Friday, August 20, 2010

Slim Pickins

That's the toughest seven innings of shutout ball I've ever seen anyone pitch.

Roy Halladay weaved in and out of trouble in one his most eventful outings of the year. In the end, the Nationals couldn't break through. Usually eight hits and three walks will get your base runners a few high fives from the guy in the on-deck circle, but Halladay is of that special breed of pitchers who become more un-hittable when guys get on base. Two double plays from one of the best defenses in baseball also helps.

Amazingly enough, the Phillies have now played in seven 1-0 games this season, and three in just the last 12 games. Friday's win made them 4-3 in such contests. It's another symptom of the Year of the Pitcher.

Halladay is just as responsible for that as any other hurler. Since the Phillies' resurgence, he's done nothing but win. He's won each of his last six starts, posting an ERA of 1.37 over that stretch. The Cy Young-worthy group continues to be cramped in the NL, but none of the other names can match Halladay's durability (200 innings, 8 complete games) or control (1.1 BB/9, 7.2 K/BB).

The only run of the game came in the third inning on Raul Ibanez' hot-shot double off the glove of Adam Dunn. It was a play that most first basemen (maybe even Ryan Howard) would make, or at least knock down to prevent the run from scoring. The Phillies benefited, though, and it's all they would get off Jason Marquis.

When Dunn stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with a man on second and two out, the pessimist inside of me though, "It's about time for Brad Lidge to blow a save, and Dunn has the pop in his bat to do it." Dunn's teammate Ryan Zimmerman had already done the same to Lidge three weeks ago. However, Lidge got Dunn to do something he does a lot more of than hit home runs, as he whiffed on a slider in the dirt to end the game.

Though I'm wary of the fact that Lidge will be the closer if the Phillies make it back to the postseason, he's been a big part of this turnaround. He's converted his last seven save opportunities and has saved 10 of Philly's 21 wins since July 22. His light is flickering back on at the right time.

Getting back to the 1-0 phenomenon, the Phillies have scored in just two of their last 17 innings. That's not the best way to enter their first game against Stephen Strasburg. Then again, the rookie sensation has been anything but sensational in his two starts since coming off the DL. He didn't pitch past the fifth inning in either one and allowed a total of seven earned runs. The Phillies don't have a good track record this season against pitchers they've never faced, regardless of that pitcher's recent performance, so a change in that trend is definitely in order.

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