Archive for April 30th, 2008

Ready, set, Met

Despite what has been considered by virtually all Phillies fans a successful April, the Phils come into the last day of the first full month of the season at 15-12, percentage points behind the 14-11 Mets in the NL East. Andrew Vazzano from The ‘Ropolitans answered a few questions about the state of the Mets.

Think of it as really advanced scouting on a team the Phils don’t play again till July.

1) What do you see as the most significant developments for the Mets since the start of the season?

Well, most of the fans thought we were indestructible after we landed Johan Santana, so now that we’ve played a few games, we’ve seen that we’re just as good as everyone else and this is going to be a dogfight all season. I’m also very surprised by the back end of our bullpen (sans: Aaron Heilman). With Joe Smith, Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner closing out games, I’m very confident if the team has a lead late, they’ll hold it. (Obviously, since I said this, they’ll blow a few of the next bunch of games!)

2) There seems to be a loud, large contingent of fans that are unhappy with the direction of the team or at least some of the Mets’ players. Is this just frustration with the early results or does it go deeper than that? How do you expect the situation to play out?

It all stems from last season. As far in the past as it is, most fans are yet to get over the collapse. When guys like Carlos Delgado and Aaron Heilman got off to extremely rocky starts, fans regressed to last September, and the boo birds came out in full force. Obviously, we’re not even through a quarter of the season, so I think it’s still way too early to start driving a guy out of town. The players need to pick up the pace, but I think it will all even out in the long run. Only if the player continues to struggle do I see anything coming of this. Again, it’s all from last season, it haunts us.

3) How do you expect the situations in left field and at first base will be resolved? Right now it looks like Pagan may be seeing a lot of time in left — do you think he can make it through a whole season there? What are the other options for the Mets at first base if Delgado doesn’t come around?

Well, Moises Alou just had his ankle checked out, and he should rejoin he team in Arizona. Obviously, there is no way he’s going to make it through a whole season without getting injured again, so time will be split between Angel Pagan and Endy Chavez. There’s no way Pagan can last a whole season, as we’ve already seen him hit a cold snap. Chavez and Pagan are decent in left, a big upgrade defensively over Alou, but Alou can absolutely rake at the plate. On Delgado at first, I think the team needs to wait it out until he *really* starts to tank. The two home run day against the Braves was huge, and with or without a curtain call, it should be a big boost to his confidence. A lot of people have been calling for AA player Mike Carp to get called up. Through 4/29, Carp is batting .376 with 6 home runs, 20 RBI, and 16 runs scored. People seem to think he’s the first baseman of the future, and with Delgado taking a downturn at first, Carp might be called up sooner rather than later. I’d rather see Marlon Anderson or Damion Easley fill in at first, with the majority of the time still going to Delgado. Carp may be called up in September, but I don’t think it will happen before that.

4) What is your expectation about how the rotation is going to shape up behind Santana/Maine/Perez the rest of the way? Do you think it’s likely that most of the other starts will come from Pedro, El Duque, Pelfrey and Figueroa? Do you feel comfortable with that group at the bottom of the rotation? Is there anybody else in the mix?

Stick a fork in El Duque, he’s done. I don’t expect him to come back, ever. I see the rest of the season being split between Nelson Figueroa and Mike Pelfrey, with Pedro Martinez getting the bulk if/when he gets back and if he stays healthy. With Jorge Sosa struggling so far, when Figueroa or Pelfrey gets bumped by Martinez returning to the rotation, one of those two might find themselves as the long man out of the bullpen. Figueroa would probably be the best guy out of the pen, so I think that’s what might happen.

5) Is Willie Randolph the right person to manage the Mets? How safe is his job?

No. He’s good, but not for this team. These players need a leader and with David Wright being so young, and probably the most outspoken player on he team, he doesn’t really fit the bill. I think the Mets need someone like Jim Leyland who isn’t afraid to yell after a lazy loss or poor play. If the Mets don’t make the postseason this year, I doubt Willie returns.

Thanks a lot to Andrew. Remember to check out his blog, The ‘Ropolitans.


Outhit, outpitch, outlast

Team W-L R R/G NL Rank R OPS (NL) SB CS
               
SD 10-16 84 3.23 16 620 (16) 7 0
PHI 14-12 124 4.77 T-3 781 (5) 10 5

Team W-L RA RA/G NL Rank RA Starter ERA Pen ERA
             
SD 10-16 121 4.65 11 3.68 (5) 4.52 (15)
PHI 14-12 114 4.38 8 4.37 (10) 2.60 (1)

The Phils topped the Padres in an unusual pitching duel last night, unusual because the Phils won it 7-4 after the teams combined to score seven runs in the eighth and ninth.

Hamels outdueled cerebral veteran Greg Maddux and while it’s not surprising to see Hamels outpitch anyone, the game added a head-to-head battle of mind and body between Hamels and Maddux and Hamels again came out on top. With the Phils up 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh and a much needed insurance run on first base, Hamels showed bunt early in the count before he laced Maddux’s 1-1 pitch into right field for a single that sent the runner to third. It was enough to send Maddux into a mini-tizzy, and he didn’t face another batter on the night.

