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Splitsville
April 9 2006

Phillies won their first game of the year today, splitting a double-header with the Dodgers.  Their record sits at 1-5. 

Bobby Abreu won the first game with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off of Tim Hamulack.

Ryan Madson started his first game of the season and the second of his career.  He gave up three runs, only one of which was earned. 

The Phillies lineup against Derek Lowe looked like it has versus most righties -- Rowand looks to be settled in the two spot while Bell played third and batted seventh.  Both of those players are struggling early, Bell ended the day with his average at .071, Rowand at .222.  Rowand made an error today but it looked as if he just lost the ball in the sun. 

The Phillies pen again did a nice job in game one.  Madson left in the sixth and was followed by Rhodes, Franklin and Gordon, who combined to hold the Dodgers to one walk without a hit for the final three innings. 

Jon Lieber pitched game two coming off of a terrible start on opening day.  He was much better today, going seven innings and giving up just two earned runs.  Aaron Fultz, on the other hand, got shelled, giving up four earned runs on six hits and getting just four outs. 

The lineup was a weird second-game-of-a-double-header/Sunday afternoon game thing.  Victorino started in center and hit second.  He made a great throw in the fourth inning to throw Sandy Alomar out at the plate to keep the game at 2-1. 

Dellucci played left for Burrell and batted fifth.  He went 0-for-4. 

Alex Gonzalez started at first base, which is not a good sign.  There's got to be a better way.  Dellucci has never appeared at first base in his career.  Burrell has played 58 games there, but none since 2000.  How about an extra game a week for Victorino or Dellucci to give Burrell his rest and Burrell at first when Howard needs a day off?

Nunez started third and went 2-for-4.  He's at .250 for the year.  Fasano caught the second game and batted eighth. 

The Phillies stole their first two bases of the year, one by Abreu and one by Rollins. 

In the two games, Phillies batters in the #1 and #2 slot went a combined 5-for-16 with one walk.  For the season they are 12-for-42 (.286) with one walk, one hit by pitch and one sacrifice fly (.311 on-base percentage).

Phillies play Atlanta tomorrow.  Brett Myers vs. John Thomson at 7:05.  The Phillies are in last place in the NL East, 3 1/2 games behind the first place Mets.

Four losses of the Philadelphians
April 8 2006

On Monday, March 31, the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Charlie Manuel, talking about the decision to put Gavin Floyd in the staring rotation, as saying:  "He could get the [stuff] kicked out of him and he's still going to get a chance.  And he's going to get another chance. And he'll get a chance until I decide I've seen enough. And sometimes it takes a long time."

Last night, Floyd got the [stuff] kicked out of him against the Dodgers.  The Phillies lost 5-3 to fall to 0-4 on the season.  He didn't pitch well, allowing five runs, three of them earned, on six hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings.  The Phillies didn't help him out defensively -- Howard made a first inning error and the Phillies gave the Dodgers an extra out in the second as Sal Fasano tried to throw Dioner Navarro out at third on a Tomko bunt.  The Phillies didn't record an out on the play.

Even with the defensive miscues, Floyd looked a lot more like the guy with the 6.16 ERA at Triple-A last year than the guy with four good starts in spring training.  He allowed the leadoff man aboard in each of the three innings he pitched.  You could see some reason to hope, however, as he snapped off some truly gorgeous breaking balls.  Sadly most of the fastballs he threw either weren't near the plate or put Phillies fielders at risk of blunt force trauma-type injuries.

The lineup against righty Brett Tomko featured Bell at third and Sal Fasano starting his first game at catcher for the Phillies.  Bell batted seventh and went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .100.

Fasano seemed to add a spark.  He's fun to watch and I even like his aggressive mistake trying to get the out at third on Tomko's bunt.  He hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, complete with a dramatic ball toss.  The game also featured some conferences at the mound with Floyd that included some interesting body language.  No way to know for sure but it looked like the message might have been less "Gosh, Gavin, these guys sure are good.  Just keep doing your best" and more, "You're pitching like [stuff].  Throw a strike."

Floyd left with two outs in the bottom of the third and the bases loaded.  Julio Santana came on and was excellent -- he got JD Drew to pop out to Utley and pitched three innings after that without allowing a hit or a run (he walked two).  After Santana, Aaron Fultz pitched two scoreless and Ryan Franklin shut the Dodgers down in the ninth.

Jimmy Rollins had three hits.  Pat Burrell hit another homer, his second of the year and his second off of righties.  Aaron Rowand has been slow out of the gate -- he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as his average dropped to .143.

The Phillies walked one time, the Dodgers seven.

The Phillies looked absolutely befuddled by Dodgers relievers Hong-Chih Kuo and Danys Baez.  The two combined to throw three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six.

In the bottom of the eighth, with two lefties in a row due to bat, Abreu and Utley, Grady Little allowed lefty Hong-Chih Kuo to return to start his second inning.  The Phillies went down 1-2-3.  Three of the Phillies four best hitters (Abreu, Utley, Burrell, Howard) are left-handed.  Obviously two of them will have to bat in a row -- Burrell can only split one pair of them up.  I'm a little surprised to see Burrell hitting fifth with Utley cleanup early in the season, but, however Manuel does it he has to have two lefties back-to-back.

Another interesting decision on the night, and one to watch as the season progresses, is when to use the best hitter on the bench, which will usually be Dellucci.  Last night they used him down two with two outs in the ninth and the bases empty.  He doubled, breaking up a string of fifteen Phillies in a row retired by Kuo and Baez.  He was followed by Abraham Nunez who replaced Bell on a double-switch.  Nunez flew out to left and the game was over.  The choice here is to use your best hitter off the bench before he has a chance to tie the game or wait and risk not using him at all.  The choice they didn't go with is to let someone else pinch hit for Fasano and give Dellucci a chance to tie it if they get on by having Dellucci hit for Nunez.  I would have done it the way Manuel did (and would have lost, too). 

Aaron Rowand made a tremendous catch off the bat of Bill Mueller to end the top of the ninth.  And how often do you see it?  The guy that makes the great play to end the inning is due up sixth the next inning.

The Phillies made another error, their fifth of the season.  Their opponents have made none.  Phillies haven't stolen a base but have allowed five without throwing anyone out.

Phillies #1 and #2 batters went 3-for-8 with three strikeouts and no walks.  For the season they are 7-for-32 with zero walks. 

Elsewhere yesterday, the Braves won to improve to 3-2, the Mets beat the Marlins and the Nats fell to the Astros.  The Phillies start today in last place in the NL East, three games behind the 3-1 Mets and 2 1/2 behind the Braves.

Derek Lowe and Ryan Madson today at 3:05, weather and intestinal fortitude permitting.

I'm ready to Think Blue I just don't know what it means
April 7 2006

It appears whoever is writing the team slogans pasted all over the Major League Baseball's team web sites is getting paid by the word and has strict instructions not to exceed three.  The Phillies are saddled with "Red Means Go" while the Dodgers have to live with "Think Blue."  The whole thing is looking a little formulaic and the infatuation with the colors is out of hand given there's only about four color combinations in play for Major League teams.  The poor Baltimore Orioles are stuck with "Orange-ya-glad-I-didn't-say-banana."

The Dodgers roll into town tonight at 1-2, coming off a series with the Braves that featured three one-run games.

Los Angeles finished 71-91 in '05, in fourth place in the NL West and 11 games behind division winner San Diego.  They dropped to 71 wins last year after five straight years of being .500 or better.  The '05 rotation featured of Derek Lowe, Jeff Weaver, Brad Penny, and, for much of the year, DJ Houlton and Odalis Perez.  Lowe, Penny and Perez remain in the rotation this year, and they will be rounded out by Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  Tomko, Lowe and Penny are likely to go against the Phillies.

Offensively, the Dodgers come in banged up.  Former Philly Kenny Lofton, brought in to play center field, is on the DL, which means we may see a lot of Jason Repko out there this series.  First baseman Nomar Garciaparra is also on the DL.  His backup is Olmedo Saenz, who left yesterday's game in the fourth inning with a back problem.  James Loney, who won't be 22 until May, came in to replace him at first base.  Saenz should be okay to play in the series, but whether it's Saenz or Loney it's a step down from Albert Pujols.

Dioner Navarro and Sandy Alomar will share the catching duties.  Bill Mueller at third and Jose Cruz, Jr. in left. 

Jeff Kent was the Dodgers best hitter last year,  posting a 289/377/512 line and hitting 29 home runs in 553 at-bats.  He left Wednesday's game after being hit by a pitch on his left arm but is expected to play this series at second base.  New acquisition Rafael Furcal is also likely to play at short -- he was kicked in the shin accidentally by Andruw Jones on Wednesday.  If either Furcal or Kent was unable to play we would likely see backup infielder Ramon Martinez filling in.

JD Drew should be in right if he avoids injury on the flight into town.  He's been just awesome when he's played but managed 300 at-bats just once in the past three years on three different teams.  Former Philly Ricky Ledee is backing him up and I'm guessing he's not spending much time in the clubhouse while the game is in progress.

And then there's the pen, which is led by the unhittable Eric Gagne.  Sadly for the Dodgers, any contribution Eric Gagne makes today will have to come from the operating table where he is having surgery to remove a nerve in his elbow.  He is out indefinitely and replaced by the not so unhittable Danys Baez in the back of the pen.  The rest of the pen was apparently chosen on the criteria of how funny the player's name was.  It includes righties Yhancy Brazoban, Franquelis Osoria and lefties Hong-Chih Kuo and Tim Hamulack.  Righty Lance Carter is also in the pen as well, but is no doubt the object of much ridicule.  Middle relievers can be so cruel. 

Kuo struck out ten batters in 5 1/3 innings for the Dodgers last year and another fourteen in twelve spring training innings this year.  Brazoban and Carter both struggled last year.  Hamulack will be 30 in Novmeber and has pitched 2 1/3 innings in the majors, all last year with the Mets.

The Dodgers will call up right-handed reliever Takashi Saito when they put Gagne on the DL today.  Saito is 36 and played in Japan for 14 years.  According to a Rob Neyer column, which you can read here, Saito can't speak a word of English but can do a remarkable rendition of Hey, Jude.  If it comes down to karaoke in the late innings the Phillies may be in trouble.

Brett Tomko starts tonight for Los Angeles, pitching on his 33rd birthday.  Tomko's not as bad as you think, 81-73 for his career with a 4.52 ERA, but it should be a nice chance of pace from Chris Carpenter.  Tomko is a righty who doesn't strike out a lot of batters and has allowed more than a hit an inning over his career.

Tonight will be the third time the Phillies face a righty -- they threw out different lineups in the first two.  Should be interesting to see who starts at 3B and where they bat -- I would guess Bell and seventh.  I was a little surprised we didn't see Sal Fasano yesterday afternoon in a day game after a night game, but it's still very early.  I expect he'll start on Sunday when Lieber goes but we may not see him before then.  Liberthal has been good at the plate thus far, going 4-for-11 (.364) with a double and a walk.

The Phillies need to beat somebody and Brett Tomko and the Dodgers seems like a good a place as any to start.  It's a long, long season and it's not time to panic yet, although if the Dodgers do sweep the Phillies and they fall to 0-6 I may be ready to take a shot at thinking blue.

Not in the Cards
April 6 2006

The Phillies fell to the St Louis Cardinals today for the third straight game, losing 4-2.  Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-4, ending his hit streak at 38.

The Phillies jumped to a 2-0 lead on doubles by Chase Utley and Mike Lieberthal.

Phillies starter Cory Lidle cruised through four innings before the Cards put up a four spot in a fifth inning that included two David Bell errors.  Bell had a tough day coming off of a nice night last night, he went 0-for-4 and left five men on base.

Cardinals starter Jason Marquis went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks.  Marquis gave way to four Cardinals relievers who combined to hold the Phillies hitless for the final 3 2/3 innings of the game.

Phillies allowed two more stolen bases, giving the Cardinals four for the series without being thrown out.

Charlie Manuel put out a different lineup than we saw on opening day.  Today, against the righty Marquis he put Bell in the seven spot and Rowand in the two-hole.  On Monday, Nunez was at third base and batted second -- not sure why the change, but this looks like the better lineup. 

In the bottom of the sixth the Phillies had Abreu on second (single) and Burrell on first (walk) with one out and Ryan Howard at the plate.  The Cards took out Marquis, replacing him with lefty Ricardo Rincon who struck out Howard.  They then brought in Hancock to pitch to David Bell.  I doubt there was any temptation to do it, but the Phillies best pinch hitter, Dellucci was on the bench and would have looked good in that spot against the righty Hancock.  That's a tough move to make in the sixth inning to take a guy with Bell's experience out -- the Phillies didn't and Bell grounded out.  The Phillies did get Dellucci up with a chance to tie the game -- after Mike Lieberthal led off the seventh with a walk Dellucci pinch hit for pitcher Geary and flew out.  The Phillies didn't manage a base runner in the eighth or ninth so that was really their last chance.

For the series, Phillies one and two hitters combined to go 4-for-24 with no walks.  Cardinals batters were issued fourteen walks while Phillies walked seven times.

The Cardinals lineup relies on the heart of their order, Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen, who combined for four home runs and ten RBI in the three games.  Aaron Miles and Skip Schumaker combined to go 10-for-22 (.455) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and three walks.

The Phillies made four errors, the Cardinals none.

The Dodgers come to town tomorrow at 1-2, coming off a a series against the Braves.  Gavid Floyd faces Brett Tomko in a 7:05 game.

Angel's in the infield
April 6 2006

The Phillies claimed shortstop Angel Chavez off of waivers from San Francisco and assigned him to Double-A Reading.  He will be 25 in June and went 5-for-19 with a double for the Giants last year.  He appeared in ten games, playing second, third and short.

Chavez spent most of last year at Triple-A Fresno in the PCL, posting a 281/320/449 line and hitting 17 doubles and 11 home runs in 334 at-bats.  His .320 on-base percentage in '05 was the highest of his career for any season where he got 200 at-bats.  He has walked 134 times in 2,349 minor league at-bats.  The .449 slugging percentage looks good, Lyle Overbay slugged .449 last year for the Brewers while hitting 34 doubles and 19 home runs in 537 at-bats, but Angel's numbers were put up in the Pacific Coast League, which is extremely hitter friendly.  His .449 slugging percentage was only good enough for eighth best among hitters with more than 200 at-bats on his Fresno team in '05.

If you're looking for signs of hope, he had a big spring training for the Giants.  He went 17-for-58 (.293) with ten doubles.  The Giants waived Chavez to make room on their 40-man roster for catcher Todd Greene.

The Phillies minor league teams kick off their schedules tonight.  Scranton Wilkes-Barre plays Columbus as 30 year-old Allen Davis goes against Sean Henn.  In Double-A action Scott Mathieson takes the hill against Bowie's James Johnson.  Cole Hamels is scheduled to start in Florida for Clearwater, so if you run out of stuff to do you can try holding your breath.

0-fer
April 6 2006

The Phillies are sure to get a win somewhere along the way this year, but not last night as they fell to the St Louis Cardinals for the second straight game, this time 4-3.

Mark Mulder was on the hill for the Cards, giving us a first look at the Phillies lineup against a left-handed starter.  Manuel went with Rowand hitting second, Howard sixth and David Bell seventh.

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and was off his game.  He gave up three earned runs on five hits and five walks in five innings, including solo home runs to Albert Pujols and Skip Schumaker.  Schumaker had 15 home runs and a .377 slugging percentage in his minor league career, which included 2,014 at-bats.  You may have already noticed, but Albert Pujols is killing the Phillies.  He's hit three home runs and driven in five in the first two games of the series.  Pujols had three home runs in the Cardinals' last spring training game, March 31 against the Mets, giving him six in his last three games.

Jimmy Rollins doubled in his first at-bat to extend his hitting streak to 38.  He ended the day 2-for-4 with two doubles. 

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both started against the lefty.  Utley is likely to start almost all games this year, regardless of the starter, but there are still some questions about Howard after his struggles last season against southpaws.  Utley looked absolutely awful in his first at-bat, striking out and looking bad as Mulder threw him breaking pitch after breaking pitch.  He came back strong against Mulder in his second at-bat, smoking a solid single.  Utley ended the day 1-for-4.   Howard went 1-for-3 with a walk.  Against Mulder he grounded out and grounded into a double-play before singling in the seventh.

David Bell went 1-for-3 with a walk and had the Phillies biggest hit of the game, a two-run homer in the seventh off of Mulder to tie the game at three.  In the ninth, with the Phillies down 4-3, he also drew a crucial walk against tough right-handed closer Jason Isringhausen.  Bell's walk loaded the bases with two outs, but the game ended when Mike Lieberthal grounded out to first. 

Geoff Geary followed Myers, allowing two hits but no runs as his struck out two.  Ryan Franklin made his first appearance for the Phillies, going two scoreless innings while allowing a hit and two walks. 

Tom Gordon pitched the ninth, entering the game in a 3-3 tie to pitch to the heart of the Cardinals order.  He walked Pujols (fine with me) and struck out Edmonds.  With Rolen at the plate, Pujols stole second and Lieberthal threw the ball into center field, allowing Pujols to go to third.  Lieberthal looked bad on both of the Cardinals stolen bases in the game, having trouble getting the ball out of his glove when Schumaker stole second and throwing it into center in the ninth.  Rolen hit a hard ground ball to Rollins at short, who made a nice play with the infield in to throw home in time to get Pujols -- Lieberthal did a great job of blocking the plate and applying the tag.  With two outs and Rolen on first, Schumaker walked and Yadier Molina drove in the eventual game winner with a single to left. 

Looking at some of the game's strategy, one move came early as the Phillies had Rowand bunt after Rollins led off the game with a double.  It accomplished what they were trying to -- a nice bunt by Rowand and a sacrifice fly by Abreu got them a run and a 1-0 lead.  I would have let Rowand hit.

Ryan Franklin came in to a tough situation in the seventh and got Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen to go 1-2-3.  He came back in the eighth, got the first two batters before walking Aaron Miles and pinch hitter John Rodriguez and allowing an infield single to Eckstein to load the bases.  The Phillies left Franklin in to pitch to Juan Encarnacion -- I would have gone to someone else here.  Arthur Rhodes doesn't make sense against the righty Encarnacion so I guess it would have been Santana.  The Phillies didn't, they kept Franklin in, and it worked great.  Encarnacion grounded out.  Encarnacion had a tough day, leaving nine runners on base. 

The Phillies brought Gordon in for the ninth in a 3-3 tie to pitch to the heart of the Cardinals order.  I love this -- if the Phillies think Gordon's their best pitcher that's when to have him on the mound, regardless of whether it's a save situation or not.  The other choice was Rhodes but bringing in a lefty to face Pujols leading off might not have gone so well.   Things went a little backwards after that -- Flash walked righty Pujols and struck out lefty Edmonds before Pujols started running wild and Molina eventually won it.

In summary, the moves I didn't like worked out great for the Phillies.  The one I liked didn't.  If you need me I'll be not-quitting-my-day-job.

The Cardinals looked like they pitched around Howard in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and Victorino on second (who pinch ran for Burrell after Pat singled) to get to Bell.  I would have done the same thing, although it did put the winning run on first base in Howard.  Bell did a nice job to work a walk.

Elsewhere in the NL East yesterday, the Nats beat the Mets 9-5 in extra-innings after tying the game in the ninth on Ryan Zimmerman's home run off of Billy Wagner.  Marlins lost to Houston 6-5 and the Braves beat the Dodgers 9-8.  Phillies start today in last place in the NL East, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves.

Cory Lidle and Jason Marquis today at 3:05.

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