Win Streak Ends Along with Alumni Weekend

The Phillies have been on quite a roll lately, winning their last 3 games against the Braves and 12 out of 14 since the All-Star break.  But today, the Phils momentum puttered out as they lost to the Braves, 2-6.  Rookie Adam Morgan started the game and went 5 innings allowing 4 runs with 7 hits and 3 walks.  He did not look awful except for all the walks and the big 3-run homer, but that was all it took today.
2015.08.02 MorganMorgan certainly kept the outfielder’s busy.  Defense was mostly very good but a lot of balls kept squeezing through the infield. 2015.08.02 Defense

And the super-hot Phillies offense was certainly cooled off by Julio Teheran, who apparently only pitches well against the Phillies.  There were many swings and misses and dull grounders tossed about, with the exception of a few solid hits in the 2nd and 5th innings.  Cody Asche and Odubel Herrera accounted for the only two RBI in the game.
2015.08.02 OffenseThere were many Alumni on hand over the weekend, so at least that was entertaining.  Today I saw Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs, Nick Punto, Mike Lieberthal, Scott Eyre, John Kruk and Mariano Duncan.  They all appeared to be having a good time. 2015.08.02 Alum

Probably Burrell had the most fun.  He was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame yesterday and I got a good look at the plaque today.  I also got a good look at Pat celebrating by smoking….eh…something?  You be the judge.  Clearly, he is unaware of the advent of the zoom lens.  But this whole episode does go a long way towards explaining the purse he was seen carrying around all weekend.  Ok, the Phillies claim it is a “satchel.”  Whatever the case, I guess he really needed it to carry his….eh….important stuff?  How is that for investigative reporting?  LOL!
2015.08.02 BurrellAnd here is my Photo of the Day:  Justin DeFratus, pre-game, pretending to karate kick a small child.  This will make me laugh for days … P8023873AE

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game and pre-game Behind the Pinstripes taping.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri except “Purse” photo, via Twitter, @Phillies

Hamels, Papelbon & Diekman Are Outta Here

P7193502ACA few days ago, the Phillies completed a trade with the Nationals for Jonathan Papelbon.  I am not sure if anyone in Philly is really sad to see Papelbon and his crotch-grabbing, fan-hating attitude go.  But the Cole Hamels trade announced last night is a different story.  It is bittersweet to see one of the best pitchers in Philly go to the Rangers, but the trade is in the best interest of all involved.  There was no need to let Hamels waste away on a rebuilding team; he is now on a team that at least has a chance of winning this year or in the very near future.

And Hamels will not be going to Texas alone; lefty reliever Jake Diekman is joining him.  Diekman has had a very up and down (mostly down) year so this is probably not a huge loss for the Phillies.  Although, I really liked Diekman; he was one of the friendlier guys on the team and also has great potential as a pitcher.  But he has struggled with throwing strikes and the Phillies’ patience wore out.

The Hamels trade is not technically “official” yet, but all media reports say the deal is nearly final.  The prospects the Phillies are expected to get in return include a pretty good catching prospect, Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams.  The other three players are pitchers who are very young and have a ways to go before we will know their worth.  The Phillies also reportedly will get 29-year-old lefthander Matt Harrison who is working his way back from back surgery.  It is likely that portion of the trade will be a bust so let’s hope the youngsters are better.

So while it is sad to see Hamels go, I wish him luck.  Unless, of course, he is pitching against the Phillies.  Then all bets are off.

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Post All-Star Break Magic

Having entered the All-Star break as the worst team in baseball, there seemed to be little hope that the Phillies might improve this year.  But since returning to action, the Phillies have an 8-1 record, with sweeps of both the Marlins and the Cubs.  In addition, the team brought up rookie pitcher Aaron Nola, who has had two very solid starts so far and collected his first major league win yesterday.  Every starter, including Nola, had a hit in the game with only 3 players lacking a multi-hit game.  It was the team we have been waiting to see all year.  Where have they been?

But the most amazing feat in the last 10 days was the no-hitter thrown by Cole Hamels on Saturday against the Cubs.  It is strange that it took Hamels this long to finally add the no-hitter to his resume.  But his timing could not have been better for the Phillies who are trying to trade Hamels.  After two of the worst starts in his career, Hamels pitched a gem to redeem himself.  He also may have pitched his way out of a Phillies uniform.
P7193526AH

Hamels has been tied to many teams in trade rumors, especially the Dodgers and Rangers.  With 4-plus days to go until the trade deadline, there is no telling what can happen.  But if Saturday was Cole’s last start in a Phillies uniform, it was quite a way for him to go out.

So what can we attribute this sudden Phillies awakening to, besides Hamels’ no-hitter?  Obviously, the break must have helped.  Players are well rested and less stressed.  But how much of this improvement might be due to the exit of manager Ryne Sandberg?  Clearly, these guys are giving full effort for interim manager Pete Mackanin.  I am not sure the same could be said for Sandberg, who many guys just did not seem to relate to.  Then again, it could be a fluke and the Phillies may go right back to their losing ways tomorrow when they begin a short two-game series with the Blue Jays.

I supposed time will tell.  But for now, Phillies fans can bask in the glow of a nice win streak, emerging rookies and a spectacular no-hitter.  Game time tomorrow is 7:07pm.

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Phillies Sweep for Christmas in July

Instead of coal in their stockings, the Phillies received a 3-game sweep of the Marlins for their Christmas in July celebration today.  Considering they started the second half of the season as the worst team in baseball, this is nothing short of a miracle.  Please wake me if I am dreaming…

It looked like a sure win today early on as the Phils exploded for 5 runs in the second inning.  There was a lot of staring at home runs (Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis) and celebrating.  Even Cole Hamels had a hit in the inning.
071915 offenseBut the warm fuzzies wore off quickly as Hamels bombed in the 3rd inning.  The fielders were awfully busy while Hamels struggled to get by. 071915 fielding

Ultimately, Hamels took the 3-run lead the Phillies spotted him and handed those runs right back to the Marlins.  By the end of the inning, Hamels had 76 pitches and would not return to the game.
071915 HamelsIn his defense, it was hotter than hell today.  The temperature was 93 degrees at game time and got hotter as the game went on.  It even looked for a minute like we may lose the home plate umpire, who needed assistance getting cool. 071915 umps

So it would take 5 bullpen arms to finish the game after Hamels’ early exit.  Both Elvis Araujo and Luis Garcia pitched perfect innings.
071915 pen

But then Ken Giles blew a save in the 8th inning, where the Marlins took a 7-6 lead.  Giles was all over the place which sent many of the few fans in attendance streaming towards the exits, myself included.  I was melting by then and not sure if I’d make it to the car if I stayed much longer anyway.

But luckily for the Phillies, Jeff Francour decided to play Santa Claus today and unwrap a 2-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Phillies an 8-7 win.  I enjoyed the hit from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, which made finding the energy to celebrate a bit easier ;)

The Phillies take on the Rays tomorrow.  Game time is 7:05pm.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Halfway through 2015: Down the Rabbit Hole

A recent article in The New Yorker described going down the rabbit hole as “a bizarre and disorienting alternate reality.”  That perfectly describes how many Phillies fans feel at the halfway point of the 2015 season.  We followed the Phillies here and have now fallen into the proverbial, Alice in Wonderland-esque rabbit hole.

This team is such a departure from that of the 2008-2011 teams that watching them really does feel like a bad acid trip.  The Phillies are dead last in all of baseball with a 29-62 record.  Their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, cannot stop yelling to the media about how badly he wants to be traded.  Cole Hamels is pitching like a man who has given up on life.  And their manager, Ryne Sandberg, ran screaming from his duties, despite the obvious detriment to his career by doing so.

Sad Phillies (2)But the most depressing part of the season has been the lightning fast decline of Chase Utley’s career.  According to the general manager, Utley is no longer the starting second baseman, even after he comes off the disabled list.  This is officially the end of Phillies baseball as we knew it.  Indeed, an alternate reality that is painful to watch.

But even with Utley’s downfall, there was no reason to think the Phillies would be THIS bad, as in 62 losses bad, the worst half way mark in team history.  There is a lot of young talent here, like Maikel FrancoBen Revere is hitting .297 with 21 stolen bases and 45 runs scored.  Ryan Howard has hit 15 home runs and has 45 RBI, which is really pretty good considering he is on the tail end of his career.  Papelbon has been perfect in saves, although he has had limited opportunities.    But most of the pitching has be atrocious.  Even so, this team should have won more than 29 games, given their talent.

Perhaps Pat Gillick’s pre-season declaration about this team not being able to compete for several years has created a culture of losing?  And not only that, but the team seems to have accepted this.  They are not showing any fight, maybe because they simply expect to lose.  They are just collecting their fat paychecks and then going home.  And if this attitude continues, attendance will continue to drop to levels where you can hear crickets chirping.  Hopefully, the Phillies will emerge from their slumber in the second half and at least put on a good show.  Then again, that could just be the psychedelic acid talking.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Phillies’ Sunday Doubleheader – A Tale of Two Teams

The first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Nationals featured a team that could not string together hits and guys who looked like little leaguers on the field, dropping balls and missing bases.  The second game showcased a group of young players having a good time playing baseball and smacking the ball all over the field.  It is too bad that most of the crowd left after the first game; they missed a pretty fun offensive explosion.

In the first game, pitcher Kevin Correia was the victim of the Phillies sloppy defense.  He gave up 3 runs in 5.1 innings, but only 1 of those runs was earned.  Two Phillies errors helped the Nats with the other runs.

062815 Correia

And the offense did little to help; the Phillies had only 5 hits in the game.  Both RBI’s were courtesy of Jeff Francour (who also had one of the errors in the game) who homered in the 2nd inning and singled a run home in the 6th.
062815 Frenchy

The Phillies could not recover from the 2-3 deficit, even though 4 bullpen players pitched the final 3.2 innings without allowing a run.
062815 GM1 pitch

The second game was a very different story.  Rookie pitcher Severino Gonzalez collected both his 3rd major league win and his first major league hit and RBI with a sacrifice in the 2nd and a single in the 4th.  He allowed 4 runs over 5.1 innings, which was not super, but still pretty good for a rookie pitching to a good offensive team.
062815 Gonzalez

And after only 5 hits in the first game, the Phillies’ bats suddenly came to life. The team scored 4 runs in both the 2nd and 4th innings.  Cesar Hernandez had an amazing game with 4 hits and Maikel Franco collected 3 RBI on 2 hits.  Odubel Hererra had 3 hits and an RBI and both Cody Asche and Domonic Brown had 2 hits each.  It was almost as if the anemic crowd made them all less nervous.  They were finally able to relax and just swing away.
062815 GM2 O

And you could even see the change in their faces.  Players smiled and laughed running out to their positions and for once, actually appeared to be having a good time.  You have to wonder, was it the crowd, the departure of their manager finally sinking in or just the result of a group of guys playing with other guys they actually feel comfortable with?  I know this will cause controversy, but I think it is important to note that 6 of 9 starting players in game 2 were Hispanic (Game 1 had 3).  And with many of them being so young, perhaps they are simply more comfortable playing with guys who speak their language, literally and metaphorically?

I think this is great, especially for younger players who need to find ways to fit in.  And as they get older, they will adapt more easily and expand their friendships.  But right now, maybe the camaraderie is helping?  I could be wrong; this is just an observation of how players reacted to one another on the field.  It was obvious to me that, for whatever reason, they were more relaxed and comfortable in the second game.  Of course, maybe interim manager Pete Mackanin said something magical to them in between games?  Who knows; anything is possible.

Speaking of the interim manager, I would like to add my comments on Ryne Sandberg’s resignation last week.  As I stated in my last post, I felt Sandberg had lost the clubhouse and was not long for this position.  Apparently, he came to same conclusion.  And while I do think his departure is for the best, I do not agree with just quitting.  That is just my personal feeling; I think he should have stuck it out until he was fired.  If he couldn’t handle the pressure, he was clearly not the man for the job, which is unfortunate.  I cannot imagine Sandberg getting another job in the majors, especially as a manager, after bailing on his team.  So that is sad for him as well.

