Hump Day Report: Are the Bats Really Back?

Hump Day LogoRants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or what’s happening in the region. Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly.

I haven’t written about the Phillies lately. It seemed like bad form to get on my blog and bitch about the lack of hitting, since my team has remained in first place, has the best starting rotation in the game, and that great pitching has allowed the Fightin’ Phils to have the best record in baseball most of the year.

Rookie Domonic Brown.

Rookie Domonic Brown.

Last night, however, the baseball gods (or at least the once in charge of homers and run production) unchained the Phillies’ bats. After watching so many 2-1 and 3-2 games — mostly victories, yes, but BORING! — the Phillies exploded for five home runs (two by rookie Domonic Brown) and fried the Marlins 9-1. Now that was fun.

Chase Utley’s return has been the catalyst. Even before he started looking like the Chase of old — and we are talking vintage 2008 Chase Utley — the line-up just looked better. While Chase was still working on his timing, his teammates seemed more relaxed at the plate and more patient, as if relieved that the core of the team was intact once again. That didn’t always equate into crooked numbers on the scoreboard since there were still way too many five or six hit games, but the signs were there.

Considering how well the team has done without consist hitting, think about how well the Phillies could do from here. Even with underachieving bats leading to less than stellar run production, Cole Hamels, who picked up the win last night, has a gaudy 9-2 record, matching the win total of 9-3 Roy Halladay, tied for tops in all of baseball. And, while Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt have been underachieving a bit, with records of 6-5 and 4-4 respectively, they have looked better their last few starts and their respective ERAs are still a solid 3.41 and 3.14.

Then there are young guns in the pen who have been lights out. Ryan Madsen isn’t looking to kick any chairs lately after converting 15 of 16 save opportunities, rookie Michael Stutes has been a great set-up guy since being called up from Triple A and Antonio Bastardo has a couple of saves as the lefty late inning option.

I’ve unchained my optimism and will defy the baseball gods by declaring that my all-round Phillies squad — pitching, hitting and fielding (yes, they are near the top of the league in fielding percentage too) will put the hammer down after the All-Star break. I expect them to open up at least a 10-game cushion over the Braves and coast to the finish and I expect All-Star pitchers Hamels and Halladay to get 20-wins, with Lee finishing in the 15-18 win range and Oswalt pitching in with 14 or 15 wins.

Go ahead baseball gods, I dare you to strike me with a string of games where the Mets shut out the Phillies like last year.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the Braves and the Brewers, I will fear no high and tight pitches, for Ryan Howard, J-Roll and Chase Utley are with me and their fearsome bats will smote all the stray fat pitches that come their way.

Okay, so I got a little carried away. Maybe the offense isn’t all the way back yet but damn, last night was fun. Hopefully it continues this afternoon and evening with the split doubleheader.

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