How do they do it?
The Phils beat the Cubs again yesterday and saw their record improve to a major league best 40 wins. One is tempted to repeat the maxim "good pitching beats good hitting." In the Phils' case this truism would largely apply were it not for the utter lack of consistent, good hitting they have suffered much of this campaign. But the numbers don't lie. Forty wins by the second week in June and only a week since most of the anticipated starting lineup was intact.
They still have to sort out the back end of their starting rotation. Meanwhile, the middle portion of the bullpen, the seventh and eighth inning guys, seems to be sorting itself out...for now at least...with the emergence of Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo. As for the back end, that job now seems securely held by Ryan Madson.
On the offensive front, the continued development of Domonic Brown is critical. Lately, he is producing prodigious uppercut swings aimed, it always seems, at producing home runs. Once he calms down and levels off his swing the line drives will come and he will be more productive. Veterans Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez have to survive the coming long, hot days of summer. Chase Utley has to regain his stroke and adapt to the periodic days off he never liked but appears willing to accept. Ryan Howard has to go to left field more. His plate discipline is forever wandering but the rbi's seem to come anyway. Shane Victorino has to stay healthy as does Placido Polanco.
As for Chooch, well, if he hits his weight he's still the key to the Phils' success. He just knows how to handle pitchers and manage a game. And in this latest pitchers' era, having an outstanding field general behind the plate is of incalculable value.