The Astros offense struggled in Pittsburgh over the weekend, losing two of three to the Pirates. Now the Astros travel eastward across the Keystone State for a quick two-game series in Philadelphia. The Phillies have had some offensive struggles of their own and find themselves floundering in last place in the N.L. East. How bad have things gotten in the city of brotherly love? We posed a few questions to Ethan Seidel to find out. Ethan is a staff writer at That Ball’s Outta Here (FanSided’s Phillies site). Here’s what he had to say.
CTH: The Phillies have gotten off to a rough start. Three of their superstars have been out with injuries, are the fans worried at all?
Ethan: Fans are in panic mode. Everyone hopes the return of Utley and Howard will help jump start a stagnant lineup, but there is still no word when that will be. They just got Cliff Lee back from a short stint on the DL, but he can’t stop the bleeding himself. With all the uncertainty surrounding the injuries to their big guns, there is very little optimism about their return.
CTH: Chase Utley has been injured a lot these past few seasons. Is there any concern he may never be the player he once was or is everyone still confident he’ll be back at 100%?
Ethan: It is becoming apparent that Utley will never be the same player he once was. His return last season helped jump start the offense, but he was not at full strength. He has already admitted that he won’t be 100% when he comes back. Until he goes under the knife, his knees will continue to be an issue, and there is no guarantee that surgery will fix the problem. It’s sad to see a player with his skill set derailed by injuries, but the Chase Utley of 2008 is long gone.
CTH: The Phillies have been close the last few years to being champions again but have come up short. Have they reached the point where its title or bust and is Charlie Manuel in danger of they fail again?
Ethan: It has been title or bust ever since they won in 2008. Falling a step shorter each of the past 3 seasons hasn’t done anything to temper expectations in Philadelphia. Injuries will never be a solid excuse with this city, and if they fail to make the playoffs fans will need a scapegoat. It may not be fair to pin the team’s early struggles on Manuel, but his seat is getting hotter with each loss.
Thanks for the scoop Ethan, now let’s get ready to rumble. Joe Blanton (3-3, 3.24 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) will be on the mound tonight for the Phils and Lucas Harrell (2-2, 4.58 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) pitches for Houston. Here’s the rest of tonight’s starting lineups.
Tomorrow night the Phillies send Cliff Lee (0-1, 2.17 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) to the mound and the Astros will call up a pitcher from AAA, most likely Jordan Lyles, to make the start. Lee went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique after only three April starts. Lee has made one start since returning and showed no ill-effects.