Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Phillies Go From Minor Problems to Major Ones

In yesterday’s 2-1 loss, the Phillies looked either unable or unwilling to deal with Braves pitcher Mike Minor.  The only Phillies run was a solo shot from Chase Utley.  They also committed 2 errors in yet another game.

The near-comatose effort, careless swings and lack of hustle have gone from being a minor issue to a major one.

Just ask manager Charlie ManuelHe told reporters, “Our team, we used to – and I hate to say ‘used to’ – we did things different,” Manuel said. “A lot of that contributed to our success. People do change. Success changes people. Money definitely changes people. You have to be able to see those things, too. I’m not singling out one person. I’m talking about a team.”

It is interesting to finally hear the manager say what the rest of us have been thinking all season long.  This is also why many doubted whether getting injured players back, like Utley and Ryan Howard, would make any real difference.  Because if the good attitude and the hustle are not there, it doesn’t matter who they throw out onto the field.  And that is exactly what we are witnessing now.

These 2 losses against the Braves are probably going to push GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to pull the trigger on some trades in the next few days.  The Phillies are too far behind to catch up now as they sit 11.5 games out of the 2nd Wild Card spot and 15.5 out of 1st with 61 games to go.

If that happens and the team really shuts down, it will be a truly sad sight to behold.  Because even if they have nothing else to play for, you would hope they might have enough pride left to at least attempt to finish strong.  All we can do is hope that they choose the high road and try to improve for next season.

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Walks and Errors Kill the Phils in Atlanta

The Phillies win streak has ended at 4 games after an awful 6-1 loss to the Braves in Atlanta last night.  After a lead-off single from Jimmy Rollins in the 1st inning, the Phillies scored their only run of the game.  It all went downhill from there.

Pitcher Cole Hamels had one of the worst starts of his career immediately after signing a huge $144 million contract.  He walked a career high 6 batters, 3 of which came in the 2nd inning and led to 2 runs for the Braves.

Of course, those 2 runs could have been avoided if Mike Fontenot had not made a gigantic error at 3rd base.  He missed a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning without a run scored.  Third base has been a total nightmare for the Phillies with Placido Polanco’s constant back issues over the past 2 seasons.  Polly is on the DL again and neither Fontenot nor Ty Wigginton are able to handle the hot corner.  20% off all Phillies errors this year have happened at 3rd base.

The Phillies have had many 3rd base troubles over the years since after Scott Rolen departed.  Think about this: David Bell, Pedro Feliz and Polanco.  What do they all have in common?  You guessed it…back problems.  And if next year the Phillies decide to try Freddy Galvis at 3rd, he and his back fracture will fit right in:

So the troubles at 3rd continue as do the trouble with playing error-free baseball, starting pitching woes and a sluggish offense.  The other problem the Phillies are facing?  How about Brian McCann.  This guy is a 1-man Phillies wrecking crew.

In 6 games against the Phillies just this year, McCann has hit a home run in EVERY single game, including 1 grand slam.  He has 16 RBI against the Phillies in 2012…so far.  So my question then is, why are the Phillies still pitching to this guy?  Walk him!  Hit him with a pitch!  Throw darts at him!  I don’t care…just please stop pitching to the guy!

Tune in tonight at 7:10pm to see if the McCann curse continues…ugh.

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Phillies photos by Jenn Zambri Photography; McCann photo courtesy of MLB.com

Streaking & Signing: Things Are Looking Up for the Phillies

It is officially a streak – the Phillies have won 4 games in a row and all 4 came during their final at-bat.  In the 3-game sweep of the Brewers, every game also ended in the exact same score, 7-6.

Tuesday’s improbable win included a 6-run rally in the 8th inning which was started by a 2-run homer from 2nd back-up catcher, Erik Kratz.  To that point, Kratz had exactly 3 major league hits and all 3 were home runs.

Then today, Kratz doubled his major league hit total even while abandoning the long ball.  He recorded 3 hits including an RBI and a double in extra innings to once again set the Phillies up for a late-game win.   Chase Utley also had 3 hits today plus 3 RBI.   Jimmy Rollins got the game-winning hit today and also in Sunday’s walk-off win.

