Results tagged ‘ Ben Francisco ’
After Joe Blanton was sent to the DL yesterday, Vance Worley was called up to fill in against the Mets. Worley definitely proved that he has what it takes to pitch in the majors.
And the Phillies certainly challenged him in the first inning. Both Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins committed rare errors in the first to extend the inning. But Worley did not get rattled and eventually coaxed a double play ball to end the inning.
That inning increased Worley’s pitch count, but he still managed to go six innings while allowing only two hits. Despite four walks, Worley shut-out the Mets and got his first major league win of the year. Worley also singled in the game, which was his first major league hit.
However, most of the fireworks at the plate were provided by Ryan Howard who is now tied for 2nd with Del Ennis for Phillies all-time home runs. Howard’s 259 home runs are second only to Mike Schmidt who ended his career with 548.
It took Howard two homers to match the record tonight. The first shot went into the second deck in right field for 2-RBI. The second was a grand slam in the sixth inning, which is the 10th slam of Howard’s career.
Howard came up again in the seventh with the bases loaded, but back-to-back slams were just not meant to be. Sadly, he struck out.
But Ben Francisco helped out in the game as well with two hits and two RBI in the game. And Rollins had another two-hit game, officially announcing his emergence from an early season slump. Raul Ibanez, on the other hand, has not had a hit in 30 consecutive at-bats.
Another record was set tonight as well. Polanco recorded his 39th hit in the month of April, setting a new Phillies team record. Chase Utley held the previous record with 38 hits in April of 2008. And Polly is not done yet…still one more game to go in April.
The bullpen, including newcomer Michael Stutes, held down most of the Phillies huge lead and they went on to win by a score of 10-3. Game two is Saturday at 1:10pm and Roy Halladay will pitch.
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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
After not allowing a single run to the Padres in two straight games, the Phillies finally yielded on Saturday night in the first inning. Joe Blanton got roughed up quickly. On his first three pitches of the game, he allowed a single and an RBI triple to break the Padres scoreless streak.
But after getting out of the early jam, Blanton settled down and actually pitched very well. In seven innings, he allowed just two runs on eight hits and two walks. Blanton finally lowered his ERA below six; it sits at 5.92 right now and hopefully, will get better as the season progresses.
Placido Polanco got the day off at third base, which seemed like an odd choice considering he is the only Phillie really hitting right now. Wilson Valdez took third and Pete Orr filled in at second. Both players had one hit each, but overall, the offense suffered again.
Jimmy Rollins and Ben Francisco accounted for the Phillies two runs. After Rollins walked in the fourth, Francisco tripled to score him. Then in the sixth, Rollins singled to score Orr who had doubled before him.
Just a quick side note, I noticed last week that Orr already has a fan club, Orr’s Oars. A group of fans have been wielding boat oars in the outfield in Orr’s honor. Also interesting to note, Orr’s cousin, Nick Boynton, plays for the Flyers.
And yes, that is how sad the offense was in this game. I was so bored, I made a hockey reference.
Here are just a few examples of the Phillies offensive woes: Raul Ibanez has not had a hit in 17 at-bats. Frankly, I think John Mayberry Jr. should get some playing time until Ibanez figures it out. And Rollins is batting .120 in his last seven games.
The Padres have similar issues and as such, neither team looked good on offense. That led to extra innings after both teams were unable to score again in a 2-2 tie game. This would become a battle of the bullpens.
As it turned out, the Phillies bullpen came out on top thanks to an RBI-single by Howard in the 11th. That hit was huge for Howard as he had struck out in each of his previous four at-bats. The two runs that scored gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead which Ryan Madson held down for his second save in a row.
The Phillies are up 3-0 in the series with the final game today at 4:05pm.
On Thursday night, the Phillies snuck away with a 3-0 win against the Padres even though their offense is still anemic. Home runs by Ben Francisco and Brian Schneider paved the way for Roy Oswalt to collect his third win of the year.
