Clay saves the day
May 30 2006
No gold star for Lieber.
The Phillies starting rotation encountered yet another problem last night as Jon Lieber was unable to return to pitch the third inning after a suffering a groin strain at the end of the second. Clay Condrey played the hero, coming on to pitch four solid innings as the Phillies beat the Nationals 11-2. The Phillies rotation is starting to look like something Macgyver would have put together out of toothpicks and chicken wire circa 1988.
The Phillies put Lieber on the 15-day DL after the game and called up Brian Sanches from Triple-A. The Phillies were on a roll there with their moves for a couple of days -- since Friday that had made two that clearly help the team, activating Rowand and Lieberthal while sending Ruiz and Roberson back to Triple-A.
Sanches was with the Phillies in spring training, throwing 5 2/3 innings without allowing a run. He's been good at Triple-A so far this year, allowing just 12 hits in 21 2/3 innings while posting a 2.49 ERA. He's struck out 23 and recorded seven saves. Sanches is 27 and has no experience in the major leagues. He will pitch out of the pen, which may mean his time here may be brief as the Phillies will need to make a move to put someone who can start in Lieber's spot. Comments from the Phillies after last night's game seem to indicate that Condrey isn't a candidate to start. Cole Hamels is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, June 3, which is the next day Lieber would be due to pitch. The Phillies have said, however, that he will start at Single-A Lakewood on Thursday, which means he won't be pitching on Saturday. It looks like it will have to be a callup from Triple-A, most likely Eude Brito, going on Saturday.
If that is how it plays out, if Hamels starts on Thursday at Single-A and not on Saturday for the Phillies, it will no doubt be a disappointment for Hamels, but I think it's the best way to go. Hopefully the Phillies will be extremely careful with Hamels, who has had some concerning quotes about his most recent trip to the DL. Here's one from Saturday from the Phillies web site: "It's unfortunate I had to go on the DL. I could pitch [Friday], [Saturday] and the next day. It never really hurt to begin with. It just felt different. The next morning when I woke up, I was like, 'Dang, if I wouldn't have said something, I could've pitched.'" Feeling different is bad. I'd wait till it feels the same before trying to pitch.
Last night the Phillies topped the Nationals 11-2. Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies but went just two innings. He allowed two hits, including a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman. Over his last three starts Lieber has allowed an alarming six home runs in 13 innings.
Lieber couldn't start the third and Condrey came in and pitched very well. Condrey is 30 and started six games for the Padres in 2003, with bad results. He pitched to a 8.47 ERA that year and did not appear in the majors again until April of this year. Last night he went four strong innings, allowing three hits and a walk and just one unearned run. The run came in the top of the fourth. With runners on first and third and two outs, Condrey caught Byrd off of first and Marlon took off for second. Howard's throw went wild into left field for his eighth error of the season. Eight is a ton of errors for a first baseman at this point in the year. Carlos Delgado, for example, is a bad defensive player and he's tied for second in the NL for first baseman with three errors. Among all players in the National League, Howard's eight errors ties him for eighth. A lot of those guys don't even play first base. The error tied the game at 2-2.
Condrey left for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. The Phillies got three runs in that inning, putting them up 5-2 and putting Condrey in line for a much-deserved win.
After Condrey left, the rest of the overworked bullpen did a nice job as well, keeping the Nationals off the board for the last three innings.
Cormier pitched a perfect seventh. Fultz allowed a walk in the eighth, but struck out two more batters. He's now struck out 34 in 29 2/3 innings for the season.
Ryan Franklin pitched the ninth and had an encouraging not-awful outing. He allowed a single but kept the Nats off the board to drop his ERA to 5.11 on the season.
The pen needs a rest in a big way. Over the last seven games, Phillies starters have thrown 35 1/3 innings and relievers 33 2/3. Hopefully it's coming tonight with Myers on the hill against a meek Nationals offense.
The Phillies lineup against lefty Mike O'Connor went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano. It seems to have settled there for the time being. Before the Rowand injury Manuel was moving Aaron around a ton against lefties, but that was before Howard started to homer every day so maybe the Phils will just go with this for a while.
