Tag: Marlins

I’m not saying it’s that big a deal, I’m just saying I’d feel better if they would outscore the Nationals

The Phillies played their last game before the All-Star break on July 12 this year. Here’s a look at the NL East standings at the end of the day on July 12 as well as the number of runs scored and allowed per game and the difference between the two for each team:

  W L R/G RA/G Dif
PHI 48 38 5.35 4.79 0.56
FLA 46 44 4.61 4.76 -0.14
ATL 43 45 4.24 4.31 -0.07
NYM 42 45 4.31 4.69 -0.38
WAS 26 61 4.38 5.62 -1.24

And here’s what the teams in the division have done since the break:

  W L R/G RA/G Dif
PHI 34 22 4.55 3.71 0.84
ATL 32 23 4.91 3.56 1.35
FLA 30 24 5.30 4.89 0.41
WAS 24 32 4.73 5.23 -0.50
NYM 21 36 4.00 4.77 -0.77

The Phils still have the best record in the second half of the season. But the Braves have scored more runs than the Phils and allowed fewer. By a lot. Despite the fantastic run differential for the second-half it looks like there’s not much chance Atlanta is going to figure out a way to get into the playoffs — they are six games out in the chase for the Wild Card and trail the Phils by 7 1/2 in the division.

The Phillies are doing a great job of preventing runs in the second half, allowing more than a run per game less than they allowed in the first half of the year. What they aren’t doing a great job of is scoring runs. They are fourth in the division in both runs scored and runs scored per game since the All-Star break. One of the three teams ahead of them in both of those categories is the Nationals, and they aren’t even considered a World Series contender. It’s not quite as awful as it seems like it should be — the Nats are seventh in the NL in runs scored overall for the season and tied for fifth since the All-Star break.

Tyler Walker would like to pitch in the post-season. I would like that too.

JA Happ hopes he can start Friday in Atlanta.


And down the stretch they come

The Phillies still have forty games left to play, almost a quarter of the season, but it sure looks like they’re going to the playoffs again in 2009. A look at the standings shows there are eight teams in the National League within eight games of a spot in the playoffs. The Phils, Cardinals and Dodgers lead the three divisions. The Rockies would be the Wild Card team if the season ended today and Atlanta, Florida, Chicago and San Francisco are all less than eight games behind in the chase for the playoffs.

The table below shows what those eight teams did in the first half of the season. Their record, winning percentage, the number of runs they scored per game, the number of runs they allowed per game and the difference between the number of runs they scored per game and the number of runs they allowed per game.

Team W L PCT R/G RA/G RD/G
PHI 48 38 .558 5.35 4.79 0.56
ATL 43 45 .489 4.24 4.31 -0.07
FLA 46 44 .511 4.61 4.76 -0.14
             
STL 49 42 .538 4.43 4.12 0.31
CHI 43 43 .500 4.13 4.10 0.02
             
LAD 56 32 .636 5.03 3.84 1.19
COL 47 41 .534 5.02 4.60 0.42
SF 49 39 .557 4.18 3.68 0.50

The Dodgers were the best team in the NL in the first half of the season by a wide margin. Their pitching was almost as good as the Giants and their offense was better than any team except for the Phillies. They scored 1.19 runs more per game on average than they allowed. The Phillies were second-best in the NL in that differential and the Dodgers were more than twice as good as the Phillies.

Atlanta, Florida and Chicago all had weak first halves of the season compared to the rest of the group. The Giants had fantastic pitching, the best in the league, but a weak offense. The Cards were in the middle of the pack in both scoring and preventing runs while the Rockies put a lot of runs on the board but allowed more per game than any teams other than the Phils and Marlins. The Phils scored the most runs per game of the eight teams but also allowed the most.

Here’s what the eight teams have done since the All-Star break:

Team W L PCT R/G RA/G RD/G
PHI 24 12 .667 5.19 3.56 1.64
ATL 23 13 .639 5.28 3.44 1.83
FLA 19 15 .559 5.09 4.71 0.38
             
STL 23 12 .657 4.63 3.60 1.03
CHI 19 17 .528 4.94 4.47 0.47
             
LAD 18 19 .486 4.32 3.78 0.54
COL 24 13 .649 5.30 4.00 1.30
SF 18 19 .486 3.70 3.95 -0.24

The Cards, Phillies, Braves and Rockies have all been fantastic in the second half. Each of the four teams has played to a winning percentage of .639 or higher. Of the four teams, the Braves have a 23-13 record to give them the worst winning percentage of the group. By run differential per game, though, Atlanta has been the best of the eight teams since the break. They have been the best of the eight teams at preventing runs while only the Rockies have scored more. The Braves have played 36 games since the break and won 23, scoring 190 runs and allowing 124. Pythagoras has them expecting to have won more games — 25-11 rather than their actual 23-13.

While those four teams have taken off, the Dodgers and the Giants have tanked out West with each team under .500 in the second half. The Giants still can’t score runs, but their pitching is no longer outstanding compared to the rest of the group. After being the best team at preventing runs in the first half of the year, the Phils, Braves, Cards and Dodgers have all done a better job keeping teams from scoring in the second half.

