Friday, September 4, 2009

Pedro: 2005 Vintage

Giants vs. Phillies

Facing some tough pitching and struggling offensively over the past week, the Phillies have needed to rely on their own pitching and defense to scratch out wins. Last night, starting pitcher Pedro Martinez and relievers Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge held up their end of the bargain as the team faced reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. In fact, after his first pitch of the game, Martinez appeared to be the 2005 Pedro vintage.

"The Freak" proved to be tough competition as expected, limiting the Phillies to 4 hits and 6 total base runners over 7 innings, while whiffing 11 batters. The Phillies were able to take advantage of their limited opportunities against him, though. With one out in the second, Jayson Werth crushed a 3-2 slider that hung in the middle of the plate into the upper deck in left field to knot the score at 1-1. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Ryan Howard lined a double to right-center to score Chase Utley, who had taken a fastball in the shoulder with two outs.

But the real story of the night was Pedro as he out-dueled the Giants' young ace. The most interesting aspect, though, was the way he did it. He appeared to step back in time to his younger days, throwing riding fastballs past batter after batter. He consistently hit 91-92 mph on the radar gun, with good up and in movement coming from his three-quarters delivery, which was particularly nasty after he mixed in diving change-ups.

Fellow countryman Eugenio Velez jumped on Martinez's 88 mph, "get over" fastball to start the game and sent it into the left-centerfield stands. That appeared to spark Pedro, though, as he reeled off 7 strikeouts over the first 3 innings. Overall, he scattered 5 hits, did not allow any free passes and recorded 9 strikeouts over 7 innings. Although his pitch count was only 87, Charlie Manuel opted for a pinch hitter in the home 7th in an attempt to add on an insurance run.

The narrow 2-1 lead was now in the hands of Madson and Lidge. Madson set down the Giants in order in the 8th, and then Lidge did the same with the first two hitters in the 9th. With the count 0-2 and the crowd on its feet anticipating a game ending pitch, Winn got enough of a slider to bounce it into right field. A couple of Winn steals and a walk later, Lidge was able to seal the victory by getting dangerous pinch hitter Fred Lewis to ground into a fielder's choice.

The win allowed the Phillies to take 2 of 3 in the series against a team they could face in the playoffs. They were also able to do it facing lefty strikeout pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, the pumped up new addition Brad Penny and this year's NL All-Star starting pitcher. With the offense in a little bit of a lull scoring less than 2 runs per game over the past 7 contests, the series provided some very positive signs as Martinez continues to sharpen his skills, Cole Hamels tossed a 2-hit shutout and the team demonstrated the ability to rely on its own strong pitching to win tight games.

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