Scoring two runs a game proves to leave little room for error
May 17 2006

The Phillies have managed to go an unlikely 2-1 in their last three despite scoring just two runs in each game.  They got more good starting pitching again last night in Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough as they fell to the Brewers 3-2.  They still can't hit lefties, but can do just about everything else with the possible exception of throwing a runner out at third on a bunt attempt.

The loss was just their second for May and puts their record for the year at 22-16. 

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies and was very good.  He went six innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits and two walks.  Three of the five hits he allowed went for extra-bases, but that's a little misleading.  Two were doubles that were balls hit to third that weren't fielded because of a super shift that had the third baseman playing near short.  The other was a double by the Brewers pitcher that went over Shane Victorino's head in center and bounced before it hit the wall -- Victorino has been good in the outfield so far, but that looked bad.

The Phillies pinch hit for Lidle in the seventh after tying the game at 2-2.  Madson followed Lidle, pitching in his second game out of the pen coming off of an awful appearance on Friday when he allowed two home runs in an inning.  He got the Brewers 1-2-3 last night, throwing only seven pitches.  Pinch-hitter Gabe Gross hit the ball hard to deep right, but Madson got out unscathed.

Ryan Franklin came in the eighth and had a wretched game.  Pat Burrell, who has been horrid in left and whose range coming off of foot surgery seems limited to his wingspan at the time of the pitch, helped bail him out in the eight.  With one out and runners on first and second, Carlos Lee singled to left.  Burrell fielded the ball on a high bounce with his bare hand and in a single motion threw out Hardy at home with the help of a nice block of the plate by Fasano.  Hardy was injured on the play, which makes it likely we'll see more of Bill Hall at short for the Brewers, especially after he looked bad in center last night.  Franklin got Fielder to end the eighth inning and keep the game tied at 2-2.

The game was still tied in the bottom of the ninth.  Bill Hall lead off with a double and the Phillies intentionally walked Corey Koskie.  Damian Miller bunted to Franklin, who tried to get the runner at third but threw the ball away, allowing the winning run to score.

Franklin allowed three hits and two walks in an inning, including two doubles.  His ERA actually goes down for the game since the run was not earned.  He's allowed nine hits and four walks in his last 4 2/3 innings. 

I don't object at all to intentionally walking Koskie, and it didn't matter in this game, but the Phillies use the intentional walk too much in lieu of bringing in a different reliever mid-inning to get the matchup they want.  The Phillies pitchers have issued 17 intentional walks on the year while Phillies batters have received six.

The Phillies are still struggling with their lineup against lefties and the loss of one of their big right-handed bats, Rowand, isn't helping.  Against Chris Capuano they went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Victorino (7) Bell (8) Fasano.  Fasano played despite having Lidle on the mound.  I like this decision, adding another guy to the lineup with a chance to hit one out when the team is struggling to score runs.  Ruiz looks to be clearly the better defender, but Fasano made some nice plays on the night, blocking the ball on the great throw by Burrell and throwing out Corey Koskie in the second inning as he tried to swipe second.

The Phillies seemed baffled by Capuano's pickoff move early in the game.  Utley was nearly picked off in the first and Capuano got Fasano, who obviously wasn't thinking of stealing, in the second.

Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-4 and is having huge problems getting aboard.  His average dropped to .242 and his on-base percentage is a horrid .306.  He's 1-for-his-last-19.  Watch out for Sal Fasano's on-base percentage, which is currently .302.  If Fasano passes Rollins tonight, Rollins will have the worst on-base percentage on the team among the seven guys who play everyday when healthy plus Fasano and Lieberthal.  Rollins will go on a tear sometime and get his numbers respectable.  Till then you don't have to look very far to understand why the Phillies are scoring two runs a game. 

Burrell made a great throw in the eighth but seems to be really struggling to get to balls in left field.  He was 0-for-4 on the day, striking out three times and hitting into a double play.  With Bell struggling against lefties and Rowand out, he's really the only big right-handed stick in the lineup and he's 1-for-his-last-12 with six strikeouts.

The Phillies got a run in the first when Howard (1-for-4) singled in Ultey (1-for-3 with a walk).  In the seventh they scored their second run on back-to-back one out doubles by Victorino (2-for-3) and Bell (1-for-3 with a walk).  Utley's 3-for-his-last-16.  Victorino is 11-for-his-last-19, hitting .413, and has hit in five straight.  He's on-basing .471 in 46 at-bats.

Fasano was 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. 

Elsewhere, the Mets beat the Cardinals behind Tom Glavine.  The Braves scored two in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Marlins.  The Phillies fall two games behind the Mets and are 3 1/2 games up on Atlanta.  Washington and Florida are 24-52 combined.

