Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Howard Homers Twice as Phils Crush Nats

It looks like the Phillies finally figured out how to hit at Nationals Park. After scoring a grand total of one run in the first two games (and zero in the first 17 innings), the Phillies pounded the Nationals for twelve runs, six of which came off reliever Jesus Colome in an eight-run sixth inning that cemented a 12-2 Phillies win.

After they were dominated by such household names as Tim Redding and Jason Bergman the last two days, the Phillies were in no mood today. They got on the board against Nats starter Matt Chico in the first inning, as Ryan Howard doubled in Shane Victorino. Then in the second inning, Pedro Feliz continued his resurgence at the plate, belting a home run to left center to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

All was quiet for the next two innings as the Phillies bats stalled and Jamie Moyer quietly shut down the Nationals. Then in the fifth, the Victorino-Howard tandem struck again, as each launched a solo home run, putting the Phillies ahead 4-0. That would spell the end of the night for Chico and the beginning of a nightmare for Colome. Some Phillies fans might remember Colome from the season-opening series against Washington, when he gave the Phillies their first win by walking Jayson Werth with the bases loaded in the tenth inning.

Colome was equally kind to the Phillies tonight. He quickly loaded the bases as he gave up singles to Feliz and Chris Coste, let them advance on a wild pitch, and then walked Moyer. Jimmy Rollins singled in a run, then Victorino brought in three more thanks to a single and a Dmitri Young error. Chase Utley doubled in Victorino and that was all for Colome. Chris Schroder replaced him and was greeted by Howard's second home run of the night. Coste drove in one more run before Moyer struck out, ending an eight run inning in which the Phillies took a 12-0 lead. Colome was credited for six of those runs, while recording only one out, sending his ERA from 3.38 to 5.82.

With the game effectively over by the seventh inning, Utley took a seat in favor of Eric Bruntlett and Moyer was replaced by Clay Condrey (who should really be called "the Garbage Man" at this point). Condrey gave up a pair of runs in the seventh, but managed to successfully take out the trash, pitching the final three innings for the "save."

This was an excellent win for the Phillies, as Howard flexed his muscles and appears to have his confidence back and Moyer pitched six shutout innings. The only downside is, on a day when everyone seemed to be crushing the ball, Pat Burrell's May struggles continued. After showering in hits and RBIs in April, Burrell's bat has been pushing up daisies in May. He hit .326 in April with a 1.135 OPS, but in May he's down to a .190 BA and .707 OPS. He's still getting on base at a reasonable rate (.358 OBP), but his power seems to have abandoned him as he is slugging only .349. One has to think this will correct itself in time, as Burrell has always been a streaky hitter, but it has to be cause for concern.

That aside, nothing else was concerning about this game for the Phillies, who thoroughly dominated a weaker opponent and won the series and remained within 1.5 games of the division-leading Marlins.

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