Philadelphia Phillies Can Gain Momentum after Besting New York Yankees
For the same reasons I'm not going to declare a four-game stretch a slump, I'm not going to declare a pretty decent stretch of the same length as enough to bust out of a slump.
There is hope, however, now that the Phillies have taken three of their last four—the finale against the Red Sox and two out of three against the Yankees—and are finally starting to show glimpses of the back-to-back NL champions that they are.
The bats look like they're starting to get going again, guys are coming through in clutch situations, and the starting pitching even seems to be correcting itself on the fly after two superb outings in consecutive games by Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick.
But now the hard part comes.
The Phils can't just be satisfied with beating the Yankees and then fall into their old ways. They have to use this series to gain some momentum and some confidence in themselves.
The talent is clearly there. Unlike even the past two seasons, the Phillies have everything they need in place to make a serious run. All they have to do is quit getting in their own way and finally start making things happen.
Here is usually where I'd insert some semi-insightful analysis as to what they can do to keep the momentum going and break from the slump, but it's too easy. All they've got to do is keep playing the way they know they can play, stop pressing, and do what they do best.
This season isn't going to hinge upon a trade-deadline move for a pitcher or a big bat. If anything, the only moves the Phillies have to worry about making will come when they finally start moving guys off the DL and back into the lineup—or rotation in the case of J.A. Happ.
And that has been the most agonizing part of this slide: The talent is there from the very top to the very bottom. The pitching, from the ace to the fifth spot, is more than solid. The lineup, from leadoff to the eighth man, is more than capable of getting things done and scoring some runs.
Yes, even with Jimmy Rollins out for most of the season as well as the few times they've been without Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.
The Phils can usually afford to wait until after the All-Star break to get something going, but they won't be afforded that same opportunity this season. The NL East is far too good and if they wait until July to start getting things in place it could be too late.
Only eight games separate the team at the top (Atlanta Braves, 39-28) and the team at the bottom (Washington Nationals, 31-36). With the Nationals just barely under .500, it's clear the baseball gods are not going to make this an easy season for anyone in the NL East.
Joe Blanton (1-5, 7.28 ERA) is set to take on Nick Blackburn (6-3, 4.96 ERA) Friday, so that could put the rally off at least one game as Blanton has been putrid all season long. After that, however, things start to look up as Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay take the mound.
I'm not saying they're going to go undefeated the rest of the season, but the Phils are going to start a tear right now. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them sitting atop the NL East heading into the All-Star break.
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