The Phillies bullpen returned from their 2-day vacation tonight. Due to some amazing starting pitching, the pen had not been used since Tuesday. Many are wishing that the vacation had never ended.
Roy Oswalt was lights-out for four innings and finally gave up a hit in the fifth, a solo homer. He then allowed one more run after back-to-back doubles by the Marlins in the sixth.
After a bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning, Oswalt grabbed his left side as he crossed first base. Uh-oh. While he walked to the mound to start the seventh, Charlie Manuel and the Phillies trainer quickly ran out after him and removed him before he threw a pitch. The diagnosis was a lower back strain.
Oswalt has a history of back issues, while was one of the main concerns when he was traded to the Phils last year. How serious this particular issue is has yet to be determined.
With the injury to Oswalt, the bullpen’s vacation was officially over. JC Romero came in for one batter and on a hopping ground ball, he could not resist the urge to attempt to field it as it bounced over his head. The ball glanced off his glove and spun away from Pete Orr at second base giving Logan Morrison an infield single.
Bad luck for Romero turned into a disaster for Danys Baez. He quickly issued a walk and a single to load the bases. Then instead of bringing in lefty Antonio Bastardo to face ex-Phillie Greg Dobbs, Manuel left Baez in. Big mistake. Dobbs greeted the undeserved boos from the crowd with a 2-run single. The boos came before the hit.
Dobbs was an amazing pinch hitter for the Phils in 2008 when he helped them win the World Championship. He had a bad year last year, but that was certainly not deserving of such a reception. In addition, Dobbs is one of the nicest players I have ever met. Genuinely nice, not just putting on a show. He always had time to chat, time for autographs and did some great charity work with disabled children in the Philly area. Those who booed him should be ashamed.
But I digress…those two runs Dobbs knocked in gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead. But what it also did was give Phillies fan one more reason to dislike Baez. He looked better than last year early in the year and in the spring, but clearly, he cannot be trusted in a close game.
While the rest of bullpen held, the offense could not come though. Orr swung at the first pitch in the ninth inning and flew out. John Mayberry Jr. drew a walk, but both Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco flew out as well.
This was a depressing game to lose, but the Phillies have made a habit early this year of losing the first game of a series and then winning the next two. Let’s hope that trend continues.
In the meantime, here is a little comic relief. It is a make-believe conversation between Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth. Warning: If cuss words offend you or small children are around, do not play the video. Otherwise, enjoy ;o)
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee needed a solid bounce-back game tonight after his last start was a small disaster. Against the Nationals in the third game of the series, Lee did more than bounce back. He pretty much destroyed the Nats line-up, one batter at a time.
Over nine innings in a complete game, Lee allowed only three hits, no runs, 1 walk and struck out 12 batters. The Nats bats looked baffled at the plate. At this rate, teams may have to start a support group soon for players who are totally humiliated by this Phillies pitching staff. They can call it C.R.A.P.P, Cannot Rally Against Phillies Pitching.
Lee’s competition, Jordan Zimmerman, kept up with Lee through five innings. He had a no-hitter going until the sixth when Carlos Ruiz smashed a home run to left. With one swing, the no-hitter was gone and Phillies took a 1-0 lead. Shane Victorino scored later that same inning on a Placido Polanco single.
Zimmerman was pulled in the eighth after both Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez singled and Lee reached on an error to load the bases. A ground out followed by a Jimmy Rollins single scored two more runs, increasing the Phillies lead to 4-0.
The Nats, in a four-run hole in the bottom of the ninth, attempted a comeback with a lead-off single. But Lee shut them down. Our old buddy Jayson Werth made the last out, which was the icing on the cake.
The win tonight means the Phillies have taken two out of three games in D.C. this week. This marks their fourth consecutive series win to start the season. It also marked the first time the Phillies had back-to-back complete games since May of 1999.
The Phils go back home to face the Marlins tomorrow. Roy Oswalt will pitch and game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Last night, the web site Deadspin revealed a story claiming that Ryan Madson’s wife Sarah had some awful things to say about Philadelphia fans.
In the original report, Laura Goldman of the Naked Philadelphian stated the comments were made to her after she identified herself as a reporter. Goldman claims that Madson said, “I hate the fans. It is bad enough that they bother us during the season, but they will not leave us alone in December when we go out to eat. We stayed here during the off season last year, but we will be going to California this year. There must be something particularly bad about Phillies fans because all the players leave in the off season.”
Madson allegedly went on to say about female fans, “Can you believe that they have the gall to give my husband their number in front of me?”
