Thursday, June 08, 2006

Heroes All Around

A lot of heroes in yesterday’s game, so let’s get right to them:

Ryan Madson gave the Phils his best start ever and at precisely the right moment. Following Cole Hamels performance the night before, Madson worked 7.2 innings allowing three runs, striking out three and walking none. His effort could go a long way toward stabilizing the rotation.

Chase Utley drew a walk in the first inning and scored all the way from first base on a double by Bobby Abreu. Small ball at just the right time and naturally Utley was in the middle of it. Even when he goes hitless the guy is invaluable.

J-Roll did his best Albert Pujols imitation, going upstairs to nearly tomahawk a three run homer.

Abraham Nunez, the forgotten man on this squad, started at third base and made three excellent plays, one of them a diving stop. Despite his infrequent appearances and season-long hitting woes, the guy came to play. That says a lot about his character. Now, Charlie should give him more opportunities.

With Aaron Rowand getting a day off, Shane Victorino started in center field and made a terrific running catch late in the game. He looked like…well…Aaron Rowand now that you mention it.

Sal Fasano, banged up and limping slightly at the end, matched a career high of four hits in a game. As it was, he ended the day a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Had he done that, his bat would be bound for Cooperstown and his body for an oxygen tent.

Then there is Ryan Howard. There are so many reasons to like this kid. The great temperament; the home runs; the rbi’s; the good glove despite the eight errors. (He made a terrific diving stop of a ground ball late in the game.)

What impresses me most, however, is watching a young guy in his second year (really his first full one considering he did not become a regular until his call-up in July of last year) make adjustments from AB to AB, not “merely” game to game.

In the first inning of yesterday’s game he looked bad. Very bad. Rookie right-hander Justin Nippert made him look awkward the entire AB before striking Howard out on a breaking ball. By the next AB he had already adjusted…to the tune of a two-run home run deep to centerfield. Pitchers are trying to keep the ball inside on Howard, not allowing him to extend those massive arms. They think they know where the holes are in his swing, but he knows, too.

There’s no quit in this kid.

As a team the Phillies pulled off a minor miracle, sweeping the previously hot Diamondbacks in Phoenix. They concluded the western portion of their eleven game road trip with a 5-2 record. Last year an equally impressive western swing propelled the Phillies to their hot run at the end of the season. Perhaps they are getting started a little earlier this year.

Tonight, they send Eude Brito to the mound against the Nationals at RFK Stadium. The young southpaw will be pitching to maintain the Phils’ momentum as well as keep his spot in the rotation. As it stands right now, he should have plenty of help as nearly everyone on this squad is contributing.

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