The Phils fell behind in the first inning Friday night in Florida, as per their 2009 usual. With two outs, Phillies starter Brett Myers allowed a three-run homer to Marlins 2B Dan Uggla, who had been hitless in twenty-one at bats. Florida ace Josh Johnson (seven innings, three hits/two walks, eight Ks, .334 WPA) and reliever Leo Nunez (three batters, two Ks, groundout) shut out Philadelphia through eight innings. Innings two through eight were scoreless for both teams, with most of the excitement generated by the hounds in the stands on Bark at the Park Night.(An attendance of 29,032 humans, and 1,540 dogs, was announced.)
Matt Lindstrom came on in the ninth to finish off the Phils, with his 97 MPH fastball. Ryan Howard grounded out to start the inning, reducing the Phillies' WE to a lowly 1.5%. But Jayson Werth followed with a single, and Raul Ibanez with a walk, increasing that WE to 8.4%. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs knocked in Werth with a single, pulling the Phils to within 3-1. A Lou Marson walk later, and the Phillies had runners on first and third, and a WE of 18.2%. With the pitcher's spot coming up, Manager Charlie Manuel went to his bench for...Eric Bruntlett. (Using Chris Coste was probably a better option, but Manuel chose not to use his backup catcher. ) Bruntlett whiffed, reducing the WE to 14.7%. With two outs, slumping Jimmy Rollins worked a bases-loaded walk, making the score 3-2. Shane Victorino was up next, with the tying run on third. Could The Flyin' Hawaiian, one for six in his career against Lindstrom, come through? NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Victorino drove the ball into the stands in right, for his first regulsar season grand slam. (You may recall Victorino's slam against Sabathia in the 2008 playoffs.) Chase Utley went back-to-back with Victorino, ending Lindstrom's night. Ryan Madson held Florida scoreless in the bottom of the frame, and the Phillies had an unlikely 7-3 victory.
Brett Myers didn't allow another run after the first inning, and picked up a quality start. But there wasn't much "quality" about his performance. He surrendered eight hits and six walks (!) over six innings, as Florida failed to extend their lead. Myers threw only sixty-two of his one hundred and nineteen pitches for strikes. (Yes. You read that correctly. Manuel kept Myers in for 119 pitches. A troubling decision, especially considering that it is April. Perhaps Manuel felt the need to rest his bullpen, with Chan Ho Park starting Saturday, and J.A. Happ throwing forty-three pitches on Thursday?) Myers was fortunate to exit the game with a 4.91 season ERA. His quest for a lucrative free agent contract is not off to a good start.
Clay Condrey picked up his third win of the young season, working the seventh and eighth innings. With a 1.86 ERA, Condrey appears to have switched places with Chad Durbin in the bullpen pecking order. Condrey has only permitted seven hits and two walks, in nine and two-thirds innings this season. Small sample size alert, but Condrey also has nine strikeouts this season, giving him a K/9 of 8.38 (2008: 4.43 K/9).
The Phils will face Chris Volstad (2-0, 2.76) Saturday night, in another unfavorable pitching matchup. Volstad has had some control issues this season, walking eleven in sixteen and one-third innings. With Park starting for the Phils, we could see a walk-fest on Saturday. The Phillies' offense had been held to two runs over twenty-six innings, before their seven-run ninth on Friday. Hopefully, that big inning is the start of the offensive explosion we've been anticipating.