Thursday, April 24, 2008

Burrell's Clutch Double Wins It

When Jamie Moyer put runners at the corners with no outs in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game, it looked like Charlie Manuel had done it again. Last night, Manuel was slow to pull the starting pitcher, Cole Hamels, and he served up a game-winning home run to Prince Fielder. Today, Manuel was slightly quicker to action, calling in Tom Gordon. Gordon struck out Tony Gwynn Jr., walked Jason Kendall, struck out Rickie Weeks, and got Gabe Kapler to ground out to short to end the inning. Gordon's bullpen heroics allowed Pat Burrell to put the Phillies on top in the eighth inning with a two-out double that scored Greg Dobbs and Chase Utley. Burrell's double proved to be the difference and the Phillies took the game 3-1.

Moyer had his best start so far, going six innings and allowing only one run, which came on a Ryan Braun RBI single in the third. Jeff Suppan shut down the Phillies until the sixth inning, when Jayson Werth hit his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to tie the game at 1-1. Suppan would finish the game after seven innings, allowing only one run, and striking out three.

As soon as Suppan left the game, the Brewers started to miss him. David Riske struck out the first two batters in the top of the eighth, the first of whom was pinch hitter Ryan Howard, but then gave up a walk and a single to Dobbs and Utley, respectively. That brought Burrell to the plate with two on and two out. Riske (Could there be a better name for a relief pitcher with a 7.36 ERA?) got two strikes on Burrell, before he lined a double to left field for two RBIs, giving the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

Burrell was promptly replaced by T.J. Bohn (surprise!) and Howard stayed in the game at first base. With two innings to go, it was up to the bullpen, and it delivered once again, as it has been apt to do this year. J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson combined for a perfect eighth inning and Brad Lidge allowed a Craig Counsell single before getting Jason Kendall to fly out to end the game.

As mentioned earlier, Howard only entered the game as a pinch hitter, and struggled off the bench, striking out twice in as many at-bats. It was not a total shock for Howard to get the day off, as his batting average is now down to .176. The Phillies need to find some way to get Howard going, but using him as a pinch hitter probably isn't it. Perhaps moving him down in the order would loosen him up a bit. He'd look just fine hitting fifth, and Burrell looked awfully good in Howard's customary clean-up spot today. If there's one thing Manuel has proven he is good at (and there may only be this one thing), it's dealing with struggling hitters. He seems to have figured out Burrell, who could be on his way to a career year, so maybe he can help Howard break out of this slump.

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