The last time the Phillies met the Indians, Charlie Manuel’s former squad was three games below .500. A mere two weeks later they are five games above the mark.
Cleveland’s rise began just before the Phils visited with back-to-back wins over Kansas City, and the Indians have been riding the wave ever since. They have posted a 13-3 record since April 28, making them one of the hottest teams in baseball.
Add in the fact that the Fightins had their lunch money stolen in the two-game set at Jacobs Field, and you have some real reason for concern over how the second encounter might go.
The Indians swept them out of town, roughing up Roy Halladay in a 14-2 romp, then followed up by shutting down their stagnant offense 6-0. Now they’re in Philly for two couple more.
The Phillies still haven’t really shifted out of neutral since then, eclipsing four runs just three times over their last 13 games. They managed to make up a game on the .500 mark during that stretch, but remain three down – although they are now within 4.0 of first place in the NL East, compared to 5.5 after Cleveland.
The big trouble with the Indians is their offense, which ranks 4th in Major League Baseball with 4.84 runs per game. Jonathan Pettibone has done a solid job through his first four career starts, but the rookie has his work cut out for him tonight.
Luckily for the Phils they’ll have Cole Hamels going on Wednesday afternoon, although if the ace doesn’t have his command issues in check, Cleveland can make him pay. Hamels walked at least five for the second time in three outings against the Diamondbacks on Thursday. Cleveland is 10th in MLB at drawing freebies.
The Indians split a double header with the Yankees on Monday – not bad considering New York (24-14) is tied for the best record in baseball. Perhaps the only shred of good news came away from that afternoon, as Cleveland was held to a lone run between the two games.
However, those efforts were just the third and fourth occasions in the last 16 where they were held under four runs. The Phillies are going to have to be sharp to avoid getting embarrassed again – this time in their own yard.