Sunday, June 1, 2008

Phils Slug Their Way Back to Division Lead

One day after poor starting pitching from the most unlikely of sources put the game out of reach early on, the Phillies found themselves facing another deficit today. Mike Jacobs hit a three-run home run off Jamie Moyer in the third inning to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead and it began to look like another long day was ahead and that the Marlins would leave Philadelphia with a 1 1/2 game cushion.

However, the Phillies bounced back with stellar pitching from the third inning onward and timely hitting. The Marlins also lent a hand with fielding mistakes. Two such mistakes came in the bottom of the third. A throwing error by third baseman Jorge Cantu allowed Rollins to reach first and then take second. Then Shane Victorino flied out to deep center, allowing Rollins to advance to third. When Rollins made a slight turn, eyeing home, Hanley Ramirez fired to starting pitcher Andrew Miller, who was covering third base. The throw skipped away from Miller and Rollins scored. Chase Utley followed the bizarre sequence with a much more conventional one, belting his 20th home run of the season and make it a 5-3 game.

Afterward Miller calmed down and held the Phillies in check until he was removed after five innings. Doug Waechter replaced him and walked Pat Burrell to lead off the bottom of the sixth. After Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste recorded outs, Charlie Manuel called for Geoff Jenkins to pinch hit for So Taguchi. Manuel's decision paid off as Jenkins crushed a two-run shot into the right field seats, tying the game at 5-5.

Jenkins clearing the bases allowed Manuel to keep Moyer in the game, letting him strike out with the bases empty to end the sixth. Cody Ross led off the top of the seventh with a single and Jacques Jones attempted to sacrifice him to second base. Jones popped a bunt down the first base line that looked like a sure thing to fall in, but Ryan Howard made a superb diving catch to get the out and keep Ross at first. The next batter, Mike Rabelo, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

In the Phillies' half of the seventh, Victorino got a one-out single that chased Waechter. Lefty Taylor Tankersley entered and induced an Utley pop-out, but then hit Howard with a pitch. With Pat Burrell coming up, the Marlins turned to right-handed Logan Kensing. Kensing's first pitch got away from Rabelo, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Then Burrell delivered, as he so often has this season, hitting a broken-bat double to left field that gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead.

The two-run lead proved to be enough, as the Phillies bullpen got the job done once more. Tom Gordon walked Luis Gonzalez, but then retired the next three batters, and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Ross to end the game.

And so the Phillies took two of three from the former division-leading Marlins and currently hold a slender half-game lead on the division. The Reds come to town for a four-game set starting tomorrow. They have won five of their last six and are coming off a sweep of the Braves. However, their recent success has all come at home, where they boast a 19-10 record. On the road they have struggled to the tune of 9-19. In addition, two of their wins over the Braves were one-run games and both of those games required extra innings.

The Phillies are undoubtedly the better team, but the Reds have the firepower to give them trouble. There will also be something of a media circus for the Phillies to deal with, as Ken Griffey Jr. sits on 599 home runs and the Phillies pitchers will look to avoid being the answer to a trivia question by allowing no. 600.

1 comment:

Jeff Raab said...

It's worth noting that the only issue with this outing from Jamie Moyer is that Mike Jacobs gave him a lot of trouble. Overlooking what Jacobs did, Moyer pitched seven innings and only allowed one other run. Hard to know if the two runners that Jacobs cleared with the homer would have scored either way. It's possible with Moyer being under the pressure of having two men on that someone else would have gotten the hit. Were Jacobs not playing, it would probably have been former Phillie Wes Helms in his place. But Moyer had no trouble handling the bottom of the lineup, so more likely than not he'd have been able to get out of it with little to no damage done.

Also, apparently Jimmy Rollins knows how to handle Hanley Ramirez. Tom Gordon started off the eighth pitching to Ramirez and fell behind in the count. Rollins then had a conference with Gordon at the mound and Gordon proceeded to strike him out, and then breezed through the rest of the eighth inning.