Into each life some blown saves in consecutive innings must fall
September 1 2006
Ugly loss last night but
the Phillies are still in the thick of it. The suns comes out again and
each new day brings another chance. Except literally. Tonight's game is
almost sure to be rained out and we might not see the sun again till next
week. Anyway, play ball. Or at least sit around most of the weekend
It's no secret or surprise to anyone but the Phillies pen just blew it last night. This is the gift of Gavin Floyd and Madson in the starting rotation that just keeps giving and giving. Those guys out there are tired and the same group keeps pitching and pitching. Fultz looks cooked and Geary looks like he's not far behind. There's help coming, bodies at least, but if they were enough to give the Phillies an advantage I'm afraid we would have seen them by now. The Phils already put their best foot forward and for a long time this year it was more than good enough. Not so much anymore. Rick White has all but vanished after a terrible outing nearly a week ago. Fabio Castro is restricted to blowout duty, although the roster spot is going to hurt a lot less now that rosters have expanded. Gordon should be coming back very soon and the Phillies need him desperately -- not just to return but to be better than good.
One of the toughest things about last night's loss was that it came against a team like the Nationals. Even with all the chances the Phillies had to win, they couldn't do it, and now they're going to have to beat teams better than the Nationals to keep themselves alive in the playoff hunt.
Here comes one now.
The Phillies will be back in Philadelphia tonight to start a seven-game homestand. The Atlanta Braves will be in town for the first of a four-game set that features a day-night double-header tomorrow. Tropical storm Ernesto is going to be a big player in the entire series, heavy rain is expected in Philadelphia starting tonight.
The Phillies come in at 67-66 off of a devastating loss last night in which they twice didn't get the scoreless inning they needed from their tired pen that would have won them the game. They are in second place in the NL East, 15 1/2 games behind the Mets. With 29 games left to play they are one game back in the hunt for the Wild Card, chasing the San Diego Padres. The Braves are 63-69 and come off of a series where they won two of three against the Giants. They are in fourth place in the NL East, a game and a half behind the Marlins.
Both teams have been very good offensively. The Phillies have scored the second-most runs in the National League while the Braves are third in the NL in runs scored. Phillies pitchers are tied with the Cubs for having allowed the second-most runs on the year. The Braves are eighth in the NL in runs allowed. The Braves are giving a lot of outs away on the bases this season. After stealing 92 bases in 2005 while being caught just 32 times, they've already been caught 32 times in '06 while stealing just 47. There's a lot of different players contributing to the problem for the Braves, nobody on their team has been caught more than six times. Jeff Francoeur, Marcus Giles and Matt Diaz certainly aren't helping anything, they've combined to steal 13 bases and been caught 16 times.
The Phillies and Braves last met in Atlanta for a three-game set August 7-9. The Phillies took two of three, pretty much handling Braves pitching in scoring 18 runs in the two games they won. In the middle game of the series they couldn't break through against Tim Hudson, who threw seven shutout innings en route to a 3-1 Braves win.
September brings roster expansion and the Phillies have called in the cavalry. The Phils called up lefty Eude Brito and righty Scott Mathieson, both from Triple-A. Mathieson is currently pencilled in to start one of the games in tomorrow's double-header, but all aspects of these four games are going to be weather permitting. A washout would sure help the Phillies and let them skip Mathieson if they chose to. Brito looks like he will pitch out of the pen, which badly needs him or, frankly, anyone. Eude has appeared in two games for the Phillies this year, both as a starter and both bad. He's gone just 8 2/3 innings and pitched to a 10.38 ERA. He appeared in 26 games at Triple-A, 23 as a starter, going 10-8 with a 3.17 ERA. Opponents hit just .214 against him but he walked 55 in 147 2/3 innings. Mathieson has appeared in eight games, throwing to a 7.23 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. He started in seven of the games and the Phillies were 1-6 in the games he started. Mathieson was 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA in five starts for Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Opponents hit .208 against him but he walked 10 in 34 1/3 innings.
