Sunday, July 12, 2009

The All Star Break Arrives

The Phils got a first inning grand slam from third baseman Pedro Feliz today, staking J. A. Happ to a 5-0 lead. That was enough. Happ pitched 7 superb innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 earned run. He's now 6-0 for the season, with a sparkling 2.90 ERA. The Phillies are now ten games over .500, with a record of 48-38, and are enjoying a 4.5 game lead over the Marlins as they head into the All Star Break.

Happ has clearly been the highlight of the team's pitching staff so far this season. He has been the one reliable, steady performer from beginning to end, although Joe Blanton has recently been very effective and very consistent. Considering that the Phils really only have two consistently dependable starters in Happ and Blanton, they've done remarkably well. Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels, who combined for 30 wins last year, have been extremely inconsistent. One game, they look like world-beaters, and the next, they get shellacked. And, since Brett Meyers went down with his hip injury, a number of also-rans have been filling in as fifth starters, but someone better and more experienced would ease my mind.

The bullpen has also been inconsistent. Brad Lidge has been unreliable and often horrible. Ryan Madson continues to be an excellent set-up man, but he was terrible when he got his chance to close. J.C. Romero missed 50 games with his drug suspension, but has been dependable since returning. Scott Eyre is always dependable, but spent time on the disabled list. Clay Condrey, also always reliable, is on the DL now. Chan Ho Park, awful as a starter, has been pretty dependable filling the middle relief role and has had some excellent outings. Chad Durbin has been inconsistent, unlike last year. The bullpen, which was clearly the Phils' strongest point last year, has been very inconsistent this year.

There's not much to say about the offense, other than that when it's hot, it's hot. When it's not, it's not. Luckily, it's been hot much more often than not.

And so we head to the All Star break with the Phils firmly entrenched in first place in their division, and only one other team in the division with a record over .500. So, things look promising for a repeat of the division title. Where we go from there remains an open question.

Good luck to the five Phillies who are members of the National All Star team. I hope that they all make us proud.

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