Cole Hamels in the building proves to be not enough as Phillies fall to Mets
May 11 2006

It was as if the Phillies stored up their suck for the whole month.  Kept it in a box.  Nourished it and loved it, and then released it into the wild of Citizens Bank Park where it would run through the tall grasses, find a mate and make a home.

The Phillies lost to the Mets last night, 13-4, snapping their nine-game win streak.  They fall to 18-15 on the year.   

The game lacked a certain element of competition, unless Jason Michaels came back into town and he and Burrell were playing that game with the bottlecaps between innings.
Cory Lidle got the start and went two innings, giving up eight runs on seven hits and a walk.  Only five of the runs were earned as a big component of the suck-release program included fielding -- the Phillies managed three errors in the brief time Lidle was in the game.  Two by Howard, one fielding, one throwing, and a throwing error by Cory himself.  A pretty straight-forward quote from Manuel in today's Inquirer about Howard's defense:  "He's going to have to work hard to get better." 
Lidle started the third inning and gave up three singles in a row before Nady hit a ball that Howard threw into right field in an effort to get a force at second.  With runners on second and third and nobody out, Lidle left down 6-0 and Fultz came into the game.  He got Matsui to fly to center and Floyd on third couldn't score.  No worries for the Mets, though, as Glavine was next and hit a two-run double.  Reyes followed that up with a two-run homer, which made it 10-0.  Fultz got LoDuca, then gave up a double to Beltran and a single to Delgado that sent Beltran to third before striking out Wright to end the inning.
Fultz went three innings, giving up four earned runs on seven hits and puffing his ERA from 3.06 to 4.35.  He came into the game having gone nine straight appearances and nine innings without being charged with a run.  He threw 61 pitches.  I'm surprised the Phillies let him go that long, especially if Santana is the guy who will go down when they make the official move to add Hamels on Friday.  They did pitch Santana later in the game, but just for one inning.

Geary followed Fultz and went three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and one walk.  He has not been charged with a run in his last 11 innings, allowing just eight hits and two walks. 

Santana pitched the ninth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk.  His ERA is 7.88.

The Phillies lineup against lefties has been all over the place in the first two months of the season.  Against Glavine they Phillies went (1) Rollins, (2) Utley, (3) Rowand, (4) Abreu, (5) Burrell, (6) Howard, (7) Bell, (8) Ruiz.  Boooo.   Rowand doesn't belong in the three hole, Burrell doesn't belong hitting fifth.  If there's an interpretation of data that suggests Burrell isn't the best hitter in the lineup against left-handed pitching I don't know what it is, and if he is the best hitter in the lineup against lefties he shouldn't be fifth.  I would go Rollins, Utley, Burrell, Abreu, Rowand, Howard, Bell, catcher if you're committed to having Rollins in the leadoff spot, which I think the Phillies are.

Pat Burrell was 2-for-3 with a walk and a two-run homer.  He's eighth in the NL in OPS at 1.019 and sixth in slugging at .613 (Albert Pujols, by the way, is slugging .845, which is absurd).  Burrell is also tied for fifth in the NL with 28 RBI.

Ryan Howard hit his ninth home run of the season off of the lefty Glavine.  It was his first homer off of a lefty for the year.  After all of the talk of potential problems hitting lefties, Howard has been okay, he's at 303/333/424 against them but with 11 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.  He was 2-for-4 on the day with two strikeouts and left three men on base.

Rollins and Gonzalez played shortstop, going 0-for-5 combined.  Gonzalez has two singles in 25 at-bats this year and virtually no role.  The Phillies aren't getting much out of the roster spot they are giving him.

Rowand went 1-for-4 with an RBI.  I was a little surprised Manuel didn't take him out of the game sooner in a blowout after he got hit on the hand with a pitch yesterday -- hopefully this means he's fine.

Utley 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.  Abreu 1-for-2 with a walk -- he leads the NL with 36 walks.

Nunez 0-for-3.  Bell 0-for-2 and argued with the umps for the second straight day. 

Ruiz was 0-for-4 and charged with an error when a Shane Victorino throw from center came in high and he couldn't handle it, allowing a runner to move from second to third.  He has looked good defensively but is just 1-for-11 at the plate.

Dellucci had a double in his lone at-bat and has a double and a triple in his last two at-bats, one of which was significantly more important than the other.

Elsewhere, the Marlins beat the Braves 11-2, scoring seven runs against Braves relievers.  The Reds beat the Nationals as Livan's ERA grew to 6.52 on the year.  The Phillies are in second place in the NL East, four games behind the Mets.  The Braves are four games behind the Phillies and the Nationals and Marlins are 21-44 combined.

The Phillies lost Chris Booker yesterday when he was claimed by the Kansas City Royals.  The Phillies got Booker in the December, 2005, from the Tigers after Detroit took him in the Rule 5 draft coming off of a Triple-A season where he struck out 91 in 65 innings.  He had been working his way back from a knee injury, pitching at Clearwater and Scranton Willkes-Barre.  The Royals will have to put Booker on their active roster.  Booker will be 30 in September and has two innings of Major League experience.

Gavin Floyd faces Steve Trachsel tonight. 

Young King Cole
May 10 2006

Cole Hamels will join the Phillies to start in Cincinnati on Friday.  Madson to the pen. 

