Cubs Look To Cool Off Suddenly Hot Phillies

Don't look now Phillies fans, but the Phightins have won 10 of their last 12, have won four straight series' and are one of the hottest teams in baseball. With the Fourth of July coming up this week, and temperatures on the rise, this team is clicking on all cylinders. After defeating the Boston Redsox in two games, taking two of three from the Braves and sweeping the Orioles on the road, the Cubs may be the next victims of Jim Thome and Company's hot bats.

You knew it just had to be a matter of time before this lineup came alive. Now, after three months of mediocre baseball, the Phillies are gelling as a team and their bats are lighting up opponents, just as the fireworks will illuminate the night sky over Veterans Stadium this week. Jim Thome suddenly has 20 home runs and 56 RBI, Tomas Perez is contributing each time he's called upon, and Jose Mesa has set the franchise record for career saves as a Phillie. All these triumphs have come against some formidable competition, and the Chicago Cubs are no different.

Sammy Sosa and the boys are one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central and hope to get an upper-hand during this Phillies series. Since returning from suspension because of a corked bat, Sosa has been on a tear. On the season he has 10 home runs, 35 RBI and is batting a hair under .300, at .297.

The Cubs also possess a dominating pitching staff that the Phillies must prepare for. Philadelphia is used to dominating pitchers, after facing Pedro Martinez a week ago, and the Braves staff earlier last week. Chicago may just have the best rotation of all those teams. Shawn Estes, Mark Prior and Matt Clement will all make appearances in this series. Estes (6-6) will start the series opener against Vicente Padilla (6-7). Padilla is coming off a very solid outing against the Braves last Thursday and hopes to win his second consecutive start after some early season struggles. Brett Myers and Mark Prior will both be pitching in this series, and give Phils fans a glimpse of two phenoms who should dominate this league in the coming years.

With big crowds expected at Veterans Stadium for this series, the Phillies hope it will be a drawing card for future games. It's no secret that this club loves to play in front of swelling crowds, and if they perform well in this series, it will only be a matter of time before fans return to the Vet for the summer months. Phillies fans, enjoy this stretch of games because it may just be the period in the season that propels the team within striking distance of the Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies have had a great month of June and should continue that trend into July. If the Phillies bats have truly woken up for good and the bullpen can pitch as well as it did against Baltimore, then this will be a great series. Make no mistake about it, Chicago is tough, but the Phillies are playing their best ball of the season and will win three of four against the Cubbies.

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