The Phillies come to town trailing the Mets by 2 games in the NL East. They've been really scuffling at the plate lately, hitting .190 on their just-concluded 7-game swing through LA and San Diego. And they didn't even see Peavy.
Boy are they glad to see the friendly confines of Nationals Park. Still, it ain't "your house," Phillies fans. The Nationals might get better someday, but you all will still be stupid and obnoxious. (Ha! I sure told them!)
Here's my take on game one.
Joe Blanton: Oh boy, you never really want to trade for a pitcher with Billy Beane do you? The A's got the 2 of the Phillies top 4 prospects according to BA (Cardenas and Outman), plus another guy. He has value, but I just don't think he's the guy I'd want my team to empty the top ranks of the minors for. If those prospects pan out, Beane is going to look like a genius (again).
Blanton eats innings and never misses a start. He's given the Phillies a 4.00 ERA in five starts since he came over, which seems like about what they should expect. He throws a fastball (89 mph), change, curve, and slider. He doesn't strike out very many (12.3%, vs. 16% league average), and across the board is just average, other than the durability (779 2/3 IP since Opening Day 2005).
The numbers that would give me the most pause if I was a Phillies fan are the 6.8% and 6.5% HR/FB ratios he's had the last 2 years in Oakland. Even if Blanton doesn't do anything different, those numbers could easily double in Philly (league average is 11%) and balloon his ERA by a run or more.
Jason Bergmann: Bergy's last time out he was left in the game to allow 10 runs, 6 earned, because our bullpen was fried and Bowden couldn't see fit to DL Alberto Gonzalez and give Manny a badly needed 13th pitcher. Worse, he had to throw 51 pitches in one inning, a real injury risk. I will be watching his velocity and command closely for signs of overthrowing, which can result from fatigue.
Bergmann has had two starts this year against the Phillies: seven innings of shutout ball on May 20, and his April 3 start, when the then-undefeated Nationals dropped a 7-8 heart-breaker for their first loss of the year. Boy, does that seem like a long time ago.
Utley, Howard, Rollins, and Victorino are the lefties to watch out for against Bergy.
What to Look For
--Unless a roster move is made, the Nationals will likely be playing with just 23 available, as Guzman (thumb) and Flores (knee) are both probably still not ready. It will be their 75th short-handed game of the year (60%).
--What's up with the bats in Philly? For starters, only Utley and Burrell are having particularly good seasons, and teams seem to be really pitching around Burrell, who leads MLB in walks.
--Carlos Ruiz has been horrifying disappointment this year (.220 BA / .322 OBP / .280 SLG), and Chris Coste hasn't really been any better since the AS break (.240 BA / .283 OBP / .360 SLG). They have the worst offense from the catcher position of any team in baseball right now.
--The Eric Bruntlett / Gregg Dobbs 3B platoon has been no worse than Pedro Feliz was before he was hurt (lower back) a little less than a month ago, but that just means that their 3B offense has been nearly as bad as catcher. Feliz supposedly will be back Wednesday.
--Rollins this year has been very ordinary--his .764 OPS trails Theriot, Hardy, and Drew in the NL.
--Howard has his 33 HR, but that distracts from an overall .232 BA / .320 OBP / .483 SLG line that puts him in the bottom half of NL 1Bs. And that's not even sweating the 162 Ks.
--Righty Jayson Werth, however, has been ok (OPS+ 113, meaning he's 13% better than league average, park-adjusted) and has been getting more starts against right-handed pitchers, as lefty Brett Favre look-alike Geoff Jenkins has been hitting like Deanna (.183 since June 13).
--As much as their offense has fallen off, the Phillies bullpen has been magnificent behind Lidge (2.10 ERA). Romero (2.27), Madson (3.16), Durbin (2.15), Seanez (3.58), and Condrey (3.60) have all been very good or great as well. Any chance that it's helped them having 13 arms available back there in the dog days?
(Season record: 15-11)
Phillies roll, 6-2.