Thursday, September 11, 2003

It's a control issue

Tuesday night, the Braves pitchers had no control. 14 hits and 9 walks had Phillies' baserunners circling the bases all night. Last night, Braves's starter Horacio Ramirez, along with relievers Jared Wright and Will Cunnane, walked no one. They also allowed but six hits -- two solo homers and four hits that amounted to nothing.

Phillies pitchers, on the other hand, lacked such control. Starter Vicente Padilla, who had pretty much owned the Braves this season, didn't have it last night. He lasted six innings, giving up four runs on nine hits. More importantly, he walked five batters while striking out just one. 14 baserunners in six innings does not imply a very good night. Padilla, in fact, was in trouble all night long:

1st inning: 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 LOB
2nd inning: 1 run, 1 hit (Lopez's solo homer to tie the game at 1)
3rd inning: 1 run, 3 hits, double-play gets out of the jam
4th inning: 1 hit, 1 IBB, 1 HBP, Braves leave bases loaded
5th inning: 1 run, 2 hits, 1 IBB
6th inning: 1 run, 1 hit, 2 walks

At least one runner in each inning, and the only inning with one runner was a solo homer. You are not going to have a good night if you are always in trouble. Between all of the hits and walks, Padilla threw 111 pitches over six innings; only 60 of those went for strikes. Contrast last night's output with his April 19th start in Atlanta -- a complete game shutout, in which he threw 107 pitches, 82 for strikes. He did not allow a free pass that evening. Too bad we didn't have that last night.

To go along with the Phillies inability to get on base, the lineup was very much free swinging. A total of 11 strikeouts on the night -- 7 by Ramirez, and 2 each by the relievers -- highlighted by Jim Thome's 0-for-4, 4 strikeout night. Pat Burrell also struck out twice, as did Padilla (meaning he struck out more than the Atlanta batters did against him).

So the Phillies let another early lead disappear, and find themselves having dropped two of the first three in the series. Game four will not be any easier as they go up against Greg Maddux, who is going for win number 15. His 15th win of the year will give him 15 wins for 16 consecutive years, a feat unmatched in baseball's long history. The only other pitcher to win 15 games in 15 straight years was none other than Cy Young himself, so I don't need to tell you that this would be an accomplishment.

Going against Maddux will be Brett Myers, who has lasted no more than 6 1/3 innings in any of his last six starts. His ERA has climbed from 3.58 to 4.17 in those six starts, yet somehow he is 2-1. The team is only 3-3, which tells me that he is getting bailed out lately. Those starts:

@SFL 2-54.085536
STLW 5-46.164455
@STLW 9-45.294333
@MONL 6-95.0105532
BOSL 9-134.075571
NYMW 8-66.063246

Has he hit a wall? It's entirely possible. He is up to 177 innings on the year, and just may be experiencing some growing pains. Regardless, the Phillies need a little bit better effort this evening, as they have fallen a game back of the Marlins once again in the Wild Card race.

Elsewhere, the Dodgers and Cubs lost to fall to 3 and 3 1/2 games back respectively. The Cardinals rocked the Rockies to stay five back, and the Astros won to put a game between themselves and the Cubs in the Central.

Two and a half weeks left...ready to play ball?