Someone has to go to make room for Hamels.  My guess is it's Julio Santana, a righty in the pen who will be replaced by Madson.  The move may not come till Friday. 

Like the rest of Philliesdom, I can't wait to see Hamels pitch for the Phillies.

If the Phillies wind up going with a rotation in the second half of the season of Lieber, Myers, Wolf, Lidle and one reliable starter from the group of Hamels, Madson, Floyd, Brito and field, I'm all for whatever it takes to get us there.  The concerns with bringing up Hamels now are:

-Including his three starts at Triple-A this year, Cole Hamels has six starts at Double-A and Triple-A combined for his career.

-A month ago the Phillies were so confident about his health that they sent him to start the season at Single-A Clearwater rather than Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre to protect him from long bus rides and cold weather.

Hamels numbers in three starts at Triple-A are other-worldly -- 2-0 with an 0.39 ERA in three starts with 36 strikeouts in 23 innings.  People don't talk about it as much as the strikeouts, but he walked one.  One?

Eude Brito's numbers with the Red Barons are great, too, but not as good as Hamels.  He's 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA and has allowed just 22 hits in 40 innings after getting the win today.  Matt White is 2-3 with a 2.82 ERA and has allowed just 28 hits in 38 1/3 innings.  I think you have to be at least a little worried about whether all these great numbers for Red Barons pitchers say more about the pitchers or the teams they're pitching against.

The Phillies had to do something about the bottom of their rotation, and they did.  That's the most exciting part.  Manuel all but promised Floyd publicly a chance to get battered, and he has.  If he made such a promise to Madson I don't remember it.  It will be interesting to see if Madson has any public reaction after getting the win in his last start, going six innings and being charged with just one earned run.

I think I would have made a change as well, but I would have gone Madson to the pen, Floyd to Triple-A and Brito and Franklin in the rotation.  Either way, Phillies fans can look forward to watching what may be the most electric pitching prospect in all of baseball take the hill on Friday night.  And we'll do it the way we've watched the four and five starters for this team so far this year:  with our fingers crossed.

Phillies overcome being more interested in being competitive than winning to beat Mets
May 10 2006

If we take just one thing from last night's game, let it be this:  Shane Victorino is a badass.  Not gritty or gutty or a gamer.  Badass.

And if we take just two things, how 'bout this:  Tom Gordon isn't going to end the year with an 0.61 ERA.  Or 1.61, or 2.61 or even 3.61.  In fact, if he ends the year anywhere except on the DL I'll be happy.  He's been awesome this year, but it won't last forever.  The bigger issue is this:  the Phillies bullpen bailed out their weak starting pitching early in the season.  If the formula for success for the Phillies this year is that the pen will give up a run every 23 innings it won't work.

The Phillies beat the Mets last night, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 5-4.  The win improves their record to 18-14. They have the longest win streak in baseball at nine. 

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and was great.  He went eight innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits.  Two of the five hits went for extra-bases, a double to Beltran and a two-run homer to Xavier Nady in the eighth.  His ERA drops to 2.96, which is ninth best in the National League. 

Myers shut the Mets out through seven innings.  In the eighth he allowed a single to Cliff Floyd and a the homer to Nady to lead off the inning before getting the next three hitters. 

Flash Gordon started the ninth with a 4-2 lead, having gone 13 2/3 innings without being charged with a run.  He allowed a leadoff single to LoDuca, got Beltran to line out to second and then gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Delgado that tied the game at 4-4.  David Wright singled and went to second on a wild pitch.  The Phillies intentionally walked lefty Cliff Floyd to pitch to the righty Nady.  Nady hit a slow roller to third and Bell got him at first on a nice play with the runners advancing to second and third with two outs.  Gordon then struck out Kaz Matsui on a 3-2 pitch that looked high but was called a strike to end the inning.  The Phillies scored in the ninth and Gordon got the win. 

In his last two starts Myers has gone 15 innings against the Braves and Mets, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits but didn't get the win in either game.  He has yet to allow more than three runs in a game this season.

The Phillies used their standard lineup against righty Pedro Martinez.  Carlos Ruiz, playing for the injured Mike Lieberthal, started at catcher.  Ruiz went 1-for-4 with his first Major League hit, a single off of Pedro Martinez.

The Phillies got three runs in the second off of Pedro.  Rowand (1-for-3, two strikeouts) tripled to leadoff the inning, Bell (1-for-4) doubled him in and went to third on the Ruiz single.  Myers bunted Ruiz to second and Rollins (1-for-4) had the big blow of the inning, a two-run single.  Rollins has hit in nine straight. 

The Phillies got another run in the eighth.  Up 3-2, Burrell (1-for-4) singled with two outs.  Burrell's lack of mobility, particularly range in left field, almost hurt the Phillies again last night as Jose Reyes blooped a ball in front of him in left.  The Phillies got an out anyway, forcing the runner at second, but his problems getting to balls are hard to ignore.  Fortunately he seems to have stopped trying for second except on the longest of doubles, so the thing where he rips a double but gets thrown out going for second may be done for a while.  Anyway, Shane Victorino pinch ran for him at first with Ryan Howard up and two outs.  Howard (1-for-4, two strikeouts) smoked a double to right, which was played beautifully by Nady but Victorino scored anyway, bowling over Mets catcher Paul LoDuca.  Great play all, the double by Howard, Nady cutting the ball off and Victorino flying around the basepaths.  The run also turned out to be critical as Gordon gave up the two-run homer in the ninth, which only tied the game thanks to Howard and Victorino.

