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Phillies Complete Four-Game Sweep Of Nats, Improve to Four Above .500

NEW YORK - MAY 06:  Raul Ibanez #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies at bat against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 6, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
C KSenior Analyst IMay 17, 2009

After a rough 5-8 stretch, the Philadelphia Phillies ran into the right team at the right time. After playing the Mets, Cardinals, Braves, and Dodgers, the Washington Nationals were just what a slumping team needed.

Jimmy Rollins, who came into Saturday with a .199 average, improved his average to .222 by accumulating seven hits in the series.

Chase Utley, who hit .342 in the month of April, is hitting .195 thus far in May and is now hitting .291 overall. Oddly enough, the downfall in Utley's average began the day after he sat out a May 5 game against the Cardinals.

The reason for his absence was a bruised foot, which had been struck by a pitch. Utley has not been the same since.

You might recall that, around this time last season, Utley began to see a decrease in his average. Many speculated that there was something wrong with his body, which turned out to be true. News of a hip injury became afloat after the season, proving the theory right.

Could this recent "injury" be the same? Only time will tell.

Raul Ibanez, the new Philly Messiah (Pat who?), came back to life in this series. He entered Friday with a .336 average and left Sunday with a .357, tallying three home runs, nine hits, and nine runs batted in.

In the month of April, Ibanez hit .359, and was already beginning his new love affair with the Philly faithful. But May has been even sweeter, as he has hit .379 in the month.

Among others, Pedro Feliz has boosted his average above .300 once again, and Jayson Werth is inching closer to .300 with every day.

Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino stand alone among Phillies' hitters, being the only two hitters not producing to their highest ability of late. Even Carlos Ruiz has been coming through when needed, which is huge for the club.

Overall, the Phillies rank sixth in baseball in runs (199), eighth in OBP (.348), fourth in SLG (.454), eighth in OPS (.802), and third in home runs (50).

As for the pitching staff, the bullpen is slowly moving up the ranks. Once near last in the league, the 'pen is now in 13th in baseball with a 4.14 ERA. Chad Durbin (4.03 ERA), Ryan Madson (3.57), Scott Eyre (4.00), and Jack Taschner (3.86) have given consistent relief efforts of late, while the best relievers so far have been J.A. Happ (2.49) and Clay Condrey (2.61).

The starting rotation began the season in a funk, but just as the bullpen has, the rotation is quietly improving. Brett Myers' 4.50 ERA appears to show inconsistency, but five quality starts beg to differ.

Cole Hamels battled soreness, a bruised shoulder, and a strained ankle through April, but has allowed just three earned runs in his last 17.1 innings. His ERA in the month of April is 2.08, and his year-to-date ERA of 5.04 would likely be better had it not been for his departure after 4.1 scoreless innings due to a strained ankle.

Jamie Moyer's 8.15 ERA is certainly a cause for concern, as he has just one quality start and has allowed seven earned runs in each of his last two starts. But the 46-year old does have three wins, and that's a plus no matter how you look at it.

Joe Blanton could be pitching more consistently as well, but his three quality starts is what you expect. The 6.86 ERA needs to improve, and only time will tell if it will.

Now, what is there to say about Chan Ho Park? A poor start to open the season, then decent starts in his next two outings, then a terrible start, then two impressive starts, and the most recent start was today's poor outing. "Inconsistent" is all you can say, but a call for Happ to take his spot is a not an easy decision.

Without J.C. Romero for 14 more games, the bullpen would be without their best reliever so far. Waiting through a few more Park starts is not the worst idea.

Overall, the rotation's ERA still ranks last in baseball, but look at the bright side. The Phillies are just one game out of first and four games above .500 (20-16) with an inconsistent rotation that is going to improve.

Plus, being last means one thing: Up is the only way to go.

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