Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Keys to Staying at the Top
The Phillies continue to be one of the best teams in baseball.
With a Major League best record of 45-28, they seem to be in pretty good shape despite a little trip up recently with the Mariners, losing two out of three. The Phillies still hold a 4.5 game lead in the division over Atlanta.
It is great to be in this position right now, but this position needs to remain steady because all that really matters is making the playoffs and World Series at the end of the season. It doesn't matter where you were 73 games into the year.
Therefore, here are five things in no particular order of importance that the Phillies need to continue doing or start doing in order to continue this success and drive towards the World Series.
1. Chase Utley Has To Get Hot
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Let's face it, life is much easier when your number three hitter is hitting the ball well.
Obviously, Ryan Howard is the really big RBI man, but Utley is one of the guys he should be driving home. Utley should be driving in Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino as well.
Lately, he has been getting on base better with an on-base percentage of .364, but his batting average is only at .253. Chase Utley is a great hitter, but he has to keep hitting like he was this past week to really give the Phillies runs from the middle of the lineup.
2. The Big Four Have To Keep Doing What They've Been Doing
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I know that I am simply stating the obvious.
In total, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt have a combined record of 29-16 with a cumulative ERA of 2.84.
So far this season, whenever any of these four take the mound, the Phillies have had a great chance of winning despite the fact that run support has been a little bit low at times.
It goes really without saying, but this is incredibly vital to any success the Phillies will have for the rest of the year.
3. The Bullpen Has To Continue Holding on to Games
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Ryan Madson can finally close. While he has had trouble as a closer in the past, he looks very comfortable in that role now with 15 saves so far.
When Madson moved into the ninth, there was a hole at his eighth inning position. Luckily, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, and José Contreras have been able to fill in that gap on different nights with mostly solid performances.
Bastardo is going to become even more important now as JC Romero was let go. This essentially places the 25-year-old Bastardo as the left-handed specialist.
The bullpen is doing well, but it has to keep holding and saving games to keep winning.
4. Domonic Brown Must Be Productive
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It does not seem like the Phillies are going to make a move for a new right fielder, or if they do, he would most likely be a backup to Domonic Brown.
Because of this dedication to Brown, he needs to be hitting the ball well.
My only concern is that Brown does have a large swing. The longer that he is around, the easier it will be for pitchers to find the holes in that swing. His average is only .220 right now, but pitchers are only going to get tougher.
He has done better however at keeping his strikeouts down so far, but he needs to be careful about that going forward.
5. Runs! Runs! Runs!
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It is amazing that the Phillies have only scored 299 runs.
Right now, the Phillies are on pace to score approximately 663 runs this season. Last season, they scored 772 runs.
If the Phillies could find this type of production while combining it with the pitching of this season which has only surrendered 238 runs, they would be nearly unstoppable.
Part of this difference in production may be due to the fact that Chase Utley was out earlier this season and the right field platoon of earlier this season has not been as productive as Jayson Werth was last season.
Whatever the reason, if the Phillies offense can be as productive as everyone knows it can be, the Phillies will continue going strong and will be hard to derail.