Cubs Pitching Will Provide Another Challenge

The Phillies are known for a powerful offensive attack, but it did them no good last week in Houston. Now, the Cubs come to town and bring more tough pitchers with them to test the Phillies hitters. Winning at home is a key for the Phillies if they're going to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Phillies weren't able to upgrade their starting rotation at the trading deadline - a rotation that was clearly outclassed when the Phillies were swept by the Astros last week.

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.


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