For the first time since April 5th when they were 1-0, the Philadelphia Phillies are on the right side of .500. It took 38 games, six blown opportunities to get above .500, and a five-game win streak, including a two-game sweep over the Cubs to get there, but the Phils finally seem to be gaining some traction as we move towards the end of May. Tonight, they won by a score of 8-7 behind another solid Roy Halladay outing.
Halladay Finally Gets A Win:
-Halladay hasn’t gotten a win in his last five starts (four of them not his fault), but tonight he seemed intent on making sure that streak didn’t extend to six. He pitched with a purpose, allowing three runs over eight innings with four strikeouts and no walks. He was economical, throwing 99 pitches. It was also his first ever win at Wrigley Field.
– Doc did allow two solo home runs tonight, tripling his season total for home runs allowed (it now sits at three). They would be the only blemish on an otherwise spotless performance.
The Offense Continues To Roll
– Carlos Ruiz drove in a run in the first, Halladay scored on a Shane Victorino ground out in the second, Hunter Pence drove in two more later in that inning, Chooch drove in another run in the fifth, two more runs were tacked on in the eighth when Blake Parker went all Matt Garza on a routine throw to first, Ruiz got yet another RBI, and the Phillies offense continued to put runs on the board throughout the game. For the bats, the month of May stands in stark contrast to April, as they’ve done a complete 180. They ranked third in total runs and hits since May 1st going into tonight’s game. Plating eight runs will no doubt help those rankings. Even Halladay joined in tonight, collecting two hits.
Chooch Does It Again:
– Ruiz had another humdrum night, going 4-for-5 with three RBI and a stolen base. Long yawn. Nights like these are so routine for Chooch at this point, it’s almost boring. All four of his hits were hard-hit, as everything he’s gotten the bat on lately has been. Since May 1st, he’s hitting .417, with four home runs and seventeen RBI. For the season, his OPS sits at 1.024. Oh, and by the way, he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Whatever.
– In case you couldn’t tell, the lack of enthusiasm in the above paragraph is sarcasm. Carlos Ruiz is seriously the man. He’s locked in, and he’s crushing the ball. If you haven’t maxed out at least one email account voting for him as an NL All Star, you should be ashamed of yourself.
-During the broadcast tonight, Tom McCarthy asked Sarge if it’d be crazy to move Ruiz into the clean-up spot. I say, why stop there? This guy is clearly the best hitter on the team right now, and the best hitter on the team should be hitting third. Flip flop Chooch and the scuffling Victorino, and ride out Chooch’s hot streak for as long as it lasts.
– After scoring six runs in the ninth inning of yesterday’s game, the Phils scored three insurance runs in the eighth inning tonight. After watching this team get a few runs early in games, and fail to tack on late, the sight of late-inning runs is a welcome one. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come. It would turn out they’d need every last one of those eight runs tonight, as:
The Diek Struggles:
– After retiring all four of the batters he faced–three on strikeouts–over two innings in Tuesday’s game, Jake Diekman looked like a different man in tonight’s tilt. He got himself into some trouble by walking two and hitting one to load the bases with two outs. The Cubbies would plate three on a Castillo double and one more off Jonathan Papelbon before he was able to slam the door.
– Diekman is a hard-throwing, side-winding left-hander, and there is a lot of excitement about what he could bring to this bullpen. His fastball consistently hits 94, and tops out at 96, while his change up drops down to the low-80s, and his slider has a nasty bite to it. His wildness tonight could be a sign of his youth. He almost made the team out of Spring Training, but management thought he should go down to Triple-A to work on his control and secondary pitches. His control was the major issue tonight, and unfortunately, it almost cost the team a win when Papelbon allowed another run before closing it out. The Diek turned a laugher into a nail-biter, but a win is a win.
Pierre Redeems Himself:
– Juan Pierre was upset with himself after he dropped an easy fly ball, leading to a run yesterday. Tonight, he’d have redemption, making two very difficult diving catches to help out Halladay. Pierre’s defense, is, shall we say, sub-par. His range isn’t great and his arm is even worse. But those weaknesses didn’t show tonight as his diving catch in the bottom of the seventh was the play of the night. He also continues to get on base at a very high clip. He is behind only Carlos Ruiz for the team lead in on-base percentage among batters with at least 10 plate appearances.
-The Phillies return to Philadelphia tomorrow for a weekend series against their AL rivals when Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28) returns to the mound to face Daniel Bard (3-4, 4.30) and the Boston Red Sox.