Saturday, June 28, 2008

Howard and Utley Back Hamels

Last night, Brett Myers was unable to hold the lead when the Phillies came from behind. Tonight, Cole Hamels was as the Phillies beat former Phillie Vicente Padilla and the Texas Rangers 8-6.

Michael Young put the Phillies in an early hole when he hit a two-run home run off Hamels, but in the second inning, the Phillies got three runs back, with a two-run single from Jayson Werth and another on a wild pitch by their old friend Padilla (of Padilla's Flotilla fame). If that wasn't enough, in the third inning Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit their respective 23rd and 20th home runs to give the Phillies a 6-2 lead. The Rangers got two more runs in the fifth, but a Jimmy Rollins triple in the sixth and an Utley double in the seventh gave the Phillies enough of a lead for the Phillies to hold on. The Rangers scored two unearned runs in the eighth thanks to a catcher interference call on Chris Coste.

Cole Hamels went seven innings, allowing four runs and striking out eight. Chad Durbin got two outs in the eighth, but after the second run scored he was replaced by J.C. Romero, who eventually struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the inning. Brad Lidge got into a little trouble in the ninth, allowing a double to Ramon Vazquez and a single to Michael Young, but was able to strike out All-Star candidates Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley to end the game.

Considering the slump the Phillies have been in, this was an important win. Chase Utley's three hits is a good sign and the team's ability to back Cole Hamels is key. The recent problems had been in the starting pitching and the lack of offense. The entire offense has been cold recently, but if Chase Utley can start to produce, the players around him should be able to support him. Howard has been on and off all season, and Burrell has been steady, though rarely the backbone of the offense. Speaking of those two, despite Burrell going hitless tonight, the switching of spots for Howard and Burrell should prove beneficial, as Howard's two-run homer showed. It will put Burrell in fewer two-out situations and also allow his .409 OBP to be put to use. The only issue will come when Manuel inserts his defensive replacement for Burrell. Eric Bruntlett or So Taguchi hitting cleanup leaves a lot to be desired. Putting in Greg Dobbs as the replacement would make some sense if Burrell hits cleanup, though it would give the Phillies three straight left-handed hitters. Toward the end of the game, that might not matter.

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