Results tagged ‘ Joe Blanton ’

Phillies Fire Sale Still Burning

In an unexpected move today, the Phillies traded Joe Blanton to the Dodgers after he cleared waivers.  The Phils will get either cash or a “player to be named later,” which is usually a low-level minor leaguer.  Blanton will join Shane Victorino along with many other players to join the Dodgers just this week.  At least he will have company.

While the Dodgers are trying to buy a winner, the Phillies are trying dump a losing season.  This last trade of Blanton clears about $3 million more in salary this year, which must be an attempt to avoid paying the luxury tax.

Blanton was as surprised as the rest of us by the move.  He was slated to start tonight’s game against the D-Backs and instead, wound up packing his bags just hours before first pitch.

It also looks like the Dodgers tried to claim Cliff Lee off waivers today, but Ruben Amaro Jr. says they will pull him back.  However, with the rate the Dodgers are throwing money around, do not be surprised if Amaro is maybe planning a trade instead to squeeze a little more out of L.A.  Just a thought…a very scary one.

So is the fire sale over?  Amaro had better be careful to avoid burning this team straight down to the ground…

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Escape Sweep With 12-Inning Walk-Off Win

It was nice to finally see some smiles at the ballpark today as the Phillies walked-off with a 4-3 win in 12 innings over the Giants.  When the game first began, things did not seem like they were going the way of the Phillies as Joe Blanton gave up a solo homer after tossing only 3 pitches.

But  Blanton settled in and wound up allowing 3 runs over 8 innings.  Most of the offense was supplied by John Mayberry Jr. who hit 2 solo home runs.  And Chase Utley tripled a run home in the bottom of the first.

There were some nice defensive plays and some adventurous ones:

After the 8th inning though, both teams seemed to be stuck in neutral.  Amazingly, the Phillies bullpen did not surrender a run after that.  Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst and Kyle Kendrick combined for 4 scoreless innings.

Finally in the 12 inning, the Phillies got a rally going.  After a walk to Carlos Ruiz, Laynce Nix singled in his first game back off the DL.  Then after a mostly quiet day at the plate, Jimmy Rollins came through with a single to score Ruiz for a walk-off win.

The Phillies were so excited, they grabbed whatever was at hand to celebrate.  In this case, several water bottles would have to do.

This win was a huge relief for all.  J-Roll told Jim Jackson at 1210AM after the game, “The fans have not given up on us and we aren’t giving up on ourselves.”

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s 12-inning marathon.

The Brewers come to town tomorrow!  Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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

How the Phillies Spell Relief: P-I-R-A-T-E-S

After a dreadful Sunday during which the Phillies lost two games to the Rays in spectacularly bad fashion, this team needed a break.  And that break came in the form of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  How do you spell relief?  P-I-R-A-T-E-S!

The 8-3 win was a welcome sight, even if it did come at the expense of what appeared to be a little league team.  Thankfully though, the Bucos took the pounding like men and no tears were shed.

The first inning set the tone as the Pirates fielders tossed the baseball all over the place, as if they were blindfolded at a child’s birthday party while trying to whack a piñata.  The ball bounced all around, smacking dirt, bases and the infield walls.  Still, no candy prizes fell from the sky.  Instead, the Pirates were given 3 errors in the inning, which lead to a 4-0 lead for the Phillies.

The party continued for the Phillies offense, which exploded for 4 more runs.  Jimmy Rollins nailed a home run to right that nearly made it to the second deck of seats.  Carlos Ruiz continued his All-Star campaign, going 3-for-5 and 3 other Phils had a multi-hit night.  This was apparently the precursor to the post-game fireworks that were planned.

On the downside, the Phillies are still struggling with runners in scoring position.  They loaded the bases with no outs in the 7th and only managed one run, which resulted from a walk to Ty Wigginton.  The next 3 batters all struck out.

Starting the game, Joe Blanton pitched pretty well.  He went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 of which were earned.  But still, in the 8th inning, after the offense failed to add on in the 7th, you could feel the doubt in the air as the bullpen took over.  Could a 5 run lead really not be sufficient here?

It was enough on this day.  But in the past, that has very often not been the case for this team.  And this fact still leaves Phillies fans anxious about what might happen in a similar situation the next time.

The Pirates are a bad team that the Phillies should really beat up on over the next 3 games.  If they can manage to do that, there may be hope for this team yet.

Speaking of hope, it looks like Chase Utley should be back with the team on Wednesday.  He is playing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley tonight.  I will temper my enthusiasm until I see it for myself…

In the meantime, game 2 with the Pirates begins tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Blanton’s Complete Game Gives Phillies Series Win

After allowing a minimum of 5 runs in each of his last 5 starts, no one expected a stand-out performance from Joe Blanton last night against the Twins.  But the oddities this Phillies season seemingly never cease.

Going the whole 9 innings, Blanton allowed only 1 run on a solo homer, 7 hits and struck out 7.  Blanton’s season has gone from great to awful and now, back to great again.  Of the 3 complete games for Phillies pitchers this year, Blanton has 2 and Kyle Kendrick, who has been terrible lately, has the other.  And this is on a staff of pitchers that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.  Go figure.

