So I intended today’s post to be about Aaron Rowand’s slow start in spring training, specifically his 0-20 steak going into yesterday’s game. But in a surprising turn of events, Rowand blew the game open in the second inning with a 3-run home run – and what a 2nd inning it was. A batter prior, Abraham Nunez had knocked a bases-loaded double to score 2 runs, then Rowand cleared the bags. Not to be out done, the man-child Ryan Howard stepped up and deposited his 8th dinger of spring over the centerfield wall, nearly injuring Torii Hunter in the process, to cap a 6 run inning. For the most part, the Phils looked impressive in the first game I’ve seen this year.
Brett Myers pitched a solid scoreless 3+ innings, and his non-roster invitee replacement, Travis Minix also pitched well. Minix entered the game with two outs and two men on and promptly retired the next batter to get out of the jam. In the next inning he allowed just a hit, so in terms of spring training goals, he did his job and looked good doing it.
The only downside of the Phillies performance was the late inning relief. In the 7th inning, Rheal Cormier gave up the Twins first run of the game, walked a couple guys and eventually loaded the bases before Manuel intervened. Fultz came on and ended the inning without any further damage but with him still pitching in the 8th, the Twins added on 2 more runs and before loading the bases. To his credit, Fultz struck out the next batter to end the inning; nonetheless the performance of the two relievers was a bit shaky. While I appreciate Fultz’s ability to pitch out of a jam – that is a main requirement of a middle reliever – he and Cormier almost let the Twins back in the game. Last season we saw this occurrence all too often and it often led to less favorable results. The Phils’ bullpen needs to tighten up and throw strikes when they have a big lead late in the game like they did yesterday – walks kill. Fortunately the Twinkies were in the habit of leaving runners on base – 14 through 8 innings if I recall correctly.
The best part about yesterday’s game, in my opinion, was the offensive diversity. Sure there was the monster second inning, but if you tuned out early, you missed the insurance run in the ninth. With the Phillies leading 7-3, Joe Thruston (another NRI) got on base with a double. Shane Victorino came up next and laid down a beautiful bunt to advance Thurston to third. He later scored on a sacrifice fly to left field. Right there is some well-executed small ball. It may not have been completely necessary with a four run lead in the ninth inning of a spring training game, but it was definitely good practice. It is reassuring to know that Victorino as a pitch hitter will be able to advance runners when called upon. Now if we can just get the pitchers to bunt half as well, the Phils will be in business.