The big bat of Ryan Howard provided the firepower for Philadelphia in their soggy 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in Philadelphia on Friday, extending the Phillies lead in the N.L. East to eight games. The Braves were hoping to sneak up on the Phillies, sending ace rookie Tommy Hanson to the mound, but Hanson could not keep the Phillies bats off the board, giving up a home run to Howard in the second before being relieved (he was pulled from the game because of a rain delay) by a bevy of Braves relievers who kept the game close, but could not keep it close enough: Howard homered again in the fourth. The Phillies, meanwhile, started Pedro Martinez â€“ but like Hanson he was also pulled from the game as a result of the deluge. This is becoming a habit with Martinez, whose last start was also shortened by showers. In both cases, Martinez was relieved by Jamie Moyer, relegated to a bullpen role as a result of Martinezâ€™s signing and promotion.
The soggy field did not dampen the spirits of Phillie fans, however, who stayed throughout the contest â€“ knowing that the Braves-Phillies tilt would help put the final touches on a successful Phillies season. The frosting on the Phillies cake was a 9th inning appearance by a sometimes-shaky Brad Lidge, who set down the Braves for his 26th save. Full coverage of the Braves can be found at The Braves Baseball Blog. And check out Phillies Phandom for more on the Phillies.
The Florida Marlins pitching staff, which has been up and down all year was down on Friday night, as Chris Volstad suffered through one of his worst starts in the majors â€“ and the Marlins went on to drop a key game against the San Diego Padres 9-5. Volstad, who had pitched brilliantly in some of his starts earlier in the year, lasted only 1.2 innings against the Pads, despite help from some lively Marlinsâ€™ bats: Chris Coghlan was 3-5, Wes Helms was 2-5, Hanley Ramirez was 2-4 and Cody Ross was 2-4. But as any conch collector in Key West can tell you, without pitching you just canâ€™t win. So it was with the Marlins tonight â€“ as the team fell into a tie with the Braves for second place in the N.L East, a full eight games back of the surging Phillies. It now seems unlikely that either of them, both of whom were retooled and ready for the summer campaign in the spring, can catch Philadelphia.
While the Marlins have not raised the white flag on the season â€“ they still have Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco throwing hard and well (and are well-stocked with a formidable wall of power hitters) â€“ they have decided that Chris Volstad needs more work. In the wake of their loss to the lowly Friars, the team sent Volstad (9-11) packing to the minors. The decision shows just how far the fastballer has fallen. “People are going to struggle, but when you see frustration and lack of confidence, that’s when we have to make a decision as coaches and an organization on what’s best for the kid, and we’ve done that,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’re going to option Volstad down to New Orleans to give him a little breather and come back.â€ You can read all about the game, and the decision on Volstad, on FishGuts.Â
Mets lefty Pat Misch baffled the Cubs for seven solid innings on Friday, but it wasnâ€™t enough, as the New York bullpen melted down â€“ and ended up giving the game away to the Chicago North Siders 5-2. The loss was particularly frustrating because the Mets had seemed to master Cubsâ€™ starter Ted Lilly, touching the always tough veteran for two hard earned runs â€“ one in the second and one in the eighth. The Cubs, skidding after losing two of three to the lowly Nats, were ripe for the picking, but the Mets bullpen could not take advantage: the usually dependable Brian Stokes gave up a three run shot to Alfonso Soriano (who victimized his team with two outfield gaffes) that effectively sealed the contest.
Misch, who grew up in Illinois watching the Cubs, said that he was nervous playing in Chicago. â€œI couldnâ€™t eat a thing,â€ he said after the game, â€œand I usually eat a lot before I pitch.â€ The Mets, who have only won nine of their last 21, are desperate to finish the season on an up-beat note, but things have not been going well for them lately â€“ Friday was only the most recent example of their recent troubles. When the starting pitching is going well (as it was on Friday in Wrigley) their bullpen lets them down, and when their bullpen is going well, it seems their starting pitching lets them down. Worse yet, on Friday the team got word that shortstop Jose Reyes, who has not played in three months, may well have to undergo surgery on his right hamstring tendon. The Mets will attempt to bounce back from Friday loss on Saturday, when Bobby Parnell faces off against Ryan Dempster at Wrigley. The Real Dirty Mets Blog covers everything youâ€™d ever want to know about this game . . . and the Mets.
Who would pitch to Albert Pujols in a 2-2 tie before a screaming throng at Busch Stadium in St. Louis? Why the Washington Nationals, thatâ€™s who. Washington Nationals reliever Jason Bergman served up a fastball in Pujols wheelhouse in the ninth inning of a beautifully pitched duel between Natsâ€™ pitcher John Lannan and newly acquired Redbirdsâ€™ ace John Smoltz â€“ and the Cardinals beat the Nats 3-2 in St. Louis. Lannan pitched eight innings of four hit ball before giving up a home run to Khalil Greene that tied the game and was subsequently relieved by Jason Bergman, who came on to pitch the ninth. Washingtonâ€™s long-suffering fans didnâ€™t have to wait long to determine the results: Pujols put a fastball into the upper deck in left field at Busch to pull out the victory.
St. Louis fans gave a warm welcome to Smoltz, who was sharp in his second start for the Redbirds. The former Atlanta star pitched four innings of four hit ball, but left with little damage â€“ two doubles by Elijah Dukes. Washingtonâ€™s big boppers: Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham flailed away in vain against Smoltz all night in vain. For all things good and bad about the Nats, be sure to check out CenterfieldGate which also has a lot more on this game.