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Phillies primed to demo real third base problems to thousands of Yankees fans
June 19 2006

Team W-L R R/G AVG OBP SLG SB CS
NYY 38-29 388 5.79 286 369 452 52 16
PHI 34-35 342 4.96 256 332 437 40 14
                 
  IP RA RA/G H BB SO ERA Ratio
NYY 597.1 321 4.79 600 214 396 4.34 1.36
PHI 619 353 5.12 681 230 461 4.67 1.47

The New York Yankees come to Philadelphia tonight for the first of a three-game set.  The Bronx Bombers are scuffling a bit, losers of seven of their last ten.  They come off of a wretched weekend series with the Nationals that saw them lose two of three, including a game on Saturday where they led 9-2, and yesterday's game that Ryan Zimmerman won with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.  I'm pretty sure you'll still be able to tell them apart from the Devil Rays, however.

They Yankees come in at 38-29, in second place in the AL East, one game behind the Red Sox.  The Phillies are 34-35, in second place in the NL East, 9 1/2 games behind the Mets.

The Yankees have been better than the Phillies offensively and defensively.  They lead the AL in runs and on-base percentage and are second in batting average and sixth in slugging percentage.

The Yanks pitching may seem like a mess, but only three teams in the AL have allowed fewer runs.  The Phillies starters continue to be the worst in the NL, pitching to a 5.49 ERA.  Their pen is no longer the best, they've dropped to second best in the NL behind the Padres over the past few days.  The Phillies bullpen ERA is 3.26.  In two more games, Phillies pitchers have allowed 81 more hits than the American League DH-loving Yankees pitchers.

The Yankees had been hit hard by injuries in the outfield this season.  Matsui is out until at least August with a broken left wrist and Sheffield had surgery on his left wrist last week and will miss most of the rest of the season.  It leaves the Yankees with Bernie Williams (278/318/424), Johnny Damon (291/359/470) and a curious collection of fill-ins manning the outfield.  Melky Cabrera (254/361/325) plays more than you'd hope for a guy who is slugging .325.  Kevin Thompson was sent back to Triple-A yesterday, but Bubby Crosby, who I would like to see just once in the same place at the same time as Bobby Crosby, was activated on Thursday.  He's at 275/341/375 in 40 at-bats. 

The addition of Damon to the offense has given the Yankees a new weapon with the stolen base.  In 2005 they stole just 84 and were caught 25 times.  So far in '06, Damon and Jeter have combined to steal 27 and only have been caught five times.  The '06 Yanks are on pace to steal 125 bases and be caught just 39 times.

Fortunately for the Yankees they still employ much of baseball's elite in their infield and behind the plate.  In a sure sign that David Bell has never donned the pinstripes, New York fans are irate about Alex Rodriguez (283/390/510) and his penchant for aloof politeness and striking out with ducks aboard.  A-Rod is 7-for-his-last 20 with a double and two home runs.  People outside of New York are having some trouble understanding a little what exactly the problem is, I think it's one of those you-had-to-be-there things.  Derek Jeter (340/432/482) is having a fine year, he's tied for fourth in the AL in on-base percentage.  I'm pretty sure the Yankees are no longer considering sending Jason Giambi (264/435/599) down to the minors, although he could probably give the Clippers a nice boost.  He's third in the AL in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging and third in OPS.  Posada is at 297/418/495 and Cano 327/350/441.

In the pen, Mariano Rivera has made it through Enter Sandman-gate and chalked up 13 saves.  Opponents are hitting just .231 against him but righties a surprising .262.  Righty Kyle Farnsworth is having problems with his back, he left Friday's game and hasn't pitched since.  Scott Proctor inherited the setup role in the short term, he's pitched to a 3.74 ERA in 45 2/3 innings, allowing just 38 hits.  In the last few days New York has called up righties TJ Beam and Jose Veras.  Veras has yet to pitch after throwing to a 3.00 ERA in Triple-A Columbus.  In 33 innings he struck out 35 and allowed 29 hits.  Beam got hit hard in his first appearance of the year on Saturday.   The Yankees can call on a bunch of lefties out of the pen, Mike Myers, Ron Villone and Matt Smith.  Opponents are hitting below .200 against all three.  Villone has been especially tough against lefties, holding them to a .121 average, which could be a factor unless the Phils can teach Utley, Abreu and Howard to switch hit this afternoon.