Here is the Photo Album from both games of the Doubleheader…enjoy!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Tension Still Building Despite Phillies Win

At the beginning of the year, we knew this Phillies team would be bad; but I do not think anyone expected them to be THIS bad.  By “this bad” I mean 24-47 near the end of June, dead last in all of baseball.  I also mean a team that constantly makes mental errors, missing bases and forgetting to put the bullpen phone back on the hook (yes, that happened).  And also a team that got Chase Utley so mad, the usually quiet and calm second baseman screamed at the pitching coach during a mound visit this past Tuesday. Oh yeah, THAT team.

So despite a rare 9-2 win today over the Cardinals, there were still disgruntled fans, players and even boo’s raining down from the stands.  Why?  Because manager Ryne Sandberg showed everyone that he cannot manage this team.  As if the “players-gone-wild” (Utley) vibe were not bad enough, Sandberg dug a deeper hole today by pulling rookie pitcher Adam Morgan with 2 outs in the 6th inning for no apparent reason.  The kid had pitched a great game, allowing 1 run, and only had 78 pitches.  Not to mention that the Phillies had a 5-1 lead.  Sure, Morgan had just walked a batter, but who cares?  He deserved to finish the inning.  At this point, winning and losing is of little consequence – this team sucks and will not make the playoffs.  So what is important is developing young players.  By taking Morgan out, Sandberg sent a message that he has no confidence in the young player, which can be devastating to a guy, especially in his major league debut.  Morgan got a standing ovation as he walked off, while Sandberg left to a chorus of boo’s.

062115 Morgan
And that was a real shame especially because the Phillies finally managed some offense today, which should have been cause to celebrate.  Instead, we are all left with a feeling of disappointment because it seems obvious (at least to me) that Sandberg is not cut out for the job.  He simply does not have the appropriate people skills to manage.  Don’t get me wrong; I have met Sandberg and he is a super nice guy.  But being nice does not a good manager make.  And with the GM’s job also in jeopardy, Sandberg may be out of time to find ways to improve.
062115 Offense

A few other items of note today involved Cole Hamels.  Before the game, he was seen cavorting with Cardinals players and even posing for photos.  One of these is Greg Garcia; I think the other is Xavier Scruggs.  I have seen players chat during warm-ups; this is not unusual.  But Hamels brought a photographer with him to the Cards dugout for a pre-meditated photo-op.  Now that is something I have never seen.  Seeing baseball etiquette pushed aside, I can’t help but wonder if maybe Cole has one foot out the door already?
062115 Hamels

And by the way, does anyone else find it suspicious that Hamels had a “minor” hamstring issue that caused him to miss pitching against the Cardinals and magically rescheduled him to pitch against the Yankees in New York on Wednesday?  It could be legit, but rumor has it that the Yankees are in dire need of starting pitching.  And this is the perfect way to showcase Hamels to the Yanks.  Just sayin’…

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Giles Gets a Win on His Giveaway Day

Today I wondered if the following scenario has ever happened in baseball before: A middle relief pitcher gets a game win on the same day that a tee shirt with his name, number and face on it is given away to fans.  That is what occurred today in a 6-4 Phillies win over the San Francisco Giants for reliever Ken Giles.  Giles pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 3 Giants to keep the Phillies in line for the victory.
2015.06.07 Giles

Sean O’Sullivan started the game and actually, despite his struggles, did fairly well.  He allowed 3 runs in 6 innings for a quality start and also helped at the plate with a sacrifice bunt.  The Phanatic tried to help out before the game by squatting on top of Giants players, but the molestation turned out to be unnecessary.  Although, the Phanatic gets an A for effort.
2015.06.07 O'Sullivan

The Phillies actually found some offense today, which was a nice change.  After hitting a grand slam last night, Jeff Francour followed that up with a 2-run pinch-hit triple today.  Both Maikel Franco and Odubel Hererra hit solo homers.  And Cody Asche also collected 2 RBI in the game.
2015.06.07 offense

Once Giles got the Phillies through the 7th and 8th innings, Jonathan Papelbon came in for the save.  After he committed an error to extend the inning and gave up 1 unearned run, Papelbon did finally shut the door on the Giants to salvage one game in this series.

The Phillies head to Cincinnati next for a 3-game series with the Reds.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Circling the Drain

Remember was back a few weeks ago when the Phillies won 7 games in a row?  Ah, memories!  And it does seem like a very distant memory now that the Phillies have just lost 7 games in a row.  They were swept by the Rockies today, losing the 3rd game of the series by a score of 1-4.

