NLDS Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (97-65) v. Cincinnati Reds (91-71)

Welcome to the playoffs, babies (or, for fans of The701Level, babbys and guy babbys)! The NLDS begins tomorrow, October 5th, with our beloved Phillies taking on the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants taking on the Atlanta Braves. If you’ve already seen the Baseball Ladies’ predictions for the NLDS (which, if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you’ll know that we’re all favoring the Phillies to beat the Reds and advance to the NLCS (where I, personally, hope they’ll face the Giants… if only to bring <strong><a href=””>Pat  Burrell</a></strong> and <strong><a href=””>Aaron  Rowand</a></strong> back to Philly for a short while). Yes, we’re biased, but the Phillies have been here before – the past three years in a row, actually. The Reds haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006. The Phillies are heavily favored to win this best-of-5 series, but I’m hoping for at least some fight from the Reds, just to make it interesting. I’d love to see the Phillies just destroy them, too… I’m so indecisive. Anyway. Phillies in 4.
Pitching matchups for the first three games of the NLDS are as follows: <strong><a href=””>Roy  Halladay</a></strong> v. Edison Volquez, <strong><a href=””>Roy  Oswalt</a></strong> v. <strong><a href=””>Bronson  Arroyo</a></strong>, <strong><a href=””>Cole  Hamels</a></strong> v. <strong><a href=””>Johnny  Cueto</a></strong>. Our big three against their… three starting pitchers? Yeah, I think we’ve got these in the bag. I am a little curious as to why <strong><a href=””>Vance  Worley</a></strong> didn’t make the NLDS roster, in case we need him as a starter or a long reliever out of the bullpen. At least <strong><a href=””>Mike  Zagurski</a></strong> and <strong><a href=””>Danys  Baez</a></strong> didn’t make the roster, either, but there’s a huuuuge difference between Worley and Zagurski/Baez that could really make up an entirely separate blog post. So we’ll skip that for now.
NLDS Schedule
Game 1 – Wednesday, October 5th @ 5:07PM (Citizens Bank Park)
Game 2 – Friday, October 6th @ 6:07PM (Citizens Bank Park)
Game 3 – Sunday, October 8th @ 7:07PM (Great American Ball Park)
Game 4 (if needed) – Monday, October 9th @ 5:07PM (Great American Ball Park)
Game 5 (if needed) – Wednesday, October 11th @ 6:07PM (Citizens Bank Park)
Let’s go Phillies!!!!

Ode to Shane, Melissa, and Kingston Shane Victorino

Great news from the Phillies today:
Shane and his woman had a baby yesterday.
A new Victorino for the fall,
A winning experience for all,
I bet “ya know” is the first thing he’ll say.

Shane and Melissa Victorino at the Shane Victorino Charity Fashion Show

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (93-63) at Washington Nationals (67-89)

It’s hard to believe that there are only six games left in the Phillies’ regular season. Just a few weeks ago, things were looking pretty bleak for our boys. They weren’t hitting, they weren’t pitching very well, and apparently Jayson Werth was banging Jen Utley (did anyone actually believe that story?). The Phillies have shaped up quite a bit in the last few weeks, with an incredible 19-5 record in September and a trip to the 2010 playoffs already in the books. Tonight, with a Phillies win or Braves loss, the team clinches the NL East for the fourth straight year in a row. If the Phillies get rained out tonight but the Braves still lose, the Phils could be sitting in the clubhouse, chowing down on some popcorn, and clinch the NL East. That’d be a pretty great story, but that’s not what we want – at least, that’s not what I want. I want a clinching win with the drama that we’ve gotten used to with the Phillies. A killer strikeout or an unbelievable double play. I’ll even take a pop-up to end the game, really, but I just want there to be a game. I’d better not be jinxing this now, though. I’ll shut up about this subject.

We always joke about the Washington Nationals (because they make it so easy, really), but this is a team we know that we can’t sleep on. They’re pesky as hell against us, and they manage to find ways to beat us. Once we clinch, games are a little more relaxed, but we still want to hold the best record in baseball to get homefield advantage during the playoffs. Any Phillies fan knows just how important it is and how big a difference it makes for our team to be playing at home, in front of the 45,000+ crowds that fill CBP pretty much each and every game. As long as the Phillies keep having smart at-bats, hit the ball well, and having stellar pitching performances from our starters and bullpen, they’ve got this.

