Chase Is off for Utley but on for the Phils
Cory Lidle was one of the rumoured-to-be-on-the-way-out-Phils that actually got dealt.
Chase Utley‘s streak may be over, but for Philadelphia the more important issue is the Wild Card, suddenly a possibility with seven wins in the past eight before literally throwing one away Saturday.
Utley’s hitting streak ended at 35 games on Friday, giving the Phillies two of the four longest streaks in National League history in less than a year (after Jimmy Rollins hit in 38 straight, a streak snapped in the third game of 2006). Whether anything comes of this season or not, there’s certainly been a lot of excitement generated in Philly thanks to those two.
However, there’s been plenty of unhappiness as well in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Phils scuffled out of the gates before turning it on in May. But when the June swoon hit, the trade rumours were soon to follow. By early July, the club had fallen 6.5 back in the Wild Card race with a hell of a lot of teams between them and the lead.
Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber were all being shopped around, and having that hang over the team for most of the year did not help the situation. At the deadline, the middle pair of that group was moved, as was David Bell, as the team did a serious makeover.
Only, suddenly they started winning. Heading into action Saturday, the Phils were 4-0 on their road trip and found themselves just 2.5 back of the Wild Card. It’s not over yet, baby.
Ryan Howard continues to launch bombs, smoking a three-run shot Saturday, his NL-leading 38th of the year, to provide all the offense the Phils would muster for the game. And Utley, now clearly the leader of this team, was given the day off against a lefty with the streak over, but came off the bench to deliver a key two-out hit that started a new streak and breathed life in a possible Phils’ comeback that went for naught.
Philadelphia even got a solid outing from a starter, something lacking of late, as the veteran Lieber — still the topic of trade rumours — threw an absolutely gem. Until the sixth inning, the Mets hadn’t managed a hard hit ball all day against the crafty vet. Unfortunately, he was the author of his own misfortune, throwing away a simple toss that would have ended the inning, and allowing the Mets to explode for three runs to turn a 3-1 Phils’ lead into a 4-3 loss.
Hey, Jon, RotoRob knows how you feel. I can’t make a soft, short toss to save my life, either. Of course, my slo-pitch teams don’t pay me over $7.5 million a season to watch my errant throws sail away.
Lieber’s throw was then compounded by some seriously ugly defensive play (does he ever display anything else?) in left field by Burrell. When he allowed a can of corn ball to drop in front of him, the RotoWidow piped in with a well-timed “he should have an ‘L’ instead of ‘P’ on his cap!”
Interestingly, against righties, Burrell has been sitting plenty of late in deference to David Dellucci, another Phillie who was rumoured to be on his way out of town, but is still in the mix. From a Fantasy standpoint, this definitely bears watching because if Burrell continues to lose PT against righties, his value will plummet hugely.
It’s too early to say whether the Phils’ trades was a case of addition by subtraction, but certainly the club’s solid play of late has coincided with the exodus of the Bell, Abreu and Lidle trio. And there’s a delicious irony in a seller at the deadline playing better after its purge. As long as Lieber keeps his soft tosses to a minimum, this club has a chance to remain in the playoff race for the rest of the season.