The Phillies returned home to play the 1st of 2 exhibition games on Monday night in preparation for Opening Day on Thursday. I had a very nice seat 22 rows behind home plate, but sadly, my camera died a few weeks ago. So I apologize in advance for the crappy photos I took with an old camera while the good one is getting repaired.
Joe Blanton started the game and actually looked pretty good. His fastball had some zip which made his change-up effective. He actually had a no-hitter going through 3 1/3 innings. That may not seem like much, but considering he missed most of last season with a bum elbow, this is serious improvement. The Red Phanatic agreed:
During the game, we saw some old faces, like Placido Polanco who appears healthy, Hunter Pence and Jimmy Rollins:
And there were many new faces, like Juan Pierre and Ty Wiggington. Pierre looked good at the top of the line-up with a double and a stolen base.
But the big moment of the evening was Jim Thome’s first at-bat in his return to Citizen’s Bank Park. He received a hearty ovation although he played it cool.
Before the game, I wandered the stadium looking for the “mystery” player sightings that were promised. I found Juan Pierre playing a running game with some kids, John Mayberry Jr. signing autographs at the kids play area and David Herndon serving soda.
None of the players I ran into would sign autographs according to their body guards/escorts. When I got home, I saw other guys on TV who did sign, like Cole Hamels and Charlie Manuel. Hey Phillies…what’s up with that? Even more annoying, Pierre was standing alone waiting to get in that running game when NO ONE except me recognized him…being the ONLY person to ask for an autograph, you’d think they would have let him do it for ONE person. Same with Herndon…only one there…no autographs.
So thank God for Ricky Botallico! The former Phillies closer not only signed autographs (for a LOT of people) but he asked me to take a photo with him! That’s right…I did not ask. He did. I cannot remember the last time I saw any current or former player volunteer for a photo. He made my day…Ricky, you are the best!
Here is the rest of my Photo Album from the game. I hope to have a real camera again soon!
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
After losing four games in a row, the Phillies needed someone to stop the bleeding. Cole Hamels, with help from his defense and second baseman Wilson Valdez, was able to get the Phillies a 2-1 win over the Rockies on Wednesday night.
Hamels tossed eight innings of one-run ball, allowing only five hits. In short, he was spectacular. His five wins this season tie Roy Halladay and his 2.92 ERA is second, also behind Halladay.
The defense played well behind him, with John Mayberry Jr. getting a key out in the first inning. On a single hit to right field, Mayberry threw out Alfredo Amezaga going to third base. The next batter hit a fly ball to center so, Amezaga would have tagged up and scored had been safe at third.
And although the Phillies offense continues to struggle, Wilson Valdez came up big on a number of occasions. He went 2 for 3 in the game with an RBI-single in the fifth. In the eighth, Valdez singled again. Shane Victorino bunted him over to second and then Valdez advanced to third on a wild pitch. He then scored the go-ahead run on a Jimmy Rollins sac fly.
It was nice to see Victorino in a game, however, he is still having issues running and is scheduled for an MRI on Thursday.
As for the unlikely hero, Valdez, he is hitting .400 with runners in scoring position and .667 with the bases loaded. Both of those stats lead the team. It is hard to expect much more out of a guy who has filled in for Chase Utley all year. Valdez has been amazing.
The second and final game with the Rockies is tonight at 7:05pm. Joe Blanton will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
I will start with the good news. Roy Oswalt looked good Tuesday night and had some speed on his fastball. Through five innings, he allowed only one run, which could have been avoided if third-string catcher, Dane Sardinha knew how to tag anyone at the plate.
And now the bad news….the Phillies offense is still missing in action. The Phillies collected only six hits, two of which were from rookie Michael Martinez. Ryan Howard struck out three times and left three men on base, which is unusual for him in his hometown of St. Louis. Howard normally rakes when he is home.
All together, the Phils left 10 men on base and the only run they scored was unearned after Tyler Greene dropped a routine Jimmy Rollins pop-up.
And now for the ugly…Danys Baez came into a tie 1-1 game in the ninth and proceeded to load the bases before recording an out. J.C. Romero was in next and he threw only one pitch. That one pitch went deep center field, handing the game to the Cardinals for a two-game sweep.
And now for the “Oh crap!” moment of the game…rookie reliever Michael Stutes tossed three pitches in the sixth before signaling to the bench that he was hurt. He left the game with a strained a right side muscle. No word yet on how serious it is, but this is just one more disaster that the Phillies cannot afford.
The offense has been so bad for this team, I am finally out of words to describe it. If the Phillies do not find a way out of this slump fast, they will find themselves plummeting down the ranks of the NL East. The Marlins are only 1/2 game behind them and the Braves are 1.5 games back. Ugh.
Some said that with this pitching staff, it would never happen. And yet, here it is…a losing streak of three games. Those who called it impossible must have severely overestimated the Phillies offense.
Because this offense has been horrific. Pathetic, anemic and just plain awful are a few other descriptive terms you may choose. On Monday night, the Phillies faced a pitcher with an ERA over 7.0 and they still only managed one lousy run. They lost to the Cardinals 3-1.
