Since July 1st the Philadelphia Phillies have had a busy month. They've played nineteen games in 25 days which included a four day break for the All-Star game. Even with the four day grace period they only managed to post a 10-9 record. After the most recent series with the New York Mets, they also saw their 1st place lead slip out of their hands. Those same Mets have posted a 15-6 record including a 10 game win streak that allowed them to pick up the 5 games on the Phillies that they trailed at the beginning of the month. The Mets now sit atop the NL East with a 1 game lead.
Well in the midst of an All-Star break, the Phillies acquired Joe Blanton from the Oakland Athletics, demoted and then brought back up starter Brett Myers, and shaken up the lineup on more than one occasion to try to spark the offense. Unfortunately none of this has worked so far.
Chase Utley has all but disappeared from the lineup with a .243 batting average and only 5 RBIs this month, it looks like the MVP three peat could be in jeopardy if he doesn't snap out of it quick.
Jimmy Rollins is slowly becoming a poor MVP as he was benched for the second time this season because of his inability to take the game seriously. Especially after being ridiculed heavily for his inability to score from first in Sunday's loss to the Marlins.
Manager Charlie Manuel has managed to get his team in such a funk that they seem to be disinterested in competing. At this point he appears to be over-managing the games in hopes of getting lucky. Unfortunately for the fans, Manuel isn't all that good at managing regularly, so the idea of over-managing is scary.
He's appears to be so lost that after benching Rollins for the game on Thursday, he had him pinch hit against Billy Wagner who Rollins has never connected off of. If he was planning on using Rollins at all as a pinch hitter, the appropriate time would have been in the eighth against Aaron Heilman with two men on instead of Jason Werth who struggles against right handed pitching.
Manuel is floundering at this point and appears unable to motivate a team that appears to have let MVP awards and a first place lead get in their heads. The Phils need to snap out of it quick, and it's up to Charlie to make it happen.
The only bright spot would be Ryan Howard who has officially swung his way out of his slump. With a .308 BA so far in July, Howard has hammered 9 home runs and 20 RBIs, bringing his season average up to .234.
Needless to say, this weekend's series against the Atlanta Braves is key to getting the team back on track. With the Mets heading to St. Louis and Florida over the next week, the Phils should have the opportunity to take back the NL East lead, but they will have to earn it. Anyone who is banking on another Mets collapse is out to lunch and should probably come back to reality.
Only time will tell..