Phillies Need Sustained Momentum

Momentum. Momentum is what gives teams clutch victories when they absolutely need them. Momentum is what carries mediocre teams into the playoffs. Momentum is what turns good teams into championship teams. Momentum is what the Phillies need this season, to make it a success.

It seems that each season brings with it a new story line for the Philadelphia Phillies. One season, the team will start out hot and appear to have all the stars aligned and ready to make a run towards the fall classic. And the next will start out with a 9-19 record and finish with a last gasp effort to make the postseason only to fall short of that goal. 2003 is supposed to be different. This is the year, culminating an off-season of big spending by the front office, of high expectations and of course, finally adding another piece to the puzzle that has been missing since John Kruk played first base, and that is a power hitting first baseman. Yes, the Phillies now have the veteran leaders and a manager dying for a championship in place, but what they need now is the magic word: momentum.

Through the first month of the season the Phillies are holding their own, but despite the offseason spending spree, they're not lighting the world on fire. Jim Thome looks like he has finally gotten into the swing of things, after tallying two home runs against Arizona, raising his season total to six. Now, if only Pat Burrell could learn from his new friend.

For Philly to be successful the middle of the lineup needs to start producing and fast. April has ended and so now must the excuses. The three, four, five hitters of Abreu, Thome and Burrell have combined for just 16 home runs so far this year. These power numbers must rise in the near future, and lead to clutch homers to win strings of games and get, you guessed it, momentum, on the Phillies side.

The biggest highlight of the season has been Kevin Millwood's no-hit gem against the Giants on April 27, at The Vet. One would think that after taking part in history this team would be able to piece together a winning streak to take a stranglehold on the NL East. However, the team's record following the no-no is surprisingly just 5-5. Sure, playing ten games on the West Coast is not the most conducive thing for winning that a team could ask for, but the team could have performed better.

One major momentum killer this year has been the shaky performance of Jose Mesa. Before the season it appeared that Philadelphia would be shopping for a new closer at the trade deadline, but judging by Mesa's early season performance, a new closer may be needed by Memorial Day!

Even the most pessimistic fan can't possibly view this season in a negative light. There have been so many highlights so early in the season. Ranging from a no-hitter, to Thome's triple in his first at bat as a Phillie, and just having the feeling that this team can win on any night is something special. Along the way there will be questions that need to be answered. Can Thome and Burrell each put up more than 40 home runs this season? That remains to be seen. Can Mesa or whoever is the closer after the trading deadline post more then 35 saves, and limit the amount of blown chances? Hopefully. Can Philly keep the pendulum swinging their way through 162 games in order to clinch a playoff spot? We'll know soon enough.

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