Monday, April 7, 2008

Burrell and Friends Power the Phils

Pat Burrell was determined not to waste another good start from Cole Hamels as he hit two of the team's four home runs in a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jimmy Rollins started the game with a spark by leading off the first inning with a home run, his 27th career leadoff homer. Later in that inning, with Ryan Howard aboard, Burrell hit his first of two home runs on the day, giving the Phils an early 3-0 lead. After the Reds scored two runs off of Hamels, Burrell came back in the third with a solo shot. Geoff Jenkins followed with one of his own.

Hamels had another solid start, going seven innings with four strikeouts. He had a bit of a rough start, throwing about 20 pitches in the first inning and allowing two runs, only one earned, and eventually walked pitcher Bronson Arroyo in the second. After that, he settled down, and the overall effort was another quality start from Cole Hamels.

Tom Gordon, still attempting to reprieve himself for his acts as the closer, pitched a perfect eighth, and though Brad Lidge did get his first save as a Phillie, it took him a while to get there. It took loading the bases -- partly due to an error by So Taguchi ... Charlie Manuel's defensive replacement for Burrell -- and letting by an unearned run.

One has to start wondering whether we're going to see this kind of Pat Burrell all season, or if it's just another hot streak. He's looking a lot more aggressive overall at the plate, which is what made the difference last year. It may also help to have slugger Geoff Jenkins behind him as opposed to last year when he was hitting in the six spot and either Wes Helms (recently traded to the Marlins for cash, by the way) or Greg Dobbs was hitting behind him. But while all the home runs are great, everyone else needs to start hitting in general. If Shane Victorino can start hitting or getting on base somehow or other, it would give Utley, Howard, Burrell, or Jenkins another guy to cross the plate when they do homer.

At least Lidge seems to be providing some order and logic to how the Phillies' bullpen will work, which is exactly what he was brought here to do. So even if a guy like Jamie Moyer or Adam Eaton can only last five or six innings, they've got a couple guys who could be used in the sixth or seventh, Gordon can take the eighth (as he showed today... we think) and Lidge will take the ninth. Manuel will still have his fun with substitutions, mostly revolving around refusing to play Burrell beyond the seventh inning, though if Burrell keeps hitting as he has, Manuel may have to leave him in despite whatever he's convinced will happen if he does. Today, the defensive replacement idea didn't work out so well.

Today we saw the importance of an ace pitcher. He didn't have he greatest game, but he was solid and most things fell into place. But Pat Burrell learned from Hamels' first start that King Cole can't do it alone.

1 comment:

Brian Raab said...

While I agree that subbing out Burrell is generally a bad idea, it does sound like in this case it didn't hurt them. Yes, Taguchi made an error on a fly ball, but from the recap I read it seemed as if he had to run a pretty long way just to get to that ball. In other words, he dropped it, but it's a ball that Burrell might not get to at all.

The subbing is still a poor choice, especially considering A) how well Burrell's hitting and B) his place in the batting order. Later I'll write about why it's so stupid in greater detail, though I think it's pretty self-evident on a basic level.