July 20 2006

Phillies fans need to prepare themselves for the simple fact that when the Abreu trade comes, if it comes, it's probably not going to look real pretty on paper.  The Phillies want to drop Abreu's contract and there aren't a lot of teams who can take it on, and maybe not a lot of teams Bobby would be willing to go to.  They've been wanting to trade him for a long time now, and his value decreases every day because it's one less game he'll be playing for his new team.  When and if he does go, the Phillies and their fans are going to miss him and his production.  He's still a Phil for now, and yesterday he won the game with a two-run double in the top of the ninth.

You've got to wonder how much Abreu might miss the fans, though, in a year when he was booed on opening day coming off of a year when he hit 286/405/474 with 24 home runs, was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and was in the top ten in the league in on-base percentage, walks, runs, games played, stolen bases, runs created, times on base, sac flies and intentional walks.

The Phillies beat the Padres yesterday afternoon 5-4 to improve to 43-50 on the year.  The Mets couldn't hold an early 4-0 lead in a rain-soaked game and the Braves finally lost, so the Phillies end the day in third place in the NL East, 12 1/2 games behind the Mets and a full game behind the Braves.

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies and had an awful first inning, but pitched better than his line.  He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and four more walks.  Four of the seven hits went for extra-bases, including a three-run homer.  I expect Lieber is about to go on a tear.  Last year on July 16 he got the win in a 10-5 Phillies victory over the Marlins to put his mark for the season at 9-8 with a 5.14 ERA and ended the year 17-13 with a 4.20 ERA.  He went 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA in August and 6-4 with a 1.76 in September.  The bad news is that last year the Phillies were 47-45 on July 16, this year they were 42-48.

After the Phillies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Lieber gave up three in the bottom of the inning.  Two of the first three Padres walked before non-traditional cleanup man Josh Bard hit a three-run home run.  I still think he would have preferred to tag out Pierzynski in the ALCS. I bet he never, ever gets tired of people bringing that up (it was Josh Paul, not Josh Bard, that made the Pierzynski play).

Lieber cruised through innings two through four, holding the Padres scoreless and allowing just two baserunners.  Mike Cameron led off the third with a double and Mark Belhorn reached on a fourth inning error by Utley.  Mike Thompson led off the fifth with a single, but was quickly erased on a double-play and Lieber kept the Padres off the board.

In the sixth, the Padres loaded the bases on a double and two walks, but Lieber got a ground ball from Barfield that ended the inning.  He started the bottom of the seventh with the game tied 3-3.  Rob Bowen led off with a single and went to second on a Roberts sacrifice.  Lieber struck out Cameron, just his second strikeout of the day, but Giles followed with a double that brought in Roberts and put the Padres up 4-3.  With switch-hitting Josh Bard at the plate, who had already socked a three-run homer, Manuel called on Aaron Fultz who got Bard to fly to deep left and end the inning.  Fultz sure seems like an odd choice to pitch to Bard, what with righties hitting .326 against him and the five home runs he's allowed to them in 31 innings, but it worked.  The Phillies were going to pinch hit for their pitcher in the top of the eighth, so they only needed Fultz to get one guy.  I think I still would have brought in Franklin to pitch to Bard, even just for one batter and even after he threw (eight pitches) yesterday.  Manuel's way worked, though.

Geoff Geary pitched the bottom of the eighth with the Phillies down 4-3.  He gave up a leadoff single to start the inning but got the next three on fly balls, two of which were hit uncomfortably hard.

The Phillies got two in the top of the ninth to go up 5-4 and called on the amazing Tom Gordon.  Gordon set San Diego down 1-2-3 for his 22nd save. 

The Phillies lineup against righty Mike Thompson went (1) Rollins (2) Dellucci (3) Utley (4) Abreu (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Coste.  A non-Lieberthal catches Lieber as tradition dictates and Dellucci plays left for Burrell against the righty.  Dellucci moves up to the two-spot with everybody else dropping down in the order.  Even after they move the lineup around they still wind up with four lefties in a row.  They tried Rollins and Dellucci as a 1-2 punch late in June a couple of times with good results when Burrell was in his terrible slump and resting.  On June 28, in the second game of a double-header, Rollins lead off with a first inning double and Dellucci singled him in.  The next day, Rollins led off the first with a walk and Dellucci hit a two-run home run. 

The Phils went up 1-0 in the top of the first.  Rollins led off with a walk and went to second on a Dellucci ground out.  Utley flew out, but Abreu singled, scoring Rollins before Howard struck out to end the inning.

Trailing 3-1 in the second, the Phillies had men on first and second when Lieber bunted into a double-play to end the inning.

In the third, the Phillies put runners on second and third on a Rollins single and an Utley double with one out.  Abreu was up and lined to first base before Thompson walked Howard intentionally to load the bases.  Rowand was at the plate and he grounded out to end the inning.

Chris Coste hit the first home run of his career in the top of the fourth.  It got the Phillies within one at 3-2.

Howard hit into an inning-ending double-play in the fifth, and the Phillies went into the top of the sixth still trailing 3-2.  David Bell singled with one out and came around to score on Coste's double, tying the score at 3-3.  The Phillies stranded Coste at second when Lieber struck out and Rollins grounded out to end the inning. 

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the eighth and went to the top of the ninth against Trevor Hoffman down a run at 4-3.  Victorino led off, and was hit by a pitch.  Utley followed with a walk.  Abreu got down 0-2 before ripping a 1-2 pitch into right-center, scoring Victorino and Utley to put the Phils up 5-4.  The Phillies left Abreu at second -- Jon Adkins relieved Hoffman and intentionally walked Howard before getting a double-play ball from Rowand and a fly ball to center from Bell.

Rollins was 1-for-4 with a walk.  For the series he was 5-for-14 with two doubles and scored three runs.

Utley was 2-for-4 with a walk.  He went 5-for-12 in the series, with two doubles, three walks and four runs.

Abreu won the game with his double and went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI on the day.  He was 5-for-15 in the series with zero walks, which may represent a shift in his approach or may be a complete coincidence. 

Burrell walked in a pinch hitting appearance and was 2-for-8 in the series.  Dellucci was 0-for-3 yesterday and left three men on base.

Ryan Howard was 0-for-2 with three walks.  For the series he was 3-for-10 with a double and a home run.  It was the first time this year he walked three times in a game.

Rowand was 0-for-5 and left six men on base.  He was 1-for-11 with a home run in the series.

Bell was 3-for-5 to put his average at .274.  In the series he went 5-for-12 with a triple.   He's at 382/417/600 in 55 July at-bats.

Chris Coste was 2-for-3 with a double and a home run and two RBI.  He is hitting 333/370/451 in 51 at-bats.  Whether you think he's part of the Phillies future or not, if your heart didn't flutter when he hit his home run and the San Diego fans threw the ball back baseball might not be the sport for you.  I don't know what the Phililes will do with Coste, they have some tough decisions ahead.  Whatever they do, it was a nice moment and made me think of Tomas Boswell's reasons why baseball is better than football (which you can read here).  #49:  "
Baseball has no penalties at all. A home run is a home run. You cheer. In football, on a score, you look for flags. If there's one, who's it on? When can we cheer? Football acts can all be repealed. Baseball acts stand forever."  Granted, his piece was written in 1987 and Boswell's reason #44 that baseball is better is "Wild Cards," but I'm still pretty sure they can't take Coste's home run away.

No game today and a big series with the Braves starts tomorrow night in Philly.

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