Continuing to terrorize American League pitching, Jim Thome added 3 more RBI to his stats last night with yet another bomb.  The best part was watching fans dig through the flower beds in the outfield trying to recover the home run ball.  That went on for several innings until security put a stop to it for fear of someone bending over too far and falling onto the field.

The mysterious, disappearing ball was never found.  I guess those plants were really hungry.  Either that or the ball was hit so hard, it ricocheted off into space and is currently in orbit.

While the mystery ball remains at large, the Phillies are moving right along.  In fact, they are leaving the country.  It is off to Toronto for 3 games with the Blue Jays next.

Perhaps these 2 wins will be the boost they needed to get their season back on track?  Let us hope so.  Game time tonight is 7:07pm.

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Blanton photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome’s Hot Bat Helps Phillies to a Win

The Phillies finally won a game last night, although by the skin of their teeth. The 9-8 victory over the Twins broke up a 3 game losing streak in a month where wins have been hard to come by.

The return of Jim Thome from the DL seems to have sparked an offensive explosion. After hitting at a rate of .100 before he went on the DL, Thome now has 10 hits in his last 5 games serving as the DH against the American League. Thome has also hit 2 home runs in that span, the longest of which was a whopping 466 feet last night. The slugger has officially returned!

A bunch of Phillies had big offensive days as well. Juan Pierre, Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz all had 3 hist. And John Mayberry Jr. racked up 4 RBI on 2 hits, including a 3-run homer in the 1st inning.

That first inning was a bit unusual though. The Twins starter, P.J. Walters wound up leaving the game with 4 runs allowed without even recording a single out. It was later reported that he was experiencing shoulder pain.

So the Phillies caught a break and racked up 6 runs in one inning, adding 3 more later. But they still showed the same problems they have been dealing with all year. For example, they Phillies loaded the bases with NO outs in the 9th and once again, failed to score. They could not even muster a sac fly. That is just not going to win them ballgames.

And what has become another disturbing trend is the starting pitching. Cole Hamels, probably the Phillies’ best pitcher not on the DL right now, has really fallen apart lately. Against the Twins, with that huge 6-run lead after the top of the 1st inning, Hamels got knocked around, allowing 7 runs over 6+ innings. Antonio Bastardo allowed one more, all of which turned a 6-run lead into only a 1-run lead.

Luckily, Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the win, having to record 4 outs in order to do so. But I am sure he was just glad to be able to pitch in a save situation, which there have been very few of lately.

Despite all the drama, there were a few great defensive moments thanks to Michael Martinez who also just came off the DL after breaking his foot in spring training. He made the last out of the game by catching a pop-up that was over his head and about to drop in the middle of nowhere. And earlier in the game, he dove to snag a ball hit hard up the middle and in the same motion, made an amazing glove toss to Jimmy Rollins at second.

The return of Martinez is a welcome site now that Freddy Galvis is on the DL with a back fracture (ouch!). Mikey-Mart is about the same offensively as Galvis and his defense, while not quite as spectacular, is still very solid. So welcome back, Mikey!

Although it may be a long shot, the Phillies ‘could’ – maybe – possibly – win this series with a victory tonight. Joe Blanton is pitching and he has given up a minimum of 5 runs in each of his last 5 games. Let us hope that trend ends tonight. Game time is 8:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Pitching a Fit Over Phils Pitching

At the start of the season, everyone was worried about the Phillies offense being strong enough to carry a solid starting pitching staff to wins.  Now that the offense is slowly piecing runs together, the entire pitching staff has fallen apart.  Let us examine the grisly evidence:

Roy Halladay is on the DL.  Vance Worley is pitching will bone chips in his elbow.  Cliff Lee has no wins and is recently making a habit of blowing leads.  Cole Hamels has been hit or miss.  Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton keep see-sawing between okay and downright horrible.

As for the bullpen, 5 out of 7 pitchers have little big league experience.  4 of those are rookies in their first (3) year or second (1) year in the majors.  Chad Qualls, a veteran, has basically been a bust.  And their $50 million closer hardly ever pitches because the save situations are slim and they are afraid to use him in non-save situations.

Last night in a horrible 11-7 loss to the Twins, 3 of 4 bullpen guys who pitched combined to allow 5 runs.  Kendrick started the game allowing 6 runs in only 4 innings.  He was beyond awful.  Meanwhile, closer Jonathan Papelbon has not thrown a single pitch since 4 days and 3 games ago.

Making matters worse, Hunter Pence has officially lost his mind in right field.  He only has 3 official errors on the year, but if you add in the mental mistakes and plays that he clearly should have made despite not being an “official” error, he probably has at least 10 by now.

In fact, my favorite moment of last night’s game was a comment by announcer Tom McCarthy.  After Pence failed to field a routine hopper in the 5th inning, turning a single into a triple, McCarthy said, “I think it is safe to say he needs to stop doing that.”  He hit that nail on the head.