As for the pitching, Cliff Lee was not great on Tuesday, giving up 6 runs.  But the Phillies offense got all 6 back for him in that 8th inning.  Then today Vance Worley had an ok outing, allowing 3 runs in 5.1 innings.  Kyle Kendrick kept him from further damage with 1.2 scoreless innings.

The bullpen has, with one exception, found it’s groove in  these last 4 games.  Only Antonio Bastardo faltered with a 2-run homer to Ryan Braun today that almost cost them the game.  But the late-inning magic bailed him out, even despite another Ty Wigginton error at third base.

But the HUGE bang for the Phillies came earlier today when the Phillies announced they finally signed ace pitcher Cole Hamels to a long-term deal.  A collective sigh of relief was heard around the city.

Hamels got 6 years for $144 million, which is the second biggest contract ever behind only CC Sabathia of the Yankees who got $161 for 7 years back in 2008.  It is the largest contract ever for a Phillie.

It appears then that the Phillies have not given up just yet.  The Hamels signing should be a big relief for guys like Lee, Rollins and Roy Halladay who chose to come to or stay in Philly with the promise from the front office that they would continue to try to win in the long-term.  And these last 4 wins which happened in the most unlikely ways should also light a fire under the entire team.

The Phillies are off tomorrow for the annual Phestival and they will then fly to Atlanta for 3 games with the Braves.  Those 3 games will be very telling as to whether this team can stage an improbable comeback and make a run at a Wild Card spot.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Stumble Into All-Star Break With Little Hope to Save Their Season

The Phillies were swept by the Braves today in a depressing 4-3 loss.  There was not even a little comic relief, as in Saturday’s loss when Hunter Pence bowled over 3rd base coach Juan Samuel while rounding the bases towards home.  That bit had everyone except Samuel laughing to the point of tears.

The only laughs today came before the game started:

After that, absolutely nothing was funny.  Even the presentation of All-Star jersey’s to Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels was somehow lacking in enthusiasm.

And then fans learned that Shane Victorino was pulled from the line-up at the last moment, prompting rumors of a possible trade or injury.  But what actually happened, according to Charlie Manuel, was that Shane was feeling “down” and had “a lot on his mind…”  And so, Charlie took him out in favor of Jason Pridie.

That turned out to be the only good move of the day.  Pridie hit a 2-run homer and a double, which accounted for all 3 Phillies runs in the game.

Vance Worley battled through 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, which was a nice improvement over his last start where he have up 6 runs in 4 innings.  But despite the quality start, not much was going the way of the Phillies.

There were some nice defensive plays:

But the offense was lackluster, despite having both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the line-up.  The top 4 in the line-up went 1-for-16 collectively, although Jimmy Rollins did go 3-for-3 in pop-fly outs.  I am not sure that is a stat to be proud of, but at least he is consistent (note my sarcasm, in case you missed it).

Ultimately, Raul Valdes gave up a solo homer to who else, but Brian McCann, giving the Braves a 1-run lead that the Phillies failed to overcome.

So the Braves had a nice visit to Philly, complete with attempts to steal young Phillies fans.  Here is ex-Phil Chad Durbin and Dan Uggla before the game playing nice with one of the kids chosen for the traditional Sunday Starting 9:

Actually, it was very sweet.  But Durbin was always that kind of guy; his presence is still missed on this ballclub.

So the Phillies go into the All-Star break in the midst of a complete disaster.  They have won only 1 of their last 12 games and sit in dead last in the NL East, 14 games out of first.  Get ready fans; I am afraid change is coming, and not the good kind.

For a pleasant distraction, check out my Photo Album from the game; just pretend they win and the photos look even better!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Howard’s Return Spoiled in Loss to Braves

We all waited through 84 dreadful games to finally see the Phillies line-up back together again.  Chase Utley came back and now, Ryan Howard is back.  But game #85 with Howard, Utley and the old gang together was fun for about 2 or 3 innings.  And then, reality set in.

Howard started off his 2012 season with a monster double to center field.  Cheer rang out among fans excited to see the big man back again.  But by the 3rd inning, we all began to wonder why the offense was still not getting it done.

The Phillies sprinkled 5 hits here and there, two of which were from Howard.  The Braves did not have many hits either as Kyle Kendrick finally found his groove after his last regular start spot in the rotation was pushed back a few days.  Maybe getting skipped finally gave Kendrick the incentive he needed to step up his game.

And he did just that; Kendrick was great through 7 innings.  He allowed only 4 hits and did not give up a single run, even after getting into a tight spot in the 7th inning.  But he did not get any run support from his teammates and then was pulled in the 8th in favor of Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo was awful; he had no command and walked 3 batters, even walking a run home with the bases loaded and 2 outs.  If I was managing this team, I’d have pulled him after the first 2 batters based on the season he has had so far and his obvious lack of control at that moment.  But you know Charlie Manuel; he is going to stick with “his guy” until he gives up 5 runs, including a grand slam to Brian McCann.

And this exactly what happened.  I am so tired of people going on about “roles” in the bullpen.  This is my 8th inning guy, this is my middle-relief guy, etc…  Because in the same breath, they will tell you that these guys are only human, not robots.  That is correct.  However, it totally contradicts the theory of bullpen roles.

If they are in fact human, then they are prone to having good days and bad days.  If a guy is having a bad day, like Bastardo, then you use someone else, regardless of their “role!”  Not to do so is counterproductive, detrimental to your team and gives the impression that the 8th inning guy (or whatever-inning guy) HAS to be a robot in order to succeed.  And yet you have just stated he is NOT a robot.  See my frustration with this?

Human beings are NOT made of metal; they are flexible.  And as such, they should be flexible in their “roles.”  Charlie also loves to talk about showing confidence in “his guys.”  Well how much confidence do you think Bastardo has now after that disastrous outing?

Sometimes, you need to step in and save someone from themselves.  Tell him, “Today is not your day.  You’ll get them the next time.”  That disappointment HAS to be better than the one that comes with allowing 5 runs in the 8th inning of a previously scoreless game, followed by getting chewed out on the bench by your pitching coach in front of everyone.

I have a lot of respect for Manuel and the way he manages.  When things are going good, his style works very, very well.  You can afford to let a guy go a little further.  But when times are bad, like they are now, you have to adapt.  And in my humble opinion, that is the part he is getting wrong right now.  And this team, 13 games back in the NL East, cannot afford ANY wrong moves.

I still love ya, Charlie.  But seriously, do “your guys” a favor and show some tough love.  This team needs a swift kick in the rear, on all sides of the ball.  And now we can only pray that it is not already too late.

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Blanton Channels Halladay In Complete Game Shut-Out

Since Roy Halladay was unable to perform like Roy Halladay on Wednesday night, Joe Blanton decided to step in and give it a try.  Blanton did such a great Halladay impersonation that he managed to shut-out the Braves in a 3-hit complete game for a 4-0 Phillies win.

But maybe Blanton was not channeling the spirit of an ace pitcher at all; maybe this is just who Blanton is when he is actually healthy.  Either that, or maybe Blanton just needs to take every other year off and only play baseball during even-numbered years?

After a few tough years, Blanton has finally gone from an average Joe to an ace.  And after the previous night’s 11-inning 15-13 disaster that blew out both team’s bullpens, the Phillies pitchers really needed the boost from Blanton’s complete game.

The offense provide just enough offense to sneak out of Atlanta with a series win, 2 games to 1.  Shane Victorino and Laynce Nix both homered in the game and Hunter Pence added a sac fly.

The Phillies begin a 3-game series with the first place (gulp!) Nationals on Friday night.  Stephen Strasburg will pitch against Phillies fill-in extraordinaire, Kyle Kendrick (double gulp!).  Game time is 7:05pm…let the fun begin!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Doc Disassembled: Roller Coaster Game Ends in Disaster

After a 4-2 win over the Braves on Tuesday night, the Phillies felt good entering Wednesday’s game.  The offense was finally starting to score runs and they would have ace pitcher Roy Halladay on the mound.  Even better, they took a 6-0 lead into the 5th inning.

Placido Polanco just kept getting hits and Shane Victorino road his coat tails.  Then Laynce Nix smashed a bases-clearing, 3-run double in the 3rd.  Things were going very, very well.

Then the impossible happened…Halladay got hammered.  If you try saying out loud, “Halladay blew a 6-run lead,” it may actually seem like you are speaking Greek.  Add to that, “Halladay gave up 8 runs in less than two innings,” and you now have the equivalent of an extra-terrestrial language never before spoke on planet earth.

But that is exactly what happened.  The Braves disassembled the Doc like he was a faulty robot that short circuited.  The beating even included a Grand Slam, just to add a little more salt to the wound.  Ouch.

Halladay has not looked like his old self in a few games now and the questions about his health are bound to pile up like a mound of steaming dog poo.  Whatever is going on, it does not smell good.

If you think about the way the Phillies offense has played so far this year, just as unthinkable as Halladay getting hit for 8 runs is this team coming back after those 8 runs.

And yet, the temporary reassembly of this Phillies game began with a 3-run homer off the bat of Carlos Ruiz in the 7th inning.  Chooch was determined to get his pitcher off the hook, because in the 8th inning, he added 3 more runs with a bases-clearing double.  That gave him a total of 7 RBI on the night.  Insane.

With a 12-8 lead in the 8th, the insanity was not yet over.  As hard as Ruiz worked to get the Phillies ahead, the bullpen seemed to work just as hard to blow it.  By the time Jose Contreras was pulled, he had allowed a run and loaded the bases, thanks in part to a huge error by Jimmy Rollins.

Michael Schwimer came in to pitch and walked in a run on 4 pitches.  And of course, the next batter singled in 2 more runs to tie the game…again.  This time, it was 12-12.  But that did not last long.  Schwimer gave up a sac fly and Braves took a 13-12 lead.

You could not have scripted a weirder game.  And I could not have shouted any more cuss words at my TV.  Not because I could not think of any…because I lost my damn voice.  If you ever find yourself asking the question, “How do you blow a huge lead…multiple times?,” just watch a replay of this game.  Disgusting.

Think the Phillies had a second comeback in them?  Well, they did tie it up…again…13-13 in the 9th, sending the game to extra innings.  But relief pitcher Brian Sanches, on the roster for David Herndon who is on the DL, gave up a 2-run homer to Chipper Jones in the 11th.  The walk-off win for the Braves wasted the only solid offensive effort from the Phils all year.  Just sickening.

If you can stomach it, game 3 with the Braves starts early on Thursday at 12:10pm.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Hit The Road on a Positive Note

In the finale of a 4-game series with the Cubs, the Phillies got off to a hot start with 4 runs in the first inning.  Having already lost 2 games in this series, it was imperative for this team to get going quickly. But after those 4 runs, the offense went to sleep again.

Vance Worley pitched 7 strong innings while the offense napped.  He allowed only 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks.  The Phillies took the 4-1 lead into the 8th inning as the bullpen took over.

Sadly, no lead seems very safe with this team.  Such was the case as Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls combined to blow the 3-run lead.  Bastardo walked his second batter and Qualls gave up a single to score that run and then added a 2-run homer shortly after.

With the game then tied, the Phillies needed that sleeping offense to wake up.  But the way things have been going lately, it seemed unlikely.  It was going to take a small miracle…or at least a clutch hit.

When you find yourself cheering because the first batter of the inning, Juan Pierre, got hit by a pitch, you know things have not been going well.  And when you begin to hope that maybe the pitcher will hit the next 3 batters so you can score a run, things have gone from bad to worse.

