The Phillies have taken the first 2 games in their series against the Dodgers in large part due to great starting pitching. Both Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett have set an example for all Phillies pitchers and given them something to aspire to. It has been a real treat to watch.
On Monday night, Lee went 8 innings, allowing no runs, 4 hits and striking out 10 baffled Dodgers batters. Since his awful Opening Day start, Lee has been nearly unhittable. And the intangibles he brings to the team are priceless.
This is a guy who never gets rattled. His drama-free attitude and generosity towards fans has endeared him to all who observe how he goes about his business. If you do not love Cliff Lee, go to the doctor and make sure your heart is still beating.
And then there is one of the newest Phillies, A. J. Burnett. Tuesday night he pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk. He also had 3 hits in the game! The week before that, he pitched 7 scoreless inning against the Braves. And he did all of this while nursing a painful inguinal hernia.
The fact that Burnett is willing to play through the pain is admirable. And as long as he keeps pitching well, I have no problem with this. But he is not just tough, he is also quite the jokester, as witnessed after his first hit last night. After Yasiel Puig attempted to throw him out at first all the way from right field, Burnett turned and motioned with his hands to Puig to settle down. There is a great GIF of this on Philly.com. You gotta love a man with a sense of humor.
The Phillies other ace pitcher, Cole Hamels, is set to come off the DL and pitch tonight. Could the Phillies actually have 3 studs in a row once again? And, although I hate to say this too loudly, this team appears to be mostly healthy…gasp! Shhhhh! Don’t tell the universe…too dangerous.
Have you also noticed the improvement on offense? The big 3 there, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, are all hitting well. And Ben Revere is heating up again, like he did last year before getting hurt. The one thorn left in the Phillies side is the bullpen, which did actually hold up the last few games. Keep your fingers crossed for that trend to continue.
If Lee, Burnett and Hamels can pitch like they are capable of, the bullpen will certainly benefit. It starts with the starters. Hamels gets his first shot in 2014 tonight at 10:10pm.
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography