Archive for April, 2009

That one has a ring to it

The Phillies got their rings yesterday, full of diamonds that will last forever and remind that whatever happens from now on the fact that they were the best in 2008 can never be taken away. 2008 is over, though, and through the first two and a half games of 2009 the Phillies didn’t look like champions. They didn’t look like much of anything as they failed miserably on the mound and at the plate.

And then, all of the sudden, they were back. Down 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh with one out and the bases empty, Chase Utley blooped a single into center field. And then the Phillies just stopped making outs. With their last five outs for the game the Phillies scored nine runs.

It looked and felt exactly like something we had all seen before. A team with fantastic talent that even has something more, some collective outlook that makes them more than the sum of their parts. That makes them sure the game isn’t over when everybody else thinks it is. Knows it should be. Whether it’s here to stay or yesterday was just the final, fitting tribute to what happened in 2008 is too early to say, but there are a lot of reasons to feel good about the 2009 Phillies this morning.

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves yesterday, winning 12-11. They are 1-2 on the season.

Joe Blanton got the start for the Phils and went four innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks. Four of the hits went for extra-bases, three doubles and a home run. He struck out six.

Omar Infante led off the first for the Braves and Blanton struck him out swinging 2-2 for the first out. Kelly Johnson was next and Blanton struck him out looking. That’s where the fun ended, though, cause Yunel Escobar was next and he lined a double to left. Brian McCann followed and popped an 0-1 pitch out to right for his second homer of the series. It put Atlanta up 2-0. Casey Kotchman singled into center before Jeff Francoeur flew to center to end the frame.

Three games for the Phillies and in all three they have allowed two runs in the first inning.

Blanton came back with a 1-2-3 second. He got Matt Diaz on a fly ball to center, Jordan Schafer on a ground ball to short and struck the pitcher Javier Vazquez out swinging.

Blanton started the third with the game tied at 2-2. Infante singled to left and Johnson followed with a walk. A single to right by Escobar loaded the bases with nobody out. McCann singled to right and everyone moved up a base. 3-2. Blanton struck out Kotchman for the first out, but Francoeur singled into center and two more runs scored to make it 5-2 with men on first and third and Diaz at the plate. Diaz cleared the bases with a double to left. 7-2. Schafer grounded to second for the second out with Diaz moving to third. Blanton got Vazquez to pop to short to leave him stranded.

Four singles, a double and a walk in the inning for the Braves.

The Phils cut the lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the third. Blanton celebrated by giving up a leadoff double to Infante in the top of the fourth. Optimistically, Manuel left Blanton in to face the lefty Johnson and Blanton struck him out again. Blanton struck Escobar out too, before walking McCann to put men on first and second. If I never see McCann again it will be okay with me, but it seems unlikely. The lefty Kotchman grounded to Utley to end the frame.

Blanton likely stayed in the game after the leadoff double cause he was due to hit second in the bottom of the inning. It gave the Phils the chance to let loose the mighty force that is their bench. In this case the mighty force was embodied in the person of Miguel Cairo.

Despite Cairo’s best efforts, the Phils failed to forge any runs in the fourth. JA Happ came on to pitch the top of the fifth. The impressionable young starter wannabe didn’t take long to succumb to peer pressure. He got Francoeur to pop to first, but Diaz followed with a walk and Schafer lined one out to right. 9-3. Here endeth the 2009 Phillies perfect bullpen. Vazquez and Infante both grounded out to end the frame.

Happ set the Braves down in order in the sixth, getting Johnson on a ground ball to second and striking out Escobar and McCann. He promptly returned to the dugout and delivered a short lecture to stunned teammates, explaining that setting the opposition down in order means that nobody on the other team gets on base. Not sure, but I think at one point a confused Carlos Ruiz wanted to know why he didn’t get to see McCann run around all the bases that inning. Veterans assured him if he would just be patient he wouldn’t have to wait long.

Durbin started the seventh with the Phils down 9-3 and gave up a leadoff double to Kotchman. Francoeur flew to left for the first out. Diaz was next and he smoked a ball to third, but Feliz made a great play to snare the line drive for the second out. Durbin walked Schafer and switch-hitter Greg Norton hit for the pitcher Vazquez. Durbin walked Norton, too, loading the bases. He stayed in to pitch to Infante and walked him as well, forcing in Kotchman to make it 10-3. Condrey came in to pitch to the lefty Johnson and struck him out to leave the bases full.

Nice job by Condrey to bail out Durbin after a miserable appearance. Durbin gave up a double and three walks and got two outs, one of which came on a great play by Feliz. Interesting that the walk parade continued in the bottom of the seventh for the Phils, but a weak showing by Durbin nonetheless.

Madson started the eighth with an 11-10 lead after the Phils scored eight times in the bottom of the eighth. He set Atlanta down in order, getting a great play from Howard to start the frame. Escobar led off and hit a ball hard in-between first and second. Howard dove to his right to field the ball and made a bad toss behind Madson covering first, but Madson handled it to keep the leadoff man off the bases.

Lidge started the ninth with the Phils up 12-10. He struck out Francoeur before Diaz hit a 1-1 pitch out to left to get Atlanta within one at 12-11. Schafer grounded to second for the second out and Garret Anderson hit for the pitcher Jeff Bennett. Lidge struck Anderson out swinging 2-2 to end the game.

The pen can use the off-day today after throwing five innings in the game following Blanton’s early exit. They didn’t pitch especially well, allowing four runs on three hits and four walks. Durbin and Happ were both ineffective, Durbin in particular. Great job by Madson to shut down Atlanta in the eighth. Condrey’s strikeout of the lefty Johnson with the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh looked pretty meaningless at the time but proved to be critical.

The Phillies lineup against right Javier Vazquez went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Werth (6) Ibanez (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Still no starts for Coste or Dobbs. Werth stays in the five-hole, breaking up the lefties against a right-handed pitcher.

Down 2-0 as tradition dictates, the Phils went in order in the bottom of the first. Ground outs for Rollins and Victorino before Utley struck out swinging 1-2.

Howard led off the second and blasted a ball to left-center, where it went off the glove of Schafer for a double. Werth grounded to third for the first out, but Ibanez was next and he socked one out down the right-field line for his first home run as a Phillie. It tied the game at 2-2. Feliz followed with yet another walk and Ruiz walked, too, putting men on first and second with one down for Blanton. Blanton bunted the runners to second and third, but Rollins struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.

Down 7-2 in the third, Victorino led off and drove a ball over Schafer in left-center for a triple. Utley followed with a ground ball to third, but Infante threw the ball away for an error. Victorino scored and Utley wound up at second with nobody out and the Phils down 7-3. Howard flew to center and Werth moved Utley to third with the second out. A walk to Ibanez put two men on for Feliz, but Feliz dribbled to third to end the inning.

Phils can’t bring Utley in from second with nobody out.

Ruiz lined to second to start the fourth. Cairo hit for Blanton and struck swinging for the second out. Rollins hit a soft liner to first for the third.

Down 9-3, Victorino started the bottom of the fifth with a ground ball to first. Kotchman took it and flipped to Vazquez for the first out. Utley doubled off the wall in right. Howard moved him to third with a ground out to first and Werth followed with a walk. It put men on first and third for the Phillies’ one man wrecking crew, Raul Ibanez, who had driven in half the team’s runs for the season. Ibanez hit the ball well to first, but Kotchman made a nice play to retire the side.

Feliz flew out to deep right to start the sixth. Ruiz followed with a single, and with the righty Vazquez still on the mound Dobbs hit for Happ. Dobbs struck out swinging 2-2 for the second out. Rollins went down swinging as well to end the inning.

Victorino grounded to third to start the seventh with the Phils down 10-3. Utley was next and he blooped a ball into center field that fell in front of Schafer. Eric O’Flaherty hit Howard with a pitch to put men on first and second. Righty Peter Moylan came in to pitch to Werth and Werth drew a walk to load the bases. With two righties behind Ibanez, Moylan stayed in to pitch to the lefty and Ibanez singled into center (although the Braves probably didn’t have a choice with O’Flaherty out of the game). Everyone moved up a base with Utley scoring to make it 10-4. The bases were still loaded for Feliz, who followed with a single of his own. Again everyone moved up a base. 10-5. Ruiz was due to hit next and Manuel called on Stairs to hit for him. Mike Gonzalez was the lefty in the Atlanta pen besides O’Flaherty, but he had pitched in each of the first two games of the set and Moylan stayed in to face Stairs. Stairs walked, forcing in another run and it was 10-6 with the bases still loaded. Righty Blaine Boyer came in to pitch for the Braves and Coste hit for the pitcher Condrey. Coste walked. 10-7. Rollins walked 10-8. Righty Jorge Campillo came in to pitch to Victorino and Victorino singled into right. Everyone moved up another base. 10-9. Utley walked. 10-10 with the bases still loaded and one out for Howard. Howard chopped a slow ground ball to first that Kotchman took for the second out, but Rollins scored and the Phillies led for the first time this season, 11-10. Werth flew to right to end the inning.

That’s a rally that couldn’t have happened without the help of some relievers who couldn’t find the strike zone. Moylan and Boyer combined at allow two hits and four walks without getting an out.

The Phillies scored eight runs in the inning without an extra-base hit. They sent 13 hitters to the plate. Five walks, four singles, a hit by pitch and three outs. It was nice to see Stairs hit for Ruiz when he did, thought it was nicely played by Manuel.

Ibanez started the eighth with a walk and moved to third when Feliz followed with a double to left. Bruntlett hit for Madson and flew to center deep enough for Ibanez to tag and score, putting the Phils up 12-10. Coste was next and sent Feliz to third with a single, but the runners were left stranded when Rollins struck out and Victorino grounded to second.

Nice insurance run that the Phillies would need in the top of the ninth manufactured by the leadoff walk by Ibanez and the double by Feliz. A bad strikeout by Rollins with one out and men on first and third kept the Phillies from the second run they should have had.

Rollins was 0-for-5 with a walk, three strikeouts and an RBI in the game. He left five men on base. 1-for-14 with a single and a walk in the series.

Victorino was 2-for-6 with a triple and an RBI in the game. 2-for-13 with a walk in the set.

Utley 2-for-4 with a double and a walk yesterday. 4-for-11 with two walks in the series.

Howard 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the game. 3-for-12 in the set with some fantastic defense.

Werth 0-for-3 with two walks. 1-for-11 with two walks in the series.

Ibanez was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. 3-for-11 with two walks in the series.

Feliz 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. 2-for-9 with three walks in the series. He leads the Phils in walks.

Ruiz 1-for-2 with a walk. 3-for-9 with a walk in the series.

The Phillies don’t play today. Rockies tomorrow in Colorado.


The old man and the C-minus

Two games, two bad starts for the Phillies. Last night Kelly Johnson hit Jamie Moyer’s very first pitch of the season out to right. Things got better from there, they would have to, but not by a whole lot.

While Myers and Moyer didn’t impress in the first two games, it’s nothing compared to the struggles of the offense to put runs on the board. After scoring one run in the opener, the Phils were shutout last night. Manuel did make a change to the lineup, dropping Werth down to split up three big left-handed bats in a row. If nobody is going to hit, though, it doesn’t matter a lot where they do it.

The news isn’t all bad for the Phils. The bullpen has been absolutely outstanding in the first two games. In seven innings they haven’t allowed a hit or a walk. Jack Taschner has pitched three perfect frames. Clay Condrey, coming off a great spring, made his ’09 debut last night and looked fantastic.

The Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves last night, falling 4-0 to drop to 0-2 on the season.

Jamie Moyer got the start for the Phillies and went five innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and two home runs. He struck out two.

Kelly Johnson led off for Atlanta and hit Moyer’s first pitch of the game out to right to put Atlanta up 1-0. Moyer got Yunel Escobar to ground to short for the first out, but Chipper Jones was next and he doubled high off the wall in center. Brian McCann followed and hit a 1-2 pitch to second where it went under the glove of Utley for an error. Jones scored from second and it was 2-0. Garret Anderson moved McCann to second with a single to left, but Moyer got Jeff Francoeur to pop to Howard at first and Casey Kotchman on a ground ball to first to leave both men stranded.

Moyer walked Jordan Schafer to start the second and the pitcher Jair Jurrjens bunted him to second for the first out. Johnson fouled out to Feliz for the first out and Escobar flew to center for the third.

The Braves went in order in the third. Chipper went down swinging, McCann hit a hard ground ball to first that Howard handled and Anderson grounded to first less dramatically.

Francoeur led off the fourth with a bloop single to right. Kotchman was next and hit a 3-2 pitch back through the middle. The ball wasn’t hit especially hard and Rollins had a chance to field, but the ball went off Rollins’ glove. Francoeur went to third and Kotchman, who was given a hit, was safe at first. The hit call was right, but it’s a play that Rollins makes often. Moyer got Schafer to pop to short for the first out and struck Jurrjens out on three pitches for the second. Johnson was next and he hit a 2-1 pitch slowly to short. Rollins charged, fielded and threw to first but didn’t have a chance to get Johnson on a ball hit so slowly. Francoeur scored and Kotchman went to second with Atlanta up 3-0. Escobar slammed a 1-0 pitch into left field for a single. Kotchman came around second and tried to score, but Ibanez made a strong throw home that was online. Ruiz picked it on an in-between hop and put the tag on to end the inning. Nice throw by Ibanez and a nice catch and tag from Ruiz to record the out.

Chipper led off the fifth and blasted Moyer’s first pitch out to left. 4-0. McCann followed with a walk before Anderson popped to first for the first out. Francoeur was next and he his a soft fly ball to left. Ibanez charged and took it easily. Not a hard play and Ibanez made it look easy — Burrell probably would have gotten there, too, but it surely wouldn’t have looked easy. Kotchman flew to right to leave McCann stranded.

Second time in the game the Braves took Moyer deep on the first pitch of the at-bat.

Park, who won’t make his first start until Sunday against the Rockies, started the sixth inning with the Phils down four. He set the Braves down in order without much help from Feliz. Schafer hit a grounded to third that Feliz didn’t handle cleanly and then threw in the dirt. Howard made a nice scoop to record the first out. With two outs, Johnson popped a foul down the third base line that Feliz should have caught but didn’t as he shied away from the railing. Johnson flew to center to set Atlanta down.

Taschner pitched the seventh after throwing 17 pitches Sunday night and had an easy 1-2-3 inning, setting down Escobar, Jones and McCann on three ground balls.

He came back for the eighth, too, and again set Atlanta down in order. Francoeur hammered a ball out but foul and Utley made a nice sliding stop on a ground ball by Kotchman before throwing to first for the third out, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Condrey started the ninth, making his first appearance of the year coming off a very solid spring training. He struck Schafer out on four pitches for the first out. Greg Norton hit for the pitcher Rafael Soriano and Condrey struck him out as well. Johnson was next and hit a line drive to the left of Rollins. Rollins made a great play to knock the ball down and throw to first where Howard made another nice scoop to set Atlanta down.

More fantastic work from a Phillies bullpen that has not allowed a hit or a walk in seven innings to start the season. In this game they combined to throw four perfect innings. Taschner threw 26 pitches and Park 21, so we likely won’t see either of them this afternoon. Just 11 pitches for Condrey.

The Phillies lineup against righty Jair Jurrjens went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Werth (6) Ibanez (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Manuel splits up the lefties for game two, dropping Werth to the five-hold and moving Victorino up to hit second. That’s the way to go with those players in the lineup. Feliz starts against a righty for the second straight day, so if you were holding out hope that this was the year Dobbs and Feliz platoon, so far no good.

Utley and Howard singled back-to-back with two outs in the first, but Werth grounded to second to leave the runners stranded at first and third.

Ibanez led off the second and drove a ball into the gap in left-center. Anderson went after it and got to it, but the ball went off his glove. Ibanez was given a double. Didn’t help the Phils any, though. Feliz flew to right for the first out. Ruiz was next and he hit a ground ball to short. Escobar fielded and threw to third, where Ibanez was tagged out for the second out. Sounds like bad base-running by Ibanez, but it wasn’t. The ball was to his left, Escobar made an odd choice to go to third but it worked out for Atlanta. Moyer drew a walk to put men on first and second, but Rollins grounded back to the mound for the third out.

Phillies can’t score after the leadoff double.

Victorino and Utley struck out to start the third. Howard delivered a two-out single, but was left stranded when Werth flew to left. Werth looked like he had hit the ball very well, but Anderson took it in front of the track.

Down 3-0, the Phils went in order in the fourth.

Miguel Cairo hit for Moyer to start the fifth with the Phillies losing by four runs and hit a ball to second that Johnson didn’t handle for an error. Rollins flew to right for the first out before Victorino drew a walk. It put men on first and second with one down for Utley. Utley flew to center for the second out. Howard was next and hit the ball hard back up the middle, but that’s right where the Braves were playing him with the shift. Escobar took the ball behind second base and threw to second to force Victorino and end the inning.

Werth and Ibanez flew out to start the sixth before Feliz drew a walk. Righty Jeff Bennett came in to pitch to Ruiz and Ruiz smoked a single into left that sent Feliz to second. Stairs hit for Park and Atlanta called on lefty Eric O’Flaherty to pitch to him. He worked the count full and drove a ball into left-center, but Schafer tracked it down to leave both men stranded.

Utley singled to left-center with two down in the seventh, but O’Flaherty got Howard on another ground ball to Escobar for the third out.

Righty Rafael Soriano came in to pitch the eighth with Werth due to lead off. Werth struck out swinging for the first out. Ibanez was next and got to hit against the righty with the Phils down four. He hit a ball hard back to the mound and off of Soriano’s glove, but the pitcher was on it quickly and tossed to first to get Ibanez for the second out. Feliz drew a walk on four pitches, putting a man on for Ruiz. Ruiz hit it hard to left, but Anderson took it at the warning track to end the inning.

Lefty Mike Gonzalez started the ninth for Atlanta. Bruntlett hit for Condrey and lined to left for the first out. Rollins flew to Anderson on the warning track for the second out and Victorino flew to left-center to end the game.

Bruntlett as the best right-handed pinch-hitting option isn’t good. He really isn’t the guy you want as either your backup corner outfielder or your best right-handed pinch-hitter.

The second, when Ibanez led off with a double, and the fifth, when Cairo led off and reached on an error, were the best chances for the Phils to score. Maybe today.

Rollins was 0-for-5 and left three men on base.

Victorino 0-for-4 with a walk. Still looking for his first hit after a bad spring training.

Utley 2-for-4 with two singles and an error.

Howard 2-for-4. Made several nice plays at first base, digging out throws in the dirt from Rollins and Feliz.

Werth 0-for-4.

Ibanez 1-for-4 with a double.

Feliz 0-for-2 with two walks. Two walks in a game may seem like a big deal for Feliz, but it’s not unheard of. He did it three times just last year.

Ruiz 1-for-4.

Joe Blanton faces righty Javier Vazquez this afternoon. Blanton had a great spring and made one start against the Braves last year. On July 27 he went just two innings before being forced out of the game by a long rain delay. Anderson and Kotchman have both seen him a lot from their days in the AL. Anderson 314/368/371 against him in 35 at-bats. Kotchman 300/333/500 in 20 at-bats. Vazquez pitched for the White Sox in 2008 and didn’t face the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins has faced him a ton from Vazquez’s time with the Expos and Diamondbacks. 186/222/349 in 43 at-bats. Ibanez 5-for-14 (.357). Stairs 2-for-24 (.083). Amaro 0-for-1 with a strikeout (on June 6, 1998).


Take two

Jamie Moyer faces righty Jair Jurrjens tonight as the Phils play the second game of their season.

Moyer comes off a weak spring training in which he threw to an 8.27 ERA with a 1.94 ratio. He made two starts against the Braves in 2008, throwing to a 6.55 ERA with a 1.64 ratio. He pitched well against Atlanta on June 6 of last season, allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings. The Phils scored a run in the top of the ninth to tie the game with the help of a dropped popup by Kelly Johnson and won 4-3 in ten innings. On September 16 Moyer was hit hard by the Braves. He was charged with six runs over 5 2/3 innings. The Phils went into the seventh down 7-4, but scored four runs off the Atlanta pen to come away with an 8-7 win.

Garrett Anderson has 104 career at-bats against Moyer. He’s hit 317/327/567 (two walks in 104 at-bats). Chipper 5-for-13 (.385), McCann 8-for-18 (.444) with two homers. Kotchman 5-for-9 (.555) with five singles.

The 23-year-old Jurrjens comes off a nice 2008 season in which he went 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.37 ratio. He allowed just 11 home runs in 188 1/3 innings last year and fared well against both righties (260/320/367) and lefties (261/333/399).

He made four ’08 starts against the Phillies, throwing to a 3.38 ERA and a 1.07 ratio. July 3, July 25, September 17 and September 22. The July 25 start was the best. In that game Jurrjens went eight shutout innings and allowed three hits and a walk.

Feliz is 3-for-7 with a home against Jurrjens in his career. Ruiz 1-for-10. Utley 2-for-10 with a home run and four strikeouts. Howard 2-for-11 with a homer.

Jurrjens threw 29 1/3 innings in spring training, pitching to a 2.76 ERA and a 1.40 ratio.

Apparently it’s your interest that allows the Phillies to pay Ibanez $11.5 million in 2011 and Geoff Jenkins $8 million not to play at all. Way to go.


Lowed down

The Phils faced Derek Lowe for the third time since the end of the 2008 regular season last night. For the third time Lowe pitched well, but this time there was no throwing error from Furcal to fuel a Phillies rally and no late drama from Matt Stairs. Lowe and the Braves got the win as the Phillies lost on opening day for the fourth year in a row.

There will be two big topics of conversation among Phillies fans regarding last night’s game. One is a miserable first two innings from Myers and another will be the Phillies lineup that featured three straight lefties and didn’t come through in the ninth against Atlanta lefty Mike Gonzalez. Myers allowed four runs in the first two innings, but pitched well after allowing a double to Yunel Escobar to start the third. The Phillies don’t have enough right-handed bats and that problem isn’t going to go away. The problem that can and likely will go away is Utley, Howard and Ibanez hitting all in a row.

Lowe was really the story of the last night, though. He was simply outstanding. He held the Phils to two hits over eight innings, one of which was a double that may have been foul and came in an at-bat where the batter should have been retired on a foul ball that went off the glove of the right fielder. The three through seven hitters in the Phillies lineup combined to go 0-for-17 in the game.

The Phillies lost their opener last night, falling to the Braves 4-1.

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk, which was intentional. Five of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and three home runs. He struck out six.

He got the first two in the first before Chipper Jones flipped a single into left. Brian McCann was next and he got ahead 2-0 and blasted a ball out to right, putting Atlanta up 2-0. Myers got Garrett Anderson to ground to first for the third out.

Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning out to left to put Atlanta up 3-0. Myers struck out Casey Kotchman for the first out, bringing Jordan Schafer to the plate. Schafer was making his major league debut, but Myers quickly got behind 2-0 before throwing a 3-1 pitch in a terrible spot in the middle of the plate. Schafer crushed it out to center and it was 4-0. Myers got the next two.

Yunel Escobar led off the third and bombed a 1-0 pitch high off the wall in center for a double. Myers did a nice job to leave him stranded, though. He struck out Chipper for the first out and got McCann to foul out to Feliz for the second. Anderson grounded to third to set the Braves down.

Impressive job by Myers to keep Atlanta off the board, especially with Chipper and McCann looking to drive Escobar in. Those guys have killed Myers over his career and got him in the first.

Myers got the first two in the fourth before Schafer singled up the middle. Lowe was next and he lined a ball into the gap in right-center, but Werth tracked it down to end the frame.

Myers got the first two in the fifth before Chipper drove a ball to the left of Victorino. Victorino made a long run, but the ball went just over the end of his glove and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Myers struck McCann out on three pitches to turn Atlanta away.

Anderson led off the sixth and chopped a ball off the glove of Myers that bounded away from Utley for a single. Francoeur was next and hit a ball hard to third. Feliz didn’t field it cleanly and had to go to first for the first out with Anderson moving to second. Kotchman was next and hit a soft ground ball to second for the second out. It moved Anderson to third with two down and Myers walked Schafer intentionally to bring up the pitcher Derek Lowe. Lowe tried to bunt Myers’ first pitch but popped it up foul. Myers got ahead 0-2 and struck Lowe out looking 3-2 to leave the runners stranded.

Jack Taschner made his Phillies debut in the seventh against the top of the Atlanta order. He got the first two, with Escobar grounding hard to Utley for the second out, before striking Chipper out looking to end the frame.

Scott Eyre started the eighth with the Phils still down 4-0. McCann led off the inning and Eyre got behind him 3-0, but came back to strike him out for the first out. McCann’s fellow lefty Anderson was next and flew to left for the second out. Durbin came in to pitch to the righty Francoeur and struck him out looking 1-2 for the third out.

Lidge started the ninth in a non-save situation with the Phils not scheduled to play today and set the Braves down 1-2-3. After Lidge got the first two, Greg Norton hit for Lowe. Lowe had allowed two hits through eight innings and hadn’t walked a batter. He had thrown 97 pitches.

Great game for the Phillies bullpen. They went three innings without allowing a hit or a walk. Taschner threw 17 pitches and everyone else was ten or less the day before an off-day.

The Phillies lineup against righty Derek Lowe went (1) Rollins (2) Werth (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Ibanez (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Three lefties in a row in Manuel’s lineup three through five. I think we’ll likely see Werth moving down to break up the lefties and Victorino hitting second before too long. Victorino had a weak spring and I wonder if that was a factor. Coste almost always catches Myers, or at least he did in 2008 (Coste caught about 77% of the hitters Myers faced last season).

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the first. Utley flew to the warning track in right for the third out.

Howard struck out to start the second. Ibanez was next, getting his first at-bat as a Phillie, and grounded to short. Victorino grounded to short to end the inning.

Feliz popped to Johnson in shallow center for the first out of the third. Ruiz was next and popped the first pitch of his at-bat down the first base line. Francoeur and Johnson both went after it near the foul line, but Francoeur had the ball go off his glove in foul territory. It gave Ruiz new life and he took advantage of it, doubling down the third base line for the first hit of the year for the Phils (looked foul to me). The Phils couldn’t bring him in, though, Myers grounded to short and Rollins flew softly to left.

Lowe got Werth, Utley and Howard on three ground balls in the fourth.

Ibanez slapped another ground ball to short for the first out in the fifth. Lowe struck out Victorino and Feliz to end the inning.

Ruiz grounded to short for the first out in the sixth. Dobbs hit for Myers and drove a ball to the warning track in right, but Francoeur took it for the second out. Rollins was next and he singled up the middle for just the Phils’ second hit of the night. Werth lined a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, but Lowe snared it for the third out.

Dobbs, Rollins and Werth all hit the ball well in that frame, with three big lefties due to hit behind them. Just one hit, though, with Dobbs flying out and Lowe putting Werth away.

Lowe set Utley, Howard and Ibanez down on six pitches in the seventh.

He needed just eight pitches to set the Phils down in order in the eighth. Victorino and Ruiz both swung at the first pitch and grounded out.

