August 2 2006

The Cory Lidle thing looks like it's over after Lidle backed off of his recent comments about the team.  If he says the quotes we all read didn't reflect his thinking I am happy to believe him.  The most frustrating part about the whole situation is the notion that the problems the Phillies have are in their clubhouse or in their minds, that they don't know how to win or don't want to win.  The problem the Phillies have are at third base and at catcher, but most of all in their pitching staff.  After 105 games they've given 64 starts to guys who start the day with an ERA over five for the year. 

With that latest round of absurdity hopefully behind us, here's what I think happens next:  I think Chase Utley emerges as the leader of the Phillies, on and off the field, and I think it happens fast.  Try to read something about the Phillies that doesn't include a quote from Chase Utley.  He's gathering a lot of momentum here, let's see if it continues after the hitting streak.  I think it may.  It's been a long time since Phillies fans knew who the leader of their team was.  Part of the reason I think it's going to happen is that the Phillies want it to badly, and there's a lot of money to be made for them when it does.

And if you believe that's going to happen soon, the Phillies have a short window of opportunity to build around the cheap new nucleus that's led by Utley and Howard.  Phillies beat writer for the Inquirer Todd Zolecki wrote the most encouraging thing I've read about the Phillies in a while in his Q&A Forum on Monday, 7/31.  He basically said that he doesn't believe at all that Gillick thinks the Phillies can't compete in 2007.  That came as a huge surprise to me, mostly cause I don't think the Phillies can compete in 2007.  If they can, I don't see how yet.  They tore down the team this year because it wasn't good enough, and they have a long way to go now to get the team back to where it was at the beginning of the season.

The Phillies beat the Cardinals last night 5-3.  The win improves them to 50-55 on the year.  They are in second place in the NL East, 13 games behind the Mets.  The Phils are 4 1/2 back in the Wild Card hunt, but trail five teams. 

The Mets seem to be a sure thing for the playoffs at this point, but I would be worried about their pitching if I were a Mets fan.  Their pen has to be tired, they've thrown more innings than any other team in the National League.  In all of baseball, only the Royals have asked their pen to throw more innings, and they might not even make the playoffs.  From the Mets perspective I think you have to hope that they can get some stability in their rotation and give their pen a break before the playoffs arrive.  Of course, if the Mets continue to face no challenge in the NL East they can rest the key members of their pen for the playoffs if they choose to anyway, even if it costs them a game or two.

Scott Mathieson got the start for the Phillies in last night's game.  He went five innings, allowing three runs on three hits and five walks.  He got the win, which was the first of his career.  He did not allow an extra-base hit.

Through the first three innings, Mathieson did not allow a hit but gave up three walks.  He got a big double-play off the bat of Belliard with one out in the second after he had walked Molina and Suppan back-to-back.

The Phillies led 3-0 going into the bottom of the fourth.  Pujols led off the frame with a single and Rolen followed with a walk.  Jim Edmonds followed and singled on a flare into center, which scored Pujols from second.  Something odd happened on the play and I don't know what caused it -- Mathieson flipped out a little, and, in career start number four, was obviously displeased and started screaming on the field.  It wasn't clear to me if he was mad at his fielders, I doubt it cause the ball didn't look catchable, or himself.  Anyway, Utley came in and seemed to calm him down.  Encarnacion followed, with nobody out and runners on first and second, and grounded to short with the Phils getting only Edmonds at second.  With one out and runners on first and third, Belliard bunted to third, scoring Rolen and advancing Encarnacion to third.  Nunez made a nice play to get Belliard at first, but the Cardinals had cut the Phillies lead to 3-2 and had a runner on second with two outs.  Molina followed and walked again, putting runners on first and second.  Pitcher Jeff Suppan was up next and singled, scoring Encarnacion from second to tie the game at 3-3 before Eckstein flew out to end the inning.

The Phillies went ahead 4-3 in the top of the fifth and Mathieson got the Cards 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth. 

Manuel pinch hit for Mathieson in the top of the sixth with a 5-3 lead, taking him out of the game having thrown 91 pitches.  With all the young guys in the Phillies rotation, managing the pitch counts will be critical down the stretch and I think Manuel has done a nice job with a few exceptions.  Hamels has had two outings I thought went too long, and Brett Myers has been pounded on -- he's not young but he still won't be 26 till August. 