There were a total of four Phillies hits in the game and one of those came from the pitcher, Cliff Lee. Yes, Lee out hit everyone, except Jimmy Rollins and Ben Francisco who had the other three hits.
On the mound, Lee was a bit off and high in the strike zone. He walked a career-high six batters, although at least two of those were on badly missed calls from the umpire. Still, through 6.1 innings, Lee allowed three runs and kept the team in the game. The problem was, no one else looked like they wanted to be in the game.
The hitters were impatient at the plate with a home plate ump who was obviously squeezing the pitchers. All three walks issued by the Cardinals were to Ryan Howard. With the way the strike zone was, they should have had at least three or four more free passes.
Personally, I think the starting pitchers need to get together and start screaming at the offense. Chase Utley missing is not an excuse. They have hit without him before and are capable of doing it again. One man does not make a team.
Roy Oswalt will pitch tonight, despite his back issues, which makes me nervous. Because if the Phillies continue to fail to score runs, Oswalt will have no room for error. They could lose their fourth straight game and second straight series. Game time is 8:15pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Here is something that should never, ever happen. Roy Halladay pitched a three-run, complete game against the Braves today and took a loss. With the rate at which Halladay and other Phillies pitchers, like Cliff Lee, are being hung out to dry by this offense, it may be time to take more drastic measures.
The Phillies were the only team in the majors to not have a starting pitcher lose two games in a row. That streak ended today as Halladay got his second consecutive taste of how bad this Phillies offense sucks right now.
Just because it is Superman himself, Roy Halladay, on the mound, does not mean that he will toss a shut-out every time out. The movie Superman managed to turn back time by rotating the earth backwards on its axis, but do not think he will accomplish this feat whenever he feels like it, even in the movies. There needs to be some basis in reality to keep our attention.
The Phillies batters, however, seem to be hanging around, just waiting for another Halladay or Lee miracle. Tim Hudson pitched for the Braves today and was almost pulled from the game in the fourth inning with a sore hip, but he managed to go seven innings anyway. This means that the Phillies managed only four hits off a Grandpa (in baseball years) with a bad hip!
The only reason that Grandpa lasted seven innings was because the Phillies got themselves out. They swung at bad pitches and were not patient when Hudson began flinging balls all over the place, two feet over their heads or straight into the dirt.
Three of the four hits in the game were from the bench players, Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and John Mayberry Jr. who accounted for the only score with a two-run homer. Mayberry played center in place of the ailing Shane Victorino. Both he and Orr each stole a base as well.
So while the bench guys keep trying to resuscitate this team, where are the starters? Where are the bats of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez? Come out, come out, wherever you are! This game of hide and seek is getting old.
The 3-2 loss gave the Braves the series win, 2-1. The Braves are now only 3.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and the Marlins are two games back.
The Phillies will travel to St. Louis for a short, two-games series next. Cliff Lee pitches tomorrow, unless he decides to go on strike. Game time is 7:05pm.
As of May 13, 2011, the Phillies are 25-13 and two games ahead of the Florida Marlins for first place in the NL East. However, Phillies players are dropping like flies. Can they maintain this pace in spite of all the injuries?
So far the Phillies have lost their starting short stop, both catchers, two starting pitchers, a bunch of relief pitchers and more. Starter Joe Blanton came off the DL but looks like he needs to go back as he is still in pain and losing speed on his pitches. Starter Roy Oswalt is coming back this week, but also looks like he is not 100% after a rehab start on Thursday.
Then in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Braves, centerfielder Shane Victorino left the game early with a hamstring pull. It ended his 15-game hitting streak.
The Phillies anemic offense managed only three hits in the game, a trend which has continued throughout the season so far. The pitching has helped the Phillies win games, but the loses due to a lack of hitting are starting to pile up.
At the same time, the pitcher’s are now coming up lame. If the injuries continue and the Phillies wind up with both weak pitching and weak hitting at the same time, this spells trouble.
Here is a look at the injuries so far this year:
If Victorino winds up on the DL, the Phillies may have been able to fill the roster spot by calling Domonic Brown back up since he has recovered from hand surgery. However, earlier in the week, Brown sprained the thumb on the same hand he had surgery on and is unavailable to play right now.
Currently in right field, Ben Francisco has been terrible in the month of May. He is hitting just .071 since May 1. Ryan Howard is hitting .217 in May. Placido Polanco’s May numbers are down as well, hitting .234. Brian Schneider’s bat was starting to heat up when he got hurt and was sent to the DL. Carlos Ruiz is back, but rusty, and he is still looking for his first hit this month.
The bench players have filled in admirably where they are able to. But if this trend continues where the offense slumps and the pitching can no longer bail them out, the Phillies could lose their grasp on first place quickly.
The Phillies season is at a crossroads now. Either they will be able to continue to battle through the injuries or they will not.
But this is an issue they have dealt with for many years running now. This Phillies team knows how to carry on when star players hit the skids. Hopefully, knowing that they have overcome injuries in the past will be enough to propel them into the future as a winning team.
