Phillies hold Kemp and Martin to two home runs but lose anyway
June 2 2006

It's not time to give up on 23-year-old Gavin Floyd, but it sure is time to stop giving him the ball.  He got pounded again last night as the Phillies fell to the Dodgers 7-2.  The loss drops their mark on the season to 27-26.

Floyd started tor the Phillies and got hit hard for the fourth straight time.  He allowed seven earned runs on seven hits and four walks.  Four of the seven hits went for extra-bases, three home runs and a double.

Floyd got in trouble in the first but got out unscathed, striking out Willy Ayber with two outs and the bases loaded.  In the second there were two outs and nobody on when pitcher Derek Lowe doubled, Furcal walked and 21-year-old Matt Kemp followed with a three-run homer.  It was the first career homer for Kemp and the Dodgers led 3-0.  Floyd gave up a single and a stolen base in the third but kept the Dodgers off the board.  In the fourth, Russell Martin lead off with a home run, the second of his career, to make the score 4-0.  Floyd got the next two before getting into more two out trouble.  Kemp walked and Garciaparra singled.  With runners on first and third and two outs, JD Drew hit a three-run home run to make it 7-0. 

The Phillies hit for Gavin Floyd in the top of the fifth, which meant they would have to call on their pen to throw four more innings.

Brian Sanches made his major league debut for the Phillies, he pitched the fifth and the sixth and struck out three, including the first two men he faced.  He allowed a walk but no hits.

Clay Condrey came on to start the seventh with the Phillies still down 7-0.  He allowed two hits in two scoreless innings after coming up huge with four innings of relief when Lieber left his start with an injury against the Nationals on Monday.  He lowered his ERA for the season to 1.00 in nine innings pitched.

The best part of the game was seeing the two guys up from Triple-A put up four scoreless innings.  The Phillies look like they're going to need a lot of pitching help along the way this year.  I would be surprised if we see Floyd make his next start, the last four have been abysmal.  In his last 13 1/3 innings he's allowed 18 earned runs on 23 hits and nine walks.  The Phillies need to send him down and let him be successful somewhere.  He was given the job based on a strong spring training, but it's been a long time, 2004, at Double-A, since he's been good over a long stretch of games.  In 2005 he went 6-9 at Triple-A with a 6.16 ERA, giving up 155 hits and 66 walks in 137 1/3 innings.  The Phillies had big rotation problems coming into the season so they gave him a chance.  It didn't work.  I still think he has a chance to be solid in the big leagues.  He's had some nice moments this year, particularly the five shutout innings against the Mets on the night Rowand ran into the wall.  I still love the pitch where he knocked Edgar Renteria down with a curve ball that just missed spinning into the strike zone by a whisker.

The Phillies lineup against righty Derek Lowe went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Lieberthal.  It's pretty much the standard lineup.  The only thing that is a little surprise is that Liebrthal started and caught Floyd -- Fasano has caught  him most of the time this year.

The Phillies offense was pretty much stifled for the second straight game.  They were shutout through eight innings and entered the top of the ninth down 7-0.  They did get on the board in the ninth.  Howard led off with a walk and, with one out, Bell hit his second double on the night, sending Howard to third.  Lieberthal singled, making it 7-1 with Bell going to third.  Nunez hit for Clay Condrey, grounding out to short and bringing in Bell from third to make it 7-2 with two outs.  Rollins fouled out to end the game.

The Phillies had their chances.  In the first, Howard struck out with two outs and two runners on.   Howard got on to lead off the fourth but Rowand hit into a double-play right behind him.

Rowand came up in the sixth with two outs and runners on second and third, but grounded out to end the inning.

Rollins was 1-for-5 and Utley 1-for-4, each with a single.  Abreu was 2-for-4 with two singles. 

Burrell was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.  He's 1-for-his-last-15 with seven strikeouts. 

Howard was 1-for-2 with a single and two walks.  Rowand was 0-for-4 and left four men on base.

Bell had the only extra-base hits on the night for the Phils.  He was 2-for-4 with two doubles to raise his average to .271.

Lieberthal was 1-for-4. 

Coste got another change for his first major league hit, pinch hitting for Floyd in the fifth.  He grounded out to short.  I don't know what the all-time record for a team is for pinch hitting for your pitcher in the fifth inning, but whatever it is, it's not safe from the Phillies in '06.

Speaking of pinch hitting for your pitching in the fifth, Ryan Madson and Jae Seo go tonight.

