Results tagged ‘ Hunter Pence ’

Where Did All the Fun Go?

After watching Cliff Lee walk off the mound last night in pain with another elbow injury, I was pretty depressed.  I was depressed earlier in the day after the Phillies did absolutely nothing at the trade deadline.  But this was a whole new level of sadness.  Because at that moment, I realized something; watching Phillies baseball just isn’t fun anymore.

Phillies TombstoneBaseball is supposed to be fun.  Remember when Roy Halladay said, “It’s only gonna get funner”?  Ah, memories…  Because where did all the fun go?  Even when the Phillies sucked back in the early 1990’ and early 2000’s, it was still fun to watch.  And on those teams, the players had fun playing, even when they were awful.  Remember in 2003 when a bunch of players dyed their hair bleach blonde?  They sucked…but it was fun!  I still had a good time going to those games.  But now, it feels like going to a funeral.  So why is it so different now?

I have come up with two reasons: 1) There was hope back then.  2) The 2008 World Series changed the landscape of Phillies baseball.

Phillies fans have lost hope.  Why?  Because the current incarnation of this team and their management have made the same mistakes over and over and over.  They refuse to make big changes and when they do make changes, the results are bad.  Go back to the Cliff Lee trade.  You know what the Phillies got for him…nothing.  Ok, count Phillippe Aumont if you must, but he is a head case who is going nowhere.  They traded Hunter Pence and got nothing.  Here are a few other not-so-fun names to remember…Freddie Garcia, Adam Eaton, the contracts of Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and others, no trade clauses, etc. And the list goes on…

When you do the same thing repeatedly, how can you expect different results?  You can’t.  And therein lays the total lack of hope.  As long as the same people are in charge and the same scouts are making bad decisions, nothing will change.  And that is truly depressing.

And about that 2008 World Series…the Phillies have been on a steady decline since they lost the series in 2009.  Phillies fans got a short taste of success and now, we expect it.  Maybe that is not fair, but such is life.

Frankly, the way they Phillies have raised ticket prices every year and cancelled events (like the Phan Fest at Spring Training), giving us less access to players, is also a sore spot for fans.  If you are going to take away some of my season ticket holder benefits, charge me more and give me less, then I EXPECT a superior product.  And in that way, I feel fans are justified in their rage.  Now that the team is awful, do you think ticket prices will go down?  No way…because they have to PAY for all of their mistakes and ridiculous contracts.  Or should I say, we the fans will pay?  Or we will just stop coming to games as many have done already.

Because why should I have to pay to attend a funeral?  Why should I pay to see players who are just as depressed as I am?  And there you have it…NO FUN.

If the Phillies want to bring back the fun, they need to fire everyone in the front office and all of the scouts and start over.  Give us something to look forward to.  Give us a little hope.  It is either that, or prepare to play to an empty stadium.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

A New Era of Phillies Baseball Begins

Now that the dust has settled on baseball’s trade deadline, there is a lot of information to absorb and process.  And for the Phillies and their fans, there are a lot of emotions involved as well.  I think Ryan Howard summed it up best when he told beat writer Todd Zolecki, “Shane’s been here for a long time. Like I said, (he) was a very big part of this club. It is weird not seeing his face. It’s weird not seeing Hunter. But that’s how baseball works sometimes.”

“Weird” is an excellent description.  Everyone expected major change because of this backwards Phillies season, but it is still strange to see a guy like Shane Victorino in another uniform after being such an integral part of this team for so long.  He was indeed the “personality” of the team as well during their better days; loose, fun and fiery.

Shane was also open, honest and easily approachable, something many fans really appreciated.  I had the great pleasure of spending time with him and his wife Melissa on several Phillies Cruise’s and can tell you they are wonderful, generous people.  I wish Shane and his family all the best; they will be missed.

As for Hunter Pence, his energy will be missed.  But honestly, I won’t miss his free-swinging and awkward plate approach; it totally stressed me out!  But I am sure he will be a big help to the Giants; best of luck to him!

So what did the Phillies really get in return for all these moves?  Well first, they dumped some salary which will help keep them under the luxury tax this year.  They also got 5 new players; 2 major leaguers and 3 prospects.

The 2 major leaguers who will join the Phillies today are right-handed relief pitcher Josh Lindblom and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.  Lindblom has a 3.02 ERA in 48 games this year and should be able to help out the bullpen right away.  Schierholtz is a platoon player and lifetime .270 hitter.  He will be a huge defensive upgrade over Pence, but an offensive downgrade.

The 3 prospects are right-handed relief pitcher Ethan Martin, catcher Tommy Joseph and right-hander Seth Rosin.  Martin was the #7 prospect in the Dodgers top 20 and a former 1st round pick.  He is probably a few years away from the majors.

Joseph is an interesting prospect; he was #5 in the Giants top 20 and a 2012 Futures Gamer.  He is highly touted as a power-hitting run producer with a strong arm.  He will likely either take over for Carlos Ruiz after the 2013 season or be used as trade bait in the off-season.  Ruben Amaro Jr. has already gotten calls from other teams about him.

And finally, Rosin was #19 in the Giants top 20 with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90’s.  He has a 4.31 ERA so far this season.

These are obviously not mind-blowing pick-ups, but Amaro seems to have gotten as much as would be expected by these moves.  So now we get to see if Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. have what it takes to be everyday players.  How these 2 guys play will determine many off-season moves for the Phillies.

In the meantime, this team still will keep on playing.  Oddly enough, yesterday’s moves seem to have given the Phillies a little spark as they routed the 1st place Nationals 8-0.  Now that the pressure is off and they are not expected to climb out of this huge hole, we may see some better baseball.

Mayberry looked like a new man last night with 2 hits and a walk.  New Phillie Kevin Fransden played amazing defense at 3rd base and whacked a 2-run homer.  And Juan Pierre had 3 hits, although that is not unusual for him.

But the most exciting play of the game was a 2-run inside-the-park homer from Jimmy Rollins.  He sped around the bases so fast, he scored standing.

All of a sudden, the Phillies had everything working.  Even the pitching was going well as Cliff Lee finally notched his 2nd win of the year with 7 scoreless innings.  Now that is the Lee we have been missing lately.

So here are the new Phillies…for now.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, just for spite, they could sweep the Nationals?  Ok, maybe I am dreaming…but still hoping for better baseball ahead!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Victorino and Pence Are Gone as Trade Deadline Passes

In an odd twist of fate, Shane Victorino was sent back to the team that rejected him…twice.  In 2002 and 2005, the Dodgers placed Victorino in the Rule 5 draft; the Phillies finally gave him a shot by selecting him in the 2005 draft.

In exchange, the Phillies got right-handed relief pitcher Josh Lindblom (pronounced Lind-bloom) and Double-A right-handed relief pitcher Ethan Martin.

The second trade involved sending Hunter Pence to the Giants in exchange for catching prospect Tommy Joseph, outfielder Nate Schierholtz and Class A right-hander Seth Rosin.

Here are some reactions from Victorino and Pence:

Domonic Brown was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and back-up catcher Brian Schneider was activated off the DL to fill the spots for now.

I will have my reaction sometime later while I take time to digest the moves.  I can tell you it is a little sad to see these guys go, but after the year this team has had, it was expected.

More later…

Together Again, Phillies Sluggers Turn Back Time

After a very unusual start to the 1st inning in last night’s Phillies and Brewers match-up, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard reunited in a way that appeared to turn time back to better days.  They went back-to-back with solo home runs and just that quickly, it was like old times again.  Ah, together again…

In fact most of this previously lame Phillies squad is back off the DL and as a result, they are starting to turn things around.  Last night’s walk-off win was the second in row for the Phillies and also their first comeback win when trailing after 8 innings this season.  Prior to this, they were 0-42 when losing after 8 innings.

This game began in a very odd way though.  Roy Halladay was not his normal, studley self.  He gave up 2 runs in the first inning before Howard and Utley countered with their solo blasts.

Even stranger was what happened to Shane Victorino before those home runs.  Ex-Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf hit Victorino in the funny bone with a pitch; because he turned his shoulder to in an attempt to get out of the way, the 1st base umpire apparently got confused and called him out on strikes.  Replay showed that Victorino came nowhere near to swinging at the pitch.

Both Victorino, in obvious pain, and manager Charlie Manuel argued his case to no avail.  Once again, an idiot umpire would cost the Phillies a base runner and, after the homers, it cost them an extra run.  Even worse, Victorino’s hand went numb after the hit to the elbow and he had to be removed from the game.  He says he is fine now and should be able to play tonight; the ball just struck a nerve in the wrong place.

The umpire idiocy did not end there either.  Howard’s obvious solo shot was initially ruled a double after the ball bounced back onto the field out of the left field flower beds.  They had to go to replay to get the call overturned.  But it was quite apparent to the naked eye that the ball left the yard.  I guess the umpire went temporarily blind; an affliction which seems to be contagious.  And all that happened in the first inning.

By the 4th inning, things were getting out of hand as Halladay continued to self-destruct and allowed 4 more runs for a 6-2 Phillies deficit.  But for the second day in a row, the bullpen came through and held the score there.  And that set up the Phillies 1st comeback win after 8 innings all season long.

With 1 out in the 9th, the Phillies were still 4 runs behind and down to their final 2 outs when suddenly, the clock turned backwards again.  The Phillies offense began channeling their 2008 selves.  Jimmy Rollins drew a walk followed by a Juan Pierre single.  Utley walked; Howard singled in 2 runs; Carlos Ruiz singled in another and Hunter Pence followed with another walk.

With still only 1 out in the inning and a man on third, all the Phillies needed was a sac fly.  Most of the year, the Phillies have been unable to accomplish this seemingly routine task.  But on this throwback night, Ty Wigginton summoned his inner super-Wigginess and sent a line drive to left which scored pinch-runner Erik Kratz.

And just like that, the Phillies have found themselves on the comeback trail.  Like J-Roll said after Sunday’s win, it is time to start streaking…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Blown Save Spoils Another Cliff Lee Start

My mother had a saying: “If not for bad luck, you would not have any luck at all.”  I am sorry to say that I now need to pass that sentiment down to Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee.  Can this poor guy get a break already?

Lee’s misfortunes have certainly not all been out of his own control.  But it does seem like whenever he is on top of his game, the rest of the team lets him down.  Did he spill the salt?  Break a mirror?  Walk under a ladder?  Or did a black cat cross his path?

Whatever is causing the bad mojo seriously needs to stop.  Lee went 8 innings against the Dodgers allowing only 2 hits and 1 run on a solo homer that probably should have been caught.  And he would have kept pitching if his team had scored more than 1 run for him.  But he had to be pulled for a pinch hitter.

In a game that wound up going 12 innings, the Phillies basically lost it in that first inning when John Mayberry Jr. failed to utilize his 6’6” frame to reach up and catch that home run ball which barely made it over the fence.  Because the way Lee was pitching, he would have easily pitched all 9 innings and had a 1-0 win.  Instead, the game went to extra innings.

And although it took them until the 10th inning, the offense finally scored some runs.  The Dodgers walked the bases loaded and then Hunter Pence came through with a clutch hit for the 2nd day in a row.  That singled scored 2 runs and gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead with their closer ready to come in for the bottom of the 10th.

But pitching for his 3rd consecutive day for the 1st time all year, Jonathan Papelbon could not get the job done.  He gave up 2 runs allowing the Dodgers to tie the game again.  This was a huge blow to the team, especially coming from a guy getting paid $50 million.  This was Papelbon’s 3rd blown save of the year; all 3 occurred in the last 7 games that he had save opportunities.

Having depleted their bullpen to get this far in the game, the Phillies were left with few options.  By the time the 12th rolled around, rookie Jake Diekman was forced into a second inning of work and he finally gave up a 2-run homer to hand the game to the Dodgers.  Diekman is not to blame though; it was unfortunate he had to be put into that situation.

So another great performance from Lee was wasted in this 5-3 loss.  The good news is that, despite this loss, the Phillies have won 2 series in a row.  They have an off-day today and will return Friday to face the Giants at home.

This next home stand will probably be the determining factor on who stays and who goes before the trade deadline.  The Phillies have to win both series to even have a chance.  Cross your fingers…

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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 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

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

 

What’s Happened to Cliff Lee?

What in the world is going on with Cliff Lee?  Has he been abducted by aliens and replaced with a look-alike?  Maybe the aliens are trying to clone him for their big MLB invasion plan.  But this guy they left behind is not fooling anyone.  This is not the Cliff Lee we have come to know.

Lee has allowed 20 earned runs in his last four games, including 6 tonight against the Miami Marlins.  He only made it through 4 2/3 innings before getting the hook.  Lee looked so bad, that manager Charlie Manuel actually pulled him when the next batter scheduled to hit was the opposing pitcher.  Ouch.

And it has not just been the last 4 games.  Lee has been up and down all year, with a trip to the DL for a sore oblique thrown in the middle.  So what exactly has happened to this 3-time All-Star and Cy Young award winner?

It seems clear that the only person who can answer that question is Cliff Lee.  And right now, he does not seem to have a clue either.

This is now 13 starts for Lee in 2012 without recording a single win.  It appears someone has stolen his mojo.  Anyone have a self-help book we can toss at him?

But Lee’s season has paralleled the Phillies season as a whole.  It has been a real head-scratcher all around, laden with injuries and disappointment.

The Phillies went on to lose their 3rd straight game tonight, which was a combination of Lee’s performance and a non-existent offense.  The only Phillies run of the game through 8 innings was a solo homer by Hunter Pence.

To recap, Chase Utley is back and the Phillies have not won a game since.  Ryan Howard is on a rehab assignment and will be back soon.  But if the pitching continues along this dreadful path, none of it will matter.

So please, little green men, we are begging you!  Return the real Cliff Lee to us before it is too late!

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Lee 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

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