If Ryan Howard doesn't
win the MVP award in the National League this year it will be because his
detractors argue that he is a one-dimensional player. And they will be
right. He's a bad defensive player at a hitter's position. Not as good as
Pujols with the glove and certainly doesn't bring you the speed or fielding
of a Carlos Beltran. To guess what the voters for the award will do at this
point is close to impossible, but whatever they do, on that point I have to
agree with them.
That said, wow, what a dimension. That one where you hit the ball way out of the yard to all fields? That one where you lead all of baseball in home runs and RBI but are tied for 106th in the National League for doubles cause any time you hit the ball in the air it's gone? That one's a keeper. Two thumbs up. Don't change a thing, I think you might have something there. Howard slugged home run number 48 last night, driving in three runs to give him 125 on the season. Coming off of a series where he drove in eight of the 12 runs his team scored he has now hit five home runs in his last six games. With 31 games to go he has tied the single-season record for home runs for the Phillies. When Mike Schmidt hit 48 for the Phils in 1980 it was enough to win him the MVP award and lead his team into the post-season and the World Series.
The thing with Utley and Howard is going to be interesting. Two young players, one or both of which will become the face of the organization. There's no question about who has carried the Phillies on his back over the past week or so. Will they be able to co-exist in the years ahead if Howard keeps hitting forty bombs a season and Utley gets to be poster-boy and Prom King? I hope so, and I hope that Howard gets the recognition he deserves for his amazing year. So far it seems like they can, but Utley is a tremendous player as well and the issue is going to become fuzzier on days after Utley hasn't just gone 0-for-5 and left eight men on base and Howard looks like the best hitter on the planet.
The Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 10-6 last night to improve to 66-65 on the year. They remain in second place in the NL East, 15 1/2 games behind the Mets. In the chase for the Wild Card they are just a half game out, now chasing the Padres and tied with the Reds. The Florida Marlins won their ninth straight and trail the Phillies by just a game in the division and Wild Card chase.
Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and put together his second straight solid outing. He went six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, a double, a triple and a home run. He struck out seven.
Myers allowed a one-out single to Ryan Zimmerman in the first, but got Nick Johnson to ground out to third to end the inning. Ryan Church doubled with two outs in the second, but was left stranded when Myers struck out Brian Schneider to end the inning.
The Phils went into the bottom of the third up 2-0 and Myers struck out Armas to start the inning. Soriano has 42 home runs, twice as many as anyone else on his team, but leads off for the Nats. Of course he does. How much could it matter, though, it's not like Nick Johnson is on-basing .420 or anything. Oh wait. Anyway, Myers got ahead of Soriano 0-2 but the count ran full after Soriano fouled off two pitches and another three were called balls. Two of the pitches that Soriano took for balls looked to be strikes that would have set Soriano down, but Myers didn't get the call and Soriano wound up hitting a 3-2 pitch out of the yard to make the score 2-1 Phillies. Two things of interest to me here: (1) Where Soriano stands in the box is absurd -- the Phillies need to get him off the plate or he's gonnna hit some more solo home runs and (2) it was an interesting setup for Myers, who has imploded a lot of times in the past after getting a bad break from the umps. Myers came out of the inning fine, getting Lopez to ground harmlessly to short and Zimmerman to strike out to end the inning.
In the fourth Myers allowed a two-out single to Vidro before striking out Ryan Church to end the inning.
Myers had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. With one out pinch-hitter Bernie Castro singled and Soriano followed him with another single, putting runners on first and second with one out. Felipe Lopez flew out to center for the second out of the inning, but Ryan Zimmerman was next and hit a liner in the gap in left-center. The played looked really odd as Victorino chased after the ball, about three or feet behind it until it hit the wall and bounced off into his body. Shane bobbled it and Zimmerman was safe at third with the Phillies lead cut to 5-3. Myers struck out Johnson to end the inning.
The Phils went up 9-3 in the top of the sixth. Myers walked Kearns to lead off the bottom of the inning before getting the next two Nats to go down. Schneider followed with a single that sent Kearns to third, but Myers got pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson to ground to short and end the inning.
Geoff Geary came in to pitch the seventh with a 10-3 lead. He gave up a two-out single to Zimmerman but got Johnson to ground to short to end the inning. Geary has not been charged with a run in his last 12 1/3 innings over nine games, allowing 11 hits and two walks.
Madson started the eighth with the Phillies still up 10-3. He got Kearns to fly to right for the first out of the inning, but Vidro followed with a double and Church knocked him in with an RBI-single that cut the Phillies lead to 10-4. Madson got Schneider to ground into a double-play to end the inning.
Aaron Fultz came into game in the ninth to protect a 10-4 lead and gave up a leadoff walk to Henry Mateo. Let's call that foreshadowing. Fultz got the next two, striking out Soriano and getting Brandon Harper to pop to second, before Zimmerman doubled to bring in Mateo and make the score 10-5. Nick Johnson singled, scoring Zimmerman, and it was a 10-6 game. A double by Kearns sent Zimmerman to third and that was it for Fultz. Manuel called on Arthur Rhodes to face Vidro, and Rhodes struck him out to end the game and record his fourth save on the year. Fultz hasn't thrown to an ERA under 5.50 in any of the last three months.
I am pretty much befuddled by the way Manuel used his pen last night. The number of innings thrown by Geary, Madson and Fultz terrifies me. Geary and Madson are already both way over their career highs in innings pitched. Geary has thrown 74 innings in 2006, his previous high was 58. Madson has thrown 116 2/3, his previous high was 87. Fultz is on pace to throw to a career-high and he'll be 33 next month -- he's allowed six runs on six hits in his last 1 2/3 innings. Those are the guys Manuel uses when the game is tight -- we need them to protect a 10-3 lead? Smith and Castro did both go one inning in Monday's game against the Mets but arguing that either of them have been overused this year is a tough sell. Rick White looked awful on Saturday, charged with three runs without getting an out. But if you don't feel comfortable throwing him in a blowout with two days rest you need to get him off the roster.
The Phillies lineup against righty Tony Armas went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Dellucci (6) Burrell (7) Lieberthal (8) Nunez. Dellucci takes Burrell's spot in the fifth hole, putting the three lefties in the lineup all in a row. It doesn't matter, however, cause the Nats don't have a lefty in their pen. Makes sense to me, although Dellucci is struggling and Burrell came into the game 3-for-11 against Armas with two doubles and a home run on the year.
Rolins and Utley led off the first with singles before Utley grounded out to first, moving the runners to second and third. The Nationals intentionally walked Howard to pitch to Dellucci with the bases loaded. Dellucci's struggles continued as he went down swinging for the second out of the inning. Burrell picked him up, however, stroking a two-run single into center that put the Phils up 2-0. Lieberthal flew out to center to end the inning.
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the second. In the third they got a two-out single from Howard, but Dellucci grounded to short to end the inning.
Burrell led off the fourth by swinging at an awful 3-1 pitch nearly in the dirt but hit the 3-2 pitch into center for a single. Lieberthal followed and crushed a ball out to left-center, putting the Phillies up 4-1. Nunez singled and went to second on a bunt by Myers. Rollins was next and doubled, scoring Nunez to put the Phils up 5-1. He was stranded at second when Victorino popped to short and Utley grounded to second.
Burrell walked with two outs in the fifth but Lieberthal grounded to third to end the inning.
With the lead cut to 5-3, Nunez led off the sixth with a single and went to second on another bunt by Myers. Rollins followed with a chopper to Nick Johnson, who tried to shovel it to Gryboski covering third, but Gryboski couldn't handle the throw and Rollins was safe on the error by Johnson as Nunez scored from second to put the Phils up 6-3. A single from Victorino followed, sending Rollins to second, before Utley flew to center for the second out of the inning. Enter Ryan Howard and his three-run homer, number 48 on the year. The blast tied Howard with Mike Schmidt for the Phillies single-season record and put the Phils on top 9-3. Dellucci flew out to center to end the inning.
In the seventh the Phillies loaded the bases with nobody out on a Burrell walk and singles by Lieberthal and Nunez. Chris Roberson pinch-hit for Myers and had a terrible at-bat, striking out on three pitches with three ducks aboard and nobody out. Rollins followed with a pop out to Zimmerman in foul territory. It looked like the Nats were going to get out of it, but Victorino drew an RBI walk to extend the lead to 10-3 before Utley flew out to end the inning.
Howard led off the eighth with a walk but the next three Phillies went in order.
Chris Roberson singled with one out in the ninth. Timing, Chris. Rollins followed with a line out to right and Victorino struck out to end the inning.
Rollins was 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI. 331/394/587 in 121 August at-bats.
Victorino was 2-for-5 with a walk. 319/381/500 in 94 August at-bats.
Utley was 0-for-5 and left eight men on base. He's 0-for-his-last-10 without a strikeout.
Howard was 2-for-3 with two walks and #48 and three more RBI.
Dellucci continues to struggle, 0-for-5 and left five men on base. He's 1-for-his-last-14 with a single and a walk.
Burrell was 2-for-2 with two singles, two walks and two RBI. He's 3-for-his-last-6 with two walks and four RBI. He's had just one month this season where he on-based under .380. He's at .380 in August and on-based .326 in June.
Lieberthal was 2-for-5 with his sixth home run of the year and two RBI. He absolutely crushed his home run ball out of a big park without hitting it down the line. He's slugging .552 with four home runs in 58 August at-bats.
Nunez was 3-for-5 with three singles and scored two runs. After 232 at-bats he's slugging .259.
Cole Hamels faces Ramon Ortiz tonight.
Louisiana native David Dellucci would like us to remember the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There is an article about the work he has done on the Phillies web site, or you can visit the the web site for the foundation he has created, Catch-22 for Blue.