The lanky right-hander with "Volstad" across his back was standing on the mound in a Cubs uniform. That is notable because in previous years Chris Volstad was wearing a Marlins uniform, and the Phillies were able to count on facing him twice, and often three times, over the course of a regular season. That is notable because the Phillies tend to handle him as they did last night, scoring four runs in the first inning en route to a 6-4 victory that salvaged a split of a four-game series against the NL Central's doormat.
But the National League East is no longer home to the Chris Volstads of the world, and as the 6-foot-8 starter walked off the mound after six innings of work last night, the significance of the challenge that lies ahead for the Phillies came into view. If the Cy Young award was presented at the end of April, this year's ballot would read a lot like the list of pitchers the Phillies will face over the next six days as they travel to Atlanta and Washington for a pair of three-game series against the division's early frontrunners.
Tonight, the opponent is Brandon Beachy, who has allowed one fewer earned run in 25 2/3 innings this season than the Phillies scored in the first inning last night. Wednesday, it is Tommy Hanson, who has held the Phillies to two runs in 24 2/3 innings in his last four starts against them. On Friday and Sunday it will be Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, both of whom have held opposing offenses to four earned runs, the same number the Phillies scored against Volstad last night. Also on the docket is Gio Gonzalez, who has allowed just two runs in 26 innings since surrendering four in his first start of the season.
Along with Braves right-hander Randall Delgado, who held the Phillies to two runs in five innings last September, the next six starters they will face have combined for a 2.25 ERA in 164 1/3 innings thus far this season. To put that in perspective, the 23 starters the Phillies have faced already have combined for a 3.73 ERA.