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The spirit of 7-6'ers
April 20 2006

The Phillies failed to intentionally walk Royce Clayton in a game against the Nationals for the first time this season last night and pulled out a 7-6 win on Ryan Howard's tenth inning single.  The win improves their record to 1-0 in games when they don't intentionally walk Clayton, 0-1 in games they do, and 6-8 overall.

Gavin Floyd got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing six runs, five of them earned, on nine hits and a walk.  Floyd didn't pitch especially well, allowing six extra-base hits.  Nationals starter Livan Hernandez doubled twice and homered off of him.  The Phillies did have a defensive lapse that hurt Floyd in the fifth as catcher Sal Fasano couldn't handle a foul ball, giving the Nationals an extra out that led to an unearned run.

Floyd started the seventh inning with the Phillies trailing 4-3 and allowed a leadoff double to Livan Hernandez and a single to Soriano.  Manuel brought in lefty Aaron Fultz to pitch to Jose Vidro with Soriano on first and Livan on third.  Soriano stole second.  Vidro followed with a two-run single that scored both runners with both charged to Floyd.  Fultz got a double-play before allowing a double to Guillen and intentionally walking Ryan Zimmerman to pitch to Ryan Church.  Fultz struck out Church to escape further damage.  The whole thing felt a little odd, Church finished last night's game 5-for-his-last-13 with four home runs while Zimmerman has been struggling.  It worked, however.

Julio Santana pitched the eighth with the Phillies still down 6-3.  He allowed a walk and a single but kept the Nationals off the board.  It was Santana's first appearance since being charged with four runs in an inning in Colorado on Friday and he dropped his ERA to 9.00.

The Phillies tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning on a double by Rowand, a two-run homer by Abreu, walks to Burrell, Utley and Howard and an RBI groundout by Dellucci.

With the game tied at 6-6, Manuel brought in Gordon to pitch the top of the ninth.  Gordon struck out the side while allowing a single.  Great job by Manuel of bringing in his best pitcher in a tie game -- there are lots of managers who wouldn't do that.

Phillies didn't score in the bottom of the ninth and called on Ryan Franklin in the tenth.  With one out he allowed a single to Schneider before getting Daryl Ward to ground into a double-play.  He got his first Phillies win in the bottom of the tenth:  Abreu and Utley walked with a Victorino strikeout sandwiched in-between, before Howard singled to right, scoring Abreu from second.

The Phillies have been using Victorino consistently in the late innings as a defensive replacement for Burrell, especially in close games.  If it continues it will no doubt lead to Victorino with big at-bats in games that change from close games to tie games.  Last night it worked out fine with the Phillies getting the win, but it sure would have been nice having Burrell batting second in the tenth instead of Victorino.  Victorino's strikeout looked bad at the time, but I like the decision not to have him bunt in the tenth with nobody out.  It's hard to argue with how Manuel handled the pair last night:  He put Victorino in for Burrell as a pinch runner after Burrell walked in the eighth -- at that point Burrell/Victorino was the tying run and the difference in speed on the basepaths could have been critical.  As it turned out, the Phillies probably didn't need Victorino's speed as they tied the game on two walks and a ground out.

I also thought the Phillies chose the perfect time to use Dellucci, pinch hitting for David Bell with the bases loaded and one out after the Nats brought in tough righty Gary Majewski.  Dellucci did a nice job to tie the game with a ground ball for his first Phillies RBI.

Ryan Howard and Abreu were the offensive stars for the Phillies.  Howard was 2-for-4 with a walk, hitting his third home run of the season, a two-run shot, off of Hernandez in the second and winning the game in the bottom of the tenth with his single to right.  Abreu's two-run homer in the eighth brought the Phillies back to 6-5.  He was 1-for-4 with a walk on the day.

Utley was 2-for-3 with two walks.  Rowand 2-for-5 with a big double in the eighth to get on base before Abreu's homer.  Bell went 1-for-3 with his second home run of the season.

Burrell 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.  Fasano 1-for-3 with two strikeouts but also smoked a double that nearly went out in right.

Phillies batters drew five walks on the game, all of which came in the three-run eighth or game winning tenth.

Rollins went 0-for-5 and has four hits in his last 23 at-bats.  Phillies #1 and #2 hitters combined went 2-for-10.  For the season they are 39-for-116 (.336) with five walks, two hit by pitch and one sac fly (.371 OBP).

