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June 22 2006

Earlier this month the news spread through baseball like wildfire -- not only is HGH here, but it can make you pitch like Jason Grimsley and hit like David Segui.  And that's not all.  If you believe everything you read, the coffee's juiced too.  If you're a big leaguer and, for whatever reason, getting jacked up for the game is more important to you than sleeping regularly or having normal sexual functioning in later life, you won't have to look far to find what you're looking for.  Most of the nation recoiled in horror at the revelations.  But for Phillies fans, there was another response:  What else have you got?  How 'bout a donut that can help David Bell with ground balls?  Maybe a granola bar that'll get Aaron Rowand to bloop one into left field every now and again?  And if in this great land of ours, anyone, anywhere, in a lab or a basement or a garage, is toiling away on a magic pill that will help relievers get through the eighth inning, the Phillies need to know about it.

Just to toy with us, the Phillies got great starting pitching last night but lost anyway as they managed just three hits on the game.  The loss drops them two games below .500 to 35-37 on the year.  The Yankees take the series, winning two of three. 

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies.  He went seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits and three walks.  He went seven innings for the first time in his career and threw more than 100 pitches (103 last night) for the second time.

Hamels pitched very well, allowing just two hits through four scoreless innings.  He also allowed two walks and hit Alex Rodriguez, but went into the top of the fifth in a 0-0 tie.

Miguel Cairo led off the fifth with a triple for the Yankees, and scored on Jaret Wright's sac fly to put New York up 1-0.  Damon followed with a single, but Hamels got the next two to end the frame.

Hamels threw a 1-2-3 sixth.  He also returned for the seventh, and by then I was ready to see him go.  The Phillies need some starters to go deep into games, but it would be nice if it wasn't the 22-year-olds.  In addition to the health concerns, I was pretty sure he was about to get lit up, but it turned out he pitched pretty well.  Melky Cabrera led off the inning with a double and went to third on a Cairo sacrifice.  I hate this play by the Yankees, I think they had a chance to get more in the inning.  As it turns out, they didn't need to get more, but still.  Pinch hitter Andy Phillips hit a ground ball to short and the Phillies got Cabrera at home for the second out.  Hamels stayed in to pitch to the lefty Damon and walked him, and then Jeter singled, scoring Phillips from second to make the score 2-0 before Giambi fouled out to end the inning.    

For the second straight day the Phillies pen got pounded in the eighth.  Fultz started the inning and walked A-Rod before getting the next two.  With two outs and Rodriguez, who stole second, on second, Fultz gave up an RBI-single to Cabrera, who went to second on the throw home.  With New York up 3-0, the Phillies brought in Geary to pitch to Cairo.  Cairo singled to make it 4-0 with two outs.  Bubba Crosby and Damon followed with singles, making the score 5-0, before Geary finally got Jeter to end the inning. 

In his last three appearances, Geary has gone two innings and allowed six hits and two walks. 

Clay Condrey pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing a single but getting a double-play and a pop-up to end the inning.  

The Yankees pen threw four innings without allowing a hit.  The Phillies pen threw two innings, allowing three runs on five hits.

Nothing new with the Phillies lineup.  Against righty Jaret Wright they went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano.  Fasano will be 35 in August and has to be dead tired at this point.  After a bad defensive inning in the top of the fifth yesterday that featured a passed ball and a wild pitch, Hamels was charged with a wild pitch last night on a ball that looked blockable in the fourth inning.  Fasano did make a great throw in the top of the third to catch Damon stealing for the second out of the inning.  Jeter followed with a single, which would have scored Damon, so it saved the Phillies a run.

The Phillies got three hits. 

Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first with a single.  He led off the bottom of the third with a single.  Rowand hit a two-out single in the fourth.

On two of the three Phillies hits, the guy who got the hit was caught stealing.  When Rollins got caught in the third it was a weird rundown thing after Abreu struck out. 

Rollins was 2-for-4 on the day and 2-for-12 with no walks in the series.  He has not on-based above .320 for any of the three months in the season.

Utley was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and 1-for-10 in the series.  He's been in an awful slump.  After going 10-for-his-first-23 in June, he's 8-for-57 (.140).

