Boston Comes To Town For '80s Weekend

Suddenly the Phillies have momentum. Sparked by Bobby Abreu's performance from the leadoff role, despite his feelings about the position, the Phillies have taken two of three from the Braves in the most crucial series so far in 2003. There's no time for the team to rest however, with Boston Red Sox making their first ever visit to Veterans Stadium.

Thursday just may have been the most important game of this season for the Phillies. The team showed the ability to comeback from being no-hit through seven innings, and to rebound from a 2-0 deficit to beat the best closer and the best team in baseball. What's more are the performances of guys like Pat Burrell, Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, all of which had major impacts on the outcome of yesterday's game. All of a sudden the team is looking like the group many fans anticipated it would be from the first crack of the bat in spring training.

Not so fast. Despite the energy this team gained from the series against Atlanta, there are still questions to be answered. Since Early May, Kevin Millwood has struggled. He hasn't shown the ability to go late into outings and is struggling with his control. Millwood needs to sit down with Joe Kerrigan and figure out how to fix the flaws in his mechanics in order to become the solid ace he was meant to be for this club. Sure, Abreu is hitting better then ever from the leadoff spot but he hasn't yet taken a liking to the role. Abreu must put his ego aside and do what's best for the team in order to have a successful campaign both personally and as a ballclub.

Like the Phillies, Boston has seen its share of struggles this season. But what's different about these BoSox is the way they've overcome adversity and propelled themselves into second place in the American League East, just one game behind the Yankees. What's amazing about this team is the way they've been able to win with Pedro Martinez bouncing in and out of the lineup for the past two months, and the way Derek Lowe bounced back after a rough start to raise his record to 7-3.

Just like the Braves, Boston's offense has been on fire most of the season and a key intangible towards its success so far this season. Nomar Garciaparra is batting .324 with ten home runs and 48 RBI. Garciaparra is one hitter that Phillies pitching must find a way to shut down in order for this to be another successful series. Trot Nixon has been somewhat of a surprise this year, batting .303 with nine homeruns and 42 RBI. Nixon has blossomed into a solid outfielder to be pared with guys like Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, both of whom are all-stars.

Randy Wolf (8-3, 3.30) will be the first to try and shut down Boston's lineup, as he goes up against Byung Hyun Kim in the series opener. Friday is the perfect chance for the Phillies to come away with a victory in this series, as Pedro Martinez throws on Saturday for Boston, and that game will be the most difficult the team has had in quite some time. Hopefully the home team can feed off the energy of potentially 50,000 fans at each game, as part of the '80s weekend, and to see the Redsox in Philadelphia for the first time.

For those 150,000 fans to go home happy after these games, the Phillies will need to prove several things in order to clinch victory. Pat Burrell must show that he is indeed coming out of the slump he's been in since April, and continue having clutch hits, much like the double he laced to the outfield on Thursday. Marlon Byrd needs to continue his success, and take command of the leadoff spot, soon to be vacated by Abreu. And most importantly, Phillies pitching must prove that they can shut down another solid club and keep the ball out of the bullpen's hands as much as possible. If the Phightins accomplish these, they will be a very exciting team, this weekend and in series to come.

*Prediction*

If the Atlanta series proved anything for Philadelphia and it's fans, it's that for the team to have success it must take each game one at a time. These are the playoffs for the Phillies. The team has not yet pieced together a solid winning streak, and if it can somehow win the series against Boston, momentum will definitely be on their side. Look for Larry Bowa's club to be very intense right from the get-go and for this to be a proving ground for the team.

Phillies sweep Boston.


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