Results tagged ‘ Cole Hamels ’

Can the Phillies Save Themselves?

There is a lot of chatter and trade rumors creeping around the Phillies right now.  Who will stay and who will go?  And, do they even have any real choices here?

One of the predominant theories says that if the Phillies make a strong run in the 2nd half, they may be able to keep guys like Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino.  But to do so would mean winning a LOT of games.

Last night’s win over the Dodgers gave the Phillies a 3-game winning streak.  That is nice, but not exactly a season-saving run just yet.  Yet there were reasons to hope; Joe Blanton pitched extremely well, allowing just 2 runs in 8 innings, keeping the unreliable bullpen at bay.  Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the year.  And Victorino had 3 hits in the game.

But even if this short streak of better baseball continues, is it enough to keep the team together beyond the trade deadline?

Sadly, I believe the answer is no.

The Phillies bullpen needs serious help and a guy like Victorino is exactly what many teams will want in exchange for a solid pitcher or two.  Even a player like Juan Pierre could help out a team ready to make a run at the playoffs.  With Domonic Brown healthy again in Triple-A, the possibility of trading an outfielder greatly increases.  Plus, both Pierre and Victorino have contracts that expire after this season.

And then there is the sad tale of Cole Hamels.  The Phillies failed to get a long-term contract done last year, leaving Hamels close enough to free-agency for him to get a really big whiff of the huge piles of money waiting for him.  If they cannot come to terms, Hamels will be traded before the deadline.

The Phillies really have little choice.  If they know that Hamels will test free agency, the odds of retaining him are slim to none.  Other teams who are not on the brink of the luxury tax and whose teams did not suck this year will be gunning for Hamels.  And if you are going to lose him, you might as well get something for him in exchange.

I am not happy about this and I am sure many of you feel the same way.  But the cold, hard truth is that a very large, steaming pile of poo is about to hit the fan.  I hope I am wrong, but brace yourselves, just in case I am not.

The good news is that Roy Halladay returns to the mound tonight!  In his first start off the DL, Halladay will face the Dodgers at 10:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Showing Signs of Life

The Phillies had not won a series since June 20th, the last time they faced the Rockies.  It is fitting then that almost a month later, their next series win also came against the Rockies.

On Saturday, Vance Worley led the team pitching 6.2 innings and allowing only 2 runs.  The game was almost a rout as the Phillies led 6-2 going into the 8th inning.  But the bullpen struck again, allowing 3 Rockies runs and cutting the lead to a very uncomfortable 6-5.  Jonathan Papelbon was forced into the game for a 5 out close attempt.  The Phillies gave him 2 more runs to play with in the 9th and they walked away with an 8-5 victory.

Then today, Cole Hamels led the charge, pitching 8 innings with only 1 run allowed.  For the first time in a long time, everything was clicking for the Phillies.  Even without Chase Utley or Ryan Howard in the line-up, as it had been pretty much all year, they still scraped out 5 runs.

Carlos Ruiz normally sits for Sunday day games, but he has been so hot, manager Charlie Manuel had to play him.  Chooch did not disappoint and went 2-for-4 with an RBI.  He is now hitting an unbelievable .353…in the middle of July.  Wow.

And Hunter Pence finally broke and 0-for-13 streak with a 3-run homer in the 5th inning.  That had to be a huge relief for him.

Speaking of relief, no one was more relieved to have a little success than Antonio Bastardo.  After allowing 5 runs in his last 2/3 of an inning pitched, Bastardo finally pitched a 1-2-3 inning using only 7 pitches, all strikes.  That 9th inning performance may be the injection of life Bastardo has been looking for all season.

Now I do not mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but keep in mind, the Phillies just beat the 2nd worst team in the National League.  The Dodgers are up next and that team is hanging right in there with the Giants for first place in the NL West.  This will be a much bigger test for the Phillies.

The pitchers schedule to go against the Dodgers are in this order: Joe Blanton, Roy Halladay (his 1st start off the DL!) and Cliff Lee.  This looks like a very solid opportunity for the Phillies if they can continue to build on this momentum.

Game time Monday night is 10:10pm (yikes!).  Bust out the caffeine…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Post All-Star Break Baseball Starts on a Sour Note

If anyone was really hoping that the second half of the season was going to be a positive turning point for the Phillies, all hopes were dashed quickly after a depressing 6-2 loss to the Rockies last night.  But it really only took 1 at-bat to see that things were still not going well, as lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins popped out to start the game.

Did you know that Rollins is in 5th place in all of baseball in fly-outs (does not include line drive outs) with 115?  Shane Victorino is in 7th place with 112.  Hey, at least they are in the top 10 of something, right?

Here are some more not-so-fun stats: Chase Utley has played the field in 9 games this year and has committed 2 errors so far.  The error last night led to an unearned run for the Rockies.  He is also batting just .216.  Ryan Howard, also fresh off the DL, is batting .182.  These guys need more time to adjust to playing every day, but time is running out fast…

The rest of this team, however, is out of excuses.  They are not hitting, playing bad defense and the pitching…well, that has been a disaster.  The bullpen imploded again yesterday as rookie Michael Schwimer gave up 3 runs.

Are you as depressed about this season as I am?  Not sure?  Here, take this test:

We are all pretty much out of reasons for hope at this point.  Now all we can do it hold our breath and wait for the other shoe to drop.  That shoe may collectively include losing Victorino, Cole Hamels, and according to a recent report, maybe Placido Polanco too.

No one really knows what is in store for this team, but we can reasonable surmise, it will not be good.  Continue tuning in to see the train wreck progress!  Game 2 with the Rockies starts at 8:10pm tonight.

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Phillies All-Stars Contribute to NL Shut-Out Win Over the AL

In an 8-0 win over the American League, 3 Phillies All-Stars made big contributions for the National LeagueCole Hamels pitched a perfect 7th inning, probably driving up his free agent value a little bit more.  Carlos Ruiz caught the final 4 innings and had one at-bat, a fly-out to left field.  And Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final out of the game, sealing the NL victory.

Here are a few MLB photos from the game:

And this next set of MLB photos show Ruiz holding his glove and then the glove R.A. Dickey gave him to use in order to catch his crazy knuckle balls.  That glove is almost as big as Chooch!  There is also a nice shot of Papelbon and then more adorable Chooch getting a hug from the Nationals teenage rookie, Bryce Harper:

Melky Cabrera of the Cardinals got the MVP award for the game.  He had 2 hits, including a homer, and 2 RBI.  Some rare events occurred during the game, including 3 triples, 5 rookies playing in the game, and the first shut-out during an All-Star game since 1996, when the game was played in Philadelphia.

The biggest blunder of the game came from 19-year old Harper who lost a routine fly ball in the outfield, which eventually landed behind him.  He also got caught leaning too far off base in a fielder’s choice and was tagged out.

So now we wait until the Phillies return on Friday to see if they have any gas left to rescue their dreadful season.  Roy Halladay will make a rehab start tomorrow so, hopefully, that means he will be back very soon.

In the meantime, here is a fun blast from the All-Star past.  These are a few of my favorite All-Star photos from 2008.  The top one will never get old…it is Dan Uggla goosing Chase Utley to the surprise of many around them, as you can see by my marker edits.  Below that is Utley and Brad Lidge, who appear to be trying to club David Wright. And then there is Mike Schmidt standing up in a moving vehicle (next to Utley) during the All-Star parade to point me out and say hello.  I was one Phillies jersey in a sea of Yankees jersey’s so I was easy to spot and he was clearly excited to see a Phillies fan!  Utley yelled out to me right after that as well.  And yes, that was one of the highlights of my simple existence ;o)

By the way, I am hoping to have my video interview with Ryan Howard posted in the next few days, so stay tuned for that!

