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Travelin' Men: Phillies at Dodgers, June 1-4

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June 1: Dodgers 7, Phillies 2 W: Lowe (4-3) L: Floyd (4-3)
June 2: Phillies 8, Dodgers 6 W: Geary (2-0) L: Baez (3-3) S: Gordon (16)
June 3: Dodgers 8, Phillies 2 W: Penny (5-2) L: Brito (0-1)
June 4: Phillies 6, Dodgers 4 W: Geary (3-0) L: Beimel (2-1) S: Gordon (17)

For more on the Dodgers, please visit our SBN sister site at TrueBlueLA

For their sins--namely, failing to take winnable games against the Brewers, Mets, Nationals and other foes--the Phillies have been sentenced to try and make a charge at first place while wandering around the country for most of the month of June. USA Today writes:

The Philadelphia Phillies begin a grueling June itinerary Thursday, and with only nine home games this month, it might be the toughest one-month schedule of any of the 30 teams.
...
They go to Los Angeles, Arizona and Washington for 11 games, come home for three series, and then go to Boston, Baltimore and Toronto, with final series of the month against the Blue Jays including two games in July.

"Anytime you play away from home for that long, after a while it definitely gets difficult to travel," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says.

Phillies third baseman David Bell said the key is for players to take care of themselves: "We're pretty confident about how we play on the road. The schedule may not be ideal. But playing on the road isn't something we shy away from."


Of course, it's not just the road: it's the teams they'll face. The Phils' June road opponents finished May with a combined 167-148 record, good for a .530 winning percentage. At home, they're actually much better, at 94-69 (.577); only the Nationals have a losing home record. If the Phils go better than .500 this month, it will really represent an achievement.

The journey starts Thursday in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are gradually integrating some of the best young talent in baseball with a corps of veteran stars led by Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and of course J.D. Drew. Third baseman Willy Aybar, 23, has a .326 career average in 146 big-league at-bats; even more impressive, he's drawn 9 walks against just 7 strikeouts so far this season. LF Andre Ethier, 24, has a .324 average and 4 home runs in his first 71 big-league at-bats. Catcher Russell Martin hasn't quite hit as well as his fellow rookies, but with a .731 OPS he's more than holding his own while handling a veteran staff led by Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and pedigreed Phillie-killer Jae Seo.

At least Mike Lieberthal was able to come back from the DL in time to hit at his favorite ballpark. For his career, the veteran catcher is 46-132 (.348) at Dodger Stadium, with 8 HR--though just 12 RBI--and a 1.004 OPS. Of the younger Phils, Ryan Howard certainly left an impression in his first trip to LA: the lefty slugger went 5-13 with two homers, including a game-winning grand slam, at Dodger Stadium last season. Chase Utley has enjoyed his trips to La-La Land as well, hitting .368 (7-19) with a 1.297 OPS there. One Phillie who's probably not as eager to visit is Bobby Abreu, who has just a .193 average (22-114) and 4 homers at Chavez Ravine.