Elsewhere, the Braves were the only other NL East team in action yesterday.  They lost to Arizona 2-1 as they were stymied by Juan Cruz.  The Phillies are back in third place in the division, a half game behind the Braves and 5 1/2 behind the Mets.  The Mets start three with San Francisco tonight and the Braves have three more with the Snakes.  Nats and Marlins are 39-66 combined but each have won six of their last ten. 

Also, I forgot to include this with yesterday's post.  It does not include last night's game.

LAD 30-23 291 5.49 277 359 428 45 12
PHI 27-25 259 5.29 260 337 441 27 12
LAD 472.1 230 4.34 478 152 327 3.94 1.33
PHI 467.2 254 5.18 504 169 362 4.39 1.44

Go West, young men, and don't stop until you see Takashi Saito
June 1 2006

There should be some exciting baseball over the next four days, at least for those among us willing to stay up till 1:30 AM to watch it.  Until TiVo version whatever allows you to pause and rewind live television for sporting events that haven't happened yet, there's not much we can do but wait it out and curse the limitations of the so-called "modern" technologies.  The future of TiVo and its ilk scares me already, whatever form it may take.  There may indeed be a reason to disrupt the space-time continuum, but I'm pretty sure it's not to watch Gavin Floyd pitch.

The Phillies are in Los Angeles to start a four-game series with the Dodgers.  It's the second series for the teams this season as the Dodgers came into Philly early in April and took two of three.  The struggling Phillies did get their first win of the season in the series, getting a walkoff three-run homer from Abreu off of Tim Hamulack on April 9 to improve to 1-4 on the early season.

The Dodgers come in at 30-23, in second place in the NL West, a half game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.  They are hot of late, running off seven in a row from May 17-24.  They then traveled to Washington where the Nationals took two of three, and then to Atlanta where they took two of three from the Braves.  They have been a really good offensive team.  They have played a few more game than most of the NL teams, but lead the league in runs, batting average and on-base percentage and are second in stolen bases.  The Phils offense is creeping up to its rightful place in runs scored, they are now tied for sixth in the NL.

The Dodgers have undergone many-a-change since the Phillies saw them last.  Russell Martin is doing most of the catching these days, filling in for the DL'ed Dioner Navarro who is out with a wrist problem.  He's a 23-year old righty and hitting .253 with one home run in 75 at-bats. 

JD Drew, Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra have been the big bats for the Dodgers so far.  The Phillies didn't see now first baseman Garciaparra in the first series with the Dodgers.  Los Angeles activated him from the DL on April 22 and he's posted a 360/421/625 line.  Garciaparra's not as old as you may think, still just 32, but his numbers in 136 at-bats are eye-popping.  His .360 average would lead the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify, Miguel Cabrera's .354 is tops among those who do.  JD Drew (280/379/491) is still healthy and leads the team in home runs and RBI.  If you're waiting for the injury I expect it won't be long now.  Kent (256/374/423) left Saturday's game with a problem with his left hand and hasn't played since.  There were thoughts he might play yesterday, but he didn't and he is going to have an MRI today. 

Former NL-Easter Rafael Furcal (260/339/335) isn't putting up big offensive numbers yet.  The .335 slugging percentage is the worst number there, he has ten extra-base hits in 215 at-bats.

Bill Mueller is out after knee surgery and won't be back for several weeks.  Willy Aybar seems to be getting the most time at third, with a little help from Olmedo Saenz.  Aybar is apparently very serious about showing people that his 326/448/453 line in 88 at-bats last year wasn't a fluke, he's at a nearly identical 327/448/491 in 55 at-bats this season.  I'm just guessing but I bet what he'd really like to do is show people he can get 400 at-bats in a season.

Jose Cruz, Jr, at 237/366/367, and former Philly Kenny Lofton (312/377/420) join Drew in the outfield.  Like Furcal, the slugging numbers for Cruz are down compared to what he's put up over his career, which could mean he's struggling or just moved to a much bigger park this year.  Lofton has stolen 11 bases without being caught. 

The Dodgers also have two young outfielders, lefty Andre Ethier and righty Matt Kemp, up, so you might want to sell your stock in Jose Cruz, Jr.  Ethier is 24 and came up from Triple-A on May 2 and has put up a wicked 324/395/577 line in 71 at-bats.  He's making a case to take time away from the older outfielders.  Kemp is just 21 and was called up from Double-A on May 28, where he was hitting .330 with 11 stolen bases. 

Closer Eric Gagne was activated from the DL on Tuesday.  He served a two-game suspension and will be ready for action tonight.  He has not appeared this year coming off of elbow surgery. 

