The Phillies (62-52) will be welcoming back to Philadelphia the once proud Pirates (52-62, 5th National League Central) for a three games weekend series. The first game of the series will be played tonight at Citizens Bank Park. The game will start at 7:05 pm Eastern. The Phillies’ starter will be Joe Blanton (6-12, 4.94), who is coming off his first victory as a Phil against the Cardinals on August 2, when he went seven very strong innings, giving up only an earned run on four hits, in the Phillies’ 2-1 win. This will be his first career start against the Bucos. He will be looking for his second win as a Phil, eating up the innings as he does so, while trying to continue Pittsburgh’s present woes. His opponent will be Pete Maholm (7-7, 3.95), who is coming off a lost to the Cubs on August 2, as he got bombed by the presently mighty Cubs, giving up five earned in six innings of work on eight hits, in the Pirates’ 5-1 lost. He has faced the Phillies earlier this year, pitching a complete game against them on April 27, giving up only one earned run on two hits, in the Pirates’ 5-1 win. He hopes to improve his present record while hoping that the Phillies’ batters won’t do any better against him this time around.
There are presently rumbling among both the fan blogs’ and Philly sports writers over the inconsistenty of the Phillies’ offense, an offense that for one or several days will score five or more runs without any problem, and the next can’t seem to be able to even buy a run, making the opposing starter look like Cy Young in the process, while forcing their own starters to be almost picture perfect with some very sad results. I don’t know if this goes back to hitting coach Milt Thompson or not, but it does go to how this team is built. Too much concentration on the long ball and too little concentration on having guys, especially those in the 6-7-8 holes in the battling line-up, being able to make contact to not just put the ball in play, but to follow the late Wee Willie Keeler’s maxim of hitting them where they ain’t, and unfortunately, the guys are hitting them right where the opposition fielders are. And, as I have stated here several times before, they are not doing enough small ball to try and put pressure on the opposition. (Exception being Shane Victorino, as every time he gets on, he puts on the pressure with his threat to steal a base, although I have seem to have noticed a lack of that happening right now. Maybe the home run bug has made him forget about just getting on base and making the defense nervous?) So, if it is Milt Thompson, I have this question: Is there anyone in the present organization who can make these guys do the little things, i.e., small ball, whether they like it or not, and can do it as soon as he shows up? If there isn’t such a person, then firing Thompson now won’t mean anything if they don’t have anyone waiting in the wings who can take charge as soon as he arrive and show these home run hitters the reality that small ball helps a lot more than home runs when it come to be a more consistent run scoring team.
The Phillies’ lead over the Marlins is a game and a half and two games over the Mets as the two teams prepare to face each other at Shea Stadium for a weekend series. The Phillies lead the Braves by nine and a half games as the Braves’ win over the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The Phillies will be trying to take advantage of the once powerful Pirates and try to come away with a sweep at best or a series win at worst while hoping that their two nearest rivals in the East will end up cancelling each other out by the time the weekend is over.