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Matchup/Preview Game # 99 vs. Phillies

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Andy Pettitte   Cory Lidle
7 - 7, 2.82   8 - 8, 4.45

The big series keep coming, one after the other. The question I think that gets asked after yesterday's 14-inning pressure cooker is how long the Astros can sustain the intensity. There are naturally ebbs and flows; the idea is to somehow win half your games when in the troughs, and let the peaks last as long as possible. That way no-one can tell you haven't been peaking for like, six weeks.

Speaking of getting hot, the Phillies come into this series with as much momentum as any Astros opponent has mustered in some time. Lately, with only the possible exception of the Cardinals (and you can think about that as you consider the Cubs series victory over the Redbirds this past weekend), we've either been playing bad teams (think Rockies, Reds), or good teams in a down stretch (think Padres, Nationals).

But the Phillies are good, and they're playing well right now. Though their current streak was assembled at home against teams that aren't all that hot themselves, the Phillies are 7 - 3 in their last ten, which is actually a game better than the Astros. All year long, you've tended to think of the Phillies as at the top of those a tier below St. Louis and Cincinnati offensively--and sure enough they come in third in the league in runs scored. Now, though, they come in pitching pretty well, too, having given up 2 runs or less in three of their last four.

But as Trixie said to Speed Racer, there is some good news. It looks like the Phillies best pitchers currently--Tejeda and Myers--are exactly the ones we're gonna miss. Tonight's starter for the Phillies, Cory Lidle, has not only taken time off from the team "for personal reasons" lately, he was also rocked soundly in his last two starts. Lidle has pitched a combined 7-1/3 over his last two, while giving up 14 runs. Caveat emptor, he's been better all year on the road, but the man could very well be in a funk, and may be vulnerable.

Because Atlanta and Washington are tied, because they start a series tomorrow, and 'cause they're off tonight, if a team in this series can win the first two, they are guaranteed to pick up a game and a half in the Wild Card standings.

Anyone else see how ESPN referred to Eric Bruntlett as "Jason" in their game preview? That's why they're multinational, baby.

In honor of the 100-plus advantage the Phillies have over us in walks, and in recognition of the fear their lineup when hot can instill, I've done up as my series preview Secondary Average, where the Phillies show teams across the league that there are a bunch of different ways to grab an extra base here and there. . . .

Is Secondary Average So Secondary?
SecA Phillie Pos Astro SecA
x .262 Mike Lieberthal C1 Brad Ausmus .158
x .263 Todd Pratt C2 Humberto Quintero .033
x .378 Jim Thome 1B Lance Berkman .371
x .362 Chase Utley 2B Craig Biggio .283
x .234 Jimmy Rollins SS Adam Everett .217
.182 David Bell 3B M. Ensberg .455 x
x .465 Bobby Abreu OF1 Jason Lane .300
x .381 Pat Burrell OF2 Orlando Palmeiro .273
x .267 Jason Michaels OF3 Chris Burke .153
x .216 Kenny Lofton OF4 Willy Taveras .146
.125 Tomas Perez Util/PH Eric Bruntlett .339 x
.032 Cory Lidle P1 Andy Pettitte .032
.026 Jon Lieber P2 Roy Oswalt .024
x .150 Vicente Padilla P3 Roger Clemens .079