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Phillies April intro to the NL's most wretched teams ends in Pittsburgh
April 28 2006

Team W-L R R/G AVG OBP SLG SB CS
PIT 5-18 94 4.09 250 313 417 9 3
PHI 9-12 100 4.76 265 333 434 11 3
                 
  IP RA RA/G H BB SO ERA Ratio
PIT 195.1 133 5.78 237 93 131 5.71 1.69
PHI 188 124 5.90 233 70 142 5.41 1.61

Phillies start a three-game series with the Pirates tonight in Pittsburgh.  The Pirates are the worst team in baseball with a .217 winning percentage.  They've lost seven in a row and their record stands at 5-18, 7 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for fifth place in the NL Central.

The Pirates have played 23 games so far, which is the most in the NL.  Even with at least one game more than every other team, they are 14th in the NL in runs scored.  They are tied for last in the NL in walks with 56.

Pirates pitchers have allowed opponents to bat .306 against them, which is second worst in the NL.  This would be better news if they weren't second worst behind the Phillies, who have allowed opponents to hit .307 against them.  The 33 home runs the Pirates have allowed is second worst in the NL.

The Pirates offense has been lead by left fielder Jason Bay (267/434/480, fourth in the NL with 21 walks), shortstop Jack Wilson (329/379/544) and Craig Wilson, a streaky hitter on a hot streak getting a lot of time at first base with Sean Casey on the DL.  Craig Wilson is hitting at .297 and slugging .719 (3rd in NL) with seven home runs.  All three of those big bats hit right-handed for the Pirates.

Jeromy Burnitz plays right, he's hitting .217 and on-basing .253.  Chris Duffy is usually in center (176/253/279) and Joe Randa (222/242/333) at third.  Jose Castillo gets most of the time at second, he's hitting .257. 

Catcher Ryan Doumit is rehabbing a hamstring injury and likely will not return till next week.  Humerto Cota and Ronny Paulino have been backing him up.  Paulino has gone 6-for-16 (.375) with six singles while Cota is at 238/304/262.

Randa at third has had a problem with his foot but has been playing.  Freddy Sanchez has gotten some time, mostly at second and third, and has played well, hitting .341 in 44 at-bats.

In the pen, lefty Mike Gonzalez is the closer but Tracy has also shown a willingness to use righty Roberto Hernandez in the ninth inning.  They are backed by righties Ryan Vogelsong, Salomon Torres and Mike Capps and lefties Damaso Marte and John Grabow.  Grabow (6.75) and Vogelsong (7.71) come into the series with high ERAs.  Hernandez has just a 3.38 ERA but has allowed twelve hits and seven walks in just 10 2/3 innings.

Brett Myers starts against righty Ian Snell tonight.  Snell is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.  He's coming off of his best start of the year, in six innings against the Astros on Saturday he held Houston to two runs on six hits and two walks.  He doesn't strike out a lot of batters, 12 in 21 innings, and has allowed a lot of hits (32).  Opponents are hitting .352 against him.  Myers (2-0, 3.08) has wins in his last two starts and has allowed just two earned runs in his last 13 2/3 innings.

Lefty Paul Maholm (0-3, 7.40) goes against Cory Lidle (2-2, 4.74) tomorrow night.  Malholm went just three innings in his last start, which was against the Astros on Sunday.  He gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including two home runs, and two walks.  Maholm won't be 24 until June and was very good with Pittsburgh last year in limited action.  In six starts he went 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA, allowing just 31 hits in 41 1/3 innings.  This year he's already allowed 28 hits and five home runs in 20 2/3 innings pitched.  Maholm will be the first lefty starter to go against the Phillies since Scott Olsen on April 21 -- it will be interesting to see what Manuel does with the lineup.  Lidle got his second win of the season on Monday against the Rockies in the game he struck out 10.  I have no idea what to make of Lidle so far this year -- he's struck out 27 and walked just three in 24 2/3 but has allowed a ton of hits, 31.  Lidle just turned 34 and has never been close to striking out a batter per inning in a season where he threw at least 100 innings -- last year was his best K/9 ratio and he struck out 121 in 184 2/3 innings (5.9 per nine innings).