Pitching matchups: Halladay (20-10, 2.53 ERA) vs. Lannan (8-7, 4.58 ERA), Oswalt (7-1, 1.76 ERA) vs. Marquis (2-9, 7.18 ERA), Blanton (8-6, 4.94 ERA) vs. Detwiler (1-2, 2.52 ERA).

Oh, and one more thing. I love every guy on this team, but I am most looking forward to seeing Mike Sweeney hugging and high-fiving everyone in sight when the Phillies officially clinch the NL East title. If you say that you could care less about that part, you’re a filthy liar.

Series Preview: New York Mets (74-78) at Philadelphia Phillies (92-61)

Swish. Swish. Swish. Oh, I’m sorry. I was just reliving the ass-kicking sweep of the Braves that the Phillies completed last series. It was all we could have hoped for, and we got it. Now, let’s hope our boys can do the same with the Mets this weekend.

The Mets will face Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, and Cole Hamels (the Phillies will go up against R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee, and Pat Misch), and hope that they do not suffer the same fate as the Braves did. While Blanton and Kendrick are no ROY20, they have still put up some decent numbers in their past few starts, and if they make it through five or six innings, the bullpen can take care of the rest. Because our big three – who, by the way, have been given the most AWFUL nickname, the “Bermuda Triangle” (isn’t that a really bad thing?) – have been doing some great things, our bullpen has gotten plenty of rest (well, aside from Madson and Lidge). There’s no question that the Phillies’ bats are still a little more quiet than normal, so we need starters and relievers to step up and keep this winning streak going all the way to the playoffs. This team bands together and players come through in the clutch, at just the right time, so I really have a good feeling about the rest of this season. The Mets are a joke, I know, but we can’t sleep on them. The Phillies need to keep playing hard, just like they have been. A playoff berth is in their grasp, and we are along for the sometimes bumpy but always thrilling ride.

CBP was abuzz for the entire series, and it just felt like the playoffs. We’re still a few weeks away, but you know that feeling. The accelerrated heart rate. The clenched stomach when #54 takes the mound to close the game out for us. The jubilation of another Phillies win. It’s a feeling Phillies fans are very much accustomed to, but we want more. We want to clinch a playoff spot, we want to get to the World Series, and we want to bring that pennant home for the second time in three years. This team deserves it. Even through all of the injuries, the lineup changes, everything, they’ve persevered, even when it seemed like they didn’t know what the hell they were doing. The Phillies of late look like our Phillies, and they’re looking better and better as the regular season comes to a close.

Series Preview: Atlanta Braves (86-64) at Philadelphia Phillies (89-61)

With only twelve games left in the regular season, the Phillies are heating up at just the right time. September is their month, as they’ve proven over the last few years, and this September is no different. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley seem to have regained their form, and it’s safe to say that the team has the best trio of 1-2-3 starters in all of baseball in Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt. Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick have improved a bit over their last few starts, and the team is just coming together. It’s inexplicable, this September surge, but it sure is fun to watch.

Is it me, or did that sound like a bad T-Mac voiceover introing tonight’s game? Sorry about that.

The Phillies go into this three-game series against the Braves three up in the National League East. This series is a must-win for the Fightin’ Phils. It won’t be easy; even without slugger Chipper Jones, the Braves still have a lot of power in their lineup, including Nate McLouth, who has been on fire as of late, as well as rookie Jason Heyward and Derrek Lee. Unfortunately for the Braves, ace Jair Jurrjens will not be available for this series due to a sore right knee (Braves have announced they will start 24-year-old Minor Leaguer Brandon Beachy in Jurrjens’ place Monday night against Cole Hamels). Even more unfortunate for the Braves, their lineup will be facing that sick trio of Hamels, Halladay, and Oswalt.

About a week or so ago, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel addressed the media during his postgame press conference and stated that he’d like to go into the final series of the season against Atlanta up four games with three to go. If the Phillies continue playing the way they are, coming up with big hits and big plays when they’re most needed, he just may get his wish.

Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies (83-61) at Florida Marlins (73-69)

The Phillies wrap up their second-to-last road trip of the season with a three-game series against the Florida Marlins. The Marlins are without ace pitcher Josh Johnson due to shoulder and back tightness, which is a blessing for the Phillies. Meanwhile, the Marlins will be facing Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, and Roy Halladay, which is.. not a blessing for the Marlins. Hamels and Halladay have been phenomenal as of late (all season, actually, though Cole’s numbers don’t really prove that), and if Blanton can pitch a solid five or six innings (we’ll all be holding our breaths during the first inning) and hold power hitters like Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison at bay for a game, we may be looking at a sweep. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But here’s hoping.

With 18 games left in the season, every one is a must-win for the Phillies. They’re known for getting hot in September, but we also have to keep in mind that other teams are known to choke in September. Unfortunately, that’s not a given. The Phillies can’t sit back and expect the Braves to collapse; they have to play hard and play to win every single game for the rest of the season. Roy Oswalt pitched an absolute gem on Sunday against the Mets, but, once again, the Phillies failed to score a decent number of runs. It’s the same problem they’ve been having for what feels like forever: good (sometimes outstanding) pitching and little run support. They need to step up their offensive game so that they can take a sizeable lead in the division before the end of the season. One game up on the Braves is good, but it’s not much, especially when there are six games left against Atlanta, including the final series of the season. In an interview about a week ago, Charlie Manuel said that he’d like to be four games up on Atlanta with three games left to go in the season. It’s doable, the Phillies just have to do it.

Player Profile: Mike Sweeney (It’s Sweeney Mania Up In Here!)

Mike Sweeney is the bee’s knees.

I really couldn’t start off a player profile on him without getting that out of my system first. That’s the tamest way to describe him. This guy… is a breath of fresh air that the Phillies desperately need right now. Remember back in 2008, when every member of the team looked happy to be there? That’s what we see in Mike Sweeney right now. Ever since the Phillies acquired him on August 5th to replace Ryan Howard at first base while Howard was on the 15-day disabled list, this guy has been all about helping the team advance.

“I’m not going to be Ryan Howard, but I’m going to give you my heart every single night.”

Sweeney said that after the first game he played with the Phillies. HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE THIS GUY? We’ve dealt with Scott Rolen and Wes Helms, guys who didn’t want to be in Philadelphia and guys who may have contributed, but who didn’t play their hearts out like some other players. Sweeney is a class act. He wants to be here, he will do whatever he can to help the Phillies win, and he is just the sunshine of everyone’s life these days, it seems. The guy’s always smiling. He hit his first home run as a Phillie yesterday, and instead of slapping high-fives or bragging about it, he gave out hugs. I don’t know about you guys – well, if I follow you on Twitter, I do – but I was flipping my shit. This guy is the real deal. This guy is exactly what the Phillies need.

Numbers-wise, he is 10-for-42 so far in his time with the Phillies. He’s not a power-hitter, but you can bet that he will work his ass off to do something during an at-bat – wear out the pitcher, advance a runner, work out a walk, maybe even score a run. He doesn’t look lethargic standing in the batter’s box. Some people may say that emotions don’t play a part, but how could they not? When athletes are slumping, their attitudes change. It’s easy to see. Sweeney doesn’t have numbers like Howard or Utley, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by talking to him. He’s excited about everything he does. He’s not a braggart. He just wants to do his best and help his team advance. By keeping the clubhouse positive and contributing in some way every single time he takes the field, there’s no doubt that he’s making a difference.

Oh, and by the way, during his post-game interview with Sarge yesterday, Sweeney said, “Every day I’m in that locker room… I look at my teammates’ eyes and I just want to fight with them. I never want to let those guys down.” If you don’t like this guy, you have no heart. End of story.

Mike Sweeney celebrates his first home run as a Phillie with Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez (Photo credit: AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

And, Sweeney? If you just so happen to be reading this (a girl can hope!), two things: 1) Let’s get married, and 2) Remember how after your first game with the Phillies, you called Brad Lidge “Lidgey”? Yeah, I call him that all the time. So, you and I? We’re soul mates. You know, if you believe in that kind of thing.