I believe in Karma. And days like today are the reason why. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen the worst of this country's summer weather. From 115 degrees and dry in Arizona to 55 degrees and damp in San Francisco, to mid-80's and sticky in Philadelphia. It turns out, the reward was this: a picture-perfect Monday afternoon with a light breeze and no clouds in the sky and temperatures in the high 70's with no humidity. I'd say it is a perfect day for baseball, but really it is a perfect day for anything: hiking, biking, reading, rowing, sleeping, running, or even jaywalking.
Really interested in tonight's game. The Phillies offense is hitting just .230 and averagin 2.9 runs in its last 11 games. Not coincidentally, they have lost eight of those 11. Tonight, they'll be facing a pitcher who has absolutely owned them over the past couple of seasons in Cubs righthander Rich Harden. In three career starts against the Phils, including one this season, he has allowed just two earned runs and nine hits while striking out 22 in 20 innings.
The struggles of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have been well documented over the past couple of weeks. Utley has not had a multi-hit game since going 3-for-4 against St. Louis on July 26. Since the start of the Phillies' West Coast trip, he is 9-for-43 (.209) with two XBH, 3 RBI and 12 strikeouts.
Howard, meanwhile, is homerless in last 12 Games (51 PA, 47 AB) and 53 PA, 48 AB overall. He is 12-for-his-last-50, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 19 SO since the start of the Phillies seven-game West Coast trip in Arizona and San Francisco.
But another reason why the Phillies offense has hit a lull lies in the bottom of their order, where Pedro Feliz has struggled immensely. Feliz was one of the big spark plugs in the offense during the first few months of the season. But he has just eight hits in his last 42 at-bats, dating back to the start of that aforementioned West Coast trip.
I'm most interested tonight in seeing how J.A. Happ responds to a couple of things: first, to the 127 pitches - a career high - he threw in a complete game shutout against the Rockies last week. Second, to playing in his hometown, in front of a big contingent of family and friends.