SportsProf

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Phillies-Padres at Citizens Bank Park Last Night

It was a beautiful day in the Delaware Valley, and we went to the park to see the Phillies (hopefully) rebound from a disappointing loss the night before, where they blew a 7-1 lead to lose to the surprising Padres (none of whose starters, I believe, would beat out a Phillie for a starting position in the everyday lineup). It also was a long day for the Phillies' faithful, as the gates of CBP opened at 8 a.m. to enable fans to pay tributes to Harry Kalas. A memorial service followed.

About 9,000 fans turned out for the service, and many local and baseball luminaries turned out to pay their respects, including Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt. This again was a touching tribute to a man who had touched the lives of so many during his 38-year tenure with the Phillies.

The Phillies enjoyed another sellout crowd, and we had to endure Brett Myers walking the bases full before getting out of the top of the first. (Note: My son, who is 9, threw fewer pitches in the first inning of his Little League game than Myers did last night against a team not noted for its offense). Memo to Brett: you are in a contract year, so if you want the multi-year deal and want the hometown team not to trade for Jake Peavy in a deadline deal (for those Cubs fans out there who think Peavy is a lock to join you before July 31, while the Phillies don't have tons of minor-league prospects to trade, you have only slightly more than the Astros, which remains at about zero), start pitching the way you did after you came back from AAA with about a third of the season remaining in 2008.

Anyway. . .

The Padres are a plucky lot. 1B Adrian Gonzalez hit a long home run over the center field fence, 2B David Eckstein embodies their grit, and, well, they did it two nights in a row. It was a see-saw game, it saw another bad outing from Phillies' set-up man Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge's first blown save since the end of the 2007 season, when Lidge was toiling for the Houston Astros (and "toil" is probably the appropriate verb, for, if not, the choice would have been "struggle").

Observations:

1. Lidge was bound to blow a save sooner or later. So, he blew one last night. These things happen, but remember that the Phillies' bullpen had an incredible record in games the team was ahead after 8 innings last year, something like 88-1, and their bullpen has blown up two nights in a row. It was this same 'pen that helped propel them to their title in 2008. Yes, of course, the season is early.

2. The Phillies' honoring of Harry Kalas was nice. There is a sign on the left-field wall, his signature with the date of his Hall of Fame induction painted on the first-base line, and we all got to sing "High Hopes" -- his favorite song -- during the 7th inning stretch. All good stuff.

3. Raul Ibanez is a big upgrade over Pat Burrell. What I heard on talk radio the other day confounds me -- that you can't get a fan who calls in to say a bad word about Burrell -- but those fans are engaged in a) revisionist history or b) an ignoring of the facts. Pat the Bat was plum awful from September 15 through the end of the 2007 season and then was AWOL for August and September of 2008. He was a streak hitter, increasingly a liability in left, and as the newspaper industry has learned, if you don't evolve, you can become extinct. The Phillies needed to evolve in left, and while Ibanez is no spring chicken, his bat is showing up in a big and consistent way.

4. Hard to believe that when you get home runs from the 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the same game (Utley, Howard and Ibanez all homered), you'd lose the game. But that's what the Phillies did last night.

5. I like Tom McCarthy a lot, and I think that he'll do a great job as the successor to Harry Kalas. McCarthy is excellent, but Phillies' fans should approach their appreciation of McCarthy by hoping that he can be the best he can be and not be the next Harry Kalas. Harry was an original and a classic, but we can't pin unrealistic expectations on McCarthy. Also, Kalas was blessed with a great partner in Richie Ashburn, and while the insiders sing their praises of Larry Andersen, to me he's part of a baseball insider fraternity that doesn't relate well to the average fan. Put differently, McCarthy's the star of the team, and his remaining teammates are average (although I like Gary Matthews).

6. The Padres' cream road uniforms with blue lettering and trim are quite stylish. They are from southern California, after all, and they do look good. They paint houses with those colors in colonial towns in New England, I think.

7. Another sellout. Lots of red, a great fan base. It's just a shame that they didn't walk away from the park with a W.

3 Comments:

Blogger Escort81 said...

Ibanez is not fast, but he is a good baserunner,and he is not slow in the same sense at Pat the Bat.

His walkoff homer on Sunday has made him a fan favorite early on in the season, notwithstanding the post hoc deification of Pat Burrell, who was ragged mercilessly during much of his stay in Philly.

Now if the Phils can just get to .500 and have their starting pitchers produce quality starts, they can get their season going. The back end of the bullpen, Madson and Lidge, has to forget this past week and reboot.

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