The Phillies and Red Sox have a lot in common right now, as both teams have dealt with injuries and underperforming rosters. The difference, though, is that Boston's rotation has been problematic, while the Philies' bullpen and lineup are the cause of their lackluster performance. This weekend, in the first interleague series of the year (and Boston's return to regular, three-game series), we'll also see the return of Jonathan Papelbon on a NESN telecast. Who knows, maybe we'll finally get to experience what the rest of the league did when he was with Boston, as we root for him to totally blow it and then laugh about it.
Game 1: Cole Hamels (47-1/3 IP, 5.4 K/BB, 167 ERA+) vs. Daniel Bard (37-2/3 IP, 1.2 K/BB, 98 ERA+)
Game 2: Joe Blanton (48-2/3 IP, 5.0 K/BB, 129 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (51 IP, 1.9 K/BB, 113 ERA+)
Game 3: Cliff Lee (37 IP, 8.5 K/BB, 196 ERA+) vs. Josh Beckett (41-2/3 IP, 2.7 K/BB, 85 ERA+)
You might think, given all the impressive K/BB and ERA+ above, that Boston is in for a serious mismatch this weekend. You'd be wrong, though. Feast your eyes on this impressive display of mediocrity:
Carlos Ruiz is about the only hitter to be afraid of, and he's generally not as good as he's been in 2012. (It's okay, Chooch, we know that you're a productive player, and that you love ice cream.) Jimmy Rollins is basically the baseball player equivalent of a white dwarf. At this stage of his life, all that's left of him is a dimly-lit shell of the star that once was.* Did I mention that he's 33 years old and just signed a three-year, $33 million contract with a vesting option for a fourth year?
*Feel as if that was a particularly unfair analogy for Rollins? Since he turned 30, four seasons ago, Rollins has an OPS+ of 89 and defensive numbers on the decline.
Hunter Pence is better than this, but not by a whole lot -- batting average has often driven his on-base percentage above the necessary tolerance levels. Shane Victorino is more productive than this as well -- there seems to be a lot of this going around in Philly. The timing is all wrong, too, as neither Chase Utley nor Ryan Howard are around thanks to injuries. That makes it as good of a time as any for Boston to squeeze a few more wins out of this road trip.
The key to beating the Phillies is going to be waiting out their starting pitchers long enough to force the non-Papelbon relievers into the game. Flip the crab that is the Phillies' bullpen over, and attack it for massive damage.