The Phillies finally get a righty tonight in David Bush.  Gavin Floyd goes for the Phillies.

Lefty for dead
May 16 2006

Cory Lidle can't catch a break.  Pitching for a team that struggles with lefties, last week he drew the best in the league so far, Tom Glavine.  Tonight he starts against the guy who has arguably been the second best lefty in the league, Chris Capuano.  Wandy Rodriguez also has nice numbers, but Capuano's are a little better.

Here are some Phillies struggling to get going against lefties:

vs LHP, 2006
Rollins 34 176 275 324
Utley 42 214 340 238
Rowand 31 194 242 387
Bell 30 167 265 300
Abreu 31 194 395 419
Gonzalez 19 158 238 158
Ruiz 6 000 000 000

The most alarming number might be Utley's .238 slugging percentage.  He has just one extra-base hit against lefties on the season despite playing virtually every day.

The best number is Abreu's .395 on-base percentage.  He's on the list cause of the .194 average, but the other numbers are good.

David Dellucci doesn't have an at-bat against lefties all season.  He must be irked to lose playing time to Chris Roberson in Cincinnati with Abreu out, lefty starters or not.  Dellucci has been terrible against lefties for his career, but was a little better last year (242/342/364).

Also, I swear, if it comes down to a vote on whether or not Alex Gonzalez should be allowed to play first base I really hope somebody lets me know when and where.  For sheer inanity it's hard to beat that idea without involving a rubber chicken or Speed 2.  I want to see him and Tomas Perez go straight-up in a worst offensive player in history to start multiple games at first base contest and see who comes out on top.  It's not even Gonzalez' fault -- he's not a first baseman.  Everyone else has been willing to take this at face value for the first 12 years of his career, but apparently the Phillies are looking for some hard data.  I don't want to be a whiner so here's some suggestions on how to improve on this plan: 

1) Have a backup first baseman on the roster 
2) Play Burrell at first when Howard rests
3) Play Fasano at first when Howard rests 
4) Don't rest Howard  
5) Pack the whole thing in and send the whole team down to Double-A, where Alex Gonzalez can really shine at first base

Howard is at 293/318/537 against lefties in 41 at-bats. 

Also -- Brian Michael of Phillies Nation has asked for help spreading the word about a Phillies Nation bus trip to DC to see the Phillies square off against the Nationals on June 10.  You can read the details here.  Per Nationals tradition the game will be played in a decrepit football stadium, so that should be good for a hoot if nothing else.

Cold beer there
May 16 2006

MIL 19-19 191 5.03 273 342 470 19 7
PHI 22-15 178 4.81 263 337 444 18 8
MIL 334.2 188 4.95 319 131 252 4.49 1.34
PHI 329 179 4.84 360 119 251 4.35 1.46

The Phillies swoop into to Milwaukee on their magic carpets tonight for the first of a three-game series.  The Phils are playing magnificent baseball, which comes as a shock from an organization whose fans have become accustomed to watching Endy Chavez strike out with runners on base in critical games over the past few years.

For the first time this season the Phillies have started to feel some pressure brought on by injuries, having lost Rowand and Lieberthal for significant time already this month and having to go the last two games without Abreu.  Even under the best of circumstances, the Phillies field a significantly weaker lineup against lefties than they do righties.  Those struggles were evident as they managed just four runs in two games against lefties Dave Williams and Brandon Claussen this weekend and started a lineup that included newcomers Chris Roberson and Carlos Ruiz as well as backup outfielder Shane Victorino.  They should get Abreu back tonight, and they need him, but they will also get two more lefties in their next three games, one very tough and the other a work in progress.

The Phillies come into Milwaukee at 22-15, in second place in the NL East, a game behind the Mets.  The Brewers are 19-19, in fourth place in the NL Central.  As a team Milwaukee is first in the NL in batting average and fourth in scoring.  They lead the league with 59 home runs.  The Phillies, meanwhile, have dropped to eleventh in runs.

Left fielder Carlos Lee (296/392/655) has been a monster for the Brewers.  He's second in the NL in home runs with 15 and tied for fifth in RBI with 32.  His 1.047 OPS is second best in the league.  Geoff Jenkins (260/315/420) in right and Prince Fielder (321/379/550) at first are the other big bats.  Jenkins comes in just 2-for-his-last-16 while Fielder has three home runs in his last three games.  Brady Clark (224/331/284) gets most of the time in center, he has five extra-base hits in 116 at-bats this year but had two solid seasons back-to-back coming into '06.