Later, the blog Crossing Broad revealed that Goldman has a very checkered past and a history of being a liar. She is on probation currently for stalking a former lover, falsely accusing him of rape and attempting to extort money from the man. She even fled the country to avoid prosecution and was a fugitive from justice for almost nine years before being extradited back to the US from Israel.
Check out the Crossing Broad article for more details.
The only statement given so far by the Madson’s according to the Daily News was from a spokesman for the Madson’s who said, “Ryan and Sarah enjoy playing in Philadelphia and have a great fondness for the city and the fans.” There was no denial.
However, I personally have a difficult time believing that Sarah Madson would say such things. I spent time with her last year on the 2010 Phillies Cruise and can tell you that both she and Ryan are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. They were friendly, cordial and spent a lot of time on the cruise chatting with fans, even during non-Phillies related events.
Ryan even handed me his World Series ring and let me and some friends pass it around to try it on and take photos.
And besides, why would they volunteer to attend a week-long cruise with over 200 Phillies fans if Sarah had issues with the fans? It makes no sense.
As for the credibility of Laura Goldman, she has none. The woman is a convicted extortionist and liar. And she very conveniently did not tape the interview. Even I tape every interview I conduct, and I don’t get interviews very often. In fact, when I interviewed Gary “Sarge” Matthews and Dallas Green last summer, I used two digital recorders, just in case.
The facts simply do not add up here. I hope the Madson’s sue this crazy woman and run her out of the country again.
UPDATE: Karen Araiza of NBC Philadelphia has reported that the Phillies sent out a Press Release with a statement on behalf of Ryan and Sarah Madson. It read as follows:
“Sarah did not consent to an interview, but rather was approached by Ms. Goldman who did not identify herself as a reporter. She began to ask many personal questions about the life of a wife of a professional baseball player. The comments reported by Ms. Goldman were taken completely out of context, and as a result, Sarah is extremely upset and feels violated by the situation.
Sarah says, “For every one fan that may upset us, there are 99 Phillies fans that we love. We have lived here for years, have many friends, neighbors and acquaintances — who also happen to be Phillies fans — for whom we have the utmost respect.”
The Madsons would like to dispel this misleading information which indicates that they have anything but admiration for the fans in Philadelphia.”
Based on the new information, it appears Sarah Madson did make the comments, although the true context is unclear.
Goldman’s actions are inexcusable as she took advantage of a woman trying to be friendly at a charity event.
As for the Madson’s, I would be upset too if women were hitting on my husband right in front of me. It is likely the comments were aimed just at that particular group of fans.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Tonight’s Phillies game against the Nationals looked more like a game of dodgeball than baseball. Bats and balls were flying everywhere as players dodged out of the way or dropped the ball like it was on fire.
In the fourth inning, Jimmy Rollins reached base when Ian Desmond dropped an easy ground ball. One batter later, Desmond nearly football tackled Rollins who was on his way to third base. As J-Roll rolled to the ground, the umpire called interference on Desmond and Rollins was safe at third.
Both Rollins and Ryan Howard had ball-handling issues as well. The ball got stuck in each of their gloves at one point but they each recovered.
More flying objects threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning. Danny Espinosa shattered his bat on a swing and pieces of the bat flew right at Roy Halladay, who was standing defenseless on the mound. Luckily, the bat just grazed his glove. Right behind him, Wilson Valdez fielded the ball cleanly despite the flying debris an turned and amazing double play to end the inning.
Ryan Howard tried to dodge a ball in the fifth when pitcher John Lannan hit him in the hand. Nightmares of Chase Utley’s broken hand in 2007, who was also hit by Lannan, swirled in the air. But Howard was fine and a run was walked home as a result.
Oh, and Roy Halladay was pretty good tonight, too. With the offense spotting him three runs, Halladay mowed down Nats batters one by one. Even Jayson Werth, who was great on Tuesday night, could not dodge the bullets from his former teammate.
Werth finally got a hit in the ninth inning, as Halladay was then the one trying to dodge a bullet. With one run in, Werth on third and only one out in a 3-1 game, Charlie Manuel went to the mound to get Halladay who it appears, refused to leave. Manuel gave Halladay his wish and left him in. The next batter hit an infield single to cut the Phils lead to 3-2.
Still, Halladay stayed on the mound. Next up was another former Phillies, Matt Stairs. Normally one who swings away, Stairs froze as three straight strikes flew by. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez suffered the same fate as he struck out looking to end the game, despite protests to the umpire.
The Phillies won by a score of 3-2. As for Roy Halladay, bullet dodged.
The big story before today’s Phillies – Nationals match-up was the reunion with Jayson Werth who left for a larger payday this past offseason. While Werth heard some boos from the Phillies fans who generally overrun Nationals Stadium, he also got the last laugh…for today, anyway.
Werth had two hits, including a double and a home run. He also walked once and scored twice. The boos either did not bother him or he found it to be motivating.
As for starter Joe Blanton, in his second attempt of the year, he faltered again. Blanton allowed five runs over seven innings to an anemic Nationals team. His 10.45 ERA is disturbing, although, it is still early in the season. Regardless, losing to the lowly Nationals is never fun.
And the Phillies offense did little to help Blanton. They seemed puzzled against veteran Livan Hernandez. Ryan Howard touched him up for a homer in the second inning, but hits after that were hard to come by and certainly were not timely.
In the seventh, after three straight singles and only one out, both John Mayberry Jr. and Shane Victorino struck out to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Antonio Bastardo walked a run home to make the score 6-1.
The Phillies tried again to rally against the Nats bullpen in the eighth. But although they got some runners on base and two runs scored, one on a ground ball and another on a wild pitch, it was not enough. The Phils went on to lose by a final score of 7-4.
Roy Halladay will take the mound tomorrow and try to hold down Werth and the Nats. Game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Much has been made out of Jayson Werth’s offseason departure from the Phillies after accepting a huge $126 million, 7-year deal from the Nationals. On Tuesday night, Werth will face his former team for the first time as the Phillies travel to D.C. for a three-game series.
Some fans have expressed their disappointment that Werth chose a big paycheck over staying with a winning team. After all, Cliff Lee gave up more money from the Yankees to come back to Philadelphia.
But in the same circumstance, most people would take the money. And the offer Werth got from the Nats was significantly more than the Phillies offered. So can you really blame him?
Money aside, there may be other reasons that Phillies fans feel the need to boo Werth. For example, this past February, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post quoted Werth as saying, “I hate the Phillies, too,” in response to a comment made by Washington GM Mike Rizzo.
Then in late March, an interview with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. by nick DiUlio of Philadelphia Magazine revealed more angry words by Werth. Amaro stated he received a text message from Werth after the Lee signing that said, “BOOOOOOOO!”
The next part of the same article read as follows: “That reaction from Jayson was funny,” says Amaro in his office in February, again flashing that smile. “He was pissed*off. He had just signed with Washington. He said to me, ‘You dum*bass. You could’ve had both of us.’ And I said, ‘You’re the dum*bass. You could have taken our arbitration offer.'”
While Werth is clearly sore over the deal, should fans be sore about Werth’s reaction?
But a few childish and angry words should not overshadow what Werth contributed to the Phillies team over four seasons. He helped them win the 2008 World Championship, played solid defense and added some pop to the line-up.
While Werth’s choice of words could be perceived as blatant disrespect for a team and a fan base that always had his back, the words were spoken out of shock and likely, disappointment.
Games in D.C. against the Phillies have been traditionally overrun with Phillies fans in the past several years. So, despite this being a home game for the Nats, Phillies fans will be heard.
So the question then remains, to boo or not to boo? Booing is not really my style, but each person is free to make their own choice. Ultimately, I hope Werth hears more cheers than boos out of appreciation for the time he was in Philadelphia.
And if you would really like Werth to feel bad about his poor choices of words this offseason, there is no better way than offering up a loud, hearty cheer to make him regret the indiscretion.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
For the Phillies offense, scratching out a few runs against the Braves starter Derek Lowe was not going to be an easy task. So Hamels knew he had to be sharp. As expected, a pitcher’s duel broken out in Atlanta.
Hamels was on a mission. Through seven strong innings, he allowed only four hits, no runs and struck out eight batters. Even better, Hamels looked relaxed and in control, able to work out of what little trouble he got into.
The offense did manage to post a few runs for Hamels, mostly due to a spectacular game from Shane Victorino. Going 3-for-4 at the plate, Victorino hit two singles and a home run. The other run scored when Jimmy Rollins hit into a double play with no outs, allowing Victorino to score in the fourth.
Carlos Ruiz also continued his hot streak with two hits. Then in the ninth inning, Rollins got his first hit of the game, a double that landed him on third base after a Braves error. Ryan Howard was able to get Rollins home on a ground ball out, giving the Phillies an insurance run and a 3-0 lead.
Jose Contreras entered in the ninth to save the game in what would be a very good test of his skills as a closer. With rookie second baseman Michael Martinez making a few nice defensive plays plus good pitching, Contreras got the job done.
The Phillies won the series with the Braves two games to one. After a day off on Monday, the Phillies will take on the Nationals in D.C. on Tuesday.
