Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

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

Home Opener Disaster for Phillies

The day began so promising for the Phillies.  The sun was shining, people were smiling and the Home Opener was upon us:

The festivities continued with the traditional patriotism, Leap Frog jumpers falling from the sky and team introductions.  Retired Phillies Mike Schmidt and Dickie Noles joined their former rival from the 1980 Phillies-Royals World Series, George Brett on the field for some pre-game pitches.  All was well with the world…

And then the game started.

The Phillies actually looked like the World Series champs of old for about 4 innings.  Domonic Brown and Erik Kratz hit home runs; Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were hitting; and by the end of the 3rd inning, the Phillies had a 4-0 lead.

And then it all went downhill….fast.

Kyle Kendrick, who was solid to start the game, began getting hit hard by the 5th inning.  By the 6th inning, Kendrick was out of gas and pulled from the game.  But not before the Phils intentionally walked Billy Butler to load the bases with 2 outs.  This may have been the one call that sent the game into a real tailspin.

Because once the bullpen took over, all hell broke loose.  All 3 of those runs scored, thanks to Jeremy Horst.  Additional damage was done by the pen later, as the Royals scored in every single inning from the 5th on.

Ben Revere got called out when he looked safe (see photo)…Brown dove for a ball in the outfield and missed…it was a total disaster.

By the 8th inning, fans were scurrying to the exits like a herd of deer running from a hungry cougar.  It was ugly.

With this 4-13 loss, the Phillies have now dropped 3 of their first 4 games, allowing 29 runs in those 3 losses.  They seriously need a win tonight.

John Lannan makes his Phillies debut tonight at 7:05pm.  Best of luck to him…he’ll need it.

And here is the Photo Album from the game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Hamels Hammered on Opening Day

The Phillies got crushed by the Braves on Monday night in a 5-7 Opening Day loss.  But let us begin with a bit of good news…Chase Utley was amazing.  Utley collected 3 RBI on a homer, single and a triple, coming just a double short of hitting for the cycle.  And that concludes the ‘good news’ portion of the program…

In the bad news category, Cole Hamels faltered once again in his first start of the season.  Hamels has now lost his first start of the season in 5 of his last 7 attempts.  This year was different as he finally got to start on Opening Day, so the expectations were high.  Allowing 5 runs in 5 innings, including 3 home runs, was not exactly what everyone had hoped for.

I blame the facial hair.  Hamels had a full beard and mustache through most of Spring Training.  On Friday afternoon, the hair was still there.  But by Friday evening into Saturday, the beard disappeared.  Finally, by Monday at game time the fuzz was history.

I think all the furry drama threw his game off.  It was truly a hairy situation.

Facial hair aside, not much went right for the Phillies last night.  The offense, mostly Utley, kept trying to bail Hamels out, but the Braves just kept the runs coming.  And then Chad Durbin wound up allowing 2 more runs in relief without recording an out.

The main thing to focus on now is that this is just one game.  It was certainly a hugely disappointing game, but still a drop in the bucket.

The Phillies are off today; the next game with the Braves is Wednesday at 7:10pm.  This will be an interesting one as Roy Halladay makes his first start of the season.  Facing a potent Braves line-up will be a good test of whether Halladay is really ready to go or not.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Weekend Prelude to Opening Day

The Phillies hosted two exhibition games this weekend, signaling the end of Spring Training and the start of the regular season on Monday. As they have the past several years, the Phillies planned a number of special events and surprises on Friday and Saturday.

Friday began with the On-Deck Reception, hosted by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. There were players signing autographs, several Q & A sessions with players and coaches, and an on-field introduction of the entire team:

I personally got autographs from Domonic Brown (and a photo as well), Erik Kratz, John Mayberry Jr. and Antonio Bastardo. This was my first time attending this particular event and it was well worth the effort. The only bummer of the day was I discovered that the autofocus on my very expensive camera had died :O( Ugh. So I apologize in advance for 2 days worth of so-so photos, as I had to use my mediocre eye sight to manually focus a very large lens.

The prior to the evenings game, players wandered around the stadium greeting fans and some stopped for photos. I had my picture taken with John Lannan, Antonio Bastardo, Humberto Quintero and hitting coach Wally Joyner.

Cliff Lee started the game that night and looked ready to go for the season. But his real highlight was helping Cole Hamels man the Phanatic’s hot dog shooter between innings:

To be honest, the game was rather boring, so the hot dog-interlude was a very welcome distraction. The Phils lost 1-0.

More fun was happening prior to Saturday’s game as well. After some very stealth stalking on my part, I managed to get photos with a few new guys and a Hall of Famer: Mike Adams, Ender Inciarte and third-base-coach/HOF guy, Ryne Sandburg. That was pretty awesome. Both exhibitions games were well worth the trip because of these little extras.

The game itself, however, did not go well against a very potent Blue Jays line-up. The Jays beat up on Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 5 runs in 3 innings. John Lannan took over for the next 3 innings and held the Jays to 1
more run. It was not quite out of reach for the Phillies though until very late. Here are a few highlights:

And Cliff Lee finally got his turn at the helm of the hot dog cannon, with Hamels “feeding” the device:

The end result was a 10-4 loss. But luckily, the game did not count.

The Phillies announced the Opening Day roster afterwards. There were not too many surprises there:

Rotation (5): Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

Bullpen (7): Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes.

Catchers (2): Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero.

Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis.

Outfielders (5): Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Ender Inciarte.

Inciarte is a Rule-5 guy; they have to keep him on the roster or offer him back to the D-backs. Only 22-years old, he has never played above High-A level. He offers some depth in the outfield for now. Plus, he is adorable, so I approve ;o)

So here we are, finally! Opening Day! Game time is 7:10pm Monday night in Atlanta.

And here are the links to my photo albums from the weekend: Friday’s On-Deck Reception and Exhibition Game and Saturday’s Exhibition Game.

Go Phillies!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Betancourt Released; Phillies Walking a Very Tight Rope

Despite a superb spring, Yuniesky Betancourt has been released.  In his contract, March 24th was designated as the deadline for the Phillies to either keep him on the big league roster or let him go.  They chose to let him go even after Betancourt hit .447 with 14 RBI with 3 doubles and a home run in 47 at-bats.

This means that both Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen will make the team as utility infielders.  I am a little confused by this move, but not in the way you may be thinking.  I like Frandsen; while there is no guarantee he will have a solid year like he did in 2012, he has paid his dues and earned a spot on the team.

Galvis still has options and therefore, could have started the year in Triple-A and worked on his offense where he will get many more at-bats.  If Betancourt did not work out, they could have released him and then brought up Galvis.  That would have given the Phillies more options.  As it stands now, they are walking across a very tight rope with little room for error.

And then there is the big question mark lingering in the air that no one seems to want to discuss.  Galvis was suspended 50 games last year for using performance-enhancing drugs.  Of course, like every player who tests positive, Galvis denies using PED’s.  But what if he were to test positive again?  Betancourt is gone and the options for the Phillies are now very limited.

I certainly hope nothing of the sort would happen, but think about Carlos Ruiz.  No one saw that one coming either.  Ruiz made the same mistake twice and so it follows that Galvis could fall into the same trap, as could anyone else for that matter.  You also have to wonder how each will perform without the use of PED’s.

I will not be popular for pointing this out, but it had to be said.  Galvis seems like a nice kid with a boat-load of talent and he can play multiple positions.  I think he will be a big contributor to the team.  So I am not saying letting Betancourt go in favor of Galvis was necessarily a terrible idea; in fact, I am glad I did not have to make that decision as it had to be a very tough one.  But Betancourt would have given the Phillies more wiggle room.

A Ruf Life

Speaking of not being popular, this one will not earn me any new friends either.  I think the Phillies should trade Darin Ruf.  Now, hear me out before you freak. 

I was really rooting for Ruf this Spring, but it became obvious that he is not an outfielder.  The Phillies sent him back to Triple-A to work on it, but I have to say that it just does not look like he will ever be ready to play left field.  Just look at him; he is built like a first baseman, or if he played football, a linebacker.  Ruf does not have the body-type to run down balls in the outfield.  He can improve, but to what extent?

First base is clearly where he belongs, however, Ryan Howard is not going away anytime soon.  And Ruf’s value will not be much higher than it is right now, which is why this is the time to trade him when the Phillies will get the most in return.

If the outfield does not pan out for Ruf, what do you do with him?  Ruf will be 27 years old in July; the clock is ticking…

Boom Goes The 3-4 Combo

In consecutive Spring Training games, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have hit back-to-back homers.  With the rate these two are hitting, is anyone else getting nervous?  I mean, we do not want them to run out of bullets before the season even starts, right?  Both Utley and Howard have gotten a ton of playing time this spring.  Perhaps it is time to stop pushing their luck and rest them before anyone gets hurt or worn out?

It is extremely uplifting to see Utley and Howard back in action and, more importantly, healthy!  So this is nervous excitement talking here, but pretty please, can we just give it a break until Opening Day?  Dear Phillies, please do not wear out this wonderful 3-4 combo before April 1st.  Thank you in advance.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Baby Steps to a Rejuvenated Phillies Team

The first inning of the Phillies very first official Spring Training game on Saturday offered a glimpse into what the near future could look like for this team.  And it was a very nice picture, full of promise.

Ben Revere led off by doing exactly what we have been told he can do a lot of; run out an infield single.  He followed that up with a very convincing stolen base.  This kid can fly.

Another new Phillies, Michael Young, did his job moving the runner over the 3rd base.  It was textbook small ball; very nice.

And then for the first time in 3 years, Chase Utley stepped to the plate in a Spring Training game.  Utley needs to prove to the world, but mostly to himself, that he finally has his knee issues under control.  And he did just that with his classic, short swing and a line-drive that scored Revere from 3rd base.

In a perfect world, this is what the Phillies need to do every inning of every game.

However, in the real world, this is just one baby step towards a much larger goal.  Get this team healthy and the wins will come.

Roy Halladay took his own baby step on Sunday by starting a game against the Tigers.  He went 2 innings in his first spring action and allowed a solo homer.  But just having Halladay back on the mound and feeling no pain is comforting.

These games were not pretty, by any means.  But in Spring Training, they are not meant to be.  This is the time to make mistakes, learn from them and enter the regular season with total confidence.

Over the last few days, the Phillies have made those little strides.  And with any luck, things will progress in a positive direction from here.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Magic Moments of Phillies Spring Training

The first official Spring Training game for the Phillies will take place on Saturday.  I am excited for baseball!  But there is also a little sadness that I cannot be in Clearwater this year to enjoy the first crack of the bat under the warm Florida sunshine.  If you are lucky enough to be heading south, enjoy it!

Spring Training is a magical moment in time where players are generally happy, relaxed and having a good time.  The fan-friendly atmosphere and nice weather draws big crowds each year.  And while the games are interesting, they really don’t mean much.  The real reason to head to Clearwater is to mingle with other fans, chat with players, get autographs and photos and, most importantly, get a closer look at how major leaguers behave when their guard is down.

You may notice a lot of smiles, laughter and silly hijinks.  To demonstrate, and also to get you in the Spring Training frame of mind, here are some of my favorite photos and moments from years past in Clearwater:

First up, the normally quiet and reserved Chase Utley laughs out loud and on another occasion, poses and smiles for me:

Jimmy Rollins waves hello and later attempts to play golf with his bat and ball:

Phillies alum Mike Schmidt has some fun with Reggie Jackson; Charlie Manuel jokes around with his players:

Remember Fan Fest?  For some reason, the Phillies have cancelled this annual tradition of meeting players and getting autographs.  But it was amazing while it lasted.  Here are Chad Durbin and Kyle Kendrick signing and posing for me:

I attended a few Team USA games while in Clearwater.  The most memorable moment was watching Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees field balls side-by-side during warm-ups.  The second photo is Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, making an odd face at batting practice:

Here we have the Big Man, Ryan Howard, yucking it up on the field and later doing his impersonation of an airplane (or maybe he was just playing 1st base?):

And finally, just me and my camera hanging out by the field before batting practice.  You can see how close fans can get to the field:

Are you ready to pack your bags yet?  Wishing I was….sigh.  Maybe next year :O)

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

An Emotional Offseason

A recent Sports Illustrated article graded the Phillies offseason moves a “D.”  They summarized it by saying, “Though the trade for Revere gives the Phillies a cost-controlled centerfielder to grow on, they’ve taken steps backward with most of their other moves, and are more likely to repeat last year’s middling showing than contend in a division where the Nationals and Braves have upgraded in impressive fashion.