The Dodgers were second-best of the eight in preventing runs in the first half, but have been passed by the Phils, Braves and Cards in the second. They have a monster offense in the first half of the year, scoring more runs per game than any team other than the Phillies. The hitting has been meager since the break and the 4.32 runs per game the Dodgers have scored is worse than every team in the group other than the Giants.

The Cubs are just two games over .500 for the year at 62-60. The Fish have played to a .559 winning percentage in the second half, but their ability to prevent runs was seventh-best in the first half of the year and last in the group in the second. Not sure they have enough offense to make up for that.

Here’s what the numbers for the eight teams look like when you combine the first and second halves of the year:

Team W L PCT R/G RA/G RD/G
PHI 72 50 .590 5.30 4.43 0.88
ATL 66 58 .532 4.54 4.06 0.48
FLA 65 59 .524 4.74 4.74 0.00
             
STL 72 54 .571 4.48 3.98 0.51
CHI 62 60 .508 4.37 4.21 0.16
             
LAD 74 51 .592 4.82 3.82 1.00
COL 71 54 .568 5.10 4.42 0.68
SF 67 58 .536 4.04 3.76 0.28

It’s hard to argue that anyone but the Dodgers have been the best team in the NL this season. Despite their struggles since the break, LA has the best winning percentage on the season and the best differential per game in the number of runs they’ve scored and allowed. The Phils are aren’t far behind, though.

So who’s going to the playoffs in the NL this season? We’re going to have to wait and see. If I had to guess, though, the guess that things will stay the same seems like the best by a wide margin — the Phils, Cards and Dodgers win the divisions with the Rockies as the Wild Card team. I’m going to be real surprised if the Fish, Cubs or Giants make the playoffs. Neither are likely, but I think the other two scenarios that are more possible are 1) The Rockies win the West with the Dodgers as the Wild Card or, a lot less likely than that, 2) The Braves pass either the Rockies or the Dodgers to win the Wild Card.

This article makes it sound like we shouldn’t be expecting Condrey or Romero to return from the DL any day now.

Brett Myers threw a scoreless inning for Lakewood yesterday and says he is throwing 93-94 miles per hour in this article.


The top of the Phillies’ order apparently wants to be sure that whoever Billy Joel is talking to knows they didn’t start the fire either

At least we don’t have to look at the standings and wonder how the Phillies manage to stay in first place any longer. The offense that has been picking up a miserable rotation has gone into a mini-slump and the Phils have lost three of their last five. They’ve scored 18 runs in their last five games, which isn’t going to be enough given how bad their starting pitching is.

The Phillies have a .265 on-base percentage for their first hitter in the lineup for the season. As you would probably guess, that’s the worst mark for #1 hitters for any team in either league. Their #2 hitters have a .333 on-base percentage, which is better but still just 11th-best in the National League.

The struggles of Rollins atop the order have certainly been a big problem for the Phillies. But he’s not the only guy who isn’t hitting. Rollins, Utley, Ibanez and Werth combined to go 6-for-45 (.133) with one RBI in the three-game set against the Marlins. Rollins is 2-for-his-last-22. Werth 2-for-his-last-21 and Utley 2-for-his-last-12. Those guys will surely come around. Let’s hope it’s not too long, though, cause the Raul-Ibanez-puts-up-an-1.100-OPS formula for success isn’t really the one you want to rely on for much more than a quarter of your season.

The Phillies are 25-20 on the year after losing two of three to the Marlins. They are second in the NL East, trailing the Mets by a half game.

Florida took game one 5-3. Howard hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the first to give Moyer a 2-0 lead. Former Phil Wes Helms hit a three-run homer off of Moyer in the top of the fourth to put the Fish up 3-2 and the Marlins extended the lead to 4-2 with another run in the top of the sixth. Howard hit another homer in the bottom of the sixth to get the Phils within one, which was as close as they would get. Park followed Moyer and allowed a run over three innings.

The Phillies rode a magnificent start by Blanton to a 5-3 win in game two of the set. Blanton gave the Phils their best start of the season, striking out 11 over seven shutout innings. The Phils jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first and had extended it to 5-0 by the time Madson relieved Blanton in the top of the eighth. Durbin had a shaky outing in the top of the ninth and was charged with three runs, only one of which was earned due to a throwing error by Howard, but Lidge came on to get the last two outs.

It will be good news for the Phillies if it turns out the game is all they lost in game three. Myers exited in the sixth inning with an injury to his right hip. The Phillies lost the game 6-2. Myers allowed one base-runner through the first three innings before a Dan Uggla home run put Florida up 1-0. The Fish put up another run in the top of the fourth to make it 2-0. They extended the lead to 5-1 with two doubles and a two-run homer from Cody Ross off of Myers in the sixth. Taschner allowed the sixth run in the top of the ninth. Solo home runs by Stairs and Ruiz accounted for the Phillies offense in the game.

In 27 innings in the series the Phillies threw to a 4.37 ERA and a 1.37 ratio.

The starting pitchers combined to throw to a 4.34 ERA and a 1.29 ratio. A fantastic start by Blanton in game two masks the numbers for the group. Moyer and Myers both struggled. Moyer and Myers combined to allow three home runs in 11 2/3 innings.