While Oswalt appeared to have no ill effects from last week’s back issue, he did wind up having to toss a lot of pitches to get through six innings. It was 106 pitches, to be exact. The bullpen held the lead despite each reliever allowing one hit and one walk each.
Friday night, Cole Hamels took the mound and looked great in front of his hometown crowd. Usually comfy in San Diego, Hamels seemed to be relaxed and in control. He was even one of the best batters of the night with two hits, although he had a brain freeze and got picked off first base once.
Hamels cruised through eight innings without allowing a run. The Padres managed only four hits and three walks, one of which was intentional.
As for the Phillies offense, there has been very little of that lately. Two walks in the third inning led to a 2-RBI triple by Ryan Howard which accounted for the Phillies only two runs of the game. Lucky for them, Hamels brought his A-game and kept the Padres off the scoreboard.
The ninth inning was handed to Ryan Madson. Jose Contreras got a day off since he has pitched a lot lately. Madson has struggled in the closer role in the past, but tonight he had no issues. The Phillies went on to win by a score of 2-0.
There are two more games in the series. Saturday’s game time is 8:35pm and Joe Blanton will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies celebrated the Phanatic’s birthday today. Afterwards, they got to celebrate a win as well. In a very close 3-2 victory over the Marlins, the Phillies saw their season record improve to 10-4 in front of the second largest regular season crowd since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004.
All 45,716 people were treated to a birthday party for the Phanatic before the game began. Local Philly mascots and some mascots from other MLB teams joined the party too. The ZOOperstars also attended and yes, there was a cake made entirely of Tastycakes:
As for the game, Placido Polanco got the Phillies off to fast start with a solo homer off Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez in the first inning. A single by Raul Ibanez later knocked Jimmy Rollins in for a 2-0 lead.
And that is how the score would remain for five innings as Cole Hamels looked very sharp. He finally bent in the sixth, allowing two runs, but finished seven full innings without giving up a big inning.
Hamels’ performance was what kept the Phillies in the game as the hits were not coming easily. Polanco would up with three hits and Ben Francisco had two. That accounted for five of the Phillies eight hits total.
There were some odd and sloppy plays throughout the game by both teams. Ibanez made a spectacular running catch in the fourth inning (see photo below). But the next inning, he missed basically the exact same ball. And Shane Victorino stumbled while on first base and got picked off in the fifth:
The third run for the Phillies was courtesy of a Marlins goof in the eighth. Ryan Howard hit a fly ball to left and Logan Morrison somehow missed it as the sun appeared to interfere with his vision. Francisco took advantage and singled and then Ibanez moved Howard to third on a ground out. Carlos Ruiz put the RBI on the board with a sac fly, giving the Phils the 3-2 lead.
In the ninth, Jose Contreras did his best Brad Lidge imitation and scared the crap out of everyone in attendance with a circus-like save. He walked the first batter and a few ground balls moved the runner to third.
As if this were not frightening enough, Contreras then walked Chris Coghlan, who then stole second base. But Omar Infante then grounded out for the third out and Contreras got his third save of the year, although it was not pretty.
The Phillies split the 2 games with the Marlins as Saturday’s game has been rescheduled for 6/15. On Monday night, they begin a 3-game series with the Brewers. Game time is 7:05pm and Joe Blanton will pitch.
The full Photo Album from today’s game, including batting practice and the birthday bash, will be posted tomorrow afternoon. Check back for that.
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
Sitting among the second largest crowd in Citizen Bank Park’s history to witness another historical feat was amazing. All in attendance saw the Phillies open a season at home 3-0 for the first time since 1970 and open a season at home with a three-game series sweep for the first time since 1899. Yes, 1899.
The one-two-three punch of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt proved to be too much for the Houston Astros to handle. Oswalt was great today, pitching six innings and allowing just two runs on five hits against his former ball club in the 7-3 win.
It was Oswalt’s first start against his old team in his first start of the season. But there were many first’s in this game. Ryan Howard hit his first homer of the season while collecting a team-high four RBI in the game. Michael Martinez made his first major league start in place of Shane Victorino in center. Martinez later collected his first major league hit and first RBI in the same at bat.
