Friday, July 4, 2008

Flyin Hawaiian Wins on Storybook Single

Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Two strikes. Man on second in a tie game. Playing division rivals. Since the Phillies don't have Roy Hobbs, perhaps bringing up Greg Dobbs would have been more appropriate. But Shane Victorino did exactly what the team needed, hitting an RBI single to right field to score Pedro Feliz from second as the Phillies beat the New York Mets 3-2 in the first game of a four game series.

Both the Phillies and Mets were held scoreless until the fifth inning, as Mets "savior" Johan Santana and Phillies stopgap J.A. Happ held the opposing teams to one hit apiece. In the fifth, Happ finally ran into some trouble, and after loading the bases allowed an RBI groundout to Jose Reyes. Happ loaded the bases again with a walk to Endy Chavez, and walked David Wright to give the Mets another run. With 4 2/3 innings under his belt, the 25 year-old lefty was taken out of the game for Chad Durbin. Durbin proceeded to pitch 2 1/3 innings in which he struck out all but one of the batters he faced.

In that time, the Phillies were able to score two runs in the sixth on consecutive RBI singles from Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell. Johan Santana stayed in the game and wound up throwing eight innings, striking out six batters. He was finally removed for Duaner Sanchez in the ninth, who struck out the two who had driven runs in earlier, Howard and Burrell, before giving up a double to Pedro Feliz and then the game-winning single to Victorino. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge (who got the win) relieved Durbin and each threw a shutout inning.

J.A. Happ looked pretty good, at least through the first four innings. In his one major league start last year, he allowed five runs in four innings and apparently was having control issues. Those control issues came back to haunt him in the fifth inning, but for the first four, he did a perfectly fine job. The fact that he was able to duel Johan Santana for four innings is quite impressive. Santana's 7-7 record doesn't mean a whole lot considering his 2.96 ERA and 109 strikeouts; the offense just hasn't backed his efforts. But Happ has certainly earned himself another look while Brett Myers figures out how to start again in the minors.

The fact that Happ did reasonably well is extremely lucky for the team, because they would be otherwise be scrounging around looking for someone else to do what Happ was able to do today: keep the other team in check enough for the offense to do its job. This is what eventually earned Kyle Kendrick a spot in the rotation last year, though the team is probably looking for a pitcher of a higher profile to lock into that last rotation slot. If Happ can prove successful, he could be a trading chip to acquire that high profile pitcher. For now, he can hopefully build on tonight's performance and continue to get better. If the team has extra starting pitching, that can't be considered a bad thing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After the game ended, SNY conducted a brief interview with Pedro Feliz, who scored the winning run. Is it just me or does Feliz get progressively more incoherent as the interview goes on? For my money he sounds like a hispanic Charlie Manuel with his rambling. But you can decide for yourself.

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