Good things come in twos. Philly knows this. Its pairings are magical. Soft pretzels and mustard. Pepper and egg. Hall and Oates. Tasty and Kake.
One match matters most: pitchers and catchers. The words alone warm the hearts of Phillies fans everywhere. They ward off the wind chill, especially this year.
It has been a long winter. Much business remains. The promise of a parade went unfulfilled last autumn. One hundred-two regular season wins dissolved into the night.
Poof, they were gone. Maybe that squirrel took them. No matter, only the St. Louis Cardinals, a wild-card team, remained. They played on. The Phillies went home. The ache lingered long.
But that was then. Pitchers and catchers is now. The mitts are popping. Hopes are renewed, and among Phillies fans, they remain high. This is for good reason. A bunch of them, actually, and they come in pairs.
Start with the best battery in baseball. That is, of course, Roy “Doc” Halladay and Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz. They are a pair worth watching have a catch. Just ask opposing batters; they get caught looking all of the time.
“Doc” and “Chooch” make making history look routine. First, they combined for a perfect game. Then, they paired for a no-hitter—in the postseason, no less.
“Doc” was a pretty fair pitcher before coming to Philly. Since he hooked up with “Chooch,” though, his ERA has never been lower. It came in at 2.35 last year, down from 2.44 the year before.
If Halladay and Ruiz become any more in sync, the Phillies will need to start selling “Doc ‘n Chooch” jerseys (no doubt the “Gnats” will try to ban them).
Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels follow Halladay in the rotation. They constitute a wicked pair of lefties. Combined, they started 63 games last year and won 31 of them.
Hamels won 11 of his 14 games prior to the all-star break last season. Lee was nearly unhittable after the break, going 8-2 with an ERA of 1.79.
While Hamels tailed off last year, going 3-5 after the break with a 3.54 ERA, he still managed to give the Phillies more innings (84) in the second half than anyone else in the rotation not named Halladay (90.1) or Lee (95.1).
He also dialed down the drama. Hamels avoided melting down as he once did when things went wrong. He recovered to throw six shutout innings in his only postseason appearance against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Such newfound resiliency is surely attributable to Lee’s influence. After all, Lee followed up his demotion to the minors (2007) by winning the AL Cy Young award (2008) with the Cleveland Indians.
The pair that rounds out the Phillies rotation consists of Vance Worley and Joe Blanton.
Worley emerged from nowhere last year to win 11 games. He only lost three. On a staff stacked with winners, Worley’s winning percentage (.785) stands out.
Worley’s partner is no Cy Young. He is an average Joe—all substance, no flash. Blanton’s everyman demeanor works well to complement Worley’s mohawk hairstyle and fashionable eyewear. It also provides the young pitcher with a model of consistency.
Last year the Phillies famously dealt four aces. This year, the team will be dealing in pairs. That extends into the bullpen.
There a freshly arrived duo will wait to close things out. During the offseason, the Phillies acquired closer Jon Papelbon, a free agent from the Red Sox.
As part of the deal, they also received Papelbon’s alter ego “Cinco Ocho.” The addition cost the Phillies nothing extra. They did not even have to throw in a draft pick.
Papelbon and his fastball firing alias have combined to save 200 games faster than any other single pitcher in history. Who said two closers aren’t as good as one?
It is unclear whether Papelbon and “Cinco Ocho” warm up one another or if they require a catcher. Whatever the case, the latest pair to join the Phillies is vital to the team’s success.
Pitchers and catchers, indeed. Who could have guessed the prospect of having a catch could be so entertaining?
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