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Isolation Drills: Padres at Phillies, July 4-6, 2006

July 4: Phillies 6, Padres 5 W: Gordon (3-3) L: Meredith (1-1)
July 5: Padres 6, Phillies 3 W: Linebrink (6-2) L: Rhodes (0-3)
July 6: Padres 5, Phillies 3 W: Park (6-4) L: Madson (8-6) S: Hoffman (22)

For more on the Padres, please visit our SBN sister site at Gaslamp Ball

Dead Team Walking returns home this week to what likely will be a less than supportive audience. Trailing the Mets by 10.5 games in the NL East "race," lagging most of the league in pursuit of the wild card, and led by a manager who really sounds as if he's got his bags packed, the Phillies are set up for three months of baseball as the game's underclass--the Royals, Pirates, Devil Rays--plays it: looking ahead, trying to determine who might blossom, balancing the odds of being slightly more competitive now against what the future might hold.

In terms of both resources and talent base, though, the Phils aren't in as dire a situation as those franchises, and for that reason, the remainder of 2006 could prove very interesting indeed. Who stays and who goes over the next month, whether Cole Hamels, Scott Mathieson and other young pitchers can demonstrate improvement, even how veterans used to pennant races like Aaron Rowand and Tom Gordon (assuming neither is traded) respond to a different kind of play, should provide some worthwhile story lines from now through September.

Also, of course, opponents such as the Padres are playing seriously meaningful games, and how the Phils battle could help determine who emerges from the crowded races in the NL West and Central.

San Diego leads the NL West by a half-game over the Giants, despite a surprisingly poor first half from ace Jake Peavy (4-8, 4.50, but 109 K in 100 IP) and an offense in which nobody has hit more than 11 home runs (Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Piazza) or batted higher than .295 (Dave Roberts, currently on the DL). The secret to San Diego's success has been a superb bullpen, led once again by 38 year-old closer Trevor Hoffman (0-1, 1.16, 20 saves) and backed up by a superb setup corps of Scott Cassidy (4-4, 2.39), Brian Sweeney (2-0, 2.93), and Scott Linebrink (5-2, 3.03). Overall, the Padres staff has put up a 3.92 ERA--nearly a full run better than the Phils' 4.90 mark.