Sunday, May 4, 2008

Skill and Luck Both Contribute to Phillie Victory

In baseball, unpredictable errors are going to happen no matter what, and that's a fact that is far more pleasant to contemplate when they go your own team's way. A wild pitch and a defensive error allowed to Phillies to take this one 6-5 from behind from San Francisco, but it wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been able to turn luck to their advantage. In fact, none of the four runs that the Phillies scored off of San Francisco's starter Tim Lincecum were earned.

The winning run was scored by the Phillies' large first baseman Ryan Howard, who somehow managed to reach home plate on a ground ball that Giants second baseman Egenio Velez failed to reach. He's been slumping embarrassingly at the plate all season, and if he can't find a way to hit, then winning games with his baserunning is an unexpected but welcome way to try to atone. Howard may not look fast, but he's demonstrated on a few occasions that when nobody stops him he can build up some momentum. It's a good illustration of the principle that as important as being fast is being just a bit faster than they think you are.

Carlos Ruiz's solo home run was also instrumental to the win. The catcher has what's known as occasional power, and easy-to-overlook as that might be on a stat sheet, it comes in handy in a one-run game such as this one. Pat Burrell produced again with two runs batted in on as many doubles. Whether it's because it's his contract year (doubtful in view since he usually freezes under pressure), because his foot has finally stopped giving him trouble (which would also account for his improved fielding), or due to some small adjustment none of us can see, Pat Burrell has found a way to be "Pat the Bat" consistently this year, and it's been tremendously important. I never thought I'd say it, but maybe Ryan Howard could use some of his advice.

This 6-5 win, giving the Phillies their third series win running, was the 500th victory of manager Charlie Manuel's career (against 428 losses). In that regard, perhaps it's appropriate this time that the Phillies got their share of assistance from blind chance.

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