Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Moyer the Merrier

Jamie Moyer started last night against Scott Olsen, and after the Phillies had been edged out in two close contests, few, probably were expecting a pitchers' duel between the middle-of-the-road Marlins starter and the oldest active player in Major League Baseball to last very long in Miami's summer heat. Moyer, however, the consummate slowballer, seems to be affected by the passage of time in that it affords even more pitching experience from which to learn -- as this 3-0 Phillies win helped to demonstrate.

When he has his good control he's as tough a man to hit as any in baseball, and he proved it last night. He had his good control. This made for a tense matchup, as Olsen also seemed to have brought his. After Chase Utley lined a well-fielded single that could have been a double in the first inning, nobody at all reached base until the fourth, when the perfect game that some had already noted that Moyer had going was ended by a walk he surrendered to Jeremy Hermida. Hermida knew every base would count in a game like this one and stole second, but this meant nothing after Moyer had retired the rest of the side.

As the innings flew by and no player from either team managed to step across home plate, the pressure mounted on the Phillies not just to win but to give their starter some breathing room in the potential no-hitter that was beginning to shape up. Olsen was pitching them well, however, and sometimes when a team can't break through another's pitching, all it can do is wait for a break.

For the Phillies, that came in the sixth inning. Moyer himself, leading off the inning, got the Phillies their second hit of the game by poking a line drive to left. Jimmy Rollins, taking timely advantage of the fact that the pitcher had not made the first out of the inning but had reached base instead, moved him over to second with a ground ball single. The Phillies were threatening for the first time in the game, but soon they looked about to squander their opportunity, as Shane Victorino and Chase Utley made outs (albeit outs that moved the speedy Rollins to third and put the even speedier Victorino on base instead of the rather infrequent baserunner Jamie Moyer) , and slumping Ryan Howard came to the plate.

That's when luck kicked in. A wild pitch allowed Rollins to score, then a bad throw let the ball get away and allowed Victorino to come home and join him. Ending the inning in signature fashion, Ryan Howard struck out.

In the bottom of the seventh, Scott Olsen singled off Moyer to give the Marlins their first hit of the game. Turnabout is fair play.

The Phillies would tack on another insurance run when Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, and Jayson Werth all singled in the eighth, but they wouldn't need it. Charlie Manuel allowed Jamie Moyer to keep pitching through the eighth inning, and he finished the evening with only two hits and a walk to his name, to go with the eight shutout innings. Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless ninth for his eighteenth save to keep the Phillies from being swept, despite another fine pitching performance from a Marlins' starter.

Moyer's start was a gem, and just the kind of win the Phillies needed after losing two in a row on this important road trip. It's a competitive division, and the Phillies will need to work if they want to stay on top of it.

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