Anatomy of a Winning Streak

After a rough start to their season, the Reading Phillies are turning around their fortunes. A current eight game win streak has moved them into fourth place, still 8 1/2 games behind Akron, the front runner in the Southern Division. So, what has helped Reading to their current streak. Let's take a look at the numbers and news that tell the story.

It's Wednesday, June 16. The Reading Phillies lost three of four to front running Altoona and the first game of a series in Erie after a long bus ride across the commonwealth. They've lost three straight and times are tough. Kevin Dougherty is on the mound to make his fourth start of the season for Reading.

On that first night of the streak, pitching was the key. Dougherty threw six shutout innings, allowing just three hits. The outing drops Dougherty's ERA to 1.59. Still, the game is no easy win. The SeaWolves score two runs off Felix Villegas in the bottom of the seventh to take a 2-1 lead. An error puts Scott Youngbauer on to lead off the eighth. Kevin Barker follows with a single and Youngbauer and Barker take off on a double steal. The throw to third sails into left field and Youngbauer comes home with the tying run. In the tenth, Youngbauer would again be the key as he homers to right field and Brian Sanches comes on to shut down Erie in the bottom of the inning to notch his second save of the season. Jason Jimenez got the win in relief, throwing two shutout innings.

That first win is kind of an indicator of how the streak has gone. Reading has gotten timely hits when they needed them. They've been able to take advantage of the other guys errors, while playing decent defense themselves. Plus, the pitching has done the job. It's basically all come together.

Reading's pitching staff is known for being the home of Gavin Floyd. During the streak, Floyd has had one start and threw six good innings, allowing two earned runs. While that's a good outing, it's a little weak for Floyd's norm and it actually raised his ERA to 2.39. Floyd beat Bowie on Father's Day, with Martire Franco throwing three shutout innings to record his second save of the year.

Beyond Floyd, the Reading starters have been just average during the streak. The starters have recorded two of the wins (Randy Wolf only pitched four innings in his rehab start and wasn't eligible to get the win) and posted a 4.04 ERA. If you take out Wolf's start, the starter's ERA moves to 4.23 during the streak. Layne Dawson has especially struggled and is having a tough time adjusting to AA ball. Dawson has an 8.68 ERA in his two starts during the streak and has given up five homeruns in 9 1/3 innings. Dawson is a decent pitcher and will likely adjust with some patience.

In addition to the strong outings by Dougherty and Floyd, Franklin Perez also contributed a great outing. This past Saturday, Perez shutout the Bowie Bay Sox for seven innings, allowing just two hits and issuing no walks. Perez struck out six and appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October of 2002. Slowly, but surely, Perez is looking better and better and is one of the good stories from this Reading team. At 5-4, 4.54, Perez' numbers aren't stellar, but the fact that he's pitching as well as he is gives the Phillies great hope for his future.

If the starters struggle, the relievers need to kick it up a notch. No problem there. The Reading bullpen has a 2.70 ERA over their last eight games with 26 2/3 innings of work. After Villegas allowed those two earned runs in his 1/3 inning of work in the first game of the streak, the bullpen threw 16 innings of shutout ball and recorded three saves. Since Dougherty was technically on in relief of Randy Wolf on Monday, his numbers count in the relievers stats. If you take out the fact that Dougherty gave up four earned runs in three innings in that outing, the bullpen ERA tumbles to 1.52 for the streak.

Brian Sanches has been a big addition for Reading this season. During the streak, Sanchez is 1-0 and has one of his season saves to go with three shutout innings. He has allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out two. Sanches has pitched in 21 games for Reading and is 1-0, 3.28 with two saves on the year.

Lefty Matt Squires had thrown 3 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run during the streak before giving up a run Tuesday night. Squires' shutout innings during the streak brought his total of innings without giving up an earned run to 8 2/3 since he came off the DL earlier this month.

Offensively, it's been a combination of players who have contributed. If the pitching discussion starts with Floyd, the hitters start with Ryan Howard. The big man is actually struggling a little. During the streak, Howard is hitting .250 (7-28). If you look a little deeper though, you can find Howard's contributions. Howard hit homeruns in both ends of a double header last Friday. He has two homeruns and eight RBI even though his average hasn't been high. Howard's numbers are also hurt by the tough 0-5 he took Tuesday night against Harrisburg. He's hit in five of the eight games and has scored a run in each of those five games.

Kevin Barker has gone 6-9 (.667) in his last two games and has three homeruns in those games, picking up some of the power slack for Howard. Overall, Barker is 13-34 (.382) during the streak and has hit in seven of the eight games. Ryan Fleming started the streak with an 0-8, but is hitting .350 in his last twenty at bats and .250 (7-28) overall. Fleming also drew a key walk in the four-run ninth inning rally against Harrisburg Monday night that gave Reading their seventh win of the streak. Brian Hitchcox is 9-20 (.450) during the streak and has played well defensively at second base.

Overall, Reading hitters are batting .309 during the streak.

It remains to be seen if the Reading Phillies can catch front-running Altoona. The Curve have an 8 1/2 game advantage over the R-Phils with the two teams set to match up for three games in Reading early next week. They also play a four game series in Altoona right after the Eastern League All-Star Game.

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