The good news is that the Phillies get to throw the three best pitchers in their rotation during the series.  The bad news is that after Brett Myers they are Cory Lidle and Cole Hamels.

Brett Myers (4-3, 3.86) faces lefty Randy Johnson (8-5, 5.32).  Unit is coming off of a start where he was hit with an unlikely five-game suspension for not hitting Cleveland's Eduardo Perez.  Several other Yankees also failed to hit Eduardo that day but came out unscathed.    His problems the year have been well documented, but his most recent start against the Indians went well.  He allowed just four hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.  Righties are hitting .265 off of Johnson in '06 after hitting .257 in '05 and .204 in '04.  He still kills lefties, and I don't think it's realistic they'll get all three of those guys switch-hitting by tonight.  Myers has been awesome for the Phillies most of the season, the one guy who could give the pen a break when Floyd, Madson and Lieber got shelled time after time.  He's fallen apart in his last two starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.  His last two starts have been truly awful, in the 5 2/3 innings he allowed 16 hits and two walks and given up five runs in the first inning.  We should know early if it's more of the same tonight.

Cory Lidle (4-6, 4.89) gets righty Mike Mussina (8-3, 3.14) tomorrow.  Mussina last pitched on Thursday against the Indians and had a rough outing, allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings.  He's been very good this year, however.  After allowing more than a hit an inning in each of the last two years, he's allowed 87 in 100 1/3 innings this season and walked just 17.  Lefites are hitting just .194 against him (righties .256).  Lidle went on Wednesday against the Mets and gave up five runs in six innings, taking the loss.  Lidle is getting killed by lefties, who are hitting .331 against him.  One thing he has been able to do that has helped the Phillies is to pitch deep into games.  He's gone at least six innings in each of his last seven starts.  If you're not a Phillies fan it might not sound like much, but then again you've probably never watched Gavin Floyd or Eude Brito pitch.

Cole Hamels (1-2, 4.91) faces righty Jaret Wright (3-4, 4.86) in the series finale in Wednesday.  Wright faced the Nationals on Thursday, giving up five runs in five innings.  Opponents are hitting .299 against him and lefties .319.  Over his last two starts he's gone 10 innings, allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits and four walks.  He does keep the ball in the park pretty well, he's allowed just four home runs in his 53 2/3 innings on the year.  Cole Hamels has been hit hard in his last two starts, taking two losses while allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits in 8 2/3 innings.  His home debut came Friday night against the Devil Rays and he got smoked for six runs in 3 2/3.  He's still having a lot of success against lefties after five starts, they are hitting just .148 against him.  He's walking too many, 14 in 25 2/3 innings, and righties are faring much better against him, hitting .261.  He's allowed three home runs, all of which went to righties. 

For the Phillies it should be interesting to see if Nunez continues to get some starts during the series.  He has started two days straight for the Phils, once at second and once at third, and Bell has been bad on both sides of the ball for the Phils this season.  I don't think he's in danger of losing time at this point, by Rowand has also been in an awful patch.  The very capable Shane Victorino gave him a rest yesterday and continued to look good both offensively and in the field.

Phils keep opponent off the board in the first inning for the first time since fielders started to wear gloves and ride the momentum to glory
June 18 2006

The Phillies may be having trouble hitting, fielding and pitching, but apparently they draw the line in the sand at getting swept by the Devil Rays.  The Phils won today for just the second time in their last ten games, beating Tampa Bay 8-5.

The win improves their mark on the season to 34-35.  They remain in second place in the division, 9 1/2 games behind the Mets.  Amazingly, the Braves have fallen into last place in the NL East, a half game behind the Florida Marlins.  The Marlins won their eighth straight this afternoon, topping the Blue Jays 4-1.  The Braves and Phillies have combined to go 3-17 in their last 20 games.  Atlanta plays the Sunday night game this evening against the Red Sox.

Ryan Madson got the start for the Phillies.  He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks.  Three of the hits, a double and two homers, went for extra bases.  He didn't pitch quite as well as his line, allowing two unearned runs on a two-run homer to Carl Carford in the third.  He's allowed five home runs in his last two starts.

Madson got a 1-2-3 first inning.  It was the first time in six games that the Phillies had not allowed a run in the first inning.

Tampa Bay got a solo home run in the second inning to go up 1-0.  They added two more in the third.  Josh Paul got on via Ryan Howard's unbelievable tenth error of the season and moved to third on a bunt and a groundout before Carl Crawford's two-run homer made the score 3-0.  Howard started the day leading all major league first basemen in errors, nobody else in either league had more than five.

Madson kept the Rays off the board in the fourth, fifth and sixth, allowing just two walks.

Madson hit for himself in the bottom of the sixth, having thrown 95 pitches. 

In the seventh, Madson got the first two before giving up a pinch-hit double to Tomas Perez and a single to Lugo that sent Perez to first.  With the lefty Crawford up the Phillies brought in Cormier, who got up 0-2 and threw a wild pitch that scored the runner from third and moved Lugo to second before Cormier got Crawford to end the inning with the score 6-4.

Rhodes started the eighth with the Phillies up 8-4 and things did not go well.  The first three batters went single, RBI-double, single, making it first and third with no outs and the score 8-5.  Rhodes struck out Wigginton for the first out of the inning and, in a nice move, Manuel called on Gordon in the eighth.  A well-rested Flash got a ground out that didn't score the runner from third, walked pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes and got Toby Hall to fly out to end the inning.

Kudos to Manuel for bringing in Gordon in the eighth inning.

Gordon came back for the ninth and gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning, bringing the tying run to the plate for the Devil Rays with runners on first and second.  Gordon got out of it for his 19th save, getting Cantu to ground into a double-play and striking out Huff to end the game.  Flash is on pace to save 45 games this season.

The Phillies lineup against righty Seth McClung went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Abreu (5) Howard (6) Dellucci (7) Nunez (8) Fasano.  A lot of interesting stuff here as Manual tried to push the right buttons on a hot Sunday afternoon.  Victorino plays center and hits second, pushing Utley down to third and it's Abreu, not Howard, in the cleanup spot.  Tampa Bay started a righty and doesn't have a lefty in the pen, so there's no left-right issues.  Nunez played for the second straight day, this time at third after playing second and hitting the home run last night.  David Bell gets the day off after going 4-for-his-last-18 and making his team-high eleventh error earlier this week.  I was a little surprised to see Fasano catching again, especially with the heat.  Finally, Dellucci got the start in left, which probably would have happened anyway, but Burrell did hit a foul ball hard off of his foot last night, hopefully that was not a factor.

The Phillies got on the board in the bottom of the third.  With two outs, Victorino singled and Utley followed with a single that send him to third.  With Abreu at the plate, a wild pitch scored Victorino and sent Utley to second.  Abreu singled up the middle, scoring Utley to make it 3-2 before Howard struck out to end the inning.

The Phillies finally put up a crooked number in the bottom of the fifth.  With two outs and Rollins, who had singled and stolen second, aboard, Utley singled to tie the score at 3-3.  Abreu followed with a walk and Howard got a long-awaited big blow, a three-run homer that put the Phillies up 6-3. 

The Phillies extended their lead in the seventh.  Utley led off and reached on an error by the slick-fielding Travis Lee and moved to second on Abreu's ground out.  Howard followed with a double, which scored Utley and put the Phillies up 7-4.  Dellucci followed with a single and Howard tried to score.  Branyan's throw from right beat him to the plate by about fifteen feet.  Hall dropped the ball but was able to pick it up and tag Howard out after Ryan did not slide and missed the plate on the way past.  Dellucci went to second on the throw and scored when Nunez followed with a double that put the Phillies up 8-4. 

Rollins was 2-for-5 on the day and 4-for-12 in the series with two walks.  The Phillies need him to get aboard at the top of the lineup in a big way, and he's been better of late. 

Utley 2-for-5 on the day and 2-for-9 in the series.  Abreu 1-for-2 with two walks today and 3-for-9 with three walks in the series.

Burrell did not play today but was 1-for-5 with three walks in the series.  He is hitting .208 in June.  Howard had a big day today after recent struggles.  He went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run and four RBI.   For the series he was 4-for-12.

Victorino was 1-for-3 with a walk and a hit by pitch.  He stole his first base of the year.  Rowand was 0-for-1 today and 1-for-9 in the series.  He is hitting .213 in June.

Nunez played two days in a row, with a home run yesterday and a double today.  We'll have to watch to see if it turns into more playing time for him in place of Bell, who is struggling offensively and defensively.  Bell was 2-for-8 in the series but has just two extra-base hits, two doubles, in his last 74 at-bats.

Fasano was 1-for-4 on the day with two strikeouts.  For the series he went 4-for-8.  He line in his first 36 June at-bats is an impressive 306/359/639.

The wretched home stand continues tomorrow night against the Yankees.

Blame Canada
June 17 2006

Vancouver native Scott Mathieson made his major league debut tonight as the Phillies tried to snap their five-game losing streak against the Devil Rays.  He looked a little like a 22-year-old up from Double-A, which shouldn't be confused with someone who doesn't belong in the Phillies rotation.

The Phillies lost the game 7-2 for their sixth straight loss.  Their record is 33-35.  The loss guarantees the Phils a loss in their third straight series. 

Mathieson went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks.  Four of the eight hits went for extra bases, three doubles and a home run.  His ERA after one start is 6.00, so he shouldn't have much trouble fitting in with the other Phillies starters.  His Canadian ERA is 6.74 (one US Dollar currently buys about 1.1231 Canadian dollars).

The Phillies gave up more runs in the first inning.  Lugo led off the game with a single and, with one out, went to second on a balk.  Baldelli followed with a single that put the Rays up 1-0.  Mathieson got Cantu to pop out for the second out, but Huff knocked Baldelli in with a double to make the score 2-0 before Wigginton popped to third to end the inning.  The runs make it five straight games that Phillies opponents have scored in the first inning. 

Tampa Bay got a solo home run from Baldelli in the third to pull ahead 3-2.  They missed a chance to add more in the fifth.  With two outs and Carl Crawford on first, Crawford failed to score on Baldelli's double and Mathieson got out of the inning when he got Cantu to ground out to third.  It cost the Rays a run.  Crawford must have either thought Baldelli's ball was a home run or lost track of the outs.

Mathieson started the sixth and walked Huff on four pitches.  Huff went to second on a wild pitch before a ground out sent him to third.  Mathieson got Hollins to foul out for the second out of the inning.  The Phillies then intentionally walked Hall to get to the pitcher's spot and Tampa Bay pinch hit Jonny Gomes for Kazmir.  I assume the thinking here was to get Kazmir, who had thrown 96 pitches, out of the game.  Gomes crushed a ball into the corner in left, which went off of Burrell's glove.  Pat hit Rollins who fired home and Fasano blocked the plate nicely to stop Hall from scoring.  Huff scored on the play to make the score 4-2.

Geoff Geary came in to pitch the seventh.  He gave up a leadoff walk and a two-run homer to Carl Crawford to make the score 6-2.  It was the first time Geary had been charged with a run in his last 11 appearances.

Cormier pitched the eighth and got a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.  He lowered his ERA to 1.14 on the year.  Righties are hitting .163 off of him.

Ryan Franklin pitched the ninth, allowing a two-out home run to Cantu to make the score 7-2.  He gave up two hits and a walk in his inning.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Scott Kazmir went (1) Rollins (2) Bell (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Nunez (8) Fasano.  Chase Utley got the night off, with Nunez playing second.  Manuel moved Bell up to the #2 spot.  It was a nice time to give Utley a day off, with a tough lefty on the hill.  Chase was just 3-for-his-last-25.  I don't mind Bell in the two-spot either, although after pounding lefties last year he has been better against righties so far in '06.  Coming into tonight's game he was 222/283/333 against lefties and 279/353/396 against righties. 

The Phillies got two runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 2-2.  With one out, Nunez and Fasano hit back-to-back home runs.

Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, the Phillies got their first two men on but Howard grounded into a double-play and Rowand struck out to end the inning.

Jimmy Rollins led off the seventh with a walk, but Bell followed and grounded into a double-play.

Rollins did a nice job, going 1-for-2 with two walks. 

Bell was awful in the two-hole, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounding into a double-play.  He left four men on base. 

Abreu was 2-for-4 with a strikeout.  Burrell was 0-for-1 and walked three times.  He smashed a foul ball off of his foot in the eighth inning but stayed in the game.

And if you thought Bell had a bad night, Howard was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left seven men on base. 

Rowand 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and four men left on base.  He's hitting .220 in his last 59 at-bats. 

Nunez 1-for-4 with a home run and Fasano 2-for-4 with a home run.

Before the game the Phillies made a move, calling up Mathieson from Double-A and sending Brian Sanches back to Triple-A.  The move leaves the Phillies with six outfielders, three of who, Victorino, Dellucci and Roberson, came into tonight's game having combined to get 37 at-bats in June (Roberson wasn't called up till June 9).  In case you haven't noticed, the Phillies starter gets hammered every night, so I'm surprised they wouldn't rather have the extra guy in the pen rather than Roberson on the bench.  On the plus side, Flash Gordon should be pretty well rested.

Ryan Madson and Seth McClung tomorrow afternoon.

How to play winning baseball?
June 16 2006

Chris Coste had to wait a long time for his first hit at baseball's highest level.  It finally came for him tonight at age thirty-three.  He was just 1-for-his-first-14 to start the year, but he may have been the happiest .071 hitter in the history of baseball.  It was a rare nice moment in the Phillies boxed-set of recent awful games.

The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tonight, 10-4.  The loss drops them below .500 for the first time since a loss to the Braves on May 3 dropped their record to 13-14.  Tonight's loss, the fifth straight for the Phillies, puts their record at 33-34.

It turns out 4 1/3 innings for Cole Hamels was optimistic. 

Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went 3 2/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits and a walk. 

Julio Lugo led off the first with a home run to make the score 1-0.  The Phillies opponents have scored in the first inning in each of their last four games, plating a total of eight runs.

Hamels kept the Rays off the board in the second, but pitcher James Shields led off the third with a single and Lugo followed with a two-run homer to make the score 3-0.  Carl Crawford followed with a double and came around to score on a pair of ground outs to make the score 4-0.

Hollins led off the fourth with a single and Hall followed with a double that sent him to third.  Tomas Perez followed with a fly ball to left, scoring Hollins to make it 5-0 with Hall on second and one out.  Shields grounded out for the second out and Lugo followed with a ground ball to short.  Rollins made a nice play but his throw was in the dirt -- Howard couldn't handle it and Lugo was safe at first and Hall went to third.  Rollins was given the error, but the play could have been made by Howard.  Aaron Fultz relieved Hamels and got Baldelli to ground out and end the inning.

Fultz returned for the fifth inning and allowed a run on a solo shot to Hollins, which made the score 7-0. 

Ryan Franklin entered the game in the top of the sixth.  He allowed two hits but kept the Rays off the board.  He returned for the seventh, allowing a two-out double but getting out of the inning without allowing the run to score.  His ERA is down to 4.13 and he's allowed one run in his last nine innings. 

Brian Sanches pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and returned for the ninth.  He gave up a leadoff double to Crawford who moved to third on a Baldelli ground out to second.  The Phillies walked Cantu to make it first and third with one out and Wigginton at the plate.  Wigginton walked to load the bases and Hollins followed with his fourth hit of the night, a two-run single that made the score 9-4.  Clay Condrey entered the game and walked Hall to load the bases again.  Tomas Perez followed with a sac fly to left that scored Wigginton and made it 10-4 before Condrey got the pitcher to end the inning.

The Phillies lineup against righty James Shields went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Coste.

The Phillies had one hit, a two-out single by Bell in the second, through the first four innings.

In the fifth, the Phillies got singles from Rowand and Bell to start the inning and Chris Coste came to the dish looking for his first career hit.  After hitting the ball hard several times but going 0-for-13 it finally came, he lined a single up the middle for the Phillies first run of the game.  Chris Roberson followed, pinch-hitting for Fultz and lay down a bunt towards first.  He was tagged out, but moved Bell to third and Coste to second.  Rollins followed with a double that scored them both to make the score 7-3.  Utley and Abreu both flew out to end the inning.  The Phillies have to make a move to call up Mathieson for tomorrow's game -- I would guess Roberson is a candidate to head back to Triple-A.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies got a two-out double by Burrell and an RBI-single from Howard to make the score 7-4.  There are times during this season that Burrell's foot may have kept him from scoring even in that situation with two outs.  Hopefully it's becoming less of an issue for Burrell, his range in left seems much better as well.

Rollins 1-for-5.  Utley and Abreu combined to go 0-for-7.  Burrell 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Howard 2-for-4.  Abreu got the Phillies only walk of the game after the Phillies combined to walk just three times in the final two games of the Mets series. 

The bottom of the order did a nice job.  Rowand 1-for-4.  Bell 2-for-4 and Coste 2-for-4.

Scotts Mathieson and Kazmir tomorrow night.

The King has not left the building, but check back after about 4 1/3 innings
June 16 2006

Team W-L R R/G AVG OBP SLG SB CS
TBY 27-40 282 4.21 240 300 401 49 26
PHI 33-33 328 4.97 255 332 438 36 14
                 
  IP RA RA/G H BB SO ERA Ratio
TBY 592 366 5.46 677 261 363 5.17 1.58
PHI 592 331 5.02 646 218 440 4.59 1.46

Somebody needs to start to clean up this mess and it might as well be Cole Hamels.  The Phillies failed in a lot of different ways against the Mets, but those games aren't coming back and there's still 96, more than enough, left to be played.  Tonight will bring Hamels' home debut and the closest thing he's has seen to a big game in his short career -- his first start may have been bigger for himself personally, but this one's a lot bigger for the team.  He's young and inexperienced, and it's a lot of pressure for a guy who's 22 with four career starts, but there isn't time for that right now.  The Phillies don't need him to have good stuff tonight or look promising.  They need him to help them win a game.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays come to Philadelphia tonight for the first of a three-game set with the Phillies.  The Rays come in at 27-40 for the last three of a ten-game road trip.  On the trip they took two of three from the Royals before dropping three of four to the Tigers.  They are in last place in the AL East.

The Phillies have fallen back to .500 at 33-33 after being swept in three awful games by the Mets.  They trail the Mets by 9 1/2 games in the NL East. 

The good news for Phillies fans is that the Rays are really bad.  In the ninth year of their existence, the organization is still looking to do better than 70 wins in a season for the first time.  They may have to keep looking, right now they on a pace to win about 65 games this year.  Of course, if you buy into all the on pace stuff, over the last two games the Phillies are on pace to give up 162 triples that go off of an outfielder's glove.  I honestly believe they can keep that number below 90.

The Phillies come in tied for sixth in the NL in runs scored.  They are 15th in batting average at .255 but have just one regular hitting below that mark, Rollins comes in at .254.  Most of the guys below that mark haven't been playing regularly of late, Lieberthal (.250), Dellucci (.250) and Nunez (.164).  Bell, Fasano and Burrell all play regularly and are hitting in the .260s.  They are just tenth in on-base percentage  but tied for fourth in slugging.

The Phillies starting pitchers have the worst ERA in the NL, 5.46.  Their pen has the best ERA at 3.13.

Tampa Bay is a terrible offensive team.  They are 13th in the AL in runs, last in batting average, last in on-base percentage and third worst in slugging.

The Phillies sure shouldn't be looking down their nose at anyone's pitching, but the Devil Dogs have actually been worse than the Phils, so let's give it a try:  Opponents are hitting an AL-worst .290 against Rays pitching and a mere .280 against the Phillies (just second worst in the NL).

Carl Crawford (302/346/463), Damon Hollins (230/276/425) and Rocco Baldelli (367/424/467) do most of the work in the outfield.  Baldelli has just 30 on the year since missing much of the early season with a hamstring problem.  He came off the DL on June 6.  Super-speedy Joey Gathright is back in the minors after hitting .201.  This gives the Devil Rays more opportunities to showcase Damon Hollins, who sure seems to get a lot of at-bats.  I don't understand why Tampa Bay always seems to have at least one regular in the outfield who is terrible offensively, but their commitment should not be questioned.  Carl Crawford was an All-Star in 2004 and won't turn 25 until August.  He's already stolen 21 bases on the year and been caught just five times.  Jonny Gomes (248/356/526) is the other fearsome bat in the Devil Rays lineup under normal circumstances, he can play outfield but has mostly served as the team's DH.  Gomes started the year on a huge tear but has had problems with his shoulder of late.  He leads the team in walks and home runs and is tied for the lead in RBI but is 0-for-his-last-16.  He may be used primarily as a pinch-hitter in the series.

Travis Lee (210/273/315), Jorge Cantu (287/333/436), Julio Lugo (255/295/420) and Aubrey Huff (197/287/293) get much of the time in the infield, with Ty Wigginton (264/301/475) filling in frequently all around.  After 67 games, Wigginton has already hit 13 home runs, passing his career high for a season.  The offensive numbers on the infielders for the Rays right now are abysmal.  They should all go up before the year's over, but right now they have a first baseman with an OPS of .588 and a third baseman with an OPS of .580.

Former Philly Tomas Perez in now a Devil Ray.  He's at 177/212/257 in 113 at-bats.  So far the Rays have decided not to play him at first base.

Toby Hall catches and is the fifth regular who is on-basing under .300.  His line for the year is at 244/271/421 after 197 at-bats.

Tyler Walker was closing for the Devil Rays but went on the DL on Wednesday with an elbow strain, which leaves them with a closer by committee.  The bullpen features a lot of righties:  Shawn Camp, Ruddy Lugo, just called up Tim Corcoran, Brian Meadows, Travis Harper and Chad Harville.  It's not real pretty.  Opponents are hitting .356 against Harper, .330 against Meadows, .328 against Camp and .298 against Harville.  Corcoran has just thrown one inning.  Lugo has been okay, throwing to a 4.26 ERA in 38 innings.  Lefties have hit just .215 against him and, curiously, righties .301.  One would hope the Phillies big left-handed bats, Utley, Howard, Abreu, and even Dellucci in a late-inning appearance, could get to these guys.

Cole Hamels (1-1, 3.68) faces righty Jamie Shields (2-0, 2.65) tonight in the series opener.  The Devil Rays called up Shields at the end of May to fill in for the injured Cassey Fossum.  He's made three starts.  In the first he gave up five runs in five innings to the Orioles, but in the last two he's gone 12 innings without allowing a run.  He's struck out 16 in 17 innings and has not allowed a long ball.  His most recent start came on Sunday against the Royals. He went six scoreless innings, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out five.  Cole Hamels is in a big spot.  He also last pitched on Sunday.  Against the Nationals he allowed four earned runs in five innings while taking the first loss of his career.  He struck out eight.

Scott Mathieson, up from Double-A to make his major league debut, goes tomorrow against lefty Scott Kazmir (7-4, 3.38).  This one's looking a little like a mismatch.  If you were going to create a pitcher in a lab to throw against the Phillies lineup you might come up with someone who looked and pitched a lot like Scott Kazmir.  Kazmir is eighth in the American League in ERA and third in strikeouts, having fanned 83 in 82 2/3 innings.  Kazmir's last start came against Detroit on Monday.  He went five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks.  Righty Mathieson was selected by the Phillies in the 17th round of the 2002 draft.  At Double-A Reading he was 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA.  He struck out 95 in 85 2/3 innings while allowing just 67 hits.  He turned 22 in February.  I'm not sure what the best thing that could happen for the Phillies is, but right up there is Mathieson having a start that inspires enough confidence to send Madson back to the pen when Lieber returns.

Ryan Madson (6-4, 6.11) faces righty Seth McClung (2-9, 6.51) on Sunday afternoon.  In his last five starts McClung has thrown 26 1/3 innings, allowing 31 hits, 16 walks and 25 earned runs.   He's walked 45 in 76 innings for the year and is coming off of a season in which he went 7-11 with a 6.59 ERA.  He last pitched on Tuesday in Detroit, allowing five earned runs in four innings on seven hits and three walks.  Madson also last pitched on Tuesday, allowing eight runs, six of which were earned, on eight hits and a walk against the Mets.  Three of the eight hits were home runs, he's allowed 12 in 63 1/3 innings.  Righties are hitting .356 against him.
 

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