Phillies facing a Pedro-Blanton-Happ decision in postseason

Updated: September 14, 2009

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Pedro Martinez is 5-0 since joining the Phillies, but will that be enough to earn him a postseason start?

The Phillies are facing a wonderful problem over the next three weeks. We all know they have two clear, top-of-the-line starters in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. The big question is who is going to be their third starter in the first round of the playoffs and beyond.

The good news is that they have several workable options in Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer and now Pedro Martinez. The bad news is that they will soon have to identify the right guy to ride into October. Blanton would probably get the first look, given that he's done a pretty good job all season (He's 9-7 with a 4.11 ERA as he readies for Wednesday's start at home against the Nationals). But then, Happ would seem to have every right to the third spot as well. And given what Moyer did last year, and in part this year, he'd also have to be considered as well.

And now, with the way Martinez has pitched since being signed (he's 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA after throwing 130 pitches in eight shutout innings Sunday night against the Mets) he's absolutely worked his way into the discussion. If he continues to pitch for the next three weeks the same way he did Sunday night, to me he'd be the top candidate for the third spot in the rotation. The league is hitting .188 against his changeup. Some would say it's even close to the great changeup of his prime. Through Sunday, Martinez and Hamels had the most swing-and-misses in the National League in the month of September. That is another really good sign for Pedro and the Phillies. Of course, Pedro also has a lot of postseason experience, including a World Series ring with the Red Sox, so that would be another check mark in his column.

It doesn't stop there, either. The Phillies have not lost any of Martinez's seven starts. It's the first time since 1900 that the Phillies have won the first seven starts of any pitcher's Phillies career. It's going to be a little bit tricky to pick a third starter in Philadelphia, that is, unless Pedro continues to throw as well as he has over the past two weeks. If so, I'm not sure there is any way around tabbing him as the guy. If this falls into place, they could move Happ to the bullpen, which would give them another valuable left-hander down there. Moyer could be the long man in the playoffs and Blanton could be their fourth starter later in October.

This could all work out very well for the Phillies if Pedro continues his recent run of success. But if Pedro starts to get hit hard from here, or shows any physical issues, then Blanton would likely be the top choice to step back in as the third starter. But when Pedro threw 130 pitches Sunday night, that implies his durability is not a problem right now. There are two ways to look at his late start to the season. You could say he hasn't had enough time to be at his strongest, but it seems more likely that his arm is so much fresher than anyone else's on a contender because he's only thrown 37 innings so far this season. You can't look past his track record and the fact that -- to me -- he's between the 10th and 15th greatest pitcher of all time. Even though he's not The Great Pedro from 1999 and 2000, he still knows how to pitch as well as anyone in the game today.

At least so far, this has turned out to be a remarkably good move for the Phillies. I thought it was worth the risk and expense to bring him in, but I had no idea he would be this good. In fact, on Sept. 3, when Pedro outpitched reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, he did something he hadn't done in more than four years when he went at least seven innings, allowing one run and no walks to go with nine strikeouts. So this may end up being the midseason pitching signing of the year.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 13 | Sept. 10 | Sept. 9 | Sept. 8 | Sept. 7

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 OPPSITUATION
Derrek Lee, CHC33SuppanBot 4: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Adam Lind, TOR29VerlanderTop 6: 0-1, 0 Outs. 2 on.
Nick Swisher, NYY27WeaverBot 3: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Shin-Soo Choo, CLE16PavanoTop 4: 0-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Vladimir Guerrero, LAA14ChamberlainTop 2: 2-2, 0 Outs. None on.
Ryan Raburn, DET12PurceyBot 1: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
B.J. Upton, TB10HernandezTop 4: 1-2, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Monday's homers

ON DECK: TUESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. ET

If the season ended today -- yeah, it doesn't, but if it did -- this would be one of the first-round playoff matchups. Daisuke Matsuzaka, out since June 19 with shoulder issues, makes his return. After going 18-3 a year ago, Matsuzaka struggled before heading to the disabled list, going 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA in eight starts.

Marlins at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m. ET

Sure, the Marlins still have faint hopes of sneaking into the postseason, but the more intriguing part is the in-team race for the NL Cy Young going on between the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. While others in the NL are in the mix, Wainwright (18-7, 2.59 ERA), who pitches Tuesday, and Carpenter (16-4, 2.45), who goes again Saturday, are the leading candidates.

Rockies at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

The Giants, behind an exceptional performance from Tim Lincecum, cut the Rockies' lead in the NL wild-card race to 3½ games. Barry Zito tries to cut another game off the margin opposite the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez. Zito is 1-0 with a 0.42 ERA in three starts this season against Colorado, which has hit .181 off him.

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


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BBTN ON THE AIR: TUESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Chris Singleton, John Kruk, Peter Gammons
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Chris Singleton, John Kruk, Peter Gammons

BBTN MINUTE: DICE-K SET FOR HIS RETURN

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the Twins' Michael Cuddyer, whose numbers are significantly better this season when he plays first base. He might get plenty of opportunities the rest of the way, with Minnesota's Justin Morneau out with a stress fracture.

Michael Cuddyer (2009)
As 1B As OF
BA .350 .263
HR 6 19
RBI 13 58
AB 60 438

WEB GEMS

MONDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Reid BrignacReid Brignac, hitting ninth for the Rays, went 4-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs, scored a run and stole a base in an 8-4 win against the Orioles. Brignac's big day helped the Rays snap an 11-game losing streak. It also put an end to a three-game hitless streak in which he went 0-for-10.
WORST
Jason Frasor• The Blue Jays led 5-2 heading to the ninth inning against the Tigers. Enter Jason Frasor. He gave up three hits and three runs as Detroit forced extra innings and eventually scored once in the 10th against Brian Wolfe for a 6-5 win on the road.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Daisuke Matsuzaka Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his return for the Red Sox on Tuesday, almost three months to the day since his last start, June 19 against the Atlanta Braves. Matsuzaka has been out with a mild strain in his right rotator cuff. At the time, he was 1-5 with an ERA of 8.23.

Matsuzaka's biggest problem earlier this season was his inability to keep the ball in the yard and to keep opposing batters from getting hits when there were runners in scoring position. Last season, Matsuzaka had the best opponent batting average with RISP in the American League, almost 100 points better than the league average. This season, his .348 batting average against with RISP is almost 60 points higher than the league average. He has also seen the numbers of fly balls going for home runs almost double this year against last season. He also was much better at putting hitters away when they were up in the count last season than he was in his eight starts this year.

Matsuzaka and the Red Sox begin a three-game series with the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday. The Angels had the second-best batting average with RISP in the AL (.290) entering Monday as well as ranking second in runs scored with 785.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Past two seasons
2008 2009 AL avg.
HR pct. of FB 4.8 9.4 6.7
BA against w/RISP .172 .348 .268
BA against when ahead .205 .391 .344

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF TUESDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Tuesday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Tuesday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

AL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Red Sox 84-58 -- 95.0%
Rangers 80-63 4.5 11.6%
NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 82-63 -- 87.3%
Giants 78-66 3.5 8.6%
Marlins 76-68 5.5 2.8%
NL WEST
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Dodgers 85-59 -- 99.6%
Rockies 82-63 3.5 87.3%
Giants 78-66 7.5 8.6%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October