The only moving part most of us have been worried about lately threw a rod Saturday afternoon as the Phillies held on to beat the Marlins 8-6. Ryan Madson and Flash Gordon made a comfortable late-inning lead mighty uncomfortable by serving up three home runs between them in the eighth and ninth innings.
Why Charlie Manuel felt compelled to bring in Gordon with a four run lead after the veteran right-hander had worked the night before is a mystery to me. Gordon isn't that far removed from a stint on the Disabled List for shoulder problems. Surely there were alternatives that could have allowed the Phils to avoid using him for a second straight game while saving him for the two games ahead, but that would have meant thinking outside the box, not a strong suit with most baseball managers, especially this one.
Until Madson and Gordon melted down, the little red engine was humming along quite nicely. The top of the batting order was getting on base, the middle and bottom of the order were driving them in, and the starting pitching continued the trend of going deep into the game, at least by modern standards. Brett Myers even went deep into the game the other night by ancient standards, throwing a complete game.
Jimmy, Shane and Chase banged out ten hits in 15 AB’s in the victory. Chase has rediscovered his batting stroke at precisely the right moment. Ryan Howard had one hit in two official at bats. He was hit by another pitch and intentionally walked twice. Interestingly, the Marlins did pitch to him twice with all those base runners ahead of him. The first time he struck out. The next and last time up, men were on first and second when Howard swung and missed at a pitch that got by catcher Miguel Olivo for a passed ball. When the runners moved up to second and third, Joe Girardi ordered Howard intentionally walked. It was the right if locally unpopular move. The fact remains the Marlins did pitch to him, or intended to, twice in a row underscoring the notion Rob Parent made this morning in the Inquirer and I elaborated on. (See the post below.)
Jeff Conine also contributed significantly to the outcome after coming in as pinch-hitter. Following years of watching Conine the Marlin drive a stake into the Phillies’ collective heart, it more than a little satisfying to see him turn the tables on his former team. Conine had two hits and three rbi’s on the day. (As an aside, Miguel Olivo seems to be bidding to replace Conine as the resident Phillies-killer.)
Carlos Ruiz also had a fine day at bat and behind the plate, going 2 for 4 and driving in two runs to pad the Phils’ early lead after Rollins, Victorino and Utley hit consecutive singles to open the game. In the bottom of the third he doubled home another run.
A lot of people have been clamoring for Ruiz to play more. Last year, Chase Utley was the cause celebre as everyone begged he be given the starting job at second base. Once that wish was fulfilled, the cry went out to get Ryan Howard’s bat up to the big leagues permanently and into the every day lineup.
After watching the latter two develop into frontline stars, literally since both were named All Stars this past summer, it is difficult to fault the Phillies for the way they bring some players along.
The exception to their cautious approach is Cole Hamels. Of course two things dictated his call-up: the Phillies were desperate for starting pitching and Hamels seems to have exhausted whatever minor league batters or pitching coaches could teach him.
It may be a cliché to write this, but right now a lot of different players are stepping up and contributing to the Phillies’ success. It would be a real shame if they fell short this time. The feeling remains the bullpen holds the key.