Friday, June 13, 2008

Howard Makes Himself at Home in Phillies Rout

Todd Wellemeyer missed his last start due to a minor elbow injury. The Phillies ignored the elbow and instead went to work on his pride, scoring eight runs off Wellemeyer and demolishing the Cardinals 20-2.

This has been a strange season for road teams, as Jayson Stark reported, with only three teams able to boast winning road records. The Phillies and Cardinals are two of those teams and the Phillies seemed to benefit from being the road team tonight. They got the first chance at the plate and certainly made the most of it. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell put up back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning, giving Kyle Kendrick a 3-0 lead before he had to step onto the field.

That would have been enough for Kendrick, who pitched one of his best games of the season, scattering eight hits over seven innings and allowing just one earned run. While Kendrick may not have needed extra help, the Phillies were happy to provide it.

In the fourth inning, Kendrick hit a ground rule double, Jimmy Rollins walked, and Shane Victorino singled to set up a two RBI single from Utley. That chased Wellemeyer and made it a 6-1 game. Ron Villone replaced him, but didn't fare much better. The Phillies kept slugging and piled on seven more runs before Howard struck out to end the nine-run inning. Kendrick even got an RBI single later in the inning. The Phillies severely tarnished the ERAs of both Wellemeyer (who came into the game with a 7-1 record) and Villone. Wellemeyer's ERA jumped from 2.93 to 3.67 and Villone's went from 3.91 to 5.67.

And yet, the Phillies offense wasn't quite done. Howard, playing in his hometown, launched a three-run shot, his second home run of the day (and 17th of the year), in the sixth inning. That put the Phillies up 17-1. Charlie Manuel had already declared the game won by that point. He pinch hit for both Utley and Burrell in that same inning. Amazingly, even with the substitutions, only Jimmy Rollins and pinch hitter Greg Dobbs went hitless in the game. Rollins went 0 for 4, but still walked three times.

Despite the blowout, there was some late-inning drama. In the top of the eighth, Russ Springer hit Ryan Howard with a pitch. Home plate umpire Larry Vanover deemed it intentional and ejected Springer, drawing a long argument from Tony La Russa that ended in La Russa being tossed as well. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Rudy Seanez threw a pitch that went behind Brendan Ryan. Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo argued it was a retaliation pitch and Seanez should have been ejected as well. Vanover felt differently and instead it was Oquendo who hit the showers early.

By that point the score was 20-2 and Seanez's ejection would have been no more than a minor nuisance for the Phillies anyway. Condrey pitched the ninth inning to finish off the game. Tonight's win was extremely impressive. The Cardinals may have been missing Albert Pujols, but even his bat would not have saved St. Louis tonight. The Phillies got hitting from the usual suspects (Utley, Howard, Burrell) but also from several unlikely candidates. Carlos Ruiz went 4 for 6 with 4 RBIs, both career-highs, and Kendrick got two hits of his own.

Also impressive was Kendrick's pitching performance. It's certainly easier to pitch a good game when you have a huge lead, but, despite the eight hits, Kendrick did his part to keep this one a blowout and his seven innings allowed the Phillies to give the bullpen regulars a well-deserved rest. The win put Kendrick's record at 6-2, which is partly due to his recent success and partly a result of excellent run support. In fact, the Phillies have won 10 of Kendrick's last 11 starts, and the one loss was a one-inning "start" that was cut short due to a rain delay.

The next game will feature Adam Eaton and former Phillie Kyle Lohse. Both were ineffective for the Phillies last year, but have turned it around in 2008. Eaton is 2-0 in his last three starts and has had four straight quality starts. Meanwhile Lohse has won four straight and sports a 7-2 record. Will the Phillies get the Lohse they remember from last year, or the revamped version?

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