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September 27 2007

Kyle Lohse picked a fantastic time for his best start as a Phillie.  He didn't walk a batter and threw seven strong frames last night as the Phils beat the Braves 5-2.  It was just the third time in the last 43 games that a Phillies starter went at least seven innings in a game.

The Phils got a lot of help from a pair of defensive miscues from the Braves in a three-run third inning.  Tim Hudson bobbled a comebacker and could only get one out on what should have been a double-play that ended the inning.  A couple of batters later the inning was kept alive with when Chipper Jones airmailed a throw to first.

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves last night, winning 5-2 to improve to 86-72 on the year.  The Mets lost, so the Phils are one game back in the NL East.  The Padres and Rockies both won, with Colorado winning their tenth straight.  The Phils and Rockies both trail San Diego by one game for the Wild Card.  The Padres are one game behind Arizona in the NL West.

Lohse got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits.  Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run.  He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

If you use game score as the measure, Lohse's 8/25 start against the Padres was slightly better (64 to 62) than last night's.  Lohse allowed a run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings in that game.  But the stakes weren't nearly as high.  The Phils are now 9-2 in the 11 games that Lohse has started.

Edgar Renteria singled with one out in the first, but was caught stealing as Chipper Jones struck out, ending the inning.

Lohse started the second up 1-0.  Brian McCann singled with one out, but Lohse got the next two.

Kelly Johnson singled with two outs in the third.  Lohse got Renteria on a fly ball to center for the third out.

Chipper started the fourth with a single.  Mark Teixeira was next and hit a 2-0 pitch out to center, cutting the Phillies' lead to 4-2.  Lohse got the next three.

Lohse threw a 1-2-3 fifth and a 1-2-3 sixth.

Jeff Francoeur doubled to right with one out in the seventh.  Andruw Jones popped to short for the second out.  Matt Diaz hit a ground ball to short and Rollins nailed him with a strong throw to set Atlanta down.

Tom Gordon started the eighth with a 5-2 lead and walked Yunel Escobar, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, to start the inning.  Johnson flew to left for the first out.  Gordon struck Renteria out for the second.  The lefty Romero came in to the switch-hitter Chipper Jones, who came into the game with a 1.181 OPS against righties and an .811 OPS against lefties this season.  He had also hit a monster blast off of Gordon the night before.  Romero got Chipper swinging at a 2-2 changeup.  Nicely done by Manuel.  Romero has been unbelievable this month.

Brett Myers started the ninth with a three-run lead and set the Braves down 1-2-3.  Six pitches.  He struck Teixeira out looking, got McCann to fly to left on the first pitch of his at-bat and Francoeur to fly to center on the second pitch of his at-bat.  He looked unhittable.

Lohse went just 89 pitches, which may mean he would be available to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend.

The Phillies' lineup against righty Tim Hudson went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Burrell (4) Howard (5) Rowand (6) Dobbs (7) Werth (8) Ruiz.  Dobbs at third against the righty.

Rollins started the first with a triple.  Utley was next and he flew to center.  Rollins tagged and then went back to third.  Andruw Jones' throw was way up the third base line and got away from McCann, Rollins would have been safe easily if he had tried to score.  Burrell struck out for the second out, but Howard picked him up, lacing a two-out single back up the middle.  Rollins scored to put the Phils up 1-0.  Rowand was next and he singled off the glove of Johnson at second, moving Howard to second.  Dobbs struck out to end the inning.  Bad strikeout for Burrell for the second out, he's really struggling.

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

Utley was hit by a pitch with one out in the third.  Burrell was next and he hit a double-play ball back to the mound, but Hudson bobbled and have to take the out at first with Utley going to second.  Howard was walked intentionally, putting men on first and second with two down for Rowand.  Rowand hit a ball to Chipper at third that should have ended the inning, Chipper thought about tagging Utley then went to first but threw it away.  Utley scored to put the Phils up 2-0.  Howard went to third and Rowand to second.  Dobbs was next and he singled into right past a diving Johnson.  Nice job by Dobbs, but Johnson didn't show a whole lot of range on the play.  Howard and Rowand scored and the Phils led 4-0.  Werth struck out to end the inning.

Phils get three in the inning, but either a good play by Hudson on Burrell's ball or a good throw from Chipper would have kept them off the board altogether.

With one out in the fourth, Lohse reached on a dribbler down the third base line.  Rollins moved him to second with a single, but Utley hit a hard ground ball to short and Atlanta turned a double-play to end the inning.

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the fifth and again in the sixth.

Victorino started the seventh, pinch-hitting for Lohse, and hit one way out to right.  First home run for Victorino since July 8 and it put the Phils up 5-2.  Rollins followed with a single before Utley flew to left for the first out.  Rollins went to second on a mixed-up pitchout with Burrell at the plate.  McCann popped out for the pitchout but pitcher Peter Moylan came home with the ball.  Burrell grounded to first for the second out and Rollins went to third.  Howard was walked intentionally, bringing up Rowand with two down and men on first and third.  Rowand struck out to end the inning.

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

Rollins was 3-for-4.  He started last night's game with a triple after starting the first game of the series with a home run.  I would be thrilled to see him as the NL MVP this season.  I think he may have an uphill battle, though, especially if the Phils were to miss the playoffs.  He's fifth on his own team in OPS and was six behind Werth going into last night's game.

Utley was 0-for-3 and left four men on base.

Burrell 0-for-4 and stuck out twice.  He's 3-for-his-last-20 with eight strikeouts and hitting .210 in September.

Howard was 1-for-2 with an RBI and two walks.  His first inning single to drive in Rollins was huge, it would have been a huge disappointment to waste Rollins' leadoff triple.  He did not strike out again for the second straight day.  It's the first time this month he has gone two games in a row without a strikeout.

Rowand was 1-for-4 with a strikeout.  He's 2-for-his-last-12.

Dobbs was 1-for-3 with a two-run single.  280/387/460 in September.

Werth was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.  He's 6-for-his-last-42 with 20 strikeouts.  If he struck out at that rate over a season in which he got 500 at-bats he would strike out 238 times.  If Ryan Howard strikes out again this season he'll set a new major league record with 196.  I think we may see Victorino in right tonight after the big home run with both of the Phils' corner outfielders struggling.  Burrell also has terrible career numbers against Smoltz, but the Phils don't have a lot of other choice in left besides Werth, who is struggling badly as well.  I think you have to give Werth a bit of a pass for a late-season slowdown -- he's become an everyday player for the Phils after missing all of last season.  He's got to be worn down.  Still, the Phils need something out of their outfield offensively, and they're not getting much these days.

Ruiz was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.  3-for-his-last-18 with three singles.  He's slugging .338 in September.

Kyle Kendrick (9-4, 3.83) faces righty John Smoltz (14-7, 2.95) tonight.  Kendrick has allowed more than three runs in a start once in his last six outings.  Lefties are hitting .330 against him with a 1.74 ratio, righties .233 with an 0.92 ratio.  Overall he's walked just 24 in 115 innings this season.  He's made just one start against the Braves this season.  On September 5 he went five innings, allowing two runs on six hits.  The Phils took an 8-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth and lost 9-8.  Smoltz hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start in any of his last ten times out.  Opponents have hit just .188 against him in his five starts this month.  Rollins is 12-for-34 with three home runs against him in his career (Ruben Amaro 2-for-7 with a walk).  Burrell 2-for-25 with 13 strikeouts.  Smoltz has made just one start against the Phillies this season.  On opening day he allowed three runs in six innings against a Phillies' lineup that included Victorino, Helms and Barajas.

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