Friday, August 04, 2006

Life Of The Party

A sweep in St. Louis!

Last year the Phillies began their push for the Wild Card with an impressive road trip to the West Coast. Could their short hop to the Midwest portend another late season dash? With much of the National League treading water, the Wild Card remains very much up for grabs with the Phils trailing the DBacks and Red Legs by 2.5 games.

Regardless of the answer to the above question, one thing is clear: the new-look Phils are suddenly fun to watch. There are several subplots unfolding beginning but hardly ending with Chase Utley’s hitting streak. No storyline is more intriguing and heartwarming than the continued emergence of 33-year old rookie Chris Coste. Making his fifth start behind the plate in the last seven games, Coste began his night by throwing out the dangerous David Eckstein attempting to steal in the first inning, raised his batting average to .375 with four singles, and called a good game with fellow rookie Cole Hamels, ten years his junior, on the mound. Can Coste fill the hole at catcher for next season? Why not, inquiring minds want to know?

Hamels had a second straight strong outing, going seven plus innings, striking out twelve batters for the second time in three starts and keeping the Cards off balance all night. He had all three pitches working and he mixed them well, further tribute to Coste as well as the young left-hander himself, who did not appear to shake off his catcher often. The Hamels we’ve been anticipating is clearly emerging. If Scott Mathieson can keep pace, the outlook for the Phils’ starting pitching will brighten considerably.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Phillies’ bats have come alive, especially at the start of the game. Nothing helps a pitcher more than to be handed an early lead. For much of this season, the Phillies came to bat trailing. Worse, if they cut a deficit or even managed to take the lead, their pitching invariably went out and handed it right back to the opposition. Nothing demoralizes a team faster.

The new lineup still has Jimmy Rollins leading off with David Dellucci batting in Chase Utley’s old number two spot. Dellucci continues to get on base and deliver in the clutch. Chase has dropped down in the order to Bobby Abreu’s old place while Ryan Howard has moved up a notch to cleanup with Pat Burrell dropping down to number five. Utley may be seeing better pitches with Howard right behind him than he did when Abreu was batting third. It’s one thing to face a guy who is more than likely to walk as opposed to one who has 36 home runs. The Black Hole, RIP, has brightened considerably with Chris Cost providing most of the illumination at number seven between Aaron Rowand and Abe Nunez.

Given up for dead a mere week or two ago and baseball’s biggest sellers at the trade deadline, the Phillies are suddenly the life of the party. The three-game set in New York this weekend should go far in determining whether the ride will continue.

13 Comments:

Blogger Corey & Carson said...

Imagine taking the series from the Mets or even sweeping them? Is this "new" Phillies team for real? I like what I see so far, although I know it can continue forever.

*Can you link my blog to your's? I'd really appreciate it. Let me know...thanks.

http://pabaseball.blogspot.com

10:18 AM  
Blogger dane said...

I think it may be time to start talking extension with Delluci. He has been a big part of this team and I would love to see him on this team again next year. My gut feeling is that the Phillies should still try to acquire a catcher for next year. I think Johnny Estrada is a free agent after the year and I would love to see him back in Philly.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Ruby Legs said...

I'm of the opinion that the Phils should win the wildcard. On paper, they are just as good, and for the most part, better than all the teams in the race.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Hey, if you're doing some links...

http://smokinsports.blogspot.com/

Yours is linked from mine after all.

Anyway, I don't kow what it is about the Phillies of the past 4 years. No matter how bad they suck the pipe during the season, there always comes a point in August or September where they make it interesting again. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I like interesting, but I'm tired of letdown.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Corey & Carson said...

Thanks for the link! Just trying to spread the word...everyone's word that is.

1:02 PM  
Blogger gr said...

tom, your point about the lineup is right on target. it seems that lately, with the exception of crappy nunez, the team always has the right hitter up when it needs or gets a good at-bat when it needs. the protection factor for utley (and howard, who used to have bell behind him for a while then rowand), coupled with his run, is a big difference from the passive abreu-burrell-(howard)-bell days. if nunez could just hit 260 for crying out loud, the party could last into the night, even if coste's average eventually winds up around 285 or so. a more aggressive middle and split black hole at the bottom have helped things considerably.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Corey & Carson said...

I have zero confidence Nunez can hit .260 the rest of the season. I know I'm being harsh, but I don't even think he'll get his average about the Mendoza line. Since the team is playing better, and is now in line for contending with the rest of the wild card teams, Manuel therefore really needs to consider other options at 3rd. Coste or Scales seem most logical.

7:42 PM  
Blogger dane said...

I agree. Nunez has shown no reason to believe that his average will rise above .200. I would like to see coste get some playing time at third. Just a thought but what about burrell moving back to third. After all he was drafted as a 3rd basemen

9:35 PM  
Anonymous J. Weitzel said...

Why does everyone want Coste to play third so badly? Isn't he succeeding enough at catcher? There's no reason to deny the pitching staff Nunez's glove at third, not when the rest of the team is hitting, and when you've got guys like Lieber giving up 14 hits a game.

I'm confused ... the team just buried St. Louis and it's the right time to move Pat Burrell back to his college position?

11:13 PM  
Blogger dane said...

just a thought and now is probably the wrong time but will it get any consideration during the offseason or is it out of the question?

1:24 AM  
Blogger Corey & Carson said...

Because of Bell's struggles over the past seasons and now Nunez's inability to hit, many people have proposed the idea of moving Burrell to 3rd or the even more absurd Thome. My guess is that Burrell would be horrible at 3rd. Nunez is a fine fielder there, and Coste has been dominating behind the plate. I do want someone who can both hit and field manning the hot corner though. That simply is not Abe Nunez...but he'll have to do for the time being.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

The bottom line here is the Phillies don't believe Coste can still play third and clearly have no intention of playing him there. So fergit it and just be glad there's actually a catcher with a decent bat in the lineup for once.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous egrissom said...

Interesting question about why everyone wants to see Coste as 3B. Had to think about it for a sec. For me its that I'm 100% sure that Nunez isn't the answer there and only 95% sure that Coste isn't. I'm not convinced we won't see him there at some point this year -- what would have happened in the bottom of the ninth today if the Phillies had tied the game? It would have been a huge mess but I think Coste would have been at third.

8:58 PM  

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