Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel picks his spots, in determining when to meet with his entire team. Last weekend should have been a memorable one, with a Harry Kalas plaque installed on the Wall of Fame, the greatest of each former Green(e) in attendance (Tyler, Tommy), and a chance to increase their divisional lead over the Marlins. It turned into a debacle, with Shane Victorino ejected from his outfield position, a pregame "Batting Challenge" that included one home run, and three pitchers batting (out of six participants), and Eric Bruntlett remaining on the active roster throughout all three games. Not to mention that the Phillies lost all three games. As there wasn't a UFC event scheduled for immediately after Sunday's loss, that was a very opportune time for a team meeting.
The meeting had a most efficacious effect, as the Phillies responded in impressive, WFC fashion. The Phillies used strong starting pitching, and a reawakened offense, in rolling to a three-game road sweep of the Cubs. Hopefully, the Phils can continue to ride their new momentum, this weekend in Atlanta.
Tuesday's opener at Wrigley Field would have been Phillies co-ace Cliff Lee's fifth day, but the Phillies opted to push Lee back two days, when inserting Pedro Martinez into the rotation. J.A. Happ made the start, with one extra day of rest, after being allowed to throw an obscene 127 pitches in his previous appearance. The draining complete game shutout would have been good reason to push Happ back a few days, and Lee's strong form good reason to keep him on his regular turn. Another good reason to start Lee on Tuesday: he could have returned, on regular rest, for the Sunday night finale against the divisional rival Braves.
Happ permitted seven hits and four walks, in his 100-pitch, six-inning effort. Usually, eleven baserunners in only six innings will result in considerable damage. However, Happ only allowed two of those runners to score. Happ left with the score tied, but after the Phillies took the lead, Brad Lidge contributed the seventh blown save of his imperfect season. The Phillies were not to be denied, however, as Ben Francisco broke the 3-3 tie, with a solo homer in the twelfth inning. Chad Durbin's first appearance, since his DL stint, was a successful one. Durbin closed out the 4-3 win, picking up his second save of the season, with a scoreless twelfth.
The Cubs would get no closer to a victory in the series. Pedro Martinez made his Phillies' debut on Wednesday, scattering seven hits and a walk, in five mediocre innings. Martinez tired in the fifth, when he allowed two, of the three, runs he surrendered. Fortunately, he was pitching with a 12-1 lead, after the Phillies had enjoyed a monstrous eight-run fourth inning. With an eleven-run lead, courtesy of three-run homers by Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez, Martinez' adequate outing was sufficient.
The Phillies had saved Cliff Lee for Thursday, when he would have the opportunity to ensure the Phils' first sweep at Wrigley, since the Kevin Gross-era 1984 team. Lee would have to win under difficult circumstances. Relievers Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre, and Tyler Walker were unavailable, as they were attempting to track down the bleacher bonehead who doused outfielder Shane Victorino with a beer, during Wednesday night's game. (The three crime-fighting hurlers brought the culprit to justice, capturing him behind a Sonic restaurant in Aurora, Illinois. They proceeded to celebrate with Fried Ice Cream Blasts, after turning the heinous criminal over to the authorities.)
Lee had little need for relief, surrendering only a single run in eight innings, in picking up his third consecutive win as a Phillie. Lee was allowed to throw 122 pitches, which would have been a somewhat questionable move, if the bullpen hadn't been so short-handed. Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz hit homers, and the Phillies cruised to a 6-1 win. The Phillies lead the Marlins by 4.5 games, and the Braves by 5 games. If only every series could be this easy.