PHILADELPHIA - The Charlie Manuel-era Phillies have earned a reputation for beating opponents with a powerful lineup. Of the four teams he has managed in Philadelphia, none has finished worse than tied for second in the National League in runs scored.
Most of the Manuel-era pitching staffs have not measured up to the offense's proficiency. The Phils finished in the bottom half of the NL in team ERA in each of his first three seasons, never winding up better than 10th.
The Phillies might still be known as a team built on offense, but there has been a shift in their makeup this season. For all the star power in the lineup, a rotation fronted by three quality starters - Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and former Oriole Jamie Moyer - and featuring a fourth solid pitcher in Joe Blanton has become the backbone for a franchise about to begin its first NL Championship Series since 1993. Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers is tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies finished the regular season with the NL's fourth-best team ERA, with the bullpen having the best mark of any team in the league.
As good as the relievers were all year, it was the starters who delivered quality innings time after time down the stretch and in the NL Division Series against Milwaukee.
"Over 162 games, it's probably one of the big reasons we're here," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "They're starting to get some of that respect. They don't need it, because they just go out there and do their jobs. Each one of them is very capable of going out there and being very productive for us."
Said catcher Chris Coste: "Our pitching has been the one consistency all year. Our offense, as good as it's been at times, there were weeks at a time where we were struggling to get to three and four runs. Even in those toughest times, our pitching - starting, bullpen - was always there for us. If we end up advancing past the Dodgers, it's going to be because our pitching held the Dodgers down."
While each member of the Phillies' current rotation enjoyed individual success before this year, it took a chunk of 2008 for the rotation to become the steady group it is today.
"It's a great rotation," said Blanton, who pitched six strong innings in the NLDS clincher and is scheduled to pitch Game 4 of the NLCS.