Another lefty, Oliver Perez (1-3, 7.20), goes against Gavin Floyd (1-2, 8.50) on Sunday afternoon.  Perez's 7.20 ERA is the best of the three Pirates starters the Phillies are likely to see.  He's given up five or more runs in three of his five starts and allowed 33 hits and six homers in 25 innings so far.  Perez is still just 24 and has already had two good years in the Major Leagues, going 4-5 with a 3.50 ERA at age 20 for the Padres in 2002 and 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA for the Pirates in 2004.  In 2004 he struck out an amazing 239 in 196 innings.  He followed it up with a 5.85 ERA in 2005.  Hopefully the cures for Gavin Floyd's woes will have something to do with facing Chris Duffy and Jose Castillo often enough.   Three of his four starts have been bad so far.

The Phils and Braves go into the day tied for second place in the NL East at 9-12.  They are both five games behind the 14-7 Mets, who start a series in Atlanta tonight.  The Marlins and Nationals are 13-28 combined.

Garrett Atkins hits-it-on-the-Rooftop-Thursday
April 27 2006

In about four months the Phillies will be in a playoff hunt.  Every game will matter and they'll look back at games like today's and say, "Remember that series against the Rockies in April?  The one where Helton was hurt and they had to start Jason Smith at first base all the time?  Those would have been some nice games to win."

The Phillies lost today to the Colorado Rockies, 6-3.  The Rockies, largely the same team as the squad that went 67-95 last season, are the best team the Phillies have played since April 13 when they beat the Braves.  Since taking two of three from the Braves, the Phillies have gone 6-6 against the Marlins, Nationals and Rockies.  Their record falls to 9-12 with today's loss.

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies.  He went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and a walk.  Ryan Franklin started the eighth in a 3-3 tie and allowed a single to Holliday and a home run to Garrett Atkins without getting an out.

Cormier followed Franklin, going 1 1/3 without allowing a run.  He got Ryan Spilborghs to ground into a double-play after he loaded the bases in the eighth, which kept the Phillies in the game.  He maintains his 0.00 ERA on the year, but it's not the kind of 0.00 ERA that makes you feel real comfortable.  Cormier got the first out in the ninth before being replaced by Clay Condrey.  Condrey gave up a run on a double and two singles.

Victorino started in center for Rowand.  Fasano caught and hit eighth.  Otherwise the Phillies stuck with their revamped lineup against righties.

Burrell was 2-for-4 with an RBI and raised his OPS to .998.  Abreu was 2-for-4 and is hitting .310 with an OPS of 1.005.  Ryan Howard, the last Phillies non-pitcher with a 900+ OPS in the early going, was 0-for-2 with two walks.  His OPS is .959. 

Utley was 1-for-4 with a single.  Rollins went 0-for-4 and is 1-for-his-last-13.  He is most definitely not OPSing 900+ (267/309/372).

Victorino was 0-for-3 in the six-hole.  He left three men on base, raising the tally to 17 men left on base by the batter in the sixth spot in the four games with the revamped lineup.  Victorino had his third outfield assist for the year, throwing out Holliday at third in the ninth inning as he tried to go first to third on Atkins's single.

In 33 innings in the outfield, Victorino has more assists (3) than Burrell, Abreu and Rowand combined in their 513 1/3 innings (Burrell and Rowand each have one, Abreu none).  I don't know what this means, but with such small numbers nothing is a good guess.  Something to keep an eye on.

Bell 2-for-4 to raise his average to .269.  Fasano 0-for-3.  He threw Jamey Carroll out trying to steal second.

Phillies pinch hitters went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.  Gonzalez is hitting .071, Nunez .160, Dellucci .150.

Phillies hitters in the #1 and #2 spots were 1-for-8.  For the season they 54-for-172 (.314) with 11 walks, two hit by pitch and two sac flies (.358 OBP).

The good news is the sun comes up tomorrow (weather permitting).  Earl Weaver said it best, "This ain't a football game, we do this every day."  Brett Myers and righty Ian Snell tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

Phils relievers unanimously agree not to bring starters a glass of water if they're on fire
April 27 2006

The Phillies topped the Rockies 9-5 last night to improve to 9-11 on the season.  The win moves them into second place in the NL East behind the Mets.

The Phillies schedule had them playing 20 games without an off day between April 18 and May 7 (they did catch a break with a rainout last Saturday).  That's tough, even for a team who doesn't have 60% of their starting pitchers posting an ERA of 7.99 or higher.  With the struggles of the Phillies starting pitching it's going to be, and has been, especially tough on the bullpen.  In four of the Phillies 20 games their starting pitcher hasn't been able to go four innings.   It was enough to make Julio Santana sick to his stomach.  Aaron Fultz is on pace to throw 118 2/3 innings, which would dwarf his career high of 72 1/3 he tallied last year.  That's not going to work.

Ryan Madson got the start for the Phillies last night, coming off of a terrible outing against the Nationals on Thursday where he allowed nine earned runs without making it out of the second inning.  He was better last night, going five innings and allowing four earned runs on ten hits.  Madson looked really good early, holding the Rockies to a single run through his first four innings of work.  He started the fifth inning with a 7-1 lead and things fell apart:  home run, double, ground out, wild pitch made it 7-3.  Three straight singles followed that, making it 7-4 before he got Luis Gonzalez to hit into a double-play.  The double-play was huge and it was nice to see Madson get through the fifth, he eventually got the win.  The fifth inning was just ugly for him, though, he allowed five of the ten hits he allowed for the game, including both of the extra-base hits.

Madson was out of the game in the sixth, leaving the Phillies to rely on their pen to throw four innings with a 7-4 lead after going 5 2/3 yesterday when Floyd couldn't make it out of the fourth.  The pen came up huge.

Clay Condrey made his Phillies debut in the sixth.  He was called up when Julio Santana was placed on the DL yesterday.  Condrey threw a perfect sixth in his first big league action since May, 2003.

Franklin kept the Rockies off the board in the seventh, allowing just one walk as his ERA dropped to 2.92.  He hasn't been charged with a run in his last five appearances, allowing just two hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Rhodes allowed a run in the eighth to bring the Rockies within 7-5.  The Phillies got two in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 9-5, a non-save situation, but had to bring in Gordon anyway.  The guys left in the pen were Geary, Fultz and Cormier, all of who were damage control in yesterday's lost.

Over the past two days, the Phillies pen has thrown 9 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run.  Their starters have gone 8 1/3 innings, allowing ten earned runs.

Offensively, it was day three of the revamped Phillies lineup and, so far, everything's coming up roses and daffodils, to the degree that is desirable. 

David Bell drove in three runs, hitting a double and his third home run of the year.  He nearly had two home runs, the double bounced off the very top of the five-foot further back wall in left. 

Lieberthal was 3-for-4 with a double and is hitting .312.

Burrell 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.  Utley 3-for-4 with three singles.  Utley is 7-for-12 in the new lineup.

Rowand's a guy to keep an eye on:  0-for-5 yesterday and just 1-for-12 in the new lineup era.  He left seven men on base yesterday and has left 14 in the three games since his move to the six-hole on Monday.  If the Phillies keep this lineup against righties, there are going to be a ton of RBI opportunities for the six hitter.

It was too bad to see the Phillies forced to pitch Gordon in a non-save situation, especially since they seem committed to using him as sparingly as possible.  I don't think they had another choice last night with the effort the guys left in the pen made the day before.  It won't happen, but if they are worried about the wear on Gordon's arm I'd love to see them try to save him by letting someone else start the ninth in a save situation where the game isn't on the line.  If they think he's the best guy in the pen they don't need him to protect a lead when they're up 4-1 with nobody on -- when they do need their best pitcher will often be in the eighth, in a situation where the game really is on the line.  Looks like Rhodes is on his own in the eighth, though.

I loved the no-bunts by Rollins and Utley in the bottom of the eighth with nobody out.  Dellucci singled to start the inning and the Phils let both of those guys hit away in a 7-5 game.  Both singled and the Phillies put up two runs in the inning.  I wondered if they were going pinch run for Dellucci with the super-fast Victorino, who stole 40+ bases in the minors twice.   They didn't and it didn't matter.  Dellucci seems to be fast enough hisownself.

#1 and #2 hitters went 4-for-8 with a walk and a sac fly.  For the year they are 53-for-164 (.323) with 11 walks, two hit by pitch and two sac flies (.369 OBP).

Elsewhere, the Mets beat the Giants in 11 innings after Bonds tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run homer off of Billy Wagner.  The runs were unearned as a David Wright error extended the Giants frame.  The Brewers dropped the Braves 5-4 behind nine strikeouts from Ben Sheets.  The Braves have lost three straight.  Nats and Fish are 13-27 combined, the Nationals have lost four in a row.  Phillies are 4 1/2 games behind the Mets and a half game ahead of Atlanta.

Jon Lieber looks for his first win of the season this afternoon against another Rockie righty, Aaron Cook.  Hopefully he can go deep into the game.  The pen still needs a rest, although they don't look as bad off as they were going into last night's game.  Rhodes threw 27 pitches last night but everyone else besides Madson was at 15 or fewer.

Charlie Manuel looks wily to go to the new lineup in a stretch where the Phillies will see at least four righties in a row.  Or maybe it's just a coincidence.  They look like they'll get righty Ian Snell on Friday in Pittsburgh before finally facing a lefty (Paul Maholm) Saturday night.

Note:  Edited this post, which previously indicated the Bonds homer was a three-run shot.  Note added 4/30/06.

In a quandary, Phils call on Condrey
April 26 2006

The Phillies sent reliever Julio Santana to the DL today (gastroenteritis) and called up right-handed pitcher Clay Condrey from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  Santana's move to the DL is retroactive to April 21.

Condrey will be 31 in November.  He appeared in 18 games in the majors between 2002 and 2003 with the Padres and has a career ERA of 5.49 in 60 2/3 innings.  He was horrid for the Padres in '03, allowing 21 walks in 34 innings while surrendering seven home runs and posting an 8.47 ERA.

He was pitching very well at Triple-A.  In 12 1/3 innings he had allowed just four hits and three walks, posting a 2.19 ERA.

Santana has a 7.71 in five appearances with the Phils.  He was charged with four earned runs in an inning on April 14 in Colorado.  He also allowed two runs on opening day, but pitched well in his three other appearances.  He went 3 1/3 innings on April 7 against the Dodgers, allowing just two walks.

How did Geoff Geary hit an RBI double?  The answer is blowin' in the wind
April 26 2006

The Phillies lost to the Rockies 7-6 last night, falling to 8-11 on the season.  They face the Rockies and the Pirates in the last five games in April and will duplicate their 10-14 April from 2005 with a 2-3 stretch.

Gavin Floyd got the start for the Phillies and continued to elude success.  This can be demonstrated quantitatively in a number of ways, but suffice it to say his lack of success at Triple-A and the Major League levels in '05 have translated well.  Good spring training pitcher, though.  Perhaps worse, he continues to fire off the quotations about whether or not he is thinking:  "When you think out there, you don't make the best pitches," Floyd is quoted as saying in today's Inquirer.  "There were times when I thought a lot."

Please, please stop.  A lot of other people are out there thinking, too, and they don't all have ERA's of 8.50.  Everybody knows you're thinking.  When all you talk about is about thinking or thinking about thinking it makes the problem worse.  Lie.  It's better for you.  It doesn't even have to be a complete lie, either, how bout, "I throw the ball and it doesn't go anywhere near where I want it to and they hit it hard because we're all great baseball players here.  I'm not going to say it has anything to do with what I'm thinking about, though, cause this isn't middle school."

Floyd continues to show flashes of the tremendous talent that made him a first round pick.  In the third inning last night he looked like a completely different pitcher as he struck out Atkins and Hawpe before getting Marrero to pop out meekly to second.

Gavin went 3 1/3 innings last night and allowed six earned runs on six hits and two walks.  He left trailing 5-1 in the fourth with one out and runners on second and third.  He was replaced by Geoff Geary.  The first man Geary faced was Clint Barmes, who reached on a throwing error by Rollins, which scored both Rockies to make the score 7-1.  Geary got out of the inning without further damage.

The Phillies pen was excellent.  Geary went 2 2/3 without being charged with a run.  Fultz went two scoreless innings and Cormier shut the Rockies down in the ninth.  Cormier keeps his ERA at 0.00 for the year -- he has allowed just four hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

All three of those guys are likely unavailable tonight, which may make things interesting if Madson gives up nine earned runs and can't get out of the second inning again.  Geary threw 48 pitches, Fultz 41 and Cormier 26 last night.

The Phillies trotted out nearly the same lineup for the second straight day.  Fasano caught Floyd and hit eighth but Utley stayed in the two-hole and Howard hit fifth with Rowand batting sixth against the righty Miguel Asencio.

The six through eight hitters in the revamped Phillies lineup were very good last night.  Rowand, Bell and Fasano combined to go 5-for-10 with a walk and two RBI.  They scored four of the Phillies six runs.  Fasano hit two doubles.  Bell is 5-for-his-last-15 and Fasano 5-for-his-last-9.

