Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On The Third Win, Church Rose Again

Ryan Church's grand slam was the offensive highlight of yesterday's 10-3 win of Philadelphia, which was much closer than it seemed.

Church, facing Philly's crappiest reliever had a great at-bat. I really like his approach at the plate. Other than his tendency to freeze on inside fastballs, he really waits for his pitch, instead of flailing at any ol' junk at the plate. He fell behind 0-2 before taking a ball, then fouling off four pitches. When Geary came back with a fastball up and over the middle of the plate, Church turned on it, driving it over the right-field wall for the Nats' second grand slam. (The Worst National In History, Brad Wilkerson hit the other one [Sorry, Ladson told me to write that])

But the true hitting hero, and the winner of the Majority Whip, is Ryan Zimmerman. One of the things I love about baseball is the game of chess opponents play. Sometimes it's in-game, but in Zimmerman's case, it's been over the long term.

When he came up last year, he proved very quickly that he could turn and spray a fastball all over the outfield. Over the final two weeks, pitchers adjusted, and learned that he had a much more difficult time with breaking pitches away, dropping his batting average from the mid-.400s to the high .300s.

So far this season, he's seen a steady diet of breaking pitches as pitchers try to exploit that weakness. Well, last night he adjusted. Twice, he got slop on the outside part of the plate, and twice he drove it to the opposite field, playing pepper with the practically immobile Bobby Abreu. His first big double broke a 1-1 tie; his second gave the team some breathing room, putting them up by 2.

If he can learn, and keep making those adjustments, the fortnight slump he's been in will be a thing of the past before too long.

  • Tony Armas didn't look especially good last night, but he was effective. When a pitcher pitches effectively despite not having his best stuff, it's a good sign. There's been a lot to like about Armas' pitching, and it really does look like he's turned a corner after his arm/should/elbow/tonsil surgeries.

    Last night was an especially tough matchup for him. His best pitch is his slider, and the strength of Philly's left-handed batters negates much of the impact of that pitch. Still, he survived, and impressively had Ryan Howard falling all over himself.

    He didn't pitch deep into the game, but 6 innings and 3 runs is not bad against that team in that park. He definitely put the team in a position to win the game, and that's much better than the other three-fifths of the rotation.

  • When I heard that Daryle Ward got the start in right, in place of the still-injured Jose Guillen (who was on deck to PH before the game got blown open), I was pleasantly surprised. Ward is an atrocious fielder, a lumbering ox of a man. But this team needs offense in this park, and adding another powerful left-handed bat to the lineup was probably worth whatever defense he'd have cost the team. With the closeness of the fences in Philly, defensive mistakes aren't going to be as costly as they would be at RFK, where the ball could roll to Suitland.

    When Ward homered to lead off the second, it was just gravy, gravy that Ward probably tried lapping up.

  • Brian Schneider's bat finally looks like it's coming alive. It's going to take a while for his average to climb back up into the mid-.200s, but that's roughly what he's hit over the last week or so. It was nice to see the Phillies intentionally walk Royce Clayton (Their Up-Chuck moment of the game) to face Brian, only to have him get drilled by a pitch on an 0-2 count. IBBing Royce Clayton? We did see teams IBB Cristian Guzman last year, so anything's possible, I guess.

  • Ryan Church Fun Facts O' The Day:
    --He's slugging 1.000 (That'd be a record)
    --He's scored more runs than Royce Clayton, Matthew Lecroy, and Brandon Watson combined.
    --Tied for the team lead in homers, with as many as Jose Guillen, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Zimmerman, and Brian Scheider combined.
    --Third on the team in RBI
    --As many stolen bases as Ryan Zimmerman, Royce Clayton, Damian Jackson, and Brandon Watson combined.

    I guess they really sent a message to him with the demotion, huh? (What's the rolling eyes smiley?)

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