With a comfortable 6-1 lead, you figured, hey, even at Coors field, there is no way that the bullpen will blow this lead. Well, they blew it all right, and Cormier's infinite ERA - he allowed three runs and did not record an out - is what will be remembered on the plane ride home. A Vinny Castilla walk-off bomb served up by Tim Worrell capped off the game. In 2 2/3 innings of work, the bullpen combined to allow five earned runs. Maybe Coors field can be used as an excuse for the poor relief, but those two performances by Cormier are unacceptable when the team is in a dogfight for first place with the World Champions.
On a better note, the Phils finished the road trip at a 7-3 mark, in ballparks that they usually struggle in. But more importantly, it seems that the Phils' bats have finally awoken from their slumber and might stay that way, unlike the maddening inconsistency they showed last year.
The highlight of the trip was Bobby Abreu and his red-hot bat. He batted over .400 on the trip, and he quietly is having what looks to be another excellent season. He got his running game going on the trip and stole a few bags, as did Jimmy Rollins, who caught fire late in the trip. When the top of this order - Marlon Byrd and Rollins - is productive, it sets everything up beautifully, as Abreu, Thome, and Burrell will always knock them in. If Rollins can steal 40 this year, the Phillies lineup will be so much more productive.
This week, two great teams come to town in the Dodgers and the upstart San Diego Padres. Both teams have solid hitting lineups mixed with good pitching, a formula for success. If the Phils can get over the heartbreaking loss on Sunday, expect them to come out of these two three-game sets with four wins.
And now for some random musings from around the league:
- Before last Sunday, had you heard of a guy named Ben Sheets? Well, if you have or haven't, you now know that this guy can flat out pitch. Sheets struck out a franchise- high 18 against the Braves on Sunday. His breaking ball was dominant and showed how good a pitcher he can really be. Expect a decent ERA from Sheets this year with moderate strike out numbers but expect him to come up short on the wins, due to Milwaukee's somewhat weak offense.
- On the topic of the Braves, despite the embarrassing 18 strikeouts thrown by Sheets, I still believe the Braves have a chance to threaten the Phillies and the Marlins for the division title. Keep in mind that they have won this thing the last 12 years. There is no way that they will be going quietly, even though their starting pitching seems to be lacking. Although their slow start will continue now that Marcus Giles is out of the lineup, when all the Braves are healthy again, expect a turn around.
- Speaking of slow starts, if the Royals do not turn it around soon, two things will likely happen. First, one of the best players in baseball, Carlos Beltran, will be traded, possibly to either the Yankees or the Red Sox. That is a situation worth monitoring, because if he goes to either of those two teams, you might as well hand the recipient the World Series trophy. Secondly, uber-prospect Zack Greinke could be called up. Fresh out of high school, Greinke is widely considered the best pitcher in the minors, and has been rated the number one prospect almost unanimously.
- This intentional walk thing to Barry Bonds is getting old. Just pitch to the guy. Ask the Reds how badly it can go wrong if you walk him all the time. They walked him when he was so sick he could hardly swing a bat, and he scored the winning run. Pitch the man the ball!
- Roger Clemens may not be the best of all time, but the way he is pitching right now, he is staking a claim to be the best of his time
- And finally, it has been a great start to the season, and though some things will stay the way they are, many things will change. Here are two BOLD PREDICTIONS: The San Diego Padres will win the NL West thanks to great young pitching and timely hitting. And, stepping out on a limb here, Carlos Beltran will have the best season we have seen in a very long time.