-Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

-Pro Football Prospectus 2006

-Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

-Break Point!: An Insider's Look at the Pro Tennis Circuit

-Phil Gordon's Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold'em

-How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods)

-The Last Season


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September 21 2006

There were a lot of interesting matchups in last night's game.  The Phillies dug in against a journeyman lefty most fans have never heard of.  With a righty on the hill for the Phils, the Cubs shuffled their batting order around to give themselves three lefties in the top four of their order.  Mike Lieberthal, in his 13th and perhaps final season with the Phillies, was back in the lineup and he's suddenly blistering the ball no matter who he's facing.  The most interesting matchup of them all was Brett Myers against himself.  The guy who can accept losing just so long as it can be someone else's fault, his catcher, his manager, his fielders, the yard, versus the guy who's going to be a superstar.

It's no secret to anyone that Brett Myers can be his own worst enemy.  The Phillies were playing a big game last night.  A game they needed to win.  A game they should win against a Cubs team that was weak before it lost it's best hitter for the rest of the season.  None of that helped, though, when the Phillies found themselves losing.  Through three innings, Les Walrond shut the best offense in the National League down, striking out six.  In the first, the Phillies put runners on first and second only to see their best hitter and the guy behind him strike out to end the inning.  In the second they put runners on first and second again, and again two straight Phils struck out to end the inning.  In the third they didn't even have any runners to strand as they went 1-2-3.  And then things went bad for Myers in the fourth.  With two down and Aramis Ramirez at second, Scott Moore singled into right.  A good throw would have gotten Ramirez easily, but the Phillies didn't get one.  Conine's offering was up the third base line and Howard had to cut it.  He still would have had Ramirez at the plate with a good relay, but Howard juggled the ball.  Safe.  Phillies down 1-0.  What happened next was the opposite of what you would expect, what you might fear.  There was no muttering, no rolling of the eyes.  No stomping in circles behind the mound.  Myers took the ball back and got Henry Blanco to fly out to end the inning.  And then he came back the next inning and shut the Cubs down 1-2-3.  They didn't touch him again until the eighth, and by then the Phillies were already up 6-1 with win they needed safely in their grasp.  Score one for the guy who's going to be a superstar.

The Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs last night, winning 6-2 to improve to 79-73 on the year.  The Padres and the Dodgers both lost, moving the Phillies into a tie for the Wild Card lead with the Dodgers.  The Dodgers and Phillies have identical 79-73 records with ten games to play.  The Padres lead the NL West with a 79-72 record, they have 11 games to play.  The Marlins and the Giants are still not mathematically out of it, they could still make it with a big push in combination with a swoon by the Phils and whoever doesn't win the NL West.  It's unlikely, however.  If the Phillies can outplay either the Padres or the Dodgers over the next ten games, their playoff chances are very good.

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and gave the Philllies their second straight great outing.  He threw a complete game, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks.  Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a triple.  He struck out 12. 
Myers set the Cubs down in order in the first.  Jacque Jones led off the second with a walk, but Matt Murton hit a ground ball to Nunez that the Phillies turned for a double-play.  Myers walked Scott Moore with two down, but Blanco popped up to Lieberthal to end the inning.
Myers struck out the side in the top of the third.  In the fourth, he struck out Freddie Bynum to start the inning.  Aramis Ramirez followed with a single and Jones walked, putting runners on first and second with one down.  Myers got Murton to pop to third for a big second out.  Moore was next and he singled to right.  Conine's throw was up the line towards third and Howard cut it off.  He would probably have been able to relay the throw to Lieberthal in time to nail Ramirez at home, but he bobbled it and Ramirez was safe to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.  Blanco flew out to center to end the inning.
Myers set Chicago down 1-2-3 in the fifth and started the top of the sixth with a 3-1 lead.  He got the first two before Jones reached on a one-hopper right back at him that went off his glove for a single.  Myers struck out Murton to end the inning.
With the Phillies up 5-1 in the top of the seventh, Moore led off and crushed a ball to deep left-center.  Victorino tried to track it down but couldn't snag it as he crashed into the wall and Moore was safe at second.  Victorino landed hard on what looked like his left hip on the play but was able to stay in the game.  Myers struck out the next three Cubs to end the inning.

I swore to myself a solemn vow that if Scott Moore battered the ball around the yard one more time I was going to figure out who he was.  Moore proves to be a 22-year-old lefty, who is really more of a third baseman than a first baseman.  It's looking more like Ramirez will be back with the Cubs next year, but if not Moore could take over at third.  The Cubs got the former first-round pick from the Tigers prior to 2005 in a deal for Kyle Farnsworth.  The Tigers took Moore with the 8th pick in the first round of the 2002 draft.  He looks great to me in the two games I've seen him play and his numbers at Double-A this year were really good, 276/360/479 with 22 home runs in 463 at-bats.  He was the MVP of the Southern  League's All-Star game.  He sure looked good against the Phillies.  In the two games he appeared he went 4-for-8 with a double, a home run and a walk.
Myers started the eighth with a 6-1 lead having thrown 101 pitches.  Sigh.  He got Pierre to lead off the inning, but Freddie Bynum followed with a triple and scored on a ground ball to short off the bat of Ramirez.  Myers struck out Jones to end the inning with the Phils up 6-2.  He shouldn't have started the inning, cause the Phillies are going to need him to make two more starts and then again in, dare I say it, the playoffs.  You know who they're not going to need so much?  Fabio Castro.  Three of the four hitters Myers faced in the inning were lefties. 
Myers started the ninth having thrown 107 pitches.  Spiffy.  Even better.  I assumed at the time this was some kind of practical joke, but if that's the case it was intricate and well-orchestrated.  Murton led off with a single.  Moore followed with a fly ball to center for the first out.  Blanco grounded to second for the second out, with Murton going to second and Myers struck out Cedeno to end the game.  119 pitches.
The Phillies lineup against lefty Les Walrond went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Burrell (7) Lieberthal (8) Nunez.  Really poor.  Conine hitting ahead of Burrell against a lefty is nuts.  Have I mentioned that Burrell finished seventh in the voting for NL-MVP last year often enough?  I feel like I have, but you never can be sure.  Second in the league in RBI in '05?  Still no?  I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing and/or calling for Joe Thurston/Jose Hernandez platoon in left or whatever.  Nunez had a great game on Tuesday, but Hernandez should be in there against a lefty.  Lieberthal returns after Coste caught Lieber and Moyer's starts. 
In the first inning, Rollins led off with a strikeout.  Victorino followed and doubled into left.  Utley walked, putting runners on first and second for Howard. Howard struck out swinging on a 3-2 changeup.  Conine was next, of course, he came into the game 5-for-21 (.238) with a double against lefties during his time with the Phillies.  Burrell is one of the best hitters in the league against lefties, 287/432/589. Conine struck out to end the inning. 
Burrell walked to lead off the second inning.  Lieberthal hit a ground ball to third and was thrown out at first as Burrell moved to second.  The Cubs looked like they were pitching around Nunez, which is a poor idea.  You should really try to get him out, what with the hitting .211 and whatnot.  The more you don't get out Nunez the sooner and more often you have to face everybody else.  Anyhow, Nunez walked. Myers tried to bunt but floundered, bunting the third strike foul for the second out of the inning.  Rollins was next and struck out with runners on first and second to end the inning.
Victorino led off the third with a slow roller to second and Bynum made a nice play to throw him out for the first out of the inning.  Utley struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch.  Howard grounded to first to end the inning.  Through three innings Walrond had allowed one hit while striking out six.
Conine and Burrell walked back-to-back to start the fourth inning with the Phillies down 1-0.  Lieberthal was next and doubled to left, scoring Conine and sending Burrell to third with the score tied at 1-1.  Nunez singled to left and Burrell scored while Lieberthal went to second.  The Phillies led 2-1 with nobody out and runners on first and third.  Myers bunted Nunez to second for the first out of the inning.  Rollins was next and he struck out again.  Another horrid at-bat for Rollins who was 0-for-3 on the day with three strikeouts at this point.  Victorino grounded out to second and the Phillies and their chance to tack on some more runs were done.
Utley struck out to lead off the fifth. Howard followed with a double and went to third on a single by Conine.  Burrell hit a ball to first base and everyone was safe as Howard scored from third to put the Phillies up 3-1.  Lieberthal flew out to right for the second out and Conine moved to third.  Nunez walked again, which loaded the bases again for Myers with two outs.  Myers hit a fly ball to right to end the inning.
Rollins led off the sixth with a double and Victorino bunted him to third.  Utley got behind 1-2 before he hit a ball out to right, putting the Phillies on top 5-1.  Howard struck out and Conine flew to right to end the inning. 
Burrell led off the seventh with a home run, which put the Phillies up 6-1.  Lieberthal grounded to short, Nunez struck out and Myers hit for himself having thrown 101 pitches in a game the Phillies led by five runs.  Myers grounded out to second to end the inning.
Rollins led off the eighth with a double down the line in left.  Victorino bunted to third and was just out at first for the first out of the inning as Rollins went to third.  Utley hit a fly ball into shallow left field, Rollins had to hold at third.  Conine grounded to short to end the inning.

Rollins was 2-for-5 with two doubles. 

Victorino was 1-for-3 with a double.  He may be the Phil who will most enjoy today's off day.  He's 3-for-his-last-25.  His hip or side must be hurting for the hard fall last night in center and he's also struggling with a sprained wrist he suffered on September 9 when he collided with Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo.

Utley was 1-for-4 with a home run and a walk.  #29 on the season for Chase.  It was the big hit for the Phillies last night.

Howard 1-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.  2-for-his-last-10 with six strikeouts. 

Conine was 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.  He left four men on base.

Burrell was 1-for-2 with 2 RBI.  He hit his 26th home run and walked twice. 

Lieberthal was 1-for-3 with an RBI-double and left three men on base.  I'm a big Chris Coste fan but I hope the Phillies deviate from their strict regiment of catcher/pitcher pairings to get Lieberthal's hot bat in the lineup more often in the last ten games.  Lieberthal is 9-for-16 with three doubles and three home runs in September. 

Nunez keeps getting on base.  1-for-2 with another RBI and two walks.  He's on-basing .441 in September. 

No game today.  The Phillies season may come down to how they fare against the Florida Marlins.  They Phils face the Fish in six of their last ten, starting on Friday in Philadelphia.

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