Lefty Mike Gonzalez started the ninth with a four-run lead. Bruntlett hit for Lidge and hit a 1-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Rollins flew to right for the first out, deep enough to move Bruntlett to third. Werth was next and he smashed a single into left, scoring Bruntlett to cut the Atlanta lead to 4-1. Utley walked on a 3-1 pitch that was way outside and it brought Howard to the plate as the tying run. Howard took a 2-2 pitch just low to run the count full, but struck out looking at a 3-2 fastball that had a lot of the plate for the second out. Ibanez waived at a 3-1 slider that was out of the zone and then struck out swinging at a fastball to end the game.

Had Bruntlett not ripped a double, there would be much lamenting the right-handed pinch-hitting options for the Phils. Bruntlett, Cairo and Coste just isn’t an especially impressive group offensively and that’s going to be a problem all season long (even if it wasn’t last night).

Rollins was 1-for-4.

Werth 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Utley 0-for-3 with a walk.

Howard 0-for-4 and struck out twice.

Ibanez 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Victorino 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Feliz 0-for-3 and struck out twice.

Ruiz 1-for-3 with a double.

No game today. The Phils and Braves play again tomorrow night.

Update: The Start Log is now updated for last night’s game. By the game score of the opposing pitcher, I believe that Lowe’s outing last night was the best against the Phillies since the end of the 2006 season with the exception of Rich Harden’s start against them on June 26, 2008. Oakland beat the Phils 5-0 that day and Harden had a game score of 88 (Lowe 82 last night). Harden allowed two singles, both to Victorino, and struck out 11 (he walked one).


For openers

Brett Myers faces Derek Lowe tomorrow night as the Phillies open their season against the Atlanta Braves.

Myers comes off a solid spring. In five starts he threw to a 3.52 ERA with a 1.26 ratio. He walked just six hitters in 23 innings, a rate of 2.34 per nine innings that’s better than his career mark of 3.15. He made two starts against the Braves in 2008 and was hit hard in both. He was hammered on May 14, allowing eight runs over 4 1/3 innings. On September 24 he also lasted just 4 1/3 and was charged with six runs. Overall he was 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA and a 2.77 ratio against Atlanta last season.

Chipper Jones and Brian McCann both have a lot of at-bats against Myers and have hit him hard. Chipper is 10-for-30 with three home runs against him (333/474/667). McCann 10-for-27 with four doubles and a home run (370/414/630). Martin Prado 3-for-3. Kelly Johnson just 3-for-17.

Lowe made one regular season start against the Phils in 2008. While with the Dodgers, he allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings on August 11. Jimmy Rollins hit a seventh-inning triple off of Chan Ho Park in that game.

Lowe also started games one and four of the NLCS for Los Angeles and allowed four earned runs over 10 1/3 innings in the two starts combined. Lowe pitched very well in game one of the NLCS, but a Rafael Furcal error in the sixth was followed by a home run by Utley and another by Burrell. The Phils won that game 3-2. Game four featured a late home run by Matt Stairs off of Jonathan Broxton.

Lowe had a nice spring as well, making six starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.08 ratio. In 26 innings he walked just two.

The Phillies have a lot of ugly career numbers against Lowe. Feliz 5-for-23 (.217). Ibanez 2-for-19 (.105) with two home runs. Howard 2-for-16 (.125) with two singles. Rollins and Utley are among the exceptions. Rollins 6-for-20 (.300) with two doubles. Utley 5-for-14 with three doubles (.357).

The Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 at Citizens Bank Park last night. Jason Donald won it with a walk-off RBI single to right in the bottom of the ninth.

Blanton got the start and was very good yet again, allowing two runs on six hits. Again he didn’t get hurt by the walk — he struck out three and didn’t walk a batter. Durbin, Eyre, Madson and Lidge all pitched scoreless innings. None of those guys seem likely to pitch today given that the Phils play a game that counts tomorrow.

Werth was 2-for-3 with a double. Coste 0-for-3 with a walk. Bruntlett 0-for-2 and walked twice.

Burrell was 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.

Cole Hamels is on the mound this afternoon as the Phils face the Rays again (Burrell homered off of him in the first).

I would like to point out that the money the Phillies have to pay Jenkins this season not to play is very similar to the amount they presumably would have had to pay to have Burrell on the team in ’09. The Phils owe Jenkins $6.75 million in salary plus a $1.25 million buyout for 2010. That’s $8 million. Burrell signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Rays. I think we’re going to miss Pat’s bat this year.

Update: 4/5 The Phils 25-man roster is set and includes Miguel Cairo. Miguel Cairo and Eric Bruntlett is too many backup infielders to have on your team that includes 13 hitters (too many by one).

Philliesflow maintains a Start Log, which is a record of the performances by starting pitchers on the squad. The ’09 version is ready for action. You can view the older Start Logs here.


North henceforth

Have you heard tell of the legend of Greg Maddux that had him allowing guys to hit home runs off of him during spring training so he could surprise them with a totally different approach in at-bats that count? Let’s hope that’s what Jamie Moyer was doing yesterday. With everyone. Especially with Ryan Zimmerman. Moyer got blasted yesterday as the Nats beat the Phils 12-10 in the final Florida game of the Phils’ spring training.

The Phils head north with a 12-18-2 spring training record.

Moyer went just four innings, allowing nine runs on 11 hits and two walks. Zimmerman homered off of him twice. Austin Kearns hit a solo shot in the fourth. Taschner tried to keep pace but fell short, allowing just two home runs. He only pitched an inning, though, so it’s remarkable nonetheless. Cristian Guzman and Alex Cintron both got Taschner for solo shots in the eighth. Condrey tossed two scoreless frames to drop his spring ERA to 1.46. Durbin allowed a run on two hits in the seventh.

Feliz had a huge day with the bat for the Phils, 4-for-5 with three doubles and a home run. He started the day hitting 205/220/231 for spring training and ended it with a slightly more impressive 273/283/432 line. Howard hit his tenth home run of the spring, a two-run shot off of Scott Olsen in the first. Stairs was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer, raising his spring average to .255. Victorino went 1-for-4, dropping his average to .214.

The Phillies play Tampa Bay tonight in Philadelphia.

A number of Phillies have been outstanding in Florida, including:

  • Howard: 310/390/746 with ten home runs and a team high 24 RBI.
  • Bruntlett: 370/483/548. Two home runs and seven doubles. Led the Phils with 13 walks.
  • Rollins: 355/429/581 with three home runs in 31 at-bats.
  • Werth: 308/347/662 with six home runs.
  • Ruiz: 351/381/622 with a pair of home runs in 42 plate appearances.
  • Ibanez 308/372/462 in 78 at-bats.
  • Condrey: 1.46 ERA with a 1.05 ratio in ten appearances.
  • Blanton: Threw 22 innings with a 2.45 ERA and an 0.82 ratio. Walked just two batters all spring.
  • Park: 21 1/3 innings. 25 to 2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 2.53 ERA and a 1.03 ratio.
  • Myers: 23 innings with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.26 ratio.
  • Koplove: Struck out nine in 9 1/3 innings with an 0.96 ERA and an 0.96 ratio (not a typo, his ERA and ratio were the same). Looking forward to seeing him pitch for the Phillies.
  • Madson: 2.03 ERA but a 1.43 ratio. Did not walk a batter in 13 1/3 innings, but allowed 19 hits. Opponents hit .328 against him.

There were some guys who struggled, too:

  • Coste: 4-for-32 with four singles and 13 strikeouts. 125/275/125. He did draw five walks.
  • Victorino: 9-for-42. 214/267/310. Didn’t steal a base and drove in just two runs.
  • Dobbs: 13-for-50 with three doubles. 260/333/320.
  • Moyer: Made five starts in which he threw to an 8.27 ERA with a 1.94 ratio. He also struck out 17 in 20 2/3 innings, so let’s cross our fingers he was just messing around.
  • Taschner: Ten appearances between the Giants and Phils he put up a 6.75 ERA and a 2.53 ratio. He also allowed three runs that were unearned. In 10 2/3 innings he issued 14 walks. I’m writing that one again, just because it seems important: In 10 2/3 innings he issued 14 walks. I truly have my fingers crossed about Taschner, but it’s pretty hard for me to see that one working out for the Phils. I’m still holding out some hope they let him start the season in AAA, cause I would be very surprised if he makes a positive contribution in the short term.
  • Eyre: Struck out 15 in ten innings, but posted a 6.30 ERA and a 1.30 ratio. His numbers suffered from a single terrible outing against the Yankees on March 26 when he gave up five runs in an inning.

Chris Coste’s family and Fargo home are safe from flood waters. Now if he could just get Shane Victorino to stop calling him in the middle of the night.

Roster-shaping events are surely coming. I’ll try to post the links as I see them, but there are a host of sites that are better if you’re looking to get the news first, including High Cheese, The Phillies Zone and The Zo Zone.

Baseball-Reference has a new look.

Update: Jon Heyman says that Gary Sheffield will sign with the Mets.

More update: Happ and Taschner have made the opening day roster to pitch out of the bullpen. Majewski will go to the minors after the exhibition games. Ugh.

Ad: Ticketcity has tickets for tonight’s game and regular season games.


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