Righty Danys Baez was closing in Gagne's absence.  He allowed opponents to hit .287 against him but saved nine games with a 2.30 ERA.  Other righties in the pen are 36-year old Takashi Saito, who has 32 strikeouts and an 0.92 ratio in 26 innings, and Jonathan Broxton, who has struck out 20 in 16 innings with a 1.13 ERA.  Lefties Joe Biemel and Tim Hamulack have been pitching out of the pen for the Dodgers.  Biemel has allowed 14 hits in 17 innings with a 2.12 ERA and another ratio under one.  Hamulack has been hit harder and is the token plus-three ERA of the primary guys in the pen.  He's at 5.73.  The bottom line is pretty much that the pen was really strong before they got Gagne back.  Lefty Odalis Perez sometimes pitches out of the pen as well, but is often forced into the starting rotation.

The pitching matchups for the series don't really inspire a lot of confidence.  For example, Gavin Floyd (4-2, 6.62) faces righty Derek Lowe  (3-3, 2.90) tonight.  Lowe is an extreme ground ball pitcher and has allowed one earned run on eight hits in 14 innings over his last two starts.  His last start came against the Nationals on Saturday and he got the win, going seven innings and allowing a run on five hits.  Dodger Stadium is huge, which can only help Gavin Floyd who has allowed four homers in his last 14 2/3 innings.  Over those 14 2/3 innings he's allowed 16 earned runs, giving up 20 hits and seven walks.  Those numbers are unspinnable.  He has shown flashes this season, but unless he does something spectacular tonight I think this is his last start with the team for a while.  Cole Hamels also pitches a minor-league tune up tonight and would slide nicely into his spot for the next start.  If not that, I think there still may be consideration to leaving Brito in the rotation in Floyd's spot with Hamel's taking over Lieber's slot while he's on the DL.

Ryan Madson (5-3, 5.72) faces former Met righty Jae Seo (2-3, 5.36) tomorrow night.  Seo got battered by the Nationals on Sunday, giving up six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.  He allowed seven hits and three walks.  Opponents are hitting .292 against him on the year.  Madson has been good in each of his last two appearances, one of which came in relief against the Mets in a 16-inning game, which he followed up with a decent start on Sunday against the Brewers.  He went just five innings on Sunday, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and a walk.  Thirteen of his 30 strikeouts for the season have come in his last two games -- hopefully that means things are starting to turn around for him.  Floyd and Madson can really give the Phillies pen a boost if they can pitch deep into the game.  Or, if not deep, I would really take six innings.  The Phillies are in a 20-games-in-20-days-stretch and their starters keep going five, which is killing the guys in the pen who pretty much have to wait for a Brett Myers start to get a rest.

Eude Brito (NR) gets righty Brad Penny (5-1, 2.87) on Saturday afternoon.  Penny comes off a start on Monday where he flipped out after being pulled after 4 1/3 innings having given up nine hits and five earned runs.  It was his only bad start of the season -- he's held the opposition under four in each of his other ten starts.  He has had some shoulder and back soreness but looks like he will make the start.  Brito is a lefty and was good for the Phillies in 2005, he got five starts for the team and was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA.  He was pitching really well at Triple-A before getting roughed up in a recent start.  For the season at Scranton Wilkes-Barre he is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA.  He had allowed just 38 hits in 56 2/3 innings but walked a less impressive 23.

Brett Myers (4-2, 2.80) faces righty Aaron Sele (3-0, 2.20) on Sunday afternoon.  Neither pitcher has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start.  Opponents are hitting .218 against Sele this year after hitting .315 against him last year and .310 the year before that.  Myers, with some help from Cory Lidle, has been holding the Phillies rotation together.  He's pitched at least into the seventh inning in each of his last three starts, giving up seven earned runs in 21 1/3 innings.  After getting some tough no-decisions earlier in the season, he's 2-0 in his last two starts. 

Finally, if you're looking for some good Dodgers stuff, or just some perspective from someone who didn't have to stay up past midnight to watch the game, check out Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts.

Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear goes 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI
May 31 2006

The Phillies fell today to the Washington Nationals, 3-2.  They take two of three in the series, winning a series for the first time in their last five attempts.  The Phils had no answer for Alfonso Soriano, who rose up from his exile to left field to smite his oppressors, or at least the Phillies, driving in all three Nats runs. 

I'm not saying it's an answer, and there wasn't a spot to do it today, but I'd at least consider pitching around him and going after Royce Clayton and his .313 career on-base percentage in the two-hole.  In his defense, I will point out that Clayton's three hits on the day matched the output of the entire Phillies offense without David Dellucci.  It was that kind of day.

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies and went 6 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks.  Just one of the seven hits went for extra-bases, but it was a big one, a two-run home run by Soriano. 

The Phillies led 1-0 in the top of the third when Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez singled with one out.  He was followed by Soriano, who hit a two-run homer that put the Nationals on top 2-1. 

Lidle started the seventh with the score tied at 2-2 but walked leadoff man Mike Vento who went to second on a sacrifice by Hernandez. Soriano followed and drove in his third run of the game with a single, advanced to second on the throw home.  With one out and a runner on second, Lidle stayed in to face unlikely #2 hitter Royce Clayton, who singled, sending Soriano to third.  With the switch-hitter Vidro at the plate, Manuel brought in Cormier who got the Phillies out of a jam, runners on second and third and one out, without further damage by getting Vidro and Nick Johnson on pop-ups that kept the runners at second and third.

Geary started the eighth inning worked around a Chase Utley error to keep Washington off the board.  Geary returned to start the ninth and quickly found himself with one out and runners on first and second and switch-hitter Vidro back at the plate.  Manuel called on the right guy again, bringing in Fultz who got Vidro to ground into an inning-ending double-play.

Against the righty Livan Hernandez the Phillies took advantage of their wins in the first two games to rest some regulars, most notably the struggling Pat Burrell.  They went with a lineup of (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Howard (5) Rowand (6) Dellucci (7) Nunez (8) Fasano and the lineup would be a factor late in the game.  With no righty splitting up Utley, Abreu and Howard the Nats were able to get through the heart of the Phillies lineup with lefty Mike Stanton.  Stanton struck out Utley, Abreu and Howard to get the Phillies 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth in a one-run game.

Aaron Rowand hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second, his seventh of the year, to put the Phillies up 1-0. 

David Dellucci hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, his second of the year, to tie the game at 2-2. 

Jimmy Rollins had a tough day and was in the middle of a couple of chances to score that came up short.  In the bottom of the fifth, Dellucci led off with his homer to tie the game at 2-2.  A ground out and two errors made it first and third with one out and Rollins at the plate.  He grounded into an inning-ending double-play.  In the bottom of the seventh the Phillies missed another chance.  Dellucci led off with a single, Nunez was out failing to bunt him to second and Fasano singled, making it first and second with one out, but the Phillies could not bring in Dellucci from second.  Victorino hit for Cormier and popped out and Rollins flew out to center.

Marlon Byrd made a nice catch to rob Abreu of a home run in the fourth. 

Rollins, Utley, Abreu and Howard combined to go 0-for-15 with four strikeouts and one walk.  Howard got the walk, which came with two outs in the sixth and was followed by a Rowand ground out. 

Dellucci had a big game, going 3-for-4 with a home run and what looked at the time to be a key ninth-inning double.  He raised his average to .277 and is 10-for-27 (.370) in May with eight extra-base hits .

Fasano was 1-for-3 and Nunez 1-for-2 with two walks. 

The Phils put up a nice 17-11 May after a very ugly 10-14 start.  They end the month 27-25 for the season.  A year ago today Randy Wolf threw six shutout innings as the Phillies beat the Giants 5-2 to end May at 25-27 after a 10-14 April.  We could all use a little Randy Wolf about now, and if we can just get the rest of the NL to call up their entire Single-A teams things should be just ducky.  Wolf struck out five of the seven he faced in a Single-A tune-up on Monday but likely won't be back for the Philies until July. 

Phillies next game is late tomorrow night against the Dodgers in LA.  We can all use the time to try to learn a little about the six or so guys starting for the Dodgers these days who we've never heard of.

The least comfortable three-game win streak in the history of organized sport
May 31 2006

The Phillies needed someone on their pitching staff to come up huge and offer their pen some much-needed relief.  As he's done so many times this year, Brett Myers came through for the Phillies, going eight strong innings and carrying the Phils, with help from a big blow from Bobby Abreu, to their third straight win. 

Things are bleak in the Phillies battered rotation these days, and we just wouldn't be Phillies fans if we didn't celebrate the great outing by Myers by complaining about the guys who will pitch over the next few games.  To lump Cory Lidle in with Madson, Floyd and Eude Brito, however, doesn't make much sense.  Lidle has been solid for the Phillies in his time with the team, going 22-17 with a 4.48 ERA in 51 starts since the Phillies got him in a trade with Cincinnati in August, 2004.  Brito, Madson and Floyd don't have nearly his experience -- they have combined for 31 career starts and only one of them (Brito) has an ERA under 6.00 as a starter.

The Phillies beat the Nationals last night 4-2, winning their third straight game.  With the win the Phillies are back in second place in the NL East at 27-24, a half game ahead of the third place Braves and four behind the Mets.

Myers went eight strong innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks.  He struck out six.  After 11 starts he still has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a game.  Over his last seven starts he has failed to go seven innings or more only once.

Myers held the Nats off the board through seven, the only whiff of trouble came in the top of the second.  With Nick Johnson on second, Marlon Anderson singled to right and Johnson was thrown out (eventually) at home by Bobby Abreu with the help of a nice play from Lieberthal, whose block of the plate forced Johnson to slide around him and miss the plate.

Washington finally got on the board in the eighth inning.  With the Phillies up 4-0, Brian Schneider drew a one-out walk and Marlon Byrd followed with a two-run homer.  The Nats may be a really bad offensive team, their lineup last night included Royce Clayton, Marlon Byrd, Marlon Anderson and Brian Schneider, but some credit should be due for working dueling Marlons into the same starting nine.

Manuel let Myers hit for himself in the bottom of the seventh.  Brett threw 97 pitches through seven innings and came up with bases loaded and one out with the Phillies up 3-0.  He drew a walk to make the score 4-0.  Jimmy Rollins followed and grounded into a double-play.  Myers ended the game having thrown 116 pitches on the night.

Tom Gordon came in and pitched the ninth and looked wicked.  He hit Royce Clayton to lead off the inning, but got the next three to record his fifteenth save.  He struck out Nick Johnson for the second out of the inning on a ridiculous pitch that looked like something out of a video game.  Against the lefty Johnson the ball came at Nick's knees low, as if it might hit him or would at least be inside, and tailed at the very last minute to tick the corner of the plate for the third strike.

The Phillies went again with their one-size-fits-lefties-and-righties lineup: (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Lieberthal.  Lieberthal was starting his first game since May 4 -- he left that game in the sixth inning after being hit by a pitch.

The Phillies managed just five hits on the night, only one of which went for extra-bases.  Tony Armas held them scoreless through three innings, but Rollins and Utley led off the fourth with back-to-back singles and Abreu followed with a three-run homer.  Later in the inning, Rowand managed a two-out single.  Of the five hits the Phillies had in the game, four came in the fourth inning.

The Phillies got their other run in the bottom of the seventh.  With one out, Rowand singled, Bell walked and Lieberthal was hit by a pitch.  This set the stage for Myers staying in the game to hit for himself and drawing the walk to make it 4-0.  There was still just one out and the bases loaded, but the bid for more was turned away when Rollins hit into a double-play.

Rollins and Utley were both 1-for-4 on the day.  Abreu was 1-for-3 with the huge home run.  After going 26 games without a home run between April 19 and May 21, Abreu has three in his last nine games.

Burrell was 0-for-4 and is slumping.  Word is Yankees' scouts were on hand Saturday taking a look at both Burrell and Abreu and he's 2-for-15 since.  No idea what this means, probably nothing.  I think it would be a mistake to trade Burrell and leave Aaron Rowand as the best right-handed hitter in the lineup.  I have less of a hard time believing they would deal Abreu.  The guy I would be looking at if I were another team would be Dellucci, who is on-pace to get 137 at-bats with the Phillies in '06 after hitting 29 home runs last year.  Dellucci could slide into right if Abreu goes, but it would be a big offensive drop from Abreu who is one of the best hitters in the league.  You have to wonder if that's not the plan, though, otherwise I don't understand what they're doing with Dellucci.  Dontrelle Willis is good, don't let his awful numbers this year scare you.  Last year, at age 23, he was 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.13 ratio.  He finished second in the Cy Young voting and eleventh in the voting for MVP.  He threw 236 2/3 innings, which could help a team where starters go five like it's their job, and led the league with five shutouts.  I'm pretty sure the Marlins don't want Abreu, though, so forgetting whether it would be a good deal for the Phillies or not, it would have to be a creative one.

Howard was 0-for-3 but what say we give him a break what with hitting 13 homers in the month and all.  It was his first game in the last seven without a hit.

Rowand was 2-for-3.  In May, the Phillies are 12-2 in games he started and 5-8 in games he didn't.

Bell 0-for-2 with a walk and Lieberthal 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch.

Cory Lidle and Livan Hernandez this afternoon.

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