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2012 photos by MLB; 2008 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

Another Nail in the Coffin of the Phillies 2012 Season

The Phillies have lost 47 games so far this season.  Some of them have been very ugly, some of them have been sleep-inducing and some have been downright aggravating.  But last night’s 6-5 loss to the Mets may have been the worst loss for a number of reasons.

For starters, the Phillies were actually able to score 5 runs off one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, R.A. Dickey.  And they should have scored even more.  The Phillies left 9 men on base and went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position.  They had opportunities and missed out.

Cole Hamels was not spectacular, but he kept the team within a run of the Mets.  Over 7 innings, Hamels allowed 4 runs and walked one batter.  But he was by no means awful.

Then Antonio Bastardo came out in the 8th and actually pitched a 1-2-3 inning.  Based on the rest of his season so far, that was pretty amazing.

The Phillies fought to hang on to that one run lead only to see Jonathan Papelbon, their $50 million closer, blow it in the 9th.  And that is what really makes this one sting more than the other 46 loses.  They stayed in it, they battled and came up short anyway as Papelbon gave up a lead-off double, walked a batter and hit a batter before finally surrendering the winning runs.  It was ugly.

And the timing could not be worse.  This loss puts the Phillies at 13 games out of first place with 78 games left to play.  It is another series lost and one more nail in the coffin of this 2012 season.

Do the math.  The Phillies need to win at least 50 of their last 78 games, based on the current pace of teams in the NL East, to even have a shot at a Wild Card spot with 87 wins.  That means they have to win ALL 22 of the 3-game series’ left and at least split the 3 remaining 4-game series’.  Yes, win or split EVERY remaining series this year.  ALL OF THEM.

Based on the Phillies performance so far this season, anyone out there think that is possible?

It saddens me to say this, but I believe this is the game that signals the end of the 2012 season for the Phillies.  When you look back later for a turning point, this is it.  I hope I am wrong, but things are not looking good right now.

 

 

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Happy Cliff Lee Win Day!

Yes, it is the 4th of July.  But more importantly for the Phillies, it is Cliff Lee Win Day!  Appropriately, fireworks and celebration will be seen all over the land!

It only took 3+ months and 83 games, but Lee finally won a game.  Hey, you know what Lee’s favorite holiday is?  That’s right!  Independence / Cliff Lee Win Day!

Over 8 innings against the Mets, Lee allowed just 2 runs, one of which was a solo homer.  He struck out 9 batters and only walked 1.  THIS is the Cliff Lee we have all been missing.  Finally, he is back!

This day was also the first win for Chase Utley.   7 games ago, Utley played his first game of the year after a long rehab of his shoddy knee(s).  In that game, he hit a home run in his first at-bat and then Carlos Ruiz did the same right after.  Oddly enough, that combination set off a 6-game losing streak.

But tonight, Utley and Ruiz went back-to-back again, apparently spinning the universe back into the correct direction and producing a Phillies win.  The earth is back on its axis and gravity is once again in proper alignment.  Whew!

That home run combo gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead which they added onto in the final two innings.  Jimmy Rollins no-hit streak ended and he drove in 2 runs.  And Ty Wigginton added 2 more RBI with a home run in the 9th.

So both Utley and Lee get their first wins of the year with a 9-2 final score.  After the game, Lee had bear hugs for Chooch and was later greeted with a chilly Gatorade bath.

Could this be the big win the Phillies needed to get back on track?  We can only hope so.  Certainly, we can at least see that this team is still capable of winning.

Game 3 with the Mets starts tomorrow at 7:10pm.  Cole Hamels will have to face R.A. Dickey; the knuckleballer has been on fire this season.  But in the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks in honor of Cliff Lee Win Day!  Whoo hooo!

Oh, and Happy 4th of July, too! :O)

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Lee & fireworks photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Are Halfway to Nowhere

After being swept by the Marlins today, the Phillies are 10.5 games back in the division with a 36-45 record.  It is their worst effort through 81 games since 1997.

It is the halfway point of the season; time to count the bodies and see exactly how big the hole is that the Phillies are digging.  Let’s begin with Jim Thome.  He was traded to the Orioles in exchange for 2 prospects: Class A catcher Gabriel Lino and right-hander Kyle Simon, both of whom will report to Class A Lakewood.  So the Phillies did not even get a player who could help out right now.

If the Phillies were actually contending, Thome might still be here.  But it is the best move for Thome, who will actually get some playing time in the American League.  I wish him the best.

And how about Cliff Lee…when Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki asked pitching coach Rich Dubee about Lee’s struggles, Dubee basically pleaded the 5th.  The response given multiple times was, “I’m not going into it.”  Lee appears healthy, no mechanical issues were mentioned.  That leads one to believe that Lee, winless in 13 starts, has thrown in the towel.  I hope that is not the case, but Lee has not seemed right in a long time now.

And the bodies continue to mount.  Jimmy Rollins’ hot streak is over; he is hitless in his last 11 at-bats.  Placido Polanco is 2 for his last 15.  Antonio Bastardo has allowed 6 runs in his last 4 2/3 innings in relief.

The next head on the block might actually be Cole Hamels.  Just announced as an All-Star this year along with Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Papelbon, it is rumored that the Phillies are shopping Hamels to other teams.  If team management feels Hamels will walk once he hits free agency and this 2012 team is down for the count, Hamels may be gone soon.

That would be a terrible shame, but if the Phillies do not pick themselves up and start winning, Hamels will not be the only casualty.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Double Disaster as Phillies Lose Two Against the Rays

The Phillies managed to spend only one day out of the basement in the NL East after Saturday’s win.  But Sunday’s twin killing against the Rays propelled them right back to where they apparently belong; in last place.  When your two best starters are pitching and you still lose both games, things have clearly gone very, very wrong.

In the first game, Cole Hamels was practically unhittable.  He did not allow a run over 7 innings and gave up only 3 hits.

Leaving the game with a 1-0 lead, the bullpen was going to have to pitch 2 clean innings.  And as you probably already know, that did not happen.

I try not to say too much about how Charlie Manuel handles this team.  Because frankly, what he has been given to work with is on par with a minor league team.  But after Antonio Bastardo walked 2 batters in the 8th with just a 1-run lead, he should not have been allowed to continue.  Bastardo was awful the day before and clearly, he still has not found proper command of his pitches.  So why then is he left in to pitch to Carlos Pena?

Apparently, he was left in to clear the bases for the next pitcher as he gave up a 3-run homer to Pena.  I saw that coming, as did everyone in my section screaming, “Take him out!”  But Manuel puts blind faith in these guys even when it has become obvious to everyone else that the leash has gotten far too long.

Then again, look at the players Manuel has to choose from.  The pickings are slim.  This bullpen just sucks, so in that regard, it is still hard to blame the manager.  I still don’t agree with the decision to leave Bastardo in, but I am also glad I was not the one having to make that decision.

And then in the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Manuel left Michael Martinez in to bat instead of pinch hitting.  Martinez is hitting .133 and could not hit the broad side of a barn right now.  After the game, Manuel told the media that neither Juan Pierre nor Mike Fontenot were hitting lefties well, so he left Martinez in.  The issue with that is, Martinez is not hitting ANYONE right now.

Angry at the media for asking, Manuel suggested the reporters should tweet him with their in-game decisions saying, “You guys can float the information down there to me, being as I ain’t smart enough to get it.”  Oh my…

Here are a few other random shots from the 1st game, which the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2.

In game 2, Cliff Lee basically squashed any shot he may have had at his first win of the season by allowing 5 runs over 7 innings.  His last 3 starts have been awful.  Where did our ace go?

Perhaps the strain of not having a win has finally stolen whatever small amount of sanity he had left?   No one really knows what is going on here.

Placido Polanco tried to get this team going.  He went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk.  John Mayberry Jr. also had a big hit and an RBI.  And it was apparently “opposite day” for Hunter Pence who drew 3 walks in the game.

But the offense literally ended there.  The Phillies managed only 4 hits and left 6 men on base.

And just so Lee did not feel singled out in this one, some of the rookie pitchers decided to help out with 5 walks, a wild pitch and 2 more runs for the Rays in one inning.  It looks like B.J. Rosenberg’s major league career may be over before it began.  He was responsible for all that damage except 1 of the walks.

Adding insult to injury, catcher Brian Schneider was leveled at home plate by Sean Rodriguez coming in to score.  He left the game with a sprained ankle.  Later, Pence almost took out the Rays catcher in a weird semi-collision with Jose Molina’s outstretched leg.

Schneider is now on the DL and the Phillies went down for the count in a 7-3 loss.

Here are the Photo Albums from both games: Game 1: Hamels start, Game 2: Lee start.

The Pirates come to town next for a 4-game series starting tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Steroid Drama Overshadows Philles Victory

There were many positives for the Phillies in last night’s 7-2 win over the RockiesCole Hamels returned to form and pitched extremely well.  John Mayberry Jr. continued his hot streak with 2 extra base hits, including a homer.  And Carlos Ruiz had 3 RBI and 2 hits, also including a homer.  Even better, the Phillies finally got through a game without committing an error.

But all those positives were overshadowed by some overwhelming negatives.  First, the lost of injuries for the Phillies keeps getting scarier.  Laynce Nix had a setback in his recovery, possibly reinjuring the same leg.  David Herndon underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the year.

However, the biggest bomb dropped when it was announced before the game that rookie infielder Freddy Galvis would be suspended 50-games for violating the MLB drug policy.  He apparently tested positive for a trace amount of clostebol, an anabolic steroid.

Between this year and last, the Phillies have gone from first to worst.  They have seen their All-Star players and important role players decimated by injuries.  This is simply not what this team needed to hear right now.

To say this is disappointing is an extreme understatement.  Galvis was the one bright light in an otherwise dreary season for this team and now, that has been taken away as well.  I suppose the good news is that he can serve the suspension now, while he is in a back brace on the DL.  He probably would have missed at least 50 games anyway.

I do not pretend to know whether Galvis is innocent or guilty.  Although, you would think if he was juicing he would have hit a lot better than .226 with 15 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs and 24 RBIs.  We will probably never know for sure.

There are several reports in reputable medical journals that say this steroid can show up in urine in trace amounts after ingesting contaminated meat or after having “relations” with a woman who was using a particular cream for a “female condition” that contains clostebol.  In other countries, cattle are injected with this drug to “beef” them up, literally.

Even chicken are sometimes injected with steroids.  Studies in that area produced similar results, showing trace levels of the drug in those who consumed the meat.

So I suppose you have to be a vegetarian, Catholic priest with some mad baseball skills in order to avoid a false-positive test result?

And this is why I say we will never know for sure.  There are too many variables as we have seen in previous cases where athletes tested positive after taking a tainted substance.  Former Phillie J.C. Romero is a good example.  He won a law suit against the company who made supplements that were laced with a banned substance which was not on the label.  But even though MLB now acknowledges this issue, Romero still had to serve the suspension and will forever be judged unfairly in public opinion.

This by no means exonerates Galvis, but it does, once again, call into question the legitimacy of MLB’s drug policy.  A more recent example is Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who got off on a technicality involving the “transport” of his sample.

Now that MLB has made announcement about Galvis, we know that either there was no appeal or he already lost the appeal.  It is MLB policy to wait until that process is done before making the official announcement.

Regardless of what did or did not actually occur here, Galvis’ reputation is now mud.  And that is a real shame for a kid with so much potential.  And it is especially a shame for a fan base that has been desperately searching for a small glimmer of hope for this stumbling, last place team.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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