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Phillies close out April, Roy Halladay gets no offense, and more!

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Each week, Philly2Philly’s Matt Babiarz will wrap up the previous seven days of Phillies’ baseball with Three Up, Three Down.  It’s a rundown of 3 positives and 3 negatives from the past week.
 
THREE UP!

1.  April Has Been Rough....

Let's face it: Lots of those April Phillies games were truly painful. The Phils will play the Cubs one more time before the calendar flips to May. Unfortunately, the best they can do is finish with 11 wins and 12 losses. This will be the Phillies' first losing April in five years.

It’s hard to imagine a team that is 28th out of 30 Major League teams in runs scored playing .500 baseball for a prolonged period of time, but the Phillies may be on the verge of surviving a month where just about everything seemed to go wrong. Perhaps that strategy of keeping afloat until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard returns is valid after all.  The only problem with this theory can be found in the first item of the “Three Down” list.

2.  Amaro’s Bench Additions Doing Better than you Might Think
Juan Pierre photo: Yong Kim
The criticism of Ruben Amaro’s offseason acquisitions was frequent and it seemed pretty valid.  Amaro added mostly left-handed, swing-and-miss bench options while preaching the need for better balance and more disciplined hitting.

I have to admit that I think Amaro’s decisions were very questionable too, but here’s something that Phillies fans probably haven’t noticed.  The Phillies top three hitters this season are Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton.  Would you believe that their combined stats would have the early makings of an All-Star player?  

Here they are (through 21 games and 139 combined at-bats):
Avg:     .331
Runs:    19
2B:    7
HR:    3
RBI:     17


Jonathan Papelbon photo: Adam Jones
3.  Papelbon’s Earning It

Investing $12 million per season in a closer is a major financial commitment, but Jonathan Papelbon  seems to be earning his money so far.  

Papelbon has closed out seven of the Phillies ten wins this season.   He is tied for the league lead in saves, and is one of only three closers to be perfect with at least seven saves.  He has an ERA of 1.00, and has given the Phillies a dimension beyond their top three starters that seems to be a sure bet on most nights.

 

THREE DOWN!

1.   April was Supposed to the Easy Part

In the “Three Up” list, I mentioned that the Phils have managed to survive a difficult month with a record that is right near the .500 mark.   

But maybe that wasn’t such a great accomplishment after all.  Despite the Phillies injuries and offensive ineptitude, their April schedule featured some of the worst teams in the National league.  Of the seven teams that the Phillies played in the month of April, five had losing records last season, and four were at least 18 games under .500.  Those teams have a combined record that is 19 games under .500 thus far in 2012.

The May schedule should feature some tougher competition, with series against Atlanta, Washington (twice), Boston and St. Louis.  The month of May will see the Phillies play 29 games in 30 days, and we could have a much better idea of where the team is headed by the end of this month.

2. Can we Get Roy Some Help?!o Halladay photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Over the last couple years, we have come to expect a shutout almost every time Roy Halladay takes the mound.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the Phillies’ hitters are starting to expect the same.

In Halladay’s last two starts, his offense has provided him with one run each game.  He also got one run of support in his opening day shutout of Pittsburgh, meaning that he has gotten only one run in three of his five starts this season.  

While it’s hard to imagine anything affecting Halladay’s focus, you can’t help but get the feeling that he is pressing to keep opponents scoreless. He has walked nine batters in his last three starts, which is very uncharacteristic of a pitcher who is renowned for throwing strikes and attacking hitters.

3.  Kendrick Finally Clobbered   

One of the most impressive things I’ve seen in the past season is how well Kyle Kendrick has handled an ever-changing role on the Phillies pitching staff. Kendrick has bounced from short-relief to long-relief to starting throughout the last year, and has handled it marvelously.

But, it almost seemed like Monday’s night bludgeoning in Arizona was inevitable. Kendrick, who had pitched 4.2 innings in the season’s first 17 days was once again asked to step into the starting lineup, and the results were not pretty.

After only three innings, the damage was 11 hits and 7 earned runs. Kendrick's outing wasn't as bad Sunday against the Cubs, but the Phillies just can't score runs consistently. With Cliff Lee unexpected to return for a few starts, here’s hoping that Kendrick can get adjusted to starting once again.

 

 Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Photos:
Papelbon: Adam Jones
Pierre: Yong Kim