You Be The Judge
Totally off topic, have you seen the new MLB campaign “Always Epic“? Released on March 31, 2011, Giants closer Brian Wilson stars in a video series that covers various adventures inside Wilson’s beard.
The video with the tiny ninja’s is especially interesting. Follow the link to watch it.
Back on February 22, 2011, I posted that exact idea on this MLBlogs site, except I used the beard of Raul Ibanez. I was making a joke about the magical powers of the Ibanez beard and decided tiny ninja’s would be funny. Apparently, MLB liked it as well:
So, coincidence or did MLB totally rip off my idea? You be the judge.
Perhaps it is simply that great minds think alike. In which case, I expect a job offer from MLB any day now.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
In Friday’s game against the Braves, Cliff Lee had his first bad start of the year. The Phillies gave Lee an early 3-0 lead, which he proceeded to give right back to the Braves.
Shane Victorino later missed a fly ball which glanced off his glove and led to three more runs for a Braves 6-3 lead. In the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out, Ryan Howard tried to check his swing which turned into a dribbling double play ball to end the threat.
In short, Friday was not a good night for the Phillies. They went on to lose by the 6-3 score, leaving people scratching their heads as three of the Phillies five starters have now each had an awful game in the first week of play.
On Saturday afternoon, Roy Oswalt knew the team was counting on him to turn around their luck. And the offense knew they needed to score some runs. Saturday was a better day for the Phillies.
And if you were a Phillies catcher, it was a great day. Back-up Brian Schneider smacked a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his first home run of the year. With a 3-2 lead in the seventh, John Mayberry Jr. came in to pinch hit for Schneider and then Carlos Ruiz pinch hit for Oswalt. Chooch proceeded to smash a ball to left field with the bases loaded for his first home run and first grand slam of the year.
The slam gave the Phillies a 7-2 lead and they continued to add on after that. Ruiz had another hit and another RBI in the eighth, giving him a career-high five RBI in one game.
As for Oswalt, he left the game after six innings and two runs allowed. He and Roy Halladay are the two Phillies starters who have yet to experience a bad game in 2011. Today, the Phillies went on to get Oswalt his second win of the year by a score of 10-2.
Another bright spot in the Braves series so far has been the bullpen, which continues to hold down the opponent. On Friday, 25-year old Antonio Bastardo allowed just one hit over two innings and then proceeded to strike out the next six batters in order. No ground outs, no pop-ups, all six outs were K’s as Bastardo consistently hit 94mph on the radar gun and located the ball well.
Bastardo’s performance matched a Phillies franchise record as he became only the third Phillies relief pitcher to ever strike out six batters in a row.
Also, Victorino seems to have found his groove as the leadoff man. Today, he went 4-for-5 at the plate with an RBI. Jimmy Rollins had two hits as well and is batting .333 in the 3-hole.
The final game of the Braves series is tomorrow afternoon at 1:35pm. Cole Hamels will need to rebound from his first start where he lasted less than three innings, giving up three runs. If the Phillies win, it will be their third consecutive series win to start the 2011 season.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies beat the Mets today by a score of 11-0 to win the series two games to one. Roy Halladay was his usual, spectacular self as he shut down the opposition. Halladay went seven innings without allowing a run on six hits and his first walk issued for the season.
The offense went back to work, pounding Mets pitching mercilessly. Every Phillies starter had a hit, including Halladay. Wilson Valdez led the team with four hits and three RBI. Placido Polanco had three RBI on two hits and Raul Ibanez smacked his first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the seventh.
The Phillies finish their first home stand of the year with a 5-1 record, scoring 43 runs in the process. Overall, the start of 2011 has been a great success for the Phillies. Here are some of the most encouraging signs:
The Offense: Those 43 runs in six games are a very big deal for a team whose offensive potential looked grim to some in the absence of both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, who is now with the Nationals.
The runs have not been the only good news. The way they scored those runs is also impressive. Normally known as a home-run led offense, the Phillies have learned how to run the bases and play small ball, going station to station with a more patient approach at the plate.
The homers are still there, but have not played as prominent a role as they have in years past. In other words, the Phillies can score runs without the big bangs.
Over all six games, Howard has collected 12 hits, including three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. On Wednesday night against the Mets, Howard went four for four at the plate. He is now batting .480.
If the All-Star first baseman can keep up this pace, he is going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers all year long.
As for Rollins, he had a very rough 2010 that was plagued with injuries. But he is off to a good start in 2011, which is also a contract year for him.
Batting .375 in the three-hole so far, Rollins may be back to the J-Roll of old.
Wilson Valdez Is Up To The Task: When Chase Utley reported major knee injuries this spring training, the fan base let out a collective sigh of disappointment. The perennial All-Star is one of leaders on this team and probably their best overall hitter.
But Wilson Valdez, coming off a season where he got a lot of playing time due to injuries, is ready to fill the void.
Hitting .429 through six games and five starts, Valdez tried to imitate Ryan Howard on Thursday afternoon, going four for four with three RBI. With nine hits and five RBI in his five starts, Valdez has more than adequately filled the Utley void.
And his defense is probably a slight upgrade over Utley. Valdez has a cannon for an arm and now, his bat is on fire too.
Starting Pitching: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt all gave solid performances this week, as expected. Halladay has pitched twice and was even better in his second start.
As for Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, their first starts did not go quite as well. But three out of five is not bad.
However, no one should panic about either Hamels or Blanton. Hamels is a notoriously slow starter. Clearly, the California kid does not like chilly weather. His lifetime ERA in April is 4.45. In 2010, Hamels posted a 5.28 ERA in April.
Blanton has similar issues. So both pitchers should get better as the season progresses.
But these five guys are going to be something very special.
The Bullpen: Once thought to be the Achilles heel of this Phillies team, the bullpen has really stepped up their game this year.
Danys Baez has been great after being a total nightmare in 2010. Youngster Antonio Bastardo has matured and also looks very sharp. And J.C. Romero appears to have made the necessary adjustments to his game that were needed after he had issues in 2010 following elbow surgery.
With Brad Lidge gone and probably not returning until after the All-Star break, there are concerns about the back end of the pen, too. But both Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras are on the ball so far. Contreras collected his first save on Wednesday night and neither pitcher has allowed a run yet.
The pen is ready for the season!
Werth Who? : Ben Francisco is quickly making Phillies fans forget all about Jayson Werth and his exorbitant $129 million pay check with the Nationals.
Batting .320, Francisco has eight hits, five RBI and two home runs so far. He might have a few more bombs if not for the cold, windy conditions in Philly right now. Francisco has hit the ball very, very hard in nearly every at-bat.
His defense has been good as well. Giving himself up for the team, Francisco smashed into the right field wall, back first on Sunday to catch a very long fly ball. He hit it so hard, part of the out of town scoreboard was knocked loose.
Francisco’s effort and right-handed power are exactly what the Phillies need in their starting right fielder.
The Phillies are off on their first road trip of the season. They take on the Braves in Atlanta tomorrow with Cliff Lee pitching. Game time is 7:35pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Early in tonight’s game, it looked like the Phillies had the Mets by the throat. Ryan Howard was on fire. By the fourth inning, Howard had two doubles and a home run. Even pitcher Joe Blanton smacked a 2-RBI single in the third inning.
But as Howard set the field on fire, Blanton began to cool off on the mound. After the Phillies supplied him with a 7-0 lead, Blanton allowed a two-run homer in the fourth. In the fifth, the wheels all fell off as his pitches began to sail up and into the happy zone for the Mets. Four runs later, Blanton was finally pulled. A fifth run scored before the inning was over, which was charged to Blanton and tied the game 7-7.
I feel like I may have said this close to 100 times in the last several years but, if Joe Blanton starts giving up runs in the fifth inning, take him out! If you look at Blanton’s stats from 2010 as an example, batters go from hitting .184 off him in the fourth inning to .305 in the fifth. And it gets worse from there.
But this is a pattern with him that you do not really need stats to tell you. It is pretty obvious. Trouble for Blanton almost always starts in the fifth or sixth. He began elevating his pitches at the start of the fifth tonight and that should have been like a siren going off for the Phils manager.
Charlie Manuel struggles with pulling Blanton because he hopes he can get through five to qualify for the win. But Manuel needs to start getting tougher with him or come up with a solution. You simply cannot allow a pitcher to blow a seven run lead. When you see the tidal wave coming, get out of the way!
Luckily for the Phillies, the offense kept on picking away at the Mets. Ben Francisco hit his second home run of the year. And on three hits, Placido Polanco collected three RBI. One of those RBI’s put the Phillies back in the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Also helping out during the game, Pete Orr, who started at second, went two for three at the plate. Howard ended his night going 4 for 4 with 2 RBI.
The bullpen held down the new lead for the Phillies. Both J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson pitched scoreless innings, turning the game over to the new closer, Jose Contreras. Getting the job done, Contreras got his first save of the year in a 10-7 win.
The final game of the series is tomorrow afternoon at 3:05pm. Roy Halladay will try to pitch the Phillies to series win over the Mets.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography