With Roy Halladay set to make his first start since May 27, the Philadelphia Phillies have to be optimistic as they make a push for a spot in the 2012 playoffs.
Although they have put themselves in an unenviable position and will be playing from behind for the rest of the season, Halladay coming back could not have come at a better time.
Currently sitting at 40-51, the Phils have gotten off to a solid start in the season's second half. After losing their first game against the Colorado Rockies, the team has been on a three-game winning streak which featured back-to-back eight-inning starts from Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.
It may not seem like much, but the Phillies picked up a game on the Nationals during this streak and are currently only 13 behind them for the division lead. The Phils have also gotten closer to reaching the .500 mark as they recorded their 40th win Monday night against the LA Dodgers.
Right now, the team is doing exactly what they need to do and that is to win games. With Halladay back, this winning streak should no doubt continue and, as he takes the mound Tuesday night, that is exactly what the Phils are going to need him to do.
The Anchor of the Rotation
If there is any question at all over how much Halladay means to this team, just ask a guy like Juan Pierre, who even though he has only been his teammate for a few months, easily expressed the impact Halladay has.
“Everybody looks to him (for leadership). He doesn’t say much, but you know what he can do when he goes out there because of his work ethic. (Cole) Hamels and (Cliff) Lee are both tremendous guys, but Roy’s the anchor." - Juan Pierre courtesy of the Washington Post
Pierre's comments are just a few in the long line of amazing credit that players, both opposing and teammates, have given Halladay over the years. His impact in a staff can truly never be overstated.
Hello Halladay, Goodbye Kendrick
There is no question that Halladay is an ace and that he is the Phillies' ace. With his presence back in the rotation, the Phils will once again have a formidable pitching staff that can compete with the rest of the division.
On top of him coming back to pitch every fifth day, Halladay's return to the lineup means the Phillies are able to put Kyle Kendrick back in the bullpen. This offers two benefits, as Kendrick was not having a great season from the rotation and now the bullpen will have much needed help.
Over recent years, Kendrick has proven a valuable asset for the Phillies from the pen. This season, the Phils' pen has faltered and, on several occasions, has cost the team valuable games. The only way they even have a shot at the playoffs begins with fixing the pen. With Kendrick back, short of a trade, this gives the Phils the best chance to fix the bullpen and to have some sort of stable reliever to go to late in games.
The Much Needed Ace
Halladay is a guy that can give this team eight innings most of the time he goes out to the mound. Since he is just coming off the DL, it might take a few starts, but once he feels ready to go there will be nothing stopping the Phils from riding Halladay for the rest of the season.
Hopefully, this will mean the bullpen is not even a factor. It has been proven this season that the formula for this team's success is for the starter to hand the ball off to closer Jonathan Papelbon. With Halladay back on the mound, the Phils have one more pitcher with the capability to do this and to do it on a regular basis.
In addition to this, Halladay is a guy that more often than not will keep a team in games. Although he struggled earlier this season, it can be said that some of that could be attributed to his injury. A healthy Halladay, which the Phils expect to be getting, won't have this problem. As a result, whenever he is on the mound, the Phillies will have a chance to win the game.
With each game as important as the last, this seemingly small matter will ultimately prove to be very important.
It has been said by many that this Phillies team does not possess the desire needed to win a championship. Most of the core have been there and won it before, so it is understandable if the drive to win wouldn't be as strong.
Halladay however is a completely different story and more than anyone else on this team right now, he has the strongest desire to win a World Series ring.
This is the one item missing from an otherwise wonderful major league career. Hall of Fame aspirations aside, Halladay wants this more than anything else as it is the ultimate accomplishment.
For this reason, Halladay is going to fight for a ring. He is going to show up for the second half of the season dedicated and determined, perhaps more so than ever. Having him back gives the Phils someone who will push for success and demand nothing less. If there is any hope of the Phillies reaching the postseason, it will be because Doc is back and because he is ready to take control of this staff as only he can.