"You're playing in the Super Bowl! Didn't you hear?"
That's what former Red Sox player and current MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar yelled at Ryan Howard in a jam-packed Phillies clubhouse prior to this evening's game against Boston at the friendly-yet-sticky confines of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
The build up for the marquee American League-National League matchup is palpable, with national media showing up in droves. But for the Phillies, it's just another series against a quality opponent. At least that's what they're saying.
"This is two good ball clubs. I think it's going to be good for [the media], good for the fans, and good for baseball. It's not the playoffs and it's not the World Series. We're talking different stages, but any time we play it's an important stage. When we play a team of this caliber it's good for us," Manuel told us in the dugout prior to tonight's game.
"We haven't beaten them since I've been here," Charlie said of the Phillies futility against the Red Sox in interleague play. "But then they're due for us to get 'em. That's how I look at it."
The pitching matchup for tonight's first game is about as exciting as baseball fans can hope for. Cliff Lee (8-5, 2.87) takes on Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86), two of the hottest hurlers in all of baseball. It's another great pitching matchup in a stretch that's seen quite a few of them, and will see another on Thursday when Cole Hamels takes on Jon Lester.
Clifton Phifer Lee hasn't allowed a run in a team season-high 23.0 innings. He's coming off consecutive complete game shutouts and is 4-0 with a 0.27 ERA in June. How do you like 'dem apples?
Stutes Or Bastardo To Close?
With Ryan Madson hitting the 15-day DL this afternoon, the big question before the game this evening was who Charlie Manuel would use to close. Manuel said he was leaning towards Bastardo but that could change based on the situation.
"If I have to really pin somebody down to be the closer for a period of time, Bastardo would probably get the first nod," Manuel told us before the game. "But if we get up there tonight in the eighth inning tonight and you see three right-handed hitters up there, more than likely Stutes will be in. You see a couple left-handed hitters, Bastardo might pitch the eighth. Dubee and I will decide that when we get there."
Potent Boston Lineup A Little Less So in NL
With David Ortiz's days in the field pretty much done, Big Papi will not be in the starting line up this evening for Boston. Adrian Gonzalez will play first base and bat third while Darnell McDonald (.109 batting average) will be the Sox feared cleanup hitter and play left field.
Full Sawx Lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, McDonald, Varitek, Cameron, Scutaro, Beckett.
The Phils bats will counter with a standard lineup with Dom Brown playing right field: Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Victorino, Ibanez, Brown, Ruiz, Clifton Phifer Lee.
7:05 first pitch from CBP. Wait 'til you can see the whites of the enemy's eyes before booing.