Thursday, August 06, 2009

Four Hitters

No, I'm not going to write about four different baseball players with great prowess at the plate today. I'm talking about four-hitters, with a hyphen in there, as in four-hit complete games thrown by pitchers. Because the Phillies have had perhaps their biggest week in starting pitching of all season just now, even coming off of losing 4 out of 6 games.

First was Cliff Lee, who came out in his first start as a World Champion Philadelphia Phillies player last week and pitched an absolute gem, a four-hit complete game shelling of the wildcard-leading San Francisco Giants on the road in Cali. As I wrote about last week, this was Lee's first appearance as a Phil, first appearance in the National League in fact, and he absolutely shined, helping making Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro look like a genius for landing this guy while somehow managing to keep both upstart 25-year-old J.A. Happ and his 7-2, sub-3 ERA, as well as the #1 pitching prospect in our easily league-best farm system, Doug Drabek.

Well, Wednesday night was a special night for many Phillies fans, as the team has returned home after its West Coast mini-roadtrip, and Wednesday was the first chance for the Phillies fans to see J.A. Happ pitch since Amaro offered up Happ in exchange for the Blue Jay's Roy Halladay but then nixed a counteroffer from Toronto that included both Happ and Drabek. So, despite Happ's 7-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP start to the season, we almost lost him there, but then our GM opted to keep him, trading instead for the reigning AL Cy Young winner and keeping Drabek and Happ in the process. For us Phillies fans, this is like a second chance at life with Happ. Happ has been a stalwart for us since joining the start rotation about halfway through the first half of the season, and as fans who appreciate our team in a way that no other city could understand, we are thrilled to have Happ still on our bench after flirting with trading him away in a deal for a megastar.

So Wednesday night was Happ's first start since almost being dealt to the Blue Jays, and unlike Cliff Lee, that start happens to be at Citizens Bank Park and in front of the highly appreciative hometown fans. The guy got a massive ovation the minute they called his name during the introductions in Philly, and another when he took the field and starting warming up for the top of the first inning. And what did Happ do with all that adrenaline and good feeling going his way to start this game? He did nothing short of completely obliterating the half-a-game-back-in-the-wildcard Colorado Rockies, serving up another 4-hit gem, this one a complete game shutout. Not only was this Happ's first complete game of the season -- and I believe of his short career as a major league pitcher -- but it was also easily his best overall performance ever as a starter, with a final line of 9 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 10 strikeouts, and just 2 walks.

And boy did the crazed Philadelphia fans take notice. In the 8th inning, the World Champions' coach Charlie Manuel got Ryan Madsen up in the bullpen as Happ crossed the 100-pitch mark. With Happ scheduled to bat in the bottom of the 8th already, the observant fans in Citizens Bank Park immediately knew what this meant, and they stood up to show Happ what they thought of his effort on the night, and of having him still in the rotation after what he showed us in the first half of the season. This turned into about a 5-minute standing ovation for Happ all through the last couple batters of the 8th and then a riotous cheering as Happ walked off the mound. But then suddenly, in the bottom of the 8th, there was Happ striding out of the dugout and into the on-deck circle, and the fans went wild knowing Happ would be coming out to go for the complete game shutout in the 9th. When Happ slammed a double in the bottom of the 8th, it was all gravy for the fans who were already priming for another three outs from their 25-year-old phenom.

With 110 pitches already thrown on the day, Happ trotted out happily to the mound for the 9th, to once again a standing ovation from the crowd that this time would last for the entire inning. 17 pitches later, the fans roared their approval as Happ fired a 94-mph fastball for a called third strike to end the game. As a Phillies fan, this was about as much fun as I've had watching a regular-season game as I can recall in the recent past.

Now for Thursday afternoon's game, bring on the Rockies for the rubber match. Bring on Aaron Cook and his 10-3 record for the 59-48 Rockies. And most importantly, bring on some more of that Cliff Lee!

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Blogger Riggstad said...

I love me some Philly Brag posts.

Smartest fans in all of sports. As you continually, and eloquently show with every post.

Bring on the haters!

1:11 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Man, it is a good time to be a Philly fan right now I'll tell you that.

There were some murmurs that Happ was gonna head to the pen when Pedro eventually comes up next week or so, I am SO glad Happ stated his case to remain in the rotation.

SO now, do they Phils use the 6 man rotation? Do they keep Pedro in the Pen? Do they put Moyer in the Pen????
Personally, I think Moyer has been pitching better as of late and maybe they skip him one time in the rotation to see how Pedro does, if Pedro gasses early I say keep Pedro as mid-reliever right now. How sick would that be if our 7th inning pitcher was Pedro/Madsen/Romero, 8th was Myers, and 9th is Lidge. Sick sick pen we have, especially if all the other injured come back.

4:52 AM  
Blogger New York City Mom said...

I would put Pedro in the pen at this point. Moyer's ERA might be over 5.5, but dammit if he isn't the team's leading winner over the past two seasons. No way I bench the lifelong Philly fan and his 78-mph fastball after last season and this season so far for that Red Sox and Mets asshat. Who sucks royally btw, let us not forget.

6:13 AM  

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