Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Papelbon ’

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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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

 

Chooch Leads Phillies to a Big Win

If someone had told me that by the end of June this season, Carlos Ruiz would be leading all of baseball in batting average, I may have checked to see if that person was running a fever.  Chooch has always been a good player; but he has never been .361 with 10 home runs-good.  The 10 homers, including one in last night’s 5-4 win over the Pirates, is a career high.  And it is only June…

So yes, Chooch leads everyone in batting average with .361.  That is better than past MVP’s Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton.  Ruiz has also outhit fellow catchers and All-Star voting leaders Yadier Molina and Brian McCann. Soooooo….VOTE FOR CHOOCH!  We have until Thursday to get him to the All-Star game!

But even if that fails, manager Charlie Manuel told reporters yesterday that he plans on calling Tony La Russa, the NL All-Star team manager, to plead the case for Chooch.  Manuel always sticks up for his players, but especially in this case, Ruiz really deserves the honor.

Chooch put his stamp all over last night’s win.  He went 3-for-4 with a homer and 2 RBI.  And while catching, Ruiz saved two runs from scoring by blocking the plate and tagging out the runners.

The biggest of those plays came in the 7th inning after starter Vance Worley got into a real jam.  With no outs, 2 runners on base and 1 run already across, Worley was removed and rookie Michael Schwimer took over.  Schwimer coaxed a ground out and then a short fly ball to left.  One the fly ball, John Mayberry Jr. made a great throw home, which Ruiz caught and tagged the runner for an inning-ending double play.

That play kept the Phillies lead intact and Chooch’s subsequent homer added to that lead.  The home run he hit in the 8th turned out to be a game saver as closer Jonathan Papelbon struggled in the 9th, allowing a solo homer.  But the Ruiz blast made the difference in the 5-4 win.

The Phillies have now won 2 of the first 4 games against the Pirates, which is great news; because tonight’s 7:05pm game is going to be started and finished by the Phillies bullpen.  The rainout on Friday forced a juggling of the pitching staff, leaving them 1 starter short this week.  So Raul Valdes will start the game and likely pitch 3 innings, passing the ball on to the rest of the pen after that.

And while you are watching the game, do not forget to VOTE FOR CHOOCH!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome Sets Another Record in Phillies Walk-Off Win

In their 1st visit back to Philadelphia since losing the 2008 World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays once again brought the rain with them.  Friday night’s Phillies – Rays game was rained out and will be played as part of a doubleheader on Sunday.  The originally scheduled 1:35pm game will start instead at 1:05pm and the make-up game will begin at 6:35pm.

For today’s game, Kyle Kendrick started as originally planned, with Cliff Lee being pushed back to Sunday.  After Lee had fully warmed up Friday night, they did not want to take any chances by having him go today.

Kendrick did not have a great day, getting speeches while on the mound from teammates Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins and then pitching coach Rich Dubee.  It seemed like a lot of work just to get Kendrick through what turned out to be only 4 innings.  He walked 3 and allowed 3 runs.

But the offense gave the pitching a boost with big home runs from Rollins and Juan Pierre.  For Pierre, it was his first homer since August of last year and his first 3-run homer since 2004.  Pierre is not typically a long-ball hitter and as a result, there were huge smiles all around the Phillies bench when he hit that one.  Pierre got to play Superman, if only for just one day.

For the bullpen, Raul Valdes did a commendable job picking up the slack for Kendrick.  Fresh back from the minors, Valdes pitched 2 very solid innings.  Antonio Bastardo had a little trouble in the 8th where he loaded the bases but did pitch out of it after allowing only one run.

The 6-4 lead carried the Phillies into the 9th with a save opportunity for Jonathan Papelbon.  It was not exactly smooth sailing.  In fact, he blew his first save of season, giving up 2 runs and really putting the Phillies in a very bad position with a doubleheader scheduled the next day.  This could not have been worse timing, except…

In the bottom of the 9th, a future Hall of Famer was lying in wait to bail Papelbon out.  Jim Thome stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th and absolutely crushed a ball to deep left field.  And just like that, BOOM!  The Phillies won it in walk-off style.

It was Thome’s 13th career walk-off homer, which is a major league record.  He is also the all-time leader in Interleague play home runs.  And Thome is now tied with Sammy Sosa for 7th place in career homers with 609.

