Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Michael Young have not played badly this year.
Howard came into last night’s game against the Giants hitting .272/.301/.482, sporting a .783 OPS, with 5 HRs, 9 doubles and 18 RBIs. Utley was hitting .263/.315/.483 for a .798 OPS, with 6 HRs, 4 doubles, 2 triples and 21 RBIs. And Young was hitting .333/.398/.423 for an OPS of .822, but with just seven extra-base hits.
That’s not bad production from the heart of the Phils’ order. Certainly, those numbers would be perfectly acceptable if the Phillies featured a lineup that was a little more robust from top to bottom.
But coming into this week’s series against San Francisco, it was clear the Phils’ high-priced veterans needed to do a little more.
The last two nights, against one of the best teams in the National League, in a park that has been a nightmare for the Phillies in recent years, those high-priced vets are getting the job done.
For the second night in a row, the Phils looked eminently competent in beating San Francisco 6-2, their second complete game in as many nights. Kyle Kendrick continued his superb career revival, twirling six innings of two-run, six-hit ball, striking out six while walking none. For the season, Kendrick is now 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA and is making a serious push at being the most unlikely Phillies All-Star since Tyler Green.
But for the second straight game, the story was the Phils offense, which looks revived playing on the west coast. Last night, both Utley and Howard homered (Utley’s 7th, Howard’s 6th), with Utley going 3 for 5 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs, Howard going 2 for 3 with a run scored, 2 RBIs and 2 walks, and Young adding a key RBI double, going 1 for 4. Ben Revere and Laynce Nix also added two hits a piece as the Phillies roughed up a Giants starter for the second straight evening, this time bashing former two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. The now-closely cropped Lincecum went seven innings, giving up five runs on nine hits.
Man, competent baseball is a lot of fun.
As a result of taking the first two games from the Giants, the Phillies now have a chance to do something on Wednesday afternoon that they haven’t done since the Reagan administration.
The last time the Phillies swept a series in San Francisco was 1984. They’ll go for it Wednesday.
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) May 8, 2013
First of all, that’s ridiculous. How can a team go 29 years without sweeping an opponent on the road? That’s simply incredible.
Still, the Phillies will have the chance to do just that, and will turn to a rookie making his fourth Major League start. Jonathan Pettibone has pitched well in his three starts this year, going 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. He has struck out 13 and walked only two so far, and maintaining that low walk rate will be key in keeping the ball rolling.
Much like Kendrick, the Phils will face a reborn pitcher on Wednesday in the form of Barry Zito, who is 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA. And no matter how well Zito is throwing, the Giants always seem to bring their bats for this guy at AT&T Park…
#MLB = Giants are 10-0 in Barry Zito’s L10 home starts. They’re outscoring opponents 61-22. This year they are outscoring opponents 18-1.
— GiL (@GiLmo574) May 8, 2013
Can the Phillies play three competent games in a row and truly get some momentum going ahead of a trip to Arizona? Much will depend on the heart of the order to continue doing what it’s doing.
Where It All Went Right
When Chase Utley connected for his seventh homer of the season in the fifth inning, after the Giants had drawn to within 3-2. His solo blast to right-center field was a monstrous shot and gave Kendrick a little more cushion with which to work. That seemed to help the right-hander, who didn’t allow anything else to San Francisco after that.
Kendrick, who continues to amaze. There really are no words for the turnaround this guy has done. Two years ago, a Kendrick vs. Lincecum match-up would have been a sure-fire loss. How things can change.
Lincecum who, despite his newly-shorn locks, is still a hippie. A dirty, no-good hippie.