O'Connor pitched pretty well against the Phillies. He held them to two runs through five innings, allowing just four hits and striking out five. He didn't walk a batter. Utley led off the sixth and smashed a line drive off his ankle. O'Connor looked like he might be okay to stay in the game, but one of his practice pitches sailed over catcher Schneider's head and Robinson took him out. Utley came around to score later in the sixth for the third run charged to O'Connor, but he was better than his line for the game.
Rollins led off in the first with a double, which the Phillies turned into a 1-0 lead with ground outs from Utley and Abreu.
The Nats tied the game at 1-1 on Zimmerman's homer in the second, but the Phillies got another run in the bottom of the inning with a two-out single from Bell and a double from Fasano.
Howard put the Phillies up 5-2 in the sixth with a three-run homer and the Phillies put the game out of reach with a five-run seventh, which featured four hits and two walks against the Nats pen. Abreu drove in Rollins with an RBI-double in the bottom of the eighth.
Ryan Howard is having an unbelievable month in which he's hit 13 home runs and driven in 35. The last game in which he did not have an RBI game on May 19 against Boston. He's slugging .740 for the month. Last night he was just 1-for-5 but had the biggest hit of the night, the three-run homer. He's struck out just once in his last 23 at-bats.
Jimmy Rollins looks like he's coming around. He was 2-for-4 with a walk last night and scored three runs. He's 7-for-his-last-14.
Utley was 2-for-4 with a walk. His OBP is at .401 after ending April at .330. It's been lost with what Howard has done, but his May has been tremendous: 364/456/589.
Abreu was 1-for-4 with a walk. Burrell 1-for-3 with a walk but just 2-for-his-last-11 with two singles, which is a little surprising since the Phillies have faced lefties in their last two. His numbers against lefties for the year are still silly: 327/470/788.
Rowand was 1-for-4 with a double. He's 2-for-11 since returning from the DL. Bell was 2-for-3 and has his average up to .270. Bell has also had a good May, 291/371/407, at least in terms of getting on-base, after a scary looking April in which he on-based .286.
Fasano was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. I would guess we'd see Lieberthal tonight for the first time in a long time.
Brett Myers and Tony Armas tonight.
The Washington Nationals are in Philadelphia for the first of a three-game series starting tonight. The Phillies and Nats last faced off April 18-20 and Washington took two of three.
Washington is just 21-30 but has been playing well of late, going 7-3 in their last ten and winning each of their last three series. The Phillies, on the other hand, are floundering. After getting off to a 12-1 start to April they have gone 3-9 since and have lost each of their last four series.
The Phillies are curiously still just ninth in the National League in runs scored despite having four players, Howard, Burrell, Abreu and Utley in the top 20 in OPS. The Phillies offense is due for an explosion and I don't think it will be long now. When it comes the pitching won't have to be real good, but awful won't get it done and there's been a lot of awful in the recent stretch.
The pen needs a rest. In the most recent series against Milwaukee, the Phils had to call on their relievers to go at least four innings in every game.
A lot's gone on with the Nationals since the Phillies met them last just over a month ago. The biggest move is right fielder Jose Guillen heading to the DL with a hamstring problem, which means the Phillies are likely to see more Marlon Byrd and Darrell Ward in the series. The Nats have also called up 28-year old outfielder Mike Vento from Triple-A where he was hitting .345.
Wiki Gonzalez, Ryan Church and Billy Traber, who started a game against the Phillies last month, have all been sent down to the minors. Felix Rodriguez and Alex Escobar are both on the DL. Up are right-handed relievers Saul Rivera and Santiago Ramirez and starter Shawn Hill.
Nick Johnson (302/417/566) and Alfonso Soriano (301/354/607) are having big offensive years. Johnson comes in 8-for-his-last-11 and Soriano 8-for-his-last-17. Johnson has 12 home runs already, his career high is 15. Soriano has 18 home runs, second best in the NL behind Pujols.
