Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tune and broom

The best part of the Padres-Phillies series was the Steve Poltz national anthem Saturday. Up tempo yet unhurried, flavored yet true to the anthem. As good as I've heard in awhile. And I'm a bit of an anthem snob after hearing thousands of them, including one that Mrs.West Coast Bias nailed at The Murph many years ago. Poltz, as you likely know, is a Padres fan. Big time. Many years ago, we talked Padres between his Rugburns sets in Pacific Beach. Later when we crossed paths at the ballpark, he aways had a boyish excitement to him, like the Padres were as cool as dating Jewel. Well, maybe they weren't quite that interesting. The Padres are lucky to have Poltz as a fan is my point here. If the Strategic Thinkers want to flavor up the ballyard with a Padres vibe, they should have him do a pregame concert. Poltz and Beerfest, now that's a combination, although I'm not sure most people would get the Broderick Perkins references.

Unfortunately for the Padres, Poltz is the only one who hit it out of the ballpark for them in the four days. They scored only three runs in the series, despite third-base coach Glenn Hoffman's inventive plea. "I've been clicking my heels and saying, 'There's no place like home, there's no place like home,' " Hoffy told me today. 

I suppose this is where I should write something penetrating about the team's dormant offense. Only I can't do it. Yep, I'm pulling out the Get Out Of Jail card for the second time in a week. If anyone's written more about the subject in the last 17 years, I haven't met that person, probably because he or she is in rehab, so it's my privilege to say no mas whenever I feel like it. Yes, Brad Hawpe's hack still looks softballish. Yes, Ryan Ludwick is still a frog's hair late on too many fastballs. You were counting on Jorge Cantu? I didn't think so.  Sorry, you're wasting your time if you're pining for the Padres to call up Anthony Rizzo this month. Not happening, Rizzo-ites. Hawpe will be with the Padres for the next series. Count on it.

Probably the most disappointing dimension of this team so far is the defense, if only because I expected better. These guys dive for too many balls. The corner outfielders need to be better. The middle infielders generally have been OK, save for the two crucial failed doubleplays on the last trip. Hawpe's failure to snag Ryan Howard's hot grounder today was pivotal. His feet were in slow motion.

I wrote about the Phillies after each game and gleaned from Phillies pitchers that Padres hitters were every bit as lacking as the paltry results showed. Not that the Phillies were being arrogant, not at all, but Joe Blanton, who gave up two of San Diego's three runs in his seven innings, said he lacked his best stuff. Cole Hamels described his material as OK after throwing eight scoreless innings.

Offensively the Phillies were vulnerable. They were again without Chase UtleyRaul Ibanez is swinging a slow bat (I'm guessing that when Ibanez drilled a Chad Qualls pitch Saturday for a lineout, it influenced Bud Black's decision to pull Qualls later in the fateful 11th). Jimmy Rollins isn't in peak form. Shane Victorino is searching for his timing. The sacrifice bunt Saturday was his first since 2009.

Overlooked perhaps was Philly's steady defense. Spectacular defense helped the Phillies sweep the series here last August when the Padres scratched out only three runs in the 30 innings. Remember Jayson Werth running a mile to catch Adrian Gonzalez's blast to Death Valley? I doubt there was a better or more critical defensive play against the Padres all year. This time, the Phillies didn't make those kind of plays. But they played clean baseball from start to finish in their first four-game sweep here since 1979.

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