“The last time Roy Halladay took the mound at Sun Life Stadium? Shane Victorino led off. Chase Utley batted third. And Ryan Howard inhabited his usual spot at No. 4.
Things have changed. Anybody who has paid attention to the Phillies‘ musical disabled list – Howard joined Victorino and Utley there yesterday – can tell you that.
But here’s a more under-reported fact: Since May 29, when Halladay hurled the 20th perfect game in MLB history in a 1-0 win over Florida, the Marlins have actually posted a better winning percentage than the Phillies.
So even though teams like the division-leading Braves and wild card-leading Giants have garnered most of the attention over the past couple months, you’d better believe that the Phillies‘ 6-1 victory last night in South Florida wasn’t one to be taken lightly.
“Where they’re sitting right now, they’re far from out of it,” manager Charlie Manuel said before the victory, which trimmed the Phillies‘ deficit in the National League East to two games. “I think we’ve proved that a couple times in the last couple years. You can make up ground in the division quick by playing one another.”
The Marlins entered last night having won 11 of their previous 16 games, despite hitting just .231 and averaging a mediocre 4.6 runs per game. On July 10, they were 11 games out of first place. Before last night, they were 6 1/2 out – which, if you’ll recall, is closer to first place than the Phillies were just 12 days ago.
When it comes to intra-division series, things can change quickly, which is why Manuel is tickled to have a pitcher like Halladay. The veteran righthander stifled the Marlins for the fourth time this season, this time recording nine strikeouts while allowing one run and six baserunners in seven innings.
“When he’s on your team, every time he’s out there you feel like good things should happen,” said Ben Francisco, who went 3-for-5 and hit his fourth home run of the season to support the Phillies‘ ace. “He’s lived up to it this year. We probably put a lot of pressure on him, but he lives up to it every night out. Seven, eight innings, one run – it makes it pretty easy on us.”
Halladay’s lone hiccup came on a solo home run by Dan Uggla in the second inning. Otherwise, he was everything the Marlins have come to expect: In four starts against them this season, he has allowed four runs, 19 hits and two walks while striking out 32 in 32 innings. The Phillies somehow managed to lose one of those games, a 2-0 shutout against Josh Johnson on June 10 at Citizens Bank Park, but they were never in serious danger last night.”
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