The Philadelphia Phillies took two of three games against the Atlanta Braves, then dropped two of three against the NL-East leading Washington Nationals. The Phillies are mired in last place in the division and they get a big chance to gain ground when they take on the New York Mets in the three-game series beginning tonight.
Roy Halladay is back to the team after taking a brief absence to tend to a personal matter, and Halladay will oppose Jonathan Niese in Monday night’s matchup. Halladay is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA, although it was 1.95 before his last outing in which he surrendered eight runs. Halladay has been his usual workhorse, averaging over seven innings pitched per start, but his velocity and strikeouts are down, which could be a serious cause for concern. He is opposed by Niese, who is 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA in five starts, and is coming off a shellacking at the hands of the Houston Astros.
Tuesday’s game will feature Joe Blanton against 41-year old Miguel Batista, who is making just his second start of the season. Blanton has been having a quietly stellar season, with a 3-3 record and 2.83 ERA in six starts. He has struck out 21 hitters and walked just three in 34 innings, and he is coming off a marvelous three-hit shutout against the Braves. Batista debuted in the major leagues as long as 20 years ago and other than a strong role for the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, he has been largely a journeyman. Batista brings a 6.92 ERA into this start.
Cliff Lee will return from the DL and make his first start in three weeks on Wednesday. Lee doesn’t have a win yet this season, but he is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA and a .179 opponents’ batting average, plus 18 strikeouts to just two walks in 23 innings pitched. His last outing was a 10-inning gem against the San Francisco Giants before he injured his side and had to visit the disabled list. Lee will be opposed by Dillon Gee, a solid enough pitcher who is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts.
The Phillies are still without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, but the offense has been given a boost recently by the improved play from both Hunter Pence and Placido Polanco, two players that hit very little in the month of April. Winning two out of three games in this series is a must; sweeping it would be a huge step in the right direction for a Phillies team that hasn’t sniffed last place since before they had won their World Series in ’08.