Ben Francisco also smacked his first home run of the season today and made a huge first impression as the starting right fielder this weekend. With three hits in this game, all he had left to prove was that he could play hard in right. Francisco accomplished that with an amazing catch in right where he crashed into the wall hard, knocking the “SD” out of the out of town scoreboard.
As Francisco gave up his body to make the play, the fans jumped to their feet and screamed his praises. It was Francisco’s very own “Aaron Rowand moment.” Remember back in 2006 when Rowand smashed face-first into the center field wall to make a game-saving catch? He was a home town hero after that.
And while Francisco did not leave the field bloodied and battered, the effort was very much the same. And just like that, Jayson Werth is a distant memory.
Victorino sat today to rest his sore calf, but was able to pinch-hit later in the sixth and then stayed in the game. He saw exactly one pitch in his first at-bat and sent it to right for an RBI single. Looks like the calf is just fine.
The Phillies are off on Monday and start a three game series with the Mets on Tuesday. Cole Hamels will pitch and game time is 7:05pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
When the Phillies announced that they re-signed Cliff Lee this past December, it was hard to believe. From the shocking trade after the 2009 season, to Lee’s return and now, his first start back in a Phils uniform, it has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride.
But when Lee took the mound tonight against the Astros, the reality truly set in. Fans jumped to their feet and roared before Lee even threw a pitch. The excitement was palpable. Like a gift from heaven, Cliff Lee is home again.
As expected, Lee dominated the Astros line-up for most of the game. The only issue he ran into was his namesake, Carlos Lee who smashed a two-run homer. Lee wound up going seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out 11 batter.
The only remaining question for the Phillies was could they muster any offense. The answer is yes. After the amazing Opening Day ninth inning comeback rally on Friday, the Phils offense picked up today where they left off yesterday.
The Phillies got off to a quick start with two runs in the first inning. Between the fourth and fifth innings, they scored five more runs. The highlights were a Raul Ibanez double, a two-run Shane Victorino bloop single and a Ben Francisco double, just to name a few.
The real encouraging factor was not just the runs, but the way they scored the runs. It was a combination of good base running, patience at the plate, small ball and timely hitting. This is the Phillies offense everyone has been waiting to see.
Of course, we all loved the home run days and there will still be some of those. But in the past, the Phillies offense really seemed to rely on the big hits with little to no focus on manufacturing runs. With Chase Utley hurt and Jayson Werth gone, the big concern going into 2011 was the lack of power on a team that has issues playing small ball.
While we have only seen two games so far, it does look like the offense has finally figured out how to go one base at a time to score runs. With the incredible pitching they have, if the offense can keep up this pace and be consistent, this will be a very scary team.
Of course, where there is good news, sometime bad news follows. After a collision in center field with Francisco, Victorino left the game early. Reports say that he has soreness in his left calf. While his previous injury was to the left calf, there is still concern. Hopefully, pulling him was just a precaution. There is no word yet on how serious it may be.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 9-4. On Sunday, they will go for the series sweep with Roy Oswalt on the mound against his former team. Former Phillie J.A. Happ was scheduled to pitch for the Astros but has been scratched due to an oblique issue. Bud Norris will pitch instead. Game time is 1:35pm and I will return with photos.
Lee photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Happy Opening Day! And what an unusual Opening Day it was for the Phillies.
The Phillies sent Roy Halladay to the mound to face ex-Phillie Brett Myers of the Astros. What initially looked like it might be a bad day despite great pitching, the Phillies pulled out a win in walk-off fashion to open the 2011 season.
The first hit off Halladay came off the bat of Myers. And from there, more drama ensued. In fact, Myers wound up with two of the five hits Halladay allowed through six innings. Myers allowed only three hits and one earned run through seven innings.
But for the Phillies offense, hits were few and far between making fans wonder if all the hard work assembling this amazing pitching staff was going to pay off. If Halladay only allows one run but the offense cannot score any runs, wins will be hard to come by.
Only Ryan Howard and Wilson Valdez got any hits through the first six innings. The Valdez hit was a double in the third inning, but they were unable to score him. A bad call at first base where Halladay was called out did not help the situation.
Also not a huge help were a strange variety of Phillies mistakes. Ben Francisco missed a fly ball in right early in the game, prompting chants of, “Bring back Werth!” from the crowd. Valdez let a ball slip right between his legs and Shane Victorino got caught stealing. Later, poor Carlos Ruiz took a bouncing relay to the plate in what looks like an uncomfortable position:
None of this was good news for the Phillies. But in the seventh, Myers started to tire and the Phils finally manufactured a few runs. By the ninth inning, down 4-2, the Phillies probably started to imagine the backlash if they were to lose on Opening Day after Halladay pitched a great game. Suddenly, the hits started coming.
Jimmy Rollins started off the inning with a single to inspire the team. Howard, Francisco and Ruiz followed suit. The hit for Francisco was especially huge as it redeemed him from the previous error in the eyes of the crowd.
Valdez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Visions of the 20 double plays Valdez hit into last year began to haunt the crowd who held their collective breath. But perhaps the DP curse is over, because Valdez nailed and RBI single to tie the game.
All the Phillies needed now was a hit or a sac fly from John Mayberry Jr. With his father, former major leaguer John Mayberry Sr., and mother looking on, Mayberry Jr. smashed a 2-2 fastball to center field, over the head of former Phillie Michael Bourn. Francisco scored and Mayberry had his first major league walk-off hit in his first game ever as an Opening Day roster player.
The walk-off win was the first on Opening Day since May 6, 1974, when Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run against Tug McGraw to beat the Mets at Veterans Stadium. But with the high expectations for this 2011 team, this walk-off victory will go down as one of the most memorable in Phillies history.
The stunned Astros team will probably have nightmare’s tonight knowing they face Cliff Lee on Saturday. Game time is 7:05pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from Opening Day.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
With pain in his right shoulder, closer Brad Lidge will start the 2011 season on the disabled list. With Lidge’s long history of injuries, this new issue should be a huge red light to the Phillies that Lidge’s time is close to being over.
Lidge was especially concerned with this new injury saying, “I haven’t had shoulder problems in the past.” Although, Lidge has had surgery on both knees multiple times, elbow surgery, an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle and bicep tendinitis, just to name a few.
Still, Lidge entered spring training boasting that he was healthy and felt great. Exactly when that may have changed is hard to tell. Lidge is an eternal optimist so what he says should maybe be taken with a grain of salt.
Here is a little help for those who cannot always decipher what Lidge is talking about.
The Brad Lidge Translator
Lidge Says: I feel great.
Lidge Means: The pain is unbearable!
Lidge Says: I am not concerned.
Lidge Means: I am totally freaking out here!
Lidge Says: No need to panic.
Lidge Means: Red alert, red alert…PANIC!!!
Lidge Says: It is a setback.
Lidge Means: This is the END of my career!
Lidge Says: This is disappointing.
Lidge Means: I am going to crawl into a hole with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and eat and cry until I vomit.
With Lidge out of the picture, closing duties will fall either to Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. While it is good to know the Phillies have options, this does create major issues in the bullpen. The Phillies failed to re-sign Chad Durbin, which may come back to haunt them as they now have to rely on less experienced arms in the middle innings.
The Lidge injury is magnified when you think about the loss of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and questions still lingering about Placido Polanco’s elbow.
So, should Phillies fans be worried? The short answer is, not yet.
The team seems to have back-up for Utley. Luis Castillo finally got a hit today and also walked twice while showing solid defense in the field. Wilson Valdez continues to impress as well.
As for Brown, Ben Francisco is doing well in what may have been Brown’s spot in the outfield. John Mayberry Jr. is also capable and the two may wind up rotating in right field.
Another good sign is that Polanco did play today in the 3-1 victory over the Braves. Polly looked a bit tentative and was sore after the game, but he expects to play again on Sunday. Or perhaps, much like Lidge, I am being a tad too optimistic about all this? I hope not.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography