Phillies hope to outscore US World Cup team as Mets comes to town
June 13 2006

NYM 39-23 325 5.24 263 332 444 68 11
PHI 33-30 314 4.98 255 333 434 34 13
NYM 578.1 265 4.27 520 218 479 3.81 1.28
PHI 565 308 4.88 609 206 421 4.49 1.44

The Phillies start a three-game set with the Mets tonight in Philadelphia.  The Phils come in at 33-30, in second place in the NL East, 6 1/2 games behind the first place Mets.  New York has won five straight and is coming off of a four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in Arizona.  During that four-game set they outscored the Diamondbacks 37-9.  Arizona may just ask teams from the NL East to stop coming over for a while (possible exception: the Marlins).

The Mets pitching has been better than the Phillies so far this year -- the Mets have allowed the fewest runs in the National League and hold opponents batters to the lowest average.  Their 3.81 team ERA is best in the league.  The Phillies 4.49 hides the truth behind the story for Philadelphia, the starters, most notably Lieber, Floyd and Madson, have been awful and have been bailed out by the pen, which has been surprisingly good. 

Not many folks are going to be surprised that the Mets pitching is better than the Phillies.  It usually is.  What is surprising is that the Mets offense has been better as well, hitting for a higher average with more doubles and more home runs.  The Mets have also made good use of the stolen base, swiping a league high 68 while being caught just 11 times, which is third best in the NL. 

As a team the Phillies are on-basing just .333 after on-basing an impressive .348 in 2005.  To the shock of none, the Phillies four great hitters haven't been the problem -- Rollins (.308 on-base percentage), Bell (.335), Rowand (.332), Fasano (.302) and Lieberthal (.284) have.  Of that list, Rollins and Rowand are the surprising numbers and may be the keys to the Phillies offense.  Any one of Utley, Abreu, Burrell and Howard can explode at any time, the question may be whether or not there's enough men on base when it happens to matter.

I'm pretty sure the Phillies aren't going to trade Rowand for Jon Garland.  Down the road, however, people might forget what Rowand can do with the glove and wonder if the Phillies would have been better off trying Victorino in center more often.  Victorino has been the better offensive player through the first 63 games, posting a 327/375/519 line compare to Rowand's 290/332/481.  Surprisingly, Rowand's problems have been dealing with left-handed pitching, his line against lefties is a wretched 171/222/341 after being, as you would expect, better against them over his career.  The problem it creates for the Phillies is that Rowand is their second best right-handed bat after Burrell.  The good news is that Rowand's numbers at the end of the year won't look much like they do now after just 183 at-bats (and neither will Victorino's).

The teams last met May 23-25 in New York with the Mets taking two of three.  The first game the Mets won in the bottom of the 16th inning on Carlos Beltran's homer after seven scoreless innings of relief from Madson.  The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Alay Soler in game two before taking the rest of the day off and losing 5-4.  Myers pitched well enough to win in game three as the Mets started Jeremi Gonzalez and the Phils took the game 5-3.

The Mets have made some moves since then, most notably trading away second baseman Kaz Matsui to Colorado for Eli Marrero and cash.  Getting rid of Matsui seems like a swell idea, the problem is that the Mets have to play somebody at second and so far they've gone with Jose Valentin and Chris Woodward. This is a work in progress so there may be more.  Xavier Nady went on the DL following an appendectomy and they released starter Jeremi Gonzalez.  Uber-prospect Lastings Milledge was called up and has gotten 43 at-bats, posting a 256/298/558 line with seven extra-base hits.

Carlos Beltran (297/406/631), David Wright (336/406/564) and Carlos Delgado (256/341/521) are still the big hitters in the lineup. Delgado leads the team with 18 HR and Beltran with 49 RBI.  Floyd should be the other big bat, but he's hitting just .238 with six home runs after slugging 34 last year.  Floyd should be back in the Mets lineup on Tuesday after missing several games with a sprained ankle. 

Closer Billy Wagner hasn't been charged with a run in his last 9 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and one walk.  Aaron Heilman is still pitching out of the pen and his numbers are back in the range of mortals, his ERA is 3.38.  Righty Heath Bell is up, and I think he's good, but opponents are hitting .386 against him despite what I think.  Darren Oliver is still good for some lefty-on-lefty violence out of the pen, lefties are hitting just .175 against him and he shut down the Phillies in the last series, throwing four shutout innings in the 16 inning game to get the win.