But instead of getting hit, the Phillies actually got a few hits.  With 2 outs and Pierre on first, Jimmy Rollins singled to move Pierre to third.  And then the real hero stepped to the plate and proved he has still got the bat to go with his glove.  Placido Polanco smashed a double to left that scored both Pierre and Rollins.  It was the first time this year that the Phillies were able to take a lead in their final at-bat.

The Phillies went on to a 6-4 victory, thanks to Polly’s timely hit.  Even better, it does appear that Polanco is healthy again after 2 hernia issues the previous year.

Going back on the road against the Braves and Nationals, who are leading the division, it was important to start on a positive note.  With any luck, the Phillies may be able to start digging themselves out of this hole and April’s losing record.

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

No ROY, No Cy, No Surprise

As I had predicted, none of the Phillies got any of the top awards this off-season, but many came close.  The Cy Young voting was at least interesting; 3 Phillies made the top 5 in voting with Roy Halladay coming in 2nd, Cliff Lee 3rd and Cole Hamels 5th.  Not surprisingly, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw took home the award.

Kershaw was very deserving, although Halladay was a close runner-up.  But having 3 Phillies in the top 5 is also quite an impressive feat.

Another Phillies pitcher came close to taking home some hardware as well.  Vance Worley landed in 3rd place for Rookie of the Year behind two Braves, closer Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Freddie Freeman.  I thought Freeman would be the winner, but 2nd place is not too shabby.

And of course, neither is 3rd place.  Worley should be proud that on a staff with 4 ace starters, he not only held his own, he also got plenty of attention for a spectacular rookie season.

Manue and umplAlso as I predicted, Charlie Manuel was overlooked for Manager of the Year…again.  Yes, despite a Major League leading 102 wins, 5 straight division titles and a World Series, Manuel came in 4th place.  The D-Backs skipper, Kirk Gibson, took first place.

Even crazier, Joe Maddon of the Rays won for the American league, making it TWO Manager of the Year awards in 4 years.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Maddon.  He is actually from the Philly area.  And certainly, he deserves the honor.  But it does seem like a real shame that Manuel cannot get any respect in the National League like Maddon does in the AL.  Manuel beat Maddon in the 2008 World Series and has accomplished more overall.

But as is usually the case, Manuel just keeps getting shunned.

In other news, Brian Schneider will be the back-up back-stop once again in 2012.  The one-year deal is worth $800,000.  There is still no word on a deal for Jimmy Rollins.  Stay tuned…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 3: Bargaining

Stage 3 of my mourning the 2011 Phillies season has reached the bargaining stage.  The only problem is that the season is already gone, leaving nothing but “why’s,” “what if’s” and “if only’s.”

For instance,

  • What if…the Phillies had just let the Braves win the last two games of the season, thereby eliminating the Cardinals from the Wild Card?
  • What if…Cliff Lee did not blow a 4 run lead in NLDS game 2?
  • If only…I had a magic wand to make it all better.
  • What if…the Phillies offense actually showed up?
  • If only…I had a time machine (*sigh*).
  • If only…this team had stayed healthy.
  • What if…Charlie Manuel had a clue about when to pull his starters?
  • If only…wishing made it so :O(

Are there any deals left to be made?  Can I bargain with the devil to rewind this horrendous end to the season?  Ok, maybe not the devil.  But how about the angry, rabid and totally evil Busch Stadium Squirrel?  Clearly, this rodent has super powers that helped propel the Cards to the World Series.

Evil squirrel

The World Freakin’ Series?  The Cardinals?  A team that had literally no shot at a playoff run just weeks before the postseason?  If they win it all, they should dedicate the trophy to the Phillies, who beat the Braves, putting them in playoffs.  And the Phils then laid down and let the Cards walk all over them in the NLDS.

Not that the Cards did not earn it…they certainly did.  But the Phillies barely put up a fight, which still makes me want to travel back in time, violently shake each Phils player and scream until they WAKE UP!

Someone please wake me up…I must still be dreaming.  And oh, what a nightmare this has been.

Stay tuned for Stage 4…

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*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

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