September 29 2006
The Phillies have shown
an ability to bounce back from a lot of things. Bobby Abreu traded to the
Yankees. Aaron Rowand out for the season. Scott Mathieson out for more
than the season. Sal Fasano. This may be too much, though: Taylor
them. He said so. He didn't leave a note on their locker or instant
message them or ask his girlfriend to tell the guy that works at
7-Eleven or anything. He just told a newspaper. I can just picture
the scene, the road-weary Phillies on their way to Florida after a
14-inning game followed by a heartbreaker that started at 11:30 at night.
They open the newspaper this morning and the shocker greets them. Now
this, they must think. Why would he go and hurt our feelings when
everything was going so well? Not Taylor. Not him.
You know who I wouldn't like if I were the Florida Marlins? Ryan Howard. Coming into tonight's action Howard is hitting 522/681/1.217 in 46 at-bats against our fishy friends. He's hit nine home runs and driven in 18 runs.
The Phillies will end their season with a three-game set against the Marlins in Florida. The Phillies come in at 83-76, in second place in the NL East. In the hunt for the Wild Card they are two games out with three games remaining, chasing the Dodgers. The Marlins are tied for third place in the NL East at 77-82 and have lost five of their last six. The Phillies have lost three of their last four.
The Phillies come in having scored the most runs in the National League. The Marlins are eighth in the NL in runs scored. Florida pitching has been much better than Phillies pitching on the year, the Phils have allowed the fourth-most runs in the league while only five NL teams have allowed fewer runs than Florida.
The Phils bats looked sleepy against the Nationals. For all the talk about who should hit behind Ryan Howard, the bigger issue is going to prove to be who will hit in front of him. Pat Burrell is the answer to who should be hitting behind Howard -- assuming the Phillies fall short this season Manuel will be hugely criticized, and rightfully so, for consistently hitting Conine instead of Burrell behind him. If Burrell's not on the team next year the Phillies have three open slots at hitters positions, both corner outfield spots and third base. They will be able to get someone else who can hit behind Howard. Rollins and Victorino just aren't getting on base in front of Utley these days. That kills the offense and that problem has no solution in sight. With Rollins goes the Phillies offense -- these days it's going down because he's not getting on base. Victorino isn't either.
Mike Jacobs has left the Marlins for personal reasons and will be gone for the rest of the season. He was awful against lefties, hitting just .184 against them this year, so he likely would not have been playing much with the Phillies starting Moyer and Wolf in two of the three games.
The other issue is Dontrelle Willis, who apparently will start the final game of the year on Sunday. He's thrown a lot of innings but apparently will pitch in hopes of knocking the Phillies out of the playoffs. My guess is that he would not pitch if the Phillies are out of playoff contention by the time the game roles around. The Fish might go to Yusmeiro Petit or Renyel Pinto if they change their mind about Willis. The 24-year-old Willis has thrown 222 innings on the season, which is the sixth-most in all of baseball.
Jamie Moyer (10-14, 4.36) faces righty Brian Moehler (7-10, 6.22) tonight. Moehler started for the Marlins in Philadelphia on Saturday, and the Phillies scored four runs on eight hits and a walk in just 3 1/3 innings. Lefties are hitting .350 against him on the year. In three starts against the Phils he's gone 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA, allowing ten runs in 12 2/3 innings. Utley is 5-for-7 with two home runs against him this year. Howard 4-for-5. Moyer will be making his eighth start with the Phillies, he's 4-2 with a 4.27 ERA since joining the team. He faced the Marlins on Sunday in Philly and was hit hard, giving up five runs in six innings on eight hits and two walks. Ramirez, Ross and Helms all homered against him that day.
Randy Wolf (4-0, 5.24) gets lefty Scott Olsen (12-9, 3.97) tomorrow. Scott Olsen, as quoted in today's Inquirer: "I want to make that start on Saturday. I want to ruin the Phillies' season." There's good news and bad news for Olsen and it's the same thing: it looks like he's going to get his wish. I'm pretty sure that the Phillies want him so start against them on Saturday or any other day he's so inclined. He's appeared in four games against the Phillies this season, allowing 15 runs in 20 innings. In the 20 innings he's allowed eight walks and 25 hits, including five home runs. He started on Sunday against the Phils and was ejected in the third inning for plunking Abraham Nunez after the Phillies had scored seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against him. Only three of the runs were earned. Hopefully the Phillies will take the opportunity to teach him about how much prettier an ERA looks when it starts with a three instead of a four. Wolf pitched on Monday against the Astros and allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings. He'll be making his twelfth start for the Phillies since coming back from Tommy John surgery and has been unable to reliably go deep into games, throwing six or more innings just twice. And that's a problem given the wretched state of the Phillies pen. He's still mowing down lefties, who are hitting .059 against him. Righties .316.
Brett Myers (12-7, 3.94) faces lefty Dontrelle Willis (12-12, 3.89) on Sunday afternoon. If this game matters, it's going to be a matchup that was worth waiting for. Willis last pitched on Tuesday and went five innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and five walks in five innings against the Reds. He's 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA against the Phillies this season, but was awesome the last time he faced them. Against the Phils on September 10 in Florida he threw a complete game three-hit shutout while striking out 12. Myers hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start in his last seven outings. He pitched in Washington on Tuesday and took the loss, going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits and two walks. In three starts against the Marlins he's 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA. He's handled Cabrera (1-for-9) but Ramirez is 4-for-9 against him, Uggla 4-for-10 and Amezaga 4-for-7.
The Phillies thrust
themselves into the spotlight with a brilliant September in which they
climbed on the back of their budding-superstar first baseman and rebuilt
rotation. They used a new core of young players to build a kind of excitement
around the team you haven't seen for a long time. And then, for as far as
they came and all the electricity they generated, the biggest blow to their
playoff hopes was delivered in the darkest part of the early morning with
almost nobody watching.
Things are bleak. The Phillies lost to the Washington Nationals last night, falling 3-1 to drop their record on the year to 83-76. The Padres and Dodgers both won, meaning the Padres maintain their one game lead in the NL West. The Phillies are two games behind the Dodgers in the Wild Card hunt. The Phillies earn a tie with the Dodgers if they win two more games than the Dodgers do in the last three games. They would be tied with the Padres if the Padres lose three straight to the Diamondbacks and the Phils swept the Marlins. If the Dodgers win two of three against the Giants and the Padres win at least one against Arizona, there's no hope for the Phillies, even if they were to sweep the Marlins. It's almost done. But not quite.
The Phillies have lost three of their last four. They've lost the three games by a total of four runs.
Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies. Lieber went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and walk. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run. He struck out two and faced a Nationals lineup that was without their best hitter, Alfonso Soriano.
The game started at about 11:30 at night, after about a four and a half hour rain delay.
In the first, Lieber allowed a ground-rule double to Felipe Lopez with two outs. Zimmerman flew out to right to end the inning.
Ryan Church hit a solo home run with two outs in the second, which put the Nats up 1-0. Lieber got George Lombard to ground to second to end the inning.
Lieber set Washington down 1-2-3 in the third and again in the fourth.
Lieber got Schneider to start the fifth and Church followed with a single. Lombard was next and flew to center for the second out. Juan Mateo pinch-hit for O'Connor and hit a ground ball to short to Rollins that went for an error, the third in two games for Rollins. It put runners on first and second with two down for Castro. Castro singled to left but Burrell nailed Church at home with a nice throw to end the inning.
The sixth started with the score tied at 1-1. Nook Logan led off with a single and went to third when Lopez followed with a single of his own and then stole second, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Zimmerman hit a ball to the drawn in Howard at first, who looked Logan back at third but then couldn't get Zimmerman at first on the flip to Lieber. Bases loaded, nobody out. Vidro was next and he lined out to second for the first out of the inning. With Phillies-killer lefty Brian Schneider due up, Manuel called on Fultz. Schneider stroked a two-run single into right scoring two to put Washington up 3-1. At least it wasn't Geary, and I'm willing to call it a moral victory even if it does end the season. Fultz got Church to pop up and struck out Lombard to end the inning.
Fultz returned and threw a 1-2-3 seventh. The line on Fultz for the game looks good, a hit in 1 2/3 without being charged with a run. But he allowed the biggest hit of the game.
Madson started the eighth and gave up a one out single to Zimmerman. Vidro flew out to right for the second out, but Schneider again hit against a Phillies righty and doubled, sending Zimmerman to third. With lefty Ryan Church at the plate, Manuel called on Matt Smith, who struck out Church to end the inning. That's more Matt Smith in the eighth inning, so I think we have to start counting him among those in the Manuel inner circle of those-who-shall-be-allowed-to-pitch when the Phils aren't up by eight runs or so.
The Phillies lineup against lefty Michael O'Connor went (1) Rollins (2)
Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Conine (6) Burrell (7) Coste (8) Nunez.
Coste back at catcher after his tremendous game on Wednesday. Burrell
returned to the lineup against the lefty with Coste back hitting seventh.
In the first, Utley singled with two outs and stole second. The Nationals walked Howard and Conine grounded to short to end the inning.
Burrell led off the second and crushed the ball to center field. He was robbed of a home run by Nook Logan for the first out. Coste and Nunez went down behind him to end the frame.
Shane Victorino singled with two outs in the third and was caught stealing with Utley at the plate to end the inning with the Phillies down 1-0.
The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fourth. In the fifth, Nunez drew a two-out walk and Lieber followed with a single that send him to second. Rollins reached on a fielding error by Zimmerman at third, which allowed Nunez to score and sent Lieber to second with the score tied at 1-1. Victorino fouled out to first to end the inning.
The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the sixth and started the seventh down 3-1. Burrell led off with a single and Chris Roberson pinch-ran for him, but Coste was next and he hit a ground ball to short that the Nats turned into a critical double-play. Nunez grounded to first to end the inning.
Pinch-hitter Randall Simon led off the eighth with a single and Joe Thurston pinch-ran for him. Rollins was next and he lined a ball to Castro at second for an out, with the Nats doubling Thurston off of first base. For the second straight inning the Phillies had gotten their leadoff man aboard only to have him erased on a double-play. Victorino grounded to short to end the inning.
Utley, Howard and Conine went down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Rollins was 0-for-4. He was 4-for-17 with no walks in the series. He's on-basing .303 in 122 September at-bats and hasn't drawn a walk in his last 47 at-bats.
Victorino 1-for-4 with a single. He's slugging .319 in his last 119 at-bats -- that's not enough if he's going to play everyday. He's walked twice in his last 64 at-bats and is on-basing .265 in those last 14 games.
Utley was 1-for-4.
Howard was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out twice.
Conine was 0-for-4. He's 3-for-his-last-21 with three singles.
Burrell was 1-for-3.
Coste 0-for-3 with a strikeout and hit into a big double-play.
Nunez was 0-for-2 with a walk. 4-for-his-last-24.
The Phillies didn't have an extra-base hit in the game.
Jamie Moyer faces Brian Moehler tonight in Florida.