Phillies start off with a win, but NL East looks tough in 2012

Dyshae Dixon| staff writer

The 2012 season is underway for the Philadelphia Phillies. In the season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, they were able to walk away with a 1-0 victory. It was very similar to how they won a season ago, the pitching dictated the outcome. Halladay pitched 8 innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 5 Pittsburgh batters. The team was also able to show off its newly acquired closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon arrived in the 9th and was able to seal the deal with a save. The team totaled 8 hits altogether, but was only able to drive in a single run. John Mayberry and Ruiz combined for 5 hits, but the team as a whole left 13 runners on base. With Utley and Howard not on the active roster, someone else will have to stack up the RBIs.

Low scoring was the theme for the entire NL East on opening day. In Chicago, the Nationals were also able to escape with a one run advantage, beating the Cubs 2-1. In a divisional series, the Mets outlasted the Braves 1-0. The Miami Marlins also failed to produce a run, losing to the Reds 4-0.

The lack of run production could be an ongoing thing with the entire division this season. On the other hand, the NL East has some of the best pitching in any division. We are all aware of the Phillies highly touted starters, but the other teams are well equipped too. The Nats started Stephen Strasburg on opening day and he had an impressive performance. If he can remain healthy and consistent, his potential is limitless. Strasburg has shown early signs of being a dominant pitcher dating back to last season. Though they lost their first game, the Miami Marlins have made improvements to their starting pitching. They added former Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who has had a very successful career in his 13 seasons. Miami also has Carlos Zambrano, Josh Johnson, and Heath Bell on their roster. The rest of the roster for the Marlins is not spectacular, so they will have to rely on their pitching to carry them.

The Nationals were winners on opening day, but the key to their success will be consistency. Their roster has some talent, but it may not be enough to keep up with the Phillies and Braves for the duration of the season.

With the Phillies not at full strength, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are the teams to look out for within the division. It seems like every year the Mets are fast starters, but eventually break down as a team. They have big names on their roster year in and year out, but it never adds up to a division crown. Meanwhile, the Braves are always there to challenge the Phillies for the title. The Braves saw that the Phillies were winning with an All-Star cast of pitchers, so they went and added some meat to their lineup. They added Jair Jurrjens and Livan Hernandez to the mix and also have a host of young pitchers with lots of potential. The Braves are a dangerous team.

The pitching for the Phillies will be solid, but whether they can produce enough runs remains to be seen. Shane Victorino returns to his position as the lead-off hitter, which was held by Jimmy Rollins for a long time. The order has a lot of potential even with all the injuries. If Victorino, Polanco, and Rollins can consistently get on base, they are followed by Ty Wigginton, Hunter Pence, and Mayberry. That offensive lineup can win games; it is just a matter of it all coming together at the right time. In the opening game, the hits came late in the order with Mayberry and Ruiz getting hot, but it only produced one run. The hits have to come earlier. The NL East will be more competitive this year, but the Phillies are still in the driver’s seat and control their fate.

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