While the Phillies finished their 10-game west coast trip with a much-needed dose of offense, their pitching staff is still the reason they will head back to Citizens Bank Park within one game of .500.
Heading into Wednesday's 7-2 victory over the Diamondbacks, Phillies starters had pitched at least seven innings in half of their 18 games, tied with Texas and Oakland for the most in the majors. Combined, the rotation had logged 117 innings (an average of more than 6 per start) with a 2.84 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. Remove Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick from the equation and the Phillies' top four starters were averaging nearly seven innings per start with a 2.06 ERA.
None of that changed in the series finale at Chase Field, as Cole Hamels allowed a leadoff double and then retired 18 consecutive batters en route to a dominant eight-inning performance. Give some credit to the bullpen, too. The new set-up/closer combination of Chad Qualls and Jonathan Papelbon has combined to allow just two runs in 15 innings of work.
The question now is whether the offense can find enough consistency for the Phillies to string together a sizable winning streak. This year more than any since 2008, it is imperative that they have success against the National League's weaker teams: in particularly, the National League's weaker pitching staffs. One of those teams, and staffs, will be in town this weekend as the Cubs visit Citizens Bank Park for a four-game series.