Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maholm and McLouth Pillage Phils

Mostly I just wanted to make a pirate joke.

Paul Maholm pitched a complete game for the Pirates, allowing only an RBI single by Eric Bruntlett to score Pat Burrell. Leadoff hitter Nate McLouth hit two home runs off of Brett Myers, including one to start off the game, and the Pirates defeated the Phillies 5-1. 

Paul Maholm needed only 99 pitches to get through the nine innings. In other words, the Phillies offense was virtually non-existent. The Phillies' only two hits came from perhaps the most and least likely hitters: Pat Burrell doubled in the fifth, and Eric Bruntlett singled, scoring Burrell. But it's not as if the Phillies were striking out left and right. There were only two strikeouts, one of which coming from a pinch hit appearance by Chris Coste. There were some fantastic fielding plays by the Pirates, Xavier Nady and Jose Bautista in particular, but the Phillies just couldn't get the ball anywhere but to the fielders. 

It seemed like no one was able to get the offense rolling. Utley didn't do anything of interest, Howard's slump continued, and Pat Burrell hits too far down in the lineup to be trying to start anything. Perhaps if Feliz and Jenkins were hitting well and Jenkins was actually starting it would make a difference, but until that happens, Pat Burrell should not be hitting in the five hole. What would make a great deal of sense at this point is to bat Burrell fourth and Howard fifth. This would break up the three big Phillies hitters (not counting Rollins at the top of the lineup) into lefty-righty-lefty and give Burrell more opportunities to be productive without having an almost sure out right in front of him. It's very hard to imagine Howard performing like this all season, so at least until then, let the two big hitters from each side of the plate hit back to back. 

The other alarming aspect of this game was the continued degradation of Brett Myers. Apparently the issue is that Myers hasn't been throwing as hard as he normally is able to, and that is why he's been giving up more home runs. However, if he's going to be the ace of the team, he can't rely on his speed. He's got to find ways to get batters out without being able to blow them away with speed. If his speed is starting to decline, then perhaps it's a good thing that he hasn't remained the closer. Jamie Moyer should be able to teach Myers a thing or two about getting batters out without needing speed. That's what he's there for at this point, because Moyer's outings certainly haven't been impressive. If Myers can figure that out and then somehow get his velocity back, then he could absolutely be the ace the team needs him to be. That ability will also result in longer outings. In his six starts, only three have lasted longer than five innings. 

But even if Myers has a mediocre outing, the offense should be able to outscore the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's not as if the Pirates scored a million runs. They only scored five. Utley, Howard, Burrell, red-hot Jayson Werth, and some combination of Feliz, Taguchi, Ruiz, and Bruntlett should be accountable for at least one run apiece. Burrell and Utley are doing they're jobs (even if Utley took today off). Everyone else needs to step up. 

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