By the time Arizona gets to me
July 25 2006
I think, I don't know,
but I think, that the young players on the Diamondbacks who have never
played in Philadelphia have been warned. Let's all hope so. It could be an
ugly scene if they haven't. But there's no strip of dirt between the mound
and home plate, Stephen Drew or Tony Pena may cry. Can we play without a
strip of dirt between the mound and home plate??! How will we know where
the mound is? Or the plate? Do I pitch towards second base? And where's
the pool? I think there's a lot of fun to be had with Chase Field. If I'm
ever a Diamondback I'm planning to tell young players coming up that a rare
breed of earthworm was discovered living in the strip and wildlife experts
insisted that the strip be kept unmolested since back when the Olde
Diamondbacks Baseball Club was founded in 1904.
The Arizona Diamondbacks come to Philadelphia tonight for the first of a three-game set.
The Phillies come into the series at 44-52, losers of two in a row. Arizona is at 50-48, in third place in the NL West but just a game and a half behind the division-leading Padres. The Diamondbacks have been playing well of late, 7-3 since the All-Star break. They lost to the Rockies on Sunday in Arizona, snapping a four-game win streak.
The teams last met June 5-7 in Arizona, with the Phillies sweeping the series. The Phillies came back from down 3-0 against Brandon Webb to win the opener 4-3. In game two the Phillies got homers from Burrell, Fasano and Victorino and Snakes starter Russ Ortiz could only go five as the Phillies beat Arizona 10-1. Ryan Madson outpitched Dustin Nippert in the final game and the Phillies hit three more home runs (Howard, Rollins and Fasano (again)) to get a 7-3 win.
Craig Counsell is on the DL for the Diamondbacks with a broken rib. The Diamondbacks have brought up highly touted prospect Stephen Drew to play short in his absence. Drew is 10-for-his-first-33 with five extra-base hits (303/361/515).
Center fielder Eric Byrnes (288/346/510) has been the Diamondbacks best hitter this year. He's joined in the outfield by Shawn Green (302/358/460) and Luis Gonzalez (280/370/454). Brynes has cooled considerably after a May in which he posted a 364/406/717 line in 99 at-bats, hitting just four home runs over his last 40 games. Gonzalez's numbers are down this year are he's hitting just 239/323/389 against lefties. He's on a pace to hit just 13 home runs, which would be his lowest total since 1997.
Conor Jackson (263/358/406), Orlando Hudson (270/331/424) and Chad Tracy (278/341/455) join Drew in the infield. Tracy leads the team in homers (14) and RBI (56). Jackson started off hot, but hit just .228 in June and .232 so far in July. Orlando Hudson is on-basing just .320 against righties.
Johnny Estrada does most of the catching, he's at 318/337/482 in 274 at-bats. He's walked eight times this year.
Righty Jorge Julio is closing for the Diamondbacks, backed up by righties Brandon Lyon, Luis Vizcaino, Brandon Medders, Greg Aquino, Tona Pena and lefty Randy Choate. Julio gave up four runs in 1/3 of an inning on Sunday, blowing the save in Colorado, but has been very good, allowing just 14 hits in 24 2/3 innings while notching 11 saves. Lyon and Vizcaino have both allowed less than a hit an inning. Medders has pitched to a 3.45 ERA in 47 innings, but lefties are hitting .362 against him. Aquino's ERA is at 4.81 and he's walked 15 in 33 2/3 innings. Choate came up in June and has thrown just 6 1/3 innings. Pena came up a week ago and has pitched 3 2/3.
Ryan Madson (8-7, 6.25) faces righty Miguel Batista (9-5, 4.58) tonight. Batista threw a complete game shutout in his last start, which came on Wednesday against the Dodgers. He allowed six hits and two walks. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last four starts. Lefties are hitting .327 against him, and he's given up 31 walks to lefties but just 12 to righties. Ryan Madson didn't throw a complete game shutout his last time out. Over his last two starts he's allowed 12 runs in 10 1/3 innings, giving up 18 hits.
