Placido isn’t going quietly. Neither is Chase. And apparently Billy intends to use all of the ballpark for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Bobby still approaches the wall as if it intends him bodily harm. And Brett has arrived.
It was quite a weekend series with Atlanta.
After Friday night’s meltdown, it appeared the Phils were slipping into a serious funk. They looked lethargic and outclassed by a Braves team that entered the game with an anemic offense. Five home runs later, the Phils had a three-game losing streak and the Braves had their two best pitchers on tap.
But the Phils had their two best pitchers scheduled as well. John Lieber, unflappable and largely unhitable thus far just takes the ball, throws strikes, works quickly, and departs a winner. At 35 years of age he has become the Phillies elder statesmen chronologically and temperamentally.
Brett Myers used to be at the opposite end of the spectrum on both of those counts, but no more. There is little doubt that when the season began, Myers was the great unknown of the starting rotation. Possessed of youth and great stuff, Myers only lacked the emotional maturity to work through difficult spots. Whether by osmosis or a change in pitching coaches or the arrival of Lieber or all three, Myers has been outstanding in April. Though 1 – 0, he could easily be 3 – 0. The bullpen cost him one win and a lack of support cost him another. Not only has he pitched brilliantly, he has also pitched deep into each game. And he appears more comfortable and confident.
Charlie Manuel seems determined to stick with the platoon setup at second base. Chase Utley’s heroics on Saturday, at bat and in the field, didn’t earn him another start with lefty Mike Hampton pitching for Atlanta. Utley did enter the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth with a chance to make it two-for-two in the heroics department, but he failed to deliver. So Placido Polanco seized the opportunity and knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth.
With no rumors to suggest either player is unhappy with the situation at present, it appears Manuel is sticking to his guns and playing each strictly by the book.
Billy Wagner, working for the third day in a row, again made things interesting. He gave up a one-out double to Brian Giles and then ignored him allowing Giles to steal third. After striking out Chipper Jones, Wagner induced Andruw Jones to hit a slow roller on which David Bell made a fine play to end the threat. The double by Giles might have been caught by a right-fielder who is able to play the wall better than Bobby Abreu can; as it was, the ball was a few feet from being a back-breaking home run. After serving up two warning-track fly balls the day before, Wagner is developing quite a tight-rope act. Last season he was overworked by Larry Bowa early in the year and ended up on the DL twice. Saturday’s performance, his second in two days, could hardly be attributed to overwork; yesterday’s might be another matter. But nothing can excuse ignoring the runner at second base and allowing him to steal third with one out. Fortunately, his infield bailed him out defensively for the second game in a row and then, an inning later, bailed out the entire team offensively.