Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Phils Rally Against Mets in Shea Opener

It was a rough game for Chase Utley, but not in the conventional sense. He was hit by three pitches, plus an errant throw. The throw came in the 7th inning and allowed the Phillies to tie the game at 2-2. Shortly thereafter they would take a lead and never relinquish it, defeating the Mets 5-2 in the final season opener at Shea Stadium.

Jamie Moyer gave the Phillies a solid six innings, allowing only two runs and four hits, but he was outdone by Mets' starter Oliver Perez, who held Philadelphia scoreless over 5 2/3 innings. Perez has yet to allow a run in two starts this season, but poor control forced him to leave the game in the 6th inning, leaving the game up to the Mets bullpen. They had a 2-0 lead to work with, thanks to a Carlos Delgado home run, his first of the season, and a Ryan Church RBI ground-out.

Apparently some things never change. As it was so apt to do late last season, the Mets bullpen collapsed today, with much of the blame lying squarely on Scott Schoeneweis' shoulders. Brought in to face the Phillies' left-handed hitters in the 7th inning, with Pedro Feliciano apparently unavailable, Schoeneweis surrendered consecutive singles to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino before hitting Utley with a pitch. It was the third time Utley had been hit in the game, tying a Major League record.

Despite loading the bases with only one out, Schoeneweis stayed in the game to face Ryan Howard. This proved to be a wise decision from manager Willie Randolph, as Howard grounded to Delgado for what looked like an inning ending double play. However, Delgado's throw to second base bounced off of Utley's back and into the outfield, allowing Rollins and Victorino to score. With the game tied at 2-2, Pat Burrell flied out to right field to advance Utley to third, then Jayson Werth followed with an RBI single, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead, their first of the day. The Phils would tack on two insurance runs in the 8th inning, as Rollins hit an RBI single past Delgado and then Utley avoided a record 4th HBP by smacking an RBI double over Church's head in right field, making the score 5-2.

Unlike their New York counterparts, the Phillies' bullpen took care of business, though not without difficulty. Chad Durbin allowed two hits in the 7th, but, thanks to an Endy Chavez double play, the Mets were unable to take advantage. J.C. Romero needed 25 pitches, but he held the Mets scoreless in the 8th, despite allowing a Carlos Beltran double with one out. Then Tom Gordon [shudder] came in to pitch the 9th. To the surprise of more than a few Phillies fans (myself included), Gordon had an easy time of it. He downed the Mets in order and required only 11 pitches (9 for strikes) to do so, recording his first save of the season.

This was a very encouraging game for the Phillies, who were coming off a somewhat disappointing series in Cincinnati. The pitching match-up seemed to heavily favor the Mets, especially considering Moyer's disastrous debut against Washington, but the Phillies were able to work Perez hard enough that he was gone before the 7th inning. Because their hitters are so patient at the plate, with a few exceptions, the Phillies should be able to consistently tire out opposing starters and get to the other team's bullpen.

Victorino showed some good signs today, going 2-4 with a walk and making a couple impressive catches in the field. Most notable was the Phillies' pitching. Moyer pitched like his old (or maybe young) self and the bullpen held the Mets scoreless. While Durbin and Romero did just enough to keep the Mets off the board, Gordon worked an excellent 9th inning. It was a bit of a surprise to see him out there, but apparently Charlie Manuel is trying to ease Brad Lidge back into the closer's role. Considering the three-run lead and Lidge's 24-pitch outing yesterday, utilizing Gordon was not a bad idea. If Gordon can recover his control and his confidence (and both seemed to be there today), the Phillies could have a very impressive bullpen.

The Phillies are now riding a nine-game winning streak against the Mets, dating back to last season, but as they would be quick to admit, last season is old news. All that matters right now is they are 1-0 against the Mets in 2008.

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