Memorial Day has come and gone. The transition is being made from early to midseason. In the National League East, this could be a very interesting week.
The stretch began last night as the division-leading Florida Marlins openea three-game series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
The youthful Marlins, one of baseball's surprise clubs, are in the midst of a 10-game road trip that members of the team have called a test.
After playing three in New York, the Marlins come to Philadelphia for a three-game series with the Phillies beginning Friday. That will be the first meeting between the Marlins and Phils this season.
The Phillies opened a 10-game homestand last night with a 20-5 pasting of Colorado. They trail the Marlins by 21/2 games. Atlanta, which beat Arizona yesterday, is also 21/2 games out. The Mets are 61/2 back.
On the cusp of summer, with the weather improving, Phils manager Charlie Manuel would like to see his team make a move in the standings this week.
"It would be nice to have a real good homestand," Manuel said. "We've got to win some games.
"This is a real good chance for us. The weather is getting warmer. We're getting into hitting season. When it's warm, that's when production in baseball should happen."
The Phils held the division lead, or a share of it, during the first week of the month.
Last year, the Phillies led the division for just two days, but managed to win it on the final day.
Manuel is curious to see how his team would respond to holding a decent-size lead in the division.
"I'd like to see us get a five-, six- or seven-game lead and see what we can do with it," he said.
Why have the Phils had a difficult time getting the lead in the division for any sizable amount of time?
"Inconsistent play," Manuel said.
Taguchi gets the nod
So Taguchi made his ninth start of the season last night, his seventh in right field.
The veteran outfielder was signed to help off the bench and as a pinch-hitter. He is 0 for 8 as a pinch-hitter and entered last night hitting just .163 (8 for 49) overall.
"He needs playing time," Manuel said. "That will help him as a pinch-hitter. If we expect anything offensively, we've got to get him some at-bats."
Taguchi made the most of his start, going 3 for 5 with two doubles.
Double-A catcher Lou Marson continues to blossom into the organization's top catching prospect.
"I think he projects as a No. 1 catcher in the majors," Reading manager P.J. Forbes said.
Marson had a pinch-hit single in Reading's 8-7 win over Binghamton yesterday. He is hitting .345 with 2 homers, 31 RBIs and a .462 on-base percentage in 41 games.
Something to watch: Highly touted Reading lefty Antonio Bastardo is now lined up on the same day as Adam Eaton. Bastardo struggled in his last start, Friday night, and Eaton pitched well.
There's some belief in the Phillies organization that Bastardo, 22, could help in the majors this season, a la Kyle Kendrick last year. He is 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 582/3 innings between single and double A. Bastardo and Eaton will pitch for their respective teams tomorrow night.
Colorado is playing this series without outfielder Matt Holliday, last year's runner-up to Jimmy Rollins for league MVP. Holliday, who is hitting .321 with eight homers and 26 RBIs, went on the disabled list Sunday with a strained left hamstring.
In his last six games at Citizens Bank Park, including the playoffs, he was 9 for 23 with six homers and 11 RBIs.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, last season's runner-up in the NL rookie-of-the-year voting, is also out, with a torn left quadriceps.
The Rockies have nine players on the DL. San Diego leads the majors with 10.
Former Phillies prospect and Springfield (Delco) product Taylor Buchholz is back in town with the Rockies. The righthanded reliever entered last night's game with a 1.27 ERA in 23 games.
- Jim Salisbury