Floyd the Barber
Despite play as shakey as a grandmother's pointing index finger, the Phils managed to take 2 of 3 on the road against division rival and very vulnerable Atlanta Braves, a squad currently trotting out a winless starting rotation that looks like its about to implode in the sky. Early on, yes, but is it really so hard to imagine that one year, maybe this summer, it all goes horribly wrong for the 14-year division champs?
Last night, Gavin Floyd turned in a nice, if not overwhelming, outing, giving up single runs three times in 6 innings, but generally throwing the ball aggressively and -- here's the most reassuring part -- hard. Floyd's fastball, which failed to show up with him in his debut in south Philly against the Dodgers, returned en masse last night, topping out at 94 and sitting above 90 virtually the entire night. After 6 innings and 95 pitches, Floyd handed the ball to the increasingly confusing Phillies bullpen.
Staked with a 5 run lead before Ryan Howard made the first out, Floyd showed us exactly what every half-interested Phillies fan will take from him this year: velocity, something remembling control (although far from commanding), great breaking stuff, flyball outs, and most importantly, a short memory. For instance, after Howard showed us the Dorn Ole play on a double-play chopper hit to him in the first, Floyd pitched out of the jam somewhat, allowing only a sac fly. After Jeff Franceour suddenly awoke with a home run in the second, Floyd sent the side down in order. And, in the sixth, Floyd still threw the ball as if he were fresh, giving the Phils two-thirds of a solid game on the mound.
Ryan Franklin solidfied his job as least trustworthy pitcher, however, coming in to relinquish another gopher ball in his quest to lead the majors in home runs yielded, despite beingin the pen. With Eric Milton picthing better so far, perhaps Frankjlin has a shot. Meanwhile Aaron Fultz 2006 still does not look like Aaron Fultz of 2005, but after hitting the first batter he faced in the seventh, the side went down in order. Finally, Tom Gordon appears to be settling into a niche in the closer's roll that is somewhere between the domination of Billy Wagner and the frustration of Jose Mesa. While no Joe Table, Flash will allow baserunners this year, although the "wild pitch" in the 9th was most definitely a passed ball on Fasano -- he may be an excellent best friend, but he has got to learn to block ball sin the dirt and not pancake them. How well Gordon gets out of jams will be the jury on his season on the ninth.
And for all you Pat Burrell haters out there, witness the play of the game that ended up saving the v ictory for the Phils. With Abreu on first and looking highly runnerish, Burrell worked a deep count by laying off two straight fastballs low and away. Then, as Abreu broke for second, Pat the Bat poked a ground ball right down the hatch of where second baseman Marcus Giles was before he moved to cover second. Hit and run? Check. Abreu moves the third on the play, allowing him to score on Utley's sac fly. It was perhaps Burrell's best at-bat of the year and precisely the kind of thing this teams needs to keep doing to scratch out enough runs to give it's staff enough run to pitch: situation hitting.
On to Colorado, .500 ball in site.