Sunday, June 8, 2008

Howard leads Phillies to sweep over Braves

(AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
Ryan Howard has been the most criticized Phillie this season. His average has hovered around .200 and he has been racking up strikeouts at a record pace. Fortunately, he has still has monster games from time to time, including one on Sunday that led the Phillies to a 6-3 win over the Braves, completing a three game sweep in Atlanta.

3 Up
1. Howard's double-day
Heading into Sunday's game, Ryan Howard had 8 total doubles on the season. He ended up hitting three two-baggers today which helped him to drive in 4 runs. Howard's average soared to .214, the highest it has been since April 5th, the 5th game of the season. With all the talk on how poorly he is hitting, Howard has still managed to do the thing the Phillies pay him to do: drive in runs. He has 49 RBIs on the year which puts him in the top 5 in the NL. His average will probably never go above .250 this year, but you can bet it will end up around .240 which means he will continue to put up good numbers in the next few months to raise it up. Howard will also likely hit 40 homers and drive in 120 runs, numbers that are all we can ask for from a someone in the middle of the order.

2. Victorino still Flyin' Shane Victorino nearly single-handedly beat the Braves on Friday, and after being held hitless on Saturday, he busted out again today. Victorino had 3 hits and scored 3 runs, and drove in the game winning run in the 9th. He also stole a base. Victorino may finally be proving that he can be an every day player. Let's just hope he can stay healthy.

3. Economical Lidge After striking out the side yesterday to earn his 16th save, Brad Lidge decided he wanted to get things over with quickly today. Lidge entered the 9th inning of Sunday's game and needed only 7 pitches to finish off the Braves and earn his 17th save. Lidge's numbers continue to be out of this world: 17 saves on 17 attempts, a 0.96 ERA and a WHIP of exactly 1.00. Mariano Rivera is the only other closer putting up numbers like that.

3 Down
1. Eaton's back!
The real Adam Eaton came back today. After putting together two straight good starts, Eaton looked more like his old self in giving up 3 runs in 6 innings. Eaton was shelled for 8 hits and walked two more so he was lucky to only allow 3 runs across the plate. His performance was still good enough to earn a win, but he hardly deserved it.

2. The awful Braves bullpen Atlanta has some serious problems with their team, none more so than their terrible bullpen. Over the last three days, Braves starters did well to slow down the Phillies offense but once the bullpen came in the Phils feasted, scoring 10 runs from the 8th inning on during this series. With Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez injured and John Smoltz likely to retire, this bullpen is a mess and it could drive Atlanta right out of contention.

3. Bruntlett's bad base-running With one out and the game tied 3-3 in the 9th inning and Jimmy Rollins at the plate, Eric Bruntlett, who was on first base, took off for second on a hit-and-run play. Rollins singled to right field so Bruntlett should have ended up on third base where he could have been driven home on a sacrifice fly. Instead, for some reason, Bruntlett didn't realize Rollins actually hit the ball so he slid into second and stayed there. Luckily that base running mistake didn't matter because Shane Victorino drove Bruntlett home in the next at-bat. It's nit-picky, but it could have cost the Phils the win.

Here are the highlights from Sunday's win:

The Phillies have a day off tomorrow and then they go to Florida where they hope to stretch out their lead against the second place Marlins.

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