Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eaton Melts Down in the Desert

Adam Eaton has had some good starts this year. This wasn't one of them. Stephen drew hit a three-run homer as part of a five-run fourth inning from which the Phillies could not recover, losing to the Diamondbacks 6-4.

Eaton was shaky from the very beginning, giving up a double to Chris Young to lead off the game. Young would score on a Conor Jackson single, but Eaton worked out of a jam and only gave up one run. The Phillies would respond in the third inning, when Eric Bruntlett scored Eaton on a two-run shot to left off Diamondbacks starter Randy Johnson. This put Philadelphia on top 2-1. Eaton followed up with a 1-2-3 bottom of the third.

Then came the fourth inning. Eaton walked Justin Upton then surrendered a double to Mark Reynolds that was nearly caught at the right field wall by Jayson Werth. Miguel Montero walked to load the bases, but Eaton got Augie Ojeda (who filled in at second base for the injured Orlando Hudson) to fly out to shallow center. With the pitcher coming up, it looked like Eaton might wriggle his way out of another jam. However, his control left him and he walked Johnson on four pitches, bringing in the tying run. Young put the Diamondbacks on top 3-2, grounding into a fielder's choice, then came Stephen Drew, brother of the much-despised J.D. Stephen gave Phillies fans good reason to loathe him as well, as he crushed a 1-2 pitch into the seats. That made it a 6-2 game and spelled the end for Eaton.

The Phillies chipped away in the fifth and sixth. Bruntlett doubled to score Shane Victorino in the fifth and Werth hit a solo shot in the sixth to make it a 6-4 game. Philadelphia had a chance in the ninth inning against closer Brandon Lyon. Carlos Ruiz and Victorino had back-to-back two-out singles, but Bruntlett ended the game with a fly out.

There isn't much to take from this game except that Eaton had a miserable outing. He pitched two good innings and two bad ones. He was lucky to escape the first inning with only one run to his name. He was not so lucky in the fourth. The offense was solid, despite an 0 for 4 day from Chase Utley and a day off for Ryan Howard.

Benching Howard seemed an odd move, considering yesterday he went 1-4 with a walk and 2 RBI. Most likely the idea was to get another right-handed bat in the lineup against the left-handed Randy Johnson, as Howard is batting .132 against lefties this year, but Charlie Manuel might have been better served to keep him in the lineup, in the hopes of building of yesterday's solid outing. And it's not like they added a powerful bat in his place. Rather it was Brad Harman, who went 0 for 3. Howard entered the game later and struck out in his only plate appearance, so there's little evidence that he would have saved the Phillies today.

The good news for Phillies fans is that Jimmy Rollins should be back by Friday's game. Rollins hopes to return on Thursday, but the Phillies may play it safe and give him one more day to recover. If his rehab starts are any indication, the time off hasn't affected his swing. He went 2 for 4 with a home run tonight, after going 4 for 4 yesterday. The Phillies will no doubt be thrilled to have the reigning MVP back, even though they've done just fine without him. Even with today's loss, they are tied with the Marlins for first in the NL East.

The one guy you have to feel for is Eric Bruntlett. He's been playing very well of late, but he'll be relegated to the bench when Rollins returns. As the only backup middle infielder (once Harman is sent down), Bruntlett won't be the first pinch hitting option. Though, frankly, if Howard keeps struggling and draining Manuel's confidence, he could see some time at second base with Utley shifting over to first, as in today's game.

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