Five observations: Turning over the rotation with help from the offense
The best help for Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd will be more offensive performances like last night.
Five observations after a second straight win over the Giants. . .
1) Riding the most impressive back-to-back wins over the season -- on the road, against a playoff-caliber team, facing Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum -- the Phillies now turn their winning streak over to. . .Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd. OK, so Cole Hamels gets a start in the middle of them. Still. . .not exactly how you drew it up a month ago. Pettibone has been about as good as you could have hoped through three starts. He's a testament to the fact that when you have a decent fastball and you throw it for strikes, the odds of the game of baseball are in your favor. At the same time, he is giving up a lot of hard hit balls, many of them through the air, and he hasn't exactly been playing on the MADDEN setting, having faced the Pirates, Mets (in Citi Field) and Marlins thus far. On the other hand, AT&T Park is a pretty friendly place to do business if you are a flyball pitcher. Then we have Cloyd, who who started six games for the Phillies. Three were good (5 runs in 21 innings), and three were not so good (13 runs in 12 innings). I really thought the Phillies were going to go with Adam Morgan here, mostly because they already have a pretty good idea about what they are going to get out of Cloyd, and they are attempting to fill a void that at the beginning of the season they thought was going to feature a healthy and effective Roy Halladay, so why not go with the guy who has the greatest potential to make up the difference over the long term. That still might be the plan. Or they might have a deal in the works for a back-of-the-rotation starter and are looking at Cloyd as a spot starter. Or they might figure that they will ride the combination of Pettibone/Cloyd/AcquisitionTBA for as long as they can and give Morgan a little more time to pitch at Triple-A. We shall see.
2) The pitching formula will be helped a great deal if the top half of the Phillies order can give them more nights like last night. I tweeted this out last night prior to the start of the game: the first four hitters in the Phillies lineup (Rollins, Utley, Young, Howard) had reached base 160 times heading into last night. The first four hitters in the Reds lineup had reached base 221 times. I picked the Reds because I happened to have their box score open at the time. But that gives you a pretty good idea of why the Phillies have struggled to score runs consistently. 61 fewer baserunners means 61 fewer scoring opportunities and 61 more outs produced by the top of the lineup. Last night, you saw the difference as Chase Utley went 3-for-5 and created three of their runs (scored two, drove a third in). Ryan Howard homered, Jimmy Rollins singled, Michael Young doubled. And, voila, Kyle Kendrick got to pitch with a lead. Yes, the Phillies need Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee to pitch like aces, and they need Kyle Kendrick to keep doing what Kyle Kendrick has done. And they need to get lucky on the last two spots in the rotation. But the pitchers are who they are. Now, the hitters need to be who the Phillies think they are, and it would help if they do so when Pettibone and Cloyd are on the mound so they can get a lead and then get the game to the bullpen whenever that lead gets threatened.
3) Kyle Kendrick is giving all of us plenty of reason to believe that he can be a good No. 3 starter. If he can continue to locate that frontdoor sinker and his changeup and mix in his cutter he had two pitches that move away from lefties at different speed and one that screams in on them. You can tell how much better Kendrick's stuff is by seeing the reaction of hitters: he's freezing them now, something he did not do two years ago.
4) Looking ahead to tomorrow, Arizona has not been a kind place to play baseball for the Phillies over the last three years. They are 4-5 in three series in Phoenix and they have allowed 48 runs and 17 home runs (!!!!) in those nine games.
5) As Cliff Lee said after his start on Monday, the team we've seen the first couple of days in San Francisco is the team the Phillies think they really are. The summer will be a lot more enjoyable for fans if that turns out to be the case. The law of large numbers suggests that we need to see a lot more of it before deciding.