Archive for the ‘ MLB ’ Category

Phillies Squeak Out Series Win Over Nationals

With a 3-1 win on Thursday night, the Phillies managed to just barely squeak out their 3rd win in the 4-game series with the Nationals…and it was not without drama, as usual.  Even with 4 errors in the game, somehow, this team found a way to win.

Of those 4 errors, 3 belonged to Chase Utley.  He was so off-kilter in the field, one may have wondered whether or not someone spiked his Gatorade.  But he did have a hit in the game and also ran the bases well, scoring a crucial run in bottom of the 8th inning.

The real heroes of the night however, were Darin Ruf and Kevin Frandsen…again.  Ruf started off the 7th inning with a double off the Nat’s lone All-Star, Jordan ZimmermanCarlos Ruiz bunted him to third and then, Mr. Clutch, Kevin Frandsen stepped to the plate.  Frandsen smacked a double into no-man’s land in right-centerfield to score Ruf and give the Phillies their first lead of the night.

In the midst of all that, Kyle Kendrick managed to pitch a very solid 7 innings, despite all the fielding errors and the lack of run support.  And then both Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon broke recent routine and pitched one drama-free inning a piece to nail down the win.  It was as if the stars had finally aligned….

But even after taking 3 of 4 from the Nats, and 2 of 3 from the Braves, the Phillies still have a lot of work to do.

Slightly off topic here, did anyone else see the interview with Darin Ruf that aired a few days ago on CSN Phillly?  He was asked why his offense has improved since being called up.  While I cannot find a video of this anywhere (and there may be a reason for that), he said basically that he was taking advantage of the “detailed scouting reports” that were available in the majors, but not in the minors.

Here is my question – do they seriously not have scouting reports in Triple-A?  Or perhaps they have generic, inferior reports?  Either way, am I the only one who thinks this is a major problem?  You cannot tell me this organization cannot afford to pay someone to produce minor league scouting reports.  Heck, I’ll do it for a very modest paycheck and some free baseball!

Just sayin’…  Thoughts anyone?

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lannan and Revere Pound the Nationals

Visions of pitcher John Lannan must have haunted the National’s dream last night after he held them scoreless for 8 innings in a Phillies 3-2 win.  It was Lannan’s best outing of the year and the first time since 2009 that he made it through 8 innings.  Lannan completely dominated his former team, which had to be the cherry on the sundae for him.

Lannan had some help last night as well.  Ben Revere had 3 hits and scored twice, while showing off his acrobatic moves.  After sliding hard into home plate in the 6th inning, Revere lost his balance and flipped over onto to his head.  He turned the handstand into a full gymnastics flip, which announcer Gary “Sarge” Matthews termed an “upsie-do,” thus coining yet another Sarge-ism.

I said before the season began that Revere was going to surprise everyone, countering the naysayers about the trade.  I had hoped the surprise would come sooner than it did, but here we are and Revere has been outstanding for the past 2 months.  He is batting .300, stealing bases, getting extra base hits and scoring…a lot.

Not to mention that little Ben is cute as a button.  He is like an adorable, yet slightly spastic, little puppy dog, bouncing around to win your attention.  I seriously want to pat him on his head and feed him a milk bone.

Puppy’s aside, this team is not out of the woods yet.  The bullpen remains a serious issue.  Even Jonathan Papelbon nearly blew a 3-run lead last night.  His outings are beginning to conjure memories of past Phillies closers who, aside from Brad Lidge in 2008, were frustrating fans with every pitch.  Let us hope the Phillies do not need to use him for at least a game or two.

Cole Hamels will pitch tonight; game time is 7:05pm.

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Photo – Courier Post Online: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Pettibone, Umpires Frustrate Braves in Loss to Phillies

The Atlanta Braves did not think it was very sunny in Philadelphia after losing to the Phillies by a score of 7-3.  Even in blinding sunshine and near 100 degree temperatures, it was a dark day for the Braves.

Rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone was outstanding against a heavy-hitting Braves line-up.  Freddie Freeman was so frustrated after striking out at one point that he smashed his bat into the ground, picked it up and then smashed it again.  And B.J. Upton was thrown out of the game after mouthing off to the umpire about calling him out on strikes in the 5th inning.

Pettibone went only 5.1 innings, likely due to the excessive heat.  It was obvious he was getting tired.  But he did manage to leave with only 1 run allowed.

Both the Phillies offense and defense were solid.  Domonic Brown had 2 hits, including his 23rd homer of the year.  Darren Ruf, starting for Ryan Howard who is now on the DL, had a hit, a walk and scored twice.  Carlos Ruiz added 2 hits as well.

The only defensive snafu was when Michael Young, who has been not great at third base lately, nearly ran over Jimmy Rollins going after a pop-up:

And for the most part, the Phillies bullpen held steady.  J.C. Ramirez allowed 2 runs in the 6th; those were his first runs allowed since being called up.  Aside from that, things were mostly quiet from the 6th inning on.

The Phillies took 2 of 3 from the Braves with this win today.  Still, with Howard’s future uncertain and a very young and inexperienced bullpen, this team is going to have to annihilate the Nationals this week to keep GM Ruben Amaro Jr. from breaking up the team.

Here is the Photo Album from today’s game, including shots of Roy Halladay actually throwing pitches before the game!  The Doc may not be done just yet…

Game time Monday night is 7:05pm.  John Lannan will pitch.

The Rumor Mill Begins to Turn…

The Phillies have done themselves no favors during the first half of the season.  Their mediocre play has left them in 3rd place in the NL East and 9.5 games out of first.  Losing 3 out of 4 against the Dodgers this past weekend did not help their case either.

And so the rumor mill begins to turn with names like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in the mix.  If the team does not pick up their play significantly in the next few weeks, this could signal the end of an era.  It is hard to envision a Phillies team without Utley or Rollins, but that may soon be the reality.

The most persistent rumor recently has the Red Sox making a run at 3rd baseman Michael Young.  The Phillies signed Young as basically a 1-year rental, so his departure would not be surprising.  Utley is in the last year of his contract, so losing him is also a possibility, although not one that most people would be very happy about.

Utley may be the most beloved player in franchise history.  If the Phillies trade him, they run the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base.  This is guy who blurted out the F-word on national television, not once, but twice, and people still say he can do no wrong.  That is a powerful show of affection, especially in a city like Philadelphia.

Rollins, on the other hand, may not be missed quite as much.  While he is the longest tenured active Phillie and a former MVP, Rollins still has that magical ability to piss people off.  He has made derogatory comments in the past about Philly Fans and he has been criticized for a lack of hustle.  More recently, Rollins said he was “not disappointed” with the team’s 1-3 performance in Los Angeles this past weekend.

While Rollins has a point, that being he believes the team will overcome, it still rubs some people the wrong way.  Personally, I like Jimmy.  He speaks his mind and I respect that.  So seeing him in another uniform would be quite a shock.  It would not, however, induce the same type of freak-out that losing Utley would.

On Tuesday night, the Phillies pulled out a 3-1 win over the best team in baseball right now, the Pirates.  That is still weird to say…  However, even that win may not help quite the trade rumors.  A sweep of the Bucos might be helpful, but even in a win, the Phillies still have some very obvious, glaring problems.

The bullpen, for example, is a huge mess.  It took 3 pitchers who combined to load the bases to get the Phillies through the 8th inning last night.  It did work out, but could have easily ended in disaster.  The offense is getting better, but they are still not hitting consistently with runners in scoring position.  And the defense is very shaky; Delmon Young dropped a routine fly ball last night which is a prime example of the issues on the field.

All we can do now is hold our collective breaths, wait and hope the Phillies can pull out a string of convincing wins before the All-Star break.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Win Despite Hamels’ Struggles

This has been an awful year for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels.  Predicted by many to be a Cy Young candidate this year, Hamels has gone in the exact opposite direction.  After last night’s game, Hamels has a 2-11 record with a dismal 4.58 ERA.  He allowed 5 runs (4 earned) in 6 innings; luckily, the rest of the team picked him up in a 13-inning 7-5 win.

The Padres are a mediocre team who committed 3 errors in this game, so please excuse me if I am not doing cartwheels after this win.  There were a number of positives, though.  First, we finally got a glimpse of what Delmon Young is capable of offensively.  He drove in 2 runs with a homer to tie the game in the 8th inning.  Defensively, he is still awful and had the only Phillies error in the game.

And then there is the bullpen to consider.  This group of youngsters has been terrible most of the year.  But last night, 5 guys combined to pitch 7 scoreless innings.  It was a small miracle.  Even Jonathan Papelbon finally got back on the horse after blowing 4 of his last 5 save opportunities; he held the Padres down in the 13th inning for his 15th save of the year.

