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Archive for April, 2006

The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Fri, April 28, 2006 08:04 PM Comments: 0

"We are lucky to be 9-12 considering the way we have been playing to start the season." That quote is from Bill Giles (who many still consider the face Phillies front office, good or bad) this morning on 610 WIP’s Angelo Cataldi morning show.  Is Bill right?  I say yes.  I also found it interesting that Bill did not give manager Charlie Manuel the obligatory, "he’s doing a good job the players just need to play" answer when Angelo asked him what he thought of the job of Charlie Manuel.  Instead, and I will paraphrase here, he said that Charlie (like the team) needs to do a better job to improve our record. While Bill is really just a VIP fan these days I believe he still gets his two cents in when necessary. Needless to say he did not sound satisfied with the performance of the Phillies so far this young season.

This leads me to what seems to be my weekly critique of Charlie Manuel and his managerial decisions. Allow me to go back to the third game of the series against the Rockies.  The Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the eighth up by two.  Obviously, Charlie started to warm up Flash Gordon for the save.  Well the first two men got on in that inning.  Charlie decided to then start warming up Cormier in case the save opportunity was erased by the Phillies scoring more runs.  As we all know the Phillies went on to score twice to give themselves a four run lead going into the ninth.  What decision does Charlie make? Of course he brings in Gordon, whom need I remind you has had major elbow surgery, has been used a lot in such an early part of the season, and is not exactly a spring chicken anymore.  To add to all of that the Phillies and Rockies were playing a day game the next day.  By bringing Gordon in up four runs Charlie effectively made Tom unavailable if a save situation came up the next day (which unfortunately it did not). I know there is the argument that once a pitcher has warmed up that it is like he has already pitched an inning so why not bring him in anyway.  I disagree with that line of thought 100%.  If warming up is like pitching one inning then letting him pitch is like pitching two.  I really hate this move and Charlie always does it.  For those of you who say we need to take Floyd out of the rotation and give Franklin a chance I laugh at you.  Who would be Charlie’s precious 7th inning guy.  We all know it’s hard enough for Charlie to manage right now, could you imagine if he lost his formula of 7th inning guy, eighth inning guy, closer. The things he could do then…I do not even want to think about it.

I would like to close this week’s edition with just a few comments and questions for you all to ponder. Since the lineup change, the Phillies have been scoring a lot of runs.  They also seem to be hitting better with runners in scoring position.  What no one seems to have mentioned though is that they are scoring these runs without the help of their leadoff batter.  Jimmy Rollins is in a big funk.  His average is down below .300 and the offense can be even more explosive if Rollins gets back on track.  There was talk of the Marlins calling the Mets to see if they would do a Dontrelle Willis for David Wright straight up trade.  I compare David Wright for the Mets to Ryan Howard for the Phils in that they are both home grown talent who seem to be the future face of their respective ball clubs.  My question then is would you trade Ryan Howard for Dontrelle Willis straight up?  Finally, has anyone else noticed that all the Phillies starters seem to run out of after five innings?  Who do you blame?  I blame Rich Dubee and his off-season training program because it seemed last year that all the pitchers got stronger as the year went on.

That’s the story from the City Line for now.

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This series, rated ARRRRRRRR for Pirates!

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, April 28, 2006 09:37 AM Comments: 0

By Timothy Miller
Tmoneydaman69@msn.com

The fightin’ Phils travel to the other side of Pennsylvania this weekend for a three game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.  (Our roving reporter, JMike will be there covering the games and proving photos and updates throughout.)  This follows a some what disappointing home series against the Colorado Rockies where the Phillies took two out of four games against those pesky mountaineers.

Highlights (and lowlight) from the Rockies Series:

  1. Tom Gordon continued his dominating role as closer for the Phillies as he pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts while giving up no hits in the series.
  2. David Bell blasted a three run home run to help Ryan Madson earn his second win this season, in what was a somewhat better performance for the young pitcher after his 9 run, one inning debacle last time on the mound.
  3. Jon Lieber remains winless after giving up three runs in seven innings against the Rockies on Thursday. He left the game when the teams were tied at three, but Ryan Franklin came in to lose the game.
  4. In seven innings, newly promoted Triple A prospect Cole Hamels throws shutout ball while striking out 14 batters against the Mets’ Triple A team. That’s right, 14!