Rickie Weeks (287/371/402) at second and JJ Hardy (240/289/392) at short are the middle infield.  Hardy's .289 on-base percentage sure is ugly, but he has hit five home runs.  He's 0-for-his-last-11 and the Brewers have been giving Bill Hall a lot of time at short -- Hall certainly did not hurt his chances for playing time on Sunday when he hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the tenth to give Milwaukee a 6-5 win over the Mets.  Hall finds his way into the lineup somewhere most everyday, second, third, short or the outfield, and has been awesome, hitting .292 with eight homers.  His .642 slugging percentage in 106 at-bats is second on the team to Carlos Lee. 

Corey Koskie (292/364/528) plays third.  Damian Miller (337/398/592) is off to a tremendous start and due for a serious swoon.  Both Koskie and Miller have hit 13 doubles, which ties them for third in the NL.  Miller has homers in each of the last two games. 

Righty Derrick Turnbow is the closer for the Brewers.  His numbers for the year are good, but he took the loss against the Mets on Saturday, giving up a home run to LoDuca, and a blown save on Sunday when an RBI-single from Nady drove in the tying run in the top of the ninth.  He's allowed 13 hits and seven walks in 15 1/3 innings but struck out 15.  Righties in the pen are Matt Wise, former Braves closer Dan Kolb, fireballer Jose Cappellan, Chris Demaria and Justin Lehr.   Two lefties, Jorge De La Rosa and Brian Shouse, who was acquired recently when the Brewers traded Enrique Cruz to the Rangers.  Lehr has been hit pretty hard, giving up 15 hits and two home runs in 11 2/3 innings, but the other guys in the pen have pretty solid numbers.  Chris Demaria has given up two homers in just nine innings.  Jose Cappellan has allowed just 13 hits in 21 1/3 innings and Kolb, who struggled badly with the Braves, has a 1.64 ERA.

The Phillies will face lefties in two of the three games.

Cory Lidle (3-4, 5.12) faces lefty Chris Capuano (4-3, 2.83) tonight.  This is a tough matchup for the Phillies.  They still don't have a stable lineup against lefties -- I expect we'll see Victorino bat second and Abreu back in right.  I would be tempted to start Fasano over Ruiz at catcher as well, it would break the pattern of Fasano catching Floyd and Lieber but Capuano is tough and the Phillies are scuffling against lefties.  Capuano's 2.83 ERA is eighth best in the NL.  He is fourth in the league in strikeouts.  He last pitched on Wednesday, taking the loss against the Padres.  He gave up just three runs on six hits in six innings that day but the Brewers were stymied by Chan Ho Park (really -- you can look it up).  Over his last four starts he's allowed just 24 hits in 28 innings and has not allowed a home run.  The Phillies have problems hitting bad lefties -- he's a good one.  Lidle got absolutely smoked by the Mets on Wednesday and was charged with eight runs, five earned, in just two innings.  Opponents are hitting .299 against him.  He has a decision in each of his seven starts, the pattern remains intact at L-W-L-W-L-W-L, which puts him in line for a win tonght.

Gavin Floyd (4-2, 5.30) and righty David Bush (3-4, 4.17) tomorrow night.  Floyd's performance on Thursday after Rowand's unbelievable catch was just one in a long string of heroic acts by Phillies in the past five days.  In that game Gavin went five shutout innings and got the win.  Opponents are also hitting .299 against Floyd and he is walking way too many, 21 in 35 2/3 innings, and giving up a ton of home runs (7).  Hopefully he can build on what he did last week.  He's 3-0 in his last three starts and has allowed just four earned runs in 17 2/3 innings.  If you're a Phillies fan and you feel real comfortable when he goes out there, though, you may be the only one.  Bush pitched against the Mets on Friday, going six innings and allowing four runs, just three of which were earned.  Bush has allowed just nine walks on the year and opponents are hitting .245 against him.  He's struck out 44 in 54 innings this year after getting just 75 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innnings in '05.

Cole Hamels (0-0, 0.00 ERA) against lefty Dana Eveland (0-0, 9.53) on Thursday afternoon.  The bad news is that Dana Eveland should be good.  The good news is it won't be until around 2009 or so.  It sure doesn't mean the Phillies are going to knock him around after what they did against Williams and Claussen, but they have a chance.  Eveland is getting a chance to start because of the injuries to Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka as well Ben Hendrickson's inability to install much confidence in his two starts.  Eveland appeared in 27 games as a reliever for Milwaukee last year with a 5.97 ERA.  He's been in just one game this season, he started against the Mets on Saturday and gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings.  His numbers at Triple-A Nashville were goofy good -- an 0.75 ERA in six starts.  He struck out 33 and allowed just 22 hits in 36 innings.  Speaking of guys who can put up zeroes in Triple-A, Cole Hamels will be on the bump for the Phillies in his second start.  He was lights out in start number one -- let's see what happens next.  Pretty much anything but an arm injury is okay with me.  Hamels is much more highly hyped prospect than Eveland, but it's interesting that the Brewers started with Eveland out of the pen last year while the Phillies threw Hamels into the rotation.  His pitch counts in these starts are critical, so all eyes are on Manuel, who got him out after 92 pitches on Friday.

Where are they now?
May 15 2006

Yesterday afternoon the Phillies beat the Reds 2-0 to improve to 22-15 on the season.  Here's a look back at game 37 in 2005.

On Friday, May 13, 2005, the Phils beat the Reds 12-2 to improve their record to 16-21.  They came into the game at 15-21, having lost four of their last five.

It was a Friday night game and lefty Eric Milton pitched for the Reds. Tomas Perez started at first base with Jim Thome on the DL and Howard not yet playing against lefties.  Polanco started at second with Utley on the bench aginst the lefty and having played first base the game before.  Pratt caught, Lieberthal had missed a few games with an injury to a finger, and Jason Michaels started in center field.  Rollins, Abreu, Burrell and Bell filled out the lineup. 

Cincinnati's lineup had a lot of the guys we saw in the series this weekend:  Dunn, Kearns, Lopez, Griffey and LaRue all started.  They were joined by D'Angelo Jimenez at second and Joe Randa at third.  Jimenez is a Ranger these days, Randa a Pirate.

The Phillies banged out 16 hits, pounding Milton for eight earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.  Todd Pratt was 4-for-4 with five RBI, doubling in the second inning to drive in Bell, hitting a three-run homer in the fourth, an RBI-single in the fifth, a single in the seventh and walking in the eighth. 

Rollins was 2-for-4 but was hitting just .235.  He is at .248 this year.  Burrell was 1-for-5 to drop his average to .289 -- he's at .286 this year.  Bell was 2-for-4 to improve his average to .222, he's at .259 right now.  Abreu was 3-for-5 and hitting .323 -- this year he's hitting just .257 after missing a couple of games in a row with a back problem.

Brett Myers got the start and the win for the Phillies, giving up two earned runs in seven innings while striking out eight.  He lowered his ERA on the season to 1.63 (Myers is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in '06).  Myers had been pitching lights out -- after the game Pratt said of him, "He's the best pitcher in baseball right now.  He's one of the best I've ever caught. He's that dominating right now."

Tomas Perez was 1-for-4 and hit a three-run double in the seventh. 

Howard, on another day when a non-first baseman started at first against a lefty, came off the bench and got a hit.  A double off of Coffey in his lone at-bat.

Marlon Byrd got an at-bat for the Phillies and played some center field. 

Righty Ricky Stone, now with the Cardinals, came on for the Reds after Milton got bombed.  Todd Coffey, still with the Reds, followed him and gave up four runs in an inning.  Matt Belisle, also still a Red, pitched a scoreless ninth.

For the Phillies, Fultz pitched a perfect eighth and Robinson Tejeda allowed a hit in the ninth but kept the Reds off the board.


Are we having fun yet?
May 14 2006

The Phillies won the final two games in Cincinnati, sweeping the series to improve to 22-15 on the year.  On April 10, the Phillies lost to the Braves 5-3 to fall to 1-6 on the season.  Since then they have gone 21-9.  They have won four in a row and 13-of-their-last-14.

Bobby Abreu missed both games after a back problem arose during batting practice yesterday.  Chris Roberson started for him in right field in both games -- a lefty started for the Reds both Saturday and today.  I expect we'll see Dellucci against a righty if Abreu misses any more time.

Also on Saturday, the Phillies put Julio Santana on the 15-day DL with elbow tendinitis and recalled Geoff Geary from Triple-A.  Thank goodness. 

The Phillies won today's game 2-1 in twelve innings.  Brett Myers got the start, allowing one earned run in seven innings.  He allowed just one extra-base hit, a fifth inning home run to Jason LaRue.

Rheal Cormier pitched the eighth, allowing a hit and a walk.  He still has a 0.00 ERA after appearing in 15 games.  In 12 1/3 innings, he's allowed seven hits and five walks.  He was appearing in his first game since May 6. 

Ryan Franklin pitched the ninth in a 1-1 game, allowing a hit and walk but no run.  The Reds had nine hits on the day, but LaRue's homer was the one one that went for extra bases.

Rhodes pitched a perfect tenth and started the eleventh, getting the lefty Dunn before being replaced by Geary, who allowed singles to Hatteberg and Phillips but got out of the inning without allowing a run.  He has a 3.86 ERA but opponents are hitting .364 against him. 

Rhodes ended April with a 5.87 ERA but has not been charged with a run in his five May appearances as he's lowered his ERA to 3.46.

The Phillies pulled ahead in the top of the twelfth.  Gordon came in the bottom of the inning, allowing a single to Felipe Lopez but getting Griffey to line out to first to end the game. 

Since Rowand was injured on Thursday, Phillies starting pitchers, Floyd, Lieber, Hamels and Floyd, have combined to throw 24 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on nine hits.

Facing Brandon Claussen, a lefty, the Phillies started Alex Gonzalez at first and Roberson in right.  Victorino hit second for the second day in a row.  Utley third, Burrell fourth, Bell fifth, Gonzalez sixth, Ruiz seventh and Roberson eighth.  It's a lineup not likely to put up many runs, and it didn't.  After being virtually injury free in May, in April the Phillies have lost Lieberthal, Rowand and Abreu for at least part of April.  They've scored four runs in the last two days against bad pitching.

Ryan Howard was the whole show for the Phillies.  Pinch hitting for Myers in the eighth he hit a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1.  In the top of the twelfth he hit another to put the Phillies up 2-1.  Both homers came off of lefties.  He was 1-for-his-last-11 entering today's game and didn't start due to flu-like symptoms.

Victorino, a badass, had two more hits, including a double.  He was 2-for-6 but left four men on base.

Ruiz was 0-for-4.  He's hitting .105.  Lieberthal felt pain trying to run yesterday, which may put his scheduled return from the DL on 5/20 (next Saturday) in doubt.  We'll have to wait and see what happens and if Abreu can go on Tuesday in Milwaukee.  If he can't, I wouldn't be surprised to see Fasano catch Lidle just to try to get another experienced bat in what is currently a weak lineup.  The Phillies face another lefty, Chris Capuano in their next game on Tuesday.

Burrell 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts.  He's 3-for-his-last-13 with no extra-base hits.

Utley was 1-for-6 with a single.  He's 2-for-his-last-13 with no extra-base hits.  Rollins was 1-for-5 with a walk and was just 1-for-15 in the series as his on-base percentage fell to a wretched .313.

Roberson 0-for-3.  Gonzalez 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.  Bell was 0-for-5.

Yesterday they got near perfection from Jon Lieber as they beat the Reds 2-0.  He allowed two hits in 8 2/3 innings and didn't walk a batter.  He lost his perfect game on a two-out single to Adam Dunn in the seventh.  Lieber started the ninth, getting the first two batters before allowing a single to Griffey.  Gordon came on and allowed a single to Felipe Lopez, which sent Griffey to third and brought the winning run to the plate, but struck out Dunn to end the game.

With Abreu out the Phillies hit Victorino second against lefty Dave Williams.  Roberson played right for Abreu and Fasano caught and moved up to seventh -- Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Burrell, Howard, Bell, Fasano, Roberson.  I like Victorino as the second hitter against lefties, but he's not going to be in the lineup once Rowand and Abreu are healthy.

The Phillies scored a run in the seventh on a double by Bell (1-for-4), which brought in Howard (0-for-4, two strikeouts) who had reached on an error.  Bell's double was the only extra-base hit of the game for either team.  

The other Phillies run scored in the top of the ninth on a wild pitch from Todd Coffey, which allowed Utley (0-for-3) to score from third. 

Roberson got his first major league hit.  He was 1-for-3.  Fasano was the only Philly with more than one hit, he was 2-for-4 on the day. 

Rollins was 0-for-4.  Burrell 1-for-4. 

No game tomorrow.  The Brewers in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Your mileage will not vary
May 13 2006

Last night in Cincinnati, the Phillies unveiled their crown jewel, their masterpiece and their evil plan to rule the world.  He pitched very well.  The biggest surprise for me was how closely he resembled Shaggy, the stoner dude from Scooby-Doo.

Cole Hamels is cocky, in word as well as action.  I think itís great Ė but Iím a fan.  It may not resonate so much with his teammates or those affiliated with other teams.  Letís see how it plays when he hasnít allowed one earned run in his last 28 innings. 

