Author Archive

Death By Twizzler: Cliff Lee Gets No Decision

You could blame the Phillies pitching, stinky offense or the sloppy defense for last night’s 4-5 loss to the Brewers.  Or you can join me in blaming the Twizzlers.  I do believe that red devil candy somehow sucked the mojo right out of Cliff Lee.  The fact that the evil licorice was handed to Lee by a young Brewers fan reinforces my theory:

Animation by The Fightins

Then again, a few other factors may have contributed to the end of the Phillies 5-game win streak.  For example, the Phils scored 4 runs in the first 4 innings and then the offense proceeded to take a vacation.  There were also 2 errors; a very bad throw from Freddy Galvis and a botched routine grounder my Michael Young.

And then there was Lee.  3 earned runs in 7 innings is generally a good day for most pitchers.  But Lee has looked unstoppable in his previous 6 starts.  That is what made last night’s labor-intensive outing where Lee walked 3 batters so shocking.

He was bound to have an off day at some point.  No one can maintain that pace all season long.

But I still blame the candy.

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Mayberry’s Big Night & More Umpire Follies

The last two or three years have been strange ones for Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr.  He has gone though spurts of looking like a solid ballplayer and even more spurts of looking totally lost at the plate.  While see-sawing between the two extremes, Mayberry has been unable to stick as an everyday player.

But last night against the Marlins, Mayberry had probably the most memorable night of his career and he did not even start the game.  He hit a solo homer in the 10th to tie the game back up after Antonio Bastardo surrendered a run to the Fish in the top of the inning.  Then in the 11th, Mayberry whacked a game-winning grand slam home run.

There were a number of ‘firsts’ for Mayberry in this game:

-          Mayberry’s first career grand slam

-          Mayberry became first player in major-league history to hit two home runs in extra innings with one being a grand slam

-          Mayberry also became the first Phillies player to hit a walk-off grand slam since Dale Murphy on Aug. 6, 1991, against the Cubs

Those are some pretty impressive statistics.  And with Delmon Young still underachieving (he is hitting only .220 in 100 at-bats), perhaps it is time to hand right field over to Mayberry for a while.  Mayberry’s defense is significantly better than Young’s and his offense cannot possibly be any worse than Young’s. 

Young has actually cost the team runs with his defense and I cannot imagine the Phillies putting up with that for much longer.  And he is not making up for it with his bat either.  30 games played and 100 at-bats should be nearly enough for them to pass judgment.  We shall see…

As for the umpire follies, Bob Davidson strikes again!  How this ridiculous man still has a job is beyond me.  Last year, Davidson was actually suspended after ejecting Phils skipper Charlie Manual for his bad “situation handling,” according to MLB.  What actually happened was he interfered with the catcher on a play and then cussed out Manual for arguing the point.

Davidson’s animosity towards the Phillies is still going strong, because last night he made one of the worst calls I have ever seen.  Davidson called interference on Ben Revere who slid head first (not spikes first) into second on a ground ball hit by Michael Young.  Young was called out due to the imaginary interference; Davidson claimed he saw Revere grab the leg of the Marlins 2nd baseman.  It was clear to both the naked eye and on the replay that Revere did no such thing…it was not even close.

Revere did not grab anyone; he did not roll into 2nd; he did not even go out of the basepath or miss the bag.  Davidson literally just made up the call.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Bernie Miklasz, “…if I listed every call that Davidson got wrong I’d be typing for the next 48 hours at least. He’s a disgrace to the game and has been for many, many years. Baseball people laugh at him.”  It seems everyone hates Davidson…and with good reason.

After the game, both Revere and Manual made some very amusing comments about the bad call. Revere said, “I know [Davidson] was standing right there, he said he did see it, so I’m just like, man needs some glasses or something.”  And Manual interjected, “Bob’s kinda getting a little old.”  Plus, the crowd at Citizens Bank Park booed Davidson relentlessly for the remained of the game.

And yet, no one can say why this man still has a job.  MLB has made a habit out of ignoring the total incompetence of some umpires.  Even with their reputation being continually tarnished, MLB has done nothing to redeem themselves.

In fact, Joe Torre, who is in charge of MLB umpires, on-field discipline and other areas, was actually at Saturday’s Phillies-Brewers game where a huge umpiring mistake was made in the bottom of the 9th inning.  Kyle Kendrick was called out at second base even though the fielder dropped the ball.  The next batter doubled, which would have scored Kendrick and tied the game up.  Instead, that blown call cost the Phillies the game.

The crew chief acknowledged the error after the game, but to my knowledge, Torre said nothing.  Granted, this was a far less egregious error than the blatant, BS call by Davidson.  All of these bad calls are screaming for additional replay, but is anyone listening?