How the Pirates – who are currently the worst team in the majors – stack up:

The Lineup
So far this season, and as a whole, the Pirates have been a disappointing franchise.  There still are some weapons in their lineup that the Phils should watch out for though. Their red hot first baseman Craig Wilson already has seven home runs this year and is batting close to .300.  He has stepped up his game with regular first baseman Sean Casey on the 15-day disabled list. The other hot hitter is shortstop Jack Wilson who is hitting .329, along with a surprising four home runs so far. The rest of the power comes from Canadian bred Jason Bay who has five homers, and veteran outfielder Jeromy Burnitz who has four.  Burnitz is a powerful guy who can usually be counted on for a home run, a double, or a strikeout.  Bay as of late, has either been a home run or a strikeout.  The rest of the lineup contains mediocre at best players. Second baseman Jose Castillo (.257), former Royal third baseman Joe Randa (.222), catcher Humberto Cota (.238), and struggling center fielder Chis Duffy (batting a dismal .176) round out the rest of the 5-18 Pirates.

Rotation
The Bucs rotation has struggled greatly.  Only one of their starters has an ERA under 5 and that belongs to youngster Zach Duke at 4.50.  Duke is 1-2 and will not see action against the Phils this weekend. Their ace is Oliver Perez who is a strikeout machine – only if he does not give up a lot of runs, his ERA is 7.20 and he has only won once this season.  Victor Santos (former Brewer and Ranger) is the only other starter to earn a victory for the Pirates.  The two other arms in the rotation are Ian Snell (7.71 ERA) and Paul Maholm (7.40).  The Phils will face both of these pitchers this weekend.  Maholm was shown on a funny segment Wednesday against the Cardinals.  ESPN aired footage of Maholm teaching the television audience how to use an effective pickoff move.  After the segment, the cameras went back to the game where the announcers thanked Maholm and then told the whole world that Maholm just taught them how to effectively get called for a balk instead of using an effective pickoff maneuver.  Hmm, maybe that’s why the Pirates only have five wins!

The Bullpen
The bullpen has been shaky as well.  Their closer, Mike Gonzalez not surprisingly only has two saves, and holds a 2.57 ERA.  He has not seen a lot of save opportunities, but with only five wins, who would? Former Phillie Roberto Hernandez is the other Pirate with a recorded save. He is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA. The only highlight of the bullpen is former Giant Salomon Torres who has two wins out of the bullpen with the lowest ERA in the pen at 2.65. The rest of the bullpen contains former White Sox Damaso Marte, Ryan Vogelsong, John Grabow, and Matt Capps.

Probables
Friday: Brett Myers (2-0, 3.04) vs. Ian Snell (0-2, 7.71)
Saturday: Cory Lidle (2-2, 4.74) vs. Paul Maholm (0-2, 7.40)
Sunday: Gavin Floyd (1-2. 8.50) vs. Oliver Perez (1-3, 7.20)

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"Maybe it’s the lineup change. Maybe it’s coincidence."

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, April 27, 2006 07:19 AM Comments: 0

The title is a quote from Chase Utley who has settled into the number two spot in the lineup and helped the Phillies secure at least a series split from the Rockies with a 9-5 win last night.  This new lineup is certainly corresponding with increasing production with runners in scoring position, but whether or not there’s a direct causal link remains to be seen.  It sure appears that way, but then again it could just be a coincidence. 

A lot of interesting facts came out of my day of Phillies watching and researching yesterday.  Rather than attempting to sew them together in some sort of prose, I feel bullet points may be easier to digest (and definitely easier to write): 

  • A new, if not pathetic fan club was born – Madson’s Magicians.  It was basically a guy and a girl with top hats, capes, canes and a few dances which looked like a cross between the Phanatic’s opposing pitcher jinx routine and Harry Potter and Hermione.
  • Clay Condrey was called up from Scranton just four hours before the game to replace the ill Julio Santana (15-day DL with gastroenteritis, due back May 6).  He pitched a perfect sixth in his first big league outing since May 2003.
  • Chase Utley redeemed the prior night’s error with some nice glove work, especially in Condrey’s inning.
  • Attendance on the night was recorded as a new CBP low, 19,182.  Much of this can be attributed to the Flyers playoff game across the street which outdrew the Phils by 802.
  • Delucci got his second hit as a Phillie (2-12 pinch hitting on the season) as he struggles to deal with his new role.
  • Abreu’s consecutive games with a walk streak continued, now standing at 13 games.
  • David Bell had a 2-run home run robbed by the new wall but responded in his next at bat with a 3-run shot to give the Phils a 7-1 lead in the 3rd. 
  • Businesspersons Special today, game time is 3:05pm
  • Going into last night’s game the Phils were 5th in the league in hits.
  • According to Baseball Prospectus, if the rest of the season was played out a million times the Phillies would make the playoffs 9% of the time.  If you factor in their player projections (PECOTA), the Phils chance jumps to 12%.  So essentially what this means is that the Phils do have a chance!
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The Mountains Slip by the Phillies

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, April 26, 2006 09:04 AM Comments: 0

Phils lost a close one last night behind Gavin Floyd’s less than spectacular outing.  He coughed up three quick runs in the first, a homer in the second, and then was tagged for three more in the fourth.   Besides Floyd’s inability to record outs, there were a few other let downs on defensive.  Jimmy Rollins uncharacteristically threw a routine ball away in the fourth inning.  In the eighth, Chase Utley committed an error as he dropped a humpback liner up the middle – though it was knuckling in the wind.  Last season the Phillies had the highest fielding percentage in the league but this year they’re near the bottom.  Defensive superiority was supposed to be a given with this team – especially the middle infield – but somehow they’ve managed to digress in the category.

One guy who played brilliantly on both sides of the ball (does that metaphor work for baseball?) was none other than Pete Incaviglia re-incarnate, Sal Fasano.  He was 2-4 with 2 doubles, and 2 RBIs as both hits provided a much needed spark for the Phils and the fans.  Behind the plate he had a chance to show off his laser-guided arm throwing and tough guy persona.  Though in the 3rd he was robbed by third base umpire Brian Onora as he seemingly gunned down a Rockie attempting to steal third, he came back and made some nice defensive plays in the sixth and seventh.  First, he fielded an excellent bunt halfway down the third base line and threw a perfect strike to Ryan Howard to get the runner by half a step, then he recovered an Aaron Fultz wild pitch in time to nail a runner trying to advance to third.  The best and most telling move for the masked man though came in the first.  As the Rockies second run – in the form of Clint Barmes – was streaking down the third base line and Fasano, who knew the relay throw was not going to make it in time, stood five feet up the line to block the plate.  Well, it wasn’t exactly a block, it was more him like sticking his leg out in the sense of trying to trip a waiter carrying a full tray of food – very sneaky, though a bit dangerous.  No one was hurt, but the Rockies scored and Fasano was promptly chastised by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi for the move which surely only inflated his bad boy reputation and fan base.  Speaking of which, Phillies Nation spent time up in the rafters with Sal’s Pals last night, so pictures and stories are forthcoming. 

Offensively, the Phils produced decently with the new lineup in effect – again no home runs.  It should be noted Bobby Abreu walked in his 12th consecutive game though Ryan Howard was 0-5 with 2 Ks and 5 LOB.  One interested yet not-to-be-criticized move by Charlie Manuel was his decision to send Geoff Geary to the plate in the middle of the Phillies fourth inning rally.  The bullpen has been overworked as of late as Rhodes and Franklin have pitched in consecutive games and Julio Santana was at home with a stomach flu; not to mention the fact that the Phillies bench this season was a dismal 3-30 with just one RBI coming into the game (now 4-32 with a Victorino hit and a Nunez popup bunt).  But the winds were in Geary’s favor as he helped himself with an RBI double.  Two batters later, Chase Utley put one in the jet stream, and then Abreu continued the rally to bring the Phils within one.  But that was all the Fightins could muster as the Rockies bullpen showed why they’re one of the best in the NL. 

Game two with the new lineup, and the Phillies offensive is certainly providing a more balanced attack as well as scoring baserunners (3 for 7 with RISP and 2 outs last night).  But as we saw Monday, this only works when the starting pitching can provide a decent outing; even better if it can setup the 7-8-9 inning bullpen corps who has showed their lockdown effectiveness. 

Finally the bigger picture, the 8-11 (4-9 at home) Phils dropped to 4.5 games back in the division as the Mets were the only NL East team to win last night.

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Two in a row at home, two in a row at home

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, April 25, 2006 10:05 AM Comments: 0

"Two in a row at home, two in a row at home!"  That’s how Larry Andersen ended last night’s game on the radio after the obligatory Scott Graham "win column" comment.  Yes, the Phillies are continuing to pull the pieces together and improve their record – to 8-10 now.  A revised lineup featuring Utley in the 2 spot, Howard 5th and Rowand 6th seemed to do the trick as Cory Lidle recorded 10 strikeouts over 6 and 2/3 and Tom Gordon notched his sixth save in as many opportunities.  The most significant byproduct of the new batting order had to be the ability to score runs without the long ball.  All six Phillies runs came off inside-the-park hits and the team finished the night 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position – though Aaron Rowand did leave 5 men on with his 0-4 performance. 

There was plenty to cheer about last night.  I personally couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief in the top of the seventh when Bobby Abreu jumped up against the chain link fence in rightfield and came down with Miguel Ojeda’s fly ball.  I really didn’t want the night to be ruined by maelstrom of boos if he misplayed that ball.  Though he may have made the play look more difficult than it actually was, the point is he made the catch and coupled with 3 RBIs, there’s only room for applause

On the other hand, Ryan Howard’s defense was less than stellar.  His youth and inexperience seemed to show last night as he committed one error and misplayed another ball.  After fielding a bunt in the third inning he tried to throw out the lead runner at second rather than taking the easy out at first.  His errant throw allowed all runners to advance safely and gave the Rockies another out which they promptly used to sacrifice the runners to second and third – one later scoring on a wild pitch by Cory Lidle.  Then in the eighth, with runners on the corners and one out, he fielded a ground ball just a few feet from first base.  Rather than quickly tagging Brad Hawpe who stood frozen just an arms length away, Howard threw down to second in hopes of a 3-4-3 double play.  The batter running to first was safe and meanwhile the Rockies scored their fifth run.  Howard, should have either tagged the runner if possible, or at least stepped on first for the quick out and either stared the runner at third back to the bag or quickly retired Hawpe in a run down.  Luckily, those two runs didn’t cost the Phillies the game, which means Howard doesn’t have to pay tuition for those two lessons.

Tonight the Phils take on another righty in the form of Miguel Asencio who was called up from AAA Colorado Springs last Friday.  Although Charlie Manuel insists last night’s lineup isn’t permanent, it would be nice to see it on somewhat of an extended trial run.

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Red Means Fire

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, April 24, 2006 06:22 AM Comments: 0

Hey, hey, look at that, the Phils notched another home win!  Good thing, because with 40,000+ in attendance, things could have gotten real ugly with another disappointing loss.  Instead, the fans were treated with a rather entertaining game – not to mention the Phanatic’s birthday celebrations.  In just the first inning, they witnessed Chase Utley’s first ejection of his career after a blown call by first base umpire Dan Iassogna; Charlie Manuel followed him to the locker room in turn.  It is often suggested that an ejection or two does wonders to ignite a team’s spirit.  Ryan Howard felt it, "It has to fire you up, even if it’s a little bit. When something like that happens, it tends to get everyone going."  Did it ever!  Ryno then proceeded to drive two balls a combined one-sixth of a mile.  His first homer had the distinction of becoming the first home run ball to land in Asburn Alley on the fly.  David Bell also recorded an RBI as he cashed in on a runner scoring position. 

Brett Myers only needed Howard’s three RBIs for his second win of the season and must also be acknowledged for another solid start, effectively using his curveball to pitch out of jams.  The Phils are 5-0 when their starters last at least six innings not the least of which because it sets up the bullpen to perform on schedule.  The seventh, eight, and ninth innings were near perfection as Franklin and Rhodes set up Tom Gordon to strike out the side and record his fifth save of the season.  Gordon is averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning.

Not to detract from a much needed win, but it was still more of the same from the Phillies – not a lot of offensive production but when it does come, it’s in the form of home runs.  Before Tuesday’s 10-3 loss to the Nationals, Charlie Manuel was quoted as stating the obvious, "We have to learn to manufacture runs."  While this may be true, The Hardball Times has a funny – but equally truthful – twist on its actual interpretation.  "When they say: ‘We’re gonna manufacture runs’ what they mean is: ‘We can’t hit and won’t walk so we’re praying for lots of passed balls, errors, hit batsmen and defensive indifference.’"  Unfortunately it doesn’t appear other teams have received the memo.

Luckily, Brett Myers and the rest of the pitching staff were on form Sunday and the four runs were enough for the Phillies seventh victory.  Still in the words of the skipper, "Probably, I’m a little surprised offensively that we haven’t produced a few more runs. I think pitching-wise, probably we knew that we were going to have a few ups and downs." Manuel.  Coming into the season, yes, everyone knew pitching would be the Phillies weakness, but it was the offensive that was supposed to overcome this deficiency.  The Phillies have lost 2 one-run games and 3 two-run games.  Three of their wins came during a three day stretch in which they averaged 8 runs per games; in all other games they’ve averaged a mere 3.7.  It appears when the pitching is on, only then can the Phillies win. 

With the exception of Jon Lieber, the staff is steering this comeback-of-sorts after a dismal opening of the 2006 season.  Hopefully, the hurlers will recognize that despite all the talk of the Phillies formidable offensive, only they can ensure success and generate the momentum this team so desperately needs.  It started Sunday as Myers added oxygen to the spark from Utley and Manuel but it will take a few more weeks of consistency before us fans can feel warm and secure with this club like we did coming out of spring training.

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Here Come the Marlins

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, April 21, 2006 08:19 AM Comments: 1

After last night’s embarrassing loss, it best to just keep looking forward.  Although the new left field wall found four victims last night (3 solo would-be homers by the Phils and a potential 3 run shot by the Nats), the story was Ryan Madson’s awful line, which can be found appropriately under The Steve Jeltz Award.  So let’s stay positive and see if the Phils can finally win a home series as the last place Marlins swim into town.  Peter Gammons thinks the Fish will be a team to be reckoned with in two years; hopefully that means the Phils can roll over them in the 38 games until then.  To provide a forecast of the upcoming series, our friend Timothy Miller has the story.

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the Phillies play host to the 4-10 Florida Marlins. On Opening Day, the Marlins contained six rookies in their starting lineup, becoming the first team to ever start that many rookies in an opening day game.  They have lost maybe their best young player in outfielder Jeremy Hermidia who is currently on the fifteen day disabled list due to an aggravated right hip flexor.

The Lineup
The Marlins still contain at least four rookies in their starting lineup pretty much at one time.  The veteran every day starter is third baseman Miguel Cabrera who is essentially the only starter left from last year.  The Marlins shipped out Carlos Delgado (Mets), Luis Castillo (Twins), Jeff Conine (Orioles), Juan Pierre (Cubs), Mike Lowell (Red Sox), and Paul LoDuca (Mets) who were usual position players in this lineup.  Without players backing up Cabrera in the lineup, Cabrera could suffer this season.  Cabrera
is currently batting .346 with three home runs.  Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is the only batter with a higher average then Cabrera at .367.  The rest of the infield contains first baseman Mike Jacobs who is batting a dismal .188 with three homers, and second base rookie Dan Uggla.  The outfield contains rookie catcher converted to outfielder Josh Willingham who is batting .327 with three home runs and fourteen RBI’s.  He is a major threat in the Marlins lineup.  The outfield also contains Reggie Abercrombie and Chris Aguila.  Behind the plate is veteran Miguel Olivio (Mariners, Padres) until Hermidia comes back and Willingham will return to behind the plate.

The Rotation
Five guys make up a starting rotation, and fourteen games into the season the Marlins rotation is noted for only three wins this season (though the Phils have just four).   The Marlins shipped out pitchers this past off season as well - Josh Beckett (Red Sox) and A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays).  So, Dontrelle Willis is the only member of the rotation left from last year.  He is currently 1-0 with an ERA below three.  The other two guys with wins are Sergio Mitre and Jason Vargas, who have a combined 11.28 Earned Run Average.  The other two pitchers in the rotation are Scott Olsen who is 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA, and the pitiful Brian Moehler who is 0-3 with a 13.14 ERA.  The Marlins rotation gives up a lot of runs, which should makes the Home Run happy though otherwise offensively-challenged Phillies ecstatic.

The Bullpen
The Marlins bullpen currently boasts a 3.44 ERA which is pretty decent with a team whose rotation is giving up a lot more runs.  Last year’s closer (and Philly hater) Todd Jones is listed on the Detroit Tigers roster, though he is on the disabled list.  The new guy in town is Joe Borowski, the former Chicago Cubs relief man.  It seems as though the Marlins do not even need a closer this season as they only have one save through fourteen games, and that belongs to Borowski who has the highest ERA in the bullpen at 7.20.  The pen also includes former Dodger Matt Herges, Todd Wellemeyer, Franklin German, Ricky Nolasco, and Josh Johnson who has the only win by a relief pitcher on the Marlins.

