The Phils faced Derek Lowe for the third time since the end of the 2008 regular season last night. For the third time Lowe pitched well, but this time there was no throwing error from Furcal to fuel a Phillies rally and no late drama from Matt Stairs. Lowe and the Braves got the win as the Phillies lost on opening day for the fourth year in a row.
There will be two big topics of conversation among Phillies fans regarding last night’s game. One is a miserable first two innings from Myers and another will be the Phillies lineup that featured three straight lefties and didn’t come through in the ninth against Atlanta lefty Mike Gonzalez. Myers allowed four runs in the first two innings, but pitched well after allowing a double to Yunel Escobar to start the third. The Phillies don’t have enough right-handed bats and that problem isn’t going to go away. The problem that can and likely will go away is Utley, Howard and Ibanez hitting all in a row.
Lowe was really the story of the last night, though. He was simply outstanding. He held the Phils to two hits over eight innings, one of which was a double that may have been foul and came in an at-bat where the batter should have been retired on a foul ball that went off the glove of the right fielder. The three through seven hitters in the Phillies lineup combined to go 0-for-17 in the game.
The Phillies lost their opener last night, falling to the Braves 4-1.
Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk, which was intentional. Five of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and three home runs. He struck out six.
He got the first two in the first before Chipper Jones flipped a single into left. Brian McCann was next and he got ahead 2-0 and blasted a ball out to right, putting Atlanta up 2-0. Myers got Garrett Anderson to ground to first for the third out.
Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning out to left to put Atlanta up 3-0. Myers struck out Casey Kotchman for the first out, bringing Jordan Schafer to the plate. Schafer was making his major league debut, but Myers quickly got behind 2-0 before throwing a 3-1 pitch in a terrible spot in the middle of the plate. Schafer crushed it out to center and it was 4-0. Myers got the next two.
Yunel Escobar led off the third and bombed a 1-0 pitch high off the wall in center for a double. Myers did a nice job to leave him stranded, though. He struck out Chipper for the first out and got McCann to foul out to Feliz for the second. Anderson grounded to third to set the Braves down.
Impressive job by Myers to keep Atlanta off the board, especially with Chipper and McCann looking to drive Escobar in. Those guys have killed Myers over his career and got him in the first.
Myers got the first two in the fourth before Schafer singled up the middle. Lowe was next and he lined a ball into the gap in right-center, but Werth tracked it down to end the frame.
Myers got the first two in the fifth before Chipper drove a ball to the left of Victorino. Victorino made a long run, but the ball went just over the end of his glove and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Myers struck McCann out on three pitches to turn Atlanta away.
Anderson led off the sixth and chopped a ball off the glove of Myers that bounded away from Utley for a single. Francoeur was next and hit a ball hard to third. Feliz didn’t field it cleanly and had to go to first for the first out with Anderson moving to second. Kotchman was next and hit a soft ground ball to second for the second out. It moved Anderson to third with two down and Myers walked Schafer intentionally to bring up the pitcher Derek Lowe. Lowe tried to bunt Myers’ first pitch but popped it up foul. Myers got ahead 0-2 and struck Lowe out looking 3-2 to leave the runners stranded.
Jack Taschner made his Phillies debut in the seventh against the top of the Atlanta order. He got the first two, with Escobar grounding hard to Utley for the second out, before striking Chipper out looking to end the frame.
Scott Eyre started the eighth with the Phils still down 4-0. McCann led off the inning and Eyre got behind him 3-0, but came back to strike him out for the first out. McCann’s fellow lefty Anderson was next and flew to left for the second out. Durbin came in to pitch to the righty Francoeur and struck him out looking 1-2 for the third out.
Lidge started the ninth in a non-save situation with the Phils not scheduled to play today and set the Braves down 1-2-3. After Lidge got the first two, Greg Norton hit for Lowe. Lowe had allowed two hits through eight innings and hadn’t walked a batter. He had thrown 97 pitches.
Great game for the Phillies bullpen. They went three innings without allowing a hit or a walk. Taschner threw 17 pitches and everyone else was ten or less the day before an off-day.
The Phillies lineup against righty Derek Lowe went (1) Rollins (2) Werth (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Ibanez (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Three lefties in a row in Manuel’s lineup three through five. I think we’ll likely see Werth moving down to break up the lefties and Victorino hitting second before too long. Victorino had a weak spring and I wonder if that was a factor. Coste almost always catches Myers, or at least he did in 2008 (Coste caught about 77% of the hitters Myers faced last season).
The Phils went 1-2-3 in the first. Utley flew to the warning track in right for the third out.
Howard struck out to start the second. Ibanez was next, getting his first at-bat as a Phillie, and grounded to short. Victorino grounded to short to end the inning.
Feliz popped to Johnson in shallow center for the first out of the third. Ruiz was next and popped the first pitch of his at-bat down the first base line. Francoeur and Johnson both went after it near the foul line, but Francoeur had the ball go off his glove in foul territory. It gave Ruiz new life and he took advantage of it, doubling down the third base line for the first hit of the year for the Phils (looked foul to me). The Phils couldn’t bring him in, though, Myers grounded to short and Rollins flew softly to left.
Lowe got Werth, Utley and Howard on three ground balls in the fourth.
Ibanez slapped another ground ball to short for the first out in the fifth. Lowe struck out Victorino and Feliz to end the inning.
Ruiz grounded to short for the first out in the sixth. Dobbs hit for Myers and drove a ball to the warning track in right, but Francoeur took it for the second out. Rollins was next and he singled up the middle for just the Phils’ second hit of the night. Werth lined a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, but Lowe snared it for the third out.
Dobbs, Rollins and Werth all hit the ball well in that frame, with three big lefties due to hit behind them. Just one hit, though, with Dobbs flying out and Lowe putting Werth away.
Lowe set Utley, Howard and Ibanez down on six pitches in the seventh.
He needed just eight pitches to set the Phils down in order in the eighth. Victorino and Ruiz both swung at the first pitch and grounded out.
Lefty Mike Gonzalez started the ninth with a four-run lead. Bruntlett hit for Lidge and hit a 1-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Rollins flew to right for the first out, deep enough to move Bruntlett to third. Werth was next and he smashed a single into left, scoring Bruntlett to cut the Atlanta lead to 4-1. Utley walked on a 3-1 pitch that was way outside and it brought Howard to the plate as the tying run. Howard took a 2-2 pitch just low to run the count full, but struck out looking at a 3-2 fastball that had a lot of the plate for the second out. Ibanez waived at a 3-1 slider that was out of the zone and then struck out swinging at a fastball to end the game.
Had Bruntlett not ripped a double, there would be much lamenting the right-handed pinch-hitting options for the Phils. Bruntlett, Cairo and Coste just isn’t an especially impressive group offensively and that’s going to be a problem all season long (even if it wasn’t last night).
Rollins was 1-for-4.
Werth 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Utley 0-for-3 with a walk.
Howard 0-for-4 and struck out twice.
Ibanez 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Victorino 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Feliz 0-for-3 and struck out twice.
Ruiz 1-for-3 with a double.
No game today. The Phils and Braves play again tomorrow night.
Update: The Start Log is now updated for last night’s game. By the game score of the opposing pitcher, I believe that Lowe’s outing last night was the best against the Phillies since the end of the 2006 season with the exception of Rich Harden’s start against them on June 26, 2008. Oakland beat the Phils 5-0 that day and Harden had a game score of 88 (Lowe 82 last night). Harden allowed two singles, both to Victorino, and struck out 11 (he walked one).