It won't take long for the Phillies rotation to find another challenge against a rotation that comes in higher regard. After taking three out of four from the Rockies over the weekend, the Phils return home for a three-game series against the Cubs.
The first and third games of the series will come against Carlos Zambrano (7-4, 3.43) and Mark Prior (7-3, 3.26). Vicente Padilla (5-9, 5.45) has the opening assignment, while Brett Myers (9-5, 3.21) will go against Prior on Thursday. It should be noted that Myers has had a couple of impressive, head-to-head duels against Prior, whom the Phillies' competitive 24-year-old considers as one of the peers he needs to outperform if he's to be considered one of the elite, young right-handers in the league.
"That's a good test for us," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We have to be able to beat pitchers like that. I think we can do that, especially at our place. I really think that our ballpark has become an advantage. The fans have been supportive and into the games there and have given us a boost."
That said, the day before the trade deadline arrived, Manuel admitted that his rotation could use some help.
"We need a top-of-the-rotation guy," Manuel said Saturday. "We need a stud."
Well, that didn't happen. And with the Braves stretching their lead over the Phils to 6 1/2 games in the NL East and the Astros holding onto a 2 1/2-game lead in the wild-card standings, the Phils aren't going to make their first playoff appearance in 12 years unless there's a rise in the performances of the starting rotation.