Ryan Madson (6-3, 5.71) starts against lefty Tom Glavine (9-2, 3.06) tonight.  Glavine got hit hard by the Dodgers on Wednesday, getting the win but allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings on seven hits, three of which were home runs.  He's allowed just ten home runs on the season, but five of them have come in his last two starts.  He kills the Phillies like a good lefty should -- he started against them on May 10 and went seven innings, holding the Phils to three runs on four hits as the Mets won 13-4.  Ryan Madson leads the Phillies with six wins, but you wouldn't want to go and confuse that with success.  Opponents are hitting .321 against him and he has a 6.19 ERA and a 1.90 ratio in nine starts.  Amazingly, he also has a 5-1 record in those starts.  He was good against Arizona on Wednesday, going deep into the game and holding the Snakes to just three runs in 7 2/3 innings.  Overall, righties are hitting .352 against him.  That's going to make it hard to win, unless you're playing softball or some other kind of game where having people hit .352 against you is a sign of success.

Brett Myers (4-2, 3.44) faces righty Orlando Hernandez (4-5, 5.84) tomorrow night.  Hernandez has gone 2-1 with the Mets since coming over in the deal that sent Jorge Julio to Arizona.  In those three starts he's allowed nine earned runs in 20 innings, but the best of them was his most recent start, which came on Thursday against the Diamondbacks.  In that game he threw a complete game three-hitter as the Mets won 7-1.  On the year, lefties are hitting .319 against El Duque, righties .216, which bodes well for the Phils.  Cause of the Phils lefty hitters, you see.  Myers got bombed by the Nationals on Friday, giving up six runs in three innings.  Let's hope it was a one-time thing, cause the Phillies are in a lot of trouble if he starts getting blown up with any regularity.  Phillies fans should avoid counting their chickens before they've come up with a whole lot more nice outings, however.  Over his career Myers has a 3.93 ERA before the All-Star break and a 4.88 ERA after.  In 2005, he threw to a 3.20 ERA before the break and a 4.32 after.

Cory Lidle (4-5, 4.68) faces righty Steve Trachsel (3-4, 4.70) on Thursday afternoon.  The Phillies got to Trachsel in the first game of the last series, hitting him up for six runs in five innings.  He gave up seven hits and walked four.  His left start came Friday against the Diamondbacks and he got the win but not in a real warm and fuzzy kind of way.  He gave up eight hits and six walks but just three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.  Two of the hits went for home runs.  Lefties are hitting .323 against him, which is good for all of the same reasons that it's good lefties are hitting .319 against Hernandez.  Lidle did a nice job on Saturday to help get the Phillies their only win in the four game set with the Nationals.  He went six innings and held the Nats to two runs on three hits.  He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last three starts.  After five starts on the year, Lidle had walked three batters and struck out 33.  In his last eight starts he's walked 21 and struck out 29. 

Finally, if it's Mets blog you seek, I can't think of a single reason not to visit Metsblog.

The Wolfman goeth
June 12 2006

The Phillies lost to the Nats 6-0 yesterday to fall to 33-30 on the season.  Here's a look back at where they were the same time last year:

On May 24, 2005, the Marlins beat the Phillies 4-3, getting a two-out double from first baseman Carlos Delgado in the bottom of the tenth to drive in the winning run.  The Phils had entered the bottom of the ninth with a 3-2 lead, but Damion Easley homered off of closer Billy Wagner to send the game into extra-innings.  The loss dropped the Phillies record on the year to 21-26.

Then the Phillies went on a tear, winning four of their last five in May and nine of ten to start June.  On Saturday, June 11, the Brewers were in Philadelphia for the second game of a three-game set.  The Phillies record stood at 34-28.

The Phillies beat the Brewers 7-5.  They hit Milwaukee starter Doug Davis pretty hard, getting eight hits and four runs off of him in 5 1/3 innings but went into the bottom of the seventh trailing, 5-4.  Pat Burrell hit a three-run shot off of Ricky Bottalico that would prove to be the game-winner.  It was his thirteenth homer of 2005 and his third in three days.  The three runs he drove in game him 54 on the year and he was hitting .324.  In 2006, he's hit 16 homers and driven in 47 but is hitting just .259.  He's hit two homers in the last three days.

Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-5 to drop his average to .263.  He was 0-for-4 yesterday and is hitting .253 this year.

Michaels played center and Thome, who was hitting just .217, started at first base. 

Abreu was 2-for-4 with his sixteenth homer that put him up to 46 RBI.  He was hitting .325.  In 2006, he's hitting .288 with seven homers and 46 RBI. 

Utley hit seventh against the lefty Davis and went 1-for-4.  He was hitting .309 and had 29 RBI.  In 2006 he's hitting .303 with 40 RBI and no longer has to share time with Placido Polanco.  He also no longer hits seventh, even against lefties.

Bell went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .269.  He was coming off of a night where he hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Phillies a 5-2 win.  He had three homers and 21 RBI on the year.  He's at .259 with four homers and 24 RBI in 2006.

The Phillies pinch-hitters on the day were Tomas Perez and Endy Chavez (they were 0-for-2).  Shane Victorino and Dellucci as hitters off the bench this season is a big advantage over the '05 squad.

Randy Wolf got the start for the Phillies and had to leave the game with pain in his left elbow after throwing six innings.  He threw 100 pitches on the day, none of which was above 87 MPH.  Wolf would go on the DL two days later and have Tommy John surgery in early July. 

Geary and Cormier pitched.  Geary gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning to raise his ERA to 4.96.  Cormier got one out without allowing a hit or a walk and had a 5.12 ERA.  Madson pitched a perfect inning out of the pen, his ERA was at 3.31.  Ugueth Urbina struck out two in a scoreless ninth, recording his tenth save.  Geary, Cormier and Madson are three guys who will be critical to what happens to the Phillies in 2006 -- in 2005 two of them weren't pitching well but are this year.  Getting a contribution from Madson, whether it's from the pen or the rotation, is huge for the Phillies this season.  If he keeps getting shelled as a starter it hurts you in two ways -- not only do you have to live with the bad starts, but you may have missed his good innings out of the pen.

Julio Santana relieved Davis in the sixth for the Brewers, striking out Tomas Perez and getting Rollins to pop out to end the inning.

The Phillies would continue their hot stretch at home the next day, beating the Brewers 6-2 to improve to 36-28 before going on a 4-11 swoon to end the month at 40-39.  The Phillies haven't had a chance to get hot at home in June in 2006, but it starts tomorrow when they play their first of nine in a row in Philadelphia.

A lot of things seem pretty similar.  Pat Burrell is on a streak where he's hitting a bunch of home runs.  Jimmy Rollins has his average down in the ugly zone -- remember that last season he on-based just .316 before the All-Star break and .363 after it.  In '05 he hit seven of his 12 home runs before the break, but slugged .470 after the break and .398 before it.  The Phillies were just 45-44 going into the All-Star break in '05.

One thing that grabs you is Abreu's home run numbers.  He had 16 after the same number of games last year and has just seven in 2006.    He hit 18 before the break in '05 but just six after it to end the season with 24.  He hit just .260 after the break in 2005.

Through 63 games the Phillies have scored 314 runs and allowed 308, putting them on a pace to score 807 and allow 792.  The 807 is more than fine, but the 792 won't work.  In 2005 they scored 807 and allowed 726 and came up short of the playoffs.

The wretched rotation has been much of the story for the Phillies so far in '06.  If they can go through the second half of the year with a healthy rotation of Lieber, Myers, Wolf, Lidle and Hamels, they're going to win a lot of games. 

Phillies make a mountain out of a Shawn Hill
June 11 2006

The Phillies ended a grueling stretch of 20-games-in-20-days this afternoon, not with a bang but with a whimper, managing just two hits in seven innings against Nats starter Shawn Hill as they fell to Washington for the third time in four games.  The Phillies finally get a day off tomorrow, which is good for several reasons but especially because it won't give Nationals hurlers Hill, Bill Bray and Saul Rivera a chance to further stifle the Phillies -- over the four-game set they combined to hold the Phillies scoreless for 13 innings. 

The Phillies were shut out today, losing 6-0.  The loss drops the Phillies record to 33-30 on the year.  The Phillies went 10-10 on the 20-game stretch but couldn't capitalize against a weak Nationals team over the past four days.

Cole Hamels got career start number four this afternoon and went five innings, striking out eight but allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. 

Hamels kept the Nationals off the board in the first two innings and got the first two batters in the bottom of the third before the troubled started.  Soriano and Clayton both walked, and the healthy-again Jose Guillen doubled to put the Nationals up 2-0 with two outs and a runner on second.  Nick Johnson followed and hit a ball to left that Burrell misplayed into a double to make the score 3-0 before Hamels got out of the frame.  The defense of the Phillies corner outfielders was terrible in the series. 

In the fourth, Hamels gave up a leadoff double to Brendan Harris and a single to Robert Fick that sent him to third with nobody out.  Hamels struck out Marlon Byrd and pitcher Shawn Hill before Soriano got another big hit, singling to make the score 4-0.

Hamels got a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth.  In the bottom of the sixth, Manuel brought in Brian Sanches with Hamels having thrown 93 pitches.  Sanches threw yet another perfect inning to keep the score 4-0.  He's now thrown four scoreless innings on the year without allowing a hit.

Geary pitched the seventh, loading the bases on a double, a walk and a hit batsman, but got out of the inning by striking out Ryan Zimmerman.  Geary dropped his ERA to 2.86 but he's given up 43 hits in 34 2/3 innings.  Lefties are hitting .370 against him and righties .289.  He's walked the tightrope of late, however, pitching to a 1.20 ERA in May and he's yet to be charged with a run in June.

Clay Condrey pitched the bottom of the eighth and gave up solo homers to Robert Fick and pinch-hitter Daryle Ward to make the score 6-0.  Lefites are hitting .370 against him as well, righties .294.  Both of the homers he gave up today were to lefties.

Nothing new in the Phillies lineup against righty Shawn Hill: (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano.  You have to wonder how long Fasano can go before he breaks down.  He'll be 35 in August and he's already caught 262 2/3 innings on the year, more than Lieberthal's 198.  Fasano has caught more than 262 2/3 innings just twice since 1999 -- last year he caught 417 and in 2000 he caught 353 2/3 for the A's.  He's on a pace to catch over 675 innings this season, which isn't going to work (it also isn't going to happen, but I sure don't know what is).  He had an odd moment in today's game, apparently getting crossed up with Hamels in the fifth and just not catching a fastball that nearly killed home plate umpire Joe Brinkman.

The Phillies got nothing.  Rollins got to second in the top of the third with two outs, but Abreu struck out to end the inning.  In the fourth they had first and third with two outs, but Fasano struck out to end the inning.  Hill had just four strikeouts on the day, but three came with two outs and runners on base.

Rollins was 0-for-4 and 5-for-19 (.263) with no walks in the series.   

Utley was 0-for-4.  He was 2-for-18 in the series.

Abreu 1-for-3 with a walk on the day and 5-for-15 with no RBIs in the four games.  Burrell 0-for-3 with a walk.  He was 3-for-16 with two homers and a double and is hitting .171 in June.

Howard had the Phillies only extra-base hit on the day.  He was 2-for-4 on the day and 5-for-16 in the series with a double and a homer.  He had just one RBI (from the home run) as nobody was on base for him to drive in. 

Rowand 0-for-4 as his average fell to .290.  4-for-16 in the series.

Bell 0-for-3 with a walk.  3-for-14 (.214) in the series with no RBI.  Fasano 0-for-2 in the game and 0-for-10 in the series.

The whole series was a big ugly for the Phillies.  Possible exceptions are some signs of life from Burrell with the big home runs and the nice outing by Lidle.  The pen did a nice job, too, but overall it's not a series you need to keep for the scrapbook.

Off day tomorrow and the first place Mets arrive on Tuesday for the first of three.

Coste gets a start and Lidle gets it done
June 10 2006

For the second straight day the Phillies got a late-inning home run from Pat Burrell that took them from trailing to leading on a single pitch.  For the first straight day they got a win out of it, beating the Nationals this afternoon, 6-2.

The win improves the Phillies record on the season to 33-29.  They will try to get a split in the four-game set with Washington with a win tomorrow. 

The Phillies put Mike Lieberthal on the 15-day DL with a hip strain.  The move was retroactive to June 6.  To take his place on the roster they recalled Brian Sanches from Triple-A.  The Phils options at catcher at this point are a .226 career hitter and a guy whose next hit will be his first.  They went with the guy whose next hit will be his first today, giving Chris Coste his first ever start.

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies and had a good day.  He went six innings, holding the Nationals to two runs on three hits and four walks.  Two of the three hits were doubles.

The Phillies needed Lidle today and he got the job done.  He kept the Nats off the board for the first four innings and did not allow a hit until Marlon Anderson led off the bottom of the fifth with a double.  Anderson advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a sac fly, which tied the game at 1-1.

With the score still 1-1 in the sixth, Royce Clayton hit a one-out double.  Clayton would score on a two-out single by Ryan Zimmerman to put Washington up 2-1.

Lidle was due to lead off the top of the seventh and the Phillies pinch hit for him with Shane Victorino.  With the Phillies still down 2-1, Geary pitched a scoreless seventh.  With two outs and a runner on first, the Phillies walked Soriano intentionally and Clayton got aboard via an infield single to load the bases.  Geary got Vidro to fly to right and end the inning.

The Phillies got five in the top of the eighth to grab a 6-2 lead.  Rhodes pitched the bottom of the eighth and threw a perfect inning.  Rhodes lowered his ERA to 3.63 with today's outing.  After a tough April where he pitched to a 5.87 ERA he has been very good since, posting a 2.79 ERA in May and a 1.80 ERA so far in June.

Gordon pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two in his second consecutive appearance in a non-save situation. 

The Phillies lineup against righty Livan Hernandez went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Coste.  First ever start for Coste and it was nice to see -- Fasano can't catch every day and the other choice is to bring Ruiz back up.  I'd rather see Coste than Ruiz.

Hernandez kept the Phillies off the board through four.  In the fifth, Lidle and Rollins singled back-to-back with one out to put runners at first and third.  Chase Utley followed with a sac fly that made the score 1-0 before Abreu struck out to end the inning. 

In the sixth, Coste grounded into a double-play with one out and the bases loaded to keep the score 1-1.

The Phillies got a leadoff pinch-hit single from Victorino in the seventh, but Utley followed by grounding into a double-play and the Phillies came away empty.  We've already seen Manuel using Victorino differently with Roberson available on the bench.  Pre-Roberson he would need to keep Victorino out of the game until he was ready to take Burrell out of the game.  Today he hit Victorino in the seventh and kept Burrell in till the bottom of the ninth, when Roberson replaced him in left.  I think without Roberson available, Manuel would have likely used Nunez to lead off the seventh.

The Phils were down 2-1 in the top of the eighth but got five runs in the inning.  Abreu led off with a single and Burrell followed with a two-run homer that put the Phillies up 3-2.  Howard struck out but Rowand reached on an error and Bell singled, sending Rowand to third with one out.  With righty Jon Rauch on the hill and Coste at the plate, Manuel called on David Dellucci to pinch hit.  It was a good idea, Dellucci doubled, scoring both runners to make the score 5-2.  Nunez hit for pitcher Geoff Geary, grounding out and sending Dellucci to third.  He scored when Rollins followed with a double that made it 6-2 before Utley struck out to end the inning. 

Rollins was 2-for-5.  He's walked twice in his last 57 at-bats.  He's hitting .257 and on-basing .312.  

Utley was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout the last time the Phillies faced Livan.

Abreu was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts.  I'd love to see the Phillies put Victorino in right one day soon against a lefty to give Abreu a break.  Dellucci isn't a good partner with Abreu since they are both lefties, but it seems like Victorino could give him a rest every so often against a left-handed starter.

Burrell was 1-for-4 with a walk and the big home run.  Howard was 1-for-5 and struck out twice.  Howard has 22 home runs in 224 at-bats this year after hitting 22 in 312 at-bats last year.

Rowand may be finally getting the ball to drop for him.  He was 3-for-4 with a double.   

Bell 1-for-2 with two walks.  The Phillies drew just three walks on the day, two by Bell and one from Burrell.

Coste is still looking for his first hit and was 0-for-3 and left five men on base.  He looks like he's gone from a guy who's a great story and you root for to a guy who is going to be an important part of the team for the next few weeks.

Cole Hamels faces Shawn Hill tomorrow afternoon.

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