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Fire-sale Phillies find winning easy
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 6, 2006
Don't look now, but the Phillies are making a playoff run.
That's right, the we-stink-so-we're-going-to-dump-salary Phillies. The we're-so-bad-we're going-to-fire-our-manager Phillies.
A couple of reasons for this unlikely turn of events: Philadelphia enters today having won nine of 12, and the National League, in general, is mediocre.
How else to explain the Phillies being just 31/2 games out of the wild-card spot with a 53-56 record.
"The last little while we've hit the ball so we look good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Now we have to keep it up."
It seems general manager Pat Gillick gave up after a 6-20 stretch from June 8 to July 7 left the Phillies at 38-47.
Gillick traded rightfielder Bobby Abreu and starter Cory Lidle to the Yankees. Starter Ryan Franklin was released.
Third baseman David Bell was traded to the Brewers and left-hander Rheal Cormier to the Reds.
Gillick admitted it was a salary dump. But a funny thing happened on the way to the East cellar and Manuel losing his job.
"I just think everyone is more relaxed," rookie starter Cole Hamels said after Thursday's 12-strikeout effort finished off a three-game sweep of the Cardinals.
"Any time you're relaxed you play better. With the pressure of the trade deadline over, everyone knows their roles. They can go with the flow and play."
No one has played better than second baseman Chase Utley, whose 35-game hitting streak ended Friday, nine off the NL record.
SOUR GRAPES: Lidle ignited a firestorm when he threw his former Phillies teammates under the bus.
In a conference call with New York reporters, Lidle, who also played for the Rays in 1999 and 2000, said it seemed in Philadelphia "sometimes ... winning didn't matter at all."
Phillies reliever Arthur Rhodes reminded Lidle was a replacement player and pitched in a spring training game during the '95 strike.
"What he said wasn't nice to this team or this organization," Rhodes told Philly reporters. "When I heard that, I had to say something about it. And what I said was true."
What Rhodes said to the New York Post was, "The only thing that Cory Lidle wants to do is fly around in his airplane and gamble. He doesn't have a work ethic. After every start, he doesn't run or lift weights. He would sit in the clubhouse and eat ice cream.
"He shouldn't say anything like that because he is a scab. He crossed the picket line. ... He is a replacement player."
A'S-ANGELS: It might be the most competitive rivalry in the majors. Ten of the past 12 games were decided by two runs or fewer, 15 of 31 games by one run.
"It's awesome," A's closer Huston Street said. "It's definitely heated, and it's even more heated this year."
And that makes people act stupid.
Did Oakland's Jay Payton really think Scott Shields was throwing at him with two on and first base open in Wednesday's eighth inning?
"When you get hit in the hand and it feels like it's broken, you react," said Payton, who had to be restrained by manager Ken Macha. "I know he's a good guy. I was just mad."
SPONGE BALLS? This is what happens when teams don't perform well: They make excuses.
Take the Brewers, who lost two out of three in a recent series at Colorado with just five runs. According to Milwaukee third baseman Jeff Cirillo, the Rockies, when the opposition bats, are using "illegal" baseballs stored in a humidor before games. Cirillo said the practice makes the balls "spongy" and "waterlogged."
The problem with the theory is Colorado has been storing balls in humidors for five years so they do not dry out and become hard in the mile-high atmospheric conditions.
Still, Cirillo, who played for the Rockies in 2000 and '01, did not back down, and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The balls are not the same. They're a little heavier."
Brewers manager Ned Yost was dismissive. "Both teams are playing with the same balls," he said. "It doesn't matter if they're mushy. It doesn't matter if they're square. It doesn't matter if they're triangular. We're just wasting time talking about it."