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The Philadelphia Phillies have lived up to expectations so far this season with their excellent pitching staff and are tied for the best record in the major leagues. The Phillies are 15-7 going in to Tuesday night and have allowed only 73 runs, tied with the Oakland Athletics for least in baseball.
Their pitching has been excellent, but the staff has had to perform with little run support. The Phillies have only scored 95 runs which putting them directly in the middle of all teams and 28 runs behind the major-league-leading Cincinnati Reds. The offensive struggles have hit hard over the last month with a lineup that has yet to see All-star second baseman Chase Utley who has been sidelined by injury. The Phillies haven’t scored more than four runs in a game since April 10. But the pitching staff has stood strong and their four aces have gone 10-4 on the season. Roy Halladay is 3-1, Cliff Lee is 2-2, Roy Oswalt is 3-0, and Cole Hamels 2-1.
The awards the rotation can boast are also astounding. Halladay won the Cy Young as the best pitcher in his league in both 2003 and 2010. Lee won the Cy Young in 2008, Oswalt won the NLCS MVP in 2005 and Hamels won the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008. These pitchers are all in the primes of their careers and pitching at the top of their games. Halladay and Oswalt are both 33, Lee is 32, and Hamels, the youngest of the bunch is 27. The Phillies also have a capable fifth starter in Joe Blanton and occasionally Kyle Kendrick.
On the season the rotation has continued to stack up against the competition making it one of the best rotations in baseball. Halladay is second in the NL with three wins, first in innings pitched at 37.1, second in strikeouts with 39, and first with one complete game. Halladay also has an ERA of 2.41 and has allowed just one homerun in his five starts. Lee is tied with Halladay for second in the NL with 39 strikeouts, and tied for most complete games with one. Oswalt is tied with Halladay for second most wins in the NL at 3, and boasts the highest winning percentage with no losses. Oswalt also has a miniscule ERA at 1.88 and opponents are batting just .179 against him. Hamels has 26 strikeouts and boasts an ERA of just 2.92. Hamels has not allowed a homerun in his five starts.
The great pitching by these aces have allowed the Phillies to overcome their struggles in scoring runs, but has also taken some of the pressure away from the back of their bullpen. The team’s closer, Brad Lidge has been on the DL for most of the season. In his place veteran pitcher Jose Contreras has performed admirably, not allowing a single earned run and picking up five saves. However, Contreras started having elbow problems and was placed on the DL Sunday. Ryan Madson will fill the void at closer for the time being but he has struggled in the past for the Phillies as a closer.
The rotation will have to continue to be impressive if the Phillies are going to continue to stay atop the major leagues, especially with a good young Florida Marlins team nipping at their heels in the NL East. The rotation has the skills, experience, and repertoire to do it and with this many stars in one rotation, a slump by one or two of these pitchers shouldn’t be that big of a deal. The Phillies know that at the end of the day this is the rotation anyone in baseball would want, and they’re poised to have a fantastic season.