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The Week Ahead: Phillies primed to make a run

Aug 23, 2010, 1:09 AM EDT

Hold onto your hats Braves fans, the Philadelphia Phillies are finally hitting their stride.

The season has been a struggle for the Phillies. They’ve endured a host of injuries, questions about the preseason trade of Cliff Lee, some major slumps from outfielders Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, and even some questionable managing decisions.

All you have to do is Google “Fire Charlie Manuel” to see how quickly the bloom of consecutive World Series appearances can crumble from the rose.

But through it all, they’ve managed to keep contact with the Atlanta Braves, entering the week at 70-53, just 2 1/2 games back.

After all the injuries, they are finally healthy, with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard rejoining the lineup last week. After the hand-wringing over the loss of Lee, Roy Oswalt is ensconced in the rotation. After all the criticisms of Werth and Ibanez, the pair of streaky outfielders are sporting an OPS of .917 and .770, respectively.

And now they’ve got four games at home against the Houston Astros (54-69) this week, a clear chance to make a move. After that it gets a little tougher, with a road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles, but the final month is filled with a whole lot of Marlins, Brewers, Mets and Nats – hardly frightening.

And in case you’re wondering, the Phillies and Braves have six games remaining against each other: Sept. 20-22 in Philadelphia, and Oct. 1-3 in Atlanta. Should be a great race.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Reds at Giants, Aug. 23-25:
I thought the Giants were supposed to have good pitching. What happened? They better figure it out quickly with the Reds coming to town.

Twins at Rangers, Aug. 23-26: Texas had a bad week and still didn’t see its lead in the AL West dented much. But after being swept by the Rays, a good showing against the Twins would be good for the Rangers’ confidence.

Red Sox at Rays, Aug. 27-29: The Red Sox aren’t out of it yet, but if they’re going to make a move this would be a good place to start.

Yankees at White Sox, Aug. 27-29: Ozzie Guillen says he doesn’t like playing against spoiler teams like the Royals because they “have fun and kick people’s butts (and) laugh.” I wonder if the struggling White Sox are going to be happier playing the Yankees.

Phillies at Padres, Aug. 27-29: You might not have believed this entering the season, but if the playoffs started today, these teams would be facing off in the NLDS. Even more shocking? The Padres would have homefield advantage.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET: Reds at Giants (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 8:05 p.m.: Twins at Rangers (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 10:10 p.m.: Rockies at Dodgers (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Phillies at Padres (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Twins at Mariners (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Yankees at White Sox (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Rays (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

  1. walk - Aug 23, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Phillies are already on fire… and they are not gaining.

  2. gmc173 - Aug 23, 2010 at 6:21 AM

    Bob- Are you crazy? I dont think anyone is chanting “Fire Charlie Manuel” and the sites you talk about are from 2008 or earlier prior to the WS win. Before making a comment about the Phils fan base do some research.

  3. Kiwicricket - Aug 23, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    “to see how quickly the bloom of consecutive World Series appearances can crumble from the rose”
    You write romance novels in your spare time don’t you Bob?
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Crazimitch - Aug 23, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    Great research, there needs to be a FireBobHarkins.com page. You are terrible at your job. If your boss doesn’t fire you then he needs to go too.

  5. 50-year Phils fan - Aug 23, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    With all the problems the Phils have had this year – the Cliff Lee fiasco, injuries, lack of scoring – no one is calling for Charlie Manuel’s head. The other commenters are right. I don’t know where this Harkins guy is getting his information.

  6. Jonny5 - Aug 23, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    Anyone suggesting Charlie Manuel should be fired has their head firmly planted between two cheeks. BTW I haven’t heard anything of the sort since his first couple seasons passed. I mean it’s obvious that he’s one of the better skippers in the game.
    BTW, WHEN WILL THE FREAKING BRAVES STOP WINNING SO MANY DAMN GAMES ???? This is getting ridiculous.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 23, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Typical idiotic national ripping of Philadelphia fans in general. All Mr. Harkins needed to add would be “But it’s not surprising coming from a fan-base that threw snowballs at Santa Claus” to make a complete ass of himself. Instead, he only went about 90% there. Either way, Craig can’t get back from vacation soon enough.

  8. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Don’t worry, Janet Frame has nothing to fear from Bob Harkins.

  9. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    That’s rich – Mr. Bravo Homeboy needs to get back here, alright, primarily so the Horsemeat and Velveeta crowd can weewee all over him as soon as the Feelies move into first place.

  10. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I love how so much is made of Philly’s injuries and nothing is made of Atlanta’s.