Probables
Friday: Scott Olsen (0-1, 1.69) vs. Jon Lieber (0-3, 9.18)
Saturday: Sergio Mitre (1-1, 4.08) vs. Brett Myers (1-0, 3.06)
Sunday: Brian Moehler (0-3, 13.14) vs. Cory Lidle (1-2, 5.00)

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Phillies-Nationals: A Detailed Recap

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, April 19, 2006 10:53 PM Comments: 0

Did you miss last night’s game?  Are you really bored at work?  Would you like to immortalize the each of the Phillies’ home wins since they’re so few and far between?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then have we got the post for you.  Since I sat in front of a computer for the last three hours watching the Phillies game, I figured I might as well keep track of what was going on as the Phils try to deny Frank Robinson his 1,000 win as a manager.  Below is a pretty comprehensive recap of Wednesday night’s game with a bit of analysis and commentary scattered throughout.  So curl up by the fire or kick your shoes off under your desk and relive the Phillies second home win of the season.

Bottom 1st - Phils go down 1-2-3 on three ground outs

Top 2nd – Ryan Church hits a solo home run. This guy is on fire, 5 for his last 9, with 4 homers and 9 RBIs.  Nations 1-0 

Bottom 2nd - Ryan Howard hits his 3rd homer of the year, first with a man on base…David Bell is booed after he grounds out (also coming off a two GIDP night)…Sal Fasano just missed a home run by about a foot but settles for a double only to be LOB.  Phillies 2-1

Top 3rd – Livan Hernandez hits a home run to tie the game. Phillies burned once again by opposing pitchers at the plate. The ball is flying around the park, it’s like they’re playing on the moon…Aaron Rowand makes a nice catch on a forward dive…Broken bat ground out to end the inning; a lot of bats have been broken since the Nats came to town.  Score tied 2-2

Top 4th - Gavin Floyd’s curveball in the dirt strikes out Royce Clayton but allows Ryan Church (who walked) to steal second, who is subsequently LOB

Bottom 4th – I love Chase Utley’s hustle to first. He was thrown out on a close play here, but last time up he beat out a bunt.  Why is it that the fast runners (Utley, Rollins) always hustle to first while the slow guys (Howard, Burrell) – who actually need the extra step – move the slowest down the line?…David Bell makes a deposit over the right field wall to give the Phils the 3-2 lead. The insanely annoying announcers of MASN believe the ghost of Richie Asburn is blowing fly balls over the fence.

Top 5th - The opposing pitcher gets another hit. Bell misplays a Livian Hernandez grounder and a fan snags the ball for a ground rule double…Bell makes up for it by snaring a Soriano laser…Fasano drops a wind blown foul popup at the screen and Vidro drives in Hernandez on the very next pitch, score 3-3. That was the Phillies 12th error of the year…Vidro scores on a sac fly, Nats take the lead, 4-3…Abreu slides for a foul ball but doesn’t come up with it.  A mix of boos and cheers are heard…

Bottom 5th – Gavin Floyd strikes out to lead off, after 80+ pitches should he have been pinch hit for? We’ll soon find out…

…nothing interesting happens for a while…

Top 7th - Livian Hernandez smashes another double. This is getting ridiculous…Floyd out, Fultz in…Vidro drives in 2 runs…BOOOOO….Gullien ropes a double to right…Zimmerman gets the IBB to load the bases… Nationals up 6-3

Bottom 7th – David Bell grounds out to a symphony of Booos…Fasano is called out looking…the MASN announcers get more annoying by the pitch; and I don’t just hate all opposition announcers. I watch a lot of MLB.tv and there are hardly ever Comcast broadcasts, so I’ve been around the block.  These guys make me miss Chris Wheeler, heck, they make me miss Andy Musser…Zimmerman makes a spectacular diving catch to end the inning.

…There’s a reoccurring commercial for the Nationals where they play cheesy music and the announcer says every fan is entitled to express his opinion or something to that extent. They show a 10-year old boy drawing, then holding up a poster at RFK. Once unveiled, it reads "Phillies Bite."  Shut up, kid, you’re lucky I don’t live in DC anymore…

Top 8th - Livian Hernandez is showing bunt, but swinging away – wildly.  He could really injure Bell or Howard who are in at the corners. With a 3 run lead and a 3 for 3 night, just swing away and avoid unnecessarily injuring the defense. He strikes out for his vain effort.  Bronx cheers for the K…Utley makes a nice diving stop and flips to JRoll covering second to end the inning.

Bottom 8th – Hernandez is still in, no walks, 7 Ks. The Nats bullpen is so bored they’ve written "NATIONALS" on the bullpen wall with the rosin bag…Rowand doubles and the bullpen gets off their asses…Better warm up fast because Bobby Abreu just hit a 2 run shot to right! Now it’s 6-5 Nats.  All 5 Phillies runs have been off homers – no surprise there.  Fans are throwing trash onto left field for some unknown reason…Burrell walks, Victorino comes into run for him…Eichen relieves Hernandez to face Chase Utley and promptly walks him…Nats catcher Brian Schneider is making some nice stops to prevent wild pitches, Howard almost swings at one, but walks to load the bases…Dellucci, in for Bell, ground out, but the Nats don’t try for the double play and Victorino scores, 6-6…Alex S. Gonzalez pinching hitting, smacks a broken bat grounder up the middle but is thrown out to end the inning.  If it was Chase Utley running to first, he would have been safe.

Top 9th - Gordon in, and strikes out side!

Bottom 9th – Lieberthal leads off with a broken bat ground out…Another broken bat…Rollins flies out, he’s 0-5 on the night…Rowand strikes out…We’re going to extra innings!

…The Nats have their entire bench available. The Phillies are tapped out.  Questionable managerial decisions there in the 8th using 3 bench guys? Perhaps, but I appreciate Manuel trying to win the game.

Top 10th - Franklin pitching…Double play to end inning. 4 scoreless innings from Fultz, Santana, Gordon, and Franklin…though Fultz could have stranded his 2 inherited runners.  Here’s where the new Fed chair’s revised ERA would come into play.

Bottom 10th – Abreu walks to lead off…Victorino breaks a bat on a foul ball, then strikes out looking. He probably should have bunted Abreu over. Oh wait, the Phillies don’t do small ball…Utley walks (Nats have given up all 5 walks in the 8th and 10th innings)…Howard batting, could be the hero.  He is!!  Single into right, Abreu scores from second! The Phillies win!

The Phils win their second home game this year and the Nats learn walks kill. Thankfully this game ended when it did. The Phillies were running out of players and it’s pushing 3:30 am here in London.  All in all, an entertaining and exciting game, but again showed the Phils precariously rely on the long ball. Tomorrow, Ryan Madson will face minor league call-up, Bill Bray, in the rubber match of the series. 

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The City Line

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, April 19, 2006 01:14 PM Comments: 0

"Some of those plays are pretty tough.  I don’t think fans know how tough it is when the ball is hit right on the screws or it’s knuckling or it’s hit right at you."  That is how Cory Lidle explained away the lackluster play of Bobby Abreu last night in the top of the fourth inning.  Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church hit back to back line drives in that inning to right field.  These were both balls that were over Bobby’s head, which he seems to have much more trouble with then ones in which he has to charge, but the liner hit by Church was especially bad.  Church’s line drive turned Abreu completely around.  It was such a bad play in fact, that Zimmerman (who was on second after his double over Bobby’s head) held up because he was so sure the ball would be caught by a gold glove right fielder. 

What is most funny about this situation is that Bobby was willing to take the blame for the loss saying, "These were very hard balls, but I am not going to make any excuses.  I probably cost us the game.  Sometimes there is nothing you can do."  All the while Lidle felt it necessary to defend his teammate (which is fine) while at the same time belittling the fans (which is not fine).  Last night’s paid attendance was an announced 20,072, the lowest ever for Citizen’s Bank Park.  This is the third different time this young season that there has been a new low in attendance.  Keep underminding the fans, Cory, and see how this record low is shattered again.

It has been said before on this site, but it is certainly worth mentioning again, we the fans of Philadelphia boo because we are a knowledgeable fan base and because we are fed up.  We boo because Bobby could have made those plays, and even if not, he could have made a better effort.  We boo because the overall ERA for our bullpen is 6.15 after last nights fiasco between Rhodes and Geary.  We boo because our team is 17 for 92 (.185 average), the lowest in the major leagues, with runners in scoring position after last night going 1 for 9.  Finally, we boo because the Phillies are now 1-6 at home.  They should relish playing at home.  They could rival the Eagles for fan support if they just played relaxed.  We are not that bad as a fan base, we just need something to cheer about. 

