-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



September 22 2006

I'm convinced that with just a few exceptions there are just two kinds of Phillies fans these days:  The kind that think the Phillies are going to fall short and the kind that are pretending they don't.  On the whole, we're a cynical lot.  You gotta believe.  Exactly.  You gotta believe.  Me, and most of the rest of the fans who have been waiting around through 13 disappointing seasons, we're gonna need somebody to show us.

No problem, said Cole Hamels, who looks like he gets around freakishly well for somebody who has ice water in his veins and electricity surging through his body.  Just watch, said Ryan Howard, who apparently can do a team in even when the first line of their game plan says to make someone else beat you.

The Phillies beat the Florida Marlins tonight, winning 5-2 to improve to 80-73 on the year. 

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on six hits and three walks.  Four of the six hits went for extra-bases, all doubles.  He struck out ten.

In the first inning, Hamels got the first two before Miguel Cabrera doubled on a ball just over the glove of Utley.  Hamels struck out Josh Willingham to end the inning.

Wes Helms led off the second with a well-hit double.  Cody Ross was next and bunted, but was called out on batter interference.  Hamels struck out Miguel Olivo and Alfredo Amezaga to end the inning.

Hamels struck out the pitcher Nolasco to start the third.  Hanley Ramirez followed with a looping liner into left center.  Victorino dove for it but couldn't get it, Ramirez wound up safe at second with a double.  With Dan Uggla at the plate and one down, Ramirez stole third for yet another stolen base from the opposition with Coste behind the plate.  Uggla popped to second for the second out of the inning.  Hamels then walked Cabrera intentionally and Willingham unintentionally, loading the bases with two down for Helms.  Helms lined to short to end the inning.

After a 1-2-3 fourth, Hamels started the fifth with a 4-0 lead.  He struck out Chris Aguila to start the inning, but Ramirez followed with a double.  Hamels got Uggla to ground to short for the second out, but Cabrera singled to right to score Ramirez and get the Marlins on the board at 4-1.  Willingham grounded out to end the inning.

Helms led off the sixth with a walk.  Ross followed with a ground ball to third, and the Phils forced Helms at second for the first out.  Hamels struck out Olivo and pinch-hitter Jason Wood to end the frame.

Hamels struck out Aguila and Ramirez to start the seventh, but Uggla followed with a single and that was it for Hamels, who had thrown 115 pitches.  With the righty Cabrera at the plate, Manuel called on Geary who got Cabrera to ground back to the pitcher to end the inning.

Geary returned for the eighth and got Willingham before Helms doubled on a ball off the tip of the glove of Rollins.  Ross grounded back to the pitcher for the second out, but Olivo followed with a single into right that scored Helms and made the score 5-2 Phils.   Lefty Jeremy Hermida pinch-hit for the pitcher and Manuel called on Matt Smith.  Righty Matt Treanor pinch-hit for Hermida and Smith struck him out. 

Tom Gordon came in to pitch the ninth and set down the first two before Uggla singled on a ball deep in the hole to short.  Flash got Cabrera to ground to third to end the game.  It was the 33rd save on the year for Gordon, who lowered his ERA on the season to 3.04.  He's allowed just one run in his last six appearances, which came on September 8th when he had a two-run lead.

The Phillies lineup against righty Ricky Nolasco went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Dellucci (6) Burrell (7) Coste (8) Nunez.  Coste catches Hamels.  Again the Phillies put three lefties in a row in slots three, four and five.

Jimmy Rollins led off the first with one of the weirdest-looking doubles you'll ever see.  Batting left-handed he got jammed and blooped a ball about five feet behind third base and into left.  Victorino bunted him to third.  Utley was next and called and got time out late on a 1-1 pitch.  Nolasco, who was already on his way home, came home anyway with a ball that was way inside and nearly hit Utley.  On the next pitch Utley blooped a single into center, scoring Rollins to put the Phils up 1-0.  Howard was next and walked, setting up the first test of the stated policy of the Fish to not pitch to Howard.  With runners on first and second and one down, Dellucci and Burrell both struck out to end the inning.

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the second.

Rollins led off with an infield single in the third.  Victorino followed and flew out to left for the first out.  Utley was next and looped yet another single into center, with Rollins moving to second.  Stated policy dictates not to pitch to Ryan Howard, but the Fish didn't really have much of a choice.  They didn't give him much to hit until it was 3-1, but when they did it was a fastball on the outer-part of the plate and Howard hit it out to left-center.  4-0 Phils.  Dellucci followed with a single into center.  Burrell hit it hard, but right at Ramirez at short for the second out of the inning.  Coste singled into right, sending Dellucci to second and Nunez walked to load the bases.  Hamels struck out to end the inning.

Rollins and Victorino went down to start the fourth, but Utley drew a two-out walk and Howard reached on an error by Uggla that sent Utley to third.  The Marlins brought in lefty Renyel Pinto to pitch to Dellucci and the Phillies pinch-hit with Conine.  Conine grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning.  The fourth inning is really early to have lost Dellucci, who would be the best left-handed bat on your bench if he hadn't started, and to have already called on Conine, the best right-handed bat on your bench.  At least Conine gets to stay in the game, but I'm just not a fan of that move.

Burrell lined to short to start the fifth, but Coste followed with a single.  Nunez and Hamels went down to end the inning.

Rollins and Victorino went down to start the sixth before Utley smashed a single back up the middle.  Florida intentionally walked Howard to pitch to Conine, and Conine came through with a single that scored Utley from second to put the Phils up 5-1.  Burrell followed with a walk that loaded the bases for Coste, but Coste struck out to end the inning.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the seventh.  With two outs and nobody on in the eighth, the Marlins intentionally walked Howard.  Conine followed with a double into right-center, but Howard was out trying to score from first to end the inning. 

Rollins was 2-for-5 with a double. 

Victorino was 0-for-4 and struck out twice.  He and Rollins end the game with identical .276 batting averages.

Utley was 3-for-4 with three singles, a walk and an RBI. 

Howard was 1-for-2 with a three-run homer, number 58 on the season.  He walked three times, two of which were intentional. 

Dellucci was 1-for-2 with a strikeout.  Conine was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

Burrell 0-for-3 with a walk.

Coste was 2-for-4 with two singles.  Nunez 0-for-3 with a walk.

Jon Lieber faces Brian Moehler tomorrow afternoon.

September 22 2006


FLA 76-77 724 4.73 264 331 433 106 56
PHI 79-73 806 5.30 265 344 446 89 22
FLA 1353.1 717 4.69 1363 575 1019 4.29 1.43
PHI 1366.0 770 5.07 1462 480 1055 4.66 1.42

You would have hoped that the $70 million or so that the Phillies spent in excess of the $15 million Marlins payroll would have bought them more.  As we get down to the final weeks of the season the Phillies have won just three more games than their low-budget foes, and the success or failure of their season turns out to hinge on whether or not they can beat this team that nobody believed would be as good as they are.  Coming into the season, consensus was that the Marlins were headed for 100 loses.  I would say that people forgot to tell the Marlins, but that's just not true.  Everybody told the Marlins.  But they weren't listening and something happened on the way to their humiliation.  A lot of things, really, most of them good for Florida.  Dan Uggla (285/344/492) slugged 26 homers in his journey from complete unknown to one of the two or three best offensive second basemen in the National League.  Josh Willingham (283/364/504) added another 25 home runs and 73 RBI.  Shortstop Hanley Ramirez (285/348/454) got better faster than most would have expected and tore up the basepaths, swiping 50 bases.

The Florida pitchers weren't exactly household names, either, but they did their part as well.  Josh Johnson has gone 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA.  Lefty Scott Olsen has been almost as good, 12-8, 3.87.  And then there's the guys that everyone already knew were good.  Dontrelle Willis has anchored the rotation, throwing 217 much-needed innings while posting a 3.77 ERA.  Superstar Miguel Cabrera (338/429/572) keeps hitting like a superstar, he's already driven in 110 runs.  Anibal Sanchez, one of the best young pitchers in baseball, has gone 9-3 with a 2.80 ERA.

The Florida Marlins will be in Philadelphia tonight for the start of a critical three-game series.  The Phillies come in at 79-73, in second place in the NL East.  The Marlins are 76-77 and in third place in the division.  Both teams have won two in a row, but the Phillies have been hot of late, winners of seven of their last ten while the Marlins have gone just 4-6.  Florida won their last two in New York to earn a split in the four-game series.  Prior to the series with the Mets they lost two of three to the Braves.  With wins by both the Padres and the Dodgers last night, the Phillies are 1/2 game back for the Wild Card.  They trail the Dodgers, who are a 1/2 game behind San Diego in the NL West.  The Marlins are four games out in the Wild Card chase.

If you're a Phillies fan the script is certainly set in your mind.  The Phils win four or five of their six remaining games with the Fish and ride the momentum into the playoffs.  The Marlins, apparently, have something else in mind:  sweep the Phils at home, sweep them in Florida, and ride the momentum into the playoffs.  The Marlins are also appear committed to not letting Ryan Howard hurt them, he's absolutely killed the Fish this year, going 20-for-37 (541/685/1.297) with eight home runs, 15 RBI and 16 walks.  He has hit Florida harder than he has hit any other team, and when they say they're not going to pitch to him I believe them.  It puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Burrell, Conine and, with the Marlins throwing two righties, Dellucci. 

On the year, the Phillies have scored the most runs in the National League, while the Marlins have scored the eighth-most.  The Marlins pitching has been much better than the Phillies, Fish hurlers have allowed the sixth-fewest runs in the NL while the Phillies pitchers have been much worse, allowing the fourth-most.  The numbers for the year are slightly misleading.  The Phillies rotation that was a huge problem for most of the season has gotten a makeover in recent weeks, fueled by the addition of Jamie Moyer and the resurgence of Jon Lieber.  In September, only three NL teams have allowed fewer than the 76 runs allowed by Phillies pitchers in 19 games.  The Phillies offense has taken a hit with the loss of Bobby Abreu, but have still managed to score the second-most runs in the National League this month, led by the unbelievable bat of Ryan Howard.  The Marlins bats are hot as well, they've scored the third-most runs in the league in September.

Two injuries for the Marlins may be significant in the series.  Cabrera has a sore left shoulder that has kept him out of the last two games, but he may be back as soon as tonight.  The other is the stiff right forearm of Josh Johnson, which will likely keep him out the rest of the year and means the Phils will face Brian Moehler tomorrow rather than Johnson. 

The Marlins hitters continue to hit, led by Cabrera, Willingham and a still smoking Hanley Ramirez.  Dan Uggla has struggled a little in September, hitting 235/286/435 but still stroking five home runs in 85 at-bats.  Mike Jacobs is at just 154/224/269 in 52 September at-bats, and hitting just .186 against lefties on the year.  The Phillies might catch a break there with the starts expected from Hamels and Moyer.  Olivo is hitting 200/226/333 this month.

The Marlins pen has not been nearly as good as it's starters.  The 4.05 ERA Marlins starters have thrown to is the best in the NL and second-best in all of baseball behind on the Tigers, but the 4.78 ERA of their pen is dead-last in the NL.  Matt Herges and Randy Messenger may have done the most damage.  Messenger has thrown 51 2/3 innings this year to a 6.45 ERA.  Fellow righty Herges pitches far more often and has kept his ERA down at 4.11, but opponents are hitting .314 against him.

Cole Hamels (8-8, 4.21) faces righty Ricky Nolasco (11-9, 4.56) tonight.  Nolasco has appeared in 30 games for the Fish, getting 20 starts.  The Phillies have seen him three times this season, twice as a reliever and once as a starter.  In ten innings against the Phils he's allowed four runs (3.60 ERA) on just three hits but seven walks.  He mowed the Phillies down in his lone start against them, on July 28 he went 7 1/3 shutout innings while allowing just one hit, an infield single from Nunez off the pitcher's glove.  Two of his last three appearances with the Fish have come in relief, but he started on Sunday against the Braves and gave up just a run on three hits over six innings.  Lefties have hit .333 against him and righties just .240.  Hamels last started on Saturday against the Astros and was great, getting the win while he threw 7 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs on three hits.  Hamels has allowed more than two runs in just one of his last nine starts and has surrendered just 16 hits in his last 27 2/3 innings.

Jon Lieber (8-10, 5.03) squares off with righty Brian Moehler (7-9, 6.09) tomorrow afternoon.  Moehler has appeared in 27 games for the Marlins this season, making 17 starts.  He last pitched on Monday against the Mets, making the start and going five innings, allowing three runs on five hits.  He allows a lot of hits, 149 in 115 1/3 innings, and a lot of home runs (18) but does not walk many (35).  Lefites are hitting .346 against him, righties .288.  He's started two games against the Phillies this year and the Phils hit him hard, scoring six runs against him in 9 1/3.  In the 9 1/3 innings they've hit four home runs.  Two from Utley, one from Rollins, one from Burrell.  Howard is 3-for-4 with a double against him this season.  I expect that Lieber will bounce back nicely off his awful start against the Cubs on Monday.  That game started off with another fielding mistake from Lieber and things went downhill from there.  Lieber went just 2 1/3, allowing five runs, only four of which were earned.  Lieber has made four starts against the Fish this season and been absolutely bombed, throwing to an 8.22 ERA while allowing 35 hits, including five home runs, in just 23 innings.  Miguel Cabrera is 6-for-11 with two home runs against him this season.  Three of his starts against the Fish were mediocre, but he really got blown up by them the last time he faced them.  At home on July 31 the Fish pounded out nine runs on 13 hits in 4 2/3 innings against him on their way to a 15-2 win.

Jamie Moyer (9-14, 4.27) gets lefty Scott Olsen (12-8, 3.87) on Sunday afternoon.  Olsen has made 29 starts for the Marlins this season and pitched last on Tuesday, holding the Mets to a run on five hits over seven innings.  Opponents are hitting just .234 against him, but he walks a lot of batters, 71 in 172 innings.  Lefties are hitting just .179 against him.  He's faced the Phillies three times this season, going 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA.  Ryan Howard is 6-for-9 with two doubles and two home runs against him this year.  Utley 0-for-8 with three strikeouts. Moyer has gone 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA with the Phillies, allowing 37 hits and just three walks in 40 1/3 innings.  He last pitched on Tuesday against the Cubs and was awesome, allowing just one run on six hits in seven innings.  In four of Moyer's six starts with the Phillies he hasn't walked a batter.

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