In the bottom of the ninth the score was tied at 4-4.  Aaron Heilman got Bell and Ruiz before David Dellucci hit a triple to right.  Rollins was hit by a pitch.  Utley (0-for-3 with two walks, ending a seven-game hit streak) walked.  Abreu came up and hit a dribbler out in front of the plate.  Heilman fielded it, but the throw to first was wild as Dellucci crossed the plate with the winning run.

The Phillies bench this season has been largely awful.  Last night, Dellucci's triple and Victorino's tear around the paths helped them get a win.

Elsewhere, the Braves pounded the Marlins 10-2.  The Nationals beat the Reds 7-1 behind five home runs and six innings of two-hit ball from Armas.  The Phillies pull within three games of the Mets with the Braves four behind the Phillies.  The Nationals are just 2 1/2 games behind the Braves and the Fish are 8-22.

Lidle and Glavine tonight.

And his daring life of whine made him a legend in his time
May 9 2006

NYM 21-10 151 4.87 263 334 444 32 3
PHI 17-14 155 5.00 268 341 450 16 7
NYM 291 124 4.00 249 110 264 3.56 1.23
PHI 276 157 5.06 317 99 211 4.63 1.51

Hope you enjoyed the Barry show and the day off.  No time to rest now, though, as the first place Mets and their amazin' 21-10 record come to Philly for a three game series starting tonight.

Don't let the sweep of the Giants fool you, the Phillies starting pitching is still awful.  The Mets come into Philadelphia with their pitchers holding opponents to a league best .229 average against.  And our heroes?  .292.  Worst in the league.  Madson, .371, Floyd, .323 and Lieber, .320, the three guys that started the games in the series sweep of the Giants, are causing most of the problems.

Even with the Mets off to an amazing start, the Phillies have still been a little better offensively.  The teams have both hit 42 home runs for the season and are tied for third in the NL.  The Mets are doing a great job with the stolen base, swiping 32 and being caught just three times.  Reyes has 11 already and has been caught just three times, while David Wright is perfect in seven attempts.

Big bats for the Mets are center fielder Carlos Beltran (286/441/671), new acquisition at first base Carlos Delgado (291/396/607), third baseman David Wright (305/386/542) and left fielder Cliff Floyd (186/286/304).  Floyd is obviously struggling, just 3-for-his-last-21, but the numbers on the other three are awesome.  Beltran missed a lot of time in April with a hamstring problem, but looks to be back in the swing of things.  Delgado's .607 slugging percentage is seventh best in the NL. 

Right fielder Xavier Nady (288/339/541) has seven home runs.  Kaz Matsui (254/277/365) looks back entrenched at second base.  Matsui has been awful and missed time with a knee injury.  The Mets tried Anderson Hernandez there and he hit .146 in 41 at-bats before a bulging disk in his back sent him to the DL.  Randolph has said the job is Matsui's to lose, and he probably will, but thankfully not before the series ends on Thursday.  Matsui's brother in not-getting-on-base, Jose Reyes (272/340/419), plays short.  His 11 stolen bases ties him for the lead league and he's out-onbasing Jimmy Rollins .340 to .329.

Newcomer Paul LoDuca catches.  He's at 287/343/426.  All of his line, his average, his on-base percentage and his slugging exceed his career highs, which either means it's May, it's a coincidence or it's easier to hit in New York than Florida or Los Angeles.

The wicked Mets bullpen is led by fireballer and former Philly Billy Wagner.  His numbers are great, 19 strikeouts in 17 innings with a 2.12 ERA, but he's allowed six runs, three of them earned, in his last seven innings.  Wagner has created a stir by complaining that nobody on the 2005 Phillies liked him and his teammates wanted to see him fail.  I believe he's half right.  He let us know what Placido Polanco thought last year, and what Manuel thought, and what some Phillies players said at team meetings.  Bad choices all.  The biggest problem is this -- for all the intensity he claims the Phillies lacked, the biggest series of the year in '05 came September 5 through 7 against Houston and Wagner took the loss in two of those three games. 

Wagner is joined in the pen by fellow lefties Pedro Feliciano and Darren Oliver.  Things are in a bit of flux due to the injuries that have hit the Mets rotation, but the righties out of the pen have primarily been Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford, Bartolome Fortunato and Jorge Julio.  The Mets pen has tremendous numbers -- Heilman, Feliciano, Oliver, Sanchez and Bradford all have good numbers with none of the group posting an ERA over four.  Sanchez has been unbelievable -- he has not been charged with a run in 21 innings, allowing just eight hits and seven walks.  Opponents are hitting .121 against him.  Fortunato has a 27.00 ERA after being called up on Saturday and giving up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings on Sunday -- he's likely headed back to the minors soon.  Jorge Julio has been off and on this year, but seems to be on at this point.  He has a 6.06 ERA but has allowed just one run over his last 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven.

