Sometimes it’s impossible not to get a little upset with the way things are going. Frustration set in early, however, the Phillies hung around long enough to get a hard-fought victory, 4-3, to win their series over the Cubs.
Roy Oswalt’s first inning was shaky, giving up three runs including a home run to Aramis Ramirez. That was the extent of the run scoring for the struggling Cubs, as Oswalt held them down over the next six frames for the Phillies 40th win of the year. He struck out five, walked two, and gave up five hits for a win – finally! – his fourth of the year, also his first W since April 21 against the Padres in San Diego. His personal four game losing streak was snapped.
It could have been a much simpler victory had the Phillies bats been able to capitalize with runners in scoring position. The Phillies loaded the bases in the first and third innings, but came away with just two runs. Ryan Howard had one of his three RBIs in the first, doubling home Shane Victorino. With one out, Ben Francisco walked to load ’em. But the threat would end as Raul Ibanez struck out swinging and Carlos Ruiz softly lined out to third base.
In the third, Ibanez pulled through with a seeing-eye single to right field, scoring Utley. That single run would be it, however, as Ruiz struck out and Wilson Valdez softly grounded to second base.
Simply put, that cannot continue to happen.
Against the lowly Cubs, the Phils were able to escape leaving nine men on base. Against better clubs, they’ll need to capitalize when the opportunities are presented. In the four game series, the team as a whole left a ridiculous 38 men on base. Gonna have to tidy those numbers up.
But one number that did not lie is three – the number of wins in this series, also the number of runs Ryan Howard knocked in today. He went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI, two of them coming in the seventh, which was the deciding base hit. A trickler through the middle scored Victorino and Utley, putting the Phillies up 4-3.
Mike Stutes and Ryan Madson came on to close it out.
Howard’s batting average is ridiculously low, even for him (.247) but he continues to drive in runs. With the three today, Howard is up to 53 on the year, third best in the NL. He’ll have his streaks, but if he can just learn from days like this, he’d be better for it. Howard’s patience was key against lefty starter Doug Davis and lefty reliever Sean Marshall.
The real catalyst in Sunday’s game was none other than Utley. He finished 2-for-3, upping his average to .261. In the ninth, with the Cubs threatening, he used his glove to seal it up, making a ridiculously tough over-the-shoulder grab to end the game and give Madson his 15th save of the season.
Oswalt’s final line was solid, but missing again was his velocity. He topped out at just 92, really sticking around the 89-90 area for most of the day. Prior to the back injury, he was topping out at 94, staying usually in the 92 range with his fastball. Hopefully Oswalt is continuing to build back strength, which could be the reason why his fastball speed is down.
Regardless of the dip in speed, Oswalt gutted out his first win in quite sometime. Wins are wins, so it’s hard to complain too much as a total team effort helped them pull this one out. On the other hand, the Cubs are an awful team and the Phillies very well could have swept them out of Philly.
Excellent come-from-behind win, but hey, it wouldn’t hurt to clean up some of these concerns.