April 28, 2005

Phils-Nats series wrap

The bats stay frozen, but the Phillies salvage enough runs to scratch out a 2-1 series win at RFK Stadium.

The big story yesterday were the brutal shadows cast over RFK Stadium, creating an impossible situation for hitters, and great conditions for pitchers. The Nationals have a number of 4:35 starts on their schedule. Good luck with that.

Luckily for the Phils, the shadows cleared just when they needed it in the bottom of the ninth. The lights flicked on instantly as Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a home run to break the scoreless deadlock. Then, David Bell singled in Bobby Abreu, who displayed excellent base running to reach home just before the tag. Placido Polanco then singled in Jim Thome to put the Phils up for good 3-0.

Starting Pitching
Nobody, neither scouts nor statisticians, thought Esteban Loazia would ever have the kind of game he had yesterday again – eight innings, two runs, 11 strikeouts – reminiscent of his Cy Young runner-up season in 2003. Eight of the strikeouts caught Phils hitters looking, and at one point, he retired 18-straight.

As for his opponent, Brett Myers, nobody thought he’d have the kind of season he’s having either. After five starts, his ERA is 1.35, with 34 strikeouts to just nine walks. The former first-round pick is starting to live up to the high expectation, and for the first time in his career, the Phils have a great shot to win any time he takes the mound.

Relief pitching perfect!
It hasn't happened much this season, but the relief pitchers were perfect. Rheal Cormier pitched a perfect eighth, and Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

Finding a spark ... in Scranton
I’m surprised and happy most fans have held off clamoring for Ryan Howard this season, but I’ll admit I got my first big itch yesterday, and I'm not sure it's going away.

With men on first and second, Charlie Manuel brought in pinch hitter Jose Offerman to hit for Myers in the eighth. Just a single would put the Phils on top, and a home run would put the Nationals away for good.

So far this season, Offerman is hitting .176 and has no RBIs. He struck out looking to end the inning.

It’s time to at least consider the idea of bringing up Howard. The team's biggest problem is their lack of power, bad news for a team built around the home run. They're near the bottom of the league in home runs and isolated power. Howard can deliever all of the above. Plus, he’s good PR and gives fans a new reason to tune in.

Here's what he's doing in Triple-A:

.365 BA, .475 OBP, .683 SLG, 4 HR

I don't think a lineup shuffle is dramatic enough to get the bats clicking. They need power, and more often than not, when prospects get called up they perform on pure nitro. Even if Howard doesn’t get regular chances, it’s worth lighting a fire under Thome. Big Jim hit well this spring with Howard on the roster.

Thome is this team's first baseman. No question there. But maybe it's time to make Howard their pinch hitter, give Thome an occasional break and hand Offerman his walking papers.

Adding Howard will rejuvenate the offense, along with waning fan interest.

The first interleague away game is May 20 in Baltimore, but I ask you, should the Phils add Howard even earlier?


At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Steve F in SF said...

Agreed as to bringing up Howard. What more does he need to do? Does Thome need to go down with an injury for Howard to even be on the 25-man roster. This team is weak, weak, weak on hitting right now (quite surprisingly), and having an extra bat on the bench at the expense of a pitcher, I think, would be a good idea. I'd send down Geoff Geary or Padilla (and put Madson in the rotation), or if the Phillies think they need 12 pitchers--and I don't--then I'd send down Offerman or "Pie Man" Perez (can they be sent down without having to clear waivers?). But for heaven's sake, they really could use Howard's bat in the lineup.


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