Friday, April 4, 2008

Phillies Cruise Behind Utley Homers

First it was rain, then it was Fogg, but it was Chase Utley providing the thunder, as the Phillies defeated the Cincinnati Reds 8-4.

After giving up five runs in the first inning to the Nationals yesterday, it was the Phillies in attack mode from the start today, after a 1 hour and 40 minute rain delay. Pat Burrell blasted a Josh Fogg fastball into the upper deck for two runs and the Phillies gave Kyle Kendrick a 3-0 lead to work with. In Kendrick's first inning of the season, he gave up an RBI single to Ken Griffey Jr., then loaded the bases with two outs before a Joey Votto ground-out ended the threat.

That seemed to be the trend for Kendrick tonight. He flirted with disaster in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th innings, but let up only 4 runs. While giving up four runs in five innings is nothing to write home about, Kendrick exercised good damage control considering all the trouble he created and he never surrendered the lead.

Of course, the Phillies bats had a lot to do with that aspect. Chase Utley gave Kendrick two more runs to work with as he launched a two run shot off of Fogg in the 3rd, then hit another, his second of the game and third of the young season, against Jeremy Affeldt in the 5th. That gave the Phillies a 7-4 lead. Shane Victorino drove in So Taguchi with an RBI single in the 9th for the final run of the game.

Kendrick's start was less than impressive, but it was good to see him pitching under control in the tight spots. Granted, it would be preferable for him to avoid such situations in the first place, but nonetheless for a young pitcher he showed very good poise. The bullpen excelled, as the Phillies got two scoreless innings out of Ryan Madson and a perfect inning apiece from Rudy Seanez and J.C. Romero.

While it may not matter for long with Brad Lidge supposedly returning on Saturday, it was notable that Charlie Manuel turned to Romero in the ninth inning. It was no longer a save situation because of the Victorino RBI, but the fact that Romero came in could signify a change in the bullpen pecking order. Romero faced the 8-9-1 hitters, so if Manuel was just looking for someone to eat the final inning, he could have gone to Chad Durbin. For most managers, a four run lead will be treated about the same as a three run lead, even if it's not a save situation, so this may mean that Romero is now the backup closer.

It's also possible that the only reason Tom Gordon didn't pitch tonight was because he threw 34 pitches last night, potentially having nothing to do with either the fact that it took him 34 pitches to get through one inning or the poor quality of those pitches. With Lidge joining the team tomorrow, there's no way to know who Manuel assigns to the role of backup closer, but it will be interesting to see who gets the call in the 8th inning, now that Romero was entrusted the 9th, if only for one game.

All that said, the offense, Utley and Burrell in particular, was the key to tonight's win. Hopefully they saved some of it for tomorrow's game, as Adam Eaton will likely need all the help he can get.

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