Ryan_Howard

Howard homers, Halladay harbors hope

The Phillies won an ugly game last night, and there is no other way to describe it. Atrocious base-running and poor fielding have doomed the Phillies all season, but somehow they were able to escape the unfortunate outcome Monday night in Los Angeles, beating the Dodgers 3-2.

First, the positives. Joe Blanton gave the Phillies eight innings and rarely gave up a big hit. The Dodgers scored on a wild pitch that slipped through the five hole of Carlos Ruiz and the only other run allowed probably came as a result of one of the missed defensive plays by the Phillies. But any time Blanton can give the Phillies eight innings of work and hand the game over to Jonathan Papelbon, that is a strong positive. He also snapped his streak of games with a home run allowed, which was ghastly.

Second, Ryan Howard hit his first home-run of the season, which gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead and proved to be the winning run. He is still not moving as nicely as you would like to see and his struggles at the plate continue as expected, but when Howard hits an opposite-field home run in Dodgers Stadium you have to feel good about something.

The Phillies have now won three games in a row for the first time in a very long time. Getting to four wins will now be the responsibility of Roy Halladay, who makes his first start off of the disabled list. I do not expect to see eight shutdown innings from Doc Tuesday night, and it remains to be seen just how well he does off the mound after a shaky 2012 season. We will see what he can do against a Dodgers offense that has struggled lately. Can he give the Phillies six good innings? That is probably realistic, but the offense will have to help him out in his return to the mound. Jumping to an early lead would certainly be nice as the Phillies look to win their fourth straight and take a series on the west coast before Cliff Lee goes for his second win of the season on Wednesday afternoon.

Now the negatives. The Phillies go in to today still 11 games under .500 and 15 games behind the Washington Nationals in the loss column. The focus should more realistically be on one of the National League’s two wild card spots. In that hunt, the Phillies are ten games behind the Wild Card leaders. As I have said before, now that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are back, and Roy Halladay joins the rotation once again tonight, you have to wonder if the chemistry can be sparked in enough time to make a run.

I am certainly not ready to count them out of the postseason just yet, but it will be a major fight to get in to the thick of things. It should start with playing better within the division, where the Phillies are 11-22 against NL East competition. Playing well this week and next week though will have a large say in whether or not we can continue to consider the Phillies to have a chance. Will the team trade Cole Hamels? Shane Victorino? Jimmy Rollins?

Let’s see what they have in store.

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