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By the Time Cole Gets to Arizona: Phillies at Diamondbacks, June 5-7, 2006

June 5: Phillies 4, Diamondbacks 3 W: Fultz (1-0) L: Lyon (1-1) S: Gordon (18)
June 6: Phillies 10, Diamondbacks 1 W: Hamels (1-0) L: Ortiz (0-4)
June 7: Phillies 7, Diamondbacks 3 W: Madson (6-3) L: Nippert (0-1)

For more on the Diamondbacks, please visit our SBN sister site AZ Snake Pit

Having already squandered one opportunity to seize control of the NL East race by following up their 13-1 tear with 9 losses in 12 games, the Phils are now just trying to hang on and hang in. Since Pat Gillick took the GM job last fall, he has repeatedly stated that the team is a pitcher short; recently, it's been more like three. Brett Myers has turned in ten straight quality starts, including yesterday's 6.2 IP, 3 ER effort in Los Angeles; Cory Lidle has gone 6 IP or more in nine of his last ten starts. Beyond those two, however, the rotation couldn't be more of a crapshoot right now. Gavin Floyd is gone, Ryan Madson is hanging on, and in his 2006 debut Saturday Eude Brito offered no sign of being able to help. That the Phils split a four-game series in which all three made starts actually represents something of an achievement.

The team is trying to hang in the race while waiting for the cavalry. The first horse comes over the hill Tuesday, when lefty phenom Cole Hamels returns from the 15-day DL hoping to record his first major-league victory. Opening Day starter Jon Lieber, hurt last week against Washington, has started to feel better and could be back within two weeks; veteran lefty Randy Wolf is set to begin a minor-league rehab assignment and could be back in the big leagues within a month. Even without trading for outside pitching help, a Myers/Hamels/Lieber/Lidle/Wolf rotation, with Madson back in the bullpen, could keep the team in contention; the question is whether the Phils can stay close until everyone is back.

After a hard-earned two wins against a very talented Dodgers club, that task gets no easier this week in the dry heat of Phoenix.

Leading the NL West with a 34-22 record, the Diamondbacks look poised to make another postseason run five years after winning the World Series in 2001. Most of the stars from that team--Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, Mark Grace--are long gone, though Game 7 hero Luis Gonzalez remains. The big bats in today's Arizona lineup are OFs Eric Byrnes (.318, 10 HR, .965 OPS) and Shawn Green (.331 average), 3B Chad Tracy (.291, 10 HR, .849), and rookie 1B Conor Jackson (.291, .853 OPS). On the mound, Arizona has the current leading candidate for Cy Young Award honors in Brandon Webb, who is looking to improve to 9-0 with a win in Monday's opener. Webb has already thrown two complete-game shutouts en route to a 2.01 ERA and sick K/BB ratio of 58/10, allowing a home run approximately every 18 innings thus far. In six career starts against the Phillies, he's 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA.

Lidle, who seems to draw the opposition ace every time out, will try to keep pace. He's lost his one career start against the D'backs, surrendering six earned runs in just three innings. Hamels returns Tuesday, facing hard-throwing righty Juan Cruz; Madson, still looking for consistency in his starting role, opposes Russ Ortiz Wednesday as the struggling veteran (0-3, 6.91, 2.02 WHIP) returns from the DL.