July 30, 2011 – By Scott
The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball but have just been average at the plate this year with a team batting average of .249. This stat seems kind of misleading as the Phillies scored eight runs in the first two innings in their 10-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. To accompany their eleven hits yesterday, they also added two homeruns in the opening game of their three-game weekend series with the Pirates.
The two teams from Pennsylvania will meet in the second game on Saturday night and the Phillies have added some offensive firepower as Hunter Pence is expected to make his first start Saturday. The Phillies acquired Pence from the Houston Astros on Friday and he was leading the Astros in hitting with a .308 average in addition to 11 homeruns and 62 RBIs.
“We tried to address a need that we felt was a missing piece,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “This gives us a little more balance.”
The runs might not come as easy on Saturday for the Phillies (66-39) as Pittsburgh will send James McDonald to the mound. McDonald has been very effective in his last eight starts and during this span he has a record of 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA. This comes after winning just four games total a year ago. McDonald has not suffered a loss since June 5 and this defeat came against the Phillies.
The Pirates (54-50) will face a Phillies pitcher in Cliff Lee who has not been as effective as of late. Lee (9-7, 3.05 ERA) was very effective during June going 5-0 and giving up just one run in 42 innings. However, he will be looking for his first win since June 28 after struggling during the month of July. In four starts this month, Lee is 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA. In his last outing Monday against San Diego, he gave up five runs in four innings while allowing 10 hits.
MLB sportsbooks feel that Lee will get back on track and have the Phillies favored in Saturday night’s game with their moneyline set at -260. The Pirates have their line set at +225.