First of all, congrats to Raul Ibanez for hitting his first homerun as a Philadelphia Phillies player. It’s nice to see a homerun coming off of our bat for once this series.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, down 10-3, I had lost all hope and figured that the Phillies were going to swept right out of the opening series by the homer-happy Braves. In fact, I was willing to give up on the game once Joe Blanton had a rough third, and even more so ready to throw in the towell when JA Happ gave up the two run shot to Jordan Schafer in the fifth.
Then just as I was about to leave the radio and head off to the gym, Chase Utley blooped a single into center and Ryan Howard was hit by a pitch. I figured that I would stay until the end of the inning. Well, eight runs later I was still sitting at my computer listening to the game.
The Phils bottom of the seventh consisted of five hits, six walks, eight runs, and four Atlanta relievers. The Braves bullpen imploded. They couldn’t find the strikezone and I’m suprised the Phillies aggressive bats let the Braves put that many on. One thing the Phillies didn’t prove to me during the playoffs last season was that they aren’t the team to work the walk. They would swing at ball three or ball four in a 2-2 or 3-1 count. But today, they discovered a patience they never had before and it turned out to be the difference in the ballgame.
In that dreaded seventh inning for the Braves, Eric O’Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Blaine Boyer, and Jorge Campillo surrendered six walks and five singles. All eight runs scored were earned by the Braves pitchers and Moylan and Boyer don’t even have ERA’s.
How clutch did the Eric Bruntlett sac fly turn out to be? In the bottom of the eighth Bruntlett brought home a run as insurance for Brad Lidge. It turned out that it was needed and kept Lidge’s streak alive. Lidge ended up giving up a homerun to Matt Diaz on a slider but no blown save was to be had. Lidge recorded his first save of the year after a slider in the dirt got Garrett Anderson to swing and miss.
“Put this one in the win column for the Fightin’ Phils.”
CHARLIE DOUBLE SWITCHES
Charlie Manuel ended up using the double switch today in that pivotal seventh inning. He sent Matt Stairs up to hit for Carlos Ruiz (maybe a fear factor for the pitcher). Brought Chris Coste in to pinch hit for the pitcher, then sent Coste in to catch and the pitcher spot was now in the eight hole. To anyone that doesn’t know, there was concern that Charlie didn’t know how to use the double switch. Well today he utilized it (even though it wasn’t the usual double-switch situation). I applaud you Uncle Charlie.
Those rings are nice aren’t they? It was awesome to see Pat Burrell back again (I think he got emotional–hence the shades). And yes, we did boo Adam Eaton.
SOUTHPAW SQUAREOFF AT FENWAY
It looks like Scott Kazmir got the best of Jon Lester tonight in Boston. Through four innings, Lester looked great. But then in the fifth, a few flyballs fell in that probably could have been caught. Both flyball “singles” involved Jed Lowrie running backwards and I’m not sure if he got in the way of Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury, but it looked like it. So don’t look at Lester’s five earned and think he got rocked. Although Carlos Pena did rock one pitch on the three run bomb to center.
Jed Lowrie seems to be the goat of the night. There were the flyball situations, and he also struck out twice. Once was with the bases loaded and two outs late in the game. Even if Julio Lugo was healthy, I would stick with Lowrie at short. Who cares about how much he’s getting to sit on the bench? Jed’s the future.
How good does Akinori Iwamura look at the bottom of that lineup? Normally the nine-hole is also called the “second leadoff spot.” Aki, along with Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford combined for nine hits in fourteen at-bats. That will definately make this lineup go as the season progresses and they may be the key.
I look forward to the rest of these Rays/Sox matchups.
It certainly is a long season, but that’s one of the many reasons why I love the game. The Phils know that after their 4-1 loss to the Braves tonight on national television as defending World Champions. I certainly am a little angry that the bats looked awful against Derek Lowe and I’m a little embarrassed, but there’s 161 more games (162 more games for the Mets to blow the half-game lead they have right now). But regardless, here’s some thoughts on tonight’s game:
I didn’t get to see the opening ceremonies but I saw the replay of it and I’ll probably end up watching it again and it seems like they planned it out really well. I love the fact that Charlie was raising the championship banner.
The bullpen had a nice night. Newcomer Jack Taschner, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin, and Brad Lidge combined for three innings, a strikeout each, and no hits or walks surrendered. I was nervous about Taschner because I’ve heard that he can be wild at times but he looked alright tonight.
Let’s start with Brett Myers. I listened to the first four innings or so on the radio so I didn’t see pitch locations and such (I had to drive back to school today). But when they replayed the homeruns he gave up, it’s clear that he missed his spots in each of the pitches. He got the ball way up in the zone to Brian McCann and put the other two pitches right in the wheelhouse of Jeff Francoer and Jordan Schafer (Schafer did look completely silly against Lidge in the ninth). When I started watching Myers for the two innings I saw him, he was keeping the ball down and hitting his spots. That’s what he will need to do in order to be successful this season. He toughed it out for six innings and struck out six and only walked one. Take away those three bad pitches and that’s a solid outing for this early in the year. So maybe this isn’t a dark spot (grey spot?).
We got to find a way to get on base. Usually it’s not a problem. Driving in RISP is the usual problem. I know it’s the first game and all, but until the ninth, the Phils mustered two hits off Lowe.
These players have got to want to be in that position in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Ryan Howard looked nervous and you could tell he didn’t want to be in that situation tonight. He swung at junk from Mike Gonzalez (who looked awful tonight) and then took a fastball right down the pike. Raul Ibanez worked Gonzalez nicely but he did swing at ball four but since he’s the new guy in town, I’ll let him slide for tonight.
On the ball that went off of Myers glove where Utley had to shift directions quickly, he looked like he wasn’t ready to do that quite yet. However he did look pretty good charging some grounders. But it worries me that maybe he’s not 100% yet.
All in all, I think Joe Morgan may have said it best at the end of the game, I don’t remember his exact words but they were along the lines of saying that the Phillies know that this is just the first game and that the Phils will fight to the end and that’s why he truly believes that this team has the chance to do something special and repeat this year. And Joe would know. Well, I hope he’s right.