Jose Guillen and Ryan Zimmerman should be the other big sticks, but Guillen is hitting just .212 and on the DL. Zimmerman has been better, posting a 272/335/461 line with eight home runs.
Jose Vidro has been tremendous, he's hitting .343 and on-basing .404.
Royce Clayton is at 248/303/348. The Phillies have only intentionally walked him once so far this year. Brian Scheider just came back from the DL on Friday, he's hitting .236 with four extra-base hits in 110 at-bats.
Closer Chad Cordero has allowed just 15 hits in 23 2/3 innings. Fellow righties Majewski and Rauch both have ERA's under three. There are two lefties in the pen, Stanton and Eischen, neither of which are real intimidating. Opponents are hitting .295 against Eischen but Stanton has been better, allowing 18 hits but 14 walks in 22 innings. The two new guys, Rivera and Ramirez, are both righties and both have pitched less than three innings so far.
Jon Lieber (3-5, 5.83) faces lefty Mike O'Connor (2-2, 2.65) in the first game of the series tonight. O'Connor made his major league debut on April 27 against the Cardinals and has had five starts since. He has yet to allow more than three runs in a start. He's allowed just 25 hits in 34 innings but walked 16. Opponents are hitting .197 against him. His most recent start came Wednesday against the Astros and he allowed just three hits and a walk in six innings. It would be fabulous if Jon Lieber could get the Phillies out to a 1-0 lead in the series, but he has been real bad real often this season. In his last start he went six innings against the Mets, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and four walks. In his last two starts he's given up five home runs and allowed nine earned runs in 11 innings.
Brett Myers (3-2, 2.86) faces righty Tony Armas (5-2, 3.44) tomorrow night. Armas beat the Phillies on April 18, allowing three earned runs in six innings. Pat Burrell hit a two-run homer off of him that game. Armas has allowed six earned runs over 10 1/3 innings in his last two starts. On Thursday he pitched against the Astros, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing four runs on nine hits and three walks. Opponents are hitting .256 against him, but he's allowed 22 walks in 55 innings for the season. Brett Myers is having a great year and has yet to allow more than three runs in a start. He pitched Thursday against the Mets, getting the win going seven innings and allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks. Apparently nobody has explained to him that a Phillies starter only goes five, if that.
Cory Lidle (4-4, 4.92) and righty Livan Hernandez (3-5, 5.35) go on Wednesday afternoon. Hernandez may be coming around after a slow start. Over his last three starts he's allowed just six earned runs in 21 innings. He last started on Friday against the Dodgers and got the win, going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits without allowing a walk. Lidle pitched Friday against the Brewers, walking five and giving up seven hits and four earned runs in six innings. It was the game the Phillies scored two in the ninth to tie the game 5-5 and the Brewers hit back-to-back doubles off of Gordon in the tenth to go ahead 6-5. Lidle has allowed just seven home runs on the season, three of which have come in his last two starts.
The Phillies brought out the big guns in the 13-day suck-a-thon and Festival of Horrid Pitching this weekend, dropping two of three to the Brewers in spectacular fashion. The Phils have lost nine of their last 12 and fallen to third place in the NL East. Their record stands at 25-24 and they are 1 1/2 games behind the Braves and five behind the division-leading Mets.
In each of the first two games the Phillies mounted a valiant comeback to tie the game only to lose a heartbreaker when the bullpen failed to hold the lead. Before winning today's game, the Phillies were 0-5 on the year against Milwaukee and the pen had taken the loss in each of the five games. The pen held together beautifully in today's win, but the Phils may still be in trouble with the Nationals coming in tomorrow. In the last two games of the series, neither starter went more than five innings and the pen was called on to throw a total of 8 2/3 innings after throwing four in the first game.
The series saw the triumphant return to the lineup of center fielder Aaron Rowand who made his presence known with several tremendous defensive plays.
This afternoon Ryan Madson pitched well enough and the Phillies managed to salvage a game, winning 6-2. Madson went five innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out seven, his season high, which I think we should watch. In his six starts before being sent to the bullpen he struck out just 15 in 30 1/3 innings. In his last two outings, one seven innings of relief against the Mets on Tuesday and the other the start today, he's pitched much better and struck out 13 in 12 innings.
