Phillies reassert themselves as team to beat in National League
PHILADELPHIA -- For all their angst and absences, the Philadelphia Phillies are right back where everyone figured they'd be, in first place in the National League East and showing the potential to dominate a division they've owned in recent years. Among their many positive happenings lately was the return of a refreshed
Neither it seems do these Phillies, no matter what befalls them.
The latest from the sick bay?
None of that has kept the Phillies from rebounding from the brief indignity of trailing the temporarily resurgent Mets to beat a stacked Cardinals team three out of four and once again look like the class of the National League. Phillies people reacted with typical nonchalance over the hot streak that took them back into their rightful place atop the NL East.
"We're doing all right,'' first baseman
That's not only very true but a scary proposition for all comers, who may have figured that this was the best time to catch the Phillies. That time may have passed now.
In a sentiment that seems to be accepted league-wide, midway through the series with the team that appears to be the biggest threat to their National League supremacy, one Cardinals player remarked that "the Phillies seem to be a pitcher short.''
Which only goes to show how quickly things can change. Within a few hours of that statement,
To some degree, Manual acted like the Phillies got away with one after his finished taking the series from the Cardinals, the team Phillies people view as the main threat to dethrone them as National League champions. With a sly smile, Manuel said about the Cardinals, "They just weren't hitting.''
The Phillies' mantra seems to be: Don't try to brag before the goal's been met.
But here are some more reasons to love the Phillies:
• The bullpen isn't as nearly bad as it's been made out to be. The "two Cubans,'' as Lidge called
Contreras pitched brilliantly in the Cardinals series, throwing two scoreless innings in front of his 75-year-old mother who just joined him with an escape from Cuba to see him pitch for the first time. Contreras beamed the whole series. "It's good for me,'' he said. "And she's happy, too.''
Meanwhile, Lidge is back from the ledge, just in time to replace Madson, a Lidge protege who learned a valuable lesson when he tripped on his approach to kicking that metal chair. That lesson? "You've got to know what you're up against,'' Lidge said.
The bullpen has caused agita since spring in Manuel but looks solid now because the up-and-down Lidge appears good enough to close, which Manuel said he will do, "for right now."
• The starting pitching is better. The comment from the Cardinal about the Phillies being a pitcher short is heard often throughout the league. But Blanton just got back, and Happ said he hopes to return in two weeks after feeling fine in three straight side sessions. It's true the dropoff is steep from Halladay and that Kendrick and the ageless
Perhaps most importantly, Hamels looks back to his 2008 form, according to scouts who say he was throwing harder than
• Nobody is better than Halladay. Halladay is one of a kind in today's game, as a pitcher who carries the potential to complete games. Phillies great
• Their core four --
• Their complementary players are pretty special, too. The
• They have better depth than before. For a few years Rollins has been warning them to add a backup shortstop, and veteran journeyman Castro, a solid defender, is a nice complement.
All things considered right now, it's hard to imagine a team in the National League that's better than the Phillies.
• Folks are again talking about the alleged SI cover jinx after
• Nationals GM
• The Red Sox and Angels entered their series after suffering sweeps, and the Angels have suffered a second one. They also suffered the indignity of ex-Angels ace
• The passing of Phillies great