The Phillies finished off their three-game sweep of the Mets on Sunday, with a 2-0 victory. Perhaps it was poor play by the Mets, winners of two of their last ten, that keyed the Phils' sweep. Maybe the Phillies are back to their World Championship form. The truth is, probably,
somewhere in between that the WFCs are going to play .800 ball the rest of the way, and win the NL East by thirty games. With continued starting pitching like they received this weekend, from their #3 through #5 starters, their NL East cohabitants will be competing for second place.
Joe Blanton put up a 3.62 ERA in six June starts, but was only able to secure a single win. He matched that win total on Sunday, pitching seven and one-third scoreless innings. Blanton permitted only four hits and three walks (five strikeouts). His season record is now 5-4, with a 4.69 ERA, quite the improvement over the 8.41 ERA he had in April. Chan Ho Park induced a crucial twin killing in the eighth, and Brad Lidge converted his second save in two days, striking out the side in the ninth.
The Phillies' bats did their part in the win, with an invigorated Jimmy Rollins leading off the first inning with a home run off Mets' ace Johan Santana. Rollins finished two-for-three, improving his average to .217. All-Star Chase Utley took Santana deep in the sixth, for his eighteenth homer, and...well, that was it. The Phillies didn't actually get any additional hits in the game. So, it would appear that the Phils' bats didn't really do their part. However, with their dominant pitching, combined with three timely double plays in the field, the Phillies didn't need much offense on Sunday.
As if the Phils' pitching wasn't enough, there was no way they could lose on July 5th, the shared birthday of broadcasting stalwarts Gary Matthews, Sr. and Tom McCarthy. Matthews was treated to some pregame ribs, which he almost managed to drop on Chris Wheeler, his fellow color analyst. Later, the Phillie Phanatic staged a sneak attack on the broadcasting booth, in which he buried Matthews and McCarthy with popcorn. When Wheeler complained about the state of the popcorn-ridden booth later, the Phanatic struck again, covering the inimitable Wheeler with silly string. These shenanigans were a lot funnier during a sweep-finalizing victory, than they would have been during a loss.
The Phillies finish the first half with four home games against the .500 Reds, followed by three more at CBP against the .451 Pirates (15-28 on the road). The Phils lead the division by only a single game (over Florida), but have a great opportunity to increase that lead, as well as to improve their woeful 16-22 home record. Cole Hamels will face the Reds' Johnny Cueto on Monday night, in a duel of aces. As long as Paul Bako and Eric Bruntlett remain on the Phillies' bench, the Phils should have a good shot at improving their winning streak to four games.