Last year, they broke from the gate like a filly with her mane on fire. This year, not so much. The Philadelphia Phillies, odds-on favorites to win the World Series – you can check the sites applicable – have started well enough for a team with the best starting rotation in baseball. As of exactly 10:32 p.m. April 2nd, for example, BETVega.com had them at +225, well ahead of the Red Sawks (+400) and others.
The Fightin’s have started 2-0 despite the absence of Chase Utley, their star second baseman, who’s on the disabled list, their closer (what’s his name?) also being on the DL, and their star right fielder leaving for Washington…for a lot of money.
What’s this terribly expensive team to do, what with its Four Aces, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels? The big money pitchers have to be wincing as they look out to right field and see journeyman-sub Ben Francisco pounding this mitt.
Thus far, for the record, Halladay pitched well enough to win Game One, but was done in by shaky defense on the parts of Francisco and Wilson Valdez at second. The team rallied in the ninth on six singles by, among others, Francisco, Valdez, and Jimmy Rollins, who is batting third for the time being. The first game win was a team effort, including Ryan Howard’s adequate hitting. Questionable reliever Danys Baez got the win. John Mayberry, Jr., collected the game winning hit. Former Phils “ace” Brett Myers pitched well for the Houston Astronauts despite his grooming, which suggested the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
In the second game, Cliff Lee struck out eleven, and got the win, but made a mistake pitch to the Astros’ bomber, Carlos Lee. Oops – home run in the band box that is Citizens Bank Park. The fans were solidly behind the returning Arkansas native who made monkeys of the Yankees in the ’09 World Series.
In Game Two, Raul Ibanez, Rollins, and Howard came through. Placido Polanco also began hitting, and the Phils won, 9-4. Significantly, Baez, largely a “bum” last year, pitched well again.
Bottom line as per observation: Howard is reasonably slim, and his bat seems quick and accurate. Rollins is ready to play, in great shape, and the team seems ready to back the pitchers who are costing management slightly more than was needed for Cleopatra’s barge and make-up.
Here’s the intangible that makes betting difficult on any baseball team: Charlie Manuel has created a team that believes they can win no matter the situation. Game One seemed lost despite Halladay’s fine effort. It wasn’t.
There are still concerns with Utley out, Brad Lidge out (Madson and Contreras will have to do it for now), and center fielder Victorino coming up with a twinge or whatever in his leg. Nonetheless, Mayberry seems ready to jump into a wonderful mix. What could be better than starting in Victorino’s place with Roy Oswalt on the mound? If you’re a degenerate gambler, I can see a contrary bet here. Just don’t overdo it. Later on, you’ll be making safety bets.