The Brewers jumped out 2-0 in the second on a leadoff double by Fielder and a two-run homer by Corey Koskie. But that was all Madson would give up. Ryan did get in trouble in the fifth, he allowed a leadoff double to the cursed Geoff Jenkins and got the next batter before hitting Fielder to make it first and second with one out. A wild pitch sent the runners to second and third but Madson got out of the inning via the strikeout, getting both Koskie and Moeller to go down swinging.
Geary replaced Madson in the sixth and kept the Brewers off the board. He has been very good of late, pitching to a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 May innings. His walk rate is at the lowest of his career after allowing just one so far this month.
Cormier followed Geary with a perfect inning.
Rhodes pitched the eighth and was able to work out of trouble. With two outs he allowed back-to-back singles before striking out Weeks to end the inning. Like Geary, he has had a much better May after a rough April.
Gordon pitched the ninth in a non-save situation and kept the Brewers off the board. He allowed a hit and struck out two.
The Phillies pen cruised today with only Rhodes getting into much trouble. Despite having to go four innings only one of them threw more than 15 pitches (Rhodes threw 22).
Against lefty Dana Eveland the Phillies lineup went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano for the second straight day. This is a little interesting, as yesterday they faced a righty and today a lefty. Before Rowand's injury there was a lot more fluctuation to the batting order against lefties.
Down 2-0 in the fourth the Phillies got a huge boost from Ryan Madson, who hit a two-out, two-run double to tie the game at 2-2. The Phillies made it 4-2 on a two-run homer in the fifth by Howard. In the sixth, Joe Winkelsas kept throwing ground ball after ground ball and the Brewers kept being terrible at defense. The inning featured bad plays by Koskie, Weeks and Fielder, only one of which was called an error, and the Phillies scored two runs on three hits and an error to make it 6-2.
Rollns had two more hits, he was 2-for-5 and 5-for-10 in the last two games of the series after taking back the leadoff spot.
Utley was 2-for-5 but just 3-for-14 in the series that featured two lefty starters for Milwaukee.
Abreu was 0-for-2 with a walk. 3-for-8 with five walks in the series.
Burrell was 0-for-4 and struck out twice, which was something of a surprise as I liked his chances against Eveland. For the series he was 4-for-12.
Howard was 2-for-3 with the homer and another walk. For the series he was 5-for-10 with two walks and two home runs. He drove in six runs.
Rowand was 1-for-7 in the two games since his return. He hit the ball better than that, however.
Bell seems like he's scuffling. He was 2-for-12 is just 2-for-his-last-17 as his average has dropped from .275 to .258.
Fasano was 1-for-3 on the day and 1-for-5 in the series.
Last night the Brewers won the middle game off the series, 9-6.
Gavin Floyd got the start on three days rest and was awful. He went 4 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and two walks. In his last three starts Floyd has allowed 16 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. His time in the rotation may be near the end. It's tough on the Phillies with Hamels on the DL. Franklin would be the obvious guy to replace him, but he's been really struggling lately as well. I'd be a little surprised if Floyd lost his spot after pitching on three days rest -- I would think he'd get at least one more chance before a move.
Floyd gave up a two-run homer to Lee in the first. The Brewers got three hits, including a two-run single from Bill Hall in the second to put them up 4-1. A walk, a double and a sac fly extended the lead to 5-2 in the fourth. In the fifth, Lee led off with a single and stole second, going to third on Fasano's throwing error. A Prince Fielder sac fly brought him in and Corey Koskie followed with a single. Geary replaced Floyd with one out and a runner on first and got out of the inning without further damage. The Phillies trailed 6-2.
The Phillies scored two in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 6-4. Geary returned and pitched a perfect sixth inning.