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil…get nothing done.  *Sigh*

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phils End Skid Behind Lee and Brown

The Phillies ended a 3-game losing streak today with a 7-5 win over the Brewers thanks to some key contributions.  And although they nearly blew it in the end, those 7 runs, all scored in the first 2 innings, kept them in the game.

4 of those 7 runs were driven in by Domonic Brown, who is still on fire after a scorching month of May.  He fell just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.  He and Ryan Howard did their special home run dance after his 3-run homer in the 1st inning to celebrate:

And the hits kept coming…both Jimmy Rollins and Freddy Galvis collected 2 hits apiece.  Erik Kratz and John Mayberry Jr. each drove in runs.  The Phillies took a 7-0 lead all the way into the 8th inning.

On the mound, Cliff Lee performed his usual magic for 7 straight innings.  He struck out 11 batters and appeared to be cruising until the 8th.

Dehydration set in and Lee started giving up hits.  He wound up putting 3 runners on base before he was pulled in favor of Justin DeFratus.  But even with 2 outs in the inning, DeFratus could not manage to escape unscathed.  The Phillies gave up runs in the 8th inning in every game of this Brewers series and this day would be no different.  After an almost grand slam that was overturned by replay, the Phils left the 8th inning with only a 7-4 lead.

In the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon was nowhere to be seen.  He had apparently taken ill and was not available to pitch.  Antonio Bastardo took the mound and allowed another Brewers run as the crowd began to panic.  But he finally got out of the inning and the Phils walked away with the win despite the late-inning drama.

Prior to the game, Kyle Kendrick’s father was honored for the Phillies Father’s Day celebration.  His very pregnant wife and daughter were there as well, which was really cute.

To see the rest of my photos from the game, check out this Photo Album.

The Phillies will start a 3-game series with the Marlins tomorrow night at 7:05pm.  Kendrick will pitch.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Brown’s Bombs

Hitting five homers in his last four game, Domonic Brown is on fire…and it is about time.  The Phillies have been waiting for Brown to explode and reach his potential for years now.  It looks like he may be right on track now.

Fresh off his first Player of the Week honors, Brown may now be in the running for Player of the Month.  He has been the one bright spot in an otherwise drab Phillies season so far.  Brown’s efforts have helped the Phillies win the last 2 games against the Red Sox, but can the Phillies keep up the pace?

The team lost another player yesterday due to a family issue; Michael Young was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list and will be gone 3-7 days.  There was no clarification beyond that.  And Chase Utley is progressing slower than everyone had hoped after an oblique injury.  With many other Phils on the DL as well, it will not be easy for this team to keep their heads above water.

Brown’s recent performance has been a big boost.  Erik Kratz looks like he is finding his groove as well.  But clutch hitting on this team is still not happening much.  With 1 out and the bases loaded last night in the 7th, Ryan Howard struck out and John Mayberry Jr. then popped out.  With 1 out and 2 runners on in the 6th, Freddy Galvis ended the inning by hitting into a double play.  These examples are the exact opposite of clutch hitting and sadly, it happens more often than not.

Last night’s win was the result of good pitching and 4 solo home runs.  I stress the “solo” part because no one seems to want to hit with runners on base.  For example, the Phillies had 4 stolen bases in the game, but none of those runners scored.  The team left 8 men on base and went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Still, it was a win so we’ll take it.  But Brown’s bombs are not going to carry a team; he is going to need a tad more help.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Big Questions About the Big Piece

The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers.  Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.

Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:

Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better.  By May 23rd, he needed a break again.  He started the next 2 games and went 1-8.  On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game.  And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base.  He appeared to be having great difficulty running.

All of this is very bad news.  The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears.  If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited.  And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.

And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.”  Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure.  It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury.  In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.

Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history.  With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.

And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster.  There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.

Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win?  Remember Howard’s response to that criticism?  He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.

Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion.  The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan.  There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation.  The bullpen is horrible.  The offense is non-existent.  The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.

As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.

Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lee Pitches Another Gem

In a year full of drama for the Phillies, Cliff Lee stepping on the mound is a sight for sore eyes.  The same can be said when he steps to the plate as well.  In a complete game shut-out of the Marlins last night, Lee also collected 2 hits, giving him a team-leading .316 batting average.  And his .350 on-base percentage is second only to Michael Young (.378) among active Phillies.

Simply put, Cliff Lee is amazing.

Yet those offensive numbers are a bit disturbing in another respect.  When your ace pitcher is leading the team in average and OBP, there are some serious problems.  Granted, Lee only plays once every 5 games, but it is still a somewhat revealing statistic on a team that has struggled to score runs.

There was some offense last night though, and some signs of life all around.  Although they only scored 3 runs, most guys hit the ball well and as team, they collected 12 hits, which is way better than their usual production this year.  On Tuesday night with Tyler Cloyd pitching, the Phillies racked up 7 runs on 15 hits in the win.

But again, this has been a pattern; the Phillies have 1 or 2 games with solid offense and then they go right back to not being able to hit the broad side of a barn.  And with the injuries mounting, can they get any kind of consistency?

The latest injury to Chase Utley is extremely worrisome.  Utley was finally having a good year, after missing time in both of the previous 2 seasons with knee issues.  Now, it appears he has an oblique strain of some sort; he will have an MRI today and will likely be put on the DL along with Roy Halladay, Mike Adams, John Lannan and Carlos Ruiz.  Stay tuned…

Today is an off day as the team travels to Washington to take on the Nationals.  News on Utley should be coming very soon…cross your fingers!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Spit-Gate, Injuries and Other Depressing Phillies News

The Phillies looked like a shell of a team last night against the Miami Marlins, who are possibly the worst team in all of baseball.  Leave it to the Phillies to make them look like All-Stars.  Ugh.

When Domonic Brown smacked a home run in the second innings, it looked like the Phils might have carried over some momentum from Sunday’s dramatic walk-off win.  But that was the end of the momentum and the beginning of Spit-Gate.

Marlins pitcher Alex Sanabia entered Monday’s game with a dismal 5.00 ERA and a 2-6 record.  After the Brown homer, Sanabia apparently thought some cheating was in order.  He was caught on camera spitting on the ball and did not make any attempt to hide it.

First of all, this is just gross.  It is also against MLB rules.  But did it really affect the Phillies hitters?  Probably not too much…they have basically sucked all season long.  However, it did add insult to injury in this very unsettling loss.

Even Cole Hamels could not hide his emotions as he slammed his glove around on the Phillies bench after his outing.  And after the game, he did not speak to reporters.  I believe Hamels is feeling the same frustration we all are; specifically, WHY can’t this team score runs?!  Poor Hamels is now 1-7 on the season.  Last year, he had 6 losses for the entire season…already this year, not even half way through the season, he has that total beat.

Two runs allowed in 6 innings should get you a win…unless you are on the Phillies, apparently.  Making matters worse, this team is now riddled with injuries.  Carlos Ruiz came back after his suspension to play only 16 games before being put on the DL with a strained hamstring.  Mike Adams is on the DL with a bad back.  John Lannan is still on the DL with no expected return date being reported.  And now Ryan Howard has sat out 2 games in a row with a sore knee and possible a torn meniscus.

And at least half of the bullpen may as well be injured; they might actually pitch better.  Because our healthy pen cannot stop runs from scoring.  Phillippe Aumont gave up 2 more runs last night and has a 4.15 ERA, plus many inherited runners have scored on him.  Pretty much everyone in the pen is guilty of that too.  And check out some of the other ERA’s: Chad Durbin, 8.10; Jeremy Horst, 5.09; BJ Rosenberg, 20.25 (1 game).  Yikes!

As all the crap keeps piling up on this team, it is going to be harder and harder for them to dig their way out of the heap.  And I do not want to hear anyone else talk about how it is still early in the season.  As far as I am concerned, it is never too early to play winning baseball.  And thus far, this team has not shown they can do that.

Game time tonight is 7:10pm; Tyler Cloyd will pitch.

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Photo via NBC Sports

Dramatic Walk-Off Win Gives Phillies a Series Win

I returned from my trip to the Galapagos Islands this weekend just in time to attend today’s PhilliesReds game.  But before we get to that, check out what my little friend the Phanatic was up to on our trip to his homeland.  He visited 5 different islands, some beaches and even a distant relative, the Marine Iguana:

Yes, the Phanatic and I had a lovely vacation where we swam with sharks, rays, turtles and fish and wandered the land with giant tortoises.  It was amazing!

I had to catch up on my Phillies news when I returned and it appears much has happened.  Roy Halladay is having surgery (yikes!), the Phils signed hot-head Carlos Zambrano to a minor league deal (double-yikes!), Raul Valdes became the first regular bullpen guy to get sent down to the minors (more may be coming), Mike Adams has a bad back (oh my…), Tyler Cloyd started a game, Kyle Kendrick returned to earth in a loss yesterday after an amazing start to the season….and oh yeah, the offense still sucks.  Did I miss anything?

All that drama aside, the Phillies did manage to pull out a win today, which based on the first 7 ½ innings, did not look likely.   Jonathan Pettibone was very solid again, only allowing 2 runs, and the defense backed him up.