Ouch.

This assessment, however, may or may not be totally off-base.  I decided to rank some of these moves for myself using not grades, but my emotions about each event.  Roger Ebert once said, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”  Let’s see if he is correct:

Happy: The trade for centerfielder Ben Revere.  He is cheap, young and has room for improvement.  My instinct says he will be a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgic Joy: Re-signing RHP Chad Durbin.  Durbin is a solid human being and he had a great 2012 with the Braves.  Plus he helped the Phillies collect their 2008 World Series championship.

Cautiously Optimistic: Signing Michael Young to play third base.  Young seems like another solid human being with a true passion for the game.  The question is whether or not he can still play defense.  I feel that a guy with this much experience and motivation should be able to work it out.

Conflicted: Adding Chase Utley-hater and lefty John Lannan to the starting rotation.  Obviously with the departure of Vance Worley, the Phillies needed a starter.  Lannan is cheap, but how well he will perform and his attitude are, at least for me, big question marks.

Confused: Signing outfielder Delmon Young.  This guy is a problem child who is also still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.  His defense is awful and he has been, not without cause, labeled an anti-Semite with a bad temper.  I get the low-risk, high reward school of thought here.  What I do not get is why the Phillies would rather mess around with this guy than finally give Domonic Brown a full-time shot at one of the corner outfield spots.

Nervously Nauseous: I am just a wee bit sick to my tummy about the 2-year, $12 million deal the Phillies gave to RHP Mike Adams to be the 8th inning guy.  I like Adams if he is healthy.  However, he is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.  This is the same surgery that Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals had and his career looks like it may be over.  That is a little scary.

Utter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for using a banned substance.  He did not use steroids, which is a relief.  But still, getting caught with ADHD meds when he was forewarned about it after a previously positive test is very disappointing.  He knew he’d probably get caught again and did it anyway.  *Sigh.*

Sad: Losing Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade.  I wish him luck in Minnesota!

Indifferent:  Everything else.  A lot of minor moves were made, mostly involving minor league deals and guys past their prime.  Unless someone makes a real impact in camp, I cannot imagine there will be much to say about these miscellaneous people.

And my final emotion of the day…

Elation!  Spring Training starts tomorrow!

 

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Phillies 2013 New Year Resolutions

In what has become an annual tradition, I usually post New Year Resolutions for Phillies fans at about this time.  But it seems that as a fan base, most of us do seem to have our act together.  As for the 2012 Phillies team, the same cannot be said.  They need some serious help.

So this year, I would like to propose a set of New Year Resolutions for the team instead:

Jimmy Rollins – I resolve to stop swinging for the fences and hitting pop-ups.  I will stick to line-drives and grounders.

Roy Halladay, Chase Utley & Ryan Howard – We all resolve to be healthy, productive members of this team!  No more bum shoulders, ankles or knees!

Kyle Kendrick – I will not mope when I feel disrespected and just keep pitching.  I will put on my big-boy pants and wear them all year long.

Carlos Ruiz – My goal is to repeat my 2012 performance, without the performance-enhancing ADHD pills, thereby regaining the respect I lost after getting suspended.

Ben Revere – I resolve to hit my first major league home run in Citizens Bank Park.  If Juan Pierre can hit a homer here, then so shall I!

Ruben Amaro Jr. – No matter how tempted I am to save money, I will not sign former Phillies relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina.  Yes, he paid his debt to society.  However, he did attempt to murder 5 ranch hands by setting them on fire and chopping at them with a machete.  Perhaps we should pass on this one.

Domonic Brown – I resolve to reach my full potential this year and prove I belong in the big leagues, preferably by May.

Mike Adams – I resolve to be fully recovered from surgery and return to my All-Star relief-pitcher form in order to be deemed worthy of my giant $12 million contract.

Charlie Manuel – I will go out on top this year!  World Series or bust…

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year!

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