April 18, 2005

Phils-Braves series wrap

A young pitcher elevates his game to the next level, and a controversial figure becomes a hero, as the Phillies face down the tough starting pitching of Atlanta and win the series 2-1. (AP Photo)

Lesson learned
Last night, the Phillies sent a message to fans: boo this.

As the teams in the NL East play chess, fans must learn to appreciate a win any way they can take it. With Washington, picked last but currently in first, and the four remaining contenders all knotted up at 6-6, if winning means bunting, pinch-running and platooning to exploit every inch of weakness, so be it.

The gut instinct of Charlie Manuel
A dozen games into the season and the strategy of new manager Charlie Manuel appears to be the one he’s said all along: decisions based on intuition.

As a fanatic trying to gage whether or not this will work, I toyed with the idea of keeping a log of critical moves, but decided it would be far too tedious. Situations like when pitchers get pulled, how relievers are used and when, who starts in the field, where hitters bat in the order, etc, would be tracked and the results recorded.

If such a scorecard was kept, Manuel would be ahead right now, starting with the big issue casting a shadow over this team: the two-headed second basemen of Chase Utley and Placido Polanco.

I’m with the majority in my impatience to see Ultey break free, but Manuel has other designs, and more patience than the rest of us. His decision to start the right-handed Polanco last night against LHP Mike Hampton led to a 2-5 night, including the game-winning hit and a run-saving throw. It also allowed Chase Utley to come into a pinch hit situation later in the game against the right-handed closer Danny Kolb.

Remember those charts grade school teachers used to keep for times you did something good in class? If you did a task OK, you got a check. But if you did the extra credit, you got a star.

Last night in the tenth, Manuel earned his first gold star.

After a shaky ninth, struggling Braves closer Danny Kolb committed the sin of walking David Bell and Mike Lieberthal to start the tenth. Kenny Lofton dropped a bunt in front of the mound, which Kolb fielded cleanly. Kolb had ample time to throw out pinch-runner Tomas Perez at third, but sailed it high and into left field, scoring Perez to tie it up 1-1.

With Kolb now having the confidence of – say – a wet, trembling fetus, the next batter, Jimmy Rollins, dropped another bunt up in Kolb’s grill that died right in front of him. Then Polanco delivered the dagger off Braves righthander Kevin Gryboski to score Lieberthal and win it.

What I liked so much, aside from Rollins great execution of the bunt, was Manuel’s mercilessness in forcing Kolb to make a play. He turned Atlanta’s closer into a whimpering little girl.

What great instinct. What an ending. Manuel beats Cox. Who woulda thunk it?

Brett Myers
There’s no doubt Brett Myers is pitching at an extremely high level, and surprised everyone last night by how well he pitched in prime-time. How's he doing it?

In Todd Zolecki's recap, he said "Two words consistently pop up as coaches and teammates describe the difference in Phillies pitcher Brett Myers this season: comfort and composure."

I can't report on his psyche, but I’ll add two more to the list: cutter and curve.

When used in combination, he's freezing just about everyone. The cutter, in particular, is making hitters swing late. Instead of trying to blow smoke like Curt Schilling, he’s crafting pitches to get outs, like Jon Lieber.

Speaking of Lieber, when is it time to start saying things like "The Phillies one-two punch of Jon Lieber and Brett Myers."

Get your popcorn ready
Myers vs. Hampton round 2 is scheduled for Friday.


At 3:28 PM, Blogger el123chico said...

i'll tell you why brett myers is doing so well. it's because of the new pitching coach. i don't even know the new coach's given name. if you post it after this i still won't remember. the name i have chosen to call him is "not joe kerrigan." if he had that on the back of his jersey he would be more identifiable than he is now. "not joe kerrigan" is a great pitching coach. know why he's a great pitching coach? because he's not joe kerrigan of course. joe kerrigan stinks and drinks at the rhawnhurst tavern. not joe kerrigan lets brett myers pitch like he wants to. go "not joe kerrigan"!!!

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

That would be the feel-good buzz of pitching coach Rich Dubee.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger el123chico said...

dude, please refer to him by his proper name. i have no idea who rich dubee is. i am, however, starting to love this "not joe kerrigan" guy :)

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a wet, trembling fetus"?!?!
Holy Crap, that's bad writing.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...


Send me a link to one of your writing samples.



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