A little good news to start your Friday… The Phillies are over .500. We’re not used to celebrating merely having a winning ball club in recent years. Or ever really. But there’s certainly relief in looking at the standings this morning and seeing the Phillies with more wins than losses for the first time since opening day. After sweeping the Cubs, that’s just where the Fightins are as Boston comes to Philly for the weekend.
Good things usually happen for the Phils when Chris Volstad is on the mound. They’re hardly alone in that regard, as Volstad hadn’t won any of his previous 18 starts heading into Thursday night’s showdown with a certain Mr. Halladay. And it isn’t just the luck of the sport’s sometimes-unfair system for doling out W’s and L’s to pitchers. During a span over eight games to start this season, his new club the Cubs haven’t won any of his starts; in his last ten starts of 2011, his old Marlins won just twice.
Add to that inglorious streak the fact that the Phillies essentially owned Volstad during his time with the Marlins, plus the fact that Carlos Ruiz was catching Roy Halladay in this one, and most signs were pointing to that glorious game-above-even heartland.
Notes on the Phils’ hang-on-for-dear-life 8-7 win below.
Doc went 8 strong, allowing 7 hits and no walks, striking out 4. His 3 runs allowed came on a first-inning sac fly after a leadoff double, then a pair of solo homers in the seventh and eighth innings. After running a long count and grooving a pitch to Welington Castillo, then watching it clear the left field wall, Doc beaned the mound with the rosin bag in frustration. Gotta love that emotion despite pitching an efficient game and getting great run support.
Halladay’s batterymate once again was a key in providing the offense, continuing his early season tear with four 4 hits in 5 plate appearances and 3 RBI on the night. Chooch’s average has climbed to .363, with an OBP now over .400. Elias Sports informs us that Ruiz is now 15 for 30(!) with 12 RBI in Halladay’s starts this season. Get that man a Timex.
Jimmy Rollins got aboard 3 times, with a hit and a pair of walks, scoring 3 runs.
Hunter Pence struck out with two on in the first after Volstad allowed a hit and a walk, but made much of more of a bases loaded opportunity in the second, singling to plate a pair of runs.
Not content to leave it all on the mound, Halladay saved some for the plate, where he had a pair of hits and scored two runs as well.
Juan Pierre continued an impressive run of his own, getting on twice out of the 2-hole and snaring a dangerous fly ball dropping just inside fair territory in the 7th. That catch would be a potentially huge difference-maker, as things started to go south for Phils pitching in that inning. Starlin Castro had just homered over Pierre’s head in the previous at bat, but the left fielder helped stop the bleeding with his grab, and Doc escaped after a double play.
After the bats added three insurance runs to take an 8-2 lead in the eighth inning—and really, look no further than this game to see how important insurance runs can be—Doc gave up the Castillo homer in the bottom of the frame, then induced three straight outs and handed the ball to Jake Diekman for the ninth.
Diekman’s debut was impressive (3 K in 1.1 IP), but there are plenty of unanswered questions for the kid. With an 8-3 lead, this was the perfect opportunity to see how he’d respond in his second appearance. He has some funky, hitter-fooling stuff, like he’s throwing a rock at a dead bird. But his control is a question, and some near misses resulted in a 4-pitch walk to start the bottom of the ninth. Diekman got Castro to fly out, but then walked pinch hitter Jeff Baker, got Joe Mather to line out, then hit Ian Stewart to load the bases.
After Castillo again struck with late-inning damage, doubling in all three baserunners, Diekman’s night was done. Jonathan Papelbon came in on the eve of his matchup against the Red Sox, allowed a hit that scored a run, but then got a groundout to end the game, 8-7.
On a night where every run counted, the Phils didn’t stop swinging. They preserved a win for the ace and gave the new bullpen kid enough cushion to get whooped and not have a loss on his head. We’ll take it.
Cole Hamels hosts righty Daniel Bard as the Phillies-Red Sox series kicks off tonight in South Philly. Also in town across the parking lot are the Celtics, with gorgeous weather on tap for the whole weekend. Do it right, Philadelphia…
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