Moyer went six innings in game one, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks. He continues to struggle. He still hasn’t gotten an out in the seventh inning this season and has had five tries to get win number 250 for his career. His ERA for May is 9.62.

Blanton was fantastic in game two. He allowed five hits, four singles and a double, and two walks over seven shutout innings. He’s had five starts in May, two of which have been good and three of which have been bad. He has been better at preventing home runs — he’s allowed just one in 17 innings over his last three starts.

Myers was very good early in his start but ended the day with an ugly line. He allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings. Over his last three starts he has given up seven home runs in 20 2/3 innings (that rate would have him giving up 68 over 200 innings).

As a group, the relief pitchers threw eight innings in the series. They pitched to a 3.24 ERA and a 1.56 ratio, walking five in the eight innings. Durbin had a bad outing in game two, but two of the three runs he allowed were unearned due to a throwing error by Howard. The relievers did not allow a home run.

Eyre entered game two in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded and the Phils up 5-0. He relieved Durbin to pitch to lefty Ross Gload. Gload hit a ground ball to first. Howard fielded, but his throw to second was wild for an error. Two runs scored and Eyre was relieved by Lidge.

Taschner started the ninth inning of game three with the Phillies down 5-2 and allowed a run on two hits and a walk. He has a 3.92 ERA for the year, but a 1.69 ratio.

Park took over for Moyer in game one of the set with the Phillies down 4-3 in the top of the seventh. He finished out the game, allowing a run on four hits and a walk over three innings while striking out five.

Durbin started the ninth inning in game two with a 5-0 lead. He got the first man he faced before the Fish loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Walking two with a five-run lead is to be avoided, if possible. When the lefty Gload hit for the pitcher, Manuel called on Eyre to face Gload.

Condrey took over for Myers in game three with the Phillies down 5-1 in the sixth with a man on first and two down. He would finish out the sixth then pitch the seventh and eighth. He did not allow a run and gave up just one hit, a leadoff single to Uggla to start the eighth. Uggla was quickly erased on a double-play.

Condrey hasn’t been charged with a run in eight innings over his last six appearances.

Madson pitched the eighth inning of game two with a 5-0 lead. He set the Marlins down in order.

Not a fan of using Madson up five runs. Taschner had made one appearance, and pitched one inning, since May 17 and hadn’t pitched in five days. Up five runs is a nifty time to mix him in, no matter what inning it is. The Phillies do have an off-day today, so Manuel knew that even if Madson pitched an inning in game two and an inning last night he would still likely be available to pitch Friday. Still would have used someone else.

Lidge came into game two with the Phils up 5-2 and men on second and third with one out. He gave up a walk that loaded the bases, but got Jeremy Hermida on a ground out that made it 5-3 and then struck Helms out to end the game.

Condrey threw 22 pitches last night and Taschner 18, but with the off-day today you would expect everyone in the pen to be available for tomorrow’s game. Neither of the guys who pitched last night had pitched in game two.

The Phillies scored ten runs in the three-game series.

Rollins was 1-for-13 with a double in the set. He is hitting 223/271/332 for the season.

Utley was 2-for-11 with a walk in the series. 289/425/550 for the year. He’s hitting .237 in May.

Ibanez went 1-for-9 with four strikeouts and an RBI in the series. He’s hitting 339/402/707 for the season. If he slugged .707 for the whole year it would be a career high, but I’m getting the feeling that I’m actually going to have to look up what his career high in slugging is before too long (that’s a little humor — it’s .537).

Howard hit a pair of home runs that accounted for all of the Phillies’ offense in game one. In game two he made his first error of the season, a throw to second that got away. His defense this year has been very good.

He went 4-for-8 with a double and two home runs in the series. He drove in four of the ten runs the Phillies scored. 263/338/542 for the season. He’s hitting .242 and on-basing .315.

There’s a big question in my mind about whether Howard’s 2008 on-base percentage was an exception to the rule or the way his career is heading. After on-basing .425 and .392 in 2006 and 2007 he on-based a much worse .339 in 2008. In 2008 he on-based .339 and slugged .543. So far in ’09 he’s on-basing .338 and slugging .542.

Werth hit sixth in the lineup in games two and three of the series. The Phils put lefties Utley, Howard and Ibanez all in a row for all three games. He was 2-for-12 with a double in the series. 2-for-his-last-21 with no walks. 255/346/472 for the year.

Victorino was caught stealing in the bottom of the ninth in game one with Matt Stairs at the plate in the bottom of the ninth. He came back with a fantastic game in game two of the set, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles.

He hit sixth in the first game and second in the next two. The Marlins threw righties in games one and three, so Manuel wasn’t moving him around based on what hand the Fish starter threw with. He went 5-for-11 with two doubles and two walks in the series. He’s hitting 280/327/440 for the year.

Feliz was 5-for-11 with three doubles and two RBI in the series. He’s hitting 307/373/433 for the season.

Ruiz was 2-for-12 with a double and a home run in the set. 280/386/453.

Coste did not appear in the series. He does not have an at-bat since he played on Saturday against the Yankees. 230/319/393 for the year.

Bruntlett pinch-ran for Stairs in last night’s game, but did not have an at-bat in the series. He’s hitting 118/179/235 for the season.

Mayberry did not play in the series and is 2-for-8 for the year.

Dobbs was 0-for-2 with a strikeout in the series and is hitting a miserable 135/238/216 for the season.

Stairs was 1-for-2 with a walk and a home run in the series. He’s hitting 300/488/633 for the year in 30 at-bats. He leads the team, including Ibanez, who has been approximately the best hitter in the NL this year, in OPS. I’d let him play more until he’s not, especially with Werth struggling.

With the exception of Stairs, the bench is awful. Awful or not, though, Bruntlett, Coste and Mayberry is too many players to not use at all during a series when you score ten runs.


Never be closing

The Florida Marlins quickly jumped on top of the NL East to start 2009, but there’s a couple of things they might want to iron out before anybody writes them into the World Series. Twice in the first two games of the three-game set the Marlins took a lead into the ninth inning. Twice they couldn’t get anyone to sign on the line which is dotted. With the Phillies down to their last out on Friday night, Victorino blasted a grand slam out to right to put the Phils on top. A day later the Phils again came from behind late, scoring one in the top of the ninth to tie the game and getting two more in the top of the tenth.

They won game three in a laugher, scoring four in the seventh and five in the eighth to bust it open.

The Phillies swept a three-game series with the Marlins in Florida over the weekend. They are 9-8 and have won three in a row.

Friday the Phillies beat the Marlins 7-3.

Coming off a long game for the bullpen that saw Hamels leave in the fourth inning, Myers had a rough first inning in which the Marlins jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a three-run homer by Dan Uggla. Myers needed 40 pitches to get out of the first inning.

Despite the long first inning, Myers managed to keep the Phillies in the game. He kept Florida off the board for the next five innings. He got some a whole lot of help from his defense in the fifth. Ibanez made a long run to track down a ball Ross Gload drove to the gap in left-center with nobody out and a man on first. Marson caught Hanley Ramirez stealing for the second out. With two outs and the bases loaded, Cameron Maybin smashed a ball to the right of Rollins. Rollins made a fantastic sliding play to field the ball and a quick throw to second to force the runner and end the inning.

Down 3-0 to start the ninth, the Phillies scored seven runs. After they cut the lead to 3-2 with two outs and the bases loaded, Victorino hit a grand slam off Matt Lindstrom and Utley followed with a solo homer of his own.

Saturday, in game two, the Phillies got one in the ninth and two in the tenth to win 6-4.

Park took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth, but gave up a three-run homer to Jorge Cantu. Uggla followed that with a solo shot.

Down 4-3 in the top of the ninth, the Phillies put men on first and third with nobody out. Dobbs struck out, but Bruntlett was at least able to make contract, dribbling to third for the second out to tie the game. In the top of the tenth, Victorino, Utley, Werth and Howard all singled in a row with one out. Utley drove in Victorino (who had stolen second) and Werth’s single scored Utley.

Lidge needed 34 pitches to do it, but held on for a shaky save in the bottom of the tenth. He struck Cody Ross out with the bases loaded to end the game.

Yesterday the Phillies won in a rout, topping Florida 13-2.

Moyer went six strong innings and held Florida to one run to earn his 249th career win. The Phillies took a 4-1 lead into the top of the seventh, but put up four in the seventh and five in the eighth.

The Phillies got good pitching in the series. Overall, Phillies pitchers allowed nine runs in 28 innings, throwing to a 2.89 ERA and a 1.36 ratio.

The starters allowed three home runs (two by Park and one by Myers) in 19 innings, but pitched to a 3.79 ERA and a 1.47 ratio.

Myers had a miserable first inning in game one and ended up with an ugly line, having allowed eight hits and six walks over six innings while throwing 119 pitches. He did a fantastic job to keep the Fish off the board after the first. He needed a lot of help in the fifth, getting two great defensive plays and a caught stealing.

Despite just going six innings, Myers threw 119 pitches in the game (which is a high for a starter for the season). Again he was hurt by the home run. Myers has thrown 25 2/3 innings on the year and allowed eight home runs.

Like Myers, Park gave up one big inning in his start, a four-run fourth. Park allowed just five hits and a walk in his seven innings — three hits and a walk came in the fourth. He also hit Cameron Maybin ahead of the pitcher with two outs and nobody on in the inning, presumably knowing that he would bat third in the top of the fifth. Chris Volstad threw a pitch behind him and both benches were warned.

Moyer became the first Phillies starting pitcher not to allow a home run. The one run he did allow scored with the help of a poor decision from Coste, who should have taken an out at first on a bunt but instead threw to second to try and force a runner. He didn’t and the runner, Ross, would come around to score the only run that Moyer allowed in the game.

For Moyer it was his first outing of the season in which he did not allow four runs.

The Phillies used six relievers in the series (not Taschner). As a group, Phillies relief pitchers combined to strike out 13 in nine innings while throwing to a 1.00 ERA with a 1.11 ratio. The bullpen did not give up a home run.

