Sunday August 8 was a rare day. Roy Halladay gave up 5 runs in 7 innings, and that rarely happens to Roy. Even more unusual, the Phillies hung on to a 6 - 5 lead and won the game for Halladay. Yes, that's right, the Phils scored a few runs for Roy in this game, and the bullpen came through! Wow! Must be smoke and mirrors!
As a Phillies fan, I was delighted to see this game. Even with a plethora of injuries during 2010, the team is contending and at this moment is only 2 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
A shaky bullpen and a lack of scoring has plagued them several times this year, but - as a team - they just keep coming back. You have to be impressed with the team's spirit.
One might wonder how they are winning without players like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, etc. but somehow they are. I think some credit should go to the great improvement by Carlos Ruiz at the plate this year (despite losing some time due to a concussion). Raul Ibanez has finally started to do some clutch hitting, and Placido Polanco has been the most consistent hitter all year, despite playing with an elbow that needs surgery.
The starting pitchers have improved as well. Halladay is having another solid season, and Cole Hamels is throwing very well just now, despite getting no run support from his teammates. Kyle Kendrick got off to a shaky start this year, but has come around to pitch some nice games once we got past April. Of course, the new addition (Roy Oswalt) has a history of keeping the opposing batters at bay, so he will hopefully win some games for the Phils before this season ends. Joe Blanton has been inconsistent, but looked good in his recent start. Here's hoping he can keep his slider down for the rest of the year. Jamie Moyer, of course, is missed by all of us.
Note to Charley Manual: I have seen Ryan Madson with great stuff in his last two appearances. Both times, you yanked him in favor of Brad Lidge for the final inning. Fortunately, Lidge was able to keep the opponents from winning. But why not let Madson start the ninth inning when he has super stuff and has only thrown 8 or 10 pitches in the 8th, retiring the side in order? Why take a chance that Brad Lidge will have another "BAD DAY"? I don't understand it. Now, if Madson has thrown a lot of pitches or if the opponents have been hitting him hard, of course he should be replaced. If Lidge is the best pitcher left in the bullpen, well then bring him in. But when a man has barely warmed up and has great stuff, why mess with success? Leave well enough alone for goodness sake! The bullpen has been streaky and unreliable all year. I say this: DON'T KEEP CHANGING PITCHERS UNLESS THERE IS A VERY COMPELLING REASON TO DO SO. Unless they are very overworked, most pitchers are capable of pitching TWO innings of relief; so if a man is pitching "lights out" in the 8th inning, keep him in. Go with the hot hand. Otherwise, the bullpen is like Mr. Forest Gump's box of chocolates - "You never know what you're going to get"!
I'm hoping that my beloved Phillies can keep on winning and contending, even if they have to do it with smoke and mirrors until some of our star players can return. But watch out for that bullpen... it is probably the weakest link in the chain...... As of today, the bullpen's ERA numbers are as follows: Durbin 3.28, Contreras 3.49, Madson 4.01, Herndon 4.08, Lidge 4.62, and Baez 5.21.