Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back From The Shore

A week at the shore in Delaware has left me out of the loop though I was able to keep track via wrap-ups of the Phils' adventures on and off the field.  In no particular order:

Good pitching may beat good hitting but better pitching beats good pitching and good pitching always beats no hitting.  That sums up the Giants series, which was notable among other reasons for the ability of the Phils to dodge Tim Lincecum and the Giants to dodge Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  If there are any conspiracy theorists out there (probably just a few, eh?) NL All Star manager Bruce Bochy must have looked not far down the road and figured if he used the two Phils' aces he might miss them when his every day job brought him to the City of Brotherly Love.

Of course, it didn't help that the Phils stopped hitting after beating the Giants in the opener of the series.  Of course they may have stopped hitting because they faced damn good pitching.  The Giants remain formidable if for no other reason than their superb pitching staff, which is every bit as good as that of the Phils. For the Phils to make it back to the Series they are going to have to go through San Francisco.  They get a chance to even the regular season score when they go through there next week.

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Domonic Brown is the odd man out as Hunter Pence took up residence at his former address and Placido Polanco returned from the DL. Brown took his demotion to AAA hard, as one might expect, but he will be back and will get better. He's never going to make locals forget Gary Maddox in the field, but he should learn to hit. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Pence was a smart move by the Phils. They need his bat and his energy. Look at how he ran out that ball he hit his first time up in a Phillies' uniform. He was safe but Angel Hernandez, who is a terrible ump who seems to always get involved in something controversial in Philadelphia, called him out. First base should be the easiest of calls. You hear both the ball and the batter arrive and even if you do not clearly hear the batter, you should hear the ball and see the batter's foot.

Pence is further proof the Phils plan to win now. He may be theirs for a few years, but he was brought in at the cost of four prospects, two of which were the Phils' top prospects and listed among the top 25 in baseball, and he will be expected to be the right-handed batting difference-maker the Phils have needed all year. Whether or not the two top prospects pan out remains to be seen, but it is clear the Phils would rather find out what they have now not later.

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I did watch one game on ESPN, the one Cole Hamels lost to the Giants 2-1. Once again, national broadcasters got the gloss right but the substance superficial in talking about the local club whose fans know much more. And this was one of ESPN's better duos broadcasting.

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Chase Utley has started hitting with power again as well as for average. Couldn't come at a better time.

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It is painful to watch Ryan Howard flail away at breaking balls and off-speed stuff. It may be popular to contend all he really needed was a good right-handed bat behind him and certainly adherents to this perspective will note in Hunter Pence's first game Howard went 4-4; nevertheless, it's going to take a lot more than one game before I am convinced Howard doesn't need to do more for himself. He has never moved closer to the plate nor adjusted his stroke. Pitchers have been getting him out an awful lot the last few seasons on breaking stuff away and change-ups just about anywhere.

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