Thursday, May 1, 2008

Howard Lifts Phillies to Win

It's the top of the first inning and Adrian Gonzalez is at the plate with a runner on base. Gonzalez rips a ball out of the park, and the Padres have a two run lead in the first. Sound familiar? This time, those were the only two runs the Padres would score as the Phillies beat the Padres 3-2. 

After Gonzalez hit his first inning home run, Adam Eaton pitched five shutout innings, and the bullpen, once again, kept the Padres off the scoreboards. Former Phillie Randy Wolf also pitched six innings, also allowed two and, unlike Eaton, struck out eight. In the third inning, Shane Victorino, who started for the first time since coming off the DL, doubled. After Jayson Werth and Chase Utley struck out, Ryan Howard doubled, scoring Victorino, and Burrell followed suit with a double, scoring Howard. The game was locked at 2-2 until the eighth inning, when Howard hit a solo home run off Joe Thatcher. Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save, and Howard's home run turned out to be all the Phillies needed to win the game. 

Once again, Adam Eaton left the game before he would have been able to get the decision. In six starts, Eaton has yet to receive a decision. It's hard to know whether or not that means anything. Theoretically, it indicates how mediocre Eaton has been. After his first outing where he went 7 2/3 innings, he's never gone more than six. He's got a 4.72 ERA and 19 strikeouts on the year. Allowing 2 runs in this game has been his season low, but his season high is only four. The good news is that in his mediocrity, he's been quite stable, and while his numbers aren't terrific, it's certainly not the 6.29 ERA he had last year. Eaton and Jamie Moyer seem to be operating this year under the same basic principles: Allow about three runs in about six innings. With the Phillies offense and bullpen, that should be enough to win games. So it could be just fine in the long run. But today did look different for Eaton. He never looked particularly dominant, but the only problem he had was the home run by Gonzalez. Perhaps he'll be one of the Phillies who benefit from leaving behind the month of April. 

It's time for some "Questionable Decisions from Charlie Manuel." The score is 2-2 and it's the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, the pitcher was due to come up. Adam Eaton was already over 100 pitches, so it was likely that he was going to come out, so So Taguchi was brought in to pinch hit. However, Eaton was coming off a very quick 1-2-3 inning and could have been able to pitch the seventh. Also, Eaton batting would not have been the end of the world as he was likely to get out anyway, and the next inning would have led off with the top of the order. 

Then in the seventh inning, Ryan Madson was brought in. He got the first two batters out and then walked the next batter on four pitches. With Brian Giles coming to bat, Manuel pulled Madson for J.C. Romero. Romero struck out Giles. Tom Gordon and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect eighth and ninth respectfully.

At first glance, that all sounds logical and fine... except that the game was tied. Luckily, Howard hit his home run before Lidge was brought in, but what if the game had gone into extra innings? Madson, one of their long relief pitchers was already used and their lefty out of the bullpen had already been used. The game was managed as if the Phillies had a lead to protect. Once again, it turned out not to matter, but either way it seemed as if Manuel misread the scoreboard when he made those decisions. 

No comments: