Three weeks ago the idea of the Yankees coming out of the soft part of their schedule and running right into the two-time defending National League champion Phillies was downright frightening, but as luck would have it, the Yankees might be catching the Phillies at exactly the right time. Though they’ve split four of them, the Phillies haven’t won a series since mid May and are 6-14 in their last 20 games having fallen to third place in the NL East behind the Mets (the Mets!).
Shockingly, the Phillies big problem has been scoring runs. Over an 11 game span from May 22 to June 2, they scored just 14 runs while going 2-9 over that span. Since then they’ve perked up a bit, but only a bit. Take out their one ten-run outburst against the Marlins a week ago and the Phillies have scored just three runs per game in eight of their last nine contests while going 3-5 in those games.
How did the team that led the NL in runs in each of the last four seasons suddenly lost the ability to score? Start with a calf injury that has limited 2007 MVP and leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins to 12 games. Chase Utley missed two games with the flu in mid-May, has hit just .175/.295/.263 in 95 plate appearances since, and hasn’t homered since May 20. Ryan Howard, always a slow starter (.260/.342/.525 career in the first half vs. .303/.407/.633 in the second half) is sticking to that pattern with a .286/.342/.461 line thus far. That’s the core of the Phillies’ offense right there, and the team’s inability to replace Rollins with even a replacement level bat (per VORP, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro have combined to cost the Phillies a half a win relative to replacement level already this season) has made his absence hurt even more than it should.
But that’s not all. Raul Ibañez, who was a stud last year before a groin injury interrupted his flow, is looking every one of his 38 years this year, putting up his worst performance since he became a full-timer a decade ago, hitting .247/.335/.394. There’s so much slumping going on in the Phillies’ lineup that it seems to have become contagious. Jayson Werth, who should be one of the top free agents to hit the market this winter, was hitting .327/.403/.641 on May 25, but has hit just .137/.241/.235 in 58 PAs since.
I bet Roy Halladay thought he had left his complete-game losses behind him in Toronto, but he suffered a complete game loss on May 18 to the Pirates of all teams, losing 2-1, and in his last start, he allowed just one run in eight innings but took another loss as the Phillies failed to score against Josh Johnson and lost 2-0 (though I suppose that latter was fair play as Johnson was the losing pitcher in Halladay’s perfect game despite not allowing an earned run in that start).
Halladay has a 1.96 ERA on the season and has complied this line in his last three starts: 24 IP, 16 H, 3 R, 0 HR, 2 BB, 26 K. He faces CC Sabathia tonight, who according to Yahoo! Sports, “is 6-3 this season, but four of those wins have come against the Orioles, who began play Monday with by far the worst record in baseball (17-46). Sabathia’s ERA in his other nine starts this season is 4.69.” Indeed, Sabathia has been sharp in his last two starts, but both came against the O’s, and in the two before that he gave up 11 runs (ten earned) in just 11 innings in losses to the Mets and the lowly Indians.
Facing a slumping Phillies team that typically relies on big lefty bats Howard and Utley could help CC continue his recent success, but even if he pitches well, one will still have to wonder if it was CC or his slumping opposition that was the key factor. Either way, he’ll have his work cut out for him facing Halladay.
The next two pitching matchups are far more favorable to the Yankees. On Wednesday, A.J. Burnett takes on Kyle Kendrick, who is filling in for injured lefty J.A. Happ, and on Thursday the seniors tour comes to town as 47-year-old Jamie Moyer takes on the red-hot Andy Pettitte, who, at 38, is still nine years Moyer’s junior.
Alex Rodriguez remains out of the lineup tonight due to his hip flexor tendonitis, but said the swelling has gone down and that he could start at third base tomorrow. Rodriguez was supposed to DH tonight and is available to pinch-hit. Ramiro Peña bats ninth and plays third base and with the DH spot opened back up, Jorge Posada, who was originally in the lineup at catcher, will DH and hit sixth behind Nick Swisher with Robinson Cano cleaning up. The bottom three in the lineup are Brett Gardner (LF), Francisco Cervelli (C), and Peña.
In other injury news, Sergio Mitre, who hadn’t pitched since the first day of the Toronto series, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique injury that occurred during batting practice on Sunday (the Yankees play six games in NL parks next week, though I can’t imagine Mitre would have gotten an at-bat or been expected to deliver had he had one). He is being replaced by lousy lefty Boone Logan. If the Yankees retroactively date Mitre’s DL stay, he would be eligible to be activated on Saturday, though I’m sure he wouldn’t be ready to return that quickly.
2010 Record: 32-29 (.525)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 33-28 (.541)
2009 Record: 93-69 (.574)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 93-69 (.574)
Manager: Charlie Manuel
General Manager: Ruben Amaro Jr.
Home Ballpark: Citizens Bank Park
Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-104, LH HR-111
RH Avg-101, RH HR-117
Who’s Replacing Whom:
- Wilson Valdez is filling in for Jimmy Rollins (DL)
- Placido Polanco replaces Pedro Feliz
- Ross Gload replaces Matt Stairs
- Juan Castro replaces Eric Bruntlett
- Brian Schneider replaces Paul Bako and Chris Coste
- Roy Halladay replaces Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez and Brett Myers’ starts
- Kyle Kendrick is filling in for J.A. Happ (DL)
- Jose Contreras replaces Chan Ho Park
- J.C Romero reclaims the innings of Scott Eyre and Jack Taschner
- Danys Baez replaces Clay Condrey and Tyler Walker
- David Herndon is filling in for Ryan Madson (DL)
1B – Ryan Howard (L)
2B – Chase Utley (L)
SS – Wilson Valdez (R)
3B – Placido Polanco (R)
C – Carlos Ruiz (R)
RF – Jayson Werth (R)
CF – Shane Victorino (S)
LF – Raul Ibanez (L)
R – Ben Francisco (OF)
L – Ross Gload (1B)
L – Greg Dobbs (IF)
R – Juan Castro (IF)
L – Brian Schneider (C)
R – Roy Halladay
L – Jamie Moyer
R- Joe Blanton
L – Cole Hamels
R – Kyle Kendrick
R – Brad Lidge
R – Jose Contreras
L – J.C. Romero
R – Danys Baez
R – Chad Durbin
R – David Herndon
SS – Jimmy Rollins (right calf strain)
LHP – J.A. Happ (left forearm discomfort)
RHP – Ryan Madson (broken right big toe)
S – Shane Victorino (CF)
R – Placido Polanco (3B)
L – Chase Utley (2B)
L – Ryan Howard (1B)
R – Jayson Werth (RF)
L – Raul Ibanez (LF)
R – Wilson Valdez (SS)
R – Carlos Ruiz (C)