Stay classy, Cole Hamels

For some reason today feels like a Friday…

Regardless of what day it is, the Phillies have four tough games this weekend against the San Diego Padres, who despite their 52-41 record (one game behind the Dodgers in second place in the NL West) could be the National League’s representative in the World Series.

Yes, the Padres are 52-41 even though they have just one regular player with a batting average over .260 and have a Major League-worst batting average (.242) and on-base percentage (.313) and are next-to-last in slugging. With Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Marcus Giles and Khalil Greene as the Padres’ version of a Murders’ Row, it’s easy to see why they have the second-most strikeouts in the league – far more than the free-swinging Phillies.

Yet at the same time it’s easy to see why the Padres are a good pick to get through the National League.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching.

The Padres’ team ERA is 3.13 (2.63 from the bullpen), which leads the Majors by a lot. Better yet, the question isn’t who will win the Cy Young Award in the National League, it’s which Padre does one pick?

Is it Jake Peavy and his 2.30 ERA and 9.36 strikeouts per nine innings? Or is it Chris Young with his 1.97 ERA and 8.78 strikeouts per nine innings? Mix in 40somethings Greg Maddux and David Wells, both of whom are pitching pretty well, and it’s no wonder that the .242 batting average is getting it done.

But the most interesting pitcher on the Padres staff is fifth starter Justin Germano, who as most close followers of the Phillies remember was claimed off waivers by the Padres when the Phillies tried to sneak him back to Triple-A during spring training.

With a 6-3 record, 3.55 ERA and 16 walks in 12 starts have fit in nicely with San Diego. Not to mention the fact that the rookie right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his first five starts.

For some reason he couldn’t make the Phillies this spring. Perhaps the Pat Gillick and the gang are having second thoughts now? What do you suppose the Phillies will be thinking on Sunday when J.D. Durbin goes to the mound against Peavy?

Better yet, do you think that Germano will be fired up for Friday night’s start? I’m going to go out on a limb and say… yeah probably.

***
As we determined the Phillies are spending the weekend in San Diego which is the hometown of tonight’s starting pitcher Cole Hamels. San Diego is also the adapted hometown of Ron Burgundy, Tony Gwynn, Tony Hawk and Floyd Landis, it has one of the lowest crime rates of all major U.S. cities, and it’s 70 degrees every stinking day of the year. Snow, ice and cold weather are concepts in San Diego, not reality, which means outdoor sports and activities rule.

So why haven’t we all packed up and moved to San Diego?

Good question. Then again, the average price of a home in San Diego is over $600,000… just think how much it would be if everyone moved there.

***
I have a theory that Philadelphia sports fans and French sports fans are uncannily similar. Mostly this is based on the idea that like the French, Philadelphia fans appreciate losers far more than the gifted or talented. To hear Philly folks tell it, the Phillies won the World Series in 1993 and they appreciate the fact that the team lost so dramatically.

The same goes for the French in that they haven’t seen a winner in the Tour de France since 1985, however, riders like Christophe Moreau, Richard Virenque, Laurent Jalabert, Luc Leblanc and Raymond Poulidor were always gallant in their many defeats.

Yes, French sports are like Philadelphia sports. That’s the theory. Since 1936 the French have had won winner of the French Open (Yannick Noah in 1983), but claim Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and major title tennis player Mary Pierce.

Take away the French National soccer team’s World Cup title in 1998 – and defeat last year – and France faces a championship drought of Philadelphia proportions.

Hey, it’s a half-baked theory with not a lot of research put into it, but I’m sticking to it. After all, Philadelphia has more public art than any other city outside of Paris (or at least it used to… like I said, not much research has gone into this theory).

Anyway, the point is the French will go without a champion at the Tour de France again this year when Moreau was dropped from the peloton and lost considerable time – 3-minutes, 19 seconds – in the overall standings.

Meanwhile, David Zabriskie was eliminated from the race today because he finished more than 30 minutes behind Stage 11 winner Robbie Hunter. Zabriske is a time-trial specialist who held the Yellow Jersey for exactly 52 seconds during the Prologue this year, and held it through the first three stages of the 2005 Tour. This year, however, Zabriskie looked like a contender for the Lanterne Rouge, leading some (like me) to wonder, “What’s with Zabriskie?”

Apparently it was an achy knee that led to Z-Man’s rough showing.

“After the Galibier day I really struggled to try to get better,” Zabriskie said. “I was hoping these few flat days I could nurse it back to health, but the Tour is not the kind of race where you can fix yourself. Today was a really hard day and my knee couldn’t handle it. I came off when Astana finally did their rotation in the wind.”

As if that news wasn’t enough, Yellow Jersey holder Michael Rasmussen was kicked off the Danish national cycling team on Thursday because of an alleged disagreement over drug testing.

According to a story in VeloNews:

The director of the Danish Cycling Union (DCU) Jesper Worre told DR1 television station that Rasmussen had received a number of warnings over failing to inform doping authorities over his training whereabouts.

“We consider this case with great seriousness and the executive of the DCU decided that Michael will no longer be part of the national team and he was informed of this on June 26,” said Worre.

Rasmussen spends most of his time in Mexico where his wife his from and as the leader of the Tour de France is drug tested after every stage. But, you know, the DCU doesn’t want to have to refer to Google Earth to track down its soon to be ex-patriot.

In Stage 11… sprinters.

Stage 11 Final
1.) Robbie Hunter, Barloworld, South Africa
2.) Fabian Cancellara, CSC, Switzerland, same time
3.) Murilo Fischer, Liquigas, Brazil, s.t.
4.) Filippo Pozzato, Liquigas, Italy, s.t.
5.) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
6.) Paolo Bossoni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
7.) Claudio Corioni, Lampre, Italy, s.t.
8.) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, Belgium, s.t.
9.) William Bonney, Credit Agricole, France, s.t.
10.) Kim Kirchen, T-Mobile, Luxembourg, s.t.

Overall
1.) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, Denmark, in 53:11:38
2.) Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d’Epargne, Spain, @ 2:35
3.) Iban Mayo, Saunier Duval, Spain, @ 2:39
4.) Cadel Evans, Predictor-Lotto, Australia, @ 2:41
5.) Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel, Spain, @ 3:08
6.) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, @ 3:39
7.) Andreas Klöden, Astana, Germany, @ 3:50
8.) Levi Leipheimer, Discovery Channel, USA, @ 3:53

One more day of sprinters before the time trial and Pyrenees.

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