In This Past Week in Phillies Baseball, the Philly squad was coming off a season-opening, three-game sweep of the Astros and facing a pair of series against two division rivals—the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves.
With Sunday's 3-0 win at Turner Field, the Phillies took the rubber game of the series after similarly rallying to take two of three at home versus the Mets.
The two series wins gave the men in red pinstripes a 4-2 record for the week, boosting the first-place team to 7-2 overall.
Needless to say (and somewhat inaccurately), the 25-man roster was obviously playing its collective bats off to try to win this columnist's second-ever Top Phillie of the Week award.
With such a microscopic sample size, it's hard to ascertain any trends here, although the runner-up slot may be jinxed.
New co-ace Cliff Lee earned the No. 2 spot (behind slugger Ryan Howard) after his electric, 11-strikeout winning performance against the Astros. Perhaps, Lee succumbed to the pressure of trying to do too much to earn the (TPW) award, and fizzled during Friday night's loss to the Braves.
Of course, you may say that a pitcher who is one of the very best big game performers in Major League Baseball, would not be feeling this pressure, and your theory is equally valid. Okay, it was only one bad start, and he's likely to have four or five clunkers this year. And it was nice of Cliff to do this on the road where he would not face the possibility of a scattered boo or two from fans that generally adore him.
With all that said, let's get right to our Top Seven Phillies of the Week, culminating with this week's winner.
Budgetary constraints render it impossible for me to make a contribution to a worthy cause in his name, although if any of you would like to do so in my stead, please contact me.
Let's start with apologies to Roy Oswalt (another strong start, and win) and Ryan Howard (tied for the NL lead in RBI) for just missing the top seven.
7) Cole Hamels – Yesterday, Hamels pitched the best game by a Phils starter this young season: seven innings of four-hit ball, eight strikeouts and one walk in the 3-0 shutout. Of course, earlier in the week he threw that stinker at home versus the Mets.
6) Ryan Madson / Jose Contreras (combo) – The back end of the bullpen made two appearances together and yielded a combined one walk and two hits (versus four strikeouts) in four innings of work. Madson has two holds and Contreras has two saves.
5) Placido Polanco – Polly was a little RBI machine this week, contributing a .308 batting average (6-23) with one run and eight runs batted in. He hit safely in five of the six games this week.
4) Roy Halladay – Scoring 11 runs with Doc on the hill is like sending in a tank to do battle with a mosquito—overkill. Halladay was his brilliant self in the 11-0 win over the Mets, throwing seven innings, giving up six hits and one walk and fanning seven.
Who earns your TPW award?
3) Antonio Bastardo – The man with either the best or worst last name in MLB (I see it both ways) pitched 4.2 innings in three appearances. He made the most of his work, picking up a win, and only giving up two hits and striking out nine batters. Bastardo only yielded one walk, and his ERA is 0.00. Nine of AB’s 14 puts have been of the strikeout variety, including his last six!
2) Carlos Ruiz – No. 51’s bat came alive this week. Chooch went 7-16 (.438), homered once and knocked in six, while scoring four runs. His game on Saturday was quite impressive. He pinch-hit for Brian Schneider (who had also homered) in the seventh, and torched the Braves for a grand slam and a run-scoring double in two at-bats. Going out on a sturdy limb, let’s just say that the Phillies should win every game where they get two homers and seven RBI from their catchers.
1) Shane Victorino – The Flyin’ Hawaiian was the hottest of all Phils this week, with a .481 batting average (13-27), one homer, five RBI, six runs and two stolen bases. Victorino has five straight multiple-hit games.
So, congrats, Shane, and let’s see if anyone can wrest Top Phillie of the Week honors from you next week.
Small sample sizes sometimes produce very strange results.
In the American League, the Cleveland Indians have won seven straight and the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are a combined 3-15. Is it the Carl Crawford Curse, plaguing both his former and current teams? The lifetime .295 hitter is batting .132 in the early stages of 2011.
But, the weirdest stat line may belong to the man widely considered the best player in the game, Albert Pujols. The already legendary Cardinal has only hit safely in four of nine games played, and has produced this slash line: .143 / .225 / .229 (for an OPS of .454). He has homered once (his only extra-base hit) and driven in just four runs, and scored twice. The Gold Glover even committed a very costly error in Friday’s 12-inning loss to the Giants.
I would not count Albert out of another MVP-type campaign by season’s end, but it’s highly unusual to see a player of his caliber struggling so badly, if only for nine games.
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