Abreu was 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts for the second straight day.  He was 1-for-8 with six strikeouts in the series.  After not striking out three times in a game for the first 70 games of the year, he's done it twice in two days.  Also oddly, it came immediately after a day off.  Here's the part where I completely make stuff up, but maybe he is bothered by the struggles of Rollins and Utley ahead of him and trying to pick them up.  Or maybe his cat died.  I have no idea.

Burrell was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.  3-for-8 with four walks in the series. 

Rowand was 1-for-4 last night and 3-for-11 with a walk in the series.

Bell walked twice last night.  He was 1-for-7 with three walks in the series.

Fasano was 0-for-2.  For the series he went 1-for-10 with three strikeouts.  I was glad to see Manuel pinch hit for him late last night and let Coste catch.  This is something Manuel has seemed unwilling to do in the past, putting his last catcher in the game, but I was glad to see him go that route.  The Phillies already almost never use Roberson, and having two guys that you never use can't help.  I don't understand why Roberson is up since the Phillies already have two outfielders not getting enough time in Dellucci and Victorino.  Presumably it's related to Burrell's foot and needing a defensive replacement, but that has seemed much better of late.  How about a pitcher?

Damon 6-for-13 in the series.  Jeter 4-for-12 with two walks.  Hamels handled Giambi last night, but he was 4-for-12 with two home runs in the series.  A-Rod 2-for-9 with four walks.  Posada 3-for-13 with five strikeouts.  Bernie Williams 5-for-10 with a five-hit game.  Melky Cabrera 3-for-13 after going 0-for-5 in the first game of the series. 

Elsewhere in the NL East, the Mets lost two of the first three against Cincy and finish that series this afternoon.  The Marlins had their nine-game winning streak snapped against Baltimore and the Braves have lost nine in a row.  The Phillies are still in second place, 9 1/2 behind the Mets and three-games ahead of the suddenly third place Marlins.  The Braves have fallen to 30-42, in last place and 14 1/5 games behind the Mets.

Randy Wolf got hammered in his Double-A rehab start, allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

The Phillies are off today and start a three-game series in Boston tomorrow.

Phils on a Rhodes to nowhere
June 21 2006

Last night it was as if and were doing a good-night-bad-night demo for the baseball illiterate.  The Phillies found a new and exciting way to mix bad starting pitching and bad bullpen pitching to pull out a defeat even when victory seemed inevitable. 

The Phillies fell to the New York Yankees last night in miserable fashion, losing 9-7.  The loss drops them to 35-36 on the year.

Cory Lidle got the start for the Phillies.  He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks.  Four of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and two home runs.

After a 1-2-3 first, Lidle started the second with a 3-0 lead.  He got the first two men before allowing a double to Robinson Cano and Bernie Williams single that made the score 3-1. 

Lidle got another 1-2-3 inning in the third.  Through three innings he had gotten nine outs on eight ground balls and a strikeout.  Lidle has thrown way more ground balls this year than he has over most of his career.  Last year he got 262 outs on the ground and 163 in the air for a GO/AO ratio of 1.74, which was the highest it had been in the last six seasons.  In 2006 he has gotten 125 ground outs and just 59 air outs, for a ratio of 2.31.

As if on a mission to demonstrate that ground balls are our friends, Jason Giambi led off the fourth with a home run, which made the score 3-2.  Lidle got two of the next three batters on fly-outs, with a Posada single sandwiched in-between, which made it two outs with a runner on first.  Bernie Williams and Kevin Reese each followed with a single, tying the game at 3-3 before Lidle got Mussina to ground out and end the inning.

The Phils got two in the bottom of the fourth to go up 5-3.  In the fifth, Lidle got a ground out to start the inning before walking the next two and getting a double-play ball from Rodriguez.  Fasano had a wretched inning, failing to catch the ball once and letting another go, which was called a wild pitch.  He has to be tired after all he's been playing.

Jorge Posada led off the sixth with a home run that made it 5-4.  Lidle got Cano but Bernie Williams, who was 5-for-5 on the day, followed with a double.  Williams was 1-for-his-last-10 coming into last night's game.  With one out and Williams on second, Manuel brought in Aaron Fultz.  Fultz did a nice job, getting the next two batters to end the inning.

