Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phillies - Redsox, a World Series Preview?

The Philadelphia Phillies became the first team to 50 wins this year as Cliff Lee outdueled Josh Beckett en route to a 5-0 Phillies win tonight. Lee caps what has been just a ridiculous June for him as he fired his 3rd straight complete game shutout, and for the month he has allowed just 1 run in 42 innings of work and won all 5 of his starts. He's seen his ERA drop from 3.94 at the end of May to 2.66. Beckett meanwhile, looked rusty in his first start in nearly two weeks. But this game was more than just a matchup between two aces, this was arguably a preview of the 2011 World Series. After starting the season 2-10, Boston has gone 43-23 and are right in the thick of things in the AL East, just a game and a half behind the Yankees. Adrian Gonzalez has played like an MVP (.357 16 HR 71 RBI), and David Ortiz is in the midst of his best offensive season since the Sox last trip to the World Series back in 2007 (.311 17 HR 48 RBI) as Boston has scored the 2nd most runs in baseball, behind only the Yankees. And that's despite getting virtually nothing from Carl Crawford (.275 on base percentage) and having Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis post their lowest averages since their rookie seasons. Philly meanwhile has been doing it with pitching. They have no starters hitting over .300, only one player (Ryan Howard) with double digit homeruns, and they've scored just 6 more runs than the offensively challenged Houston Astros. But they have 3 9+ game winners in Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, all of whom have ERAs of 2.66 or lower.

Even as both sides struggle with injuries- Boston has Clay Buchholz, Bobby Jenks, Carl Crawford and Jed Lowrie on the DL, while Philly is out Joe Blanton, Jose Contreras, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson- both teams continue to win and will be extremely tough matchups in the postseason. Boston can throw Beckett, Lester and Buchholz at you in a 3 game series with a back end of the bullpen that contains Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard. Not to mention a lineup that when healthy has both speed in Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, and power in Ortiz and Gonzalez. Philly meanwhile throws Halladay, Lee and Hamels at you. The three have combined for 40 quality starts in 50 tries and they're a combined 28-12. And their lineup, while it has struggled early this season, still has Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez. If their bullpen can ever get healthy, they're going with their 4th string closer now that Lidge, Madson and Contreras are all out, they'll be really tough to beat. But then again, when Lee and Halladay go 9 every time out, who needs a bullpen anyways?

Now in the grand scheme of thing, this series doesn't mean much of anything. It's June after all, and you can be certain that the rosters of these two teams come October will look a little different than they do right now. But don't be surprised if you see these two battling it out when all is said and done. Thursday's day game is the next big one to watch as lefties Jon Lester and Cole Hamels face off against one another, both in search of their 10th win.

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