Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jamie Moyer Makes Things Interesting in Phillies Win

Diamondbacks-PhilliesBesides allowing the Phillies to maintain their 4 1/2 game lead in the NL East, last night's rain delayed Phillies victory provided some underlying intrigue. The team played a solid all around game despite again squandering a couple promising scoring opportunities, combining strong pitching, good defense and 12 hits to take a 5-1 decision over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The hitting stars of last night's game were Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth, who both drilled home runs and combined for 5 hits, 4 RBI and 3 runs.

The first story line of the game was anticipated. Pedro Martinez was making his second start in a Phillies uniform, and first start in Citizen's Bank Park in red pinstripes. All eyes were on him to see how he would rebound from his last outing, a 99 pitch victory against the Cubs.

Martinez started out slow, literally and figuratively. He yielded a home run to the game's first batter, Stephen Drew, and then another base hit, before calming the situation with a double play and strikeout. Although he possessed his trademark movement, his velocity was way down at the game's outset from his previous effort. Initially, it appeared that he threw several change-ups to start the game, registering in the low 80's, but then it became apparent that those were fastballs when he mixed in some 74 mph change-ups.

Over the next two innings, Pedro appeared to loosen up, and his velocity jumped to the high 80's and peaked at 91 mph. This, combined with excellent movement and a few sharp breaking balls, allowed him to cruise through the 3rd inning, setting down 8 straight batters after his shaky start. All-in-all, his effort provided more encouragement that he will be a valuable contributor down the stretch.

After the Phillies plated 3 runs in the bottom half of the 3rd inning to take a 3-1 lead they would never relinquish, the grounds crew covered the field in anticipation of the imminent torrential rainfall. When the 66-minute delay ended, Charlie Manuel sent conflicted left-hander Jamie Moyer to the hill to replace Martinez, apparently not wanting to risk taxing Pedro's arm after being idle for so long. Although unanticipated, this provided the most compelling story line of the game.

Moyer proceeded to let his actions do the follow-up to his speaking last week, channeling his frustration over losing his spot in the starting rotation into his finest pitching outing of the season. He also provided some hitting support and aggressive base running, but his 6-inning, 2-hit, no run effort was his biggest statement. Overall, his demeanor was serious and he seemed very much in control of the Diamondback hitters, never encountering any real trouble.

This game surely proves that if Moyer stays focused on helping the team, he will get opportunities to make meaningful contributions. It also served to make a stronger case for him to get more time on the mound than was made by verbally airing his frustrations last week. In the event that Martinez falters, or some other unforeseen event occurs, Jamie has spoken. Meanwhile, the team's chances keep getting better with every strong effort from both pitchers. As they say, "you can never have too much pitching."

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