Hamels Gets 1st Win as Chooch Returns for Sweep of Mets

Perhaps it is fitting that Cole Hamels did not get his first win of the season until the day Carlos Ruiz returned from a 25-game suspension.  Throughout the weekend, the Phillies suddenly began to show signs of life.  Maybe a lot of that had to do with the anticipation of Chooch’s return.

After losing 3 of 4 to the Pirates, the Phils proceeded to storm New York and sweep the Mets in 3 games.  Kyle Kendrick shut them out on Friday and Jonathan Pettibone collected his first major league win on Saturday.  Then Sunday afternoon, Hamels held the Mets to 1 run to complete the sweep.

While Ruiz did not have a huge impact on the game, going 1 for 4, his mere presence did seem to have everyone in high spirits.  The game was tied 1-1 going into the 7th; in previous games, this lack of offense would have had the entire team tied up in knots, pressing at the plate.  But today, everyone was a little more relaxed.

That 7th inning was the key; Laynce Nix came through again as a pinch-hitter with a 2-out single and Jimmy Rollins followed with a single of his own.  Then Ryan Howard, who did not start the game, smacked a 2-run, pinch-hit double to put the Phillies on top.  Chase Utley singled to score Howard and add to the lead.

Even the bullpen finally looked normal.  Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon each pitched a scoreless inning to nail down the 5-1 win.  This is the team we have all been waiting to see.  The question is, can they keep the momentum going?

Monday is an off day and Tuesday, the Phillies will be in Cleveland to take on the Indians at 7:05pm.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Kendrick’s Complete Game Shut-Out Ends Losing Streak

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  No!  It’s Super-KK!  What a relief for the Phillies after dropping 3 straight games to the Pirates, to see Kyle Kendrick pitch a gem against the Mets.  The 4-0 win came just in the nick of time, before this team spiraled way out of control.

In the complete game shut-out, Kendrick allowed only 3 hits and a walk.  He kept his cool, even after the home plate umpire suddenly ran off the field in the first inning.  Umpire Brian O’Nora apparently took ill and Kendrick was left standing around on the mound around 9-10 minutes waiting for Adrian Johnson to get his home plate gear on.

The delay did not deter the mighty Kendrick.  And by some small miracle, the offense actually scored some runs for him.  The Phillies had been leaving runners all over the base paths lately.  But tonight, they finally came through in the clutch.

In the 6th inning, Michael Young took a break from hitting into double plays for a change and actually singled to score Jimmy Rollins.  Then Ryan Howard did what we have been waiting for him to do for weeks and broke the game open with a 3-run bomb to center.  Whew!

With Kendrick firing bullets at the Mets, those 4 runs held up.  But can the winning continue with a rookie on the mound tomorrow?  Jonathan Pettibone takes the mound at 1:05pm tomorrow for his second major league start.  Good luck!

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Offense on Locke-Down

On Monday night, Phillies rookie Jonathan Pettibone made his major league debut against the Pirates.  He went 5.1 innings and allowed only 2 runs after a fairly shaky start and some good defense.  The Phillies offense put up 3 runs for the rookie, but two of those runs came from a wild pitch and a hit batter.

The lack of offense took another turn for the worse on Tuesday night.  Cole Hamels pitched a great game, allowing 2 runs over 8 innings.  But his teammates did nothing to help him.  As a result of the 0-2 loss, Hamels still does not have a win this year.  This is exactly what happened to Cliff Lee last year, who ended the season with only 6 wins, despite his 3.16 ERA.

There were only 4 hits for the Phillies last night.  Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke had them all tied up in knots that they could not untangle.  Sadly, it was a total Locke-Down.

For example, in the 4th inning, John Mayberry Jr. led off with a triple.  Still, the Phillies managed to squander that opportunity as well.  Not scoring a runner from 3rd with no outs to start the inning is ridiculous.  But that has been the story of the Phillies offense for a number of years now, and it does not appear it will change anytime soon.

