Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another close one

I like that the Phillies are in San Diego. Makes for better baseball and, because Phillies fans are coming out, a better atmosphere. A few entries ago, I quoted Jed Hoyer about how the schedule is turning bearish. The last two games are good examples. Against a lot of teams, the Padres would be 2-0; instead they're 0-2.

The Padres are pitching well enough to beat just about any NL team, but the Phillies have matched or exceeded San Diego's pitching. They've also played excellent defense and come up with timely hits and baserunning plays such as Jimmy Rollins' nifty slide on Friday.

A few other thoughts:

* The Padres are being challenged a bit by injuries. We're not talking about the psuedo-DL injuries that allowed the Padres to rest Mat Latos and to use Oscar Salazar to ease a roster crunch. The Juniors -- Tony Gwynn and Jerry Hairston -- are on the DL because they're actually hurt, and while neither player is a star, there's a ripple. I sort of doubt Gwynn would've caught Shane Victorino's tailing drive to left-center today that broke open the game. It would've been a great play by Chris Denorfia, who just two days earlier was slowed by a leg cramp. Denorfia gave great effort. But Gwynn is better at reading flyballs, and has better closing speed. He would've had a chance to catch the ball. Or, maybe he stays on his feet and holds Victorino to a single or a double, and the Phillies score one run fewer.

* As I wrote yesterday, Hairston's elbow strain is real, and, in fact, put him on the DL today. Which means more playing time for shortstop Miguel Tejada. He is capable, he's giving the Padres all-around good play, but he's also 36. Friday, Tejada showed subpar speed going to his left and thus was unable to touch a ball that got by for the only run scored against Mat Latos. Today, Tejada was a tick slow on a flip to David Eckstein, which helped Phillies veteran Mike Sweeney nix the doubleplay bid, good for a run. The Padres want to keep Tejada's legs fresh. Absent Hairston, that's harder to do.

* The Phillies are playing excellent defense. Jayson Werth made a good play on Friday to run down Adrian Gonzalez's 398-foot drive to right-center. Werth is a very good athlete. Most right-fielders wouldn't have made that play, and Gonzalez would've had a leadoff double or triple in a tie game. Werth's multi-faceted defense is extra valuable at Petco Park (in 2004, as a I recall, he made a tremendous throw from left field to nab Ryan Klesko at home plate, keying a big victory for the Dodgers). Too bad for Gonzalez that his drive didn't come earlier in the game, when the ball tends to carry better at Petco. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz threw out two Padres runners attempting to steal on Friday. Today, center fielder Shane Victorino nailed Nick Hundley with a perfect, one-hop throw to home plate. One of the better throws I've seen all year, and like Luis Durango on Friday, Victorino anticipated the single and wasted no time. "I got a good hop," he said.

* The Phillies are doing to the Padres what the Padres have done to a lot of teams this year -- they're winning with pitching and defense, and just enough offense. Today, the Phillies had only three hits. "Things were right there," Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel told me. "(The Padres) could have won these games just as easily."

* The Padres had talked of today's game being a sellout. The rare afternoon start may have worked against them. The crowd of 37,000-plus was spirited, which partly had to do with so much red in the stands.

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