Fasano was better defensively after two straight starts where he struggled.  In the seventh he helped get the Phillies out of a tough spot with a sheer hustle play.  With one out and runners on first and second, he pounced on the ball after it got away from him, throwing out Holliday trying for third.  Earlier in the game it appeared he had thrown out Barmes trying to steal third as well, but the runner was called safe.  On the downside, Jamey Carroll managed to steal second on a pitchout when even an adequate throw would have gotten him.

The top five guys had a tough time.  Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Burrell and Howard went 3-for-21.  Howard was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.  He grounded into a double-play and left five men on base.  Rollins was 0-for-5 with an error that hurt the Phils.

Abreu stole his fourth base of the season and has not been caught yet.

A wild, wacky wind was a factor in the game.  Geary was forced to bat in the fourth and wound up with an RBI double as his fly ball to right twisted away from Colorado's Brad Hawpe.

In general, I seem to like the decisions that Charlie Manuel and the Phillies make a lot more than most people.  I found the eighth inning frustrating, however.  The Phillies had managed to come back from 7-1 to get to within 7-6.  The eighth spot, Fasano, was due up and righty Jose Mesa was on the mound for the Rockies.  The Phils hit Victorino for Fasano and it worked -- a solid single to the super quick Victorino to start the inning.  Abraham Nunez then pinch hit for the pitcher and popped out trying to bunt.  This does not appeal to me, even if the bunt had worked.  In a one-run game, the Phillies never got the best hitter on their bench, the left-handed Dellucci an at-bat.  And they had a tremendous chance to do so -- against the righty Mesa.  After the pitcher's slot there are five hitters in a row you wouldn't hit Dellucci for, especially if the Rockies are going to bring in their lefty closer Fuentes (Fuentes has had health issues, so the Phillies may not have been sure he was coming in for the ninth).  I guess if you're committed to bunting there the issue becomes who's the better bunter between Nunez and Dellucci, but I wish they had given Dellucci a chance to hit.  Dellucci did get in the game as a pinch runner for Burrell in the ninth.

Phillies batters in the #1 and #2 slots were 1-for-9 with a walk.  For the season they are 49-for-156 (.314) with 10 walks, two hit by pitch and a sac fly (.361 OBP).

Ryan Madson faces another Colorado righty, Jason Jennings, tonight.

If you don't like the Phillies lineup check back in 15 minutes
April 25 2006

The Phillies tinkered with their batting order again last night and came up with a winner.  They beat the Colorado Rockies 6-5 to improve to 8-10 on the year.

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies.  He was opposed by righty Josh Fogg, who looks primed to go head-to-head with Manny Ramirez in a weird hair competition.  Lidle managed to strike out ten Rockies in 6 2/3, walking just two, without pitching especially well.  He allowed four earned runs on six hits, just one of which went for extra bases.  He got the win to improve to 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA.

Lidle started the seventh inning with the Phillies leading 6-2.  He allowed a leadoff homer to Eli Marrero before retiring the next two hitters.  He allowed a single to Ryan Spilborghs and then walked Cory Sullivan.  It was just Lidle's second walk of the night and third of the season, the other walk last night was odd as it went to Rockies pitcher Josh Fogg on four pitches to start the third inning.  Lidle was removed and Ryan Franklin came in and promptly gave up an RBI-double to Clint Barmes before getting Matt Holliday to ground out with runners on second and third to end the inning. 

Arthur Rhodes pitched the eighth.  He allowed a walk and a single to start the inning before getting a ground out from Eli Marrero that put runners at first and third with one out and the score 6-4.  Luis Gonzalez was at the plate and smashed a hard ground ball to Howard at first.  Howard fielded the ball about a foot and half away from the bag but threw to second without touching first.  The throw back was not in time and the Rockies scored a run.  It was a mini-blunder by Howard who had a tough bottom of the seventh as well, striking out with runners on first and third and one out.  Rhodes struck out the next batter to end the inning with the Phillies up 6-5.

I'm concerned with the way they're using Rhodes.  It seems like an eighth inning closer mentality, which I think is going to get them into trouble in the long run.  Even if they don't want to bring in Gordon before the ninth, how bout Santana or Geary against a righty?

Tom Gordon shut the Rockies down in the ninth for his sixth save.  He allowed a leadoff walk but got the next three Rockies to end the game as his ERA fell to 1.04.  He's been awesome so far, allowing a single run in his nine appearances. 

The lineup was the big story of the game, however.  Against the righty Fogg, Utley hit second, Howard popped to fifth with Rowand hitting sixth.  It's easy to say coming off of a win, but it looks like the best lineup of the year for the Phils.  I didn't even think hitting Utley in the two hole was on the table, but it's a very good idea.  The Phillies should face righties in their next three games, hopefully the Phillies stay with it.  The bad news is the Phillies have 144 games to go and they aren't going 144-0 -- there are going to be a lot of games where they just don't hit, and having Utley in the two-hole coming off of 28 HR last year is going to open Manuel up to criticism and risk getting him kicked out of the grumpy old men club.  It's got to be tough on a righty, though, facing a top of the order that goes Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Burrell and Howard.

I had two concerns about the lineup.  The first was, would they keep bunting with Rollins on second and nobody out early in the game?  They've done that this year with Rowand hitting second, but if they did it with Utley it would be a huge mistake.  They answered this one early -- Rollins doubled in the first and Utley followed with a great no-bunt.  A single, in fact.  This is glorious. 

The second was less of an on-field issue:  They keep messing around with their lineup but I really hope they don't see the lineup as the big problem.  They have one starting pitcher with an ERA under five.  They aren't going to win that way.  Nobody is.  I think they've got the lineup against righties now -- we'll see what happens the first time they have a game where it doesn't work.

The top five hitters in the new lineup went 10-for-18 with three doubles and a walk.  They drove in all six Phillies runs.

Utley was 3-for-4.  Abreu was 1-for-2 with a walk and a two-run double.  Burrell was 2-for-4 and was victimized by a nice play by Cory Sullivan in center in another at-bat.  Sullivan had two excellent plays in center, also taking a double from Aaron Rowand.  Howard was 2-for-4 with two singles and two RBI. 

The bottom three of the lineup went 0-for-11.  Rowand, hitting behind the five best Phillies hitters, left five men on base.  Bell was 0-for-4 and struck out for the first time this season. 

Phillies hitters in the #1 and #2 spot went 5-for-8.  For the year they are 48-for-147 (.327) with nine walks, two hit by pitch and one sac fly (.371 OBP).

Elsewhere yesterday, the other four teams in the division all lost.  Phillies are in third place in the NL East, 3 1/2 games games behind the 12-7 Mets, who have lost two in a row.  The Braves are a half game up on the Phillies at 9-10 and the Nationals and Marlins are 12-24 combined.

Also, the Phillies have promoted Cole Hamels to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  At Clearwater he struck out 29 in 20 1/3 innings with a 1.77 ERA.

Gavin Floyd and Miguel Asencio tonight.

Wily Rockies force Phillies to send non-Myers starters to the hill
April 24 2006

Team

W-L

R

R/G

AVG

OBP

SLG

SB

CS

COL

10-8

100

5.56

286

351

481

5

4

PHI

7-10

76

4.47

256

325

439

9

3

 

IP

RA

RA/G

H

BB

SO

ERA

Ratio

COL

166

96

5.33

175

67

107

4.72

1.46

PHI

152

101

5.94

187

54

110

5.45

1.59

The Colorado Rockies come to town tonight for the first of a four-game set with the Phillies.  The Rockies are 10-8, tied for first place in the NL West with the Giants, and 5-1 on the road.

The Phillies beat the Rockies two out of three in Colorado April 14-16.  Since then Colorado has called up right-handed pitchers Ramon Ramirez and Miguel Ascencio and right-handed outfielder Ryan Spilborghs.  They've also activated right-handed pitcher Scott Dohman from the DL.

Sun-Woo Kim, who the Phillies pounded on April 14, is on the DL.  Zach Day, who they also smoked on the same day, was designated for assignment. 

The biggest issue with the Rockies these days is the mystery surrounding the health of first baseman Todd Helton.  Helton was hospitalized on Friday with severe abdominal pain and is on the DL.   He is reportedly feeling better and expected to be released from the hospital today -- at this point no diagnosis has been made available. 

Backup first baseman Ryan Shealy is also on the DL with an elbow problem and hasn't played at all yet this season.  Eli Marrero has started the last three games at first base for the Rockies.

Garrett Atkins has missed two straight games with the flu.  Jamey Carroll and Jason Smith, he of getting thrown out at third to lose the game on April 14 fame, have been filling in.

