The Phillies loses another close game in Spring Training, this time in spite of taking the lead with a five-run sixth inning, thanks to Blaine Neal being unable to hold off the Pirates in the ninth, as the Phils lose 6-5. Joe Blanton starts the game off for the Phils, going four and two-thirds innings, giving up only two runs on five hits and a balk while he struck out two. Robert Mosebach follows for an inning and a third, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. Ryan Madson and Scott Nestor follows with both men pitching an inning in relief, with each giving up a hit apiece as Madson strikes out three batters and Nestor two. Blaine Neal pitches an inning, losing the game as he gives up three runs on three hits, with the big blow being Jeff Salazar’s three-run home run, and a walk while striking out one. Blaine’s spring training record is now 0-2 with a 23.63 ERA, as he is also credited with a blown save. So far this spring, the Phils first four starters are pitching well, while both J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park are both pitching well to claim the fifth and final spot in the rotation. If this keeps up, the starting rotation might become the strength of the Phillies arsenal this season like the bullpen was last season.
Among the batters, the Phils were quiet for most of the game, but had a five-run explosion in the sixth. The batters had nine hits, with Jason Donald leading the way with two hits, as he went 2 for 5 with a run scored, as he now has a .361 spring training batting average. Eric Bruntlett, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, John Mayberry, Jr., Miguel Cairo and Carlos Ruiz got the other Phils hits. Howard got two more RBIs with a two-run blast, his fifth home run of the spring, while Ibanez, Cairo and Ruiz knock in the other three runs. Donald is impressing the brass with his batting, as is Mayberry. Also, Pedro Feliz was in the lineup, playing third base for several innings, although going 0 for 2.
The Phillies continue Grapefruit League play by facing the Houston Astros this afternoon, while the Astros will also be involved in a split squad game with the New York Mets.
In other Phillies news, it has been announced that Chase Utley might be ready to participate in some games next week, putting him on schedule for actually playing on Opening Night next month with the Atlanta Braves. If so, that would be very good news for the Phils. And ex-Phil and now Tampa Bay Ray, Pat Burrell, took out a pair of big ads which appeared in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, thanking the fans for their support during his nine seasons as a Phil. A real nice move by Pat the Bat.