The “Big Three” Is the Story this Series

By John Russo

Phils lefty Cole Hamels strikes out a career-high 13 batters in the Phils 2-1 win over Florida on Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Charlie Manuel knows what he did just put his team in the best position to win. So does Bobby Cox, who knows what it’s like to have a “Big Three” on his roster.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cox said before Monday’s game. “Oswalt’s been dynamite ever since he got over here. It’s a good situation for him for a change. And just looking at Hamels right now. There’s nothing but zeroes in runs just about. He’s kind of secretly in that Cy Young mix. Halladay is unbelievable. We used to play him in the spring and you can see it.”

The Phillies lined up their rotation for this series, pitching Cole Hamels in last night’s 3-1 win. Hamels allowed a run in eight strong innings of work while striking out six.

Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, the other two pieces to the big three, will pitch tonight and tomorrow respectively. Halladay dominated the Braves in his previous two starts this season, throwing a five-hit complete game shut out in April and a five-hit, one-run complete game in the beginning of July.

Ace Roy Halladay has been a blessing for the Phillies this season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Cox is throwing Mike Minor and Tommy Hanson against the Phils this series. With Jair Jurrjens’ injury yesterday that forced him to pitch Brandon Beachy, there were questions on whether Cox should have moved everyone up a start to pitch his ace, Tim Hudson, against Oswalt.

“No, we got confidence in our guys running out there,” Cox said. “Minor is a very good pitcher and Tommy Hanson is pretty dominating at times too so we like our chances with good young pitchers.”

In today’s match up. Halladay will be going for his 20th win on the season. If (and assuming when) he gets that next win, he will be the first Phillies pitcher to do so since 1982 when Steve Carlton went 23-11.

Hamels, Halladay, and Oswalt all have ERAs under 3.00, another remarkable feat. Hamels and Oswalts ERAs have been on a steady decline the past two months while Doc’s was always low.

RHP Roy Oswalt dominates the Dodgers on Aug. 10. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Since Oswalt’s first start on July 30, he is 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA and 61 strike outs in 11 starts. Also since that date, Hamels is 5-3 with a 1.91 ERA and 79 strike outs in 10 starts and Halladay is 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA and 61 strike outs in nine starts.

Manuel doesn’t feel there is one “ace” on the staff.

“Whoever pitches good on that night,” Manuel said when asked who he considers the staff ace after Monday’s 3-1 win. “We got some good pitchers and we don’t like to say which ones the ace. I like all three of them – our top ones – and I think (Joe) Blanton and (Kyle) Kendrick have done a good job for us. I like the fact that they do pitch good games at times.”

Cox has had a big three before in his career. From 1993-2002, he had three possible future Hall of Famers in the rotation for him: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. The Braves won their division all nine years that trio was together.

Will this Phillies “Big Three” bring them a World Series like it did Cox in 1995? We sure hope so.

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