And then there's the rotation.  Victor Zambrano suffered an injury to his right elbow on Saturday that will keep him out for the remainder of the year.  Anyone mentioning the name Scott Kazmir in a the greater New York metropolitan area takes his or her life into their own hands.  Fifth starter Brian Bannister is also out with a hamstring problem and things are getting ugly in New York.  Jose Lima ugly.  Rumors swirl around the possibility of a trade that would send uber-prospect Lastings Milledge packing for a star like Barry Zito or Dontrelle Willis and the idea seems to appeal to everyone except Mets GM Omar Minaya. 

None of the Mets rotation problems will matter much to the Phillies, who will see the healthy top of the Mets rotation this week.

Brett Myers (2-1, 3.11) and righty Pedro Martinez (5-0, 2.72) go tonight.  Pedro has struck out 42 in 39 2/3 innings this year, allowing just 22 hits.  Opponents are hitting .163 against him.  He's coming off the only one of his six starts of the season in which he didn't get the win -- he struck out nine Pirates on Wednesday, allowing just three hits and one run in six innings.  Brett Myers gets another tough draw coming off of a start against John Smoltz and the Braves on Wednesday.  He got a no decision but also pitched well, allowing two earned runs in seven innings in the game that Rowand won with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Cory Lidle (3-3, 4.17) faces lefty Tom Glavine (4-2, 1.94) tomorrow night.  Glavine has pitched 14 shutout innings in his last two starts, allowing just seven hits.  It doesn't get much better than that.  It will be interested to see what the Phillies do with their lineup against Glavine -- they haven't had much stability against lefties.  They may have settled into using basically their lineup versus righties with Howard/Rowand switched, which is what they did on May 2 against Florida lefty Scott Olsen.  I think we might see that again -- Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Burrell, Rowand, Howard, Bell, Ruiz (for the injured Lieberthal).  Lidle has pitched really well, bringing some stability to a weak Phillies rotation that has seen Lieber, Madson and Floyd all struggle terribly.  He last pitched on Thursday, giving up two earned runs in six innings against the Braves and getting the win.  He has gotten the decision in each of his six starts, going L-W-L-W-L-W.  Sadly this would make him due for a L.  Or it might not mean anything at all.  He's still way above his career strikeout rates, he has 38 in 36 2/3 innings and has walked just six batters. 

Gavin Floyd (3-2, 6.16) faces righty Steve Trachsel (2-2, 4.96) on Thursday night.  Trachsel has allowed 10 earned run over 9 2/3 innings in his last two starts, most recently giving up four runs to the Braves in six innings on Thursday.  He's allowed 38 hits in 32 2/3 innings but just two home runs.  Gavin Floyd's numbers are bad and he's been worse than his numbers.  In his last two starts he's gone 12 2/3 innings and allowed just four earned runs on 15 hits, eight walks and three home runs.  Opponents are hitting .323 against him.

None of the pitching matchups make you feel real warm and fuzzy.  Both teams have huge problems at the bottom of their rotations, but they aren't going to be a factor in the series except for Floyd.  As a Phillies fan I fear no Steve Trachsel.  Gavin Floyd, on the other hand, terrifies me.

Both the Phillies and the Mets come in hot, the Phillies have won eight straight and the Mets are on pace to win 110 games.  Before it's over for the Phillies this season there are going to be some must win games.  None of them are this week.  A big part of the outcome of the series may be whether the tension between the teams escalates or is toned down -- cause it looks like they may be headed for some big games against each other over the next few months.

They might be very gentle Giants
May 8 2006

Apparently losing half of the good hitters in their lineup in the first game of the series was more than the Giants could handle.  The Phillies beat them for the third straight time last night to improve to 17-14 on the season.

The game featured a mammoth homer by Barry Bonds, the 713th of his career, which moved him within one of the Babe himself on the all-time list.  The Phillies intentionally walked Bonds in the first inning with Vizquel on second and two outs.  It looked bad at the time, but that was when Barry had gone 1-for-10 in his last three games and the people sitting near the McDonalds sign way up in right field were feeling for more like spectators and less like assistant right fielders.

Jon Lieber started the game for the Phillies.  He went seven innings and gave up six hits and two walks.  Three of the six hits went for extra bases, including a double, the home run to Bonds and a solo home run to Mark Sweeney.  Lieber finished the seventh inning and Aaron Fultz started the eighth for the Phillies, protecting a 9-4 lead.

Fultz allowed a leadoff single before striking out the side.  He has been used sparingly by the Phillies over the past few weeks -- they seem to feel much more comfortable going with his fellow lefty, Rheal Cormier, out of the pen.  In 2005 Fultz was very successful against right-handed batters and put up the best year of his career, which has been plagued by poundings at the hands of righties.  I wrote about it in a March 15 post called "Aaron Fultz and the case of the lefty-righty splits."  So far this year righties are hitting .340 against Fultz and lefties .217.

Ryan Franklin pitched the ninth and gave up a double, a single and a sac fly before striking out the next two.  The run he allowed made the score 9-5 and puffed his ERA to 4.41.  The Phillies pen has been fabulous of late but Franklin not so much.  He's allowed four earned runs in his last four innings over five appearances as his ERA went from 2.92 to 4.41.

