The Phillies began the game against the Diamondbacks last night without four of their starting players. After pleading his three game suspension down to two games, Shane Victorino began that suspension last night. And then Ryan Howard sat out with a sore hand and Carlos Ruiz was benched with a sore groin. And of course, Placido Polanco is on the DL.
But the lack of star power in the line-up had little effect on this Phillies team, which is strong from top to bottom. Rookie Vance Worley started the game and pitched three very solid innings before the rain began. He did not allow a run and gave up only one hit.
The offense gave Worley support early, scoring one run on a Wilson Valdez double in the 2nd. Then in the 3rd, John Mayberry Jr. came up big again with a monster 2-run homer. It was Mayberry’s 10th homer of the year, which in limited at-bats, is very impressive.
Then suddenly the skies opened up and flooded the stadium as the grounds crew rushed to cover the field. What appeared might be a short, 30 minute rain delay turned into two and a half hours.
By that time, Worley could not go back out and pitch so David Herndon took over. Herndon has been given a lot of grief from the fans this year after he got off to a rocky start. But in his last 22 games going back to May, Herndon is pitching at a 2.00 ERA. He figured out why he was having issues in April and made the adjustment.
In this game against the D-Backs, Herndon pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. In the 5th inning, he struck out the side. Herndon has really improved his game. Michael Stutes, on the other hand, is watching the scales slowly tip downward and out of his favor.
Stutes gets all the praise because he got off to a very good start, unlike Herndon. Plus it does not hurt that he is adorable, right ladies? So Stutes has gotten a pass in situations that Herndon has not.
But last night Stutes was visibly upset after allowing a home run in the 8th inning to the first batter. Charlie Manuel was seen in the dugout consoling Stutes, patting him on the back as he held his head in his hands in defeat.
Why is Stutes so upset after a solo homer? Because he too recognizes that things are beginning to go downhill for him. In his last 12 games, Stutes is pitching at an ERA of 5.17. His ERA has risen every month since ending May with a 2.38 ERA. His total ERA is now up to 3.40.
Stutes, like a lot of rookies in the same position, is starting to struggle. It could be a combination of many factors like a lack of experience, teams knowing better what to expect from him and being slightly overworked. Stutes has pitched a lot and, especially for a rookie, this can take its toll.
Hopefully for Stutes, he can make an adjustment and work his way back, like Herndon has done. But in the meantime, he may spend a lot of time being frustrated until he figures it out.
The one run Stutes allowed was the only run of the night for the D-Backs and the Phillies went on to win by a 4-1 score. The Phillies, still holding the best record in baseball, became the first team to reach 80 wins on the season.
And the reason why the Phillies continue to have success is simple. Like I mentioned earlier, they are solid in every aspect of the game. More importantly, role players like Mayberry, Valdez and Herndon, continue to come through in big situations. So even with four starters out and a rookie pitcher, they continue to win.
It is a good time to be a Phillies fan.
The Nationals are up next; game time tonight is 7:05pm with Roy Oswalt pitching.
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography