The Phillies were depending upon Gavin Floyd, whose 8.50 ERA entering Sunday's start ranked 56th out of the 56 qualifying NL starters in that statistic, to help them avoid an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Pirates.
Floyd responded by allowing just one run over 6 2/3 innings in the Phils' 5-1 win. Floyd walked five but worked his way out of jams. Much of Floyd's success came from a pitch that he abandoned in spring training - the two-seam fastball. In spring training the organization wanted the right-hander to rediscover his four-seam fastball and attack with it. He did, and it led to an impressive Grapefruit League stint that earned Floyd a place in the rotation.
However, hitters were catching on to Floyd's flat heater, so he and catcher Sal Fasano talked before the game and decided to give the finesse fastball a whirl.
Lo and behold, it worked.
"I think this is a step forward," Floyd said. "There wasn't anything in particular that was motivating me. I just had a game plan and went with it."
REPLAY: Pat Burrell hit his seventh homer of April and added an RBI double as the Phillies salvaged a 5-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday to avoid being swept by the NL's worst team.
Aaron Rowand had two hits, an RBI and a run, and Jimmy Rollins continued to emerge from a late-April slump with a homer and two walks. Gavin Floyd went 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run to pick up his second win of the season. Ryan Franklin and Tom Gordon got the final seven outs to end the Phillies' three-game losing streak.
PHILLIES NOTES & QUOTESPat Burrell picked up where he left off last season in the opening month. Burrell hit .300 with a team-leading seven homers and 21 RBIs this April; last April Burrell hit .301 with five homers and 21 RBIs.
Alex Gonzalez went 0-for-3 Sunday and hit .056 with no RBI in 18 at-bats in April. That's 48 points lower than the pitching staff's combined average - and the pitchers aren't exactly raking at .104.
Ryan Howard averaged 21 RBI per month over the final three months of last season in winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, but he finished April with just 12 RBI even though he batted .306 for the month. Howard is 4-for-18
with no homers with runners in scoring position.
Cory Lidle is fourth in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings (9.7) and tied for first for fewest walks allowed per nine innings (0.9), yet he is 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA through five starts. The Phillies have scored 20 runs in his five starts.
Tom Gordon's perfect ninth inning Sunday lowered his ERA to 0.84 in April. He has allowed only four hits in 10 2/3 innings this season.
THE NUMBERS GAME: 9.7 and 0.9 - Number of strikeouts and walks per nine innings for RHP Cory Lidle this season (through April 28), making him the only pitcher to rank in the top 10 of both categories in the NL.
HE SAID WHAT? "I'm trying to make contact, obviously. I think a lot of good
hitters strike out a good amount, but I also think it's a good sign. I'm happy with the way I feel at the plate." - 3B David Bell, on having struck out just twice in 74 plate appearances this season.