The Phillies, facing San Francisco's Matt Morris, went with their standard lineup against right-handed pitching with Fasano catching Lieber.  They got off to a quick start, scoring three in the first on an RBI single by Abreu and a two-run homer by Burrell.  Burrell was 1-for-2 on the day with two walks to improve his on-base percentage to .400.  Abreu was 1-for-4 with a walk, his .449 on-base percentage is fourth best in the National League.  The Phillies got two runs in the sixth on back-to-back bases loaded walks to Abreu and Burrell. 

The Phillies got two more in the bottom of the second on an RBI triple by Rollins and a single by Chase Utley.  Rollins was 1-for-3 on the day, walking twice and stealing a base.  Utley was 2-for-5 on the day and is 13-for-his-last-25.

Howard went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left six men on base.  He's on pace to be the first non-Burrell or Thome to lead the Phillies in strikeouts this century.

Aaron Rowand went 2-for-4 with his sixth home run and continues to dazzle in center field.  He has been a tremendous addition.  The home run pushed his slugging percentage over .500 and his line for the season stands at 311/354/513.  The big question for Rowand seems to be whether his down 2005 (270/329/407) season was a fluke or a trend.  Right now his numbers are looking a lot more like those he put up in 2004, the best year of his career (310/361/544).  He is hitting fewer doubles this year than he did in 2004, just four in 119 at-bats so far in '06 after hitting 38 doubles in 487 at-bats in '04.  In '06 has 11 extra-base hits (one every 10.82 at-bats), in '04 he had 64 in 487 (one in every 7.61).

Bell was 3-for-4 with a double to raise his average to .260.  He's hitting .282 against righties after struggling horribly against them in '05, and .182 against lefties after killing them in '05.  I have no idea.

Fasano 0-for-2 with a walk and 2-for-his-last-17 with two singles. 

No game today.  Pedro, Billy Wagner and the Mets Tuesday night. 

Utley unstoppable as Phillies steal seventh straight
May 7 2006

The Phillies took the first two of their three-game set with San Francisco, improving their record for the season to 16-14.  They look for the sweep tonight. 

The Phillies starting pitchers got battered in the first two games for, well, four earned runs.  You'll just have to take my word for it, they were battered.  They gave up 17 hits, seven walks and two home runs in 12 innings, and if you do that and only give up four runs you're either very good or very lucky.  They were very lucky.

The Phillies won last night's game 4-1.  Ryan Madson started and went six innings, giving up just one earned run but allowing eight hits and four walks.  Madson started the seventh inning and allowed a leadoff double to Matheny.  In a positive sign for Madson, the double to Matheny was the only extra-base hit he allowed. 

Rheal Cormier was brought in to pitch to pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney.  He got Sweeney before being charged with a wild pitch that sent Matheny to third.  Randy Winn grounded out, scoring Matheny, and then Cormier got Vizquel to end the inning.  Cormier maintained his 0.00 ERA for the season, but allowed the inherited runner, the only run charged to Madson on the day, to score.

The Phillies added a run in the bottom of the eighth to extend their lead to 4-1.  Rhodes pitched the eighth, allowing singles to the first two batters.  With runners at first and second and nobody out, Steve Finley hit a ball that Bonds tried to jump over but couldn't.  He was out and the Phillies got a gift double-play on the next batter when Lance Niekro's line drive went off Jimmy Rollins' glove at short and they were able to get the runners at both third and second.  Rhodes got out of it, but with the exception of the game on Thursday when he got the save against the Braves he hasn't looked at all good of late.

Gordon was perfect in the ninth, getting his tenth save and dropping his ERA to 0.61. 

The Phillies started their standard right-handed lineup against righty Jamey Wright.  Carlos Ruiz, up from Triple-A for the DL'ed Mike Lieberthal, got the start for the Phillies at catcher, making his major league debut.  The Phillies also activated Julio Santana from the DL on Saturday, returning Clay Condrey to Triple-A.  Condrey appeared in three games for the Phililes, allowing four hits and an earned run in two innings pitched.   

It was a tough time to makes one's debut.  A big game for April, with lots of media attention and a rare sellout in Philadelphia.  Ruiz was better than fine.  The high point came in the first inning when he threw Randy Winn out trying to steal second base.   It was a big play for the Phillies who managed to keep the Giants off the board in the first despite two hits and two walks.  Ruiz went 0-for-3 at the plate.

Utley homered in the first inning, his third in two days and seventh for the year.  He was 2-for-3 on the day with two RBI.  His seventh inning double also drove in a run.  He's 5-for-his-last-8 with five extra base hits.

Abreu drove in a run with a walk in the bottom of the third.  The Phillies loaded the bases with nobody out, Abreu walked and Burrell followed and grounded into a double-play.  It brought in a run to make the score 3-0 but it looked like the Phillies had blown a big opportunity.

Burrell 0-for-3.  Howard 0-for-4.  Rowand was 0-for-2 and was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.  He was replaced by Victorino who singled and walked and is now hitting .320 in 25 at-bats.

Rollins was 1-for-4 and Bell 1-for-4 with a double.

On Friday night, Floyd got the start, looking for his second straight win and first of the year at home.  He went six innings and gave up three earned runs with another ugly line -- nine hits and three walks, including four extra base hits, two of which were home runs.  Opponents are slugging .591 against him. 

