Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ecstasy or agony

I discovered not long after Roy Halladay's arrival that he's a pretty boring quote, utilizing every cliche in the book to describe his success on the mound. But the few times when he's asked to chime in on topics outside the pitching realm, he's come up with some real gems. Halladay's two-out hit in the top of the third inning in last night's game against the Mets started a rally that brought the Phillies' 38-scoreless-innings streak at Citi Field to an end, and his description of hitting duality was so spot on, I had to use it to title this posting.

The pitcher-friendly Citi Field has been the site of much agony for slugging Philadelphia this season. Its embarrassing three-game series there in late May started an offensive funk that took two months to escape. New York's R.A. Dickey continued the trend on Friday night with a performance that rivaled plenty of others as the best of the season in this Year of the Pitcher.

Philly did not suffer the same fate on Saturday and received quite a bit of help in its 4-0 victory. Opposing third baseman's legs are becoming more like giant croquet wickets for Phillie hitters. After Casey Blake's miscue led to two runs on Thursday night, David Wright misplayed another potential double-play ball off the bat of Jimmy Rollins in the sixth inning last night, providing a cushion twice as large for a wheeling and dealing Halladay.

Doc kept the Mets guessing all night long. His entire arsenal was working, and Halladay is nearly impossible to hit when he can throw any pitch in any count. He was able to keep his own count down as well with a couple of nice plays from the mound. This was key, as Ryan Madson had us all frantically praying to the baseball Gods in a shaky ninth inning.

Who knows why, but I was watching last night's game with a bunch of New York fans and one of them predicted a game-tying grand slam for the Mets. Knowing the bullpen's track record over the last year-and-a-half, I couldn't bring myself to come to Madson's defense. Sure enough, a nervous Madson loaded the bases, giving one of those base runners a free pass when he plunked Fernando Martinez in the back after getting ahead of him 0-2. My silence ensured I wouldn't be eating any words regardless of what happened, but Madson managed to get out of the jam and preserve the win for Halladay.

I swear these relievers are giving me grey hairs.

Much has been made of the great number of times the Phillies have been shutout this season. Friday's 1-0 defeat brought that number to 10, three more than all of last season. However, Saturday's 4-0 win made it 13 times the Phillies have shut out their opponents, four more than last year. It's a loose measure of success, but it's usually a good sign if a team shuts opponents out more than it gets shut out. Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays. They recently became the first team in major league history to get no-hit or one-hit five times in a season, but they have the same shutout ratio as the Phillies (plus-3) and own the second-best record in baseball.

We can expect a few more shutouts to fall our way before the end of the season with such a formidable pitching rotation. That's some ecstasy all Phillies fans can enjoy.

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