Lee Vs. Kershaw with Phillies Going for Fifth Straight

Lee Vs. Kershaw with Phillies Going for Fifth Straight

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.

[PROGRAMMING NOTE: We will be doing a LIVE BLOG for the 3:10 start. Check back and join us then]

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.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year, but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Peterson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star for Toronto last season when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

Rockies
1. Charlie Blackmon CF
2. D.J. LeMehiau 2B
3. Nolan Arenado 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez RF
5. Mark  Reynolds 1B
6. Gerardo Parra LF
7. Alexi Amarista SS
8. Tony Wolters C
9. Jeff Hoffman SP