Philadelphia Phillies Cannot Be Successful if Early Season Pitching Struggles Continue

By Marilee Gallagher
Dale Zanine-USA Today Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies opened the season on Monday with million dollar ace Cole Hamels on the mound. He, not Cliff Lee, nor the opening day starter over the past two years, Roy Halladay, was given the nod to be on the mound when the first pitch of the Phillies 2013 season was thrown.

It was a ball, the first pitch that is, and maybe in some sort of symbolic baseball way, it was a sign of how the rest of Hamels’ outing would go which in a few words can be summed up as not so good.

The 2013 ace of the staff lasted just five innings and gave up five runs. Hamels also tossed three home run balls, which matches his 2012 single game season high. He cited after the game that excitement from it being his first start may have affected his control.

Whatever may have caused Hamels to struggle, the end result was not good. And unfortunately for the Phillies, starter #2, Halladay, did not fare much better.

Halladay’s problems began in the offseason as he was hampered by a lingering injury from 2012, declining velocity and a spring performance filled with more lows than highs. As a result, Halladay’s first start of the season was clouded with question marks.

When he took to the mound in the team’s second game of the season against the Atlanta Braves, no one was really sure what to expect.

His first pitch was a strike and his first batter, Andrelton Simmons, was retired when he struck out swinging.

All started well for Halladay and it certainly put an ease on the minds of Phillies’ fans, players and of course Charlie Manuel and pitching coach, Rich Dubee.

The problem however, was that Halladay didn’t retire his next batter until after Jason Heyward singled and Justin Upton drove him home on his second home run of the season. BJ Upton struck out for the second out but then Halladay walked his second batter of the inning. Before the first frame was over, Halladay had thrown 40 pitches and surrendered three earned runs.

Halladay pitched a clean second inning, striking out the side, but his struggles continued into the fourth. He gave up a solo home run to rookie catcher Evan Gattis and then allowed a single to Simmons who would come around to score when Halladay was lifted and replaced by Raul Valdes, the long man out of the bullpen.

For Halladay, this was easily his worst first season start in a Phillies uniform. It didn’t help that it came after Hamels struggled as well.

There is no guarantee that Hamels and/or Halladay will continue to have issues throughout the season, but what is certain is that the Phillies will not be able to compete in the tough and loaded NL East if they do.

The Washington Nationals are an incredibly talented and upstart team and the Braves, as they showed in spring training and the first two games against the Phillies, are going to be hitting a lot of home runs in 2013.

Even before the season though, the Phillies knew both the Nationals and Braves were going to be scoring runs and dominating with lineups stocked with offensive prowess and production. The only hope Philadelphia had was its pitching staff, that with Hamels, Halladay and Lee, was still regarded as one of the best in the National League.

Lee, now the third starter, goes in game three and will be looked upon to give the Phillies their first win of 2013. If he struggles like Hamels and Halladay did, it is not going to be pretty. And if these struggles are signs of something to come, then it could be a very long season for Philadelphia.


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