But once again the offense was asleep and the feeling of dread grew deeper when Carlos Ruiz was pulled from the game with a strained hamstring.

Finally, the Phillies scratched out a run in the 8th, thanks to Ben Revere legging out a base hit.  Revere led the team with 3 hits today.  Then in the 9th, it appeared as if the Phils were going down in flames, despite getting the first runner of the inning on base against flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman.  Because as soon as Cliff Lee came in to pinch run for Delmon Young, he got picked off at first.  Ugh.

But when Erik Kratz smacked a home run to tie the game, the tide turned quickly.  Freddy Galvis was up next and hit a line-drive homer just over the left field wall for the walk-off win!  It was the first time Chapman gave up more than one homer in a game…ever.  Go figure.

So even after a 0-10 pounding on Saturday, the Phillies still walked away with the series win and, hopefully, some momentum going into Miami tomorrow.  Game time is 7:10pm.

And here is the Photo Album from today’s win.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

West Coast Winds of Change

In only a few short days, many things have changed for the Phillies. Roy Halladay was placed on the DL with what is still a mystery injury. The entire team appeared lifeless and ready to give up. Then a cross-country road trip suddenly gave the Phillies unexpected energy. They have taken the first 2 games of this series against the Giants who were the hottest team in baseball coming into this series.

So is this the team we have waited to see all year, blown in by the western winds of AT&T Park? Or is this another 2-game mirage? Let us examine the evidence:

Both games ended in a 6-2 score. Both Chase Utley and Michael Young have 4 hits each and at least 2 RBI in the series. Utley, Ryan Howard and Dom Brown each homered. The pitching was very good.

On the other side of the coin, the Phils still left 16 runners on base total between the 2 games. Jimmy Rollins only has 1 hit and a sac fly. Delmon Young is hitting .150. Yikes! The other Young still loves hitting into double plays; he leads the majors with 10.

So, mirage or the real deal? Sadly, there are still too many inconsistencies and guys not getting hits to go with “real deal” just yet. But finishing the series with a sweep today would certainly be a huge boost.

Jonathan Pettibone will pitch today at 3:45pm. In other news, Tyler Cloyd has been called up to temporarily take Halladay’s spot in the rotation. The Phillies are expected to make a corresponding roster move Thursday or Friday.

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Phillies Flounder Against Fish in 2 Straight Losses

So, anyone else out there sit in traffic for hours just to watch the Phillies get slaughtered by the Marlins?  Oh yes, the Broad Street Run was exiting just as people were arriving to the game, plus 95 north closed due to a huge tractor-trailer fire/accident.  It was the perfect storm.

I did leave very early, so my usual 1 ½ hour drive was about 2 ½ hours.  Others were not as lucky.  And certainly no one was happy with the end result, whether they made it to the game or not.

Prior to the game, the Phanatic unknowingly gave us a little foreshadowing of the events to come.  Here he is, literally licking the boots of the Marlins catcher, much to the amusement of the entire Marlins squad:

And then the real fun began…Roy Halladay gave up 5 runs in the 1st inning, a grand slam in the 3rd inning and was pulled from the game after only 2 1/3 innings with 9 runs allowed on 4 hits and 4 walks.  His head hung low as he exited the field:

Afterwards, Halladay revealed that he has been experiencing shoulder pain for several weeks, something he neglected to tell the team prior to this and his previous start.  Expect to see Doc on the DL shortly…

And as usual, the offense did absolutely nothing all day long.  Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey had not had a win in the major leagues since 2010 (*%!@!), yet the Phils managed only 2 hits off him.  They did avoid the shut-out, with 2 runs in the 8th inning, thanks mostly to Marlins shoddy defense.  But not much else was working for the Phillies.

The relief staff added 4 more runs to the happy Fish who were rounding the bases quite swimmingly.  And they are no longer the worst team in baseball with 2 straight wins over the Phils.  Way to go, Phillies, helping out your Marlins buddies.  The final score was 2-14…eeekk!

To end on a high note, it was Mother’s Appreciation Day at the ballpark.  Chase Utley’s mom joined him on the field and the Phanatic brought him mom as well.

We also got a cute Utley tote bag when entering the ballpark, which was the only bright spot of the day.  But if you’d like to see more photos anyway (some of them are pretty good, even if the game sucked), here is the Photo Album.

The Giants are up next as the team travels to San Francisco.  As for me, I will also be getting on a plane in a few days to head to the birthplace of the Phanatic…the Galapagos Islands!  I hope to check in from there if the internet connection cooperates.  It is a shame I cannot take the Phanatic with me, but I think he has his hands very full right now keeping fans entertained while the Phils flounder :O(

Game time tomorrow is 10:15pm EST.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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