These guys get anxious at the plate, swing at bad pitches and watch good ones fly past them.  There is no discipline at all.

Think about that 4th inning again.  With no outs, Mayberry stood at 3rd and Domonic Brown on first after being hit by a pitch. Locke was getting wild and losing his command.  So the only thing Ben Revere needed to do was not pop out or hit the ball the 3rd base side of the infield.  Even a double play would have scored the run with Mayberry going on contact.  So what does Revere do?  He swings at the first pitch and hits the ball to third; Mayberry is thrown out at the plate.

This is not Mayberry’s fault either…Ryne Sandberg told him to go on contact which was verified by manager Charlie Manual after the game.  As for Revere, remember he is only 24 years old.  Clearly, he still has a lot to learn.  But the same excuse cannot be made for the rest of the team.  This is a very experienced ball club.  Yet they continue to approach at-bats like frightened rookies.

When the only relief of the night is seeing bench player Laynce Nix step to the plate, something is very, very wrong.

The Phillies hired not one, but two new hitting coaches this season in an effort to improve the offense.  And even though both Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner have gotten rave reviews from the players, nothing changes once a guy steps to the plate.  Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Apparently not.

Pretty soon they will have a big offensive day again and the critics will be silent until the next several games when the bats go back to sleep again.  This has become a pattern.  They give us a small bit of hope, and just like that, the hope is squashed the very next day.  I am seriously beginning to wonder if this is fixable.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait and see.  Roy Halladay will pitch tonight; game time is 7:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Drama Ensues in Phillies Win Over the Cards

A 7-3 win for the Phillies over the Cardinals on Sunday night ended the series with each team taking 2 out of 4 games.  It was a very long game, on a very cold night with a virtual buffet of interesting and weird happenings.

It all began with the Phanatic’s birthday bash/movie premiere (Time Traveling Phanatic DVD) which was highlighted by faux Hollywood stars and actors from the movie.  I am sure all the parent who brought, or were going to bring, their kids to this fun event were less than thrilled about ESPN moving the game from 1:35pm to 8:05pm on a school night.  The fun went on, but there were not too many people there to see it.

Then Kyle Kendrick took the mound and, once again, he struggled early.  But Kendrick seems to have this routine down now; he tosses a boat-load of pitches early, gets in and out of trouble and eventually comes out with a quality start.  In this case, he allowed only 2 runs in 6 innings.  The extra drama does seem to motivate him lately.

The Phillies looked like they might get their bats going again in the first inning.  Starting with a Jimmy Rollins triple, they scored two runs.  But that inning also launched a very strange night for Chase Utley.  Apparently forgetting there was only one out, Utley ran from second to home on a fly ball by Michael Young and was doubled up before he even realized the blunder.

The Utley Sunday night adventure did not end there.  He later ran past second base on a ground-rule double, thinking it was a home run when it actually just bounced over the outfield wall.  And then Utley threw away a fairly routine ground ball in the 7th which sailed past Ryan Howard.   That same runner later scored, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

Utley did have 2 hits on the night, but where his head was all night long is a mystery.  Perhaps he was just getting it all out of his system and will now be error-free the rest of the year?  One can only hope…

The crowd was restless most of the night.  The game was dragging (3 ½ hours long!), it was getting colder and later, the defense was not great and the offense died again after that run in the first inning.  Both Young and Ben Revere hit into double plays to kill rallies.  People were shouting not-so-nice things at players all night long.  It was a bit depressing.  This team has not given fans a lot to cheer about lately.

But the Phillies finally found redemption in the bottom of the 8th inning; the biggest redemption was for Revere.  With 1 out and runners on the corners, Revere singled to center to put the Phils ahead.  Catcher Erik Kratz, who was batting a paltry .192 coming into the game, then smashed a 3-run homer to give the Phillies a 7-3 lead which led to the win.  Whew!

In other weird news, the Phillies have called up 22-year old Jonathan Pettibone to make a spot start tonight since John Lannan is on the DL.  This is weird because, in 2 starts this season in Triple-A, Pettibone has a 9.64 ERA.  I guess there was no one else available?  It should be an interesting night; either he will get destroyed very early by the Pirates or he will totally surprise everyone.  Good luck to him!

And here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Halladay Finds His Mojo Against the Cards

The Roy Halladay we have all been waiting to see returned last night in an 8-2 win over the Cardinals.  It began with his last start against the Marlins and then Friday night, he continued to improve in an impressive 7-inning effort.

The game was called due to rain after the 7th, so this will go in the books as a complete game for Halladay.  He allowed only 2 runs, both solo homers.

But the really encouraging part was seeing Halladay get angry.  Not the fiery red-faced, frustrated sort of anger; this was his old competitive fire, finally burning once again.  He got mad in situations that most would just shrug off; for example, Ben Revere made another amazing catch in center field, but Halladay was visibly annoyed that the batter was able to hit the ball that hard, even though it turned into an out.

Halladay also had no issues trying to intimidate first-year major league umpire, Alan Porter, by staring him down or barking at him when he didn’t get the call he wanted.  Porter had blown a fair/foul call the day before that put the Phillies in a hole, so no one was sad to see Roy giving him a hard time.

Seeing Halladay back to his old, grouchy self is a very positive sign.  For some pitchers, this might mean the guy is getting frazzled; but for Halladay, being grouchy means he is on his game, ready to compete.  When good is not good enough for the Doc, you know he is feeling confident.

Just as exciting as seeing Halladay find his mojo again was seeing the Phillies offense finally get some hits.  The Phils busted out for 5 runs in the first inning, which was triggered by Chase Utley drawing a 2-out walk.  And thank goodness someone walked, because I was getting beyond tired of hearing every single sports reporter whine about the lack of walks.  Now they can all get back to whining about Ryan Howard

Howard did not play last night due to a sore groin and he is day-to-day.  Kevin Frandsen filled in at 1st base and drew the 2nd walk of the game for the Phillies and scored twice.  Freddy Galvis started his second consecutive game in left field and made one of the weirdest diving catches you will ever see.  His hand actually did a 360-degree turn on the ground, with the ball in the mitt.  Of course, I cannot find a video of it anywhere…but it does look like we may have another outfielder.  This guy looks like he can play anywhere…amazing.

So the real question tonight is will the Phillies offense come to play two days in a row?  Cliff Lee hopes so; he takes the mound at 7:05pm tonight.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Offense Has Sprung a Leake

In 2012, the Phillies faced Reds pitcher Mike Leake twice and destroyed him to the tune of 13 runs.  He had an overall ERA against the Phils of 17.55.  Ouch.  But last night, this team sprung Leake from his Phillies prison, allowing him to mow them down one hitter after another.

Ah, sweet freedom for Mr. Leake.  He must be quite relieved this morning.

On the exact opposite side, the Phillies probably got little sleep due to nightmares.  Some people have nightmares about standing naked in a crowd.  The Phillies are probably having nightmares about standing at home plate without a bat.  They may as well have been standing there without one if they were never going to use it.

And that pretty much describes this entire 6-game road trip which went down in flames after getting swept in 3-games by the Reds.  They scored only 10 runs in all 6 games and came away with just 2 wins, both against the Marlins.

Granted, it is very, very early in the season.  The Phillies have time to make up ground, however, these are very serious issues.  At some point, one has to question whether or not this team is capable of more.  But we will not really know until we see the whole team together as it was meant to be; that means when Carlos Ruiz returns and we also finally see what Delmon Young has to offer.  Ruiz cannot return due to suspension until April 28th.  And Young is still on the DL, although he has been participating in extended Spring Training games.

To make matters worse, Domonic Brown left the game early with a sore back; he will have an MRI today.  And John Lannan, who got pounded for 6 runs in 1.2 innings last night, complained of a sore knee after the game.  His status is unknown.

Do not be surprised if manager Charlie Manual decides to shake up the line-up tonight against the Cardinals.  And say a prayer that Cole Hamels can get his first win of the season; although, he may need a little offense to get that done.  *Sigh.*

Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

2013 Phillies: Déjà Vu or Déjà Voodoo?

Let us examine the latest Phillies performance last night in Cinncinatti:  The starting pitching was solid, the offense was mostly absent and the bullpen blew the game in the 8th inning, resulting in a loss.  Sound like a familiar scenario?  It should; that describes most of the 2012 season.  Ugh.

Is this Déjà vu or Déjà voodoo? Has someone or something cast a sleepy spell over this team for the second consecutive year?  It is like Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs in the bullpen passing the cursed apple around to the rest of the team.  If the drowsy Phils are waiting for Prince Charming to deliver true love’s kiss and wake them up, they may be waiting for quite a long time…

Because if Chase Utley’s 2 run bomb to tie the game up in the 8th inning wasn’t enough to light a fire under this team, I cannot imagine what would be enough.  Or how about Cliff Lee’s gutsy performance after a very weird 7th inning?  He wound up only allowing 2 runs in 7 innings, which is a pretty good day.

And then there was the amazing, stupendous, brain-warping, Superman catch that Ben Revere made earlier in the game.  Nearly everyone on the team starred in awe as Revere flew through the air backwards and nearly horizontal to snag this ball.  He even had the presence of mind to throw the ball in to double up the runner, even after smashing face first into the ground after the catch.

Still, this team could not rally late in the game.  They had only 5 hits total on the night.  Both Jeremy Horst and Mike Adams struggled in the 8th, allowing 2 more runs to the Reds who had also had difficulty finding hits early in the game.

Worse, the Reds came into this game on a 5-game losing streak.  The Phillies should have crushed them.  Instead, they went down in flames, losing by a score of 4-2.  Their offense has been on the Most Wanted list for 4 straight games now.  No one seems to know where it went.

Meanwhile, the Braves still only have 1 loss (to the Phils, oddly enough) and the Fightins’ are lurking near the bottom of the NL East in 4th place.  Ok, it is only April, I know…still, this team needs to WAKE UP!

Perhaps I am being a little rough on the team here.  But it is easier to be angry about a silly baseball game than have to think about what a sad day it was yesterday.  Although Monday was Jackie Robinson day, sadly, this was overshadowed by the tragedy in Boston earlier that day.  So while I am in the mood to rant, can I just say, what is with these freaking psychopaths bombing innocent people??  I am outraged, as are the rest of the sane to mostly-sane people of the world.

My heart goes out to all the people affected by this senseless act of evil.  I wish I had better words to convey my sympathies.  But all I can think is sad, sad, sad… :O(

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Phillies Fishing for Offense in Series Win

All 3 games between the Phillies and the Marlins this weekend went into the 9th inning tied by a score of 1-1.  It is safe to say that both teams had a wee bit of trouble finding runs.

The Phillies had base runners in the series, but only hit 6 for 30 with runners in scoring position.  Both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley could not come through with the bases loaded; Rollins was 0 for 8 total.  And today, the Phils hit into 3 double plays to kill rallies.

Despite the seriously offensive offense, the Phillies managed to squeak out two wins.  A lot of that had much to do with the fact that they were playing the Marlins, who look a lot like Phillies-Lite: Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Greg Dobbs and Chad Qualls are all ex-Phils.

In another unusual turn of events, Laynce Nix wound up being the hero of the day in the finale.  Nix smashed a 2nd deck homer to right field to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the top of the 9th inning.  It was Nix’s second home run pinch hit in the last 4 games.  He also made a diving grab in right field in Saturday’s game; diving is not his forte, so this was truly a sight to behold.  Ok Laynce, you win…I like you.  You can stay.  ;o)

But the real story of the day was Roy Halladay who picked up his 200th career win today.  Not only was that an amazing feat, but this win had to be a huge relief in another way as well.  After struggling mightily basically since last year, Halladay finally had a Halladay-like game.  In 8 innings, the Doc allowed only 1 run with 5 hits and a walk.  Granted it was against the Fish, but this will be a huge boost for his confidence.

So congratulations to Roy Halladay on his 200th career win!

The Phillies will celebrate tonight and then it is back to work tomorrow in Cincinnati.  Game time is 7:05pm.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The First Series Win of 2013

The Phillies won their first series of the season by beating the Mets on Wednesday night by a 7-3 score.  It was certainly hitting weather; all 10 runs scored in the game came from home runs.  The real difference in the game was that the Phillies hit with men on base and the Mets did not.

The other big bangs of the night came from the thunder and lightning in the sky, which delayed the game for just under half an hour.  But pitcher Kyle Kendrick weathered the storm and rebounded from a bad first start of the season at the Home Opener.  He struggled at times, but worked out of the jams with determination.

This was a very big win for the Phils who were off to a very scary start in the first 9 games of the year, of which they have now won 4.  Not great, but things are looking up.

On the other hand, attendance is trending downward.  There were an awful lot of empty seats at Citizens Bank Park this home stand, with attendance dipping as low as 35,393 on Monday night.  I suppose fewer and fewer folks are feeling optimistic about the team these days.

But don’t feel bad; the Phillies are not alone.  The Red Sox record-breaking streak of 820 games (794 in the regular season) finally ended last night.  Ah yes, the fans of Boston are but mere mortals once again.

So cheer up people!  It is a new season and everyone has still got a chance…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

A Tale of Two Pitchers

While Cliff Lee is pitching like a man at the peak of his career, Roy Halladay seems to be in a free fall.  With an 8-3 pounding of the Mets last night, Lee has started the season off with a 2-0 record.  Halladay, on the other hand, has begun with 2 awful losses.

Even the offense seemed pumped to perform for Lee.  The Phillies even hit 3 home runs in 1 inning to support their ace on the mound.  Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry Jr. all went yard for the first time this year.

Lee gave up only 2 earned runs and nearly pitched a complete game, coming just one out shy.  Manager Charlie Manual decided his pitch count was high enough at 106 and had Mike Adams finish off the game.

On the exact opposite side of things, Halladay looks like a little lost boy out on the mound searching for home.   His 2-7 loss to the Mets on Monday was especially difficult to watch.  Halladay allowed 7 runs in only 4 innings before being chased out of the game.  The Mets looked like they were taking batting practice off him.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems here.  But I would like to point out one issue that I have not heard anyone else mention.  Keep in mind, I am not a doctor and this is just an observation on my part; I have no inside knowledge here.  The Doc looks like he needs a doc.

The temperature at game time on Monday was 72 degrees, which dropped into the mid-60’s by the 2nd inning.  And yet, Halladay was sweating so profusely that it looked like rain coming off the brim of his cap.  His face was not just red; it was almost purple.  And this is not a new observation.  Halladay has been exhibiting the fire-faced sweats since Spring Training.

During the spring, they blamed it on the flu or some kind of virus.  I think it is safe to assume he no longer has this virus.  Still, in 65 degree weather, at night, Halladay looked like he might pass out on the mound.  This is a problem that I think might go beyond age or mechanics.  I am seriously beginning to think he may be ill.

I could be totally off base here, but I am worried about the guy.  I cannot help but wonder if the medical staff has done any blood tests or if a proud man like Halladay would even submit to such testing?

This very well could just be Father Time catching up to a man who dominated the pitching world for so long.  Maybe he is just out of bullets.  Maybe the fire-faced sweats are just a combination of the usual work that goes into pitching and a boat-load of stress.  And maybe he will figure out how to locate his pitches again and all will be well with the world.  I hope that is the case.

Perhaps I am just grasping at straws here for an answer.  And I am sure no one wants Roy Halladay to figure out what the issue is more than Roy Halladay.  In the meantime, all we can do is watch and hope for the best.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

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