Phillies SP Cole Hamels (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA — Interleague play is here!
It’s a weekend series in Philly between the Phillies and Red Sox. A year ago when the two teams met up, it was dubbed a World Series preview.
A year later, the two teams fell up short in the post season (Boston missed the playoffs on the last day) and both teams find themselves currently in the cellar of their respective divisions. (Boston is the only team in either East division under .500.)
Though they are both in the cellar, both teams have a different outlook on this series.
For the Sox, they want to get out of the cellar as bad as anyone (Phillies too). But they have a National spotlight thrust on them every day of the season, a burden they’ve been carrying for over a decade.
The Phillies carry the same burden, but they are hoping to continue riding the huge wave of success that has greeted them this past week. With a five-game winning streak and their first trip over .500 since being 1-0, the Phillies have their eyes set again on first place, which is only four games out of reach.
The upward climbs continue with a battle between Daniel Bard and Cole Hamels. Bard is 3-4 with a 3.40 ERA, a step down from the expectations the Sox had for him at the start of the season when they moved him from the bullpen to the rotation.
In Bard’s last outing, he went six innings, allowing a run on six hits and four walks. It was his best outing of the season, though his walk totals could be a problem. He has walked 20 batters in just 37 2/3 innings this season, an alarmingly high rate that the Phillies offense should take advantage of tonight.
Hamels has been the Phillies’ best pitcher this season. Pitching in his contract year, Hamels is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA through his first seven starts.
Hamels gave up a run on five hits in his latest outing against the Padres, improving to 2-0 in the month of May and starting the Phillies’ current five-game winning streak.
Phils, Sox Look at Oswalt — Another thing the two teams have in common is their pursuit of free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt, who pitched the last season and a half with the Phillies, didn’t sign with a team in the off season, opting to be signed during the season that he’s fully healthy to give a contending team a legitimate shot at winning.
Today, Oswalt pitched a bullpen session in his home town in Mississippi for the Red Sox and Phillies, two teams who have shared a common interest in the right-handed starter since February.
The Phillies could be interested for one of two reasons: 1) They plan on trading Joe Blanton as a salary dump and get prospects or a bat and 2) They may feel a little worried about the healthy of Vance Worley’s injured elbow.
Papelbon, Boston Reunites — It’ll be a fun reunion for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and his former team.
Surely the Sox haven’t forgotten the closer who nailed the door shut in 2007, dancing the jig in celebration. Neither has their fanbase and certainly neither has Papelbon.
It’ll be interesting to see if he gets to pitch at all this series. Surely the Sox hope not.