Nobody was concerned about the Phillies pitching and everybody was concerned about the Phillies hitting. If games were played on paper, nobody would have been shocked if the Phillies won 130 games on pitching alone, winning games 1-0. Without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the line-up would be even more anemic they said.
Well, as sad as it is, if these two games are any indication of things to come, the nay-sayers and skeptics may be right, as the Phillies have shown nothing but dominant pitching and dormant bats. In their first two games, a win and a loss, the Phillies have scored one run, giving up two runs, neither of which are surprising. Game two even took extra innings to complete, both teams only able to score one run in nine innings (whether it was because of the Phillies’ pitching brilliance or the Pirates’ hitting incompetence, the world may never know).
Nobody thought that wins would come easily, but only two runs in their first 19 innings of play? The line-up still has Pence, Victorino, Rollins, a budding Mayberry and the always-reliable Carlos Ruiz. One run is something that any triple-A team should be able to average each night and a team that wants to have a shot at winning a division title or a World Series is going to need to do better.
Of course, this is probably an over-reaction and really, nobody should be judging any aspect of a team after two days. But it’s hard to take solace after not being able to put up a high scoring game against a team that has not had a winning season since 1992.
Of course, with the bad expectations come the good expectations and Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have both looked stunning so far. Despite a rough spring, Halladay was at Cy-Young-Roy-Halladay level, going eight scoreless innings, giving up only two hits, both of which came in the first inning. Jonathan Paplebon was also as good as advertised, throwing a perfect inning to close out the Phillies first game of the year. Cliff Lee looked just as impressive in game two, lasting only six innings, but allowing just two hits and one run, which came on his first wild pitch since 2010. He also struck out four.
The Phillies will have lots of time– 160 games in fact– to prove that they are a World Series caliber team, but it would be nice to see some signs soon. Because even while they do have 160 games left until the end of the regular season (wow it feels weird talking about the end of the year already), the NL East is no joke this year, with four teams, including the Phillies, having a shot at playing in October, so the Phillies will have to step up their performance sooner rather than later.
But it’s April. Let’s not worry yet. Baseball is back and that is something to celebrate, so let’s enjoy. Happy April everybody.