Madson and Lidge combined to throw three scoreless innings in which they struck out eight.

In game one, Condrey and Madson combined to throw three scoreless innings to keep the Phils in the game. They allowed a hit and two walks.

In game two, the pen again was not charged with a run in three innings. They allowed three hits and walked two. Lidge had a long bottom of the tenth. With a two-run lead he got the first two before allowing a double and two walks to load the bases. He struck out Cody Ross to end the game.

With two outs in the eighth in game two and the Phils down 4-3, Manuel brought in Eyre to pitch to lefty Jeremy Hermida. The Fish hit righty Wes Helms for Hermida, but Eyre struck him out with two men on to end the inning.

Eyre still has not allowed a hit or a walk in seven appearances this season.

Up 8-1 in the bottom of the seventh in game three, Manuel called on Durbin to pitch for the second straight day rather than use Taschner. Happ finished off the last two frames with the Phils up big. He struck out three but allowed the only run the pen would yield in the series.

In his last two appearances Happ has allowed four runs over 3 2/3 innings on four hits and three walks.

Everyone should be available tonight. Durbin has appeared in two straight games, but threw just 14 pitches yesterday.

The Phillies scored 26 runs in three games.

Rollins got the day off yesterday with Bruntlett starting at short. He went 1-for-9 with a walk and an RBI in the series. He’s 2-for-his-last-16 and hitting 162/205/235 for the season. He made a fantastic defensive play in the fifth inning of game one to help Myers keep Florida off the board.

Victorino had a monster series. 5-for-15 with a double, a triple, a grand slam and eight RBI. He’s hitting 268/333/437 for the year. He played a huge part in each of the ninth-inning rallies. He had a two-out grand slam in the first game to put the Phillies ahead. In the second game he started the rally with a single and a stolen base.

Utley 3-for-12 with a home run and four RBI in the series. 317/434/571. He was charged with an error on a bad-hop grounder with one out in the fifth in game two, but Park got the next two hitters so it didn’t cost the Phillies.

Howard was 5-for-15 with a double and a home run in the series, coming off an 0-for-10 against the Brewers. He’s hitting 290/364/522 for the season.

Werth was 3-for-10 with a double, six walks and five strikeouts. 290/397/500.

Ibanez 3-for-13 with two walks. 324/390/632. He made several notable defensive plays in the series. He made a fantastic diving play for the third out of the first inning yesterday. In game one of the series he tracked down a ball in the gap in right-center to help Myers keep Florida off the board in the fifth.

Feliz started all three games at third and went 3-for-11. He came into yesterday’s game 0-for-his-last-13 and went 3-for-5 with two RBI.

Coste started yesterday’s game with Marson starting the first two. Coste was 0-for-5 in the series. He’s 2-for-his-last-15 and hitting 182/270/303 for the year. He made an awful decision in the fifth inning yesterday, throwing to second to try and force Ross after the bunt by the pitcher. It helped Florida score the only run they would get against Moyer.

Marson was 1-for-5 in the series and is hitting 286/375/357 for the year.

Dobbs was 0-for-2 with a walk in the series. He had a terrible at-bat in game two, striking out with nobody out in the ninth and men on first and third and the Phillies down a run. He’s 1-for-15 on the season.

Bruntlett picked Dobbs up in game two, dribbling into an out to tie the game in the ninth. He had a big strikeout in game one. With one out in the ninth, the bases loaded and the Phillies down 3-1, Bruntlett struck out. Rollins followed with a walk and then Victorino put the Phillies ahead to stay with a grand slam. Bruntlett was 1-for-6 with a double in the series. 1-for-his-last-10 and hitting 188/211/375.

Stairs was 1-for-1 with a walk and two RBI in the series. 364/462/909 for the season.

Cairo 0-for-2 in the series and 0-for-7 as a Phillie.

The Phillies are home to play the first of three against the Nationals tonight.


Flying Fish

Most people who felt the NL East was anything but a two-team race as the 2008 season began thought it was the Braves that had a chance to keep pace with the Phillies and Mets. That didn’t prove to be the case. The Braves had a miserable season, finishing in fourth place and 20 games out of first.

It was the Florida Marlins that were in the thick of the race early in the season and they did more than keep pace. The Marlins led the East or had a piece of first place for 42 days in ’08 and led the division by a full three games after a win on May 11. Their record peaked at ten games above .500 — they were 30-20 on May 26. The Phils and Mets controlled the division from June on and the Fish went 54-57 after May 26 to finish the year at 84-77, which put them in third place and 7 1/2 games out.

The improvement for Florida was remarkable, however. Coming off of 71 wins in 2007, they improved their run differential by more than 100 runs. Here’s a look at the run differentials for the teams in the NL East for the past five seasons:

rundiff.jpg

In 2007, the Marlins allowed 891 runs and scored 790. They allowed 101 runs more than they scored. In 2008, they allowed 767 and scored 770, so they scored three more than they allowed. That’s a difference of 104 runs, which is the second-biggest improvement from the previous year for a team in the NL East in the past five years behind what the Mets did in 2006. In 2006, the huge improvement by New York shot them past the Phils and the Braves. In 2008, the huge improvement by the Marlins shot them past the Braves but still left them short of the Phils and Mets.

