Bats, Bullpen Lead the Way

Luckily for the Phillies, they found a way to pull themselves out of their early season slide. They've done it by mixing some power with a strong bullpen. Combine all of that with a brand new home and the Phillies are ready to rock. Plus, what else is going on around Major League Baseball?

Last Monday, the Phillies played their first ever regular-season home game in the beautiful new Citizens Bank Park. They were fresh off being swept by Florida, and before that, dropping two of three to Pittsburgh.

So, how did Citizens Bank Park open? In true Philly fashion, with many of the fans leaving after the fifth inning, and the ones who remained chanting "Let's Go Flyers" by the seventh inning as the Phillies lost to a marginal Cincinnatti team. That rainy Monday afternoon seemed to symbolize the Phillies franchise, the losingest franchise in sports history. But it seems that, after a rainout on Wedsnesday, the Fightin's have finally turned it around and are playing up to their potential and payroll.

The series finale against the Reds was a memorable one. Mike Lieberthal's three-run homer gave the Phils their first win at "The Bank," and ended the losing-streak at five games.

The lowly Expos, who had not scored a run in 27 innings, came to town next, and proved to be just the medicine that the Phils needed. They swept Montreal without too much of a struggle, and in doing so appear to have turned on the offensive power. Pat Burrell and Jim Thome each homered twice in the three games, as did four other Phillies, including Doug Glanville, whose dramatic walk-off homerun catapulted the Phils to the series sweep on Sunday afternoon.

The bullpen has been good and often great during the streak, with Billy Wagner recording three saves and a win. Tim Worrell has provided the bridge to Wagner that the Phils envisioned when they signed him this off-season, and Roberto Hernandez, another off-season acquisition, has been solid, too.

The real test comes Tuesday, when the Florida Marlins come calling. The Phils will need to find a way to win at least one game, so that they have some confidence against the team that knocked them out of contention a year ago. After that they travel to Montreal in Olympic Stadium's home opener, for a three game set. This week promises to be challenging, but Phils should come out winning four, possibly five out of the six games.

Some observations from around the league as the third week of the season gets underway:

It appears that, aside from Florida, the team to beat in the NL looks like it could be Houston. Roger Clemens has been dynamite for them in his three starts, and with Mark Prior possibly out for the season, the Astros might have the best rotation in baseball.

If Barry Bonds is not found guilty of using steroids, which I think he isn't, he gets my vote for one of, if not the greatest hitter of all time. His ability to turn on a ball and drive it 500 feet to the opposite field is just silly. He already has seven homeruns on this young season. Look out, Hank.

Speaking of great hitters, what's up with A-Rod? This guy has been the best player in baseball the past few years with Texas, and now he comes to a better lineup in New York and he looks completely lost. Give him time though. It is a pain adjusting to the New York circus, and once he settles down, A-Rod will return to his form as one of the dominant players in the game.

Final Thoughts: Citizens Bank Park vs. Petco Park, which wins? Both of these places have excellent atmosphere and beautiful structures, and each has a distinguishing feature. The Liberty Bell lights up when the Phils get a homerun, and the Warehouse in left field at Petco brings back memories of the olden days. Also, it seems that The Bank is a launching pad, whereas a homerun is near impossible to come by at Petco. Overall, I say Citizens Bank wins, if for no other reason than that I'm a Phillies fan.

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