Jon Lieber (3-7, 5.55) faces righty Brandon Webb (11-3, 2.51) tomorrow night. Webb leads the NL in ERA (the Marlins' Josh Johnson has thrown to a 2.49 ERA, but in just 97 2/3 innings) and is tied for second in wins. Over his last four starts he's gone 31 innings and allowed four earned runs. He pitched well against the Phillies on June 5, holding them to three runs over seven innings. Ryan Howard hit a solo home run against him in that game, but Webb has surrendered just nine longballs in 154 1/3 innings on the year. Lieber is due to go on a hot streak, and for his sake it better come soon cause he's having a miserable year. He last pitched on Wednesday and went 6 2/3 against the Padres, allowing four runs on seven hits. He pitched better than his line that day, settling down after giving up a three-run first inning. Righties are hitting .277 against Lieber after not hitting better than .250 in any of the past five seasons.
Cory Lidle (7-7, 4.91) faces righty Claudio Vargas (8-6, 5.16) on Thursday afternoon. Vargas pitched on Friday against the Rockies, going six innings and allowing two runs on six hits. He's allowed 113 hits, including 16 home runs, in 97 2/3 innings. He's been pitching better of late, over his last seven starts he's allowed more than three runs just once. Cory Lidle was fabulous on Friday against the Braves, holding Atlanta to three runs in eight innings on six hits. Lefties are still hitting him hard, .313 for the year compared to .250 for righties. He's 3-1 in his last four starts but has allowed six home runs. He's on a pace to allow a career-high 29 home runs after allowing just 18 in 31 starts last season.
The dirty, miserable dozen
July 25 2006
Cole Hamels showed us a tiny glimpse of the future last night and it looked real good. Two arm injuries and a couple of years and, knock on wood, we should be good to go around 2008 or 2009. Till then the tiny glimpse of the future comes wrapped in a massive dose of ugly reality and a pitcher with a 5.98 ERA in his first 11 starts.
The Phillies lost their second straight to the Braves last night, falling 10-8 to drop to 44-52 on the year. They are alone in fourth place in the NL East, 13 1/2 games behind the Mets. Just three teams in the National League have a worse record.
Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and was hit hard. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on six hits and two walks. 12 of the 16 outs he got came on strikeouts. Three of the six hits he gave up went for extra-bases, a double and two home runs.
Hamels struck out the first four men he faced before Matt Diaz grounded out to first for the second out of the second inning. With two outs and nobody on, the Braves got their first hit of the game, a solo home run from Adam LaRoche that put them on top 1-0. Todd Pratt followed LaRoche with another home run and the Braves led 2-0 before Hamels got Langerhans to pop to first and end the inning.
Hamels struck out the side in the third. And the fourth.
LaRoche led off the fifth with a ground out to Utley before Hamels struck out Pratt and walked Langerhans. He then struck out Tim Hudson to end the inning with the Phillies down 2-1. In innings three through five Hamels got nine outs on eight strikeouts and a ground out, allowing just one walk.
Hamels started the sixth still down 2-1. Giles walked. Renteria doubled him home to make it 3-1 Atlanta. Betemit flew out for the first out of the inning. Jeff Francoeur followed with a ground ball up the middle that you usually see Rollins field -- not an easy play or an error but one he usually makes. It went into center field and Victorino threw home. As tradition dictates for Phillies' center fielders, he threw it nowhere near the cutoff man and was not close to throwing the runner out at home. The throw allowed Francoeur to go to second with the Braves up 4-1. On the plus side it didn't matter at all. Diaz followed with an infield single to short that Rollins made a nice play on to keep the ball in the infield. Francoeur went to third and LaRoche followed with his second home run of the day, a three-run shot that made it 7-1 Atlanta. That was it for Hamels, who was replaced by Rick White. White gave up a single to Pratt but got a double-play to end the inning.
Hamels ended the day having thrown 106 pitches, which was fortunate. After he cruised through innings three, four and five I had visions of him throwing 120 or something, which would have been a disaster. He gave up three more home runs and has now allowed ten in 55 2/3 innings. Curiously, two of the three home runs came from the left-handed LaRoche last night. Hamels had been much better against lefties than righties and LaRoche entered the game having hit 16 of his 17 home runs on the years against righties.