Daryle Ward is apparently stalking the Phillies. He was traded from the Nationals to the Braves yesterday after crushing a ball to deep center that Victorino made a great play on to save a run in the Nats win over the Phillies. The Braves are expecting to get two injured players back for the series with the Phils. Outfielder Brian Jordan will return from a broken clavicle and Willy Aybar will be coming back after suffering a chip fracture in his finger. The Braves are also likely to expand their roster by calling up pitchers Kyle Davies, Joey Devine, outfielder/first baseman Scott Thorman and catcher Brayan Pena.
Andruw Jones leads the Braves in home runs (32) and RBI (107), he's hit seven homers in August but batted just .227. Chipper returned from the DL on August 13 and has slugged seven homers in 17 games but hit just .250. Adam LaRoche is having an amazing year. His 289/363/581 line represents career-highs for him in all three categories. He's seventh in the NL in slugging and 12th in home runs with 27. He'll turn 27 in November. Brian McCann's terrific offensive season continues -- he's at 340/398/549 after an August in which he hit 351/413/564 in 94 at-bats.
Bob Wickman is still a force as the Braves closer. He's now appeared in 15 games for the Braves, notching ten saves while throwing to an 0.63 ERA.
Tonight Jon Lieber (6-9, 5.09) faces righty Oscar Villarreal (9-1, 4.17). Villarreal has spent much of the year as a reliever. He's appeared in 50 games and tonight will be just his fourth start. As a starter he hasn't yet gone more than five innings but has gone 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA. His last start came Sunday against the Nationals and he went just three innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk. The Phillies haven't faced him as a starter this season, but they pounded him in a relief appearance on August 7, hitting him up for four runs on five hits and a walk over 1 1/3 innings. Lieber last pitched against New York on Saturday and went six innings, allowing four runs on ten hits and two walks. It was the least impressive of his last five starts, over which he has gone 2-1 while allowing just ten runs on 37 hits and four walks over 36 2/3 innings (2.45 ERA).
Saturday Jamie Moyer (7-13, 4.50) goes against righty Kyle Davies (2-3, 6.12). Davies made eight starts for the Braves earlier in the season but has been on the DL since May with a groin problem. He was hit hard before he went on the DL, giving up 11 home runs in 42 2/3 innings. He started against the Phillies on April 6 and the Phillies pounded him for five runs in a first inning that featured home runs from Rollins, Abreu and Utley (Utley was hitting fifth that day and Howard sixth). Moyer hasn't been real impressive with the Phillies yet, throwing to a 6.00 ERA while allowing 15 hits in 12 innings. He last went on Monday against the Mets and took the loss as he allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings. He didn't get much help from the Phillies defense that day, and the Mets got the benefit of a very odd call on an apparent foul ball off the bat of David Wright.
Scott Mathieson (1-4, 7.23) will face righty Lance Cormier (2-4, 5.87) in the other game of the double-header on Saturday. Cormier has appeared in 24 games for the Braves, mostly out of the pen. Saturday's game will be his fifth start on the year. He's been back and fourth between the Braves and Triple-A this season, maybe because of his issues with getting people out. Opponents are hitting .322 against him and righties .346. He last pitched on Sunday in relief of Villarreal in the game against the Nationals. He also went three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk. Mathieson's going to be really good someday, but it probably won't be tomorrow. Opponents are hitting .314 against him (righties .337) and he's allowed eight home runs in 37 1/3 innings with the Phillies this year. He hasn't pitched against the Braves this year.
Brett Myers (10-6, 4.24) faces righty Tim Hudson (11-10, 4.85) on Sunday. Hudson has been better of late, going 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA in six starts in August after getting bombed in six starts in July (2-2, 8.80, opponents hit .370 against him). He last pitched on Tuesday against the Giants, getting the win while allowing four runs on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He allowed three home runs in that game after yielding just one in his five previous starts. He's been good in two starts against the Phillies this season, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Myers has put up two decent starts after struggling through much of August. He last pitched on Tuesday against the Nationals, getting the win as he went six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. He's started four games against the Braves this season, going 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA.
Ryan Howard made his major league debut two years ago today against the Braves. Jaret Wright struck him out looking when he pinch-hit for Padilla in the fifth inning of a game the Phillies would go on to lose 7-2. The Phils record dropped to 65-68 with the loss but they went 21-8 to end the year at 86-76.