|August 21: Phillies 5, Dodgers 4 WP: Kendrick (6-3) LP: Tomko (2-11) S: Myers (12)|
|August 22: Dodgers 15, Phillies 3 WP: Lowe (10-11) LP: Durbin (5-3)|
|August 23: Dodgers 5, Phillies 2 WP: Billingsley (7-3) LP: Romero (0-2) S: Saito (34)|
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It's hard to overstate the importance of the home stand that the Phillies begin Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Coming off two painful losses to the worst team in the NL, the Phils find themselves five games off the pace in the NL East and one behind the Padres--who come in next--for the wild-card lead.
But the disabled list continues to swell--relievers Mike Zagurski and Yoel Hernandez are just the most recent additions--and some of the team's best healthy hitters are faltering. The entire team is batting just .256 for the month of August, and Ryan Howard is at just .188.303/.391. Aaron Rowand is hitting .210, Jimmy Rollins .246. For the last three weeks, outfielders Pat Burrell (.295/.389/.607 for August despite a 1-for-13 stretch) and Jayson Werth (.288/.413/.558) and utility man Greg Dobbs (.333/.379/.630 in 27 at-bats) have carried the offensive load. Simply put, they need help.
Fortunately, the pitchers have stepped up. Though the team's collective 4.82 ERA for August looks ugly, that includes 16 runs on a combined 9 innings from Adam Eaton and Mike Zagurski, both now on the DL. Without their, um, contributions, the staff has pitched to a 4.10 mark. The Phils' three best starters this month go against the Dodgers, starting with Kyle Kendrick Tuesday. The rookie righty, who suffered his first career loss in Los Angeles last month, has put up a 3.66 ERA this month but has yet to record a win due to absent run support. My concern with Kendrick has been that as teams see him more than once, his low strikeout rate will catch up with him and he'll be hit hard; tonight could give an indication as to how much we should be worried about this. Kendrick will face Brett Tomko, a pitcher the Phils have hit well in the past. He'll be followed by ace Cole Hamels (2-0, 3.48 in August), who squares off Wednesday against groundball machine Derek Lowe, and J.D. Durbin, who faces impressive rookie Chad Billinglsey in the finale Thursday afternoon.
For their part, the Dodgers have won four of their last five games after a horrendous stretch of play in late July and early August that dropped them from the NL West lead to third place. Second baseman Jeff Kent and catcher Russell Martin remain LA's two most dangerous hitters, but young outfielder Matt Kemp has claimed an everyday job recently, and loves to hit the Phillies: Kemp is 8 for 24 with four homers facing Phils pitching.
While the Phils host the Dodgers this week, the Mets entertain the wild-card leading Padres (whom to root for?) and the Braves continue their series against Cincinnati.