Elsewhere, the Braves topped the Mets yesterday 2-1 in a brilliant pitcher's duel between Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine.  The Marlins were leading the Reds 8-4 after six innings but lost 9-8.  Mets lead the NL East at 10-4 despite losing two of three in their series with the 8-8 Braves who trail the Mets by three games.  The Phillies, winners of five of their last seven and looking to take their third straight series, are four games behind the Mets.  The Phils are 1 1/2 games ahead of the 5-10 Nationals and two games ahead of the 4-10 Marlins.

Ryan Madson will try to get the Phillies the series win tonight.  In what looks to be a break for the Phillies, the Nationals will give John Patterson an extra day of rest after going eighth innings and 108 pitches while striking out 13 Marlins on Saturday. 

Lefty Billy Traber will get the start for Washington, making his debut with the Nationals.  Traber is 26 and last appeared in the Major Leagues in 2003 for the Indians.  He pitched in 33 games in '03, getting 18 starts and compiling a 6-9 mark with a 5.24 ERA.  He had Tommy John surgery in September of '03 and missed all of 2004.  He came to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee with the Nationals and allowed just 14 hits and one walk in 16 spring innings while pitching to a 2.25 ERA.  At Triple-A New Orleans he's struck out 16 in 11 innings in early action this season while posting a 2.45 ERA.  Traber was originally drafted in 2000 by the Mets in the first round (16th pick).

Bulls and Nats running free as pen holds nobody
April 19 2006

The Phillies lost to the Nationals last night 10-3.  It was their sixth loss in seven home games and their record dropped to 5-8. 

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing four runs on nine hits.  Seven of the Nationals hits against Lidle went for extra bases -- he allowed six doubles and a home run to a team not known for putting up the crooked numbers.  Lidle was hurt by some shaky Phillies defense, particularly by Abreu in right field who got turned around the wrong way on one of the Nationals' back-to-back-to-back doubles in the fourth.

Lidle did do a nice job after the fourth inning.  Training 4-1 going into the bottom of the fourth the Phillies got within 4-3 on a two-run homer by Burrell.  Lidle kept Washington off the board in the fifth, sixth and seventh and left the game in the eighth training 4-3.

Arthur Rhodes came in to start the eighth and try to keep the game close.  He didn't:  Single, strike out, walk, RBI-double and a ground out left it two outs, runners on second and third with Royce Clayton at the dish and the Phillies down 5-3.  Clayton came into the game with an OPS for the season of .505 and had gone over 1,100 at-bats without being intentionally walked.  The Phillies put him on intentionally to pitch to the lefty Schneider who was hit by a pitch, driving in a run to make it 6-3.  Royce Clayton is 36 years old, plan B for the Nationals behind Christian Guzman, who on-based .260 last year, and not a good hitter at this point in his career.  It would behoove baseball players of all nations to try to get him out when he comes to the plate -- even if it means letting your lefty setup man pitch to him or bringing in your righty an out earlier that you had planned.

It didn't turn out to matter much.  Rhodes got out of the eighth with the Phillies down 6-3 and Geary got pounded in the ninth, giving up a walk and four hits including a grand slam to Ryan Church and the Nats won 10-3.  Geary has been abysmal lately -- in his last three appearances he has allowed runs, getting six outs while allowing eight earned runs on eight hits and three walks.  His ERA is 11.37.

The Phillies made their first out of the game getting Rollins thrown out at the plate.  After leading off with a walk he tried to score on Rowand's double and was thrown out at the plate.  That's just awful.

Rollins and Rowand were on four times. Rollins was 1-for-4 with a walk and Rowand 2-for-4 with a double.  The pair has been excellent in the early going, hitting .339 and .340 respectively. 

Abreu was 1-for-2 with two walks.  Burrell was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer.  Utley went 0-for-3 with a walk, dropping his average to .216.  He's hittless in his last 12 at-bats.

Howard went 1-for-4 with a single, striking out three times.  The struggles of Howard and Utley are a big part of what's been wrong with the Phillies in the early going.  Howard still has just two extra-base hits, both solo homers, in his 45 at-bats.

Bell was 0-for-3 with a walk, twice grounding into double plays.  Lieberthal was 2-for-4 with a double, raising his average to .364.  Utley and Howard have ten extra-base hits for the season in 96 at-bats, Bell and Lieberthal have seven in 70.

Phillies #1 and #2 hitters were 3-for-8 on the day with a walk.  For the season they are 37-for-106 (.349) with five walks, two hit by pitch and one sac fly (.386 on-base percentage).

Phillies hang onto third place in NL East, 1/2 game ahead of the 5-9 Nationals and five behind the first-place Mets.  The Braves pounded Victor Zambrano and the Mets, winning 7-1, but still trail the 10-3 Mets by four games.  The Marlins beat the Padres to improve to 4-9.

Gavin Floyd and Livan Hernandez tonight. 

Home, where the music's playing much better than the Phillies
April 18 2006
































































The Phillies, on pace to go 14-67 at home this season, open a three-game series with the Nationals tonight in Philadelphia.  Our heroes enter the series tied with the Braves for second place in the NL East at 5-7, a game and a half ahead of the 4-9 Nationals.  Everybody is chasing the Mets who improved to 10-2 last night by beating the Braves as Pedro tallied his 200th career win.

Washington comes in having won two straight against the Marlins after a 2-9 start.  Their slow start has come mostly at the hands of the Mets -- the Nats won just one of the six games the teams played in the first two weeks of the season.  The Nationals are coming off a dramatic win on Sunday -- entering the top of the ninth trailing 5-4 to the Marlins they put up three runs powered by a two-run homer by Ryan Church and won the game 7-5.

Organizational philosophy for the Nationals apparently dictates the offense be built around being caught stealing, which is making scoring runs tough.  The Nationals finished last in runs per game in the NL last year at 3.94.  In 2005 they were caught 45 times, the most in the National League, while stealing just 45 bases.  The Phillies, by comparison, stole 116 and were caught just 29 times in '05.  The Nationals are on track to two-peat this year, having been caught a league-leading seven times.   Washington also hit the fewest home runs in the NL last year, with only one player, Jose Guillen, hitting more than 15.  They have shown more power this season in the early going and have three players (Soriano, Vidro, Johnson) with three homers already.

The Washington infield returns some of the same faces from last year.  Nick Johnson at first and the currently slowed (hamstring) but sometimes able to play Jose Vidro at second.  Last year's third baseman, Vinny Castilla is gone, replaced by super prospect Ryan Zimmerman.  Shortstop Christian Guzman is on the DL, but Royce Clayton has stepped in to replace him and the number of non-blood-relatives who can tell the difference between the two is very small.  Vidro (348/380/565 with 3 HR) and Johnson (357/509/619 with 3 HR) are off to hot starts while Zimmerman has started slow (204/298/286) and Clayton has been doing about what you'd expect (227/255/270).

Reluctant tourist Alfonso Soriano is in left for Washington.  The Brandon Watson experiment appears over for the time being and center field is being manned by Ryan Church and former Philly Marlon Byrd.  Jose Guillen, playing on his seventh Major League team, which may be a coincidence, is back in right for the Nationals for second straight season.  He has missed some time with a strained oblique but is hoping to play in the series opener tonight.  Soriano is off to a nice start offensively (294/357/529 with 3 HR) while Guillen (.222) and Byrd (.161, but with seven walks in 31 at-bats) are sputtering out of the box.  Ryan Church has just nine at-bats but two home runs after being called up from the minors on April 13.

Phillies pitchers come into the series allowing opponents to hit .302 against them, which is second highest in the National League behind the Pirates.  Nationals pitchers have allowed 21 home runs, also second worst in the league, also behind the Pirates. 

Tonight's starting pitchers are Tomy Armas, Jr (0-2, 3.27), and Cory Lidle (1-1, 4.91).  Armas has gotten two starts on the season and pitched well in both of them, each time allowing two earned runs but taking the loss.  Lidle has also had two starts, allowing three earned runs in each of them and has given up 16 hits in 11 innings.

Livan Hernandez (1-2, 7.00) goes against Gavin Floyd (1-1, 6.23) tomorrow night.  Hernandez has been pounded in the early going, allowing 31 hits and six home runs in just 18 innings pitched.  Floyd has shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of not brilliance in his first two starts.  He got pounded by the Dodgers in his first start of the year, not making it through the third inning, but pitched better against the Braves on Thursday, holding them to five hits and three earned runs in six innings to get the win.

The final game of the series is Thursday night and features John Patterson (1-0, 4.00) and Ryan Madson (1-0, 2.77).  Patterson was wicked for the Nationals last year, going 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 31 starts, but a bit shaky coming out in 2006.  After mediocre starts against the Mets and Astros in which he allowed a combined seven earned runs and four home runs in ten innings, he shut down the Marlins on Saturday, going eight innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out 13.  He has 24 strikeouts on the season, which leads NL pitchers.  Madson has allowed 16 hits and four walks in his 13 innings so far.  He did a nice job to get the win in Colorado on Friday -- despite allowing 11 hits in just seven innings he kept the ball in the park and got out with the win.  His ERA may be a bit misleading early in the year -- he's allowed seven runs only four of which have been earned.

The Nationals pen is anchored by Chad Cordero who is coming off back-to-back good years in which he tallied 61 saves, 47 of which came last season.  Cordero has allowed three home runs in seven innings pitched so far this season after giving up just nine in 74 1/3 last year.  He is joined by righties Gary Majewski, Felix Rodriguez, Jon Rauch and Saul Rivera, who was called up from Triple-A on Saturday and has not appeared in a game yet.  Lefties in the pen are Mike Stanton and Joey Eischen.  Majewski, Rauch and Stanton have been good in the early going.  Rodriguez has been hit around a little and Eischen has been bombed.  Trade rumors about Eischen swirl -- he has an ERA of 18.00 as has given up nine hits and seven walks in his first five innings this year.

Put me in coach, I'm ready to hit .123
April 17 2006

Coming into the season the Phillies bench looked like a strength.  The Phils brought in four new guys, Nunez, Gonzalez, Fasano and Dellucci and promoted Shane Victorino from their own system and looked like they were all set.  Endy Chavez and Tomas Perez were barred from the building and we set out with hope in our hearts and a spring in our step.

Sadly, no plan survives contact with Hong-Chih Kuo. Here's what the five guys on the bench have done so far in '06:

Phillies bench

















































With the possible exception of Gonzalez, everybody's role looks pretty much set.  Dellucci is the fourth outfielder, the big bat off of the bench and insurance if they trade Abreu.  Nunez fulfills the organizational need for a third baseman who grounds out three times a game when Bell can't go.  Fasano backs up Lieberthal.  Victorino is the fifth outfielder and has been replacing Burrell in left virtually every day in an apparent effort to keep either of them from falling asleep.  Gonzalez doesn't seem to have any role.  He pinch hits and started for Ryan Howard at first base on Howard's one day off this year.

If the Phillies have a backup middle infielder it may be that he or she prefers to remain nameless -- so far nobody has appeared at second or short besides Utley and Rollins.  Hopefully the backup middle infielder won't wind up being much of a factor this season.  If either Utley or Rollins goes down for an extended period it's likely a sign it's time to break out the Eagles gear anyway.  The plan to give Gonzalez time in the outfield is either mercifully kaput or so far on a back burner it boiled over weeks ago without anyone noticing.

The big moments for the bench so far this season have been pretty limited.  Fasano hit a two-run homer against the Dodgers in a game the Phillies went on to lose 5-3.  Victorino, filling in as a defensive replacement for Burrell in left, threw out Jason Smith trying to go first to third for the final out of the game on Friday night.  The bench has gone 7-for-57, but it's been a quiet 7-for-57.

They've also been striking out at an alarming rate, so far 16 times in 57 at-bats (28%).  Fasano has struck out as many times (6) in his 14 at-bats as Rollins (4), Lieberthal (2) and Bell (0) in their 115 at-bats combined.  With all the talk of the protection that Ryan Howard is not getting from Bell and Lieberthal, those guys are hitting a combined .286 with just two strikeouts between them in 63 at-bats.  They also each have as many or more extra-base hits as Howard does in the early going.  Howard has two, Bell two and Lieberthal four.  Howard is still getting a bunch a hits, he's batting .317, just not extra-base hits, which may have more to do with Howard than the guys behind him.

I'm not sure the Phillies can sustain the way they're using Dellucci for a whole season.  Right now he's on pace for 149 at-bats, which isn't enough for a hitter of his caliber.  I don't really see what's going to change without an injury or an Abreu trade.  Rowand seems the most likely of the three starting outfielders to go down and while Charlie Manuel may say he's confident in Dellucci's ability to play all three outfield positions, I'm sure not.  I would like to see the Phillies use Burrell at first when Howard gets a day off against a lefty but even if they did it might make more sense to put the switch-hitter Victorino in left against the lefty rather than the left-handed batting Dellucci.

The other big issue seems to be what they'll do with Gonzalez.  He's not helping anyone in his current non-role and he definitely wasn't built to be a backup first baseman.

The good news seems to be that everyone is going to get better.  Dellucci, in particular, should get a lot better while Fasano and Nunez should get to where they've been throughout their careers.  It seems harder to project what Gonzalez and Victorino might do, although Gonzalez won't be able to do much good or bad if he never plays.

All systems go for another 10-14 start
April 16 2006

The Phillies dug themselves a big hole early in this season as they jumped out to a 1-6 start.  They've been doing their best to climb back into it since, however, and kept it up in Colorado this weekend as they took two of three from the Rockies.  They've won four of their last five and their record sits at 5-7, which is uncomfortably halfway to a repeat of their 10-14 April of 2005.

The Phillies beat the Rockies today, 1-0, behind a great start by Brett Myers and a solo home run by Ryan Howard to win the third game of their series with Colorado.

Myers was coming off of consecutive starts in which he allowed three earned runs and went five innings.  Today he went 7 2/3 and held the Rockies scoreless on seven hits and a walk.  He struck out five, got the win, and improved to 1-0 with a 3.06 ERA.

After shutting out the Rockies for seven innings, Myers was due to lead off the top of the eighth for the Phillies.  Manuel let him hit and the Phils went down 1-2-3.  I hate letting the pitcher lead off an inning late in a one-run game, even when he has pitched so well, but the Phillies did it today and got out with a win.

In the bottom of the eighth, Myers got the first batter before Cory Sullivan reached on a bunt single.  Myers then got Clint Barmes to fly out and was lifted for Arthur Rhodes, who was brought on to pitch to lefty stud Todd Helton.

For the second day in a row the series saw a late showdown between Helton and a lefty Phillies reliever.  Yesterday Cormier struck him out looking, today Rhodes walked him.  Garrett Atkins was the next batter, Rhodes stayed in the game and retired him on a nice play by Gold-Glove winner Bobby Abreu in right.

Flash Gordon came on in the ninth and shut the Rockies down 1-2-3 for the save.  The save was Gordon's fourth as his ERA dropped to 1.59.  He has been tremendous in the early going, the only blemish being the game on April 5 against the Cardinals.  He entered that game in the ninth with the Phillies and Cards tied at 3-3 and St Louis managed a run on Yadier Molina's single.

Colorado's Aaron Cook shut the Phillies down for most of the day.  He allowed just six hits in eight innings.  He threw just 86 pitches, 60 of which were strikes.

The Phillies started Nunez at third base.  He went 0-for-3.  Utley went 0-for-4 and dropped his average to .229.  He's hitless in his last nine at-bats.

Ryan Howard was the offensive hero for the Phillies.  His solo home run in the seventh was the only run of the day.  Howard is hitting at .317 but has just 2 RBI on the year.  He's 13-for-41 with just two extra base hits, both solo home runs.

The Phillies blew a tremendous opportunity in the top of the sixth.  Rollins and Rowand both singled to start the inning, with Jimmy going to third on Rowand's single to left.  Cook then caught Rowand on the fake-to-third-throw-to-first play.  Abreu walked and Burrell hit into a double play. 

On Saturday, the Phillies dropped the middle game of the series to the Rockies 10-6, snapping the Phils three game winning streak. 

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies and went 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on ten hits.  He didn't walk a batter and has allowed just two walks in 16 2/3 innings this season.  He has allowed a ton of hits, 27, in his three starts.  He's 0-3 with a 9.18 ERA.

Lieber was coming off of a nice start against the Dodgers in the second game of last Sunday's double-header, in which he took the loss despite allowing just two runs in seven innings.  On Saturday, he started the seventh for the Phils in a 4-4 tie.  He allowed three straight singles and left with one out, the Phillies down 5-4 and two men on.

Cormier came into the game and did a great job, striking out Todd Helton.  Cormier hasn't been charged with an earned run in his first five appearances.  Geoff Geary entered the game and walked the first batter before allowing a bases loaded triple to Matt Holliday, which made it 8-4 and put the game pretty much out of reach.

In his last two appearances, Geary has thrown 2/3 of an inning and allowed four hits, two walks and been charged with four earned runs. 

Abreu and Burrell both hit home runs for the Phillies.  Rollins and Rowand at the top of the order combined to go 4-for-9 with a walk and two runs scored. 

Utley's home run rampage ended as he went 0-for-5.  Sal Fasano got the start with Lieber on the mound and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts as his average dropped to .071.

In the two games, Phillies hitters in the #1 and #2 spot went 6-for-17 with one walk.  For the season they are 34-for-98 (.347) with four walks, two hit by pitch and one sac fly (.381 OBP).

Elsewhere, the Mets took 2-of-3 from the Brewers and are in first place in the NL East at 9-2, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies.  Second place Atlanta won 2-of-3 with the Padres and are 1/2 game ahead of the Phillies at 6-7.  Florida took 2-of-3 from the Nationals in Florida and both teams are six games behind the Mets. 

The Phillies start a ten game homestand on Tuesday.  They play three against the Nationals, three against the Marlins then the Rockies come into town for a four game series.

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