Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Phils Beat Nats to KickOff Homestand

The Phils began a 6 game homestand with a 5 - 4 win over the Washington Nationals. The Phils were led by the bat of Aaron Rowand, who went 3 for 4, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning on a solo home run. Jimmy Rollins hit his 20th home run of the season and Ryan Madson picked up the win in relief.

Between the series against the Nationals and the Phils opponents this weekend, the Pirates, the Phils should make some hay this week and possibly gain a bit of ground on the Mets.

The Phils begin this homestand after a 7 game swing on the West Coast, where, in all honesty, I thought they'd fall apart against some of the quality competition out West. Instead, they went a respectable 4 - 3 against the LA Dodgers and the San Diego Padres; both quality teams that are fighting for supremacy in a very competitive NL West.

Some Highlights:

- JD Durbin was a revelation on this trip. He salvaged the only Phils' win in LA, going 6 innings in a 15 - 3 shellacking of the Dodgers. Then, he went the route and shut out the San Diego Padres 9 - 0 this past Sunday. Durbin stepping to the fore could not have come at a better time.

- Ryan Howard had 5 homers during the West Coast swing to bring his total to 27, good for 2nd in the NL and 3 behind Prince Fielder of the Brewers. Don't forget that he had a stint on the DL for a strained quad and missed some games. Quick prediction: He'll beat out Fielder by August 1st for the home run lead in the NL. In the San Diego series alone, Howard was 7 for 10 with an astounding 8 walks. That's Barry Bonds territory and that's how hot he is right now.

- Tom Gordon came off of the DL on July 16th and pitched OK in two 1 inning appearances, giving up no runs and 1 hit. He'll be pitching the rest of the year with a partially torn labrum.

Some Lowlights:

- The Phils were on the short end of two one run games; especially heart breaking was losing the pitching duel that the Padres' Chris Young and the Phils' Cole Hamels locked up in for the opener in the San Diego series where the Phils lost 1 - 0. Sad to not see Cole come away with the win after pitching so brilliantly in his hometown.

- Jamie Moyer got raked for 10 earned runs in the opening game of the road trip against the Dodgers for the loss, which was his third in a row, bringing up the question of whether or not the Phils are expecting too much out of the 44 year old southpaw. He did comeback, however, to beat the Padres 12 - 4 on the 21st of July, ending his personal losing streak, but he now has an ERA over 5.

Old Faces:

Playing the Dodgers brought the Phils face to face with two of their old teammates, Mike Lieberthal and Randy Wolf. Lieberthal is backing up wunderkind catcher Russell Martin and is hitting .280, despite battling some nagging injuries. He went 3 for 4 in the game where the Phils beat the Dodgers 15 - 3. Makes sense, doesn't it? Lieberthal does well personally, but his dump gets it's ass kicked.

Wolf did not pitch in the series because he is on the DL battling shoulder soreness. Before he went down to injury, Wolf was 9 - 6 with a 4.73 ERA.

"The Bronx is Burning"

On a completely seperate topic, I have to say I am enjoying the ESPN series "The Bronx is Burning". Some blogs and websites are panning the mini-series, but I think it's been well done so far. John Turturro is a revelation as a paranoid, alcoholic, but brilliant Billy Martin. Daniel Sunjata bears a striking resemblance to the cocksure Reggie Jackson and Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner is very underrated. Since Steinbrenner has not been a particularly public figure in recent years, I think some people think that Platt's acting is a bit over the top as "The Boss", but people forget how insane this guy really was when he was at the "top of his game". The scene where he gives the team a pep talk in his office to the tape recorder is just the height of megalomania on Steinbrenner's part (like, the team REALLY needed his "inspiring" words) and you can feel John Turturro's (as Billy Martin) disgust when listening to the tape in his car.

A couple more observations on the series so far:

- Geez, is Thurman Munson being portrayed as sensitive or what? So far, after 3 episodes, he continued to bring up the famous Sport article where Reggie Jackson shot his mouth off and he constantly expressed his open hatred of Jackson. Interesting that Munson just couldn't put the article behind him and just write Jackson off as a very necessary jackass (which he seemed resigned to do by the end of the 3rd episode). He probably went to his grave hating Reggie Jackson.

- Speaking of Jackson, can you imagine how that Yankee clubhouse would have "embraced" a guy like Barry Bonds? There must have been a ton of jealousy in that Yankee clubhouse, with Jackson being one of the first big-time free agent pickups in MLB history. Jackson may have been the Bonds of his time, in that he was arrogant and supremely talented, but the comparison ends there. Jackson was a winner throughout his career (unlike Bonds, who only found post-season success late in his career) and even when he came off as arrogant in an interview, you could tell Jackson was smart, even when you disagreed with him. Bonds might be Albert Einstein on the baseball diamond, but we'll never know, because he treats the press (and the fans) with contempt. Bonds could have never survived (and thrived) in New York the way Reggie did because of the press alone. Another difference: Jackson never cheated.

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