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Article:Please Hamels, Don't Hurt 'Em! Or...Phils Outta First Place

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So it's been a month since I subjected readers to an article... what has happened in that time?

The Boring Recap

Let's see... the Philadelphia Phillies were in first place last time I wrote (May 2nd), having just wrested first place in the NL East from the Florida Marlins. This turn of events also left the New York Mets on the outside looking in.

The Phils would hold that first place spot until May 6th, when the Marlins took it back. They tied for it on the 7th, then fell one game out on the 8th. This worsened to three out by the 11th, and improved to a tie again on the 16th.

They were 2 1/2 games out by the 25th, following two irritating 4-3 losses to the Houston Astros. Then they snapped out of it and clobbered the 'Stros 15-6 powered by 3-RBI outings from Chase Utley and Shane Victorino. This was then followed by a 20-5 laugher over the Colorado Rockies, which saw Utley put up six more 'ribbies.'

All those runs and two easy wins were great stuff, but it didn't mean a whole lot because those damn Marlins kept winning. Then a funny thing happened: the Mets beat Florida 5-3. Suddenly, I was rooting for the Mets. What a great deal - each Met win and each Phils win moved the lead in the division back to Philadelphia. I'll bet the Mets and their fans had mixed feelings about beating the Marlins...

Then, the Mets did it again, in improbable fashion, causing me to again root, root, root for a team I normally love to hate. But the Mets' win left the Phils a game out and in a great position to take over.

The Here and Now

So the Phils went out and pounded the Marlins 12-3, and took over first again...the first time they held first place alone since May 6th. And they did it in a game that saw Brett Myers give up three runs in the first inning (to his credit, Myers failed to surrender a homer in this game - small miracles).

The Phils stormed back with seven runs in the second, powered by Chris Coste and Utley, who blasted his 18th home run. And, to my great shock, Ryan Howard even chipped in with a 3-run homer. He ain't hittin' much, but he is making his presence felt.

And then... they lost, 7-3, and find themselves back in second place. Cole Hamels dropped to 5-4 after his second straight disappointing performance. He gave up six earned runs in four innings against Houston in the 15-6 win on the 25th and he gave up seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in tonight's loss.

This is not a good sign if he's supposed to be the ace of the staff. Perhaps Phils fans like myself should be more concerned about Myers (3-6) and Hamels than we are about Ryan Howard's low batting average.

I am also glad to see that the much maligned Adam Eaton (1-3) scored his first win of the season in Wednesday's 6-1 win over the Rockies. This poor guy has pitched better than his record would indicate. He's given up three or less earned runs in seven starts, and only has four decisions and one win to show for it. I hope he keeps it up, because the Phillies can use some good, consistent pitching.

Around the Division

The news is pretty good if you're a Phillies fan. The Mets are four games out and the Atlanta Braves are three games out. Both teams have some issues to sort out, and seem to be moving out of the race. We'll see if this trend continues.

Chase Utley continues to stake a claim for MVP, as he leads the league in homers (19) and Runs Batted In (49). If he could just get his average (.311) higher, he'd be a legit contender for a triple crown. I'm not sure if he has the chops to lead the league in homers and RBI over a season, but it's been fun to see him swing recently.

I also note that the 'struggling' Howard is tied for 4th in the NL in homers with 15, and that Pat Burrell is also in the top 10, having bashed 13 homers thus far. Phils pitchers should feel okay with giving up a few runs with offense like that.

Other League Items That Interested Me

Ken Griffey Jr. blasted homer 599, and it seems that there is little to no interest in this particular item. At least, it seems that way to me. This guy is about to hit number 600, and it's like nothing big is happening. And that's too bad. He's been a class act (and one of my favorite players), and he deserves to have more attention.

In a way, I hope he holds off hitting number 600 until the Phillies series next week. But then again, it'll probably be a game go ahead and hit it against the Braves, Jr.!

Where's the power in the AL? I see that Josh Hamilton shares the AL homer lead with 14, behind five NL hitters. But he has more RBI than any NL guy (by far - 61 to 49) and is second in the AL in average (.326), making him a legit Triple Crown candidate.

And congratulations are in order for Barry Zito, who at last won his first game of 2008 on May 22nd. Took a while, but he's off the shneid. He followed that up with a strong outing on the 29th, going six innings and giving up three earned runs. He didn't get a decision in that one, but he looks to be pitching better. Maybe we'll see a resurgance??

In Another League's News

I see that Mike Vanderjagt is rumored to be going back to the CFL. This is no skin off my nose... I love the guy. After Jerome Bettis' heart stopping fumble in the Colts/Steelers 2005 playoff game, Vanderjagt missed the field goal that enabled the Steelers to escape with the win. So he's okay in my book.

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