Friday, September 24, 2004

Unalloyed Pleasures

There are no unalloyed pleasures where the Phillies are concerned. Within their dramatic 10th inning win last night, completing a surprising three-game sweep of the Marlins in Florida, were a number of highs and lows befitting this mediocre season.

First the highs.

Jimmy Rollins, whose home run was the game winner last night, has established himself as one of the premiere shortstops in the National League. Rollins’ defense was never in question; his play is worthy of serious Gold Glove consideration. Where he has matured is at the plate. Rollins is becoming a more selective hitter especially when it comes to laying off high pitches, cutting down on his uppercut and swinging less for the fences. His batting average through last night is 19 points above his career average.

Chase Utley, in a rare start of late, proved once again why he belongs somewhere in the every day lineup, hitting his 13th home run in only 248 at-bats while driving in 54 runs.

Next, the mixed results.

David Bell continues to hit consistently and in the clutch. His average now stands at .299. But he also made his 22nd error of the season allowing Florida to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Closer Billy Wagner achieved a rare double last night, recording a win and blown save simultaneously. There ought to be a rule against being credited with a win under those circumstances. In his defense, the run scored on Bell’s error.

Now the lows.

Vicente Padilla surrendered a two run first inning lead on the road against Josh Beckett, giving up single runs in the first and second innings before allowing the Marlins to take the lead with two runs in the third and two more in the fourth. As has been the case throughout this lost season for Padilla, one is never sure which pitcher is going to show up, the dominating one or last night’s version.

Starting pitching remains the Phillies single biggest weakness going forward.

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