2010 MLB Playoffs: Six Phillies Who Will Determine World Series
With the Atlanta Braves coming into Philadelphia this week for a three-game series, the Phillies couldn’t have it set up any better.
On Monday evening the Phillies had a three-game lead over the Braves in the National League East and still had three games at Atlanta remaining on the schedule.
If Philadelphia wanted to lock up the N.L. East crown, this series would go a long way towards popping the champagne.
And that’s precisely why manager Charlie Manuel had his best three guys ready to take the mound.
Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt were all scheduled to face the Braves.
One quick sweep later and the Phillies can breathe easy with a six-game lead. Meanwhile, the Braves cling to a half-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card race.
A month ago Atlanta looked like they were in control of the division. A Hollywood ending was unfolding: a division title and playoff run in Bobby Cox’s final season as the manager of the Braves.
Except too many people discounted the ability and experience of the Phillies, if that’s even possible to do with a team that has represented the N.L. in the last two World Series, winning one of them.
Fast-forward and the Phillies have run off 10 straight wins and sit days away from clinching a playoff berth.
With Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt all doing their part to anchor a rotation that has quickly become the best in baseball, the Phillies have become favorite picks to reach the World Series again this fall and perhaps win their second title in three years.
As a preview to October and a hat tip to those predicting the Phillies will win it all, we look at six of the most important Phillies who will determine whether or not the city is crowned champions in 2010.
Roy Halladay, Starting Pitcher
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In typical Halladay fashion, the ace has notched 20 wins in his first season in Philadelphia, posting a 2.53 ERA in a little more than 241 innings.
Halladay’s 7.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is one reason why he will find himself in the thick of another Cy Young Award race this year.
But as we’ve learned time and time again, none of this means anything the day the regular season turns to the postseason.
If Philadelphia is going to win a title this year, it’s going to be partly on the back of Halladay.
Doc is the horse, he’s the leader, and he’s going to get the ball in Game 1. In a five-game series the first win is huge.
Halladay will be going up against other teams’ aces, whether that is Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, or CC Sabathia.
Either way, October is why Halladay wanted to come to a place like Philadelphia.
He now has his chance to make a big impact, and the Phillies need him to do just that.
Ryan Howard, First Baseman
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Howard is the obvious cog in the middle of Philadelphia’s lineup. He’s had another solid season (by his standards): 30 homers, .353 OBP, .866 OPS.
But Howard’s downfall, like many power hitters, is the strikeout.
And when Howard goes on a strikeout streak, the Phillies lineup doesn’t appear nearly as daunting.
Chase Utley is going to get his. Or teams will pitch around him. Or both.
But if Howard goes cold, and opposing teams can take him out of the picture, the onus to produce runs falls on Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez (other than Utley).
Those guys are quality hitters, but asking them to carry a club through October may be asking a bit much.
It’s imperative that Howard drives in runs and guys like Victorino and Placido Polanco can do what they do best by getting on base and setting up RBI-opportunities for the middle of the order.
Cole Hamels, Starting Pitcher
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Two years ago, Hamels was named the MVP of the World Series after he pitched the Phillies past the Tampa Bay Rays.
With his October performance, it appeared that Hamels had launched himself into the stratosphere that is reserved for only the game’s elite pitchers.
Then the following October, when the Phillies were getting thumped by the New York Yankees, Hamels sat in the dugout with a long face and disinterested look.
He said that he was tired and that he couldn’t wait for the season to be over.
Those thoughts aren’t uncommon, especially for a young guy.
Hamels was Exhibit A of the long season’s grind getting to a player and wilting his mind before the final out of the year had been recorded.
That happens every summer to many players on teams that are out of contention, except you don’t hear about them because, well, they play on teams that are out of contention.
Hamels’ words were taken out of context, and in a furnace of a city like Philly, they gained a lot of negative attention.
But a year later, Hamels has quietly put together a fantastic season and is playing his best baseball as the season winds down.
Forget Hamels’ 12-10 record. It’s meaningless.
Hamels has a 2.93 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 202 2/3 innings. His ERA is under 1.5 since July.
The Phillies have enough arms to win if Hamels doesn’t pitch his best ball.
But if Hamels joins Halladay and Oswalt in pitching like a rotation ace? Forget it. The Phillies will win the World Series.
Hamels has the ability to take a great rotation and make it a championship one single-handedly.
Ryan Madson, Relief Pitcher
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Interesting pick, you say?
Madson’s 61 Ks in 50.1 relief innings had only a little to do with his selection.
Madson brings power stuff—mid-90s fastball, nasty changeup—to the late innings for the Phillies and is the bridge to Brad Lidge.
But Madson makes the list because of his versatility and the teams that Philadelphia may face in October.
San Francisco, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Colorado, and San Diego.
What do they have in common?
Three of those teams’ best hitters are left-handed: Cincinnati (Joey Votto), Atlanta (Jason Heyward), and San Diego (Adrian Gonzalez).
You could make a case for right- or left-handed for San Francisco (Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey) and Colorado (Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki).
Actually, you can’t make a case when it comes to the Giants. Posey is their best hitter, bar none. But Huff has had a good year, so there.
Madson eats up right-handed hitters, but his changeup is so good that he nullifies lefties too.
Righties are hitting .194 against Madson this year, while lefties are hitting .226.
Almost 30 percent of Madson’s at-bats versus left-handed hitters have resulted in a strikeout, and it’s almost 35 percent against right-handers.
While most bullpens have one guy that’s particularly good against lefties—usually the lefty specialist—the Phillies have two with Madson and southpaw J.C. Romero.
There are so many big names on this Phillies team that Madson will probably be the unsung hero of it all.
But don’t be fooled: Madson will record imperative outs in the seventh and eighth innings for the Phillies if they make a World Series run.
I don’t want to call him the most important guy on this list, but that should at least give you an idea of what he means to his ball club.
Jayson Werth, Outfielder
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Werth is to the Phillies' lineup what Hamels is to the rotation.
If Werth is on fire, the Phillies are incredibly difficult to beat.
Werth’s .386 OBP and .910 OPS go unnoticed because Utley and Howard surround him, but Werth has quietly developed into an above-average everyday player who can hit in the middle of a championship-caliber lineup.
Werth will have to assume some of the responsibility for knocking in runs if opposing teams pitch around Howard and/or Utley.
He’s shown the ability to do that so far, and there’s no reason why he should cool off come October.
Brad Lidge, Closer
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When the Phillies won the title in 2008, Lidge didn’t blow a save.
When Lidge struggles to solidify the back of the bullpen, the Phillies need late-season surges to even claim first place in their own division despite having more talent than most, if not all, teams in baseball.
If Lidge is nails in the ninth inning, Philadelphia has a chance.
If he struggles, Manuel will have to use some Jedi mind tricks to patch together the last three innings.
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