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September 14 2006

The Phillies swept a double-header against the Braves yesterday, improving their record on the year to 74-71.  The Phillies are in second place in the NL East, 16 games behind the New York Mets.  In the hunt for the Wild Card, the Phillies are behind only the Padres, who they trail by 1 1/2 games.

With the exception of an awful start by Randy Wolf, just about everything went right for the Phillies yesterday.  Eude Brito was the star of a pen that threw seven hitless innings in the first game and slammed the door shut in the second.  Charlie Manuel unveiled a new approach to the eighth inning, and it worked fabulously.  This time, the Phillies got the job done against a Braves team that was clearly missing all-everything third baseman Chipper Jones.

The Phillies won the first game 6-5. 

Randy Wolf got the start for the Phillies and didn't last long.  He went just two innings, allowing five runs, only four of which were earned, on six hits and two walks.  Four of the six hits went for extra-bases, three doubles and a home run.

In the first, two of the first three Braves singled, putting runners on first and second with one out for Andruw Jones.  Jones doubled to left, driving in one run and putting runners at second and third with one out.  Wolf walked Francoeur to load the bases.  Matt Diaz was next and he hit what should have been an inning ending double-play.  Nunez fielded his ground ball to third and threw to Utley at second for the first out, but Utley's throw to first sailed wide for an error.  Two Braves came in to score and Atlanta increased their lead to 3-0.  Wolf walked Todd Pratt, putting runners on first and second, before getting Scott Thorman to ground to second to end the inning.

Braves pitcher Kyle Davies led off the second with a home run that put the Braves up 4-0.  Willy Aybar followed that with a double and he would come around to score on a one-out double off the bat of Edgar Renteria to put the Braves up 5-0.  Wolf got the next two to leave Renteria stranded at second. 

The Phillies pinch-hit for Wolf in the top of the third and he exited early in what was his worst and shortest of nine starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.  Things looked bleak for the Phils, but Eude Brito came in to pitch the bottom of the third with the Phillies down 5-3 and saved the day.

Brito went four innings without allowing a hit.  He allowed three walks.  Todd Pratt walked with one-out in the third, but Brito got the next two to end the inning.  In the fourth, Marcus Giles walked with one out.  When he went to second on a ground out by Renteria, the Phillies intentionally walked Andruw Jones and Francoeur grounded out to third to end the inning.  It's possible that Andruw and the Braves are missing Chipper.  Brito threw a 1-2-3 fifth and a 1-2-3 sixth.

It was a tremendous outing for Brito, whose opportunity with the pitching-thin Phillies has become much more significant after the trade of Robinson Tejeda and the injury to Scott Mathieson.  He made two wretched starts for the Phillies but has been good both of the times he came on in relief.  The bads news is he's not young -- he just turned 28.

Rick White came on in the seventh and threw a 1-2-3 inning.  The Phillies took the lead in the top of the eighth with three runs, pulling ahead 6-5.  Looking for a win in the post-Rhodes era, Manuel let White start the inning.  White got the leadoff man, righty Matt Diaz, and Manuel kept him in when the Braves pinch-hit switch-hitter Brayan Pena for righty Todd Pratt.  White got Pena and Manuel called on Aaron Fultz against lefty slugger Scott Thorman.  The veteran Fultz, and not the less experienced and more likely to get an out, Matt Smith, got the call in this case.  It worked this time, righty Martin Prado hit for Thorman and Fultz got him to pop to first to end the inning.

Rick White and Aaron Fultz in the eighth inning shouldn't make you feel real comfortable.  They did a great job in game one yesterday after neither of them had pitched in two days, but I don't think it can last.  I do like the idea of trying to use Fultz to get just one out a lot, however, and the Phillies did it again in the second game.

With the Phillies still hanging on to a 6-5 lead, Flash came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and threw three straight balls to leadoff man Adam LaRoche.  He finally got one over on 3-0 and LaRoche grounded the 3-1 pitch to Howard for the first out of the inning.  Gordon struck out Aybar and Giles to end the game and record his 29th save.

The Phillies lineup against righty Kyle Davies went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Dellucci (7) Coste (8) Nunez.  Dellucci played left and Conine right with Burrell on the bench.  Conine has been playing well and had a huge hit in game one, but he's clearly an inferior hitter to Burrell.  If Manuel consistently puts his lessor players on the field and falls short of the playoffs this year, he's going to open himself up to tremendous criticism.  He's going to deserve it.  It's great to see Conine being successful and I hope it continues -- he was a big part of a big day for the Phillies yesterday.  Over enough games Burrell is going to produce more offensively.

In the first, the Phillies put runners on first and second with two outs for Conine, who grounded out to first to end the inning.

After a 1-2-3 second, the Phillies found themselves down 5-0 going into the third.  Joe Thurston pinch-hit for Wolf to lead off the inning and was hit by a pitch.  A Rollins single, a Victorino lineout, and a walk to Rollins loaded the bases for Howard.  Howard smashed a ball to deep center and Andruw Jones leaped to catch it for an out and rob Howard of extra-bases.  Had Jones, who had also made a spectacular play in the first to rob Utley of a double, not caught the ball it would have either been a home run or hit off the very top of the wall for at least a double.  Rollins scored from third to put the Phillies on the board at 5-1.  With two outs and runners on first and third, Conine had perhaps the biggest hit of the day, a double to left that cleared the bases and cut the score to 5-3.  Dellucci grounded out to end the inning.

The Phillies didn't have another base runner until the eighth.  They came into the inning still down 5-3.  Rollins led off with a single and went to second when Francoeur floundered in right for an error.  Victorino singled, scoring Rollins from second to make the score 5-4.  But Utley and Howard both struck out, leaving the Phillies with two outs and Victorino still at first.  Conine was next and he followed with a single, fisted over short, that sent Victorino to second.  A wild pitch from Chad Paronto sent the runners to second and third with two down and Dellucci at the plate.  Dellucci hit a fly ball to Diaz that was slicing away from the fielder -- Diaz got twisted around and the ball bounced off his glove for another error.  Both runners scored and the Phillies led 6-5 before Coste grounded out to end the inning. 

It was a very curious inning.  The Phillies were able to capitalize on two errors by Braves outfielders.  Utley and Howard both struck out in big spots and this time the guys behind them got it done.  Yeah, not in spectacular fashion but I'll take it.  Conine got another big hit and Dellucci at least put the ball in play and gave somebody a chance to make a mistake.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

Rollins 3-for-5 and scored two runs.  Victorino 1-for-4 as the guys at the top continue to get on base.

Utley 0-for-3 with a walk.  Robbed once by Jones on a great play in center, but also made a critical throwing error in the first to put the Phils in a hole.

Howard 0-for-2 with a sac fly, a walk and two strikeouts.  He looked bad striking out in a big situation in the eighth, swinging at a 3-2 pitch in the dirt.  He almost hit a grand slam in the third.

Conine was huge, 2-for-4 with two RBI.

Dellucci, Coste and Nunez were all 0-for-4.

The Phillies won the second game 7-2. 

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies and pitched very well.  He went 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits without walking a batter.  Two of the eight hits went for extra-bases, both were home runs that accounted for all of the Braves scoring against Lieber. 

Adam LaRoche homered with two outs in the bottom of the first to put the Braves up 1-0.

Brian McCann led off the second with a single, but Lieber struck out Francoeur and got Langerhans to ground into an inning-ending double-play.

The Braves went 1-2-3 in the third.  In the fourth, Lieber got Renteria to fly to right to start the inning, but the Braves followed with three straight singles, which loaded the bases with one down for Francoeur.  Lieber got him to pop to third and Langerhans to fly to left to end the inning.  If I haven't mentioned it before, the Braves could really use a little Chipper Jones about now.

Willy Aybar led off the fifth with a single, but Lieber got the next three in order to end the inning.  He went into the sixth with a 5-1 lead and gave up a solo home run to McCann with two outs, which cut the Phillies lead to 5-2.  For the Braves it was their second home run of the day against Lieber and second of the day from a lefty with two outs and the bases empty.  That Jon, he's wily.  If only we could get someone to wake him up for the first four months of the season. 

Lieber threw a 1-2-3 seventh and started the eighth with the Phils still holding a 5-2 lead.  Lieber got the leadoff man Giles before Renteria singled.  With the lefty homerer LaRoche at the plate, Manuel called on Fultz and Fultz got LaRoche to ground to Utley for the second out of the inning.  Manuel then brought in Geoff Geary to pitch to Andruw Jones, and Geary struck him out to end the inning.

I thought Manuel did a great job in the eighth.  Again, Fultz only tries to get one out, a lefty, which is a much better role for him than long reliever.  Then he brings in Geary to get the righty.  He could have brought in Gordon, but even if Andruw homers the Phillies are still up 5-4.  I thought he played it perfect, although you could argue for Smith against LaRoche rather than Fultz with a three-run lead, and it worked.

Madson pitched the ninth after the Phillies extended their lead to 7-2 in the top of the inning.  He allowed a one-out single Francoeur but got the next two to end the game.

The Phillies lineup against righty Tim Hudson went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Dellucci (7) Ruiz (8) Nunez.  Same lineup as game one except Ruiz catches.  Please re-read my Pat Burrell rant.  Burrell will no doubt be back in tonight against lefty slopballer Chuck James.  Nunez had a great game two, will be interesting to see if Hernandez starts at third tonight against the lefty.

Rollins led off the first with a single and went to second on a ground out by Victorino.  Utley singled to right and Rollins was thrown out at the plate on a fantastic throw from Francoeur.  Utley went to second on the play at the plate, so the Braves intentionally walked Howard, putting runners on first and second with two outs.  Conine singled to third, but, with the bases loaded and two down, Dellucci struck out to end the inning.

Nunez singled with one out in the first and Lieber followed, striking out for the second out of the inning.   Rollins followed with a two-run home run, putting the Phillies up 2-1.  Victorino walked and stole second, but Utley flew out to end the inning.

With two outs in the third, the Phils got a single from Dellucci and a two-run homer from Ruiz, putting them up 4-1. 

After a 1-2-3 fourth, Howard led off the fifth with a single.  He went to second on a ground out from Conine and Dellucci struck out for the second out of the inning.  Ruiz came up with another hit, a single to center that scored Howard from second and put the Phils up 5-1.  The Braves intentionally walked Nunez and got Lieber to end the inning.

In the sixth, Rollins walked to lead off the inning and Victorino followed with a single.  Utley struck out and Howard lined into a double-play.  More of the top two guys getting on and Utley and Howard unable to bring them home.  In game one, Conine and Dellucci picked them up.  In game two, the Phillies didn't need them to.  Can't argue too much with lining into a double-play, though.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the seventh.  They started the top of the eighth up 5-2.  Nunez walked and Lieber bunted him to second, but Rollins and Victorino both struck out to end the inning.  Oddly, for each of them it was their only strikeout in either game.

Howard doubled with one out in the ninth and the Braves walked Conine intentionally.  Simon struck out for the second out of the inning, but Ruiz walked to load the bases with two outs and Nunez at the plate.  Nunez came through with his third hit of the day, a two-run single that put the Phils up 7-2.  Bourn pinch-hit for Geary and struck out to end the inning.

Rollins 1-for-3 with a homer, two walks and two RBI.  4-for-8 with two walks in the double-header after coming in 0-for-his-last-9.  He hits his 20th home run in a season for the first time in his career.

Victorino 1-for-4 with a walk.

Utley was 1-for-5 with three strikeouts.  After hitting .246 in August he's hitting .220 in September.

Howard 2-for-4 with a walk. He has 21 home runs in his last 152 at-bats.

Conine 1-for-4 with a walk.  314/375/471 in 51 at-bats with the Phillies. 

Dellucci 1-for-4 with two strikeouts including a big one with the bases loaded in the first.

Ruiz was 2-for-3 with his third home run on the year and three RBI.

Nunez was 3-for-3 with two walks.  His current .275 on-base percentage is the highest it's been at any point this season.

Jamie Moyer faces Chuck James tonight.

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