I love the way he pitches.  He works so fast.  Iím sure the Phillies will try to get him to slow down Ė right now it looks as if he has contempt for the batter.  As if heís irritated they somehow have yet to accept the conclusion heís already come to:  they donít have a chance.  If he had any fear I sure didnít see it.  Not unlike Hannibal Lector, the anti-hero of The Silence of the Lambs, it looked as if his pulse never got above 85, even when he ate their tongue.

The Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds last night, 8-4, to improve their record to 20-15.

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went five shutout innings.  He allowed just one hit, a double to Felipe Lopez, and walked five.  He struck out seven. 

Hamels walked the bases loaded in the second but struck out pitcher Elizardo Ramirez to end the inning.  He gave up a walk in both the third and fourth innings.  In the fifth he allowed the Lopez double.

The Phillies pinch hit for Hamels in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs.  Abraham Nunez batted for him and struck out.  I donít mind hitting for Hamels at all, but donít understand why they didnít use the best hitter they had on their bench, Dellucci, against the righty Ramirez.  Dellucci never batted in the game.  He was announced as the pinch hitter in the eighth for Franklin, but the Reds brought in the lefty Shackleford and Gonzalez hit for Dellucci.

The Phillies also pinch hit pitcher Jon Lieber for Arthur Rhodes in the top of the ninth with runners on first and third with one out.  They still had Fasano on the bench but did not use him.  The runner on third actually scored on a balk during Lieber's at-bat, but I would have hit Fasano anyway, backup catcher or not.  The Phillies were up 7-2 at that point, but the Reds brought the tying run on-deck in the bottom of the ninth.

Ryan Madson pitched the sixth, making his first appearance of the year out of the pen.  He entered with a 2-0 lead but gave up a leadoff home run to Kearns, struck out Dunn, and gave up another home run to Encarnacion before getting the next two batters to end the inning.  I am worried about the Phillies pen, which has been very good of late.  Itís hard to have much confidence in either Santana or Madson at this point, leaving the only other two righties in the pen as Gordon and Franklin. 

Franklin pitched the seventh for the Phillies, getting the first two before allowing an infield single to Felipe Lopez and getting Griffey to fly out to center.

Rhodes pitched the eighth against the heart of the Reds order, getting them 1-2-3 as Kearns popped out and Dunn and Encarnacion struck out.

Julio Santana started the ninth with the Phillies up 8-2.  He walked two of the first three batters he faced before Quinton McCracken reached on a Bell error to load the bases with one out.  He walked Felipe Lopez to bring in a run and make it 8-3.  Santana has allowed two hits and four walks in his last 1 1/3 innings. 

Tom Gordon came in and saved the day, pitching in his first game since giving up a pair of runs on Tuesday against the Mets.  He got Griffey to ground out, bringing in a run to make it 8-4, then struck out Kearns to end the game.

The Phillies started their standard lineup against the righty Ramirez.  Carlos Ruiz got the start in a bold move by the Phils.  With the addition of Roberson, the Phillies started the day with a 25-man roster that included two guys, Roberson and Hamels, that had never appeared in a game at the major league level and one guy, Ruiz, who had less than 15 big league at-bats.  Two of them started.

The Phillies got two runs in the fourth on a two-run homer by Ryan Howard (1-for-5, two strikeouts), his tenth of the year and ninth off a right-hander.

The Reds tied the game at 2-2 with two runs off of Madson in the bottom of the sixth, but the Phillies came right back in the seventh, to take a 3-2 lead.  Rollins reached on a two-base error by Dunn at first and Utley singled him home.  The Reds defense was terrible Ė Encarnacion should have been charged an error as well in the inning on a ball called a single off the bat of Burrell.  Rollins was 0-for-6 -- he's 2-for-his-last-14 and his average is down to .257.

The Phillies added another run in the top of the eighth to extend the lead to 4-2 on a sac fly by Ruiz.  It was his first career RBI.   Ruiz was 1-for-4 with a single but left six men on base.

Shane Victorino, a badass, blew the game open in the top of the ninth with a two-run homer, his first of the year.  He was 4-for-4 on the day and is hitting .424 in 33 at-bats.  He is 10-for-his-last-13.

Abreu was 0-for-3 with two more walks.  Burrell 2-for-3 with a walk.  Bell 2-for-3 with two walks to improve his average to .271.

Chris Roberson made his major league debut, pinch running for Burrell in the ninth. 

Elsewhere, the Mets started Jose Lima and lost to the Brewers 9-6.  The Braves got a complete game from John Smoltz and beat the Nationals 6-2.  Pittsburgh beat the Marlins.  The Phillies pull within two games of the first-place Mets.  The Braves are four games behind the Phillies and the Nats and Marlins are 21-48 combined. 

Jon Lieber and Dave Williams tonight. 

