5* graded play on the Philadelphia Phillies as they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. While awaiting Chase Utley's return on Tuesday, the Phils send out Joe Blanton to the mound to face Jeff Karstens in his first start since coming off the DL.
The Phillies continue to underperform and to find new ways to lose games. They are mired in the basement of the National League East and trail division leader Washington by nine games. More alarming is that they are just 15-22 in home games this season. They are fortunate that the deficit is not 12 games as the Nationals matched the Phillies 4-6 record over the last 10 games and no other team in the division posted a winning record over the last 10 games.
The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to
be playing as they did last year when they teased their fan base with a winning
record at the halfway point only to fall apart in the second half of the
season. This team is better than last year's and they do have a solid shot at
posting a winning record season for the first time since 1993 and, if things
fall the right way for them, they could win the National League Central
This is a tough matchup for the
Pirates, though, and a game I think the Phillies will win. This is the first of a
four game series; the Phillies must win at least three of the four if
they are to rejoin the playoff chase. Speaking of Chase, all star second
baseman Chase Utley is at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and will play Tuesday night.
The ‘talk’ is that Chase Utley will rejoin the club Wednesday and none too
soon. However, how effective and productive he will be is a complete mystery
and only time will provide the answer.
The Phillies will send Joe
Blanton to the hill, and he simply must do a better job keeping the ball lower
in the strike zone. He has allowed at least one home run in his last seven
starts and allowed three home runs in his last start against the Rockies.
However, he is facing the Pirates lineup, which is batting just .231 as a team
and scoring just 3.5 runs per game. Pittsburgh has won games with clutch hits
and strong pitching throughout the staff.
The Phillies rank fifth in MLB
batting .264 for the season and will be facing Jeff Karstens, who is making his
first start since coming off shoulder and hip injuries. he has not pitched
since April 17 and his rehab was not spectacular. The Pirates have posted a
2.13 ERA over their last eight games, but I do not see that trend continuing
Take the Phillies Monday night.
5* graded play on the Chicago
Cubs as they host the New York Mets in the first of a three game series
starting Monday. The Mets are coming off a tough loss to the Yankees Sunday
night and now have this three game set, followed by a very tough four game
series at the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mets are in the midst of the playoff
race, but this stretch of games may prove too much for them to overcome.
The Mets versus Yankees subway interleague
series are highly charged and emotionally taxing games. As is the case in past
Yankee versus Red Sox series, the following game for each club is one where the
energy and focus level are at a low, making it difficult to win the game. I
believe this is the case for the Mets tonight and is magnified by the fact they
are playing a team they already know they can defeat. That is a sure-fire
recipe to fall flat in this game against the Cubs.