Bonds-less Giants Start NL West Visits to Philly

The Phillies appear to be generating some momentum. After series wins against the Cardinals, Orioles and Braves, the club appears to be in full stride. While the Phillies are still in the basement of the National League East, the next 13 home games represent a chance to dig out of the hole created by early season struggles. The Phillies 13 game home stand opens with a three game set against the Giants.

This was supposed to be Barry Bonds' first trip to Philadelphia this season. It had the potential to be the series in which he surpassed Babe Ruth's home run total and set his sights on Hank Aaron and baseball immortality. It also represented the first chance Phillies fans had to let Bonds know just what they think of him, as well as his connections to BALCO and steroids. Instead, Bonds is on the sidelines with numerous knee injuries and questions as to whether or not he'll ever play again.

The Giants come into this series three games under .500 and in fourth place in the National League West and in a virtual ninth place tie with the Phillies in the NL Wild Card race. Over the weekend, San Francisco traded for another closing option in their bullpen when they acquired Latroy Hawkins from the Cubs. It will be interesting to see who will be the closer for the Giants this weekend.

Philadelphia enters this series coming off of the weekend which saw them take two out of three against the division leading Braves. Cory Lidle threw a solid game on Friday night, and Jim Thome notched his second home run over the weekend. This team had a nice stretch on the road, but now returns home where they are just 10-10 on the season.

In the first game Tuesday night, Randy Wolf (4-4) will make his 11th start of the season and be opposed by Brett Tomko (4-6). Wolf has struggled this season and has yet to find the key to consistency. His ERA stands at 5.07 and he has won just one of his three starts at home. Tomko hasn't been much better this season with an ERA of 4.05. Both pitchers will look to put in a solid outing against very inconsistent lineups.

The second game is Wednesday night and will find innings eater Cory Lidle (5-3) against Kirk Rueter (2-3). Lidle is coming off of a strong outing against the Braves and is quietly turning in one of the best seasons by a Phillie pitcher to date. He is going for his sixth win and is looking to further lower his 3.50 ERA. Rueter hasn't been quite as strong this season and it may be tough for him to contain the likes of Jim Thome and Pat Burrell who suddenly are heating up, not to mention Bobby Abreu who has been white hot for most of this season.

Moving day for the Giants will come on Thursday night when Jon Lieber (6-4) will look for his second win in a row, and be opposed by Brad Hennessey (2-1). The Phillies should be able to put up some solid numbers against Hennessey in the final game of this series. Look for Bobby Abreu to continue his hot streak and Chase Utley to have a multi hit game. Lieber should get the victory in this game.

Prediction: The Phillies should continue their recent streak of winning series and take two out of three in this one. Look for Jim Thome to usher in the month of June with two home runs in this series and for Bobby Abreu to continue to bolster his candidacy for a start in the mid-summer Classic.

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