The Phillies are one Cole Hamels away from the NL East basement.
It's hard to imagine just how bad things would be without their only reliable starter. Indeed, Hamels is now one of the league's elite pitchers, capable of shutting down the opposition every time he goes out. The scary thing about Hamels is that he's still learning, by his own admission, and getting smarter about how to pitch. He's always had the ability and the confidence; now he's gaining the experience. It's too bad his mates don't give him any run support, but the way he's been pitching, he doesn't need much.
Still, he deserved more than a no-decision last night as the Phils scratched out a lone run in the top of the ninth inning to beat Washington 1-0. Greg Dobbs, pinch-hitter extraordinaire, delivered the key hit, a blooper to left center. Brad Lidge converted the save though not without some dicey moments in the ninth as he walked two batters.
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Has anyone else noticed the horrible camera angle for televising the games from the Nationals' new park? The centerfield camera shot is the standard one, but anything seen from behind the plate is from a perch high aloft. The sharp angle looking down is unpleasant and distorting. On Monday night Harry Kalas noted at the top of the first telecast from Washington that they were sitting "high" above Nationals Park. No kidding.
During the game Monday Ryan Zimmerman chased a foul ball to the top of the steps in the Phillies' dugout but chose, wisely, not to descend the steps in final pursuit. Chris Wheeler noted how steep those steps were. I guess all of this goes to show no one is immune from mistakes when designing a new ballpark. Of course, the big complaint with Citizens Bank Park, indeed the only consistent one, is how cheap the home runs come. Compared to camera angles and steep steps, that's a biggie!
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It's official: Ryan Howard has not broken out of his slump. In fact, he is on a pace to shatter his own record for most K's in a season. Every time he hits one out or even to center or left centerfield, the hopeful jump on the occasion pointing out he is finally breaking out of his season-long slump. Not so fast, boys. He still looks uncomfortable at the plate, especially when it comes to knowing his strike zone.
Meanwhile, Chase Utley has seen his average drop dramatically. It seems to this untrained eye that he is having trouble staying off the high pitches. Chase is notoriously streaky and will snap out of his funk. It wouldn't seem so critical lately if it were not for the fact that Pat Burrell has also fallen to earth, Howard continues to struggle, and apart from J-Roll, all the other regulars are scuffling.