Just as the Phillies starting rotation, and even the bullpen in some senses, seem to be coming together, their bats, which had a surprisingly fast start, have cooled down. Granted it has only been two games, but in the final two-game stretch of the Phillies three-game series with the Braves, the team’s only run came on a Ben Revere RBI single, late in game three. Fortunately, that single was enough for a win, but scoring just one total run in the last two games before you embark on a ten-game west-coast trip, isn’t usually ideal.
Much to the disgust of those who work day-jobs, the Phillies will begin a west-coast trip this evening, which will see them visit the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks, over a ten game span, before returning home in late-April.
While the highlights of the Phillies opening home-stand might end up being Ryan Braun and Evan Gattis racking in their first appearances in Citizens Bank Park of 2014, the Phillies didn’t let the home-stand get away from them. With a rainout, the Phillies ended up 4-5 in a nine game home-stand. It wasn’t a great home-stand, but the Phillies (7-8 total) also kept themselves afloat early, much like the Rockies (8-9) have done so far.
The bad news for the Phillies pitching staff, which seemed to round into form in the Braves series, is that they will begin the road-trip against one of the better offenses in the National League, thus far. Behind the surprising start of Charlie Blackmon and the torrid pace set by perennial All-Star Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies enter the series first in batting average (.286) and fourth in runs (82), in the entire MLB. And a lineup that features a heavy lefty influence, won’t have to face Cliff Lee, or the Phillies best righty in A.J. Burnett.
The good news entering the series from a Phillies perspective, is that the Rockies aren’t exactly pitching rich. Looking ahead to the Dodgers series that will begin next Monday, the Phillies will have their two aces in Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett set up to pitch the first two games of the series, with a chance of getting Cole Hamels back at some point in the series as well. A series win here, would set them up for great success on this road-trip.
While Chatwood isn’t exactly pitching at a Cy Young clip so far, he only really needs to keep the Rockies in the game in this one. Pettibone will probably go five or six innings, and if the game is tied or close after that, it comes down to a battle of middle relievers. Even if the Phillies bullpen is rested after back-to-back outstanding performances from Lee and Burnett, they haven’t fared too well in those type of battles this year.
I look for Kyle Kendrick to get back on track in this one, with a big performance. To call me a Kyle Kendrick fan would be a stretch, but I expected a fast start from him, and got it in his first start. He got hit around a bit by the Brewers, but was decent against the Marlins. I expect this to be a seven plus inning performance from Kendrick, as the Phillies will get to Jordan Lyles, who only has a 2-0 record because he has had solid run support.
After posting a 5.14 ERA in his first full season as a big-league starter in 2013, Nicasio has turned into a the Rockies best starter so far, which puts into perspective how pitching-starved they are. Still, the 27 year-old has an electric fastball, that he has located better so far in 2014, and has added in a few decent breaking pitches. Make no mistake though, if Nicasio leaves a fastball over the heart of the plate (which he has had a problem with doing) Ryan Howard and Dom Brown aren’t going to miss it. If Hernandez and the bullpen do their part, this game-and series-should be a win.