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Woe is Sun-Woo
April 15 2006

The Phillies won their third straight last night, beating the Rockies 10-8 in Colorado to improve to 4-6 on the season.

Ryan Madson got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings.  He allowed four runs, three of them earned, on 11 hits and two walks.  He got the win and his record stands at 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA after two starts.

Madson left after seven with the Phillies seemingly in charge, up 10-4.  Julio Santana pitched the eighth and got the Rockies without a whimper.  Santana started the ninth and hit the first batter, walked the next and then allowed a single and a double before being removed for Arthur Rhodes.   Rhodes struck out Brad Hawpe, the only batter he faced.   Closer Tom Gordon then entered the game, looking for his third straight save.  Holliday was on second, his three-run double had made it 10-7, and there was one out. 

Gordon got Luis Gonzalez to ground out and walked pinch hitter Jason Smith.  Holliday went to third on the ground out, so it was first and third with two outs.  Miguel Ojeda was the pinch hitter and he singled to left but Smith was thrown out at third by Victorino in left, violating the baseball maxim stating you should never lose the game for your team trying to go to third when it's absolutely meaningless whether you're on third or second.

The Phillies were seeing the ball well against Rockies pitching.  Sun-Woo Kim had his best outing of the year.  He come on in the third to relieve rocked Rockies starter Zach Day and went 3 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs to lower his ERA to 19.80.

Chase Utley was 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI.  In the last two days he is 5-for-9 with four home runs and nine RBI.  Since moving to the fifth spot in the batting order he's gone 5-for-18 (.277) after a slow start.

Rowand was 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and a hit by pitch.  The walk was Rowand's first while hitting in the two hole in the lineup, which he's done for most of the season.  For the season, including games where he's out of the two-hole, he's walked as many times as he's been hit by pitches (2).  Lieberthal was 3-for-3 with a double.  Ryan Madson was 3-for-3 on the day and got his first Major League hit.

Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-6, striking out twice and leaving five men on base.  Since his first inning home run off of Kyle Davis yesterday he's gone 1-for-10.  His average sits at .341.

The Phillies #1 and #2 hitters went 3-for-10 with a walk and a hit by pitch.  For the season they're 27-for-81 (.333) with three walks, two hit by pitch and one sac fly (.368 OBP).

The Mets won for the seventh straight game, beating the Brewers 4-3.  They are 8-1 and lead the Phillies by 4 1/2 games.  Braves beat the Padres 5-4 and are in second place, a half game up on the Phillies at 5-6.  The Fish beat the Nats.

Rolling Rocks
April 14 2006

The Phils visit Colorado tonight as they kick off a three game series with the Rockies.  The Rockies are in first place in the NL West with a 6-3 record and coming off of a three-game set with Arizona in which Colorado took two of three.  They have won five of their last six.

The Rockies come into the series fifth in the league in scoring, having put up 57 runs in their nine games and are batting .298.  The Phillies have scored 38 runs in their nine games and are hitting .260.  After opening at home against Arizona and going 1-2, the Rockies went to San Diego where they banged out 32 runs in three games in spacious Petco Park while sweeping the Padres.  They then went to Arizona and won two of three.

Last year the Rockies finished at 67-95 and in last place in the NL West.  They were fifth in the National League in scoring despite having no player hit more than 20 home runs.

Their '05 offense was led by first baseman Todd Helton and left fielder Matt Holliday.  Both are back this year.  Helton has posted a 379/581/690 line in the early going and has walked 13 times in 29 at-bats.  Holliday is 9-for-34 (.265) in the early going with no walks.

Right fielder Brad Hawpe is hitting .382 with four home runs so far this season.  Center fielder Cory Sullivan is also back from last year and hitting .350 so far.  The infield features several of the same faces from last year, Garrett Atkins back at third and Clint Barmes at short, both coming off of lackluster seasons in '05.  The other Luis Gonzalez was expected to play a lot at second base this year but has missed some time early in the season with a wrist problem.  Former Tiger Jason Smith has gotten a lot of playing time early in the year and is hitting .450 with three home runs in 20 at-bats.  Smith will be 29 in June and entered the season a career .234 hitter.

Rockies have allowed 43 runs, eighth best in the league.  Phillies have allowed 51, eleventh best.

The Colorado rotation features Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Zach Day and Josh Fogg.  Byung-Hyun Kim is also in the mix but is out so far this season with a hamstrung problem.  He remains on the DL.

Righty Zach Day goes tonight against Madson.  Day is coming off of an awful year in '05 when he went 1-3 in 18 games with a 6.85 ERA.  He pitched well in his one start of the season so far -- on Saturday he got the win against the Padres.  He went seven innings and allowed three runs on four hits and four walks.

Lieber faces Jason Jennings tomorrow night.  Jennings is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA after two starts this season.  He will be 28 in July and has pitched his entire career in Colorado, posting a 49-43 mark and a 5.02 ERA.  Jennings season was cut short in July of last year when he broke a finger.  He started on opening day for the Rockies and held the Snakes to just one run in seven innings in Colorado but got no decision.

Brett Myers gets righty Aaron Cook on Sunday afternoon.  Cook was a top-prospect for the Rockies but has had major health problems, the most serious of which involved life-threatening blood clots in his lungs and sidelined him for much of last year.  He's 1-1 in two starts so far this year and has a career mark of 20-14 in 52 starts with a 4.80 ERA.

The Rockies pen features lefty closer Brian Fuentes who saved 31 games for Colorado last season, posting a 2.91 ERA and striking out 91 in 74 1/3 innings.  He's joined by righties Jose Mesa, Dave Cortes and Sun-Woo Kim and lefties Tom Martin and Ray King.  Righty Mike DeJean is on the DL with a shoulder strain.

Mesa and Cortes have combined to throw 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the early going.  Martin and King have been solid.  Sun-Woo Kim has a 32.40 ERA in two appearances after allowing five runs to the Diamondbacks in 1/3 of an inning last Thursday.

You just got lesson number one: don't think; it can only hurt the ball club. (Crash Davis)
April 14 2006

Here's a sure sign your starting rotation isn't making you feel all warm and fuzzy yet:  When your team scores five runs in the top of the first before making an out your only reaction is, "Well, it's gonna come down to the bullpen."

The Phillies came out swinging last night and before you could say "man-Kyle-Davies-sure-is-throwing-the-ball-straight" they were up 5-0 and still hadn't made an out.  About two and half hours later Phillies fans were on the edge of their seats as Tom Gordon took the hill in a 7-6 game trying to nail down his second save in as many days.  He did.  The Phillies won to improve their season mark to 3-6.

Gavin Floyd got the ball for the Phillies coming off a horrid first start.  We've all read a ton about Floyd and how good he can be.  Tonight was the fifteenth game he appeared in as a Philly, but, for the first time, I'm ready to believe.

His numbers are certainly wretched and weren't fabulous last night either.  He went six innings and allowed three earned runs on five hits and two walks.  He's 1-1 for the season with a 6.23 ERA and has a career ERA is 6.57.  He's walked 38 and allowed 66 hits in just 63 innings in The Show.  He had a 6.16 ERA in 23 starts in Triple-A last year.

He has these moments, though.  Last night he struck out the first Braves batter, Marcus Giles, on three pitches.  Edgar Renteria hit the dirt on a curve ball that missed spinning into the strike zone by a whisker. 

Part of the problem I have is I've had Floyd and Cole Hamels in the same compartment in my mind so long it's hard to get even their personalities separated.  But Floyd's not the same personality as Hamels, not the guy who broke his hand in a bar fight.  So far, at least, he doesn't look fearless.  There's a great quote from Floyd on the team web site today, "I don't think about thinking" he said.  I don't believe him.

Floyd left in the sixth with the Phillies up 6-3.  Fultz pitched a perfect seventh as the Phillies extended their lead to 7-3.  Ryan Franklin entered in the eighth and things got interesting in a hurry. 

Renteria crushed the ball to left, but defensive replacement Shane Victorino, in for Burrell in a double switch, recorded the out.  Langerhaus tripled.  Andruw Jones grounded out and Langerhaus scored to make it 7-4.  LaRoche walked.  Francoeur homered and it was 7-6.  I could hardly believe they were leaving Franklin in to pitch to the lefty McCann, but they did.  I assume both Cormier and Rhodes were available -- both appeared Wednesday but threw less than ten pitches.   The Phillies went with Franklin and it worked, he struck McCann out to end the inning.  The Braves got the tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the ninth, but Gordon held on for the save and the Phillies win.

Ryan Langerhaus was 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and two walks for the Braves.  His line sits at 414/500/793 after 29 at-bats.  Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur and our own Chase Utley both sprang to life on the same night after starting the season in a funk.  Francoeur was 3-for-4 with two home runs. 

Chase Utley, again hitting fifth with Burrell in the cleanup spot, led the Phillies offense.  He went 2-for-4 with two home runs, both off of Davies, and four RBI.  Bell went 2-for-4.  Burrell 2-for-4.  Abreu homered and walked in four at-bats.

Sal Fasano got the start at catcher and he is definitely bringing something to the team.  When plays there's no hiding two things:  he wants to win a lot and he's having fun.  I'm sure at least one of those things is true about every member of the Phillies squad -- they all want to win.  But watching them over the past few years, if they're all having fun out there it doesn't always come across.  He started at catcher the other game Floyd started as well, and if he's going to do some Zen/Crash Davis-thing that takes Gavin Floyd from where he is now to where the Phillies want him to be we can eat 0-for-4 with a strikeout and five men left on base.  At least a few times.  In games we win.  In April.

The problem with Fasano is that he's not going to hit or field or throw very well.  In a one run game, Betemit led off the ninth for the Braves and struck out but the ball got away from Fasano.  Gordon was charged with a wild pitch but it looked like Fasano should have made the play.  Gordon eventually pitched out of it, but that would have been a good time to have gotten an out.

The Phillies had another bad defensive play early in the game that did cost them.  In the first inning, with Renteria on first and one out, Langerhaus hit a ball to Howard that should have been at least one out but went for a double and eventually led to an early run for the Braves.

Phillies in the #1 and #2 spots in the order went 3-for-10 with no walks.  For the season they are 24-for-71 (.338) with two walks, one hit by pitch and one sac fly (.360 on-base percentage).

Phillies start a three game series with the Rockies tonight as Ryan Madson takes the mound against Zach Day.

Utley, Braves dropped
April 13 2006

The Phillies won their second game of the season last night, beating the Atlanta Braves 7-5.  The win improves their record to 2-6 on the year and shoots them into third place in the NL East, four and a half games behind the first place Mets.

Cory Lidle got the start and the win for the Phillies.  He went six innings and allowed three earned runs on ten hits.  He did not allow a walk and struck out seven.  He did an especially nice job in the third inning.  With the Phillies up 4-1, Lidle struck out Braves pitcher Jorge Sosa to start the inning.  Marcus Giles singled and Renteria hit a ball to Utley that should have been at least one out.  The Phillies got none and Renteria was given a hit as Giles went to third.  Lidle managed to pitch out of it, getting Langerhaus to strike out and Andruw Jones to pop out to third to end the inning.

Lidle left up 4-3 after six and the Phillies extended their lead to 7-3 with two runs in the seventh.  Franklin pitched a scoreless seventh, lowering his ERA to 1.50.  Geary started the eighth but went just 1/3 of an inning, allowing two hits and eventually being charged with two earned runs.  Cormier, Rhodes and Gordon finished out the eighth and ninth allowing just one hit between them -- a Wilson Betemit double off Cormier that scored the two runners Geary had allowed.  Gordon pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save as a Philly.

There were two big hits on the night.  The first was a two out double by Mike Lieberthal in the second that scored two runs, which was a big hit at a big moment for a team that's been struggling with runners in scoring position.  Lieberthal ended the day just 1-for-4 but hit the ball hard in two other at-bats, lining out to center and third before popping up in his fourth and final at-bat.  He also threw out his first base runner of season, catching Renteria as he tried to steal second in the first inning (he's now thrown out 1-of-5).

The other big hit came from Aaron Rowand in the seventh.  With the Phillies ahead 4-3, with one out and Rollins on second, Rowand hit his first home run as a Philly to put the Phillies up 6-4.

Howard went 2-for-4.  Abreu 0-for-4.  Utley 0-for-3 with a walk as his early season average dropped to .200.  Both Abreu and Utley went 0-fer the first game as well and are hitless in the first two games of the series.

Utley was dropped to fifth in the lineup against righty Jorge Sosa.  Burrell hit cleanup and was 1-for-4 with his team-leading third home run.

David Bell went 1-for-4 with a single and his average sits at .190.  In the second inning he came up with runners on first and third and one out and popped out to first.

Wilson Betemit is killing the Phillies and Jeff Francoeur is killing the Braves.  Betemit, hitting out of the eighth spot in the order and playing for the injured Chipper Jones, went 3-for-4 with three doubles and two RBI last night and is 5-for-8 in the series so far.  The Phillies aren't having that much luck with pitchers early in the season, but I would start to think about pitching around him if he stays in the eight hole.  Francoeur went 1-for-4 last night with two strikeouts.  It was just his third hit of the season and his average sits at .081.  He's also looked bad in right field, making an error in the first game of the series and allowing Lieberthal's double to skip by him last night as well (he was not charged with an error).  I am a little surprised to see Betemit consistently hitting eighth and that seems like one to watch over the next few weeks for the Braves.  If Francoeur continues to flail they may need to take him out of the lineup or at least drop him down.  I also expect we'll see Renteria batting lower than second before the end of the season.

Phillies #1 and #2 hitters were 3-for-10 with no walks last night.  For the year they are 21-for-61 (.344)  with two walks, one hit by pitch and a sac fly (.361 on-base percentage).  Rowand has just one walk on the season, which came on opening day when he was not batting second.

The Fish lost to the Padres 7-2 as Chris Young held them to one hit through six innings.  Pedro shut down the Nats as the Mets won 3-1.

Gavin Floyd and Kyle Davies tonight.  Floyd is coming off of a worrisome first start in which he allowed six hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings on Friday against the Dodgers.  Hopefully he'll settle down and the ESPN presence won't compound the problems he's had in recent non-spring training starts as the Phillies try to win their first series of the season.

Colorado in the playoffs and a Chia Pet in every home
April 12 2006

The Mets have jumped out to a 5-1 record and an early lead in the NL East.  They've done a great job of starting strong and beating up on what look to be the two teams in the division that will struggle all year -- the schedule-makers had them playing their first nine games against the Nats and the Marlins.

In the NL East in 2006, beating up on the Nats and the Marlins is the key to the universe one might find in the engine of an old parked car.  The Marlins payroll is down 73% from last year to $15 million, which is $20 million less than the next lowest team in baseball and about $30 million less than what you'd spend if not-being-absolutely-abysmal were on your to-do list.  The next lowest payroll in the National League is the Rockies, who are spending about $41 million on payroll this season.  The Rockies sit atop the NL West at 5-2, but I expect an informal poll of Rockies players would yield results indicating they believe their chances to make the playoffs are about the same as us seeing a widespread resurgence of the Chia Pet.  Cleveland, on the other hand, has a legitimate shot to go far this season with a payroll around $56 million.

The Nationals are much better, throwing out a lineup on a daily basis that includes Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, Jose Guillen, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman.  The bad news for the Nats is it also includes Royce Clayton,  and, with a regularity that forces traffic to the team web site in droves to see which of the team's starters is out for six to eight weeks with a broken whatever, Brandon Watson.  After on-basing .250 in 40 at-bats last season, Watson has opened 2006 going 4-for-24 (.174) with a .208 on-base percentage.  There's certainly something to be said for a great defensive player with speed, but while he's young and struggling with an OBP in the .200's and you're thinking of playing him every day it better be:  "Jones crushes the ball to deep left center . . . Watson is back . . .  He climbs the wall . . . He's over the wall! He catches the ball in the fourth row!  Smith is tagging from third and here's the throw from Watson . . . Watson's throw is perfect!  It knocks Schneider over, but he manages to recover in time to tag Smith out by two steps.  Wow!  That Watson really can play some defense!  That's his 23rd assist on the season and his fourth from outside the playing area.  If only he could hit."

The Nationals rotation starts out nicely with Livan Hernandez and John Patterson but things get out of hand after that pretty quickly.  Pedro Astacio is on the DL, leaving Ramon Ortiz, Tony Armas, Jr, and Ryan Drese at the back end.  Ortiz is coming off of a 9-11 year where he posted a 5.36 ERA while Drese went 7-12 with a 5.78 ERA in '06.

So far the Phillies are a half game behind both teams.  Florida is 1-5 while the Nationals are 2-6.

The Mets, on the other hand, have gotten the job done and sit at 5-1 and 4 1/2 games ahead of the Phils.  Surprise addition to the rotation Brian Bannister has allowed just five hits in 13 innings in his two starts.  Glavine had two nice starts and Steve Trachsel is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA.  Five of their regulars are hitting over .300 (Wright, Reyes, Nady, LoDuca and Delgado).  As a team they're hitting .314, which leads the NL.  David Wright is tied for second in the league with ten RBI.

Our heros, meanwhile, are muddled in the dog days of April.  But sooner or later they're going to hit.  And pitch.  And field.  And throw people out trying to steal (actually, they may never throw people out stealing in bunches).  And stop doing that thing where Rowand tries to bunt Rollins to third in the early innings after Jimmy rips a double to start the frame.  For now, though, they're looking up at both the Nats and the Fish as well as the teams that make the most of their chances against them.

I Don't Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling (Thom Sharpe)
April 11 2006

The Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves last night as their record fell to 1-6.  They've dropped a full game below the Marlins in the standings and four games behind the first place Mets. 

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies.  He went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk.  He struck out six.  Myers looked great until there were two outs -- six of the seven hits he allowed, and the walk and all three runs, came with two outs.  Here's a little trip down memory lane, if you can bear it:

First inning:  Two outs, nobody on, walked Langerhaus before getting an Andruw Jones ground out to end the inning.
Second inning:  Braves down 1-2-3.
Third inning:  Two outs, runner on first.  Renteria singles, Langerhaus singles.  Andruw Jones ground out.
Fourth inning:  Two outs, nobody on.  McCann singles, Betemit singles, Thomson hits a double.  Giles grounds out (2 runs).
Fifth inning:  Two outs, nobody on.  Andruw Jones home run.  Laroche strikeout (1 run).

Thomson's double in the fourth and Giles solo homer in the seventh were the big blows of the game.  Thomson entered the season as a .191 hitter with a .212 slugging percentage in 288 at-bats.

The pen, which has been good so far, let the Phillies down a bit.  Rheal Cormier pitched the sixth and did not allow a run.  Ryan Franklin allowed a solo home run to Marcus Giles in the seventh to put the Braves ahead 4-3 and Rhodes allowed another run in the eighth to extend the Atlanta lead to 5-3.

Marcus Giles estimates he is playing at about 70% with his quad injury.  Chipper Jones is headed to the DL. 

As a team, the Phillies are on-basing .312 so far this season, which puts them at fifteenth among NL teams ahead of just the Padres.  The big culprits there have been Chase Utley, who has started the season cold going 6-for-27 (.222) with just one walk and Bell who has walked twice but gone just 3-for-17.  Nunez is 3-for-13 (.231) without a walk. 

Their hitters in the #1 and #2 slot went 6-for-9 yesterday with a walk.  Jimmy Rollins looks absolutely locked in -- he had a double, two singles and a walk and is hitting .393 and on-basing .419.  Rowand also had three hits to push his early season average to .304.  The #1 and #2 hitters combined in the Phillies lineup are 18-for-51 (.353) with a .382 on-base percentage.

Rollins's 15 total bases leads the Phillies but is just good enough for tied for 22nd in the National League, which is a good sign the Phillies have been going rather meekly thus far.  The Braves, for example, have played one more game than the Phillies but have four players with more than 15 total bases, Renteria (20), Andruw Jones (20), Langerhaus (18) and Laroche (17).  Chris Shelton leads all of baseball with 37.  As a team, the Phillies have 95 total bases in seven games while the Braves have 145 in eight.

Apparently the plan is to bunt with Rollins on second and Rowand up with no outs.  They tried it again last night after Rollins led off the third inning with a double.  Rowand popped the bunt up.  I don't like this play even when it works.  Not clear whether this is Rowand's plan or Manuel's plan but hopefully whoever the man-with-the-plan is talks to the man-with-the-calculator-pocket-protector-and-laptop soon.

Lieberthal had a tough day, going 0-for-3 and leaving four men on base.  He struck out in the second with runners on first and second and grounded out to the pitcher in the second with two men aboard.

The Phillies are idle today, which will make it unnecessary for them to break into Turner Field and turn on the sprinkler system in the hopes of a rain out. 

Lidle faces Jorge Sosa on Wednesday.  Sosa was bombed in his only start of the season -- last Thursday he went 2 1/3 innings against the Giants and allowed six earned runs on seven hits and three walks.  Lidle also started last Thursday, the day the Rollins hit streak ended, and cruised through four innings before allowing four runs in the Cardinals Bell-error-aided fifth inning.

Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more able to put his full weight on his leg
April 10 2006

The Phillies roll into Atlanta tonight, hoping a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.

Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones suffered an awful-looking injury yesterday afternoon in the eighth inning of the Braves loss to the San Francisco Giants.  Both the right knee and ankle were twisted and the injury to the ankle is thought to be more serious than the injury to the knee.  Chipper won't play tonight and looks unlikely for Wednesday's game as well.

Marcus Giles also may not play tonight after leaving yesterday's game with a sore right quad.  The series has an off-day tomorrow, which may help him out if he can't go tonight.  Giles is on-basing .515 early this season, he's 6-for-22 (.273) with 11 walks.

The injuries to Chipper and Marcus Giles make it more likely we'll be seeing some of backup infielders Wilson Betemit and Pete Orr this series. 

The Braves come into their home opener at 3-4, in second place behind the Mets in the NL East.  They are coming off of a four-game series with the Giants in which they dropped three of four.

Jeff Francoeur is off to a slow start, just 2-for-29 (.069) with two singles.  New shortstop Edgar Renteria is hitting well, 12-for-31 (.387) with four doubles and a home run.  I wrote about the acquisition of Renteria and the loss of Furcal in a March 22 post called "Brave New World" that you can read here.

The Braves, who have played seven games to the Phillies six, have scored 53 runs, which leads the NL.  The Phillies have scored 21, which ties them for fourteenth with the lowly Marlins.

Atlanta has been having a rough time with their pitching.  Closer Chris Reitsma is struggling again -- the Braves entered the ninth inning yesterday with a 5-4 lead over the Giants but San Francisco tied it on a Lance Niekro solo home run and won it 6-5 on Randy Winn's single.  Reitsma took the loss and the blown save to drop to 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA.

The pitching staff overall has struggled early, allowing 74 hits and 35 walks in just 59 1/3 innings.  As a team their ERA is 7.58, which is last in the NL so far this season.

Reliever Chuck James has allowed just one hit in six innings.  Righties Kenny Ray and Oscar Villareal have also been good out of the pen in the early going.

Tonight's starter, righty John Thomson, was pushed into the starting rotation due to an injury to Horacio Ramirez.  Ramirez is on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring.  Thompson is 32 and entered the season with a career ERA of 4.69 and a 60-77 record.  Thomson may be a little better than his numbers indicate as he's pitched more than half of his career in either Colorado or Texas.  His best year was 2004 with the Braves -- he went 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA.  He was scratched from a scheduled start on March 28 with elbow tenderness and there was speculation he may start the season on the DL.  He has also been the subject of numerous trade rumors, but a trade may be less likely with the injury to Ramirez. 

Thomson starts tonight against Brett Myers.  Lidle against Jorge Sosa on Wednesday night and Gavin Floyd and Kyle Davies on Thursday.  Then the Phillies go to Colorado.

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