The Phillies lost to the Astros on Friday night, 7-0. Cliff Lee had his second consecutive rough outing, surrendering six runs on nine hits, and surviving only three innings. He was BABIP'd to death by bloops in a four-run Astros' second, and gave up a two-run bomb in the third inning. Jamie Moyer pitched well in relief, allowing only a solo home run. Unfortunately, even a solo home run would have been too much for the recently offense-deficient Phillies to overcome, as their eight hits (seven singles) lead to a total of only zero runs. The Phillies' bats are slumping now, but should perk up in the near future. Hopefully. Of course, it's better to slump now, than in the Fall Classic.
The biggest positive for the Phils on Friday night: Cliff Lee threw a mere seventy-four pitches! Typically, Lee has averaged, approximately, seventy-five gajillion pitches per start. This "vacation start" will help him stay fresh for the playoffs. Reliever Jamie Moyer has seen most of his success pitching in the rain, on at least ten days' rest, and following fastballer Pedro Martinez. The elderly slowballer was called upon to relieve Lee on Friday night, with a mere six days' rest, barely having recovered from his sixty-one pitch outing on August 28th. There wasn't any rain, either. Despite the trying circumstances, Moyer rose to the occasion, and kept the Phillies within seven runs.
When the Phillies gutted the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' roster on September 1st, the Phils' AAA squad saw their hopes of a .500 season dashed. It was the right move for the organization as a whole, however. The Phillies are chasing a playoff spot, and need to put their regulars in position to perform their best in the postseason. With a full lineup's worth of AAA talent, including Eric Bruntlett and Miguel Cairo, the Phillies now have the personnel available to rest their starting eight early and often.
All of the recent call-ups contributed on Friday night, if only by their mere presence. Sure, none of them got hits, or anything like that, but they pitched well, and fielded adequately. The one substitute who should make the postseason roster, Brett Myers, looked sharp in his scoreless inning. Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel chose the spot for Myers' return to MLB prudently, inserting the fiery fireballer into the seventh inning, of a 7-0 game. Myers looked like anything but a sub, retiring all three batters he faced, two on strikeouts. With Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge locking down the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, Myers would make a good addition to the seventh-inning mix, in the playoffs. Paul Hoover, Quinton Berry, J.J. Furmaniak, John Mayberry, Jr., Mike Cervenak, and Kyle Kendrick also appeared, though none did anything of particular note.
There was one scary moment, in the eight inning, when Phillies' centerfielder Jason Ellison was injured diving for a line drive. Ellison was helped from the field, but could be ready to return by the start of Spring Training. Provided his extensive rehab goes well, he should help bolster the bench of his next organization's AAA squad. Showing that kind of effort, in a game that had been long-decided, displays the kind of hustle that serves as a good model to actual prospects. I wish Ellison the best of luck in his future endeavors, but I do have a confession to make. As Ellison's inert form was carefully removed from the field of play, I thought to myself that the Phillies were very fortunate that the injured centerfielder wasn't All-Star Shane Victorino. Losing Victorino would be very damaging to the Phils' hopes of postseason success, and would have been especially frustrating, under such futile circumstances. It was good planning that positioned Ellison in center to "take the bullet" for Victorino. (Though the Phillies' Win Expectancy would have remained at .1%, whether the centerfielder made the catch or not, you still have to applaud the valiant effort.)
Joe Blanton will get the start in the second game of the series, on Saturday night. As the workhorse northpaw has thrown a few gazillion pitches of his own this season, he probably won't pitch more than five innings on Saturday. The Phillies want to keep him on his routine, but want to save some arm strength for October. Moyer won't be available in relief, but with Kendrick, Rodrigo Lopez, and Drew Carpenter, stretched-out starting pitchers all, ready to go, the Phillies have the pitching depth to keep the workload of their postseason hurlers low. That's just smart management, the type of management that wins WFCs.