Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

Lee & Burnett Leading the Way

The Phillies have taken the first 2 games in their series against the Dodgers in large part due to great starting pitching.  Both Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett have set an example for all Phillies pitchers and given them something to aspire to.  It has been a real treat to watch.

On Monday night, Lee went 8 innings, allowing no runs, 4 hits and striking out 10 baffled Dodgers batters.  Since his awful Opening Day start, Lee has been nearly unhittable.  And the intangibles he brings to the team are priceless.

This is a guy who never gets rattled.  His drama-free attitude and generosity towards fans has endeared him to all who observe how he goes about his business.  If you do not love Cliff Lee, go to the doctor and make sure your heart is still beating.
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And then there is one of the newest Phillies, A. J. Burnett.  Tuesday night he pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk.  He also had 3 hits in the game!  The week before that, he pitched 7 scoreless inning against the Braves.  And he did all of this while nursing a painful inguinal hernia.

The fact that Burnett is willing to play through the pain is admirable.  And as long as he keeps pitching well, I have no problem with this.  But he is not just tough, he is also quite the jokester, as witnessed after his first hit last night.  After Yasiel Puig attempted to throw him out at first all the way from right field, Burnett turned and motioned with his hands to Puig to settle down.  There is a great GIF of this on Philly.com.  You gotta love a man with a sense of humor.

The Phillies other ace pitcher, Cole Hamels, is set to come off the DL and pitch tonight.  Could the Phillies actually have 3 studs in a row once again?  And, although I hate to say this too loudly, this team appears to be mostly healthy…gasp!  Shhhhh!  Don’t tell the universe…too dangerous.

Have you also noticed the improvement on offense?  The big 3 there, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, are all hitting well.  And Ben Revere is heating up again, like he did last year before getting hurt.  The one thorn left in the Phillies side is the bullpen, which did actually hold up the last few games.  Keep your fingers crossed for that trend to continue.

If Lee, Burnett and Hamels can pitch like they are capable of, the bullpen will certainly benefit.  It starts with the starters.  Hamels gets his first shot in 2014 tonight at 10:10pm.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Weird Week

The Phillies finally squeaked out a win against the Braves yesterday.  Whew!  But that 1-0 win was not the only oddity of the week.

For starters, the Phillies lost by the exact same score the night before.  Cliff Lee pitched a gem and the Phils could not bother to score a single run.  Ugh.  Here are a few other weird notes from the week:

-          A.J. Burnett, Thursday’s winning pitcher, claims that his newly formed hernia is helping him pitch better.  Maybe the offense should start straining themselves to achieve a similar injury and then they can score more than 1 run per game?  Genius!

papelbon gas-          Speaking of genius, Jonathan Papelbon does not see pitch velocity as an issue.  Granted, he has been much better of late.  But really?  Can I pitch then?  I can probably hit around 60mph on the gun and since speed does not matter, I should do just fine against major league hitters.  Put me in, coach!

-          In other Pap news, Crossing Broad had reported that the Phillies closer not only went off verbally on the media about his velocity, but that he actually aimed a fart in their direction.  Monty Python, Holy Grail fans are loving this (”I fart in your general direction!”)  If you have never seen this move, I highly recommend it.

-          In the same article, Crossing Broad also claims that Cliff Lee belched at the media.  It seems there is a lot of hot air in the Phillies locker room.

-          It looks like whoever yells the loudest really does win.  Because after Brewers manager Ron Roenicke complained that Logan Schafer’s 8th inning at-bat on 4/9/14 was not scored a hit, MLB overturned the error originally given to Ryan Howard.  Wow.

-          And while this is not Phillies news, I am sure all Phillies fans will enjoy it.  The new book, Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots, reveals that the Secret Service actually threatened to kill Mr. Met, the Mets bulbous-headed mascot.  Seriously.  That may be the best story ever in the history of baseball.  You will have to read the excerpt to believe it.

The Phillies start a 10 game West Coast road trip tonight against the Rockies.  Game time is 8:40pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Take First Two in Chicago

After a devastating loss on Wednesday, the Phillies have bounced back in the next series, winning their first 2 games against the Cubs.  Friday’s game was a 7-2 score and today they won 2-0 as Cliff Lee stunned the Cubbies.

