Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Houston, We Have a Problem

The Phillies know they haven't clinched a playoff spot yet, right? Right? Because the way they've been playing of late, you'd think they had this thing all wrapped up in August. Only problem with that is, uh, they're not in the playoffs yet. With last night's 8-2 loss at home to Houston, the Phils sit four games up on the Braves (who've won 7 in a row) in the NL East and just two games up on the Rockies, who lead the wild card. With six games left to play, their magic number sits at 3.

While winning three of six, going just .500, seems like a very attainable feat, especially for a playoff-caliber team, the Phillies aren't exactly resembling a division champion right now. Since taking two of three from the Braves over a week ago, the Phils have gone 3-5, losing two straight series to the Marlins and the Brewers. They've lost games going up against pitcher the likes of 3-8 Anibal Sanchez and his 4.00-plus ERA, Rick VandenHurk (4.44), Manny Parra (6.16), Braden Looper (5.10) and Yorman Bazardo (8.23). In other words, they've been losing to bad pitchers, failing to hit the most pedestrian of hurlers, and their own guys on the hill have been getting swatted around by teams already out of the playoff race. Forget the bullpen trouble for a second — the entire Phillies team looks like a disaster right now.

Yesterday, I called them the the Philadelphia Mets, and it's eery how similar they're playing like the 2007 and 2008 versions of New York. Surely this team can't choke away the division and a playoff birth the way the Mets did, right? Hell, not making it now would be even worse than the Mets. But here we are, with the red-hot Braves on their tail and the Rockies hanging around in that wild card spot.

Still, it's not time to panic yet, right? Right?

Astros 8, Phillies 2: What's this? Bizarro beat Cole Hamels? But him good! ... I saw on the Twitter that Houston's announcers made reference to the 2007 Mets in relation to the Phillies. It's a bit premature to panic anywhere outside of Philly, where it's required to panic. The thing is, the Braves might win the rest of their games, so the Phillies are going to have to win at least (using fingers) one ... two ... three. They can do that.

I sure hope they can do that. But the way they're playing, the prospects aren't looking good. Even after suffering a four-game sweep earlier in the month at the hands of the Astros, the Phillies couldn't muster up enough to avenge that sweep against a pitcher who came in with an 0-2 record and 9.55 ERA. That's not good. Thankfully, they take on more horrendous pitching to wrap up the season. Unfortunately, they've been sucking donkey balls against horrible pitchers of late:

Here are the next three pitchers the Phillies face:
• Tuesday: Wilton Lopez (0-0, 10.38 ERA)
• Wednesday: Brian Moehler (8-10, 4.86 ERA)
• Thursday: Felipe Paulino (2-10, 6.06 ERA)
Six of those 10 pitchers have a 5.12 ERA or higher. Five of them have a 6.06 ERA or higher. No pitcher has better than a 4.24 ERA.
The Phillies need to win just two of their final six games to clinch no worse than a tie in the National League East. They need to win just three to win outright. You have to think the Phillies can beat two of these Astros pitchers before the Marlins come to town this weekend, right?
The problem is nobody other than Ryan Howard is hot at the top of the lineup, and even he isn't on fire. Here are the September averages for the everyday eight: Jimmy Rollins (.261), Shane Victorino (.227), Chase Utley (.222), Howard (.294), Jayson Werth (.239), Raul Ibanez (.268), Pedro Feliz (.227), Carlos Ruiz (.319) and Paul Bako (.286).
The Phillies are dragging down the stretch, which is not a good sign for the postseason. But the Astros sure are setting them up nicely with the next three pitchers they face.

Maybe a little too nicely, given their recent struggles. If this team doesn't take at least two from the Astros, they don't deserve to win the division. As it sits, they are 0-5 against Houston this month. 0-5. Against a team that is currently 10 games under .500 (73-83). That's unacceptable, no matter how you slice it. They better wake the hell up here before it's too late.

The farther away we get from 2008, the less this team resembles the World Fucking Champions.

BallHype: hype it up!

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