After a devastating loss to the Atlanta Braves yesterday, the Fightin’ Phils looked to take the rubber-match of the three-game series at Turner Field. After an hour and forty-five minute rain delay, the nationally-televised game had first pitch at 9:45 PM.
With Javier Vazquez on the mound for the Braves, offense looked to be at a premium. This was true for almost every batter with the exception of Ryan Howard. Howard went 3 for 3 with a walk, two home runs, and 4 RBI on the night. While hitters such as Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz struggled to even make good contact off of Vazquez, Howard took advantage of a hanging fastball in the second inning along with a high changeup in the sixth, sending both balls into the right-field seats, giving starter J.A. Happ enough support to deliver a 4-1 victory for the Phillies.
Not to be lost in Howard’s performance were his surrounding cast members in the lineup. While not getting the production that Howard did, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth saw the ball well from the pitcher with the second-highest number of strikeouts in the National League. Thanks to the Phils’ better vision at the plate, Vazquez had to work for every out, including two 24-pitch innings.
This is the type of game that should give fans the most hope. While the Phillies only had seven hits, they were able to take advantage of mistakes along with taking pitchers deep into counts. This keen eye for pitches will pay off in better offensive production down the road, something the Phillies have been lacking when not playing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. When combined with the consistent numbers of J.A. Happ, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton, the Phils have a winning combination that could propel them down the final stretch of the regular season.
Here are some final notes from tonight’s game:
-Raul Ibanez went 0-4 tonight, keeping him in a funk that started after his return from the DL with a groin injury. It looks as though he is struggling to see the ball, since he takes pitches that are just begging to be hit while swinging at the junk pitchers throw on an 0-2 count.
-Scott Eyre came in to record the first two outs of the ninth inning. While this move may be just because Brad Lidge had thrown two straight nights, it seems reminiscent of a move made by Charlie Manuel on May 17 in Washington, when Manuel seemed to give Lidge a wake-up call by giving him a two-out save instead of handing him the ball at the beginning of the inning.
-Tom Hagan ’11