Whoever is on the team at this point please report to Cincinnati
May 12 2006

CIN 23-12 191 5.46 267 356 455 39 6
PHI 19-15 166 4.88 266 340 453 17 7
CIN 310 173 4.94 337 98 232 4.44 1.40
PHI 299 174 5.12 344 107 225 4.70 1.51

The Phillies put Aaron Rowand on the 15-day DL with a fractured nose and a fracture around his left eye and called up outfielder Chris Roberson. 

Roberson was at 287/333/375 in 136 at-bats at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  He had 12 stolen bases, which tied him for second in the International League (in good company -- tied with Delmon Young and behind BJ Upton).  He'll be 27 in August and had a nice year at Double-A Reading in '05, hitting .311 with 15 home runs.  He played well for the Phils in spring training, hitting .273 in 55 at-bats with two home runs.

In summary:  Hamels up, Geary down.  Rowand to DL, Roberson up.

The Phillies play the first of a three-game series in Cincinnati tonight.   The Reds lead the NL Central at 23-12 and are the best offensive team in the National League.  They lead the league in runs, on-base percentage and stolen bases and are second in home runs and slugging percentage. 

Their pitchers have allowed the fewest walks in the NL, but the third most hits.  The Phillies are still the worst in the league at batting average against, allowing opponents to hit .291 against them.  The Phillies have also allowed the most hits.  The Reds are third worst in the NL in opponent batting average -- opponents have hit .276 against them.

Leftfielder Adam Dunn (233/390/592) is third in the NL with 13 home runs.  Shortstop Felipe Lopez (299/369/424) leads the league with 16 stolen bases.  Edwin Encarnacion (291/390/530) has 27 RBI, tied for eighth best in the NL.  Rightfielder Austin Kearns, who hit .240 last year and .230 in '04, is hitting .328 so far (328/395/557).

The Reds got second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Indians on April 7 and he's been great, hitting .306 and stealing eight bases without being caught.  They signed first baseman Scott Hatteberg in February and he's on-based .398 so far (273/398/420).  He's never hit more than 15 runs in a season and has two for the Reds this year.

Switch-hitter Javier Valentin (263/311/368) and righty Jason LaRue (211/333/316) split time at catcher.  Valentin is coming off of the best year of his career, posting a 281/362/520 line in 221 at-bats last year while hitting 14 home runs.

Ken Griffey, Jr, (270/333/595 in 33 at-bats) was activated from the DL yesterday, played last night and went 2-for-6 with a walkoff three-run homer.  He, like many of his Reds teammates, is not a good defensive player.  The Reds have two players in the top five in the NL in errors, third baseman Encarnacion has ten and shortstop Lopez has eight.

The Reds pen is weak.  Righty David Weathers has been so-so -- tallying nine saves with a 3.86 ERA.  He was charged with a blown save last night as the Nats scored a run in the ninth.  He is joined in the pen by fellow righties Todd Coffey, who may eventually take over the closer role, Rick White, and Matt Belisle.  The lefites in the pen are Kent Merker, Chris Hammond and Brian Shackelford -- Merker is 38 and Hammond is 40.  Coffey has been the star of the pen with an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings.  Shackelford was called up from Triple-A on April 20 and has allowed just three hits in 5 2/3 innings.  Hammond and Rick White both have awful numbers, opponents are hitting .339 off of White.  Belisle and Merker have both lowish ERA's without great numbers overall.

The Phillies won't face new Reds stud Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang.  Eric Milton and Paul Wilson are both on the DL. 

Cole Hamels makes his debut tonight against righty and former Philly Elizardo Ramirez (1-2, 3.18).  Ramirez was traded from the Phillies to the Reds in the 2004 deal for Cory Lidle.  Ramierz started on Friday against the Nationals and gave up seven runs in an inning when the Reds made three errors in the bottom of the second.  Only one of the runs was earned, which kept his ERA in check.  The dawn of the Cole Hamels era will be the focus for Phillies fans.  One thing we know already -- under Pat Gillick the Phillies aren't afraid to throw their young players into the fire.  That's a change for the better -- if Albert Pujols was born on 1/16/1980 he is younger than Ryan Howard.

The Reds will start lefties in the last two games of the series.  The Phillies have been struggling to find a stable lineup against lefties.  Three of the four great Phillies hitters are lefites and it won't get any easier with Rowand on the DL.  Regardless of what happens, if anyone other than Alex Gonzalez starts at first base on Sunday afternoon I say we call the weekend a success.

The good news is, if you've got to face some lefties they might as well be Dave Williams and Brandon Claussen.

Jon Lieber (2-4, 6.60) faces Williams (2-2, 7.85) tomorrow night.  Williams has allowed seven earned runs in his last 11 2/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and four walks and striking out just three.  Opponents are hitting .347 against him.  He's allowed eight home runs in 28 2/3 innings on the season.  Lieber's been better than that, but not much.  He's gotten wins in his last two starts but opponents are still hitting .320 against him.  His last start was Sunday when he gave up the long home run to Bonds but pitched well enough to win, allowing just six hits over seven innings as the Phillies hit Matt Morris hard.

Brett Myers (2-1, 2.96) faces another lefty, Brandon Claussen (2-4, 5.79), on Sunday afternoon.  Claussen pitched against the Nationals on Tuesday, giving up 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings, including three home runs.  He's allowed nine home runs in 37 1/3 innings on the year.  Myers is ninth in the NL in ERA at 2.96 and has been good in his last two starts despite not getting a win, allowing just ten hits and two walks in his last 15 innings. 

Lofton 0-5, nose okay
May 12 2006

Aaron Rowand did something so spectacular last night that even Mother Nature seemed to tip her cap.  In the first inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, he tore across center field after a ball crushed by Xavier Nady.  He ran impossibly far, and, at the last minute, with his back to home plate, raised his glove and made the catch milliseconds before crashing headfirst into the wall and breaking his nose.  He held the ball.  About an hour later, Phillies starter Gavin Floyd struck out Carlos Beltran to end the top of the fifth and make the game, which had been played in light rain, official.  About a half a minute after that it began to pour.

Chase Utley and Aaron Fultz are both quoted on the Phillies web site as saying it was the greatest catch they ever saw.  Tom Gordon says in today's Daily News that he saw Rowand make another catch just like it in Chicago.  I believe all of them.

The Phillies beat the Mets 2-0 last night in a game that was canceled after the top of the fifth due to rain.  The wins improves the Phillies record to 19-15.

Gavin Floyd got the start for the Phillies and, after the first inning, looked nothing like a deer caught in headlights.  He went five shutout innings, allowing two hits and walking four.  In his last three starts he's 3-0 and has given up 17 hits in 17 2/3 innings while allowing just four earned runs.  He has walked 12 and allowed three home runs. 

Last night he got the first two batters before walking the bases loaded and being bailed out by Rowand.  But that was it.  In the next four innings he allowed two hits and a walk.  One of the hits was a double to left that should have been caught by Burrell.  By the top of the fifth the rain had picked up and the pressure was on to get the Mets and make it an official game -- he got them 1-2-3.

The Phillies used their standard lineup against righty Steve Trachsel.  Fasano caught Floyd.

Utley hit a first inning home run not long after Rowand had been helped off the field.  It was his eighth of the year.  He was 1-for-3 on the day. 

David Bell was 1-for-2 with the other RBI, knocking in Shane Victorino, who was 2-for-2 with a double and a triple.  Victorino, a badass, raised his average to .345 in 29 at-bats on the year.  He is 6-for-his-last-9. 

In the second, Victorino, who replaced Rowand in center field, hit a one-out triple but was left stranded.  Bell struck out and argued with the umps for the third straight day, Fasano walked and Floyd struck out.  Floyd has struck out in 10 of his 15 at-bats on the year.  In the fourth, again with one out, Victorino was on board again, a hustle play all the way, turning a line drive to center from a single to a double.  Bell stroked a clean single to center this time, driving him in.  After striking out twice in all of April, Bell has struck out nine times in the first 11 days of May.

Abreu, Burrell and Howard were all 0-for-2.  Abreu's average dropped to .264.  He's just 4-for-his-last-29 with 14 walks and one extra-base hit.  It's wacky.  In May, he's hitting .154, slugging .231 and on-basing .421.

Fasano was 1-for-1 with a walk.  Rollins 1-for-2 with a walk.

After the game the Phillies sent Geoff Geary, not Julio Santana, down to Triple-A to make room for Cole Hamels, who will start tonight in Cincinnati.  Geary has pitched better than fellow righty in the pen Santana, but had an option left while Santana would have had to clear waivers.  Santana has pitched just eight innings on the season, he missed time with a trip to the DL with a stomach problem. 

Elsewhere, the Braves beat the Marlins 9-1.  The Nationals scored three times in the top of the eleventh but lost the game in the bottom of the eleventh as the Reds scored four.  The big blow was Griffey's three-run homer off of Joey Eischen.  The Phillies pull to within three games of the 22-12 Mets and keep their four game lead over the third place Braves.  Nationals and Marlins are 21-46 combined.

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