Fultz pitched a perfect seventh, striking out the side. In his last four appearances, Fultz has gone four innings, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out seven. For the year, he's striking out batters at a rate of 10.05 per nine innings, which would dwarf his career high. In 2001 for the Giants he struck out 8.49 per nine innings but has been around six per nine innings for most of his career. This year he's struck out 32 in 28 2/3 innings.
The Phillies tied the game at 6-6 in the ninth and Ryan Franklin came in to pitch. Franklin got the first two batters before allowing a single to Cirillo and back-to-back homers to Weeks and Hall to make it 9-6. The Phillies are going to need to solve the Floyd in the rotation problem soon. Franklin would seem like the first candidate, but two of his last three outings have been a disaster -- over 2 2/3 innings he's given up six earned runs on six hits including three home runs. After a solid April in which he posted a 3.95 ERA, he's posted a 7.20 ERA in 13 2/3 May innings.
Cormier pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Phils. Including his outing today, that's two straight good appearances for Cormier since the shot and not appearing in the sixteen inning game and then getting hit hard on Wednesday. Hopefully that means he's fine.
Against the righty Bush the Phillies lineup went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano. Big changes here are the return of Rollins to the leadoff spot and the triumphant return of Rowand to the lineup.
Rollins had a big day in his return to the leadoff spot. He doubled in the first inning and scored on an Abreu groundout to make the score 2-1. Down 4-1 in the third, Rollins again led off with a double and scored on another hit by Abreu, this time a double. Rollins added a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to bring the Phillies within 6-4.
The Phillies completed their second straight dramatic comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Still down 6-4, Utley and Abreu walked to start the inning before Burrell grounded into a double-play. Things looked bleak but Howard picked up Burrell with a two-run homer that tied the game at 6-6. They lost shortly thereafter, but it was a nice moment.
Rollins was 3-for-5. Rowand 0-for-4 in his return, but hit the ball hard several times. Abreu and Howard were each 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Utley was 0-for-4 with a walk and struck out twice.
Chris Coste came on to catch for Fasano in the fifth. He's still looking for his first major league hit. He was 0-for-2 but got aboard by being hit by a pitch before Rollins homered.
On Friday, the Brewers
beat the Phillies 6-5 in ten innings.
Cory Lidle got the start and allowed seven hits and five walks in six innings. He was charged with four earned runs. The five walks is a little strange -- in April he allowed just three walks in 30 2/3 innings, so far in May he's walked 13 in 26 innings.
Lidle got off to a rocky start as Milwaukee pulled ahead 2-0 after two batters. Weeks led off with a single and Bill Hall followed with a two-run homer.
Lidle shut the Brewers out in innings two, three and four, getting a double play to bail the Phillies out in each inning. He started the fifth with a 3-2 lead and gave up a leadoff walk to Brady Clark. He was able to get the pitcher for the first out of the inning before hitting Weeks with a pitch that made it first and second with one out. He got Bill Hall but Jenkins hit a two-run double that made it 4-3 Milwaukee before Lidle got Lee to end the inning.
Lidle hit for himself in the bottom of the fifth and kept the Brewers off the board in the sixth.
Geoff Geary started the seventh with the Brewers still up 4-3. Weeks led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch. Geary got Hall for the first out of the inning before Jenkins singled Weeks in from second. Geary got Lee to fly out and was replaced by Fultz, who came in to pitch to the lefty Fielder. Fultz struck him out.
Fultz kept the score at 5-3 in the top of the eighth, allowing a double to Damian Miller but keeping Milwaukee off the board.
Clay Condrey pitched a perfect ninth, getting three ground outs.
The Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 5-5. The Phils brought in their closer, Tom Gordon, the day after coming in to get four outs against the Mets. The first two batters, Lee and Fielder, doubled, putting the Mets up 6-5. Gordon got the next three batters but the damage was done. I thought Manuel did the right thing in both days -- bringing in Gordon in the eighth against the Mets on Thursday and bringing him in in the tie game in the tenth on Friday. It didn't work out, though. After his first appearance of more than one inning on the year, Gordon took the loss the next day when he couldn't get the job done for one of the very few times this season.
The Phillies kept Shane Victorino in the leadoff spot for the second straight day. Against lefty Chris Capuano the batting order went (1) Victorino (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rollins (7) Bell (8) Ruiz.
Milwaukee got off to an early 2-0 lead but the Phillies came back with a run in the second. Howard, Rollins and Bell all singled to start the inning. Bell's single brought in Howard but Rollins was caught trying to go to third on the play. It was bad baserunning, the Phillies could have had more in the inning. Ruiz followed by grounding into a double-play and they came away with only a single run.
The Phillies got a two-run homer in the fourth from Burrell, which put them up 3-2. Burrell ended the game with an unbelievable 362/508/872 line against lefties for the year.
The Phils were down 5-3 going into the ninth and had a tremendous inning. Every single batter that came to the plate had a good at-bat. Abreu walked, Burrell doubled and Howard doubled, bring in two runs to tie the game at 5-5 with nobody out and Howard on second. Rollins followed with a great at-bat, grounding out to the right side of the infield to move Howard to third with one out. Bell smashed the ball, a line drive to third that was caught and Howard was doubled off of third. The game went to the tenth tied 5-5.
Chris Roberson ran for Burrell after his ninth inning double, which would prove critical. With two outs in the bottom of the tenth, nobody on and the Phillies down 6-5, Victorino singled and Utley doubled, sending Victorino to third. With two outs and Abreu up and the youngster Roberson on-deck, the Brewers intentionally walked Abreu to pitch to Roberson.
Roberson flew out to center to end the game. It was a tough, tough position for a young player like Roberson to be in. You can't argue with running for Burrell in the ninth, however.
After the game Roberson
was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Rowand's return for Saturday's
game. Roberson was 1-for-13 with the Phillies.
Chris Coste made his major league debut in the tenth. With one out he flew out to center on the first pitch.
Victorino was 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. He was just 2-for-14 in his time in the leadoff spot after 47 games. He did a nice job in the tenth to get aboard on an infield single. Utley was also 1-for-5 but with a big hit in the tenth.
Burrell was 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles. Howard 2-for-4 with a double.
Rollins and Bell were both 1-for-4. Rollins had a nice at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, moving Howard to third base with a groundout.
Ruiz was 0-for-3.
The Phillies start a three-game series with the Nationals tomorrow afternoon.
Maybe Kevin Stocker should lead off
May 26 2006
The Phillies traded
shortstop Kevin Stocker to the Devil Rays for Bobby Abreu in November, 1997,
and Abreu first played for the Phils in the 1998 season. He and Lieberthal
were the only current Phillies around at that time and Bobby hit 17 HR in
497 at-bats, posting a 312/409/497 line. He's on-based under .400 just once
since then, in 2001 he on-based .393.
With all this on-basing people are bound to complain about something. It turns out to be leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, who doesn't get on-base a lot under the best of circumstances and is struggling through a horrendous May. In 89 May at-bats, Rollins has hit .202 and on-based .290. That's awful. My point is this, however: it's awful no matter where Rollins hits. It's awful if he hits leadoff, or seventh or eighth or wherever. The real problem is not the batting order as much as the fact that 1/8 of the position players in the starting lineup hit .202 -- it makes the problem worse that he gets them most at-bats, but the problem was huge before that.
I'm pretty sure that I, like almost everyone else on the planet, have zero advice for three-time All-Star by age 27 Jimmy Rollins on how to start hitting above .202 this month. He's a big part of the team, though, and when he doesn't hit, the team is in trouble. The huge problem is going to be solved by Rollins himself -- he's not going to hit .237 for the whole season. Here's one solution for the lesser problem:
The Phillies should lead off Abreu against lefties. Over his career his line against righties is 313/427/555 and his line against lefties is 274/374/398. He still gets on base against lefties, but his slugging is down about 150 points so you aren't losing a ton of power by not having him in the middle of the lineup. His OPS against lefties is .772 and .982 against righties.
Here's what Abreu has done over his career hitting first in the order:
|Bobby Abreu as the #1 hitter in the order|