Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Posted: 9:35 p.m. Updated: 11:30 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
The Phillies have completed half of their season and over that time something has become quite clear:
This team is built on the backs of its pitchers.
But after a major league-best 51 wins in 81 games, this much is also clear:
There is more to this pitching staff than the Big Four, the Four Aces, the Dubee Brothers, The Rotation or whatever else you want to call the foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Witness the trio of Vance Worley, Mike Stutes and Antonio Bastardo. The Little Three combined to pitch the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in the second game of a three-game series on Wednesday night.
Worley, a rookie right-hander, held the top hitting team in the majors to a run over seven innings and Stutes, another rookie, and Bastardo, a 25-year-old lefty who bounced between the majors and the minors the last couple of seasons, closed it out.
With two wins in two days over the Red Sox Lee shut them out on Tuesday night the Phillies have snapped an eight-series losing streak against Boston and are poised to sweep behind Hamels on Thursday.
Its gratifying to win the series, Jimmy Rollins said. But this game is over. We have to win the next one.
The Red Sox have lost six of their last seven games, scoring one run in their last two against the Phillies. After Wednesday nights game, Boston slugger David Ortiz admitted that he and his mates were a little overwhelmed by Worley, who has bounced between Triple A and the majors this season.
Did that guy just come up or something? Ortiz said after the game. Man, because he looked pretty good to me. He had decent stuff and it really looks like hes been around a long time.
Theyve got four big starters here, right? Well, he looked like one of them out there tonight. He really looked comfortable. Its obvious that hes listening to those big starters over there. Its rubbing off on him.
Worley watched Lees shutout from the dugout Tuesday night.
I said to myself, Great, I have to follow that, he said, tongue planted in cheek.
Worley followed Lees lead just fine, holding Boston to five hits and a run over seven innings. He allowed a game-tying double to his counterpart, John Lackey, in the fifth, but was bailed out by Raul Ibanez solo home in the seventh.
Worley was pushed into the rotation after injuries to Oswalt and Joe Blanton. He is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA in seven starts.
In the days leading up to this start, Worley had heard all the chatter about this being a potential World Series preview. He knew the Red Sox had a loaded offense and a star-studded roster. Heck, he sent some baseballs over the visiting clubhouse to be autographed before Tuesdays game. But once his start arrived, the Red Sox were just another opponent and Worley was focused on winning.
I could feel the fans, he said. But for me, it felt like just another start. I felt the best Ive felt since Ive been here. Every pitch was coming out of my hand well.
Worley received a bit of a Charlie Manuel baptism in this game: He was allowed to pitch deeply into game, throwing 116 pitches, the most, he said, hed thrown since his days at Long Beach State. Get used to it, kid, Manuel likes to ride his starters.
Before the game, Manuel said the Red Sox would be a good test for Worley. After the game, the skipper pointed to the 23-year-old pitcher and said, Games like tonight will make you grow up, make you see how good you can be. It was good for his confidence.
Worley commanded his fastball well and mixed in his breaking ball and changeup.
I try to treat every game like its my last one, he said. I dont know how much longer Ill be here. I want to set myself up to be here as long as possible.
Worley can take heart. He has pitched himself firmly into this teams plans. The Phils hope to have Oswalt and Blanton back in a month or so, but nothing is certain. Beyond that, there seems to be a good chance that Oswalt will not be back next season. Worley could be an ironclad piece of the rotation next season.
Stutes, Worleys 2008 draft classmate, has also pitched himself into the teams long-term bullpen plans. He has allowed just eight runs in 25 23 innings since coming up from Triple A. Bastardo, who is closing while Ryan Madson recovers from a hand injury, had the save Wednesday night. He has been another find, allowing just three runs in 29 innings.
And to think, none of these three pitchers were bright lights on the radar screen entering spring training.
But halfway through what is shaping up to be a special season, all three have helped the Phillies run out to the best record in the majors.
There is more to this pitching staff than just the Big Four.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.