I don't need to tell you how important this is, do I? Even if the next three games weren't against the team that roadblocked the Phils' chances of winning back-to-back titles--the Yankees, no less--they'd still represent a pivotal series in the team's young season.
After getting drubbed by a combined score of 22-4 in two games at Fenway Park, our boys were able to salvage a little dignity by taking the third game behind a strong outing from Cole Hamels. With things being as bad as they are currently, any W we put in the books feels like a potential momentum-shifter, and there'd really be no better way to follow that up than coming to the Bronx and taking a couple at Yankee Stadium.
It won't be easy. As mentioned prevoiusly, the Yankees are just as formidable an opponent this year as they were last autumn, with some old names gone (Damon, Matsui) or struggling (Teixeira, Sabathia) but with new names stepping up (Cano, Hughes) and die-hards dying harder than ever (Pettitte, Rivera). Whatever the combination, the Yankees currently boast a 40-23 record, tied with the Rays for the best in the business. They're coming off a sweep of the Astros, and they'd love to roll their old Philly foes one more time.
The Yanks have no doubt noticed, however, that the Phils are bringing a new friend to the party this time. Nobody is as familiar with one Roy Halladay as the New York Yankees, who had to face the righty vet 35 times over the course of his decade spent with the Blue Jays in the AL East. As pointed out by a recent ESPN New York article, no starter who has pitched more than 100 innings against the Yanks in the Wild Card era has a better ERA than Halladay's 2.84--even including the most famous pinstripe-perplexer of recent years, Pedro Martinez (3.20). With an 18-6 career record against New York, Doc has essentially pitched a Cy Young season against the team, and boy would we love to see him continue that trend tonight.
Halladay pitching probably gives us our best chance to take a game in this series, but the guy he's facing is no slouch either--CC Sabathia, one of the only pitchers with numbers comparable to Doc's last decade. Sabathia hasn't been on his game so much so far this year, posting just a 4.01 ERA and getting knocked around in recent starts against the Indians and Mets. But he's gotten his act together recently against the Orioles (good to know that the AL East uses games against the O's like rehab starts), and CC always steps it up as the weather gets warmer, so we'd be foolish to take him lightly--especially with our offense basically back in the doldrums once again.
7:05 start from Yankee Stadium. Minor lineup tweak for the Phils tonight, as for the first time since July 30, 2009 against the Giants, Chase Utley will be hitting in the two-hole, with Placido Polanco moving behind him to third. And on the Yankees' side, Alex Rodriguez is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game with a sore hip. They still got a couple other OK hitters in there, but at least without him, Damon or Matsui out there for the Bronx Bombers, the acid flashbacks for the guys in our lineup shouldn't be nearly as harsh.