With offense down across the league, the Marlins scored 20 fewer runs in 2008 than they had in 2007. The difference in their pitching was huge — Marlins hurlers were charged with just 767 runs after allowing 891 runs the year before.

In 2007, Marlins’ relievers threw to a 4.05 ERA. In 2008 they threw to a 4.06 ERA. So the massive improvement was in large part due to what the starting pitching did. And the starting pitching for the Marlins is very young. The rotation for this year is penciled in as Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller — Nolasco is the oldest of the group and he turned 26 in December. Nolasco, Johnson and Volstad were all good last year, with Nolasco making the biggest contribution as he threw 212 1/3 innings with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.10 ratio. Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller both have a good chance to be fantastic — the Fish showed dramatic improvement last year with that duo combining to throw to a 5.77 ERA and a 1.62 ratio over 159 innings. If there’s good news for the rest of the division in the Marlins rotation, it’s that Scott Olsen, who was solid for the Marlins in 33 starts last year, was dealt to the Nationals over the winter in a deal that looks like a steal for Washington. The Marlins, however, look like they have more than enough arms to make up for the loss.

While the Marlin’s green line is creeping up closer to where the Mets and Phillies are (and where the Braves had been till last season), the question has to be whether the Marlins are ready to challenge the other teams in the NL East atop the division. I think the answer is no, not yet, for two reasons.

The first is that as much as the pitching is improving, it still has a long way to go. In 2008, only five NL teams, the Braves, Reds, Rockies, Nats and Pirates, allowed more runs than Florida.

The second is that they benefited from an electric offense in 2008 and chances are good that even if the rotation continues to improve the Marlins won’t be fifth in the NL in runs scored in 2009 like they were in 2008. Mike Jacobs and Josh Willingham are gone and although neither were outstanding I would guess the Marlins will struggle to replace their production. I’d bet a lot against them having four infielders who hit at least 29 home runs again as well.

I think the thing to worry about is that there is a huge amount of young talent in Florida between all that starting pitching as well as offensive firepower that includes Hanley Ramirez, Cameron Maybin and Jeremy Hermida. That’s a whole lot of moving parts, but if they all got popping at the same time it would be a big problem for the Mets and the Phillies. I think it’s a little tough to predict that’s going to happen in 2009, though.

Finally, on what’s only a slightly related note, I feel I should remind all that the Fish are just a strange and surprising organization. In their 16 year history they have twice won the World Series, but never been closer to winning the NL East than they were in 2005 when they finished in third place, seven games behind the Braves (in 2003 and 1997, they finished second and went to the playoffs and won the World Series, but in each year they finished more than seven games out of first place). So you never know.

The Braves agreed to a one-year deal with Garret Anderson.

Charlie Manuel says something about the chances of Jason Donald and John Mayberry to make the team in this article, but I’m not quite sure I understand what it is.

The Phillies play the Pirates tomorrow. They have announced who will pitch in upcoming games.

MLB Network will be making a reality show about the Phillies bullpen which will debut in June.

Scott Eyre has had assets frozen as part of a federal investigation, which has caused financial problems for him.

Ad: TicketCity has Phillies tickets for spring training and regular season games.


Who’s hot and who’s not

The Phillies and Marlins both came into their series in Florida hot, but, thanks to their bullpen, only the Phillies came out of it that way. The Phils took two of three against the Fish, delivering a crippling blow to the already slim playoffs hopes of the Marlins while inching ever closer to the playoffs themselves.

Each of the last two games of the set were tight and twice the Phils came out on top. In both of them, Manuel called on the core guys of his pen and they got him through. The Phils won the critical second game of the series 3-2. Yesterday a two-run homer from Feliz in the eighth put the Phils up to stay at 5-2.

Condrey got one big out yesterday. Otherwise it was the group of Madson, Durbin, Romero and Lidge that the Phillies used and are going to need the rest of the way that got it done for the Phils. Including the out that Condrey got in yesterday’s game, the Phils bullpen has allowed a run in seven innings over the past two games.

Yesterday the Phillies beat the Marlins 5-2 to improve to 88-68 on the season. They have won nine of ten and lead the NL East by 1 1/2 games. The Mets lead the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the hunt for the Wild Card. The Phillies are 20 games above .500 for the first time since 1993.

Jamie Moyer got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing a run on six hits and a walk. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, all doubles. He struck out four and dropped his ERA on the year to 3.78.

Moyer kept the Marlins off the board through five innings. Dan Uggla singled in the second and went to second when Cody Ross was hit by a pitch, but Moyer got Alfredo Amezaga to hit into a double-play to get out of the inning.

He gave up a leadoff double to the pitcher Chris Volstad in the third but left him stranded. Moyer got the next two before he walked Jorge Cantu. Mike Jacobs grounded back to the mound for the third out.

With runners on second and third, thanks in part to yet another error by Howard, and two outs in the fifth, Moyer again got Jacobs to ground back to the mound to end the inning.

He started the sixth up 3-0. Josh Willingham doubled with one out and came around to score on a two-out single by Amezaga. 3-1.

