have gotten some enormous contributions from many different parts of the team. Shane Victorino, Rowand’s replacement, has provided a huge spark when the team needed it most. Chad Durbin has become the Phillies number one guy out of the pen. But perhaps the largest contribution the Phillies have gotten is the rotation, despite a few midseason changes.
The Phillies rotation has been lacking something for the past few years: a true ace, a guy you can count on to win games, no matter the circumstances. This year, however, they found one.
Cole Hamels has been leading the Phils’ rotation all season, providing the great games you need from an ace. While with only 11 wins due to the offense’s poor run production, Hamels has a 3.20 ERA with 162 strikeouts to just 43 walks. He has done a great job of living up to the potential that surrounded him, ever since he was taken by the Phillies in the first round of the 2002 draft.
However, fellow starter Brett Myers has not endured the same success. After the Phillies obtained Brad Lidge in the offseason, Brett Myers, the 2007 closer, was supposed to move back to the rotation and start opening day. The Phillies envisioned that Myers and Hamels would form a very solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. However, this was not the case.
Straight from the get-go, Myers struggled enormously. He started opening day with a lackluster performance, going 5 innings, allowing 3 earned runs. He did not get much better. In his first 17 starts of the year, Myers provided only five quality starts. He lost his command, his fastball, and most importantly, his composure.
With Myers on a tight leash weeks before the All Star Break, he had one last chance June 27 to prove his worth. Myers went just 2 innings, giving up 5 runs. Soon enough, the Phillies lost their patience and assigned him to Triple-A to work out his mechanics. Myers came back up to the Majors after the All Star break a new pitcher. In six starts since returning from a three week confidence boosting trip to the Minors, Myers is 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA, giving the Phils 4 quality starts in 5 trips to the mound.
However, on Aug. 9, Myers and his manager, Charlie Manuel, were involved in a brief yelling match. When Manuel came to the mound to take out Myers, the pitcher was not happy, yelling “This is my f------ game.” Manuel was not pleased with his pitcher’s reaction, ultimately leading to more yelling in the dugout.
When Manuel was asked his opinion, he said to the Philadelphia Inquirer: “As far as I'm concerned, it's settled, but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen anymore.” Unfazed by the whole situation, Myers came back and delivered 7 strong innings, giving up 3 runs while taking the loss in his next start. Even though it has been a while ride for Myers, the Phillies hope he continues his hot streak.
Along with the strong performance from Hamels at the top of the rotation, the bottom has not disappointed either. Fellow lefty Jamie Moyer, the ageless wonder, has been equally impressing, surprising virtually everyone with his 3.54 era. He is 45 years old yet pitching like he is 20 years younger. Not only is he pitching great, he also has a very important leadership role in the clubhouse. He takes the young pitchers under his wings, and helps them.
The highlight of the season for Moyer so far was Aug. 15, when he went against Greg Maddux, who is 42 years old. Moyer outdueled Maddux, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits, and no runs while getting the win. Moyer has definitely surprised everyone with his play this season.
Adam Eaton knew he was on a tight leash coming into the season. He understood he very well could be replaced, after last season’s debacle in which he posted horrendous numbers. The 2008 season was a chance for redemption.
Unfortunately, he could not provide it. He pitched himself out of the rotation, out of the bullpen, and eventually, into the minors. His replacement, Joe Blanton, has been solid. Acquired by the Phillies before the trade deadline, Blanton has provided three quality starts since his arrival. His debut in a Phillies uniform was rough; he went against the Mets, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings. After his next start was cut short to 2 innings due to a rain delay, Blanton came out strong in a 2-1 win over St. Louis, pitching 7 solid innings, while giving up just 1 run. He knows he has the ability to pitch well, and the Phillies hope he provides strong pitching.
Rounding out the rotation is sinkerballer Kyle Kendrick. Just 24 years old, it has been a very up-down season for the sophomore. After pitching 6 shutout innings against the Marlins on Aug. 6, Kendrick was at his best in the 2008 season, with a steady era of 4.37. However, he then hit a tough patch, struggling in his next 2 starts, giving up 13 earned runs in just 7 innings of work.
He knew had to improve his control, which is what pitching coach Rich Dubee stressed the most when asked about Kendrick’s poor performances. Kendrick came out strong his next time out, compiling 5.2 innings of work, giving up just 1 run.
With the Phillies’ offense struggling, it’s up to the rotation to take them into the playoffs. They have the potential and fight to do it. Will they?