…Now say that five times fast ;O) JA Happ and Ryan Howard combined for a 1-2 punch last night that sent the Braves away with a 6-game deficit in the NL East as the Phillies took home the 4-1 win. Early on, it looked like rain might put a damper on the evening, but after a 1 hour and 37 minute delay, the game finally got underway.
Happ collected his 9th win of the season as he pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed just 3 hits and 1 solo home run. His command was off and on all game and he did wind up walking 6 batters, but got outs when he needed to. Never rattled by tight situations, Happ continues to be a consistent starter that the Phillies can count on.
Add to that consistency a little Howard power and the result is a win. Howard has struggled in the second half, but these last few days, he looks like he is hitting balls into another solar system. Howard has 4 home runs in his last 4 games, with 2 of them rocketing out of the park last night for the 20th multi-home run game of his career. In fact, Howard did everything last night to win the game, except steal a base. His defense was stellar and he turned two very impressive double plays; at the plate, he notched the two home runs plus a single and a walk. All four Phillies runs in the game were credited to Howard.
In relief, Ryan Madson and Scott Eyre combined to record 3 of the last four outs in the game. Eyre almost had his first save since 2005, but after he walked a batter, Charlie Manuel decided to go to Brad Lidge, perhaps thinking that a one out save might boost his confidence. Lidge did record the save on three pitches, but after a horrible season so far, most still have their doubts about Lidge. It would seem to be time for the Phillies to find a back-up plan, but Manuel still insists Brad is his man. However, the Phillies cannot expect to thrive in the post-season while carrying the worst closer in all of major league baseball; his 8 blown saves and 7.21 ERA are officially the bottom of the barrel for all closers.
Today the Phillies will have a much needed day of rest and I will need to find something else besides baseball to occupy my evening. Suggestions are welcome :O)
And then Tuesday night, Philadelphia will get their first look up close and in person with Pedro Martinez. After a road win against the Cubs last week, the home crowd is anxious to see his progress. Game time is 7:05pm against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Go Phillies!
Howard photo by Jenn