Lohse, Branyan Make Gillick Look Crafty

Mere days removed from an awful start by Adam Eaton — a free agent signed by GM Pat Gillick to a three-year, $24.5 million contract — Kyle Lohse and Russell Branyan, the former a trade-deadline acquisition, the latter a waiver-wire pickup, turned in performances worthy enough to send the Phillies to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory on the road against the Washington Nationals.

Going into the series-opener, the Phillies led the National League in many offensive categories, and were among the top in the others, but tonight, they were shut down by Shawn Hill. In six shutout innings, Hill and his sinking fastball allowed only one hit and one walk, and struck out seven.

Lohse was nearly as effective going into the seventh inning. In the six innings prior, Lohse had shut out the Nationals on just two hits and three walks, while striking out four. Unfortunately, the Phillies offense hit a wall and couldn’t find him any run support in his six and two-thirds innings of excellent pitching. In the seventh, Lohse allowed two infield singles to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi (to Iguchi’s credit, they were tough to field), and a well-hit double to left field off of the bat of pinch-hitter Tony Batista.

Cue “Gillick’s Guys.”

As many teams have found out this season, the Phillies are capable of a comeback at any time, and the Phightins proved it once more tonight. After Greg Dobbs harmlessly popped out, Jayson Werth hit a broken-bat grounder that should have been the second out of the inning, but third baseman Ryan Zimmerman airmailed it to first baseman Robert Fick, allowing Werth to advance to second.

The next hitter, catcher Carlos Ruiz, appeared anxious at the plate as usual, but still had a decent at-bat and took advantage of the deep positioning of the Nationals outfielders, dumping an RBI single to centerfield.

And that brought up Russell Branyan, king of The Three True Outcomes (strikeout, walk, and homerun) for his first at-bat as a Phillie. As they say, you have only one chance to make a first impression, and Branyan only needed two pitches in his first at-bat to make a great impression on his new teammates and his new fanbase in Philadelphia. Branyan launched Nationals reliever Jon Rauch’s fastball well beyond the right-field fence for a lead-changing two-run homerun, and, not to sound cliche, but yes, it would have gone out of Yellowstone.

With the Phillies now staked to a 3-2 lead, Tom Gordon came in and held the Nationals scoreless on one hit in the bottom of the eighth. The ninth inning had the bottom of their lineup facing closer Brett Myers, who quickly closed the door by striking out the side — the second time he’s done so in a week (August 8 against the Marlins).

Fangraphs.com game graph 08/14/07

A “Gillick’s Guys” recap…

Lohse: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO (a quality start).

Branyan: 1-1, 1 HR, 2 RBI (game-tying and go-ahead RBI’s).

Tonight’s win, even though it was against the lowly Nationals, was almost satisfying enough to forgive Gillick for bringing Adam Eaton back to Philadelphia. But that league-worst ERA is ugly.

Let’s have a look at Gillick’s work this season (all statistics prior to tonight’s game).

Pre-season

Antonio Alfonseca: 116 ERA+
Rod Barajas: 87 OPS+ (injured)
Fabio Castro: 36 ERA+ (sent to minors)
Greg Dobbs: 109 OPS+
J.D. Durbin: 108 ERA+
Adam Eaton: 70 ERA+
Freddy Garcia: 76 ERA+ (injured)
Wes Helms: 77 OPS+
Francisco Rosario: 67 ERA+ (injured)
Matt Smith: 40 ERA+ (injured, sent to minors)
Jayson Werth: 96 OPS+
The line: 11 players, 3 performing at least at a league-average (100) level. And only 6 have stayed healthy and in the Major Leagues.

Mid-season

Russell Branyan: 2-run go-ahead HR in first at-bat. 100 OPS+ prior to joining the Phillies.
Tadahito Iguchi: 125 OPS+
Kyle Lohse: 4.50 ERA, team is 3-0 when he pitches
Jose Mesa: 177 ERA+
J.C. Romero: 356 ERA+
The line: 5 players, 4 performing at least at a league-average (100) level.

Total: 15 players, 7 performing at least at a league-average (100) level.

Tonight’s win definitely makes Gillick look good, and, based on last year’s trade and waiver-wire pickups, he is adept at quickly patching up holes with whatever he finds in the trash bin. But, as the last two months of the season play out, it’s likely that Gillick’s acquisitions (Eaton, namely) end up costing the Phillies more than they help them.

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