Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another Red October?

The Phillies have won 10 in a row.

Gonna let that one simmer for a second. 10 in a row, at just the right time. Of course, there’s never a bad time for a 10-game winning streak, but these Phillies always seem to play their best baseball when it counts the most.

September is their month. The 13-4 stretch to close out the ’07 season when they passed the Mets, along with a 13-3 stretch to close the ’08 season – also passing the Mets in the process – and after last night, 18-3 this month.

In the past, it was the offense that carried this team. Sure, they had good starting pitching, plus a lights out closer in 2008 – who is quietly rounding into that form again this year – but the late season runs in those previous years were largely fueled by the bats of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins to name a few.

This year, it’s been all about pitching.

The Phillies now have three aces, a full house (every night), and a straight (path to the NL’s best record), after a clean flush of the Braves.

Cole Hamels is pitching better than he ever has, including the 2008 postseason run. Roy Halladay – although not looking quite as sharp as he did earlier in the year – just won his 20th game, and Roy Oswalt has been spectacular since his first start with the Phillies almost two months ago.

And then there’s Lidge. Perfect in 2008. Lousy in 2009. Close to perfect in 2010. Having Lidge effectively close things out at the end of games helps make the whole thing come together, since Ryan Madson can stay entrenched in the 8th inning role he has become very successful at, currently enjoying his best season on the mound as well.

Howard and Utley are still there, too. Rollins is set to rejoin them soon, and should add a nice dose of late-season experience (as long as Charlie Manuel keeps him far away from the leadoff spot), and Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz are all contributing down the stretch.

Where will it all end? Who knows? All three starting pitchers could go in a funk. The bats could go quiet, and the Phillies could get swept in the first round. They could all get food poisoning by some ill-prepared ribs from Greg Luzinski’s stand at Citizens Bank park. You just don’t know.

But after a late-season surge to capture a division crown in 2007, plus a World Series win, and follow-up appearance in the fall classic last year, and now this season, something has been instilled in even the most critical Philadelphia fan; confidence.

Forget the rarity of 10-game winning streaks. How much more improbable is it to put the words Phillies, and confidence together in a sentence?

With this group of players, though, at this time of year…maybe 10-game winning streaks aren’t as far-fetched as we think.

October, here they come.

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