So just how bad is this team?  Let us count the ways…

Before the game started, Cole Hamels tried to convince Kyle Kendrick to come back; Kyle thought this was very funny.  Odubel Hererra could not decide on a thumbs up or down for his team, which is sad.  And the Phanatic had to bring a Panda friend to the game to stop all the children from crying as the game got worse and worse.

2015.05.31 before game

But seriously, the Phillies were already down 0-2 only 5 pitches into the game.  This was not a good sign.  Jerome Williams has been struggling for a while now and today, he gave up 4 runs in only 5 innings.

2015.05.31 Williams

The Phillies managed only 7 hits in the game, with Cody Asche scoring the lone run.  And this is just how bad it got: In the 7th inning, the Phillies managed to load the bases with no outs and then Cameron Rupp, Darin Ruf and Ben Revere all proceeded to strike out to end the threat.  There were not many people left in the stadium at that point, but those who were there boo’ed loudly.

2015.05.31 offense

Actually, the attendance was bad even before that.  It seems like people are still coming to games for two reasons only – to get free giveaways for their kids or to get really, really, really drunk.  I unfortunately had a close encounter with some of those very drunk people today.  Two girls and a guy behind me were yelling, cussing, bumping into me and generally being such a nuisance, I was actually ready to call security.  Then one of the girls proceeded to throw up – everywhere.  Luckily, I heard it coming and moved, but the ground beneath me was puddling up with vomited beer, forcing me to find another seat.  And that, folks, just about sums up your 2015 Phillies.  A stomach churning, vomit-inducing mess that no one wants to clean up.  Yup…nailed it.

And yet, much like seeing an accident on the highway, I can’t stop watching.  I keep waiting for the next disaster.  Like sending Asche to the minors for two weeks just to piss him off.  And then letting Grady Sizemore go when they could have just done that in the first place and let Asche learn left field in the majors.  Then Ruben Amaro Jr. bites the hand that feeds him by saying Phillies fans don’t understand the game.  By the way, a few days later, I got a call from the Phillies thanking me for being a season ticket holder and offering to upgrade one of my next games for free.  Thanks, Ruben!  I’d also like free food at my games so maybe Ruben can go on TV again and call fans stupid a few more times…thank you in advance.

So you see where this is all going right?  Straight down the proverbial toilet.  But before you flush, at least try to enjoy the view ;)

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

Five Wins in a Row!

It’s a miracle!  The Phillies have won 5 consecutive games!  So I learned many things at today’s Phillies game.  First, this team can actually win games.  Next, Jonathan Papelbon has a tramp stamp and Odubel Herrera can fly.
2015.05.17 Papelbon-Herrera

P5172014AVAnd finally, getting hit in the face with a ball hurts.  Sean O’Sullivan does not recommend it.  Perhaps next time, catcher Cameron Rupp will wait to toss the ball until someone is actually paying attention?  Just a thought.

Aside from that little once every several decades incident, O’Sullivan had a great day.  He pitched 6 scoreless innings and earned his first major league win since the 2011 season.  And he was finally healthy; until, of course, Rupp whacked him in the face.  But he seemed to be okay afterwards.
2015.05.17 OSul

Ben Revere led the offense with 3 hits, a walk and an RBI; he is starting to look like the guy who almost won a batting title last year.  And Maikel Franco has certainly added some excitement the Phillies line-up.  In addition to a triple, he hit his first major league home run today.  Darin Ruf also homered and had 2 hits.  And even Ryan Howard helped out with a pinch-hit single in the 7th.
2015.05.17 Offense

Obviously, this team needed a spark and maybe Franco is that guy.  Although, I still think Cody Asche got a raw deal being sent to the minors to “learn” left field.  He could have done that just as easily here.  That brings us to the most awkward part of the day; the Asche whiffle ball and bat set that was handed out to kids entering the gates today.  Too bad Cody had to miss it.

And now for the O-M-G moment of the day: After the game, Chad Billingsley was put on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.  So after two elbow surgeries and only 3 starts with the Phillies, Billingsley could well be done.  Hector Neris has been recalled to take his place on the roster.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri

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