Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

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

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 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

Brown’s Bombs

Hitting five homers in his last four game, Domonic Brown is on fire…and it is about time.  The Phillies have been waiting for Brown to explode and reach his potential for years now.  It looks like he may be right on track now.

Fresh off his first Player of the Week honors, Brown may now be in the running for Player of the Month.  He has been the one bright spot in an otherwise drab Phillies season so far.  Brown’s efforts have helped the Phillies win the last 2 games against the Red Sox, but can the Phillies keep up the pace?

The team lost another player yesterday due to a family issue; Michael Young was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list and will be gone 3-7 days.  There was no clarification beyond that.  And Chase Utley is progressing slower than everyone had hoped after an oblique injury.  With many other Phils on the DL as well, it will not be easy for this team to keep their heads above water.

Brown’s recent performance has been a big boost.  Erik Kratz looks like he is finding his groove as well.  But clutch hitting on this team is still not happening much.  With 1 out and the bases loaded last night in the 7th, Ryan Howard struck out and John Mayberry Jr. then popped out.  With 1 out and 2 runners on in the 6th, Freddy Galvis ended the inning by hitting into a double play.  These examples are the exact opposite of clutch hitting and sadly, it happens more often than not.

Last night’s win was the result of good pitching and 4 solo home runs.  I stress the “solo” part because no one seems to want to hit with runners on base.  For example, the Phillies had 4 stolen bases in the game, but none of those runners scored.  The team left 8 men on base and went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Still, it was a win so we’ll take it.  But Brown’s bombs are not going to carry a team; he is going to need a tad more help.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Big Questions About the Big Piece

The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers.  Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.

Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:

Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better.  By May 23rd, he needed a break again.  He started the next 2 games and went 1-8.  On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game.  And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base.  He appeared to be having great difficulty running.

All of this is very bad news.  The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears.  If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited.  And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.

And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.”  Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure.  It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury.  In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.

Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history.  With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.

And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster.  There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.

Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win?  Remember Howard’s response to that criticism?  He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.

Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion.  The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan.  There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation.  The bullpen is horrible.  The offense is non-existent.  The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.

As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.

Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lee Pitches Another Gem

In a year full of drama for the Phillies, Cliff Lee stepping on the mound is a sight for sore eyes.  The same can be said when he steps to the plate as well.  In a complete game shut-out of the Marlins last night, Lee also collected 2 hits, giving him a team-leading .316 batting average.  And his .350 on-base percentage is second only to Michael Young (.378) among active Phillies.

Simply put, Cliff Lee is amazing.

Yet those offensive numbers are a bit disturbing in another respect.  When your ace pitcher is leading the team in average and OBP, there are some serious problems.  Granted, Lee only plays once every 5 games, but it is still a somewhat revealing statistic on a team that has struggled to score runs.

There was some offense last night though, and some signs of life all around.  Although they only scored 3 runs, most guys hit the ball well and as team, they collected 12 hits, which is way better than their usual production this year.  On Tuesday night with Tyler Cloyd pitching, the Phillies racked up 7 runs on 15 hits in the win.

But again, this has been a pattern; the Phillies have 1 or 2 games with solid offense and then they go right back to not being able to hit the broad side of a barn.  And with the injuries mounting, can they get any kind of consistency?

The latest injury to Chase Utley is extremely worrisome.  Utley was finally having a good year, after missing time in both of the previous 2 seasons with knee issues.  Now, it appears he has an oblique strain of some sort; he will have an MRI today and will likely be put on the DL along with Roy Halladay, Mike Adams, John Lannan and Carlos Ruiz.  Stay tuned…

Today is an off day as the team travels to Washington to take on the Nationals.  News on Utley should be coming very soon…cross your fingers!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

West Coast Winds of Change

In only a few short days, many things have changed for the Phillies. Roy Halladay was placed on the DL with what is still a mystery injury. The entire team appeared lifeless and ready to give up. Then a cross-country road trip suddenly gave the Phillies unexpected energy. They have taken the first 2 games of this series against the Giants who were the hottest team in baseball coming into this series.

So is this the team we have waited to see all year, blown in by the western winds of AT&T Park? Or is this another 2-game mirage? Let us examine the evidence:

Both games ended in a 6-2 score. Both Chase Utley and Michael Young have 4 hits each and at least 2 RBI in the series. Utley, Ryan Howard and Dom Brown each homered. The pitching was very good.

On the other side of the coin, the Phils still left 16 runners on base total between the 2 games. Jimmy Rollins only has 1 hit and a sac fly. Delmon Young is hitting .150. Yikes! The other Young still loves hitting into double plays; he leads the majors with 10.

So, mirage or the real deal? Sadly, there are still too many inconsistencies and guys not getting hits to go with “real deal” just yet. But finishing the series with a sweep today would certainly be a huge boost.

Jonathan Pettibone will pitch today at 3:45pm. In other news, Tyler Cloyd has been called up to temporarily take Halladay’s spot in the rotation. The Phillies are expected to make a corresponding roster move Thursday or Friday.

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Phillies Flounder Against Fish in 2 Straight Losses

So, anyone else out there sit in traffic for hours just to watch the Phillies get slaughtered by the Marlins?  Oh yes, the Broad Street Run was exiting just as people were arriving to the game, plus 95 north closed due to a huge tractor-trailer fire/accident.  It was the perfect storm.

I did leave very early, so my usual 1 ½ hour drive was about 2 ½ hours.  Others were not as lucky.  And certainly no one was happy with the end result, whether they made it to the game or not.

Prior to the game, the Phanatic unknowingly gave us a little foreshadowing of the events to come.  Here he is, literally licking the boots of the Marlins catcher, much to the amusement of the entire Marlins squad:

And then the real fun began…Roy Halladay gave up 5 runs in the 1st inning, a grand slam in the 3rd inning and was pulled from the game after only 2 1/3 innings with 9 runs allowed on 4 hits and 4 walks.  His head hung low as he exited the field:

Afterwards, Halladay revealed that he has been experiencing shoulder pain for several weeks, something he neglected to tell the team prior to this and his previous start.  Expect to see Doc on the DL shortly…

And as usual, the offense did absolutely nothing all day long.  Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey had not had a win in the major leagues since 2010 (*%!@!), yet the Phils managed only 2 hits off him.  They did avoid the shut-out, with 2 runs in the 8th inning, thanks mostly to Marlins shoddy defense.  But not much else was working for the Phillies.

The relief staff added 4 more runs to the happy Fish who were rounding the bases quite swimmingly.  And they are no longer the worst team in baseball with 2 straight wins over the Phils.  Way to go, Phillies, helping out your Marlins buddies.  The final score was 2-14…eeekk!

To end on a high note, it was Mother’s Appreciation Day at the ballpark.  Chase Utley’s mom joined him on the field and the Phanatic brought him mom as well.

We also got a cute Utley tote bag when entering the ballpark, which was the only bright spot of the day.  But if you’d like to see more photos anyway (some of them are pretty good, even if the game sucked), here is the Photo Album.

The Giants are up next as the team travels to San Francisco.  As for me, I will also be getting on a plane in a few days to head to the birthplace of the Phanatic…the Galapagos Islands!  I hope to check in from there if the internet connection cooperates.  It is a shame I cannot take the Phanatic with me, but I think he has his hands very full right now keeping fans entertained while the Phils flounder :O(

Game time tomorrow is 10:15pm EST.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Indians Annihilate Phillies With 7 Home Runs

After 3 straight solid starts, things seemed to be looking up for Roy Halladay.  That all changed last night when he got scalped by the Indians.  The Tribe took Doc deep 3 times; all 3 times there was a man on base.  Those 6 runs, plus 2 more, chased Halladay from the game after only 3 2/3 innings.  His ERA is now 6.75.  Ouch.

But the pain did not end there.  Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes each gave up 2 home runs each in relief.  More accurately, it was the exact opposite of “relief”…agony.

That was 7 home runs total for the Indians, 5 of which were 2-run bombs.  Those guys that hit the 2 solo shots should be ashamed.  Clearly, they are underachievers.

Seriously, this game was painful to watch.  It was so painful that I actually began paying more attention to the commercials than to the game.  And when my mind begins to wander, strange things can happen.

For example, I began to wonder who would win a fight between Jan, the Toyota spokesperson and Flo, the Progressive Insurance chick.  Both are equally annoying, but Flo has a clear advantage as the game was being played last night in Progressive stadium.  Hmmmm…

Bad Phillies games are simply not good for my brain.

There was one small tidbit of good news last night.  Delmon Young was activated off the DL and finally joined the team as the DH last night.  Looking as if he were determined for fans to like him, he began his Phillies career with a home run in his first at-bat.  Young went 2-for-3 on the night and was also hit by a pitch.

But the good news ended there.  Chase Utley hit a solo homer and that was the end of the scoring for the Phils.  The 2-14 final score looked more like 2 touchdowns and a safety than a baseball score.  And the way the Phils were beat up also resembled a football game, minus all the concussions.

Although, after sitting through those 9 innings of torture, I feel like I have a concussion; or some minor brain damage, at least.  Ugh.

Today is another day though.  And tonight, Cliff Lee will face his old team for the first time in his career.  Hopefully, some of that old Cy Young magic still resides in Progressive stadium for Mr. Lee.  Game time is 7:05pm.

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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

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