Right now, the Phillies are a very BAD team.  Now 9.5 games back of the Nationals in the NL East, they do not have time to wait for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to return.  If they do not turn it around right now, this season is over.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Fish Drown Phillies in Series Loss

The Phillies dropped two out of three games against the Marlins this weekend, with the ugliest of the 3 games coming in a 5-1 loss today.  Joe Blanton pitched 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, including two home runs, one of which came off the bat of the opposing pitcher.  Blanton has now allowed 24 runs in his last 4 games.

For the Marlins, Carlos Zambrano had a good day, including a bunt base-hit and a home run.  The Phillies offense did a great job helping him out with only 6 hits in the game and 8 runners left on base.  3 of those 6 hits belonged to Juan Pierre.  Zambrano has certainly improved since leaving the Cubs, but the Phillies made him look like All-Star material.

Offensively, this game was so boring, a 20-something year old guy sitting next to me fell asleep in the 4th inning.  I am not kidding.  His friends were laughing about it and poking him but even that did not wake him.  He finally woke when it started to rain.

So since I have nothing much nice to say today after a very disappointing loss, I have decided instead to hand out some awards.  The winner of the “I Plastered Myself Against The Outfield Wall, But It Was A Home Run Anyway” award goes to Juan Pierre:

And Placido Polanco wins the award for the “Silliest Face Of The Day” on a play at third:

The “Oops, I Did It Again” award was a tie between Blanton (for 5 runs or more in his last 4 games) and  Hector Luna:

The “At Least The Bullpen Didn’t Totally Suck Award” goes to the bullpen:

The “I Came All This Way And Did Not Even Get To See My Son Play” award goes to former Major Leaguer, John Mayberry Sr. and Mrs. Mayberry:

And finally, the “Nothing Wrong With A Little Man-Love” award goes to Jimmy Rollins and Greg Dobbs:

The Phillies begin a 4-game series with the Dodgers tomorrow and hopefully, Vance Worley will be off the DL and pitching.

By the way, my condolences to Jose Contreras who is done for the year with a complete tear of the flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow…again.  At 40 years of age, it looks like this may be the end of his career :O(  That had to be devastating news for him, poor guy.  I wish him the best of luck.

And in other news, Chase Utley is finally headed to Clearwater to push forward with his recovery.  No clue when he will be back, but do not hold your breath.

Instead, enjoy my Photo Album from the game today.  Unlike the game, the album does not suck.  ;o)

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Injuries and Questions Plaguing the Phillies

As I am sure many of you are already aware, Roy Halladay has been placed on the DL with a right latissimus dorsi strain.  His projected time for recovery is 6-8 weeks.  The good news is that the strain is a Grade ½ which means he just needs rest for the muscle to heal.  The bad news is he will be gone probably until August.  Yikes.

In regards to how long this has been going on, pitching coach Rich Dubee told the media, “I’ve thought since spring training that there was an issue.”  My question then is, why was nothing done about this sooner?  Why no MRI in spring training?

Of course, Halladay probably down-played the issue thinking it was nothing serious.  But if you are paying a guy $60 million dollars, isn’t it your obligation to do everything possible to ensure the health of that player?  In my opinion, this should have been handled in March.  Luckily, the muscle did not tear in the meantime, but damage to the team was certainly done by allowing this to drag on.

The overwhelming sentiment in the press has been, “It could be worse,” referring to a potential tear or rotator cuff injury.  But really, any injury with any player “could be worse.”  What they should be doing instead of telling us how great it is that this is not worse is asking some real questions.  Like, why was this not addressed earlier?

This also raises questions for me about the team management, from the top brass to the training staff.  Because the Halladay issue does not seem to be the only thing they missed.  What about Chase Utley?  Should they have done more in the offseason to ensure Utley was healthy, especially after the 2011 knee problem?

But it is also easy to see why the team was maybe playing the “ignore it and it may go away” game.  Imagine for a minute if they did check Halladay out in spring training.  Now imagine having Halladay, Utley and Ryan Howard on the DL to start the season.  How many fans do you think would have immediately written the team off with that kind of start?  I would assume the Phillies would have asked themselves the exact same question.

As it stands now, those 3 players make up 32% of the entire team $174.5 million payroll.  That is $55 million sitting on the DL.  Ouch.

So, you still want to look on the bright side?  Ok, think of it like this: Halladay is not really hurt.  He is simply having his bionic parts tuned-up.  As with most bionic men, this procedure can take some time.

Then when Halladay returns, he should be right back to his robot-self!  Awesome.

My next question is, could the Phillies be playing the same “ignore it and it may go away” game with Joe Blanton?  Missing most of last season with a sore elbow, Blanton was also seemingly left to his own devices all off-season and did not have surgery.

Blanton came back and appeared healthy and pitched very well in April.  But then May rolled around and it all went downhill.  In his last 3 starts, Blanton has not made it past the 5th inning and given up a total of 19 runs.  That is an ERA of 12.52 in 3 starts.  Last night against the Mets, he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings which lead to a 6-3 loss.  Am I really the only one who finds this pattern disturbing?

Ok, let’s examine the bright side once again…Cliff Lee pitches tonight!  Yes, it is Lee vs. Gee once again.  And Lee could actually pick up his first win of the year before May ends!  Cross your fingers…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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