The Rockies offense so far has been paced by Matt Holliday, who has driven in 22 runs while posting a 268/284/535 line.  Atkins is hitting .368 in the early going and Brad Hawpe (338/419/677) has hit five home runs in his first 65 at-bats.

Danny Ardoin, filling in for the injured Yorvit Torrealba at catcher has struggled, he's hitting just .195 with 10 strikeouts in 41 at-bats.  Shortstop Clint Barmes (257/289/357) has also been slow out of the gate.  Center fielder Cory Sullivan leads off most days and is on-basing just .329.

There may be something going on with their closer, Brian Fuentes.  Fuentes did not come on in the ninth inning of a close game yesterday and it's not clear why.  An article on the team web site quotes head trainer Keith Drugger as saying, "We have a little issue we're taking care of.  It'll come out sooner or later, but right now we don't want to say."

Elsewhere in their pen, righty David Cortes has opened the season throwing 11 scoreless innings without being charged a run.  Lefty Jose Mesa has an ERA under 1.00.  Lefty Ray King is another guy they rely on in relief, he's posted a 3.86 ERA, allowing ten hits and three walks in seven innings.  Ramon Ramirez also has a 0.00 ERA and has struck out 10 in his first 6 2/3 innings.

Lefty Tom Martin has been hit in the early going while righties Dohman and Miguel Asencio have pitched 2 2/3 innings combined.

The Rockies will start Josh Fogg tonight against Cory Lidle.  Fogg is 2-0 on the year with a 3.57 ERA and has allowed just 15 hits and three walks in 17 2/3 innings.  The righty is coming off of a nice start against the Padres in Colorado in which he held San Diego to just one run in 6 1/3 innings.  Lidle is 1-2 with a 5.00 ERA and has had three mediocre starts on the year, most recently allowing four earned runs in seven innings to the Nationals last Tuesday.  He has walked just one batter in 18 innings but allowed 25 hits.  Opponents are hitting .359 against him. 

Righty Miguel Asencio will likely start tomorrow against Floyd.  It will be Asencio's first start of the season.  He had 29 starts for the Royals between 2002-03 and has a career mark of 6-8 with a 5.11 ERA.  He had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in March, 2004.  Floyd is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA. 

Righty Jason Jennings (1-0, 5.40) faces Ryan Madson (1-1, 8.36) on Wednesday.  Jennings got hit hard on Friday night against the Giants, giving up seven earned runs in six innings.  He's allowed five home runs in his last 18 innings.  Jennings may have gotten hit hard, but it was nothing compared to Madson's outing against the Nationals on Thursday.  Madson was charged with nine earned runs and got just three outs.

Aaron Cook (1-3, 3.67) and Jon Lieber (0-4, 7.99) on Thursday.  Righty Cook gave up three home runs to the Giants in his most recent start on Saturday.  He stymied the Phillies on April 16, going eight innings and allowing just one earned run on six hits and a walk but took the loss as the Phillies got a dominating performance from Brett Myers.  Lieber will try to get it together in his fifth start of the year, opponents have hit .346 off of him in the early going.  Like Lidle, he's not walking anyone (two in 23 2/3) but giving up a ton of hits (33).

The Rockies are coming off of a game with the Giants that featured five ejections, including both managers, and four hit batters but no brawl.  The problems between the teams stem from the feud between Rockies reliever Jose Mesa and Omar Vizquel.  Mesa, apparently still displeased with what Omar wrote in his book about their time together in Cleveland, hit Vizquel in Saturday's game.  Yesterday, San Francisco starter Matt Morris didn't make it through the first inning, hitting both Matt Holliday and Eli Marrero before being ejected.  The Rockies won the game 3-2 in ten innings.

Nice game, Pretty Boy (Neuman)
April 24 2006

Here's one for those of you who haven't decided whether or not you hate former Cardinal and Met and current Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez.  During Saturday's game against the Padres, Keith let fly with some commentary on a female member of the Padres training staff.  "Who's the girl in the dugout, with the long hair?" Keith asked of his play-by-play partner.

The woman in the dugout was massage therapist Kelly Calabrese, who has been with the Padres since 2004. 

Things deteriorated from there:  "I won't say women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout."

Perhaps informed that his microphone was on and could be used to communicate with large numbers of people, Keith came up with "I'm only teasing" but brought the issue back front and center again in the fifth inning.  "I stand by those comments," he said.  "I think this is a man's game and I feel very strongly about it."

Hernandez apologized for his comments on Sunday.

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