Friday the 13th turned out to be a reversal of fortune for the Phillies, on a day that is traditionally known for bad luck. It was also a day where some very young, unproven pitchers were tossed into the fire and emerged unscathed.
Cole Hamels was to start the game, but before he took the mound, Ryan Howard blasted a three-run homer to give him a nice lead to work with. And although Hamels gave a run back to the Braves in the first inning, it looked like he was on cruise control after that, at least until the fifth inning.
A single and two straight doubles by the Braves in the fifth tied the game at 3-3. In the sixth, Hamels uncorked a wild pitch with a runner on third to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. After six innings, Hamels had allowed four runs on eight hits while both Hamels and Placido Polanco committed errors in the game.
It was starting to look like a real Friday the 13th nightmare until Shane Victorino hit an RBI-single in the seventh to tie the game again. But as quickly as things began to look up, they went downhill again fast.
Relief pitcher J.C. Romero started the bottom of the seventh and got into big trouble quickly. Martin Prado doubled; it seemed like he could not fail to get on base after doing so four straight times in this game. After a sac bunt that moved Prado to third, Romero walked the next two batters to load the bases.
With one out and the bases juiced, the rookie Michael Stutes took over, looking like fresh meat tossed into a pack of wolves. Stutes was not rattled and he struck out Dan Uggla, making it look easy. Antonio Bastardo was up next and before you could blink, the count was a scary 3-0. But the young lefty refocused and came back to strike out a very frustrated Freddie Freeman, who began slamming equipment to the ground.
The Phillies were able to retake the lead in the eighth after Howard doubled and Raul Ibanez singled to score him. With a very slim 5-4 lead, another rookie would be called upon to hold the Braves down. Vance Worley took the mound and on one pitch, gave up a single. Still not shaken, Worley got the next three outs, including Prado, who failed to reach base for the first time all night.
Ryan Madson closed out the game and is now 6-for-6 in save attempts. But the best news of the night was seeing a very young group of bullpen pitchers pass the biggest test of their budding careers. Stutes, Bastardo and Worley were outstanding and there can be no question now that they all have what it takes to pitch in the majors.
Game two with the Braves is at 1:10pm Saturday and Joe Blanton will pitch.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
As the lack of run support curse for Cliff Lee and other pitchers continues, the Phillies are somehow still winning games. Wednesday night, the beat the Marlins by a score of 5-3 and lee wound up with a no-decision.
Through six innings, Lee allowed three runs, although a few of those may have been due to defense and field positioning. At the plate, Lee smacked a single that should have scored Brian Schneider. But as he rounded third base, Schneider grabbed his leg and limped back to third base.
Adding to already long list of Phillies injuries, Schneider was lifted from the game and may end up on the DL. The good news is that Carlos Ruiz should be coming off the DL and the two can swap places on Friday before the Braves series.
The Phillies were down 3-0 going into the seventh inning. But a the Phillies bench came to the rescue just in time. Pete Orr was the star, hitting two doubles, one in the seventh and one in the ninth. A home run by Shane Victorino tied the game in the eighth and also extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
As Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate in the ninth with two outs and two men in scoring position, I held my breath. Rollins had come to the plate three times with two outs in this game already and made the last out each time, leaving men stranded on base all three times as well.
In this case, the fourth time was the charm. J-Roll singled, which scored two runs and gave the Phillies the 5-3 lead. Ryan Madson closed the game out and is now 5-for-5 in save opportunities.
The Phillies are off on Thursday as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Braves Friday night at 7:35pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels probably looked and Roy Halladay after Tuesday night’s unwarranted loss to the Marlins and thought, “Welcome to the club.” What club is that? The one where they each pitch a great game and come out with a loss due to a lack of offense.
Halladay outpitched his opponent, Josh Johnson, going eight innings with only one earned run allowed on five hits and still lost the game. Halladay did make one mistake; he walked a pitcher for the first time in his career. That walk turned into a run for the Fish.
But the Phillies offense had the bases loaded twice, in both the second and third innings, and did not score. The worst offender was Dane Sardinha who had bases loaded with no outs in the second. Knowing the pitcher was on deck, he could not even make contact. Even a double play would have scored a run. Instead, he struck out.
In the eight, another crucial error gave the Marlins the 2-1 lead that eventually won the game for them. Jimmy Rollins bobbled a ground ball and threw offline to Ryan Howard, pulling him off the bag. A ground out advanced the runner and a single scored it.
This lack of offense is becoming a running theme with the Phillies, which is magnified as a serious issue when you have pitchers going eight innings, allowing one run and still losing the game. That should not happen.
Perhaps the starting pitchers should get together for their first “club” meeting and decide on how to proceed. They cannot really go on strike, but maybe they could take turns smacking each of the starters around while yelling, “Wake up and score me some freaking runs!” Too much? Just a thought ;o)
The Phillies have one more game in Florida tonight at 7:10pm. Cliff Lee is coming off a loss where he struck out 16 batters. Now there is a solid oxymoron for you. Perhaps he should carry a picket sign out to the mound with him…just in case.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography