"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: May 2009

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News of the Day – 5/27/09

Today’s news is powered by the closest connection I could make between “Star Trek” and baseball:

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada played three innings of defense during a simulated game Tuesday.

Sidelined since straining his right hamstring while sliding in a game against Boston May 4, also batted in the simulated game. The five-time AL All-Star threw to second from behind the plate and ran the bases after the game.

[My take: The Mets sold pairs of Shea seats for $869.00.  So it only seems reasonable the Yanks would blow that price out of the water when it came time to sell their old seats.]

As I was talking to Sabathia a few days ago about why he decided to live in Bergen County, N.J., he asked some questions that indicated he plans to be with the Yankees for the long haul. Carsten Charles III, C.C.’s son, turns 6 in September, but C.C. quizzed me about which county high schools have the best athletic programs. Little C.C. is only in kindergarten, but his father was already thinking about possible high schools.

If Sabathia was planning to bolt the Yankees in three seasons, would he even be aware of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.? Probably not, but Sabathia cited the school’s sports pedigree. Sabathia had done some homework, too, because Don Bosco’s baseball team was undefeated last year.

Tino Martinez and Lee Mazzilli will serve as club representatives for the New York Yankees at the First-Year Player Draft, to be held at the MLB Network studio next month. The Yankees’ first pick will come at No. 29 overall.

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round beginning at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections will also be simulcast live on MLB.com.


Nappin’ on the Job


Yup, that’s what happens when you get the early crew covering a late night game.  An 8 o’clock start was pushed back a couple of hours by rain–no, by hail if you can believe it–and by the time the Magic dashed the high hopes of Lebron James and the Cavs to take a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference NBA finals, I was just about shot.

It was 2-0 Texas when I fell out.  Yanks couldn’t get the bit hit early against Kevin Millwood, Joba Chamberlian didn’t look great, and Melky Cabrera had to leave the game after crashing into the center field wall.   The bullpen couldn’t hold it down late.

Final Score: Rangers 7, Yanks 3.

Here’s the recap from the News, Post and the Times.

The Yanks remain a game out of first place.  Both Toronto and Boston lost too.

Carry your own bags (the redcaps are gone)

The Bombers get back to their more normal chapeaus, and A-Rod seeks to continue his resurrection . . . consider this the official game thread.

Yankees/Rangers (Chamberlain/Millwood)

I Got a Friend Shirley Bigger than You

I caught the highlights of the Cards-Brewers game yesterday. Fitting that it came a day before the 50th anniversary of the famous Harvey Haddix near pefecto.

Gerald Eskenazi covered the game and he wrote about his experience in the Times over the weekend.

I remember reading about this game when I was a kid and I still find it heartbreaking, don’t you?

Worth the Trip

David Chang is a big deal New York chef. He owns four restaurants in the east village. Last year he was profiled in the New Yorker:

He never set out to become a famous person. He just wanted to see if he could open a noodle bar. Now he finds that he’s a public figure, criticized and praised—but mostly praised—by people he’s never met. “Getting these awards freaks me out—the last thing I want is a Michelin star—because I know I’m not the best,” he says. When he thinks about the cooks he worked with at Craft and Café Boulud and how they were so much more skilled than he, and had put in more years than he had, and yet here he was getting all these prizes and all this attention, he feels himself starting to panic. Sometimes he tries to comfort himself thinking about all the bands he loves that made great music even though they were terrible musicians, but somehow it’s not the same. “I feel like I’m losing my ability to understand reality,” he says, “like when someone loses their hearing, they can still speak English, but their speech eventually becomes distorted because they can’t hear themselves. I don’t want to be this crazy. It’s tiring. I just want some mental clarity. But I don’t like that I’m becoming more self-aware of all my problems. It doesn’t make me feel better—I just feel unease almost all the time. I’m a total head case right now, I cannot keep this up. All I want to do is f***ing move to Idaho and ski and fish and read books. All I want to do is run away and stop.”

There are several mother figures in his life who worry about his health and try to persuade him to run away and stop: Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet; Dana Cowin, the editor of Food & Wine; Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse. “I never thought that I’d be able to be, like, friends with Alice Waters,” he says. “And for her to actually care about me—that is so weird. I think Ruth told her that I had shingles, and that’s when Alice had an intervention at lunch. She was like, ‘You’re not doing anything more, no more, no more!’ ” Then, there are the older-brother chef figures who know he’s not going to stop but who tell him to calm down. Andrew Carmellini bought him yoga lessons. “It was just when Momofuku started to really roll,” Carmellini says, “and I was, like, ‘Dude, I’m telling you from personal experience, you need to chill out.’ ” Mario Batali, who has opened seven restaurants in New York, three in Las Vegas, and two in L.A., while hosting two programs on the Food Network and appearing regularly on “Iron Chef,” comes into Noodle Bar a fair amount and gives Chang counsel. “Mario’s big thing to me is ‘Dave, would you f***ing be happy?’ ” Chang says. “He loves it. He loves life. I want to love life as much as Mario loves life.” He sighs. “It’s not that I’m not happy; I’m just fearful for the future,” he says. “I’m fearful that everything’s gonna be taken away. Fear is a driving force for most of the things that I do. I don’t know if that’s healthy.”

I was downtown over the weekend and stopped into Momofuku Bakery and had the famous pork buns. $9 for two pork buns.


If you can restrain yourself you can eat one in four bites. I ate the first one in five and savored the second in six. At about a dollar a bite it’s so worth it. You can also order the pork buns with a deep fried, slow poached egg.

Believe it. These pork buns are the Truth, man.

Then I had a slice of Arnold Palmer cake. That’s a cake made like the drink–lemonade and iced tea.  It was wild. The desserts are playful and crazy. They used to have Lucky Charms ice cream. I saw Sour Patch kids ice cream, and Atomic Hot Ball ice cream while I was there. Could be hectic but could be amazing. They also sell specialized milk and butter.

Here’s a piece with good pictures.

News of the Day – 5/26/09

Today’s news is powered by birthday boy Lenny Kravitz, who turns 45 today:

Yankees reliever Brian Bruney again experienced discomfort in his right elbow on Monday and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Bruney, who was activated on May 19 after being on the DL since April 25 because of a strained flexor muscle in the elbow, played catch on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, one day after a 35- to 45-pitch session in New York during which the right-hander experienced elbow pain.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Bruney said. “Nobody likes to go on the DL. It is what it is. I’ve got to find out what the problem is and at least get it diagnosed. I think there is something that we’re missing. Maybe some different tests will show what I’ve got going on.”

  • The manager isn’t quite pleased with the lack of communication from Bruney:

“I just think he wasn’t totally forthright in how he was feeling,” Girardi said. “We’ve had many talks with him over the last couple of weeks about how you have to tell us exactly what’s going on. It could be that by rushing himself back, he’s never given himself the amount of time he’s needed.”

Bruney felt some discomfort in spring training. Then he started the season brilliantly, retiring 22 consecutive hitters in one stretch. On April 21, he felt uncomfortable in a game against Oakland and told Girardi – with whom he has a very good relationship – that he needed a day off.

That day turned into almost a month. Bruney went on the disabled list and continued to feel something in his elbow when he played catch. Gradually, he said, the feeling went away, and he worked a rehab game, then pitched May 19 against the Orioles. Now he is hurting again.

Bruney said he had no regrets about coming back last week. He felt fine in the bullpen and fine in the game, he said, and his first round of tests showed no damage.


Texas Hold ‘Em

Phil Hughes delivers a Memorial Day win (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Phil Hughes likes pitching in Arlington, Texas. Hughes made his second major league start in Arlington on May 1, 2007 and threw 6 1/3 hitless innings before tearing his left hamstring and being forced to leave the game. Yesterday, he returned to Arlington to pitch a Memorial Day matinee and once again dominated a powerful Rangers’ lineup.

The Yankees spotted Hughes two runs in the top of the first on doubles by Derek Jeter (taking a half-day off at DH) and Mark Teixeira and infield singles by Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. Hughes responded with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. If there was a turning point in the game, which ended in an 11-1 Yankee route, it came in the bottom of the second. Nelson Cruz led off with a first-pitch double, after which Hughes hit Hank Blalock with a 1-1- pitch to put two men on with none out. Hughes then fell behind Marlon Byrd 3-0, but rallied to strike him out on a generous call on a fastball low and away. He followed that by striking out Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden on curveballs to strand both runners. The Yankees responded in the top of the third by pushing across four more runs against Texas starter Matt Harrison (the key hits being doubles by Damon and Rodriguez and a two-RBI triple by Robinson Cano). That was the ball game.

Hughes got through the bottom of the third on seven pitches, stranded a lead-off double in the fourth, needing just nine tosses in that frame, and pitched around another double in the fifth. The only walk he issued was to Michael Young leading off the sixth, but Young never got past first base. Hughes got through the seventh on just nine pitches, striking out Chris Davis on three of them, and needed just nine more to  work a 1-2-3 eighth.

Hughes had shown considerable improvement in his previous two games, proving he could work out of jams against the Twins, then correcting his problematic strikeout-to-walk ratio against the Orioles. The only things he had left to fix were his inefficiency with his pitches and his tendency to give up home runs. Neither was a problem yesterday, as he held the Rangers scoreless for eight frames needing just 101 pitches to do it. His final line: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

Over his last two starts, Hughes has struck out 15 in 13 innings against just two walks, and he’s now been legitimately dominant twice in six starts since being recalled. After featuring his fastball against the Orioles his last time out, he rode the effectiveness of his curveball yesterday. He has done everything the Yankees could ask for in terms of learning on the job and making strides toward being the pitcher the team has long hoped he’d be. Though no official announcement has been made, it now seems that Hughes’ rotation spot is his to lose and Chien-Ming Wang will hang out in the bullpen until a spot opens up or he shows the Yankees that he’s completely over his early-season struggles, which he has yet to do. Hughes will have to continue to build on his success, stay healthy, and eventually may have to deal with innings-limit concerns (his career high was 146 in 2006, he threw just 110 1/3 in 2007 and a mere 69 2/3 last year), but thus far he’s shown himself to be up to the challenge.

After Hughes’ strong eighth-inning yesterday, Joe Girardi extended his hand to the young right-hander to offer him congratulations for a job well done. Hughes looked at his manager’s hand and grimaced. He didn’t want to come out of the game, though he relented after some quick cajoling from the skipper.

Alfredo Aceves pitched the ninth, giving up a solo home run to Nelson Cruz, but nothing more. As for all those Yankee runs, four of them were driven in by Alex Rodriguez, who went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, raising his average 70 points in the process. Nick Swisher drove in three on a groundout, a single, and a sac fly. Collectively, the Yankees picked up 19 hits, beating up on both Harrison and long reliever Kris Benson. With the win, the Yankees slipped past the Blue Jays into second place in the AL East, one game behind the Red Sox.


Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers

2009 Record: 26-17 (.605)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 24-19 (.558)

2008 Record: 79-83 (.488)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 76-86 (.469)

Manager: Ron Washington
General Manager: Jon Daniels

Home Ballpark: Rangers Ballpark (100/101)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Chris Davis and Hank Blalock split up Milton Bradley’s at-bats
  • Elvis Andrus replaces Ramon Vazquez
  • Omar Vizquel replaces German Duran (minors)
  • Nelson Cruz inherits the playing time of Brandon Boggs (minors)
  • Andruw Jones replaces Frank Catalanotto
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia inherits Gerald Laird’s playing time
  • Taylor Teagarden replaces Saltalamacchia as the backup catcher
  • Derek Holland is filling in for Vicente Padilla (DL)
  • Matt Harrison takes over Kason Gabbard’s starts
  • Brandon McCarthy takes over the starts of Sidney Ponson and Luis Mendoza (minors)
  • Darren O’Day replaces Josh Rupe
  • Jason Jennings takes over Jamey Wright’s innings
  • Kris Benson is filling in for Dustin Nippert (DL)
  • Warner Madrigal is filling in for Joaquin Benoit (DL)

25-man Roster:

1B – Chris Davis (L)
2B – Ian Kinsler (R)
SS – Elvis Andrus (R)
3B – Michael Young (R)
C – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S)
RF – Nelson Cruz (R)
CF – Josh Hamilton (L)
LF – David Murphy (L)
DH – Hank Blalock (L)


R – Andruw Jones (OF)
R – Marlon Byrd (OF)
R – Taylor Teagarden (C)
S – Omar Vizquel (SS)


R – Kevin Millwood
L – Derek Holland
R – Scott Feldman
R – Brandon McCarthy
L – Matt Harrison


R – Frank Francisco
L – C.J. Wilson
L – Eddie Guardado
R – Darren O’Day
R – Jason Jennings
R – Kris Benson
R – Warner Madrigal

15-day DL: RHP – Vicente Padilla (strained shoulder); RHP – Willie Eyre (groin); RHP – Dustin Nippert (strained back/side)

60-day DL: RHP – Joaquin Benoit (torn rotator cuff); RHP – Eric Hurley (torn rotator cuff)

Typical Lineup:

R – Ian Kinsler (2B)
R – Michael Young (3B)
L – Josh Hamilton (CF)
L – Hank Blalock (3B)
R – Nelson Cruz (RF)
L – David Murphy (LF)
L – Chris Davis (1B)
S – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C)
R – Elvis Andrus (SS)


Ribbin’ ‘Round

It was supposed to rain and thunder and carry on this weekend but it turned out nice after all.  Even today, it looks pleasant outside.  The sun is out, a breeze is coming through our living room window. Anyone going to a cook-out?  I’m just coolin at the crib, got some things to take care of, and will check out the game this afternoon.

I like Mark Bittman’s cookbooks–though I’m not fanatical about them like some people–but think he’s a cornball on TV.  However, his shorter video bits for the web are excellent. 

Dig it:

No Fun


We got the pitcher’s duel that we expected.  Okay, it wasn’t a 1-0 game with both starters going the distance, but it was pretty good.  Cole Hamels allowed two runs over six innings; scattered eight hits, didn’t walk a batter, and struck out six.  CC Sabathia gave up a bunch of hits too, nine, over eight innings.  He didn’t walk anyone either, struck out four, but allowed three runs.  Not bad, but not good enough.

The Phillies scored first.  Carlos Ruiz reached on a two-out single in the top of the third inning and then Jimmy Rollins lifted a fly ball to shallow right-center field.  Brett Gardner raced in and dove for it, but he could not make the catch and the ball rolled behind him.  Ruiz was waved home. Right fielder Melky Cabrera, picked up the ball and made a good throw to the cut-off man, Robinson Cano. Cano dropped the ball and Ruiz scored easily.  It was a careless play on Cano’s part.  I don’t know if he would have nailed Ruiz, but it certainly would have been close. Shane Victorino singled Rollins home to make it 2-0.


Leather Man

I remember having a strange but welcoming feeling when Alfonso Soriano replaced Chuck Knoblauch at second base.  Plays that would have previously made me tense suddenly were made with ease.  It’s not that Soriano was any great shakes as a fielder–he wasn’t–it’s just that he wasn’t a mess either.  I don’t think Jason Giambi was a complete disaster at first, but in retropsect he seems like one since Mark Teixeira is in town. The season is still young, but doesn’t it seem like Teixeira is making brilliant plays almost every day? I think he’s the best fielding first baseman the team has had since Mattingly.  Tino was solid, but he wasn’t this good.

Teixeira and the Yanks have their hands full today with Cole Hamels. CC Sabathia, who has pitched well of late, goes for the Yanks.  It’s hazy in the Bronx with rain in the forecast for this afternoon.  Let’s hope they get this one in and here’s hoping the Yanks can win this series.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

Oh, Those Lovely Lines

Apropos of nothing, here’s a bit on Milo Manara, the Italian artist, most famous for his erotic drawings.


Best Oversized Comic Ever

 Dude, and I’m one lucky so-and-so.  I’ve still got the original.


Feel So Good Tonight, Who Cares About Tomorrow…

And here I thought I’d missed all the dramatic comebacks. I was away last weekend, bridesmaiding (and if that’s not an action verb, it should be), and for the first time in years was mostly without internet and TV – so I didn’t catch any of those three walk-off wins. I hasten to add, in case the lovely bride is reading this, that it was of course completely worth it. But fortunately the Yankees were willing to give me a little encore today, coming back from a two-run ninth inning deficit with another big homer from A-Rod, who continues to give the world the finger, and a Melky Cabrera single to beat the Phillies 5-4.

Regardless of the outcome, I’m loving this weekend’s baseball – I get a kick out of seeing Yankees fans pulling for the Mets, and vice versa. A rare moment of city-wide unity, even if it is based on a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of sentiment.

Andy Pettitte was the starter today, and he looked pretty good in the early going. In fact, he looked pretty good all afternoon if you just ignore a crucial five minute stretch in the middle there. In the second he allowed a solo shot to Raul Ibanez, which is the fashionable thing to do this spring, and then held things down ’til the fifth. Meanwhile the Yankees evened things up right away, when Cano doubled (or when Jayson Werth lost the ball, if you want to be less charitable) and Cabrera and Swisher got him the rest of the way home.

J.A. Happ was the Phillies starter, a classic URP situation. Mark Teixeira got two hits but other than that and Cano’s run in the second, New York didn’t put a dent in him. The game stayed tied at 1-1 until Pettitte slipped  a bit in the fifth, with a base hit, walk, and home run from John Mayberry (Jr.), in his first Major League game.

(Mayberry doubled in the seventh, too. I was all ready to start seriously disliking this kid but then he looked so happy, I couldn’t hold it against him. His dad, who played for the Yanks at the very tail end of his career, though before my time, was in the stands – but FOX kept cutting to an entirely unrelated middle aged black Phillies fan, and misidentifying him as Mayberry, for more than an inning. Awkward. I was relieved when they announced their mistake, though, because I’d been wondering why the first guy they had onscreen didn’t seem all that proud.)

After that Pettitte buckled down and got through the seventh without further damage; and really, four runs in seven innings isn’t too bad against an offense like the Phillies’. This start pretty much encapsulated what I’ve come to expect from Pettitte these days: he doesn’t usually have the stuff to totally shut down a good-hitting team anymore, but he won’t let things get completely out of hand either.

Derek Jeter’s homer in the seventh made it 4-2, well within stirring comeback range. And so in the bottom of the ninth, Damon walked, Teixeira struck out on three hideously nasty Brad Lidge sliders, and A-Rod came to the plate. I have to say, given Teixeira’s AB, my hopes were not high at this point. But Rodriguez had a good at-bat, laid off a couple of low sliders, and waited out a fastball, which he then blasted into the seats — it wasn’t one of his tape-measure shots but he still knew right away it was out and took a little pause before breaking into his trot. I may never know what to make of that guy, but whatever else he is, he’s sure not boring.

After that Cano singled and stole second, and Melky worked out a nice careful at-bat and singled him home. There was a big happy celebratory knot of players on the field, and AJ Burnett marched off very businesslike and determined to fetch the whipped cream. This was the Yankees 17th come-from-behind win this season, and their 9th in their last at-bat, which if you want to be all glass-half-empty about it means they’re falling behind an awful lot, but still it’s fun to watch.

Meanwhile, up at Fenway, Omir Santos of all people just hit a game-winning two-run homer off of Papelbon. And Toronto lost, too. Can I get you anything else?

Philly in the Funhouse, Part Dos

Up to Andy to stop the bleeding.  One game losing streak sounds about right.  Still want to win this series. 


I expect the ball to continue jumping out today.  Just hope the Yanks are the ones hitting the dingers.

The Man

Not a boy but a Man.


Photo via ESPN.com

Photo via ESPN.com


News of the Day – 5/23/09

Today’s news is powered by a classic scene from “A League of Their Own”

  • Bench coach Tony Pena, on his stable of catchers, especially the new kid Francisco Cervelli:

“Sometimes, for one person to shine, something has to happen to someone else,” said Pena, who has four Gold Gloves to his name. “Defensively, Francisco Cervelli is as good as any other catcher. There are very few catchers who can move behind the plate the way Francisco Cervelli moves.”

“He has not allowed a passed ball yet, and that is something we catchers take pride in — the command of the game,” added Pena. “The energy he brings is an extraordinary energy.”

Pena also highlighted his strong working relationship with the team’s veteran catchers.

“I am honored that [Jose] Molina and Jorge Posada have the confidence to come to me and talk to me and listen to the advice that I can give them,” said Pena. “It’s not easy finding a catcher who has played 10 years in the big leagues and still wants to learn.”

  • Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long, on Melky Cabrera:

“He’s hitting the ball hard and seeing a lot of pitches, taking great at-bats,” Long said.

Long said he based that on both personal observation and statistics not quantified in box scores. After every game, Long evaluates each at-bat, like a hitting-coach version of Roger Ebert: thumbs up or thumbs down.

Cabrera, he said, has had 61 percent “good at-bats” this season, the highest percentage of any player on the Yankees. To Long, a good at-bat is defined as any hit, walk or hit-by-pitch, or any at-bat that consumes a lot of pitches or ends in an especially hard-hit ball.

As for those hard-hit balls, Long keeps track of those, too. He said Cabrera has hit the ball hard in 51 percent of his at-bats, also tops on the team. Fifty-one percent is an extremely high figure, he said. By Long’s calculations, a very good hitter will hit the ball on the sweet spot only about 40 percent of the time.


The Streak Is Over

Jimmy Rollins deposited the first pitch of tonight’s game between the Phillies and Yankees in the right field seats. That pretty much summed up the game right there as the Phillies snapped the Yankees’ nine-game winning streak with a 7-3 victory.

Carlos Ruiz rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run to left field off A.J. Burnett in the second inning (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)Seven home runs were hit in the game, four by the Phillies and three by the Yankees, but Philadelphia starter Brett Myers otherwise kept the Yankees off base, walking no one and allowing just five other hits. As a result, the Yankee taters—by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth and Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the eighth, the last reaching the suit level just under the upper deck in right field—were all solo shots. The Phils, meanwhile, added two-run jacks from Carlos Ruiz in the second and Jayson Werth in the fifth to build a 5-0 lead on A.J. Burnett, who otherwise struck out seven against just two walks in his six innings.

Chien-Ming Wang pitched the final three innings for the Yanks, but struggled to throw strikes or keep his pitches down. He started his first three batters off 2-0. The second man he faced, major league home run leader Raul Ibañez, crushed a letter-high pitch into the right-center-field bleachers, after which Wang put runners on the corners before getting Matt Stairs to ground out to strand them.

In the eighth, Wang gave up another run on singles by Pedro Feliz (on a 2-0 pitch), Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley (on 1-0), finally beginning to show some of his old form by getting Ibañez to ground into an inning-ending double play. Of the seven pitches Wang threw in the ninth that reached catcher Kevin Cash, six were balls (four of them walking Jayson Werth) and just one was a strike. His other three pitches that inning were put in play in the air, albeit for outs.

Wang showed good velocity, hitting 94 and even 95 on the YES gun, but he wasn’t locating or getting his pitches down in the zone. He gave the rest of the pen some much-needed rest, but he didn’t do anything that would threaten Phil Hughes’ place in the rotation for now.

After the game, Joe Girardi said Wang showed “definite progress,” noting his velocity and the few good sinkers he did throw, which makes you wonder how poor he looked in Scranton. Girardi added that Wang wouldn’t be available again until Tuesday, which is Joba Chamberlain’s next scheduled start, though Chamberlain insists his knee is already fine.

Philadelphia Phillies

I picked the Phillies to repeat as National League champions this year because of their devastating lineup, the presence of Cole Hamels, and the weakness of their competition in the NL. Despite slow starts from Hamels and Rollins, the Phillies enter this weekend’s series against the Yankees in first place in the NL East, in large part thanks to the strength of their offense and the weakness of their competition.

The Phillies have scored 5.74 runs per game this season, tops in the majors and comfortably ahead of the second-place Yankees (5.66 R/G). They’ve done that despite the fact that Rollins was hitting just .195/.231/.268 with one stolen base on May 11. Since then, Rollins has hit .341/396/.500 and stolen four bases, and the Phillies have gone 7-3 while scoring an even six runs per game.

With Rollins having returned to form, the top two-thirds of the Phillies lineup is indeed devastating. Behind Rollins lurks Chase Utley (.295/.432/.597), Raul Ibañez (free from pitcher-friendly Safeco, he’s leading the majors in homers, total bases and slugging, and the NL in RBIs and OPS), and Ryan Howard. Behind them is my preseason breakout pick Jayson Werth, who is living up to my expectations by hitting .272/.371/.500 and leading the team with eight stolen bases in nine attempts (including a recent successful steal of home). Only then do you get to switch-hitter Shane Victorino.

Yes the bottom third is weak, it is a National League lineup after all, but playing in an American League park, as the Phils will be doing this weekend in the Bronx, they can slot in ace lefty pinch-hitter Matt Stairs (.304/.515/.609) as the designated hitter behind Victorino.

No NL team can rival that firepower, which is why the league has to be thankful that the Phillies’ pitching has been so bad in the early going. Only four teams, the Yankees among them, have allowed more runs per game than the Phillies this year, and no team has a worse starters’ ERA than the Phillies 6.31. Forty-six-year-old Jamie Moyer has had just two quality starts in eight tries; last year’s deadline pickup, Joe Blanton, has just three in eight tries and has allowed ten runs in 13 innings over his last two starts; and fifth-starter Chan Ho Park just got booted from the rotation altogether.

Fortunately for the Phils, Cole Hamels is emerging from his early season struggles. After starting the season nursing an inflamed pitching elbow, which pushed back his first start, Hamels was rocked in his first two outings (12 runs in 9 2/3 innings), then took a comebacker off his pitching shoulder in his third, and rolled over his ankle trying to field a ball in his fourth. He had to leave both of those latter games following those injuries, but over his last five starts, including those two, he has posted a 2.70 ERA and struck out 33 men in 26 2/3 innings, and he’s lasted at least six full innings in each of his last three.

With Hamels and Rollins rounding into form, it’s no surprise that the Phillies are on a hot streak. They’re 6-1 on their current road trip, which has fare more to do with how they’re playing than where. It’s not outlandish to treat this weekend’s series between the Yankees and the defending World Champions as a potential World Series preview, but it’s enough for me that they’re two of the best and hottest teams in baseball.

The Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound to take on fellow lefty Hamels in a rematch of Game One of last year’s NDLS on Sunday. Tomorrow they’ll face another lefty in 26-year-old J.A. Happ, Park’s replacement  in the rotation. Tonight, they’ll face the pitcher who has been keeping the Phils afloat through Hamels struggles, Brett Myers.

Myers hasn’t been pitching like a proper ace, he isn’t one, but he’s been consistently solid for the Phils, turning in a quality start in five of his last six outings. His last two have been his best, as he’s allowed just three runs in his last 13 innings and struck out eight Nationals in seven innings his last time out. Myers one bugaboo has been his major league leading 12 home runs allowed. That’s a bad weakness to have coming into the Bronx as the Yankees lead the majors in home runs (the Phillies lead the NL), and the new Yankee Stadium has been host to more home runs than any other park this year.

The Yankees counter with A.J. Burnett, who will look to push the Yankees’ winning streak into double digits. Burnett held the Twins to two runs in 6 2/3 innings his last time out while striking out seven, but he also walked six men. The Yankees have won just two of Burnett’s last four starts over which he’s posted a 4.61 ERA and walked 4.28 per nine innings. Those are his four starts since giving up eight runs in Fenway. Burnett is giving the Yankees length, but he’s thus far looked like little more than the league-average innings eater he was when not facing the Yankees last year, which means it will be up to the Yankee offense to take advantage of Myers’ gopheritis tonight.

In other news, Brian Bruney’s elbow is hurting. He was unavailable last night and is unavailable again today. Given the hit the bullpen took last night after Joba Chamberlain’s first inning exit, the team has decided to activate Chien-Ming Wang to reinforce the pen. Jonathan Albaladejo, who gave up four runs in 2 1/3 innings last night, has been optioned to Scranton to make room for Wang.



Bobby V sure is one popular dude in Japan. 


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver