-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 25 2006


HOU 77-78 706 4.55 255 332 413 77 33
PHI 82-73 829 5.35 267 347 449 89 22
HOU 1401.2 694 4.48 1368 457 1111 4.15 1.30
PHI 1393.0 785 5.06 1493 486 1080 4.67 1.42

Despite all the magic the Phillies brewed up against the Marlins there's still a long, long way to go.  The Padres won all three games of their weekend series and the Dodgers won two out of three.  The bottom line is that the Phils's heroics earned them just one precious game against Los Angeles.

Tonight we're going to finally get rid of that crazy half-game that's been mucking up the Wild Card standings.  The 82-74 Dodgers, who have played one more game than the 82-73 Phillies and the 83-72 Padres, are off today while the Phils and Padres both have games.  After tonight's games, even with a San Diego loss the Padres will still lead the NL West and the Phillies will either be tied with or one game ahead of the Dodgers.

Tonight's contest against the Astros will be the last regular-season game of the year at home.  If the Phils were to fall short in their post-season bid, it could very well be the last home game for tenured Phillies Mike Lieberthal and the front-office non-favorite Pat Burrell.  Lieberthal is not expected to return next year after spending all 13 years of his career with the Phils and the club will no doubt continue their efforts to trade the pricey Burrell.

Both Lieberthal and Burrell were first round picks of the Phillies.  Lieberthal was taken with the third pick overall in the 1990 amateur draft and saw his first big-league action in 1994.  His best year with the Phils was 1999.  He hit 300/363/551 and led the team with 31 home runs in a year he was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove.  He was also an All-Star the next year -- in 2000 he hit 278/352/470.  Lieberthal has been hit hard by injuries in his career, suffering through a horrific knee injury, a torn ACL and numerous problems with his knees and back.  Of the two, Burrell seems more likely to be around next season.  Burrell is in his seventh year with the team after being selected as the first pick overall in the 1998 draft.  He was playing regularly by 2000, and finished fourth in the voting for Rookie of the Year that season after hitting 260/359/463 with 18 home runs in 408 at-bats as a left fielder and first baseman.  Burrell's best year to date came at age 25 during the 2002 season.  That year he hit 282/376/544 with 37 HR and 116 RBI.  Burrell had a miserable year in 2003 when his average dipped down to .209, but he was better in '04 and good again in '05 as he got his on-base percentage up to .389 while socking 32 home runs.  Pat is on a course to strike out 130 times in a season for the seventh straight year.  Coming into the season he had been in the top six in the NL in strikeouts in five of his six seasons.  With his at-bats down this year he is currently 11th in the NL in strikeouts.  Twice with the Phillies Burrell has been in the top five in the NL in RBI, third in 2002 and tied for second in 2005.

There's a good chance we'll see both of them in there for the Phillies tonight.  If we do it will be against the Houston Astros, who will be in town for one game to makeup a September 5 rainout.  The Astros have won five straight -- they're five games back for the Wild Card, but with the Cardinals having lost five in a row Houston have moved to within 3 1/2 of St Louis.  The Astros come off of a four-game sweep of the Cardinals in Houston. 

The Phils come in having scored the most runs in the National League.  The Astros have scored the 12th-most.  Houston hitters are last in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage and last in slugging.  Houston's pitching has been much better than the pitching for the Phillies over the course of the year.  Houston hurlers have allowed the third-fewest runs while Philadelphia pitchers have allowed the fifth.  The Houston pen has been really good but has to be tired -- in three of the four games with the Cardinals the Houston starter went five or fewer innings.  Tonight's game will be the eleventh in eleven days for the Astros.

Outfielder Willy Taveras has played sparingly of late with a sore shoulder.  He played some as a defensive replacement against the Cardinals and may return to the starting lineup tonight for the Astros.

Berkman comes in 8-for-his-last-15 with two doubles and two homers.  Luke Scott is 3-for-his-last-8 with two homers.  Aubery Huff 3-for-his-last-6 with two homers.  Biggio is 6-for-his-last-15.  All in all, it would behoove the Phillies to try and get Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus out as much as possible.  Chris Burke is actually in a little rough patch as well, 1-for-his-last-11 and hitting 230/299/311 in September. 

The pitching matchup in the lone game in the series will feature Randy Wolf (4-0, 5.47) against righty Matt Albers (0-2, 6.00).  The 23-year-old Albers has appeared in four games for Houston, starting two games.  His two starts came in his last two appearances, and he was hit hard in both, combining to allow ten runs on 14 hits in 9 2/3 innings.  Prior to the two starts he had an excellent appearance in relief against the Reds on July 27.  In that game he threw five innings and allowed no runs on just two hits and three walks.  Albers spent most of the year at Double-A, where he went 10-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 19 starts in the Texas League.  In 116 innings he allowed 96 hits and struck out 95 while walking 47.  Opponents hit .233 against him.   Randy Wolf could also be making his final appearance in the home white for the Phillies.  His most recent outing came on September 17 against the Astros in Houston and he got the win, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.  He's made ten starts on the year for the Phillies and gone six or more innings in just two of them.  He continues to have great success against lefties, they are hitting .065 against him this season.  Righties are hitting .323.  In 49 1/3 innings he's allowed ten home runs, nine of which have been hit by righties, and he's had problems with the long ball of late, allowing three in his last 7 2/3 innings.

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