Durbin pitched the seventh, pitching for his second straight day. John Baker doubled with one out and moved to third on a single by Cantu. Romero came in to pitch to the lefty Jacobs and got him to pop to short for the second out. Romero stayed in to pitch to the righty Uggla and walked him. It brought up the righty Willingham with the bases loaded and Romero stayed in to pitch to him, too. Willingham hit a ball down the third base line that Dobbs made a diving play on to stop, but Willingham had a single that moved everyone up a base and cut the Phillies’ lead to 3-2. Dobbs left the game with a strained right calf and Condrey came in to pitch to the righty Cody Ross and got Ross to ground to Feliz at third to end the inning.

Miserable inning for Manuel who lets Romero stay in to pitch to the righty Uggla and then the righty Willingham and then brings Condrey in anyway. Dobbs didn’t make a spectacular play on the ball hit by Willingham, but if he hadn’t kept it in the infield the game would have been tied. Second straight day that Dobbs came up with a big defensive play late in the game at third.

Madson threw a 1-2-3 eighth with the Phils up 5-2.

Lidge gave up a leadoff single to Baker to start the ninth. He got Cantu to ground to third and struck out Jacobs before he walked Uggla. Lefty Dallas McPherson hit for righty Josh Willingham and came to the plate as the tying run. Lidge got ahead of him 0-2 and struck him out swinging 3-2.

Durbin, Romero, Madson and Lidge were all throwing for the second straight day (and would be throwing for the third straight day if they appeared tonight). As a group the pen went three innings, allowing a run on four hits and two walks while striking out two. Lidge threw 29 pitches a day after throwing 26, which probably makes him the most questionable of the group for tonight’s game. Romero threw 14 and everyone else was under ten.

Tough spot for the pen tonight.

The Phillies lineup against righty Chris Volstad went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Dobbs (8) Ruiz. Dobbs plays third against the righty. Ruiz behind the plate.

Burrell struck out to end the top of the first, leaving Rollins at third and Howard at first.

Rollins started the third with a double. Utley was next and hit a 1-0 pitch just over the glove of Maybin and out to right-center to put the Phillies up 2-0.

Ruiz singled with two outs in the fourth. Moyer was next and hit a popup behind second base that Ross charged from right but didn’t catch. The ball went off of Ross’s glove for an error and Ruiz took third. Rollins reached on an infield single to second and Ruiz scored to put the Phils up 3-0. Utley was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Werth, but Werth grounded to third to set the Phillies down.

Ruiz walked to start the sixth and Moyer bunted him to second. Rollins and Utley went down to leave him stranded.

Victorino led off the eighth with a single to right with the Phillies up 3-2. Feliz, who had just entered the game in the top of the inning, was next. Feliz showed bunt on the first pitch of his at-bat, but then swung away and hit a 1-0 pitch out to left to put the Phils up 5-2.

Rollins was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the game. 5-for-14 with a double in the series. 280/348/440 for the year. 342/422/481 in September.

Utley was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in the game. 3-for-10 with a home run and two walks in the series. 287/377/529 for the year.

Werth was 0-for-5 and struck out twice. 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts in the series. 275/370/505 for the year.

Howard 1-for-4 with a walk in the game. 2-for-11 with a home run in the series. 247/336/533.

Burrell 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the game. 0-for-11 with four strikeouts in the series. 247/363/499 for the year. He’s hitting .167 in September.

Victorino was 1-for-4. 4-for-13 with two home runs in the series. 289/350/442 for the year.

Dobbs was 0-for-3 in the game and 4-for-9 with two doubles and a home run in the series. 299/332/489 for the year. Feliz was 1-for-1 with a home run in the game and 1-for-3 in the series. He’s hitting 251/302/406 for the year.

Ruiz 1-for-2 with two walks. 1-for-4 with three walks in the series. 230/330/315 for the year. Coste 1-for-3 in the series. 269/329/433 for the year. 3-for-22 (.136) in September.

Saturday the Phils won 3-2 to improve to 87-68 on the season.

Blanton got the start for the Phillies and went five innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. One of the hits went for extra-bases, a double. He struck out nine, which is his high for the season.

He struck out the side in the first and one more in a scoreless second.

He started the third up 1-0. Alfredo Amezaga singled and the pitcher Anibal Sanchez tried to bunt but struck out before a singly by Cameron Maybin moved Amezaga to second. John Baker ripped a double into right and both runners scored to put Florida up 2-1.

He kept the Marlins off the board in the fourth and the fifth. He allowed a walk in a hit in the fifth, but got Jorge Cantu to fly to center and leave runners stranded at first and second.

The Phils hit for Blanton up 3-2 with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. It left four innings for the pen to throw and the pen kept the Marlins off the board to get the Phillies the win.

Durbin walked Josh Willingham with two outs in the sixth, but picked him off to end the inning.

Durbin came back for the seventh. Amezaga singled with one out and lefty Jeremy Hermida hit for the pitcher. Romero came on to pitcher to Hermida and Lo Duca hit for Hermida and drew a walk. It put men on first and second with one down, but Romero struck out Maybin and Baker to end the inning.