    Jair Jurrjens – out over 2 months
    Matt Diaz – out over 1 month
    Nate McLouth – out over 1 month
    Eric O’Flaherty – out over 1 month
    Jason Heyward – played 1 month with an injured thumb AND 1 DL stint
    Chipper Jones – out for rest of the year
    Kris Medlen – out for rest of the year
    Takashi Saito – 1 DL stint
    Yunel Escobar – 1 DL stint
    Troy Glaus – 1 DL stint
    Martin Prado – 1 DL stint

    Both Heyward and Prado have injuries that won’t heal until after the season.

    And there’s been another 3 or 4 guys who were DL’ed but were AAA callups who filled in.

    The Braves have 6 starters with 80 or more starts this season with 1 guaranteed to not play another game and will not reach 100 (Chipper). Philly also has 6. Philly has 4 with 100 or more starts with Polanco and Ruiz 2 weeks away from reaching that mark. Atlanta has 5 but are a long way from anyone else reaching it. So overall, each team has had roughly the same number of injuries to their starters.

    Philly has 4 SP who have already made 20 or more starts as well as Moyer (who is out for the year) who made 19. And Moyer’s replacement (Roy Oswalt) has made 25 overall. Atlanta has 3 SP who have already made 20 or more starts and 3 at 14 or 15 (1 of those is out for the year — Medlen — and the other is at AAA). Philly has an edge in regards to SP injuries.

    Philly has 6 relievers appear in 30 or more games. Atlanta has 5. Neither has another guy anywhere close to 30. Philly with another edge.

    Seems to me Atlanta has had more than their fair share of injuries but since they’re in 1st, no one cares. They’ve also been able to adequately fill those holes due to their depth. Lose Medlen, plug in 2008 1st-round pick Mike Minor. Lose Chipper, move Prado to 3rd and plug in All-Star Omar Infante at 2nd. Send Saito to the DL, bring up Jonny Venters who played himself into a setup role.

    Let’s not act like Atlanta has had 100% healthy while poor widdle Phiwwy has had the injury bug. Not to mention Philly went basically 2 years injury-free (at least to the major contributors). Had to happen at some point.

  11. Old Gator - Aug 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Points well taken, but let’s face it – having Nate McLouth on the DL this year was addition by subtraction, wasn’t it?
    .
    The bottom line for this cranky old fan, though, is that it’s shaping up to be a helluva fun stretch run between these two teams. We’ve got some good ones elsewhere, too – the NL Central, the AL east. Let’s get past Labor Day and lay in an adequate supply of beer and popcorn.

  12. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Yes Nate was addition by subtraction, but we then had to go find someone to plug in. I jsut hate hearing all this crap about Philly having it tough when the Braves have had just as many, if not more, injury problems.

  13. Jonny5 - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    No one is crying a river of tears over it here nps. Its just truthful to say there have been many more injuries than most teams could handle and stay in contention. The Braves have also been in the same predicament and handled it well, which shows Cox is just about as awesome as they come. As Gator says, it is time to sit back and watch the strongest teams in the NL battle it out to win the championship. The way things are going now, two NL east teams will be in the playoffs anyway. It is going to be a great run to the end this season. I do feel with Howard and Utley back it wont be long before the Phills are back on top, and i think thats the point of the article. 2.5 games back with those two out is really saying something. Like, Look out Braves! two of the best players in baseball are off the DL and on the team in your rearview mirror.

  14. Utley's hair - Aug 23, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    As long as certain starters (I’m looking at you, KK, and damn, Joe, put the turkey leg down and go pitch!!) and bullpen dwellers (too many to list) don’t continue to dig those holes deeper than the bats can bail ‘em out, the Phightins will be there to pounce on any slippage by the Bravos.

  15. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    I’m not sure they’re going to overtake Atlanta though. Utley didn’t go onto the DL until June 29. Howard didn’t go until July 31. Atlanta has been in 1st since May 31. They definitely have the ability to overtake the Braves, but they’ve had multiple chances and haven’t.

  16. Utley's hair - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    But the Phils were also well-entrenched in a 2-month swoon when Chase went down. Now he’s back after a 6-week rest, ready for the stretch run. When he went down, the whole lineup was struggling, and they come back after the others have picked it up again. It’s all about timing.

  17. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Question is will Utley be able to just jump right in and be “Utley”? And so long as Atlanta continues winning series’, they should be in good shape. I think both teams play in October regardless of who wins the division.

  18. Jangocat - Aug 23, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Braves got no shot of holding onto the NL east. The Phillies had a historical batting slump for the current team and a ton of injuries, and the Braves couldn’t bury them. Philly will get the lead back when they play head to head again, their foaming at the mouth waiting for those games…

  19. Jonny5 - Aug 23, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    KK will continue as expected, Jekyl and Hyde. Blanton? who knows? It’s the offense that worries me, not many teams have 3 top notch pitchers like Philly does. Scoring runs is going to be the problem, losing games that should be won is going to be the problem. Sure it’s nice to hold the other team to 3 runs or less every night, but it’s never going to happen. We need the men with the big sticks to step up and carry this team as usual.