On Sunday, Cole Hamels will pitch the first game and Lee will pitch the second one.  I will be at both games and shall return with photos.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Stomp Rockies by a Toe Length

The Phillies won the second game of their series with the Rockies, not by a nose or even by the hair of their chins; they won by a toe.  It was Todd Helton’s toe, to be exact.

In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs, the bases loaded and a tie game, Placido Polanco stepped to the plate.  He hit a bouncing grounder to short that looked like it might end the game.  It did end the game, just not in the way you might expect.

Polanco hustled down the line and, for some unknown reason, veteran Todd Helton suddenly forgot how to play first base.  He had the wrong foot back towards the bag and had to juggle his feet around.  As a result, his foot was not on the bag by about a toe length when Polanco crossed.  Polanco was safe, the runner on 3rd scored and the Phillies won in walk-off fashion.

I am so grateful to Helton’s toe that I decided to write a short poem about it:

Ode to the Toe
Oh, to the toe
Many thanks must go
Trying to save face
You danced around the base
Giving Polanco plenty of time
To get down the line
The winning run would score
As the crowd began to roar
So thank you little toe
We did so enjoy the show
-

The toe, however, was not the only star of the game.  The Phillies played with a lot of hustle and enthusiasm, which is something we have not seen too much of this season.

The 9th inning was especially nice to see because of the way the whole situation unfolded.  Back in the top of the inning, the Phillies were in a 5-5 tie game with Jonathan Papelbon on the mound.  As has been the case in non-save situations, Papelbon faltered and gave up a run.

Then down 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th, the first two Phillies batters went down fast.  With 2 outs, it looked like they were doomed.  And judging by the season so far, a comeback with 2 outs in the 9th almost seemed impossible.

But then something wonderful happened.  The Phillies fought back…finally.  This is the moment we have been waiting to witness all year long.

After Ty Wigginton singles, Hunter Pence came up with a clutch double; another rarity this year.  Even more impressive, Wigginton tore up the base paths, as if he had a psychic vision that he could go all the way.  Without hesitation, Wiggy actually scored from first base to tie the game, 6-6.

After Carlos Ruiz was walked intentionally, Shane Victorino found his happy place again and loaded the bases with a single.  Victorino beat out the throw from the short stop by about half of a second.  His hustle kept the inning alive.

And you know the rest; Polanco is safe by a toe!  Phillies win!

If the Phillies can keep the hustle going and sweep the Rockies tonight, there may be hope for this season yet…

Game time tonight is 7:05pm.

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Victorino 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

Umpires Become the Story Once Again in Phillies Loss

It is a real shame when the focus of any baseball game becomes the umpires instead of the actual plays.  But this seems to be an ever increasing trend as MLB continues to sweep bad umpiring under the rug.

After a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers last night, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon got all bent out of shape about the performance of home plate umpire D.J. ReyburnPapelbon told reporters, “I thought he sucked. It’s that simple.”

Reyburn is a Triple-A umpire who was filling in.  When given this information, Papelbon said, “Doesn’t surprise me. He probably needs to go back to Triple-A.”  Papelbon also noted that Reyburn was bad throughout the game, for both teams, including Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.

It is easy to understand Papelbon’s frustration.  Phillies starter Vance Worley had a hard time with the ball-strike calls in his first inning coming off the DL.  That certainly did not help his recovery.  Kershaw was equally frustrated and the both the Dodgers’ bench coach and manager were ejected by Reyburn as a result.

Then in the 9th inning, Papelbon had Dee Gordon struck out, but Reyburn missed the call.  Gordon went on to hit a triple and score the winning run for the Dodgers.

While the ultimate outcome of the game cannot be blamed on Reyburn, he did certainly affect it.  Still, the Phillies had their chances and blew it.  But Papelbon makes a good point.  And he did so knowing fully that there would be repercussions to his statements, likely to include a hefty fine.  But it was really nice to see a guy willing to take a stand; I now have a new respect for Papelbon.

But the Phillies are really not doing a lot to help themselves here.  They had only 8 hits in the game and left 6 runners on base in situations where the opportunity to score was high.  The Phils wasted a Jimmy Rollins triple in the 5th by having him run on contact from third during Placido Polanco’s at-bat.  Rollins was a dead duck at home plate when Polanco hit a hard grounder to short.

