Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Phils Stymied Once Again by Braves

After suffering a deflating 4-1 loss in the season opener, the Phillies had Monday off to think about the second game of the season. Apparently that was too much time...or not enough. Either way, the Phillies' bats looked rusty once more and the defending World Champions fell meekly to the Braves, 4-0.

While Brett Myers let the Braves get ahead after just a few batters, Jamie Moyer one-upped him (or one-downed him?) by falling behind in just one pitch. Moyer tried to get ahead of Kelly Johnson with a first pitch fastball, but instead fell behind on the scoreboard 1-0 as Johnson went deep.

It didn't get easier from there for Moyer. Chipper Jones would score later in the 1st on an error from Chase Utley and once again the Phillies stepped to the plate down 2-0.

On offense, the Phillies at least seemed to make a little progress from Sunday night, getting runners on base. However, they weren't able to make much use of them. The Phillies put two runners on in both the 1st and 2nd innings, but were unable to bring them home, as Jair Jurrjens got out of the two-out, two-on jams.

Meanwhile, Moyer didn't make it easy for them, as he would give up two more runs, one coming on a Jones solo shot. Moyer wasn't awful, but he gave up 4 runs in just 5 innings and, with the Phillies struggling to string hits together, that was more than the team could afford.

While the loss was frustrating, there were a few good signs. First, the Phillies were able to get on base and make the Braves pitchers work to get them out. This sort of approach worked for the Phillies last year and will work again this year in the long run. Second, the bullpen once again was stellar, even if it wasn't in pressure situations. The Phillies bullpen produced 4 perfect innings. One came from soon-to-be fifth starter Chan Ho Park, two from Jack Taschner (who also pitched a scoreless inning in the opener), and one from Clay Condrey.

The one other bright spot was the play of Raul Ibanez. He went 1 for 4, but the double he had was smoked (even though it bounced off the glove of Garrett Anderson), and he made a couple impressive defensive plays. In the fourth he made the defensive play of the day (with a little help from Carlos Ruiz), gunning down Casey Kotchman at home plate off a Yunel Escobar single. Then in the fifth he got a great jump on a Jeff Francoeur line drive and snared it. Neither of these plays showed outstanding defensive ability (indeed, Pat the Bat might well have made both), but after all we've been hearing about his poor defense, Ibanez has looked very solid in the field thus far. Granted, it's only been two games, but perhaps those accounts of Ibanez stumbling around left field were slightly exaggerated.

Still, while there were some positives, the obvious negative is the Phillies record, which currently stands at 0-2. They will improve (it's not like they're going to go an entire season scoring one run every two games), but it would sure be nice if that could happen sooner rather than later.

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