Floyd started the seventh with the Phillies up 7-3 and was removed after he allowed a double and a walk.  The Phillies called on Cormier, who got Vizquel to ground into a double-play and Mark Sweeney to fly out to end the inning without any damage. 

Floyd gets out with his second straight win but really it was Cormier who kept his line respectable as Floyd left with two runners on base and nobody out.

The Phillies scored again in the bottom of the seventh and the game was pretty much out of reach at 8-3.  Fultz pitched the eighth and Geary the ninth and they didn't allow a hit or walk between them.  The Phillies pen has been absurdly good -- including Saturday night's game they have been charged with one earned run in their last 23 innings since April 27.

The Phillies fielded their standard lineup against a righty for the Giant's Matt Cain.  Sal Fasano caught Floyd.

The Phililes hit five home runs on the game -- two from Utley (3-for-5, 3 RBI), two from Howard (2-for-4, 3 RBI) and one from Aaron Rowand (2-for-4, 1 RBI).

Rollins was 1-for-4.  Abreu 0-for-3 with two more walks.  Burrell was 1-for-3 with a single but left four men on base.  Bell was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  Fasano 1-for-4 with a single -- he's 2-for-his-last-15. 

Jon Lieber and Matt Morris tonight.  Tomorrow the Phillies have their first scheduled off-day since April 17 (there was a rainout April 22).

Butterfinger records out of reach as Barry blows into town
May 5 2006

SF 14-14 128 4.57 256 331 393 13 4
PHI 14-14 134 4.79 265 336 431 15 6
SF 249.1 149 5.32 256 108 145 5.05 1.46
PHI 249 148 5.29 288 90 195 4.81 1.52

Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants roll into Philadelphia tonight for the first of a three-game series.  Hopefully there's nothing wrong with Gavin Floyd that can't be cured with a little national media attention.  If tonight's start is a complete disaster, and I think it's at least 50/50, we'll have to give an assist to Cory Lidle who did a nice job of escalating the situation with his comments on the Giants slugger and his pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run mark.

Bonds has 712 career home runs, just two behind Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list.  Babe Ruth's 714 home runs are the elite mark in confection achievement.  The Reggie bar, with 563 homers, doesn't even come over anymore because the mocking is so brutal.

The Giants are in third place in the NL West, a game and a half behind the Diamondbacks and Rockies who are tied for first place.

Bonds (250/512/554) and right fielder Moises Alou (374/424/667) are the big bats for the Giants.  Alou's seven homers lead the team and his 24 RBI put him in a tie for seventh in the National League.

Randy Winn (278/345/389) mans center field and 41-year old Steve Finley gets a lot of time in the outfield as well.  Finley is hitting .295.

In the infield, most of the pop will eventually be provided by Pedro Feliz who's been struggling thus far, hitting just .222 with a .252 on-base percentage.  First baseman Lance Niekro is hitting just .203 with three extra base hits.  Shortstop Omar Vizquel is at 341/432/429.

They're really, really old.  I think it's Bonds who wins in an old-off at 42.  Finley is 41 but Vizquel, 39, and Alou, 39, are not to be trifled with either.

Second baseman Ray Durham, a pup at just 34, is on the DL with a hamstring problem.  Jose Vizcaino, hitting just .171, and 23-year old Kevin Frandsen have been filling in.  Frandsen got called up last Friday after hitting .333 in 78 Triple-A at-bats but didn't endear himself when he didn't run out a pop-up in the eighth inning last Saturday that was dropped by Arizona catcher Chris Snyder to turn a double-play.  He also hit the ball in batting practice on Wednesday that bonked Barry Bonds on the head.

Mike Matheny catches.  He's hitting .212 and has won Gold Gloves for the past three years.

Armando Benitez came off the DL on April 20 and closes.  Former Philly Tim Worrell returns to Philadelphia having handled the closing duties while Benetiz was out.  He's posted six saves and a 7.15 ERA for the year.  They are joined by righties Scott Munter, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Correia and lefties Steve Kline and Jeff Fassero.  Accardo, Correia and Kline's numbers look good so far, opponents are hitting .356 off of Munter and .377 off Fassero.

Lefty Noah Lowry is on the DL and should come back Monday.  Brad Hennessey moved into his spot in the rotation but may go to the pen next week when Lowry returns -- Jamey Wright pitches tomorrow night for the Giants and may be pitching for his chance to stay in the rotation. 

Gavin Floyd (2-2, 6.57) faces righty Matt Cain (1-3, 5.28) in a battle of the men who-would-be-superstars.  Cain's a little closer to fulfilling his birthright, however, having had some success in the bigs already.  He went 2-1 in seven starts for the Giants last year and pitched great, allowing just 24 hits in 46 1/3 innings.  Tonight will be his sixth start of the year.  He went six innings against the Diamondbacks on Sunday and allowed three earned runs, taking the loss.  He's allowed less than a hit an inning, 28 hits in 29 innings, but given up four home runs.  Floyd is coming off of his best start of the year.  On Sunday he held the Pirates to one earned run in 6 2/3 innings.  He allowed just six hits but walked five.  Floyd is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA away from Philadelphia and 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA at home, but I just don't think it's practical to move the game to San Francisco at this point.

Righty Jamey Wright (2-2, 4.63) and Ryan Madson (2-1, 8.14) Saturday night.  Both guys may be fighting for their rotation spot -- Wright because of Lowry's return and Madson because he's been hit so hard.  Wright had an awful start against San Diego on Monday, allowing ten runs, seven earned, in 5 1/3.  He hits a ton of batters.  Madson also pitched Monday, giving up five earned runs in 5 1/3 against the Fish.  Opponents are hitting .373 against him and he's given up four home runs in 24 1/3 innings.

Jon Lieber (1-4, 6.87) faces righty Matt Morris (2-2, 5.18) on Sunday night.  Morris gave up four earned runs in seven innings on Tuesday against the Padres.  He was ejected from his start on April 23 against the Rockies as he hit two batters before getting out of the first inning as he was dragged into the never-ending Mesa/Vizquel fued.  He's had two starts since then, neither of which has been very good.  He's still just 31 but has tailed off a bit in the last two seasons after posting sub-four ERAs for his first six years in the major.  Speaking of tailed off, I have no idea what's wrong with Jon Lieber but I hope the Phillies have their best people on it.  Opponents are hitting .351 against him and he's allowed 51 hits in 36 2/3 innings while walking just three.

With all this crap there must be a Phillies win in there somewhere
May 5 2006

The Phillies overcame some self-inflicted wounds last night but beat the Braves anyway, taking the game 6-3 to improve to 14-14 on the year.

Mike Lieberthal dropped a pop-up.  Pat Burrell lost track of the outs and took off from first with one out on a routine fly to center and was doubled-off easily.  Aaron Rowand played a Matt Diaz single into a triple.  A bloop dropped in between the shortstop and left fielder that should have been an out.

The Phillies won anyway.  And they looked like maybe they thought they were a team that could overcome their mistakes, which may be the biggest difference between Charlie Manuel's Phillies and Larry Bowa's.  Pat Burrell smiled on the field.  I don't remember the last time I saw that.  I think it's maybe never. 

The Phillies may be able to overcome some mistakes, but they won't be able to overcome their starting pitching this year unless it gets a whole lot better.  Three of their five starters have an ERA over 6.50 and that's too much for any offense.  One of  the two sub 6.50's, Cory Lidle, was on the hill for the Phillies last night.  He pitched well, going six innings and allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on five hits and three walks.  He got the win, improving to 3-3 with a 4.17 ERA.  Over his last two starts he's allowed just four earned runs on nine hits over 12 innings.

Lidle went into the sixth inning with the Phillies leading 4-3.  He got the first batter before allowing a single to Andruw Jones and a walk to LaRoche.  Francoeur grounded out and the Phillies intentionally walked lefty Brian McCann to load the bases with two outs and Ryan Langerhans coming to the plate.  It was the biggest moment of the game and the Phillies left Lidle in to face Langerhans rather than calling on Cormier or Fultz.  And it worked.  Lidle struck Langerhans out and the Phillies pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning.  Langerhans was 0-for-6 in the two-game series and left seven men on base.

There's been an Aaron Fultz sighting.  In his first action since April 25 he kept the Braves off the board in the seventh.  After Matt Diaz led off with a misplayed triple in center, Fultz struck out Marcus Giles (0-for-10 in the two game set), got Renteria on a fly to left that couldn't score the runner from third and got Chipper to ground out.  Rowand misplayed the Diaz liner to center badly but has been as advertised in center field so far, turning two would-be doubles into two outs in the last two games.

Geary and Cormier combined to pitch the eighth.  Geary got the first two batters before allowing a single to Francoeur and the Phillies brought in Cormier to pitch to McCann.  Cormier struck him out to maintain his 0.00 ERA over 9 1/3 innings. 

Arthur Rhodes entered the game in the ninth to try to nail it down for the Phillies.  Closer Tom Gordon got the night off having pitched four games in a row.  The Phillies did add a run in the bottom of the eighth to extend their lead to 6-3, but looked committed to bring in Rhodes in a 5-3 game as well as they never warmed up Gordon.  Rhodes had been shaky in his last two outings.  He was charged with only one run but had allowed two hits and walked four in his last two innings.  He didn't have any problems putting up his first save of the year, however, getting the Braves 1-2-3.

On April 27 the Phillies pen blew it.  In a 3-3 game the Rockies put up three runs in the eighth and ninth and came away with a 6-3 win.  Since then, Phillies relievers have thrown 17 innings and been charged with one earned run.

The Phillies used their standard lineup against right-handed pitching against John Thomson.

Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run, his fourth of the season.  He was 2-for-5 on the day.  He's hitting .270 and on-basing .317.

The Phillies scored another run in the first off of a Ryan Howard sac fly, one of two he had on the day.  Howard also hit a sixth inning home run that extended the Phillies lead to 5-3.  The home run was his first extra-base hit since hitting two home runs against the Fish on April 23.  Howard was 1-for-2 with 3 RBI on the day, improving his batting average to .323 (13th in the NL).

Abreu was 0-for-2 with two walks, he leads the NL with 30.  Utley 2-for-4 with two more singles to bring his average up to .298.