Huge outs for Romero in the seventh. Most of the talk about the game is about Madson and the eighth, but Romero bailed the Phils out in the seventh.

Madson gave up a single to Cantu and a double to Mike Jacobs to start the eighth. Uggla was next and hit chopped a ball high to Dobbs at third — Dobbs threw home and Ruiz tagged out Cantu for the first out of the inning with Robert Andino, who ran for Jacobs at third, holding second. With men on first and second and one out, Josh Willingham grounded to second for the second out with the runners moving to second and third. Madson struck out Cody Ross to leave both runners stranded.

Nice to see Dobbs at third in the eighth inning of a one-run game. Even nicer to see him make the play. Andino not going to third on the chopper to Dobbs changed the game.

Lidge started the ninth up a run and walked Amezaga to start the inning. Amezaga stole second as Lidge struck out Dallas McPherson for the first out, but Lidge struck out Maybin and Baker both to leave Amezaga stranded at second.

Four scoreless innings from the pen. They allow three hits and four walks while striking out seven. Sixteen strikeouts in the game for the Phils. Key strikeouts for Romero, Madson and Lidge all late in the game. Lidge threw 26 pitches, Madson 25 and Romero 17.

The Phillies lineup against righty Anibal Sanchez went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Dobbs (8) Ruiz. Dobbs at third against the righty. Ruiz catches.

Ruiz reached on an error by Cantu to start the third. Blanton bunted and the pitcher Sanchez threw the ball away, putting men on first and third with nobody out. The Phils only got one, though. Rollins struck out, Utley singled and drove in Ruiz to make it 1-0, but Werth and Howard both went down to leave the runners stranded.

Victorino homered with one out in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2.

In the sixth, with two outs and men on first to second (thanks to a pair of walks) Dobbs blooped a single into left and Howard stormed around to score from second and put the Phils up 3-2. A walk to Ruiz loaded the bases and Jenkins hit for Blanton with righty Logan Kensing pitching. Lefty Mark Hendrickson came on and Iguchi hit for Jenkins and flew to right for the third out.

The Phils didn’t have another hit till Dobbs started the ninth with a double. Ruiz bunted him to third, but Stairs hit for Madson and struck out for the second out. Rollins tried to bunt for a hit, but was nipped at first by Uggla to end the frame.

Don’t mind Rollins bunting any time he wants to. Big strikeout for Stairs, hitting against righty Joe Nelson.

Rollins was 0-for-5 and struck out three times.

Utley 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Werth 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Howard 0-for-3 with a walk.

Burrell 0-for-3 with a walk.

Victorino 2-for-4 with a home for the second straight day.

Dobbs 2-for-4 with a double.

Ruiz 0-for-2 with a walk.

On Friday night, the Fish blew the Phils out in the opener of the series. The Phillies lost 14-8 to drop to 86-68 on the season and end their seven-game winning streak.

Myers got the start for the Phils and got hit hard. He went four innings, allowing ten runs on nine hits and two walks. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and a home run. He struck out three.

He started the bottom of the first up 2-0, but gave up five runs in the frame. Each of the five batters he faced reached base. Uggla and Jacobs delivered the big blows, a two-run double by Jacobs that was followed by a two-run homer by Cantu.

Myers settled down after that and the Phils had retaken the lead at 6-5 when he started the fifth. Again the first five hitters Myers faced reached base and Seanez came on to pitch before Myers had recorded an out. The Phils would allow six runs in the frame, three of which scored on a three-run homer Seanez served up to Amezaga. The Marlins ended the inning up 11-6.

Walrond allowed two hits and a walk in the sixth as the Marlins extended their lead to 13-6.

Cantu hit a solo shot off of Kendrick in the eighth, putting the Marlins up 14-8. It was the first career relief appear for Kendrick.

Overall the pen went four innings, allowing four runs on five hits and a walk. Seanez, Walrond and Kendrick all pitched badly.

The Phillies lineup against righty Josh Johnson went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Dobbs (8) Coste. Dobbs at third against the righty with Coste catching.

The Phils jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first with the help of a Jacobs error and a wild pitch from Johnson.

Myers gave up five in the bottom of the first, but the Phils got two more in the top of the second. Dobbs hit a solo home run and they got singles from Coste and Rollins before Utley brought Rollins in with a sac fly.

Dobbs led off the fourth with a double, but the Phils couldn’t bring him home. They ended the frame down 5-4.

Howard hit a two-run homer in the fifth to put them up 6-5.

A sac fly from Howard in the seventh brought in Rollins. Rollins had walked, gone to second on a walk to Utley and stolen third. The Phils were down 13-7.

Victorino led off the eight with a solo shot. 13-8. Utley popped to short with two men on to end the frame.

Rollins was 2-for-4 with a walk.

Utley 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI.

Werth 1-for-5 and struck out four times.

Howard 1-for-4 with a home run and three RBI.

Burrell 0-for-4 with a walk.

Victorino 1-for-5 with his 13th home run, which was a new career-high.

Dobbs 2-for-2 with a double and a home run.

Coste 1-for-3.

JA Happ (1-0, 4.24) faces righty Jair Jurrjens (13-10, 3.72) tonight.


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