Sunday, August 15, 2010

Run, Forrest, Run

It's fair to say that Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino aren't impressing anybody with their batting averages, but they made a rebound effort by Kyle Kendrick stand up in the Phillies' 3-1 win over the Mets Sunday night that gave them a series win and moved them into a tie for first place in the Wild Card with their next opponent, the San Francisco Giants.

The speedy pair swiped three bags, all of which factored into go-ahead runs for Philadelphia. J-Roll gave us a sense that he has fully returned to health, stealing second and third base three pitches apart in the third inning, and making it easily each time. Though Rollins doesn't get on base nearly as often as he should, this is what we expect to happen when he does.

In years past, we saw the Phillies scrape out wins like this more often. Injuries have prevented that this season, but with the guidance of first base coach Davey Lopes, the base runners are still ahead of Bill James' curve. In the all-too important goal of not making outs, the Phillies are 67-for-80 in stolen-base attempts this season, a respectable success rate of 83.8 percent. Philly runners tend to make it to the next bag safely when they steal, and that can make the difference in games like Sunday night when offense was hard to come by for both teams.

Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge also showed us shades of their 2008 selves with scoreless frames to close out the victory. Sure, two of Lidge's three outs were smoked balls that just happened to be hit right at people, but how many of his saves in '08 were achieved in that fashion? Probably more than we'd like to admit.

The Phillies climbed to 15 games over .500 for the first time this season. Since they nearly snatched first place away from the Braves a week ago, Bobby Cox's bunch are again playing like they want a division title. The Phightins' need to keep the pressure on, and they should thank their lucky stars that Tim Lincecum just pitched on Sunday. He's not exactly having a freak-type year, but there's no need to give Chase Utley (2-for-20, 8 K's against Lincecum) that big of a test in his return to the bigs.

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