August 20 Philadelphia Daily News
That, in a nutshell, is where the Phillies are.
In their last 26 games, the Phillies are 20-6. Eleven times in those 26 games, a starter pitched at least seven innings and allowed fewer than three runs.
Overall, the Phillies entered yesterday leading the majors in starts of seven innings or more (57), eight innings or more (26) and nine innings or more (11).
A Phillies starter had pitched at least seven innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs in 52 games, which tied them with the White Sox for the major league lead.
“That’s everything,” manager Charlie Manuel said before last night’s 5-2 loss to the Giants. “I think that sets up everything. That sets up the rest your bullpen is going to get. It helps organize things. It helps the whole thing. Consistent pitching is big. When I look at Atlanta’s team right now . . . the first thing that pops up into my mind would be their consistent pitching.”
The Braves, who are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies in the NL East, haven’t leaned as heavily on having their starters pitch deep into games. But with a bullpen that entered the day second in the NL with a 3.12 ERA, they haven’t needed to (the Phillies entered last night 10th in the NL with a 4.16 bullpen ERA). Atlanta has, however, registered 70 quality starts, defined as outings of at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed. That is tied for third in the NL, and is two more than the Phillies’ 68 quality starts.
Not coincidentally, the two teams are on a collision course for a pivotal stretch-run duel, a fact the Phillies tacitly acknowledged when they avoided using their recent off day to juggle their starting rotation. The Phillies could have moved Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay up a day so that Halladay would face the playoff-contending Giants instead of the last-place Nationals. But doing so could jeopardize their ability to pitch their aces in all six games they will play against the Braves in the last 2 weeks of the season.
As it stands now, the Phillies are set up to have the ability to have Hamels, Halladay and Oswalt face the Braves twice each. In five of those games, they could have their starter pitching with an extra day of rest.
There is still a long way to go before those two three-game series, the first of which starts at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 20. But if they continue to get the type of pitching they have over the last month, they should be in an enviable position once the time arrives.”
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