The Philadelphia Phillies have swept the Houston Astros in a two-game series that gives the Phillies their first three-game winning streak of the 2012 season. The Phillies play another two-game series, this one against the Chicago Cubs, giving the Phillies seven straight games against sub-.500 teams (San Diego Padres for three, Houston, and Chicago).
What This Means: The Phillies are still stuck in last place in the NL East but the gap is tightening. The Phillies are 18-19, just one game below .500, and they have an excellent opportunity to move back into the NL East race as they get set to play one of the league’s worst teams again. The Atlanta Braves lead the division at 23-14, with the Washington Nationals half a game back at 22-14. The New York Mets and Miami Marlins are 20-16 and 19-17, respectively.
Grading the Offense: The Phillies scored four runs and five runs and collected 10 hits and 10 hits in the two games, putting together a fine offensive series, even if it was against the Astros. Hunter Pence led the team with a three-hit and two-home run series, propelling the team to a victory in the second game when he hit a walkoff shot in the bottom of the 10th inning. Placido Polanco and John Mayberry, Jr. each enjoyed fine days at the plate as well, which was key because the two of them have struggled so far this season. Grade: B
Grading the Pitching: The Phillies have gotten six straight quality starts from their starting pitchers, with Joe Blanton and Cliff Lee doing the job in this series. Blanton has been extremely underrated this season, and he showed it in his start, by going seven innings, allowing just one run, and striking out seven against a lone walk. Lee allowed a lone run of his own through eight innings, striking out 10 and allowing only one. Relief pitchers not named Chad Qualls combined for three perfect innings with eight strikeouts, while Qualls was lit up for two runs and four hits in an inning over two games. Grade: A-
What Happens Next: The Phillies play the Cubs in another two-game series before taking on the Boston Red Sox in a three-game series this weekend.