If you need proof positive that Jimmy Rollins is the engine that makes the Phillies go, look at the last month. The Phightin's are 17-3 in their last 20 games after steamrolling a good St. Louis Cardinals team yesterday and again today. Rollins ended June at a batting average barely above the dreaded Mendoza line, and he was benched for three straight games in the hope that he would get his head on straight and start hitting. He was also removed from his customary spot as the Phillies' lead-off hitter for failing to perform.
Rollins has been torrid for the last month. He wont yesterday's game with a grand slam homer, and he hit a two-run shot today. He's now hitting .237, and been well over .300 for the month of July. With Rollins producing and getting on base, that means that Shane Victorino has been getting pitches to hit, and Victorino has also delivered. He went 4-4 with a homer yesterday, and has raised his batting average to an excellent .320. Mix in some timely hitting by Raul Ibanez, who hit his 27th homer today, and by Ryan Howard, and the Phillies' offense has been extremely potent for the last 20 games.
With the exception of a poor performance by Jamie Moyer on Friday night, the starting pitching has been very respectable. Rodrigo Lopez gave Charlie Manuel 6 solid innings yesterday in picking up his third win in three starts, and Joe Blanton, who seems to be the ace and workhorse of the staff, pitching 8 strong innings today. Blanton, whose ERA was near 8.00 early in the season, has now lowered his ERA to a solid 4.14.
The problem remains the bullpen. After a couple of effective performances, Clay Condrey re-aggravated his muscle pull and had to go back on the disabled list. He joined J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin on the DL, meaning that Kyle Kendrick and newly-acquired Steven Register have been added to the active roster in the hope of bolstering the bullpen.
Management also seems unwilling to pay the price to obtain Roy Halladay, and I can't really blame them. The Blue Jays want three of the Phillies' best prospects--J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek, and prized outfield prospect Dominic Brown for Halladay, and that's a very stiff price to pay for a 32-year-old pitcher. Pedro Martinez was scheduled to pitch a Class A game today, and I'm hoping that Martinez will be able to make a solid contribution to the team sooner than later, since it does not appear likely that we will be seeing Halladay in pinstripes any time soon.
In spite of it all, the Phils are 56-40, and have a 7 game lead. Unless they completely fall apart, they will run away with the National League Eastern Division. That's a good first step toward defending their World Series championship.