Sunday, April 23, 2006

7-10 (not 9-9...sorry about that)

Next up...the Rockies (sans Todd Helton) come to town

Fellow 1993 Expansioners the Colorado Rockies come to town for a three game set beginning tomorrow night, but first a look back at that other, two-time World Series expansion squad from '93 and the rain shortened two game set they played against the hometown nine that went down in South Philly this past weekend...

Friday: worst loss of the season (though I'm not at all on the blame Jon Lieber bandwagon just yet)...after a loss like that though, I don’t want to get too deep into the particulars (plus it was a whole weekend ago, who can even remember such things?)...
Saturday: rain, rain, and more rain…and a rough night for R.J. Umberger and the Flyers in Buffalo
Sunday: 4-2 victory over the Florida Marlins in one of the most entertaining ballgames of the season…

That win on Sunday included one of the best first innings of baseball that I’ve witnessed in a good long some other good (and not so good) things:

*** Brett Myers’ battle with Miguel Cabrera in the first inning was something. I thought he showed something in his willingness to pitch around the dangerous Josh Willingham (and to a lesser extent Mike Jacobs) knowing full well he could handle the far, far, far, far, less dangerous Matt Cepicky (his wife is reportedly named Nikki, I kid you not) - none of the typical macho stuff out of Myers, just smart baseball. It can be argued that the two walks amounted to wasted pitches out of the Phillies starting pitcher on a day when they needed him to go deep in the game not to mention the dangers of loading the bases under any circumstances…those are good arguments and, quite frankly, I don’t have much of a counter. All I can say is that it looked like Myers knew what he was doing in the first inning as he was doing it…it’s mostly playing a hunch, I guess, but that’s how I saw the situation as it unfolded before me.

*** The Phillies’ half of the inning was even more eventful. A great at bat by Jimmy Rollins ended with a single to right on a 2-2 pitch. Later in the inning, Rollins was able to advance to third base after an error by Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo trying to throw him out on a stolen base attempt at second. All this happened during a fascinating Bobby Abreu at bat: Abreu got ahead 3-0, didn’t get the green light (I’m assuming) at a 90 MPH batting practice fastball on 3-0, was fooled on a 3-1 changeup in there for a called strike, and then struck out on the 3-2 pitch that Jimmy Rollins stole second and then advanced to third on. Chase Utley’s at bat was just as interesting: he got ahead 3-1 and then had to guess at what pitch Marlins starter Sergio Mitre would throw him…to make a rather large generalization, a hitter will look for a fastball in a situation like this…but Mitre had just thrown a 3-1 change to Abreu and had shown much better overall command of his changeup than his fastball on the afternoon. Utley guessed right and hit what looked like a sure single up the middle. Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez made a great play to get to the ball and an equally good throw to just barely get Utley at first and rob him of an RBI and the Phillies of a 1-0 advantage. Utley was not happy with the call (he had every right to be annoyed, it was not the right call), slammed his helmet, and got tossed from the game…Charlie Manuel was also ejected after he came out to both defend Utley and argue the call a bit himself. The first base ump has a bit of a history with the Phillies too…old friend Dan Iassogna was the man to blow the original call, overreact to both Utley and Manuel, and generally make a fool of himself as he is wont to do.

*** How about today’s number five hitter? The 496 foot homer by Ryan Howard to begin the second was a sight to behold…it was a dead center field shot, above the batting eye backdrop/brick wall, and up onto Ashburn Alley where it reportedly bounced off the face of the Dick Allen plaque. The only ball I’ve ever seen hit as far was a batting practice homer by, who else, Barry Bonds last season. To hit a ball as far as Howard did, in a game situation, after your cleanup hitter and manager have just been tossed…it’s just not bad for a second year hitter.
Howard’s second homerun of the game was just as pretty – one of his classic opposite field shots that really show how special a player he is. This was also apparently the first multi-homerun game for Howard in his young career.

***The Phillies seem to be running Aaron Rowand pretty much non-stop in the early going of this year including the situation in today’s game with Nunez up and Rowand on second in the second. It is a questionable strategy at best considering he was a 76% base stealer coming into this season, but the stats may not tell the whole story (as much as I hate saying that) because the coaching staff may know something about Rowand’s game that we don’t. It’s possible anyway…

***Baseball is a marvelous sport – as soon as Utley gets tossed and David Bell comes in, what happens? How about those four straight batted balls hit to Bell right after he comes into the game after the first inning…then he follows that up by coming through with an RBI single in his first at bat hitting for Utley in the cleanup spot…what a crazy game, no?

***Florida’s catcher Miguel Olivo made two very strong throws to second early on, but Phillies baserunners were four for four stealing bags after five innings…(for the record, they eventually finished the game 4 for 4).

***Mike Lieberthal has got to be a smarter hitter than he has shown. He can’t go up there swinging at a 1-0 changeup that is low and away with a man on second and the pitcher due up next. He has to know by now that he really isn’t going to get anything good to hit in the 8-hole and that he needs to show a little patience in that situation. It must stink hitting in the 8-hole, I can understand that, but you’ve got to make the best of it by just swallowing your pride and taking what the pitcher is giving you.

***6 pitches in the third for Myers against the 1-2-3 hitters of the Marlins lineup followed by only 13 in the fourth against 4-5-6, very important numbers because Myers really needed some quick innings after laboring through the first two frames…10 batters were sent down in a row sent down by Myers at that point as well.

*** In the third inning, Rollins took off and stole second on what was easily the biggest jump I’ve ever seen on a stolen base attempt by the young shortstop.

***The leadoff man got on base for the first four innings for the Phillies

***Myers’ 3-pitch strikeout of Miguel Cabrera in the fifth was gigantic…Cabrera represented the tying run with men on first and second and two outs in the inning. Myers stayed low and away as Cabrera fouled off the first two pitches, but stayed in the same spot to get the Marlins’ best hitter to strike out swinging.

***What was with David Dellucci’s throw home on Miguel Olivo’s RBI single to left in the sixth? It didn't wind up mattering in the grand scheme of things in the ballgame, but that was one bad throw.

***New Phillies lineup (and I'll try to keep it semi-realistic): Rollins, Utley, Abreu, Burrell, Howard, Rowand, Lieberthal, Bell, Starting Pitcher (unless it’s Madson, he’ll hit third on days he pitches…)


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