Until last night's comeback, the last time the Phillies reeled off four consecutive wins was before Memorial Day. Even though they're still ten games below .500, there is a certain excitement with the team suddenly that you could almost touch, something that's been missing since then, maybe even all season. The excitement is fragile, but it exists.
No, we're still not using the P-word around here, just saying it's fun having the whole band back together -- and winning.
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That feeling could go up in smoke at any moment, but today the Phils are trying to do something they haven't accomplished all season: a three-game sweep. The way events have been unfolding lately, we couldn't think of a much better person to follow Roy Halladay than Cliff Lee. However, we'll settle for cautiously optimistic today, because Lee will be head-to-head with the L.A. Dodgers and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw (7-5, 2.84) is off to another fine season in 2012 for the Dodgers [Ed. note: despite having truly awful taste in music], but not quite as untouchable as a year ago when he led the league in wins, earned run average, WHIP, and strikeouts. He still cracks the top 10 for WHIP (6th) and Ks (4th), but run support has often betrayed him, and thus his record.
Despite his recent success, the splits suggest the Phillies have owned Kershaw. In seven regular season starts, he's 0-4 with a 4.95 ERA against Philly, and in four playoff appearances it's a far worse 0-1, 8.31. However, all but one of those games came prior to 2011, when the 24-year-old's career really took off. The Phils somehow dodged the bullet last season, and in their meeting on June 4, Kershaw held his own in a no decision, allowing three earned off eight hits over seven innings. Fightins won.
Of course, the Phils were without Chase Utley at the time, too, and he has enjoyed facing the right-hander. Utley is 4-for-13 with a couple of doubles and a home run off of Kershaw. He's in the lineup for the third day in a row, so we'll see if he can do some more damage.
Meanwhile, Lee (1-6, 3.92) has been pitching better of late, earning his first W before the All-Star break obviously, but it didn't translate into number two last time out. He battled through six innings in Colorado over the weekend, surrendering nine hits, but holding the Rocks to three runs, two of them earned. Not dominant Cliff by any means, but effective Cliff -- unfortunately, also losing Cliff.
Lee has incredible numbers against the Dodgers, sporting a 2-1 and 0.90 in four starts. On June 5, he held LA to two runs over 7.2, and struck out a season-high 12.
We wouldn't go so far as to say the Phillies hold the upper-hand in this pitching match-up, but we like the way it breaks down on paper. We like the way things have been breaking on the diamond over the past week as well. If they can keep it up today, we'll be staring at the second longest winning streak of the season. Not sure what the appropriate reaction will be, but we hope to find out.