The Phillies scored three in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Franklin started the seventh with the Phillies down 7-4. Double, single, hit by pitch loaded the bases with nobody out. With Betemit at the plate, a wild pitch from Franklin allowed Pete Orr to score from third and put runners on second and third with nobody out. It was the second time Franklin and Lieberthal had had trouble in the inning, earlier Marcus Giles had gone from first to second on a passed ball. Betemit grounded out to Franklin with the runners unable to advance. The Phillies walked Francoeur to load the bases with one out. Matt Diaz followed and hit a ground ball to Utley. The Phillies got one out as Giles scored from third, making it 9-5 Braves with two outs and runners on first and third with two-time homerer Adam LaRoche at the plate. Manuel called on Aaron Fultz, who struck out LaRoche to end the inning.
In his last 1 2/3 innings, Franklin has allowed five runs in five hits.
Fultz oddly appeared last night in what seems to have been Cormier's role, a lefty specialist to get out one guy. Cormier last pitched on July 17. While on the subject of Fultz, I would like to make it known now that it is my dream to one day watch Fultz pitch against Jim Thome. I want to see if between the elephantine arm-swing of Fultz and the Thome bat point to center field they can make fire.
The Phillies lineup against righty Tim Hudson went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Abreu (5) Howard (6) Dellucci (7) Bell (8) Lieberthal. More Lieberthal for all while Victorino starts for Rowand and Dellucci gets a start for Burrell against the righty. Victorino takes Utley's spot in the two-hole, with Utley and Abreu moving down a slot while Dellucci hits in Rowand's spot. Remember early in the season when Charlie Manuel said he thought Dellucci could play all three outfield positions? I'm having a hard time believing he thinks that. I join him in not-believing Dellucci can play center. We're nearing the what-have-we-got-to-lose portion of our program, however.
The Phillies loaded the bases in the first but Dellucci grounded out to end the inning. After a 1-2-3 second the first two Phils went quietly in the third before Utley walked, stole second and scored on a single from Abreu, which got the Phillies to within one at 2-1.
They got a leadoff walk by Dellucci in the fourth, but Bell followed him and hit into a double-play. Lieberthal singled but Hamels struck out to end the inning.
Still down 2-1 in the fifth, they put runners on first and second with two outs but Howard struck out to end the inning.
Down 7-1 in the sixth, Dellucci led off with a triple and scored on a Bell single to make it 7-2. Lieberthal followed with a fly ball to left that Diaz curiously didn't catch and it was second and third with nobody out. Pinch-hitter Nunez grounded out to the pitcher and the runners had to stay at second and third with one out. Rollins followed and grounded to short for the second out, bringing Bell in while Lieberthal stayed at second. The Phillies loaded the bases on walks to Victorino and Utley before Lieberthal scored on the second wild pitch of the inning to make it 7-4. With runners on second and third and two outs, Abreu struck out to end the inning.
In the seventh, Dellucci hit a one-out double and Bell followed with a two-run homer that cut the Braves lead to 9-6.
Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 9-8.
Down 10-8 in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies went 1-2-3 against Bob Wickman for the second straight day as Wickman recorded his first save as a Brave.
Jimmy Rollins was 0-for-6 on the day and 6-for-15 in the series with a home run. He has one walk in his last 29 at-bats.
Victorino was 1-for-3 and walked twice. Dellucci was 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and two walks. He has just 120 at-bats on the year but his .608 slugging percentage is higher than Ryan Howard's .600. David Ortiz is the only player in either league with more home runs that Howard this year.
Utley was 2-for-3 with two walks. 4-for-11 with a double in the series.
Abreu was 1-for-4 and struck out twice. He left five men on base. 2-for-11 with two singles and two walks in the series.
Burrell was 0-for-1 on the day and 1-for-9 with four strikeouts in the series.
Howard was 1-for-4 with the home run, a walk and two strikeouts. 4-for-11 with a home run in the series.
Rowand was 1-for-1 with a double and 1-for-7 with two walks in the series.
Bell was 2-for-5 with his sixth homer and three RBI. He was 8-for-13 in the series.
Lieberthal was 1-for-5 on the day and 2-for-8 in the series. Coste was 1-for-3 with a home run.
The Ryan Madson faces Miguel Batista tonight. Madson starts despite Saturday's rain out. My analysis is I am befuddled. Maybe part of a desperate effort to get much-needed work for all four lefties in the pen in a single game? Making a run at the Royals and their 34-64 record to see if the Phils can get in position to snag Brady Quinn with the top pick in next year's draft? If only it were so -- sadly it means the Phillies know they're done.