Phillies have little reason to worry even with recent rough patch

Updated: June 23, 2009

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Chase Utley and the Phillies' offense will miss not having Raul Ibanez in the lineup.

Phillies fans are fretting over the fact that the defending World Series champs haven't played well the past 11 days. Before routing the Rays on Monday in Tampa Bay, the Phillies had lost six in a row and seven of eight. Their lead over the Mets in the NL East had slipped back to 1½ games.

Philadelphia's 10-1 win over the Rays will make Phillies fans feel better. And it should, because even though they have played so poorly lately, the Phillies still hold a lead in the division, which should be even more proof that they are the best team in the NL East.

Yes, the Phillies do have some concerns, with the two biggest being the loss of slugger Raul Ibanez to the disabled list and the way Ryan Madson has pitched since taking over for injured closer Brad Lidge. Madson coughed up three leads over the past eight days.

The Phillies are a team built on offense, as evidenced by the fact that they are 1-22 in games in which they score three or fewer runs. Ibanez's absence puts a lot of stress on the other hitters in the lineup. His presence allowed Ryan Howard and Chase Utley the opportunity to see more fastballs because pitchers knew they couldn't afford to struggle with those two with Ibanez hitting like he was. Until Tuesday's breakout game against the Rays, the Phillies' offense, with Utley struggling, was anemic.

In the bullpen, the loss of Lidge is affecting them because Madson is clearly struggling in his adjustment from being a set-up guy to the closer. He clearly is a guy with the mentality to pitch in the eighth, but right now hasn't made the adjustment to that role.

The good news is that this team is a monster on the road. With Tuesday's win, the Phillies improved to a remarkable 24-9 away from Philly. They go on the road and they just play with no fear whatsoever. That's important, because there will be some big games at Citi Field, in front of hostile New York crowds, down the stretch.

The biggest reason why there is no reason to worry about the Phillies, even when they fall into ruts like the one they've experience the past 11 days or so, is simple: No other team in the NL East has the kind of talent the Phillies have. The Mets' have major holes in their rotation, the Marlins are too young and the Braves don't have enough hitting to make the necessary run.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 22 | June 18 | June 17 | June 16 | June 15

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
J. Mayberry Jr., Phi3TBPriceTop 1: 0-1, 1 Outs. 2 on.
J. Bay, Bos19WasLannanTop 2: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
S. Rolen, Tor5CinOwingsBot 2: 0-2, 0 Outs. None on.
D. Uggla, Fla14BalUeharaBot 5: 0-2, 0 Outs. None on.
C. Utley, Phi16TBPriceTop 4: 2-0, 2 Outs. 1 on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Cubs at Tigers, 7:05 p.m. ET

Rich Harden has had one good start (two runs in six innings) and one bad (seven runs, seven innings) since returning from the disabled list. Rick Porcello has won seven of his past eight decisions and has not allowed more than four hits in a game since April 29.

Reds at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET

Scott Richmond's first appearance in the rotation in place of the injured Roy Halladay went quite well. Richmond struck out 11 Phillies over eight innings on June 17. Three days later, when the Jays' game with the Nationals went extra innings, he was back on the mound in emergency relief duty. He goes back to starting against a Reds team that has struggled at the plate, being shut out in one game and scoring just one run in another while losing four of five.

Yankees at Braves, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Joba Chamberlain has run his pitch count high in a hurry over his past three games, throwing 100 each time out but not once going past the sixth inning. He is 0-1 with a pair of no-decisions during that stretch.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Eduardo Perez, Chris Singleton
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Eduardo Perez, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: MANNY TAKES FIRST STEP BACK

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
HernandezRyan Raburn came off the bench and hit a pinch-hit, two-run, game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth to erase a one-run deficit and lift the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Cubs. Raburn hadn't had a hit in 10 days, striking out three times in six at-bats before going deep Tuesday.
WORST
De La RosaDavid Price was just plain bad against the Phillies. The lefty allowed seven hits and all 10 Phillies runs over 4 1/3 innings in the Rays' 10-1 loss at home. Price has given up 15 runs over his past 11 1/3 innings of work. He lost both starts and has not won since May 30.

WEB GEMS

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Joe Saunders Los Angeles Angels lefty Joe Saunders started the 2009 season much like he ended the 2008 season, going 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA over the season's first two months. As the calendar flipped to June, however, Saunders has seen his season begin to fall apart. He has one win in four starts in June and has posted a 5.19 ERA.

The major difference for Saunders has been his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which measures what opposing hitters' batting averages are, accounting only for balls put into the field of play (strikeouts and home runs do not count). Saunders' BABIP in April and May was .248, well below the .297 league average. What this means is even though opposing hitters have been putting approximately the same amount of balls into play (79.8 percent of PA in April-May, 76.1 percent in June), less of them are finding fielders' gloves.

Saunders and the Angels take on the Rockies on Wednesday. It is Saunders' first career start against Colorado. He's 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in his career in interleague games.

Saunders (2009)
April-May June AL avg. (Starters)
ERA 3.41 5.19 4.51
BABIP .248 .298 .298
*FIP 4.83 4.85 4.45

Fielding independent pitching (FIP) is a measure of what a pitcher's ERA would be if you factored in only things in his control (home runs, walks and strikeouts).

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes