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The Philadelphia Phillies hold the best record in the major leagues, have the best pitching staff in the league, and have a lineup that takes complete advantage of the small walls in Citizens Bank Park. They have proved throughout the last few years that they are the favorites in the National League, and have improved significantly in 2011. The question is, can any other team do anything to stop them from reaching the World Series?
Let’s put this into perspective. Sure, they only have a small lead over the Atlanta Braves, who as of now are looking like a solid choice for the wild-card spot. That being said, the Mets are over ten games back of the Phillies for first, a number that looks too big to catch up from even after only half of the season. That being said, put the Mets in the NL West and they’re in a full-blown pennant race sitting only three games back.
The Phillies are dominating, and leaving everyone else in the dust.
Their starting rotation is clearly the cornerstone of the team. As of now they hold three aces in Halladay, Lee, and Hamels, all of which will be representing Philadelphia in the All-Star game in Arizona. Every one of these guys could challenge the prestigious 20 win mark not only this year, but for many years to come. Throw in a healthy Roy Oswalt and opposing teams in a seven game series might as well just give up now.
That brings us to their injuries. The Phillies have seen Oswalt, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino miss significant time already, and still have dominated. Their entire bullpen has been decimated. Brad Lidge, the assumed closer going into the year, hasn’t even sniffed the field. The next in line, Jose Contreras, has seen two long DL stints in 2011. Let’s try Ryan Madson? Same result.
They’re getting by with Antonio Bastardo closing games. That should say it all.
Oh right, we haven’t even discussed their lineup yet…
With Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino setting the table, any real combination will work out. No complaints there.
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have proved year in and year out that they are the bread and butter of this Philadelphia lineup, and refuse to disappoint. Expect monstrous home runs from Howard, and some of the most solid consistent hitting in the game from the veteran second baseman. But it doesn’t end there.
Towards the bottom of the lineup we still see Raul Ibanez, who although is not the slugger he once was, isn’t exactly a number seven hitter than opposing pitchers are delighted to see. Domonic Brown, one of their biggest prospects is finally up and playing full-time. He’s not quite where they want him to be just yet, but the flashes of brilliance have come through and proved that the Phillies are okay in the long-term too.
Even Carlos Ruins and Wilson Valdez are decent at handling at bat in the eight hole.
Philly is incredibly balanced. There really aren’t many holes across their roster. If I had to be picky, and I will, their bullpen is shaky at best. Although for the most part they don’t need it to do much now, the playoffs are a different story. Again, it must be noted that all of their starters routinely throw eight innings a game without breaking a sweat, don’t be surprised if they try to make a move before the deadline to pick up another late-inning arm.
Who can stop them? Atlanta? St. Louis? San Francisco? I’ll save some words and just give an overall no.
Book your October tickets now Philly fans, you’re going back to the big game.