Lee was able to lower his horrible 14.40 Opening Day ERA to only 6.00 with this 7 inning effort.  So all is well again with the Phillies ace…yeah!

And the offense is not too shabby to start the season.  Chase Utley is absolutely on fire after a very slow Spring Training.  In the last 2 games, Utley has 5 hits and 4 RBI including 2 home runs.  He also hit his 300th career double today and ended the game just a triple shy of the cycle.

Domonic Brown has also come to life with 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 RBI in these 2 games, plus ZERO strikeouts.  Nada.  That alone tells me he is in the zone.

P7073923Another interesting note is that we are learning some things about the Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg, early in the season.  First, he is totally in love with Jake Diekman.  Diekman has pitched in 4 out of 5 games so far this season while fellow reliever Brad Lincoln has yet to throw a pitch.  Justin DeFratus has pitched 1 inning and Jeff Manship has thrown exactly 2 pitches total.

Sandberg says he is trying to establish who fits in which spots in the bullpen.  By the way, is that not what Spring Training was for?  Just saying.  And if he is looking for good fits, does this mean those 3 pitchers that have not been or barely been used do not “fit” anywhere?  Hmmmm…

We have also learned that Sandberg is not totally sold on Roberto Hernandez.  In Friday’s game, Hernandez appeared to be cruising in the 6th inning when, after one out was recorded, Sandberg pulled him and put in Diekman.  Hernandez had given up 2 runs in the first 5 innings, but his pitch count was low (73).  That was a weird move.

One last thing I like to mention about today’s game…Jonathan Papelbon saved a game!  Miracles never cease!  Yes, that comment is dripping with sarcasm.  When he saves 3 or 4 in a row with minimal drama, I will curb my smart remarks.  Until then, congrats Pap!  You live to fight another day!

Can the Phillies sweep this series?  Hope so!  Game 3 is Sunday at 2:20pm and A.J. Burnett will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Opening Day Slug Fest

The Phillies first game of the regular season began with a bang to the tune of 14 runs on 17 hits including 3 homers, one of which was a Grand Slam.  It was a record-setting day on many levels.

First, Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 8 earned runs and still got the win.  That is only the 8th time in MLB history that a pitcher gave up 8 runs in at least 5 innings and still won.  It is also only the 3rd time in history that happened on Opening Day.

Then in his first Opening Day start, Cody Asche ended the game just a triple short of the cycle.  With his parents looking on, Asche had a career day with 3 hits, 2 RBI including a solo homer, a walk and 4 runs scored.

But the biggest day record-wise was had by Jimmy Rollins who belted a Grand Slam in the 2nd inning, marking his 200th career homer.  That home run made him only the 19th player in baseball history to have 400 or more doubles, 100 or more triples and 200 or more home runs in a career.  He also tied a record with Cal Ripken Jr. for 14 consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop with the same team.

Rollins may have had some extra inspiration yesterday as he is on baby-watch.  His wife Johari is expecting their second child any minute now.  Rollins stayed an extra day in Philly in case she went into labor and then joined the team in Texas on Sunday night, one day after the team arrived.

Records aside, many Phillies had big days in this game.  Both Chase Utley and Ben Revere had 3 hits, Marlon Byrd went 2-for-6 with a solo homer and Ryan Howard had 2 hits and a walk.  Maybe the biggest hit of the day, besides the grand slam, was a pinch hit 2-run double in the 5th inning by John Mayberry Jr.  In his first big move of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg had a gut feeling to switch Junior’s; Mayberry Jr. in place of Tony Gwynn Jr.  That double broke a 7-7 tie and propelled the Phillies to the win with some much needed momentum.

While I do not think the Phillies are going to score 14 runs again soon, this was an uplifting start the season.  Enjoy it!  Tonight, A.J. Burnett will make his Phillies debut; game time is 8:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

2014 Opening Day Roster

The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster and were few surprises.  Here is how it worked out:

Pitchers (12): Right-handers A.J. Burnett, Justin De Fratus, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Manship, Jonathan Papelbon and B.J. Rosenberg and left-handers Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands and Cliff Lee.

Catchers (2): Wil Nieves and Carlos Ruiz.

Infielders (6): Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Nix, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.

Outfielders (5): Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, Tony Gwynn Jr., John Mayberry Jr. and Ben Revere.

They also resigned Ronny Cedeno to a minor league deal so he will be at Triple-A until he is needed.  And Jayson Nix, brother of former Phillies Laynce Nix, was signed a few days ago and put on the roster as an extra infielder.

Also of note, the Phillies will begin with only 4 starting pitchers as, due to off days, that is all they will need the first few weeks of the season.  Relief pitcher Mario Hollands was a bit of a surprise to make the roster as he has pitched in only 3 games above Double-A ball (2012, AAA Iron Pigs).  But he was impressive in camp; he will be interesting to watch.

The final spring tune-up on Sunday was canceled due to rain L  That was a bummer as I was hoping to meet some of the new players before the game.  So I wound up going to the 76ers game instead later that night.

The Sixers finally broke their 26-game losing streak in a dominating performance over the Detroit Pistons.  And that win prevented them from becoming the all-time worst team in all major sports.  Instead, they are tied.  But still worse than the 1961 Phillies, so that is an achievement.

Sixers fans were so relieved, with 5 minutes left in the game, chants of “Thank You Detroit” rang out all over the stadium.  Nicely done, Philly fans.

As for the Phillies, Cliff Lee will take the mound in Texas tomorrow against the Rangers for 2014 Opening Day.  Finally, some real baseball!  Game time is 2:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Sandberg Signed; Phils Swept by Mets

It’s official – The Phillies announced today that Ryne Sandberg is no longer the “interim” manager.  He has been signed to a 3-year deal, with a club option for a 4th year.  With a new manager in place, everyone was smiling and laughing before the game.

But the smiles faded as the day wore on.  It is a shame the Phillies could not scrape out a win for Sandberg today; they got swept by the Mets in a 3-game series.

For the first 3 innings, Cliff Lee was so sharp, it looked like he may pitch a no-hitter.  But he ran into trouble in the 4th inning and allowed a run.  He wound up allowing 2 runs over 7 innings, which is still great, but only helpful if the offense does its part.

At the plate, the Phillies left too many runners on base (8) and went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.  There were a few amusing moments, like when Cliff Lee swung the bat so hard, it split in two, even though he did not hit the ball (see photo).  And Chase Utley apparently got a big chuckle out of the Mets pick-off attempt.

There were also many adventures in the outfield with balls played off the wall that could have been caught, Domonic Brown bobbling a ball which allowed an extra run to score and the Phanatic lost his shirt again.

And in the end, the Phillies could not muster a win.  I suppose that was a fitting end to the home games in a sad 2013 season.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, including pre-game shots.

The Phillies go to Miami on Monday for the second-to-last series of the year.  Game time is 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Inning From Hell

The 6th inning of Sunday’s Phillies Tigers game was officially the worst baseball I have ever seen in my life.  In fact, there is no point in even discussing the rest of the game that resulted in a 4-12 Phillies loss.  This team has fallen far into the deepest recesses of hell…

That one hellish inning included 3 Phillies errors, 8 runs scored by the Tigers, all of which were unearned, a Tigers grand slam and 2 runs scored on walks.  Rookie Steve Susdorf committed one of the three errors in his first major league start; this was a day he’d probably like to forget, along with the rest of us.

Veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins described it best after the game, telling reporters, “That was embarrassing. … If there’s a bottom, this has to be it. I can’t imagine things getting worse than they have this past week, culminating the way they did today.”

And although the trade deadline is just days away, I cannot imagine the Phillies will get much of a return on anyone they plan to dump.  Jonathan Papelbon has done his best to ruin any chances of the Phils getting a good return for him in a trade.  His salary is ridiculous, his attitude is deplorable and he has blown 5 saves in the last month and a half.  He is worth nothing in a trade at this point, unless a team is desperate.

And frankly, nearly everyone else on this team has rendered themselves useless in a trade after this horrific 8-game losing streak.

So what do the Phillies do in the midst of watching this franchise ship sink?  They spend $48 million on an unproven Cuban defector.  The Phillies signed right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a six-year deal with incentives that could push the total salary to nearly $60 million.

I liken this move to what someone with a gambling addiction does…keep betting higher, despite a long, ugly string of losses (ie: Ryan Howard’s extension, Chad Qualls, releasing Jason Grilli, trading Cliff Lee, Papelbon, etc…). Ruben Amaro Jr. is still gambling away this team’s future and it is hard to watch.  I hope I am wrong.  Maybe this guy is worth every penny of that $48 million. But with a track record of contract busts, the odds are not in favor of the Phillies.

Welcome to Hell, Phillies fans.

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Dead Men Walking: The 2013 Phillies

In their 4th consecutive loss on Wednesday night, I do believe the Phillies finally rolled over and died.  They did not just lose 4 games, they were slaughtered in the ugliest and most painful manner possible.

Every problem this team has had this season was glaring in last night’s 3-11 drubbing, courtesy of the Cardinals.  It was a proverbial highlight reel of all that is wrong with the 2013 Phillies.  First, the starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent.  John Lannan had 2 solid outings in his last few attempts; but last night, he was run out of the game after only 4 innings with 4 runs allowed.  In the 4th inning, Lannan walked the opposing pitcher who then proceeded to steal second base and score after a single from the next batter.

Next, the defense was pitiful.  John Mayberry Jr. summed up 2013 defense with a Little League play in the 5th inning that allowed 3 runs to score.  He dove for a ball that he had zero chance at catching in the air, only to watch the ball sail past him into deep center field.

And then there was the awful bullpen performance.  J.C. Ramirez allowed 5 runs in one inning of work.  Jake Diekman added 2 more for the Cardinals in the 8th.

And how about that offense?  What offense, you may ask yourself.  Exactly.  The Phillies have scored 4 runs total in their last 3 games.

But the whipped topping on this sh@!! sundae has got to be all of the injuries.  Domonic Brown was pulled from the line-up with concussion symptoms.  Ben Revere, the hottest hitter in June and July, went down earlier this month with a broken foot due to a foul ball.  Ryan Howard is out with knee issues.  Roy Halladay is recovering from shoulder surgery.  And the list goes on…

The trade deadline is less than a week away.  If GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has half a brain, he will begin selling as many players as he can and give this team some hope for the future.  And if he wants anyone to attend games for the rest of the year, he should scratch Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee off any possible trade list.  Anyone of the other veterans are fair game, in my humble opinion.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait for the hammer to fall…

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Bad Weekend Series Leaves Phillies in Limbo

Remember back on Friday night when the Phillies pounded the Mets to the tune of 13 runs?  Remember all those hits and homers?  Ah, memories…

Now back to reality…and reality has hit the Phillies hard this weekend as they dropped 2 games out of 3 to the Mets.  Saturday’s game was winnable, but Cole Hamels floundered again and the offense blew many opportunities.  Sunday’s game was an utter disaster that marked the Phillies 9th time being shut-out this year.

Pitcher Cliff Lee was, once again, killed by the long ball.  The 5 Mets’ runs came off 2 homers and both were hit with 2 outs in the inning.  With All-Star game starter Matt Harvey on the mound for the Mets, Lee did not stand a chance unless he controlled the long ball, which he did not.

The Phillies offense was just as awful; they managed only 3 hits off Harvey and piled up 12 strikeouts.  Domonic Brown got the Golden Sombrero with 4 K’s in the game.  Was it not just 2 days ago this team scored 13 runs?  After their performance on Sunday, you would never imagine this was the same group of guys.

Granted, Harvey is one of the best pitchers in the game right now.  But the 12 K’s tells you that the Phillies could not even manage to make contact with the ball.  Zero walks then equals zero patience at the plate as well.  It was just plain ugly.

And now the Phillies are once again in limbo as management decides whether or not they have any shot at all at making the playoffs.  Personally, I do not see it happening.  This team has lacked consistency all season long; they have too many injuries and no sense of urgency.  But since both the Braves and the Nationals went cold this weekend as well, the Phillies did not lose or gain any ground in the division.  And that will make the decision to buy or sell before the trade deadline even more difficult.

Then again, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may already have made up his mind after this weekend’s performance.  And certainly no one can blame him if he goes into sell-mode.  This team has not given anyone any real reason to hope, especially after their 2 best pitchers bombed on back-to-back nights.

The Phillies are off today before starting a 3-game series with the Cardinals on Tuesday.  The Cards have the best record in the majors…and that is not good news for the Phillies.

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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

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