Geoff Geary threw a 1-2-3 sixth and returned to throw a 1-2-3 seventh.  He's allowed one hit in his last four innings.  Not to be a the-glass-is-half-empty kinda guy, but lefites are hitting .354 against him if you're wondering who might be the closer in a post-Gordon era sure to come. 

Arthur Rhodes pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with the Phillies still up 5-3. 

Tom Gordon notched save number 26 in the ninth, setting the Cards down 1-2-3 while striking out two.  He's allowed one hit over three innings in his last three appearances.  I'm a little surprised he's still a Philly at this point, but he has been very good.

The Phillies pen went four perfect innings and Phillies pitchers allowed just three hits on the day.

The Phillies lineup against righty Jeff Suppan went (1) Rollins (2) Dellucci (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Rowand (7) Nunez (8) Coste.  Over his last four starts Coste has gone 6-for-15 with a double and two home runs.  He's started a game for four straight days, with Lieberthal catching one in the weekend's double-header.  He'll no doubt get a break soon but has hit in five straight games and seven of his last eight.   He hit 372/426/651 in 43 July at-bats.  If they ever let him hit in front of Abraham Nunez they'll have to make a movie about the guy.

On Monday the Phillies made a roster move from bizarro world, sending Michael Bourn back to Triple-A and calling back up his brother in fifth outfielderdom, Chris Roberson.  Bourn did make his debut while he was up, going 0-for-1.

The Phillies got two hits in the first but came away empty when Ryan Howard grounded into an inning-ending double-play with one out and runners on first and third.  Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to 33 in the first with a piddler up the middle that oozed past second baseman Ronnie Belliard. 

They got a leadoff double from Burrell in the second but left him stranded when Rowand and Nunez both struck out, Coste walked and Mathieson grounded out to end the inning.

In the third the Phillies loaded the bases with nobody out on two singles and an error by Albert Pujols.  Howard followed with a two-run single and the Phillies led 2-0.  Burrell followed and hit the ball hard but right at Rolen for the first out the inning and the Cards walked Rowand to load the bases for Nunez.  Nunez grounded to shortstop, bringing in a run to put the Phillies up 3-0, before Coste grounded out to end the inning. 

The Phillies managed just a walk in the fourth and the game was tied at 3-3 in the top of the fifth.  Howard led off with a solo home run, putting the Phils up 4-3.

In the sixth, the Phillies got a leadoff home run from Coste, extending their lead to 5-3.   Later in the inning the Philles put runners on first and third with nobody out and David Dellucci due to hit against a lefty, Randy Flores.  Manuel called on switch-hitter Shane Victorino, who struck out.  On the year, Dellucci has four at-bats against lefties.  Over his career Dellucci has been terrible against lefties, 205/267/293.  In 2005, however, he was 242/342/364.  You don't really want your right-fielder slugging .364 against much of anyone but it's still an improvement over his career numbers.  A left/right platoon in right field with Victorino and Dellucci makes sense to me.  Last night Manuel took a chance early cause he was uncomfortable giving Dellucci an at-bat against a left-handed pitcher.  I would guess he won't continue to play it that way regularly, I think it's tough to pinch-hit for your starting right fielder in the sixth inning.  Victorino's strikeout left it first and third with one out and Ultey followed with a strikeout.  Howard walked to load the bases and the Cards brought in righty Jorge Sosa, who got Burrell to line to left and end the inning. 

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth.  In the top of the ninth they got a leadoff single from Utley but the next three batters went in order. 

Rollins was 3-for-5 on the night and has his average up to .265.  He stole his 24th base during the game and has been caught just four times.  Over the last two season he's stolen 64 and been caught 10 times.

Dellucci was 1-for-2 with a walk and Victorino 0-for-2.  Dellucci has played in seven straight games, going 7-for-25 with three extra-base hits.  Victorino is 6-for-his-last-53 (.113).

Utley extended his hitting streak to 33 by going 2-for-5 with two singles. 

Howard was 2-for-4 with a walk, a home run and three RBI.  He has four home runs in his last 17 at-bats. 

Burrell was 1-for-5 with a strikeout.  He hit the ball hard for an out twice, both on nice plays from Rolen.

Rowand was 0-for-4 with a walk.  After hitting .223 in June and .224 in July, he's at 257/320/428 on the year.  The .257 average is worse than any other year of his career.

Nunez was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and an RBI.  Over the last seven days Nunez has gone 5-for-25 with five singles and eight strikeouts.

I'm having a lot of fun watching Chris Coste.  He was 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk.

Brett Myers faces Jeff Weaver tonight.

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