Then in the 7th, the Phillies hit 3 singles to load the bases, but Freddy Galvis was held at third by coach Juan Samuel on a ball bobbled by the Dodgers.  He should have scored there.  Hunter Pence came up and grounded out to end the inning.  Pence has been awful with runners in scoring position, having successful in only 2 of his last 33 chances.

This loss puts the Phillies back at .500 baseball and 4 games out of first, dead last in the division.  The Dodgers are a great team; if the Phillies do not pick it up in the next 3 games, they are going to find themselves in buried even further in the standings.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Another No Decision for Lee in Phillies Win

These are the kind of games that make me wonder why so much emphasis is put on pitcher wins and losses.  It is a flawed statistic.  Phillies starter Cliff Lee has a 2.82 ERA in 7 starts and NO wins through no fault of his own.  At least 5 of those he should definitely have won, but the offense did not help out.

Why is the win/loss stat still heavily relied upon when determining who should be an All-Star, an MVP or a Cy Young winner?  Lee is a prime example of why this should not be an influential factor in those decisions or in figuring who the top pitchers in baseball are.

You can then see why Lee is obviously frustrated as evidenced by an altercation in the dugout last night with Shane Victorino.  After two missed fly balls in the 4th inning, one by Victorino and one by Hunter Pence, the Cardinals took the lead in the game, leading to another no decision for Lee.

The two balls were lost in the twilight and probably not really anyone’s fault.  But the chain of events did emphasize a larger issue; this Phillies offense is wildly inconsistent and the starting pitchers are rightly annoyed.  In fact, assuming Lee spoke for everyone last night, I am glad they are annoyed.  It shows that they actually give a crap.  And maybe this little outburst will light a fire under the rest of the team.

Lee is frustrated more than most as he has received the least amount of run support.  And for a guy that has a reputation of being laid back and never getting rattled, seeing him tee-off on Victorino last night speaks volumes.  Clearly, he does care…a lot.

Victorino later made some great defensive plays to keep the Phillies within reach.  A solid relay throw to Freddy Galvis turned into an out at the plate in the 8th inning as Yadier Molina tried to bowl over Carlos Ruiz.  In his usual tough guy style, Ruiz held onto the ball despite the blow.

And Lee helped his own cause with 2 hits and huge run scored in the 7th where he went from first to home and looked good doing it.  After the play, Lee probably could have used some oxygen, but he was just fine.

That run tied the game, which went to extra innings.  And then Pence, who made the 2nd blunder in the outfield earlier, came out the hero with a 2-run homer in the 10th.  Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 5-3 win for the Phillies 3rd straight victory.

Game 3 with the Cardinals starts tonight at 7:15pm; Kyle Kendrick will start.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

A Wild One in St. Louis

This 4-game series in St. Louis looks like it is going to be a real adventure, especially after last night’s wild 10-9 Phillies victory over the Cardinals.  There was a lot of action in this one.

The Phillies got off to a hot start, scoring 6 runs in the first two innings, something they have been unable to do most of the year so far.  But the 6-0 lead was on shaky ground fast as pitcher Joe Blanton self-destructed for his second start in a row.

Blanton allowed hit after hit until the game was tied, 7-7 by the 5th inning.  Once again, manager Charlie Manuel left Blanton in too long and waited until he allowed the final 3 of those 7 runs that inning to pull him.  In his last 2 starts, Blanton has allowed 19 hits and 13 runs.  Ouch.  I guess it was too much to hope his hot streak would last very long :O(

The game ping-ponged back and forth after that, with the Phillies offense continuing to battle back.  Carlos Ruiz is still on fire and had 3 hits in the game.  Four players, including Ruiz, had 3-hit nights.  Both Shane Victorino and Freddy Galvis added 3 RBI each and even Mike Fontenot collected a pinch-hit RBI in a key situation.

And although the bullpen had some issues again, it was just that kind of night.  Both teams were hitting and the end result was going to depend on who pushed harder.  Ty Wigginton added the 10th run in the 8th inning with a solo homer, which turned out to be the game winner for the Phillies.

Game 2 starts tonight at 8:15pm.  Cliff Lee will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

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