  20. Cluck - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    The difference between what the Phillies and the Braves have been without this season has less to do with the number of injuries but the quality of players injured.
    Nate McLouth v Shane Victorino – I think most would agree that the loss of Victorino for 15 days is greater then McLouth for 15 days (or the season)
    Martin Prado v Chase Utley – Prado who is having a great year was out for 17 games, Utley who is by all accounts the games top 2B has missed 46 games.
    Yunel Escobar v Jimmy Rollins – The Braves thought so highly of Escobar they shipped him off to Toronto but he only missed 14 games, Rollins has missed 59 games.
    Troy Glaus v Ryan Howard – Glaus has missed 9 games so far, Howard has missed 14 games. Glaus has played ok for the Braves but his numbers are far easier to replace then Howard’s are.
    Jair Jurrjens v JA Happ (2 months), Joe Blanton (1 month) and Jamie Moyer (rest of season) – Yes Kyle Kendrick has made 24 starts all of which should be listed as replacement starts.
    Missing Heyward has been a loss and Jones will defently be one even at the end of his career but the Phillies have also been without Palanco and Ruiz for significant time. Both teams have lost major chunks of the bullpens are long periods of time.
    Sure the Braves have had a lot of players on the DL but the quality of those players lost has not been nearly as great as those lost by the Phillies.

  21. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Atlanta has the best home record in the NL and plays the majority of their remaining games at home. If Atlanta sticks to their current winning %, Philly will have to win 25 or 26 games in their final 39 games. I guess we’ll see.

  22. Cluck - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    The difference between what the Phillies and the Braves have been without this season has less to do with the number of injuries but the quality of players injured.
    Nate McLouth v Shane Victorino – I think most would agree that the loss of Victorino for 15 days is greater then McLouth for 15 days (or the season)
    Martin Prado v Chase Utley – Prado who is having a great year was out for 17 games, Utley who is by all accounts the games top 2B has missed 46 games.
    Yunel Escobar v Jimmy Rollins – The Braves thought so highly of Escobar they shipped him off to Toronto but he only missed 14 games, Rollins has missed 59 games.
    Troy Glaus v Ryan Howard – Glaus has missed 9 games so far, Howard has missed 14 games. Glaus has played ok for the Braves but his numbers are far easier to replace then Howard’s are.
    Jair Jurrjens v JA Happ (2 months), Joe Blanton (1 month) and Jamie Moyer (rest of season) – Yes Kyle Kendrick has made 24 starts all of which should be listed as replacement starts.
    Missing Heyward has been a loss and Jones will defently be one even at the end of his career but the Phillies have also been without Palanco and Ruiz for significant time. Both teams have lost major chunks of the bullpens are long periods of time.
    Sure the Braves have had a lot of players on the DL but the quality of those players lost has not been nearly as great as those lost by the Phillies.

  23. MikeS16 - Aug 23, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    Are you serious? They’ve made up 5 games in a month. 2 1/2 in another month with 6 against Atlanta will be no problem. The last 3 against Atlanta will be Charlie just getting his rotation set for the playoffs.

  24. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    I see you’re comparing guys based on position since it favors Philly in that regard, which is bogus.

    Losing Prado for 2 weeks hurt Atlanta more than Philly losing Howard for 2 weeks (check the WAR stats — Prado has a full 2-win advantage). Losing Chipper for the rest of the year (almost 2 full months) hurts Atlanta more than Philly losing Polanco for 1 month. Heyward being injured for 40 games and then on the DL for 2 weeks is about equal to Philly missing Utley for 2 months (their WARs are nearly identical — 3.3 to 3.1). Ruiz and Rollins missed a total of 50 games while Diaz, Escobar, and Glaus will combine for at the very least 70 games (if Glaus is activated immediately), but Ruiz and Rollins have been more productive so their injuries hurt Philly more.

    I would take Jurrjens over all 3 guys you mentioned and you also left out Kris Medlen who is out for the year. Jurrjens and Medlen have combined for a 2.7 WAR in 29 starts compared to Happ, Moyer, and Blanton combining for 2.2 in 42 starts. Those injuries definitely hampered Atlanta more.

    And the injuries to Glaus, Chipper, Heyward and Prado are all still affecting the Braves. Chipper and Glaus because we don’t yet know how losing them will affect the team’s play, Heyward and Prado because they are still injured even though they’re playing. And their injuries won’t be healed until after the season.

    Both teams have had injury problems, but the Braves have been hurt more by them than Philly, despite Philly having bigger names hurt.

  25. nps6724 - Aug 23, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Since July 22 (28 games), Philly has a .750 winning %. Their total winning % is .569.
    Since July 22 (30 games), Atlanta has a .600 winning %. Their total winning % is .589.

    Which is more likely to continue? Somehow I doubt Philly’ll continue winning 3 of 4 for the next 5 weeks.

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