Thursday, April 05, 2007

Braves @ Phillies: Game 3/162

Braves 8 - Phillies 4

Today's game was a complete disaster, so in an effort to minimize the negativity, the recap is a good bit more random than last night's. I also decided to mix things up by ditching the bullets - I didn't like the look as much as I thought I would. Instead of ugly round circles, please enjoy a series of disjointed paragraphs that appear as though they were written at a fifth grade level (if that). Happy reading!

Phillies starter Adam Eaton got knocked around, yes, but I'm here to tell you that his performance was not quite as bad as his final line (4.2 IP 7 H 7 ER 4 BB 3 K) looks. He was unquestionably bad, no doubt about that, but there were a few positives here and there if you really squinted hard. Let's see...what went well for Eaton today. Well, first off it's nice to see that he's managed to stay healthy so far - I was half-expecting him to find a way to swallow the rosin bag and have to go on the 15-day DL while recovering from getting his stomach pumped. What else went well for Eaton? Truthfully, his stuff looked solid when it wasn't getting smacked all over the field. His fastball was hitting 93 MPH on the gun and his curve (76-79 MPH) showed signs of being a solid secondary offering. It's not a whole lot, but at least it's something to build on.

I commented on Ryan Howard starting and ending a beautiful 3-6-3 double play last night. In the first inning of today's game, Howard found himself fielding a groundball that put him in the exact same position of being the man to start a key inning ending 3-6-3 double play. Unfortunately for all involved (except for those anybody out there associated with the Braves, of course), Howard's throw to Jimmy Rollins covering second was the SINGLE WORST THROW IN THE HISTORY OF NOT ONLY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, BUT THE SPORT OF BASEBALL ITSELF. Do yourself a favor and see if you can track down a replay, it was that bad. If you didn't know any better, you would honestly think that Howard wasn't throwing to Rollins at all but was instead trying to hit Pat Burrell out in left field. The big man now has two errors in three games and could have easily been given the error on the play Wes Helms botched last night. Subpar fielding like this is a heck of a lot easier to take when you are hitting...something Howard isn't doing a whole lot of at this point. Again, please keep in mind that I say all of this knowing full well that it's only been three need to panic about Howard's game quite yet.

By the way, that error on Howard cost the Phillies big time. You can't assume the double play (something I find dumb so I'll ignore), but if you were the type that enjoyed assuming things (hey, like me!) then you'd realize the Phils would have been out of the first inning unharmed. The error continued the inning and Eaton gave up the first 2 runs of his 2007 campaign. Perhaps a teeny bit more evidence that Eaton pitched a tad better than his line indicated (I'm really reaching to find positives here, folks).

Jimmy Rollins lead off the game with a great at bat against Chuck James and never looked back. The Phillies shortstop was 2-4 with a walk on the day and has now walked 4 times in the first 3 games. His approach at the plate is noticeably different than in years past and

Chuck James really has a heck of a changeup. Fans who watched the Phils-Braves series had the pleasure of seeing three of the best changeups in the National League - Cole Hamels and Chuck James are both young lefty starters with plus changes, and the 0-2 Ryan Madson's best offering remains his filthy slow ball (it's hard thinking of synonyms for changeup).

Braves first baseman Scott Thorman made a sensational play on a mile high (literally, a mile...maybe three) Ryan Howard pop up in the bottom of the fourth. The wind was making every ball hit in the air an adventure, but Thorman handled Howard's rainmaker with aplomb.

Great to see Joe Bisenius make his major league debut - his fastball impressed (91-93 MPH with movement) and his slider looks like a legitimate strikeout pitch. Bisenius was rather rudely greeted to the bigs by Atlanta, but after surrendering a leadoff double he settled down quite nicely.

Clay Condrey: 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the addition of Francisco Rosario put as much pressure on Condrey to perform as it did Bisenius. Everybody assumes that Bisenius will be the one sent down (and I don't disagree), but I think a bad outing today by Condrey would have made the Phillies wonder whether he was worth keeping around anymore. I'm glad he pitched well, glad he'll stick around, and I look forward to future successes by the underdog reliever with the fringy stuff.

Ryan Howard had too shots to make the game interesting with a deep fly in today's game, but couldn't deliver. I'm not knocking the guy, in fact it's quite the opposite - expectations are sky high based on his 2006 MVP season, I almost expect him to a hit a home run in every big spot. The fact that he struck out in both the fifth and seventh with two men out each time was disappointing, but hardly a reason to think the sky is falling.

Top of the 8th inning, Citizens Bank Park, Phillies vs. Braves: "Burrell Sucks" chant breaks out in the crowd. I'm not going to obsess about the Burrell bashing like I did last season with all the Abreu hatred because it's simply not worth the time and effort getting mad about people who don't have a clue about what makes a good ballplayer. For the record, Burrell went 2-4 on the day with a BB, R, and RBI.

Antonio Alfonseca looked shockingly good. I know I've been saying this a lot lately, but it was just one game...even still, it was a pleasant surprise seeing El Pulpo hitting 94 MPH with his fastball. I liked the signing of Alfonseca at the time (low risk, relatively high reward) as long as the Phillies show they are willing to cut bait if he struggles. Hopefully, he'll continue to impress and it will never come to that. Keep it up, Pulpy.

I realize I never gave a full 2007 Phillies preview of any kind during the offseason, so I think a lot of my predictions/concerns dealing with the coming months will trickle out over the course of the next few game recaps. Having said that, let me now point out that I am absolutely terrified about the prospect of Jamie Moyer getting the ball every fifth day. I hope more than anything I am proven wrong, but I have a sinking feeling in my gut that '07 will be a season to forget for the ancient former Mariner. Tomorrow night's matchup against Miguel Cabrera has already got me worried and the first pitch won't be thrown until just about 20 hours from now. Prove me wrong, Jamie.

I'd also like to point out that Thursday was opening night in the minor leagues. If you can remember back to last season, this site got quite minor league heavy in coverage at times. It was pretty well received, so I'm hoping to keep it up into the 2007 season. Hopefully that will officially start up tomorrow. We'll also take a closer look at the addition of Francisco Rosario...a trade that gives me hope that the game hasn't quite passed Pat Gillick altogether.


Blogger GM-Carson said...

Overall the team is playing collectively bad. It's easy for me and others to point at Gordon, Madson, and Eaton. I personally am pointing at Howard. Seriously, his offense is abysmal, defense is horrid, and his baserunning is subpar. He'll be fine, I'm confident in that, but right now he's hurting this team. Yet the idiot fans still boo Burrell any time he doesn't get a hit.

7:13 AM  
Blogger XXX said...

I can't help but agree with everything you wrote - the offense, defense, and baserunning have all been pretty miserable through the first three games. Rollins, Utley, and Burrell (and to a lesser extent Ruiz and Rowand) have been the only bright spots in the lineup thus far. There is a ton of pressure on Victorino (first time starter batting in the crucial 2-hole), Howard (obvious reasons), and Helms (balancing the back end of the lineup) to start performing. Funny that these 3 guys who aren't hitting also happen to be guys screwing up in the field and on the base paths. Baseball is a weird game.

I feel better for getting that off my chest.

4:28 PM  

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