Saturday, July 17, 2010

Polly gets his cracker

Wow, guy's first game back from the DL. It almost seemed like it was supposed to happen that way.

It was Placido Polanco's only hit of the game, and it started the Phillies' four-run rally in game that came within one out of their third straight loss to the Cubs. Polly got some help on the other end, as Brian Schneider was out by a mile after trying to score from second base, but Geovany Soto let the excitement of a game-ending tag get the best of him. He barely allowed the ball to deflect off the top of his glove before he went lunging for his counterpart. In Bob Uecker's ironical vain, Schneider would have been "out by an eyelash," at the plate, but he instead scored the Phils' tying run.

Sadly, it's becoming routine in the eighth and ninth innings to beg the Phillies to keep rallies going because you never know which Brad Lidge you're going to get in the ninth. Luckily, patience above all else led to the promised land. Five of the nine batters in the frame drew walks, including a rare one from Jimmy Rollins. And though Jayson Werth couldn't put the ball in play, it was refreshing to see him do something else in a crucial, late-game moment than strike out.

I must also give big props to Raul Ibanez for tearing down the line on a weak grounder to Derek Lee that turned into an RBI infield single when James Russell couldn't cover first base in time. Much has been made of Ibanez's lack of contributions to the team, but he's one guy who will bust out of that batter's box on contact, no matter where the ball is headed. He doesn't look 38 years old running down the line either.

There were so many good things to like about that inning, and the Phillie lineup is nearly whole again with Polanco back in there, but the offense continues to sputter along. Cole Hamels is looking better with every start, but the hitters didn't give him a single run. This was his eighth quality start of the season that did not result in a winning decision. Had Soto waited a fraction of a second longer, Hamels' 2010 record would have fallen below .500 yet again. Roy Halladay can definitely relate.

Doc and Hamels are the Philly's two best pitchers, but they are a combined 17-14 on the year. The Phillies have given them each an average of less than four runs per game, compared to nearly six for Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick. You can't expect the aces to keep piling up the goose eggs on the scoreboard every single time out.

OK...I expect that from Halladay, and we'll see what the Phillies give him tomorrow against Cubs hurler Tom Gorzelanny. The odds don't look good as the Philly bats mustered just three hits off him in a loss on May 19, and that was in one of the seven games this season they had all the regulars in the lineup. They need to break their current trend soon or they'll need binoculars to see how far ahead the Braves are in the division.

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