That’s the Story from The City Line for Now   

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Minor League Update

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, April 18, 2006 01:51 PM Comments: 0

Marcus Hayes wrote today on how despite the excitement over the youthful core of the Phillies, it has so far been the veterans that have provided the spark this season.  Truth be told, I don’t think anyone, including Marcus, is giving up on Howard, Utley and company, in fact the future looks bright with them in the lineup.  To complement these two in the coming years, the Phillies have a reinvigorated farm system with much potential.  Let’s take a look at how its doing this year.

Standing-wise the young Phillies are collectively not off to any better a start than the big boys.  The soon to be divorced Red Barons are 6-6, the Reading Phillies are 3-8, the Threshers are 6-5, and the BlueClaws are 1-9.  Individually however, there have been a few bright spots; as Scout.com recently commented, "while the pitching has been almost universally standout from top to bottom, they haven’t received much offensive support."

To begin, let’s jump straight down to Clearwater (the only Phillies club with a winning record) where the guy everyone’s been talking about, Cole Hamels, is scorching.  There was talk during the off-season of having him start in Reading or possibly even Scranton, but his constant injuries required another look at the single A level.  In his first two starts of the season, he recorded 16 strikeouts in 11 innings while allowing 0 runs scored.  Yesterday, in his third start, he was knocked around for 7 hits, 4 runs (3 earned) but still fanned 8 banners.  In taking the loss, his ERA jumped to a mere 1.72.  Baseball Prospectus likes to remind us that striking out batters is much more difficult the further up the farm league you progress and Florida State League pitchers average 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings.  But even they would be impressed with Hamels’ current ratio of just over 13 Ks per 9.

Other Threshers worth mentioning are Rule 5 pickup Chris Booker and the Phillies 2005 second round draft pick and Archbishop Carroll grad, Mike Costanzo.  Booker, on injury assignment, has given up 4 earned runs with 10 strikeouts and just one walk over 6 innings of relief so far.  Although the Phillies desperately need some bullpen help, he’s going to have to improve a bit more if he expects to join the Phils soon and avoid being returned to his previous team.  Costanzo meanwhile started off strong, but has cooled off as of late and is batting .217/.250/.348 with 13 strikeouts and 10 hits in 46 at bats.

Moving up a level to Reading, the troika in the starting rotation of Scott Mathieson, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood have all looked sharp.  Although Mathieson and Haigwood have ERAs in the 5.00-6.00 range but with high strikeout counts, Gio is the one making the most noise.  Although he has yet to record a decision in his two starts (each of which lasted 6 innings), he has allowed 0 runs on 7 hits with 13 Ks and 4 BBs.  I could see these three pitchers being promoted to Scranton before the end of the year, but as soon as someone from Scranton is moved to Philly, the 20-year old Gonzalez should be the first to fill that roster spot.  Before moving on to Scraton, it should also be noted that relievers Dan Geise and Steve Langone are also pitching well, neither of whom have surrendered run this year (only the least-used reliever, Rheal Cormier, can make that claim on the Phillies).  Also, Jason Jarmillo – who may give Carlos Ruiz a run for his money as the next Phillies catcher – currently has a .733 OPS and centerfielder Michael Bourn is a perfect 9-0 in stolen base opportunities.

In Scranton, Chris Roberson (.238 AVG) and Chris Coste (.186 AVG) who battled for the 25th spot on the Phillies roster this Spring Training have shown that perhaps they belong in Scranton for the time being.  But the big name is of course Carlos Ruiz, Mike Lieberthal’s heir-apparent.  Offensively, he’s exploding so far with a .368/.405/.763 line, a team-leading 4 HRs and just 5 Ks in 38 ABs.  He is certainly showing that if Lieberthal or Fasano go down, he’d be ready to jump behind the plate.  To Lieberthal’s credit however, he is keeping Ruiz at bay with a decent start to the season – offensively at least.  One of the major attributes scouts have commented on is Ruiz’s ability to call a good game, so the sooner he gets a chance to gel with the current staff the better.  Within his current staff in Scranton, Matt White is impressing with a 2-0 start and a 1.38 ERA.  Clay Condrey and Travis Minix have pitched sufficiently in relief, but the most likely band-aid for the Phillies pen, Yoel Hernandez, has a win to go along with 3 saves and a 0.00 ERA.  Eudo Brito has not pitched particularly well in his two starts, but as should be remembered with all these updates, the seasons are still young and these are all minor league statistics.

The Phillies farm system certainly have potential but not all the most talked about players coming into the season have lived up to expectations; but so goes the Phillies organization in general. Let’s hope the youngsters can provide some fresh blood and energy to the major league team sooner rather than later.

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