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Red Means Fire

Hey, hey, look at that, the Phils notched another home win!  Good thing, because with 40,000+ in attendance, things could have gotten real ugly with another disappointing loss.  Instead, the fans were treated with a rather entertaining game – not to mention the Phanatic’s birthday celebrations.  In just the first inning, they witnessed Chase Utley’s first ejection of his career after a blown call by first base umpire Dan Iassogna; Charlie Manuel followed him to the locker room in turn.  It is often suggested that an ejection or two does wonders to ignite a team’s spirit.  Ryan Howard felt it, "It has to fire you up, even if it’s a little bit. When something like that happens, it tends to get everyone going."  Did it ever!  Ryno then proceeded to drive two balls a combined one-sixth of a mile.  His first homer had the distinction of becoming the first home run ball to land in Asburn Alley on the fly.  David Bell also recorded an RBI as he cashed in on a runner scoring position. 

Brett Myers only needed Howard’s three RBIs for his second win of the season and must also be acknowledged for another solid start, effectively using his curveball to pitch out of jams.  The Phils are 5-0 when their starters last at least six innings not the least of which because it sets up the bullpen to perform on schedule.  The seventh, eight, and ninth innings were near perfection as Franklin and Rhodes set up Tom Gordon to strike out the side and record his fifth save of the season.  Gordon is averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning.

Not to detract from a much needed win, but it was still more of the same from the Phillies – not a lot of offensive production but when it does come, it’s in the form of home runs.  Before Tuesday’s 10-3 loss to the Nationals, Charlie Manuel was quoted as stating the obvious, "We have to learn to manufacture runs."  While this may be true, The Hardball Times has a funny – but equally truthful – twist on its actual interpretation.  "When they say: ‘We’re gonna manufacture runs’ what they mean is: ‘We can’t hit and won’t walk so we’re praying for lots of passed balls, errors, hit batsmen and defensive indifference.’"  Unfortunately it doesn’t appear other teams have received the memo.

Luckily, Brett Myers and the rest of the pitching staff were on form Sunday and the four runs were enough for the Phillies seventh victory.  Still in the words of the skipper, "Probably, I’m a little surprised offensively that we haven’t produced a few more runs. I think pitching-wise, probably we knew that we were going to have a few ups and downs." Manuel.  Coming into the season, yes, everyone knew pitching would be the Phillies weakness, but it was the offensive that was supposed to overcome this deficiency.  The Phillies have lost 2 one-run games and 3 two-run games.  Three of their wins came during a three day stretch in which they averaged 8 runs per games; in all other games they’ve averaged a mere 3.7.  It appears when the pitching is on, only then can the Phillies win. 

With the exception of Jon Lieber, the staff is steering this comeback-of-sorts after a dismal opening of the 2006 season.  Hopefully, the hurlers will recognize that despite all the talk of the Phillies formidable offensive, only they can ensure success and generate the momentum this team so desperately needs.  It started Sunday as Myers added oxygen to the spark from Utley and Manuel but it will take a few more weeks of consistency before us fans can feel warm and secure with this club like we did coming out of spring training.

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