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Matchup/Preview/Diary Game # 137 at Phillies!

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Andy Pettitte   Brett Myers
13 - 9, 2.50    12 - 6, 3.51

Big series to say the least commencing tonight. With the Marlins having lost earlier today, the winner of this series is guaranteed to have sole possession of the Wild Card lead come Thursday morning. But with Washington smokin' hot, no guarantess can be made for the loser. . . .

Both teams appear to have their rotations set to their satisfaction. Brett Myers, voted by most Phillies fans as most likely to pitch well, in a big game or otherwise, will lead off the series for Philadelphia, with second-most reliable Jon Lieber to follow, and with Vicente Padilla--inconsistent again, but not too horrible, throwing the final game.

The Astros, too, will throw their best pitcher in the first game, as well, in Andy Pettitte. And it really is time to recognize that And has in fact been Houston's best, even better than Roger, for about a month now. Pettitte has given up three runs over his last three starts, all wins. In those games he has struck out 18 and walked four. He also beat Philadelphia in Houston back on July 25, going seven innings and giving up one run.

After Pettitte, Oswalt will ascend the hill at Citizens Bank. Roy has been nowhere near as consistent as Pettitte, but he too beat Phladelphia during that three-game home sweep of the Phillies in late July, and he is certainly coming off his best game in over a month, as he gave up a run over 6-2/3 vs. the Reds last Thursday. Near as I can tell, when they came and got Roy during that sixth inning, it was the first time Roy had been removed during an inning while he had the lead all year. Recognizing that our bullpen may in spots be better than a tired Oswalt was a comparatively bold realization for Garner to make.

Lastly, we will have the return of Brandon Backe on Wednesday, fresh off his lights-out performance at Corpus Christi last Friday. As long as Backe can stay away from the walks, which were bedevilling him at the time he was placed on the DL, he will without question represent an upgrade from Ezequiel Astacio, whose place he is essentially taking in the rotation. And if we get really lucky, Backe will be dominant during a start or two. He is certainly capable of it.

I think that you CAN overemphasize the importance of this series. Getting swept of course would be disastrous, but that's hardly rarefied wisdom; a sweep at the hands of any opponent this time of year would be grievous. If you lose two here, but go back and take three from Florida in Houston, given the nature of the cage-match among NL East teams from here on out, you'd still be in pretty good shape.

'Course, on the optimistic side, an Astro three game sweep of the Phillies in their home park . . .well, that would quite simply put the Astros in command of the race with 22 to go.

This just in: the Astros are not all that clutch. It's one of the reason why they only recently improved to 1 - 50 (or something like that) when trailing after eight. But since the games are likely to be close (as they were in July), I took a look to see who was able to get on base, and thus avoid the killer out, in the late stages of the game. Phillies look pretty good; the Astros, with one or two notable exceptions, do not.

OBP 7th Inning On
OBP
7th Inning
On
Astro Pos Phillie OBP
7th Inning
On
x .369 Brad Ausmus C1 Mike Lieberthal .311
.207 Raul Chavez C2 Todd Pratt .309 x
.221 Mike Lamb 1B Ryan Howard .411 x
.283 Craig Biggio 2B Chase Utley .419 x
.307 Adam Everett SS Jimmy Rollins .331 x
x .380 Morgan Ensberg 3B David Bell .286
.440 Lance Berkman OF1 Jason Michaels .450 x
.337 Orlando Palmeiro OF2 Bobby Abreu .414 x
.316 Willy Taveras OF3 Kenny Lofton .364 x
.295 Jason Lane OF4 Pat Burrell .345 x
x .359 Jose Vizcaino Util/PH Tomas Perez .296
x .333 Andy Pettitte P1 Brett Myers .167
x .143 Roy Oswalt P2 Jon Lieber .000
.000 Brandon Backe P3 Vicente Padilla .500 x