The legend grows.

Hamels performance on the mound and at the plate was impressive, but the Phils blew to game open in the bottom of the eighth with some key two out hits. Two of the hits came from a pair of guys struggling badly at the bottom of the order, Feliz and Ruiz.

Before the Phils broke the game open in the bottom of the eighth, Tom Gordon orchestrated yet another magnificent escape act. Gordon entered the game with a 3-1 lead with the bases loaded and one out. He allowed a run to score on a ground out, but got the Phillies out of the inning with the lead. After allowing five runs in a third of an inning in his first appearance of the year, Gordon has allowed two runs on five hits and five walks while striking out 12 in ten innings since (that’s a 1.80 ERA with a 1.00 ratio).

The Phillies beat the San Diego Padres last night, winning 7-4 to improve to 15-12 on the season.

Hamels got the start for the Phils and went 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run. He walked two and struck out six.

Hamels threw a 1-2-3 first.

He started the second with a 1-0 lead. Justin Huber drew a two out walk, but Hamels struck Scott Hairston out swinging to end the frame.

Three ground outs in a 1-2-3 third. Josh Bard hit the ball hard to start the inning, but right at Bruntlett who handled it for the out.

Up 2-0 in the fourth, Hamels set down the first two before Adrian Gonzalez lofted one into right that dropped a few feet to the left of the foul line. Jenkins was on it fast and made a strong throw to second that beat Gonzalez by a lot to set down San Diego. Nice job by Jenkins to get to the ball quickly and a strong and accurate throw. The play wasn’t close.

He got the first two in the fifth before Hairston came to the plate. Hairston fouled off the first pitch of the at-bat and then blasted one out to left-center, cutting the Phillies’ lead to 2-1. Bard grounded to third to end the frame.

Brian Giles singled with one out in the sixth. Former Phil Tad Iguchi was next and hit into a double-play back to the pitcher. Odd looking play — Utley had come in and toward second on the dribbler up the middle to Hamels and took Hamels’ throw to second base instead of Bruntlett, but turned the double-play anyway.

Hamels struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff and Gonzalez to start the seventh before Khalil Greene singled to left. Huber struck out to set the Padres down.

Hairston led off the eighth and hammered a double over the head of Werth and off the base of the wall in center. Bard was next and hit a dribbler between the mound and the first base line. Hamels moved over to field it and tried to backhand the ball, but it went off his glove. It bounded to Utley, who made a glove-hand flip to Howard and Bard was called out. Very nice play by Utley, but Bard was safe. Hariston went to third. Switch-hitter Tony Clark hit for the pitcher Cla Meredith and drew a walk. It put men on first and third with one out and the lefty Giles due to hit, and Manuel called on Romero to pitch. Hamels left the game having thrown 97 pitches. Romero walked Giles on an outside 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Gordon came into pitch to the righty Iguchi. Iguchi hit a slow ground ball to short. Bruntlett only had one play and threw to first for the second out as Hairston scored to cut the lead to 3-2. It put men on second and third with two outs for Kouzmanoff, but Flash got him on a ground ball to second to end the frame.

The lead got extended from one run to five in the bottom of the eighth, making Gordon’s appearance in the eighth seem less important, but that was an impressive job by Gordon again.

Interesting contrast between Manuel’s handling of Hamels in this start and his previous start. Last Wednesday in Milwaukee, Manuel left Hamels in to pitch to lefty Prince Fielder in the eighth despite a huge pitch count. Fielder homered for the second time in the game and the Phils went on to lose. This time Manuel takes Hamels out of the game even with the lefty Brian Giles at the plate. How Manuel handles Hamels throughout the season is likely going to depend a lot on the availability of Romero in the pen and where the big lefties are in the opposing team’s lineup — with Romero as the only southpaw Manuel has I think you can expect that he’ll be less likely to take Hamels (or Moyer) out of a game with big lefties looming when Romero isn’t available or when he expects to see the big lefties hit two more times in the game. Another lefty in the pen would be very nice, but until one arrives I hope we see him err on the side of less pitches for Hamels, even if it means some righty relievers throwing to lefties. I don’t think there’s any chance the Phillies are going to go through the season with Romero as the only lefty in the pen.

The Phils were up 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and scored four runs. Lidge was getting ready to enter the game, but Manuel was able to get Madson up in time to get him in to pitch the bottom of the ninth with the score 7-2. Great job by Manuel to keep Lidge out of the game, even though Madson pitched badly.

Victorino also entered the game defensively in the ninth after pinch-hitting in the bottom of the eighth. Even with some talk from Manuel about letting Werth play some more center despite Victorino’s return, and the fact that Werth started the game in center with Victorino available, Werth moved to right and Victorino played center. It’s just a no-brainer that Victorino is a significantly better center fielder than Werth, even though Werth has looked pretty capable out there.

Victorino’s return does create a difficult situation for the Phils. There seems to be some evidence that Victorino isn’t a favorite of Manuel. Werth needs to play just about every day, whether it’s in right or in center. Victorino doesn’t belong in right field. In my mind it comes down to Jenkins versus Victorino — if Jenkins is in the game I hope just about all of the time it means Werth is in center. Victorino hasn’t done much with the bat, but neither has Jenkins. Victorino is at least an elite defensive player. Not sure why Victorino would be the guy to lose his time because he’s not hitting with Jenkins not hitting as well. Jenkins certainly has more upside as a hitter, but he is slugging .329 so far this season.

Madson started the ninth and Gonzalez led off with a ball off the wall in left. Taguchi played it well to hold him to a single. Madson got the next two on a fly ball and a strikeout before Hairston hit a 2-1 pitch out down the line in left. Second home run in the game for Hairston, and it made the score 7-4. Lidge had to get up and start to throw again, but Madson struck out Bard to end the game.

Great job by Manuel to keep Lidge out of the game with a five-run lead despite all the late runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Six pitches for Romero, seven for Gordon and 19 for Madson. The Phillies didn’t play on Monday so the pen should be in good shape.

The Phillies’ lineup against righty Greg Maddux went (1) Werth (2) Bruntett (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Jenkins (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Victorino was activated before the game, and Bohn sent down, but Victorino starts the game on the bench with Werth in center. Bruntlett moves up to the second spot in the order, which is too high for him. Jenkins plays right with the righty on the mound. Ruiz keeps getting the call behind the plate.

Bruntlett drew a one out walk in the first and stole second. Utley lined out to first for the second out, but Howard singled to left and Bruntlett scored to put the Phils up 1-0. Burrell grounded out for the third out. Interesting to see Howard go to left field with the monster shift the Padres are playing against him.

Jenkins led off the second and ripped a single into right. Feliz hit into a double-play and Ruiz grounded to third.

With one out in the third, Werth smashed a ball off the wall in right. It rolled away from Giles and Werth had a triple. Bruntlett followed with a single into right, Werth scored and the Phils were up 2-0. Two runs in 2 1/3 innings for the Phils and Bruntlett a big part of both of them. Utley flew to right for the second out. Howard was next and hammered a ball, but was robbed of extra-bases by a fantastic diving catch by Hairston on the warning track.

Feliz doubled to left with two outs in the fourth, but Ruiz flew to center for the third out.

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

Utley singled to start the sixth. Howard followed with a ground ball to first and Utley was forced at second for the first out. Burrell popped out and Jenkins grounded to first to end the inning.

Ruiz singled with one out in the seventh. Hamels was next and bunted the first pitch foul. He took ball one to even the count and then swung away and ripped a singled into right. Ruiz went to third. Werth hit a ball to center for the second out, deep enough to easily score Ruiz and extend the lead to 3-1. Bruntlett grounded to third for the third out. Fantastic at-bat by Hamels and a nice job by Werth to bring the runner in from third with one out.

Utley doubled to start the eighth. Howard followed and struck out and the lefty Glendon Rusch walked Burrell intentionally to put men on first and second with one out. Victorino hit for Jenkins against the lefty. Righty Kevin Cameron came in to pitch to Victorino. Victorino flew to shallow left-center for the second out. Feliz bailed him out, though, with a single into right. Utley scored to make it 4-2 with the runners winding up at second and third after the throw went home. Ruiz smashed a double off the wall in right-center and they both scored. 6-2. Dobbs hit for Gordon and he doubled into center, scoring Ruiz. 7-2. Werth flew to center for the third out. Weak at-bats for Howard and Victorino in the inning, but Feliz, Ruiz and Dobbs bail them out to give the Phils a big inning.

Werth was 1-for-4 with a triple and a sac fly.

Bruntlett was 1-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and an RBI. He’s 8-for-his-last-25 and has his average up to .222. Still not the guy you want to see hitting second.

Utley was 2-for-4 with a double.

Howard was 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Burrell 0-for-3 with a walk.

Jenkins 1-for-3 with a nice play in right field.

Feliz 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Ruiz 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI.

Jamie Moyer (1-1, 4.05) faces righty Chris Young (1-2, 3.77) tonight. Young has made five starts on the season and in four of them allowed two or fewer runs. He allowed seven runs against the Dodgers in LA on April 12, but has made two starts since in which he’s allowed three earned runs on just five hits in 13 innings (3.46 ERA). Opponents are hitting just .208 against him on the year, but he has walked 18 in 28 2/3 innings. He faced the Phillies once last season, on July 19, and held the Phillies to two hits in seven scoreless innings. Moyer has allowed three runs in 12 innings over his last two starts. Opponents are hitting .333 against him on the season, righties .349. After allowing 30 home runs in 2007, he has allowed just two so far in ’08 and none in his last two appearances. He made two starts against San Diego last season. He got bombed for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings on August 24 after allowing four runs over 6 2/3 on July 21.


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