Aaron Rowand didn't win the game for a change.  He was 1-for-4 with a single.  Burrell was 1-for-4.

Bell was 1-for-3 with a double. 

Mike Lieberthal, 0-for-2 on the day, left the game after being hit by a John Thomson pitch on the left knee.  He wouldn't have caught today anyway, with Floyd pitching against the Giants.  Hopefully he won't miss much time -- I'm a Sal Fasano fan but in a way that makes me hope he doesn't play very much.  If Lieberthal needed more than a couple of days I expect the Phillies would call on Carlos Ruiz, who is tearing things up at Triple-A, hitting .385 and leading the Red Barons in home runs (6) and RBI (18).  In 91 at-bats he has posted a 385/448/637 line.  I wrote about Ruiz and fellow Phillies minor league catcher Jason Jaramillo in a March 12 post you can read here.

Elsewhere, the Mets shut out the Pirates 6-0 behind Tom Glavine.  Florida beat Washington.  The Phillies are still all alone in second place in the NL East, two games ahead of the Braves and five games behind the 19-9 Mets.  Nats and Marlins are 17-38 combined.

The circus comes to town tonight in the person of Barry Bonds.  Gavin Floyd will pitch for the Phillies against the Giants and righty Matt Cain, but mostly himself.

Phillies on a roll as Rowand rocks Remlinger
May 4 2006

I have a tirade about Aaron Rowand hitting third against a righty (it's slightly more intense than my tirade against Rowand hitting third against a lefty), but I've decided to save it for a time when he hasn't won two games in two days.  Check back often.

The Phillies topped the Braves 5-4 last night to inch within a game of .500.  It was the fourth straight win for the Phillies and improves their record to 13-14.

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and went seven innings, allowing three runs, two of them earned, on five hits and two walks.  He pitched well, striking out five but allowing a two-run homer to Andruw Jones in the sixth inning.  In his last two starts Myers has allowed five earned runs in 14 innings without getting a win.

The Phillies pinch hit for Myers in the bottom of the seventh in a 3-3 game.  Franklin, pitching in the eighth inning for the second straight day, got Renteria, allowed a double to Chipper Jones and struck out Andruw Jones to make it two outs, runner on second and left-handed Adam LaRoche at the plate.  The Phillies intentionally walked LaRoche, batting .205 on the season and .197 against right-handed pitching, to pitch to his brother-in-tough-to-spell-last-names, Jeff Francoeur.  Francoeur singled, Chipper scored and LaRoche went to third.

The Philies brought in Rheal Cormier who hit McCann to load the bases before getting Ryan Langerhans to ground out to short.  Getting Langerhans with the bases loaded proved to be huge for the Phillies, they scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to pull ahead to stay, giving Cormier the win.  Cormier improves to 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  In the two games he got wins he has thrown a total of nine pitches.

Seriously, though, what's going on with Aaron Fultz?

Tom Gordon pitched the ninth.  Perfect again.  Ninth save.  Two more strikeouts.  0.66 ERA.

Julio Santana pitched a scoreless inning in his rehab with Reading on Tuesday and is eligible to come off of the DL on Saturday (5/6).  I assume this means Clay Condrey is headed back to Triple-A.

The Phillies lineup against righty John Smoltz had Rowand hitting third, Abreu fourth and Howard fifth.  Dellucci started in left and hit sixth and the switch-hitter Nunez played third and batted eighth.  Nunez has been moving around a bit between second and eighth, eighth looks like a winner to me.  Not a pretty lineup, but it was a factor in the win.  Slots two through six went lefty (Utley), righty (Rowand), lefty (Abreu), lefty (Howard), lefty (Dellucci) and the Braves tried to get through it with a single left-handed pitcher in the eighth.  It didn't work as the lone righty in the group hit a game winning homer.

Rowand's two-run homer that followed Utley's single in the eighth was the big hit of the game.  Rowand was 2-for-4 on the day and has seven RBI and nine total bases in his last eight at-bats.  Utley was 2-for-4 with an RBI and has his average up to .290.  He's 5-for-his-last-12 but doesn't have an extra-base hit in his last 29 at-bats.

Abreu was 1-for-4 and is on-basing .458 (4th in the NL).  Howard 2-for-4 to raise his average to .319 but doesn't have an extra-base hit in his last 36 at-bats. 

Nunez, whose offensive approach seems to require him to hit dribblers to third if he's going to get on base, was 1-for-3.   Dellucci was 0-for-3 with a caught stealing. 

Rollins was 1-for-3.   He led off the first with a double but did not score as Utley and Rowand struck out and Abreu grounded out to second.  He's 4-for-his-last-20 but had a big home run in the seventh inning yesterday.

The Phillies also failed to score when Lieberthal led off the fourth inning with a double.  Lieberthal was 2-for-4 on the day, raising his average to .306.

Elsewhere, the Mets beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Delgado's 12th inning homer after the Pirates tied it in the ninth with two runs off of Billy Wagner.  The Marlins beat the Nationals.  The Phillies are in second place in the NL East, having pulled a game ahead of the Braves.  They are five games behind the 18-9 Mets.  The Nationals and Marlins are 16-37 combined.

Cory Lidle and John Thomson tonight.

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