Monday, September 25, 2006
On Friday the Phillies won 5-2, largely on the strength of a three-run home run by Ryan Howard in the third inning and a superb six and two-thirds inning performance from Cole Hamels, who allowed just one run and K’d ten Marlins. The next day it was Lieber’s turn to be commanding on the mound, allowing just two runs on seven hits in seven innings, striking six Marlins out while not allowing a single walk or home run. (This is the sort of start that the Phillies thought Lieber would be hurling when they got him.) The surprise hero of the day was Carlos Ruiz, who went two-for-four with a walk and three RBIs. Jimmy Rollins got home run #23 as well. Sunday Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Chris Coste and Pat Burrell clobbered home runs in a 10-7 win for the Phillies. It was J.Roll’s 24th home run of the season. Jamie Moyer hurled a solid six innings, surrendering five runs, to get the win.
What really surprised me from the weekend were the contributions from players who weren’t even on the Opening Day roster: Hamels, Ruiz, Coste. The Phillies Young ‘Uns turned in a great performance this weekend. Ruiz went two-for-four with three RBIs on Saturday and Coste went five-for-ten with three RBIs and a run scored this weekend. Hamels? Well, Hamels is the Phillies best pitcher. These are significant contributions from guys who weren’t even going to play this season. The farm system is doing something right.
So the Phillies go back to Citizens tonight to play the Houston Astros. The Phillies send Randy Wolf (4-0, 5.47 ERA) against the Astros rookie pitcher Matt Albers (0-2, 6.00 ERA). This is the final home game of the season for the Phillies, aside from the post-season (?) I hope Citizens is filled to the brim with screaming Phils phans for this one. You’d have to give the edge here to the Phillies here: the Astros are a below-average offensive team that actually hits worse in “clutch” situations like with runners in scoring position than the Phillies. Their pitching and defense is much better than the Phillies, but you have to figure they have negated their advantage in the former by sending a rookie against Randy Wolf, even though Wolfie is not having a good season: 1.82 home runs allowed per nine innings and 5.11 walks per nine innings allowed.
Nice 38-24 win the Eagles got in the City by the Bay. (Pardon me for the quick diversion into football.) McNabb riddled the ‘Niners D for 296 yards and two TDs on 18-of-33 passing. The Eagles D scored a touchdown and did a good job bottling up the ‘Niners offense early before slackening off and allowing some cheap second-half yardage. Here are the 49ers yards by quarter:
1st Quarter: 12
2nd Quarter: 93
3rd Quarter: 177
4th Quarter: 90
The Eagles out-gained the ‘Niners 172 to 12 in the first quarter, and 318 to 105 in the first half.
My only gripe … well, my two gripes are that the Eagles turned in another miserable second-half performance and they really didn’t run the ball again.
First, the Birds netted -16 yards in the third quarter while the ‘Niners got 177. Time of Possession in the second half was lop-sided: the ‘Niners held the ball for 21:15 while the Birds had it for 8:45.
Second, the Birds really didn’t try to run the ball. Sure Brian Westbrook had 117 yards of rushing. He also only carried the ball eight times and 61% of those yards came on a single play. Look at what the Eagles did in their second-half drives: run by Westbrook for five yards, McNabb incomplete, McNabb incomplete, Punt. Next drive: McNabb completes a pass for negative one yard, Buckhalter runs for two yards, McNabb sacked, punt. Next drive: McNabb incomplete, Westbrook runs for seven yards, McNabb passes for five yards, McNabb passes for sixty yards, Westbrook rushes for touchdown eight yards. Next drive: Moats runs for eight yards, McNabb incomplete, McNabb incomplete, Punt. Next Drive: Buckhalter for three yards, Buckhalter for four yards, McNabb sacked, Punt.
Second-half play selection: ten passes, seven runs. They still need more balance.
Next-up: Monday Night against the 1-2 Packers and Brett Favre, who had his best game in probably a year or two yesterday against the Lions (25-of-35, 340 yards, three TDs). Not an easy game, plus the Eagles have to avoid the temptation of looking forward to October 8th against the Cowboys.
Back to baseball …
Wildcard Watch! … Teams that are officially eliminated from the playoffs? Colorado, Arizona, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Chicago Cubs … oh, yeah, and the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies can officially eliminate the Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants as well tonight with a win. At the moment the only way both teams could catch the Phillies would be to win every game and have the Phillies lose every game. Not likely. So it is really a three-way struggle for two playoff slot between the Dodgers, Padres and Phillies. This is going to be a fun week.
1. Philadelphia: 82-73
2. Los Angeles: 82-74 (0.5)
3. Houston: 77-78 (5.0)
4. Cincinnati: 76-79 (6.0)
5. Florida: 76-80 (6.5)
6. San Francisco: 75-80 (7.0)
One important element of the Phillies wild card drive this season has been the play of their catching corps. Earlier in the season, Sal Fasano was here and allowed Mike Lieberthal quite a bit of rest early in the season. In the second half, after trading Fasano to the Yanks, Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste, and also Mike Lieberthal, have all played. A rested Mike Lieberthal has responded with 8 HR in the 2d half and has slugged in the .400s; Ruiz is slugging in the high .400s and drove in 3 or 4 runs in a key ball game and got an intentional walk v the Marlins; and Chris Coste has on OBA of .333 and a slugging average of nearly .500.
Catcher is a position that in years past the Phils have had nearly no production from. Lieberthal in seasons where he has caught more than 100 games has tended to have a low OBA and not enought of a slugging % to justify his presence on the roster as a catcher. He is not all that great defensively either or handling the staff.
The young blood and new blood at catcher has been a big help to this team.
One would have to clearly give the credit to Pat Gillick for giving the farm hands a chance to play, even though Coste is 33 and Ruiz is 28. He clearly saw that Lieberthal was no longer the answer. Fasano was 34. He gave guys a shot because Gillick saw that there was a problem and he auditioned anyone who was willing to get up and be a home run hitting catcher.
--art kyriazis, philly