But the Padres basically handed this win to the Phillies.  The 2 runs scored in the 13th inning were a direct result of Padres’ 2nd baseman Logan Forsythe bobbling a Ben Revere grounder.  So thank you, Padres!  The Phillies were really in need of a boost heading into a 4-game series with the Dodgers.

Game time tonight is 10:10pm EST.  Jonathan Pettibone will pitch.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Get Papelbombed for Fourth Time in a Week

Prior to this past week, Jonathan Papelbon had converted all 13 of his save opportunities.  But last night against the Padres, he dropped another bomb on the Phillies; it was his 4th blown save in his last 5 attempts.  Red alert!  The Phillies have been Papelbombed!

Worse than that, starting pitcher Cliff Lee took a 3-0 lead into the 9th inning before the bomb dropped.  After putting 2 men on base, Lee was pulled and the air raid ensued.  Papelbon gave up a 2-run single, hit the next batter and then managed a double-play ball.  But with 2 outs and a runner on third, catcher Carlos Ruiz let the next pitch sail past him, which scored the tying run.

The end result was a mind-blowing, 10-inning 3-4 loss to the Padres.  Please excuse me while I vomit…

The Phillies bullpen is the worst in all of baseball with a 4.67 ERA entering last night’s game.  Now every starter on this team has to think that if he cannot go all 9 innings, he has no shot at a win.  Just take a quick look at the pen’s instability:

-          Raul Valdes bombed and was sent to the minors in May

-          Veteran Chad Durbin was so bad they released him

-          Mike Adams, the $12 million dollar man, has been on the DL twice and may not pitch again this year.

-          Jeremy Horst was awful all year and is now on the DL

-          Michael Stutes, having missed all of 2012 and part of 2013 due to surgery, is once again on the DL.

-          Papelbon has lost his mind/command/sanity??

-          The rest of the pen, except Antonio Bastardo, consists of rookies, most of whom have bounced back and forth from the majors to the minors.

It is sad to say, but this team may have just hit rock bottom.  Start bracing yourselves…I predict more bombs to be dropping in the very near future.  Duck and cover!

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Lose Series to Mets

The Phillies completed an embarrassing weekend series against the Mets today with a 0-8 loss.  They lost 2 of 3 in the series and the only reason they won on Saturday was due to another Kevin Frandsen miracle in the form of a walk off homer after the team blew a 7-1 lead.

In his second start since coming off the DL, John Lannan struggled to get through just 5 innings, allowing 4 runs on 3 walks and 8 hits.  Below is a photo of Lannan pitching and another photo I took today which seems to express how Lannan felt his outing went:

In the top of the 5th inning, the Mets had some extra help against Lannan in the form of creative umpiring.  Ben Revere caught a fly ball, took a few steps with it securely in his glove and as he transferred the ball to his hand, it slipped to the ground.  The runner was allowed to advance to third and was called safe.

In the official MLB rules, a catch is defined as follows: “If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.  Rule 2.00 (Catch) Comment: A catch is legal if the ball is finally held by any fielder, even though juggled, or held by another fielder before it touches the ground.”

Revere had the ball long enough to be a catch.  Manager Charlie Manuel argued to no avail.  That was the turning point of the game as 3 runs scored right after that call.  Here are a few shots of the event:

Of course, the Phillies offense was no help at all either.  There were many bewildered looks at the plate, swings and misses and various other miscues.  Every mistake seemed inflated as they began to pile up; much like Ryan Howard’s inflated back side as a result of my viewing angle and his standing next to Chase Utley:

See, even in a 0-8 rain-soaked loss, I still managed to have a small bit of fun ;o)

J.C. Ramirez had some fun as well; he made his major league debut and struck out all 3 batters he faced.  Sadly though, the fun ended there.

The team starts a West Coast road trip tomorrow in San Diego.  In the meantime, here is the Photo Album from today’s game, including a Cole Hamels pre-game bullpen session and pitcher warm-ups.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Home, Sweet Home for the Phillies

After an abysmal road trip where the Phillies lost 7 out of 10 games, this team had to be relieved to be back in Philadelphia last night.  They took an absolute beating from the Brewers, Twins and the Rockies.  If you Google the meaning of “bad baseball,” this road trip should be used as an example.

But things looked a tad brighter after last night’s 5-4 walk-off win against the NationalsJohn Lannan returned to the rotation after a knee injury and pitched well; Ryan Howard finally broke out of his home run drought; and Domonic Brown seems to be getting hot again.  He even delivered the game-winning RBI single in the 9th.

Despite the win though, I simply cannot stop thinking about the awful road trip.  In particular, I am greatly disturbed by the events that have taken place at and around third base and home plate lately.  Most of these little disasters seem to revolve around veteran third-baseman Michael Young.

I hate to keep picking on Young, who seems like a very nice guy, and maybe some of this is not his fault at all.  Did you notice that Young got thrown out at home plate THREE times in the last 6 games of the road trip?  My question is, does he run home on his own or is Ryne Sandburg sending him?  I understand being aggressive, but Young is one of the older and slower players on this team.  This is not the guy you send on a close play.

I have begun leaning towards Sandburg’s lack of experience coaching third base as the issue, especially after last night.  Because it appears he got Howard into a similar jam.  He was sending Howard home and quickly changed his mind, signaling for Howard to stay at third.  But his momentum was already heading home and Howard got tagged out at third.  Sandburg is a Hall of Famer…I get that.  So he should know that you cannot stop a moving train.  Either make the decision quicker or take your chances that Howard will bowl over the catcher at home.

Then again, guys have been getting tossed out on the base paths all over the place all by themselves.  Young also got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double last Tuesday.  He also had a bad fielding error and hit into 2 more double plays on this road trip.

None the new players Ruben Amaro Jr. brought in this year, including Michael Young, are holding up their end of the bargain.  Delmon Young is hitting only .231; Mike Adams has a 4.13 ERA and cannot seem to pitch a clean inning; Ben Revere has started out super slow, although he is improving.  And Revere is young so he has a lot to learn yet.  Lannan has been ok, but the injury was a huge setback.

As for the returning Phillies, too many of them are hurt or under producing.  I hate to be such a downer after a rare Phillies win, but this team is just so frustrating!  Who are they?  Are they going to get any better?  Will some of these guys ever be healthy?  Your guesses are all as good as mine.

Maybe another win tonight will improve my mood?  Hope so!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Painful Math: Adding Up the 2013 Phillies Season So Far

It is a very good thing that I already have a college degree. Because this Phillies season is giving me many compelling reasons to hate math, which is generally not a good thing where school is concerned. If I had to walk into a calculus class right now, I may run screaming from the room instead.

Call it a math hangover. Or just call it the 2013 Phillies season, which has been a statistical nightmare.

For example, let us discuss OBP. It is really too bad that the on-base percentage statistic does not include how many times a player wiped himself and others off the bases after getting on. If it did, Michael Young’s .355 OBP would not look so great. Young has hit into 13 double plays in 57 games. He has more double play balls than he has RBI’s (11) even though his .355 OBP leads all starters on the team. This is a frightening statistic.

Did you also know that Ryan Howard, making $20 million this year, has hit only 1 home run in his last 103 plate appearances? With 7 homers total on the year in 59 games, Howard is averaging 1 home run every 8.5 games. Say Howard plays 145 of 162 games this season; at this rate, he would end the year with 17 home runs. That means the Phillies are paying him $1.2 million dollars per home run. Ouch.

Erik Kratz has 8 home runs in 43 games, more than Howard. And now, he is on the disabled list after hurting his knee this weekend. So one of the guys picking up the slack is now gone. Not to mention, the Phillies are on their 3rd string catcher with Carlos Ruiz still out as well.

And how about Mike Adams, who was supposed to be the savior of the 8th inning for the Phillies? He has already been on the DL with back pain and is now suffering from a mystery bicep issue. Despite coming off surgery in the off-season for thoracic outlet syndrome, the Phillies still paid aging, injury-prone Adams $12 million for 2 years.

Adams has given up runs in 5 out of his last 7 appearances; that is a rate of 71%. His ERA has ballooned to 3.92. Plus, no one has any idea when or if he will be pitching again. He has pitched in only 23 of 64 games so far this season.

And here are a few random stats, just to add to the misery: 10 out of 16 position players on the roster have batting averages at or below .250; that is 63%. The team average is .247. Only 3 teams in the National League have a worse team ERA than the Phillies 4.15. And with 38 errors on the season, the team fielding percentage is .984.

There is plenty more disturbing data where this came from, but I must stop here before my head explodes. The Phils just got swept out by the Brewers so I think we have all been tortured enough for now.

Put down the calculator…no matter how hard you try to change it, this math adds up to a very bad season.

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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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