Cormier came in to pitch the seventh and gave up a lead off single and hit the next batter before getting Giambi to fly to center for the first out of the inning.  With one out and runners on first and second, Geary replaced Lidle to pitch to A-Rod.  Rodriguez singled, scoring Damon from second before to tie the game at 5-5 before striking out the next two to end the inning.  After pitching to a 1.20 ERA in May, Geary has thrown to a 1.93 ERA in June.

The Phillies went up 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh and Rhodes came on to pitch the eighth.  Things got ugly quickly, the Yankees went single, walk, RBI-single to make it 7-6 and a two-run triple from Damon that made it 8-7 Yankees.  Rhodes didn't get anybody out and was replaced by Franklin with Jeter up, Damon on third and nobody out.  Jeter singled to make it 9-7 before Franklin got a pop-up and a double-play to end the inning. 

The first single of the inning came off of Rhodes and was originally called an error on David Bell at third.  Bell failed to field the ball cleanly, but Williams may have been safe even if he had.  Nonetheless, it would have been a nice one to field and Bell avoided his 12th error of the season.  He's been terrible at third, tied for second in the NL with 11 errors.  Combine that with Ryan Howard's worst among NL first basemen 10, and Utley's third worst among NL second basemen seven and you've got yourself a pretty miserable defensive infield.  Maybe it has something to do with moving the fences back.  Maybe Utley and Howard can work out some kind of exchange program with Jimmy Rollins where he gives guest lectures on fielding while they advise on hitting.

Franklin returned to pitch the ninth and kept the Yankees off the board while allowing a double to Bernie Williams.  He managed to strike out Mariano Rivera in his lone career regular season at-bat.  He dropped his ERA to 4.04 on the year.

Stop me if you've heard this one before:  Having traded away Vincente Padilla, the Phillies made the biggest decision of the year coming out of spring training, sending Franklin to the pen putting Madson and Gavin Floyd in the rotation despite the fact that Madson had one career start and Floyd was coming off of an awful year at Triple-A.  It was a bold move and it didn't work.  Madson and Floyd got shelled.  Looking back on it now with less than half of the season played, it looks like a mistake.  Even if you take Franklin's worst year, last year in Seattle, it's still better than the 22 starts the Phillies have given Floyd and Madson this season.  What I don't understand is if the Phillies see it as a mistake, and, if they do, why they don't fix it.  I think the answer must be that they either think Madson will get better or Franklin will pitch worse.  I would put Franklin in the rotation and send Madson back to the pen.

The Phillies lineup against righty Mike Mussina went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Abreu (4) Burrell (5) Howard (6) Rowand (7) Bell (8) Fasano.  This is the standard lineup, with Bell still manning his post at third.

With two outs in the first, Abreu singled and Burrell walked before Howard followed with a three-run homer that put the Phillies up 3-0.

In the fourth, Burrell led off with a single and Howard followed with his second home run of the game.  It put the Phillies up 5-3. 

In a 5-5 game in the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and Utley on first via a hit by pitch, Burrell walked.  Howard followed with a two-run triple.  It gave him seven RBI on the day and put the Phillies up 7-5.

Howard finished the day 3-for-4 with a two homers, a triple, a walk and seven RBI.  He is tied with Albert Pujols for the NL lead in home runs with 25 and leads the league with 66 RBI.  He's on pace to hit 57 home runs and drive in 150. 

Rollins was 0-for-5.  He doesn't have a hit in the first two games of the series and is on-basing .311 for the year.

Utley was 1-for-4 with a single and a hit-by-pitch.  He's 3-for-his-last-19 and on-basing .298 in 76 June at-bats.

Abreu was 1-for-5 and struck out three times for the first time this season. 

Burrell had a nice game, getting on base and being driven in by Howard three times.  He was 2-for-2 with two walks.  In June he's slugging .604 with a .394 on-base percentage.

Rowand was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three men left on base.  He's been absolutely awful of late, posting a 224/264/358 line in 67 June at-bats.

Bell was 1-for-3 with a walk.  He's 1-for-his-last-11 and hitting .228 in June.

Fasano 1-for-4.  He's 2-for-his-last-12.

The Phillies can still take the series with a win tonight.  Cole Hamels faces Jaret Wright.

Phillies impersonators put on a great show against the Yankees
June 20 2006

This Phillies team is frustrating even when it wins.  After spending most of the past ten days looking like the only hope was for Kelly Leak to ride in on his motorbike, the Phillies played a beautiful game last night, complete with outstanding pitching, timely hitting and superb defense.  Are these the same guys that couldn't catch or hit last week?  That made six errors in two games?  The uniforms look the same.  It was about as much fun as you can have watching a team get back to .500 in June.

The bad news for the Phillies is that they've slumped themselves into a position where they need to go on a run and win a bunch of games in a row.  And I don't think they can.  Not with this pitching staff.  What they can do, though, is tread water and hope that the cavalry arrives (in this case the cavalry is being played by Lieber and Wolf with a possible cameo by Ryan Franklin).

The Phillies beat the New York Yankees 4-2 last night.  The win improves their record to 35-35 on the year. 

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and pitched very well.  He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and six walks.  Two of the six hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run.  He struck out a season-high 11 after striking out more than six in just one other start this year -- on April 28 he struck out eight Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Myers kept the Yankees off the board in the first three innings.  In the first he loaded the bases on a single and two walks but got Posada to pop out and end the inning.  He didn't allow a base runner in the second or third. 

Jason Giambi led off the fourth with a home run that was crushed to right to put the Yankees up 1-0.  He started to look a little like the Brett Myers who had allowed 16 hits in 5 2/3 innings over his last two starts after that, giving up a double and a walk, still with nobody out.  And then he snapped out of it against the bottom of the Yankees order, striking out Cano, Crosby and Randy Johnson all in a row to end the inning.

The Phillies got two in the bottom of the fourth and Myers pitched the top of the fifth with a 2-1 lead.  After allowing two-out singles to Jeter and Giambi, he struck out A-Rod to end the inning.  Shane Victorino made a play in right field in the inning that may have saved the Phillies a run.  With two outs and Jeter on first, Giambi grounded a ball just over the bag and down the right field line.  Victorino got to the ball unbelievably fast, holding Giambi to a single and keeping Jeter at third.  The difference between the speed of Victorino and Abreu in right may have saved the Phillies a run on the play.

Also in the top of the fifth the Phillies got the first out of the inning when Pat Burrell ran as far as I've seen him run all season to catch Johnny Damon's foul ball.  For those of you who don't watch the Phillies every day, Burrell is coming off of foot surgery and was slow to begin with.  For much of the year he has lacked the ability to get to balls in the outfield that required him to move more than about eight or ten feet.

Myers kept the Yankees off the board in the sixth with the help of a spectacular play from second baseman Abraham Nunez.  With two outs and Robinson Cano at second, pitcher Randy Johnson hit a hard ground ball up the middle that Nunez dove for and fielded, throwing out Johnson to end the inning.  It was a very nice play by Nunez on a ball that looked like it should have gone through and tied the game at 2-2.  The Phillies almost got hurt on the defense of Utley, who played first base last night for the first time this year, the play before.  With Cano on first, Bubba Crosby hit a hard ground ball to Utley who bobbled it.  He still got one out, but with a good defensive play and no bobble the Phillies might have gotten two.

The Phillies got another in the bottom of the sixth to go up 3-1.  Myers stayed in the game in the seventh and Damon led off with a single and stole second as Cabrera struck out for the first out of the inning.  Jeter followed with a ground out that moved Damon to third with two outs.  I think I may be Charlie Manuel's biggest fan in all of Philadelphia -- I certainly don't like all of his decisions but it seems like he takes a whole lot more than his share of the blame.  I thought he got away with at least two bad decisions last night, the first of which came here, as he left Myers in to pitch to the lefty Giambi.  I would have brought in Cormier.  Myers walked Giambi and followed that up with a walk to A-Rod to load the bases (I also think he should have brought a righty, Geary, in to pitch to A-Rod after Myers walked Giambi) and Manuel did call on his pen, bringing in Cormier to face Posada.  Posada hit a hard ground ball to short and the Phillies got their third outstanding defensive play in the game.  Rollins kept it in the infield for a single, allowing Damon to score from third but the other runners to move up just one base.  Cormier got out of the inning when Cano grounded to second and the Phillies led 3-2.

Arthur Rhodes came in to pitch the eighth, coming off of an awful outing on Sunday where he gave up three hits while getting just a single out.  He got a 1-2-3 inning.

The Phillies went up 4-2 with run in the bottom of the eighth and Flash Gordon came on in the top of the ninth.  He pitched a perfect inning, getting two strikeouts to earn his 20th save.  He's on a pace to save 46 games for the Phillies.  Who knew?  Apparently the Phillies front office, who said 40 to 45 saves was a possibility when they signed him.  We'll see.

I'm infatuated with A-Rod and what he does with runners on base.  Last night he came up in the first with runners on first and third and walked.  He doubled with nobody on in the fourth.  In the fifth he struck out with runners on first and third with two outs to end the inning.  In the seventh with runners on first and third and two outs he walked to load the bases.  He was on-deck when Giambi struck out to end the game.  There's one bad at-bat here, where he struck out in the fifth with two men aboard, but the list of Yankees who left more men on base last night goes Posada, Cano, Crosby and Randy Johnson.  I understand the problem goes deeper than this, but the Yankees have the highest OBP in all of baseball and the most base runners.  Every time Rodriguez is unsuccessful, which is going to be about 60% of the time, there's going to be a good chance there were runners on board.

The Phillies lineup against lefty Randy Johnson went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Burrell (5) Rowand (6) Bell (7) Fasano (8) Nunez.  It's the second day in a row Manuel figuered out a way to go Rollins and Victorino at the top of the order.  Shane played right, given Abreu a much needed day off at a good time.  Ditto for Ryan Howard, who was spelled by Utley's first appearance at first base.  The Phillies catcher almost always bats eighth, not sure why Fasano got bumped up in front of the switch-hitting Nunez. 

The Phillies managed just one hit, Aaron Rowand's one out single in the second, off of the Unit through three innings.

In the fourth, Jimmy Rollins led off and flew out on a 3-1 pitch.  The stat I want to see on Rollins is what his numbers are on the pitch right after the first strike of the at-bat.  I don't know what they are, but I'm guessing they aren't good.  Victorino used his speed again, singling on a ground ball to Cano at second and going to second when Cano threw it away.  Utley followed with a walk and Burrell followed with the Phillies biggest hit of the game, a two-run double that put them up 2-1.  With Burrell on second and one out, Johnson got out of the inning, striking out Rowand and Bell.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fifth but would score again in the sixth.  Again in the sixth, Rollins made the first out and Victorino followed by getting aboard, this time on a single to center.  Utley grounded out and Burrell walked to make it first and second with two outs.  Aaron Rowand followed with a double to left that scored Victorino and sent Burrell to third.  The Phillies were up 3-1 but couldn't get more as Bell grounded out to end the inning.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the seventh but got their fourth run in the eighth.  Rollins led off with a great at-bat, going 3-2 and fouling off several pitches before getting hit in the head with a Kyle Farnsworth pitch.  Victorino bunted him to second and Utley was walked intentionally.  Pat Burrell followed with a hard ground ball to third, which A-Rod made a great play on to get Burrell at first while Rollins went to third and Utley to second.  With two outs, Rowand walked to load the bases.  Bell was up and I think Manuel got away with his second bad decision of the game as he let him hit for himself rather than calling on Howard or Abreu.  If he had, the Yankees would have no doubt brought Myers in, who was ready in the pen, but I would still rather have had Howard or Abreu against Myers rather than Bell against Farnsworth.  Howard and Abreu were good hitters as recently as yesterday, Bell was a good hitter as recently as 2004.  Bell struck out, but the ball got away from Posada, allowing a run to score and make the game 4-2 before Fasano flew out to center to end the inning.

Rollins was 0-for-3 but had a great at-bat in the ninth.

Victorino was impressive again, 2-for-3 and scoring two of the Phillies runs.

Utley 0-for-2 with two walks.  Burrell 1-for-3 with the two-run double and a walk.  Rowand was 2-for-3 with a walk.

Bell and Fasano were both 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and each left three men on base.  Nunez was 0-for-3.

Manuel has some interesting choices to make with tonight's lineup.  Victorino and Nunez have both started in consecutive games and been very good.  I don't think it's likely that Rowand is going to lose much playing time, especially coming off of two hits last night.  It should be interesting to watch what happens with Bell, however.

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