Results tagged ‘ NL East ’

Bench Players’ Home Run Barrage

In game 3 of this Phillies – Nationals series, the playoff-bound Phils looked very relaxed.  Joe Blanton pitched 7 fairly easy innings allowing only 3 hits and one unearned run.  Blanton probably will not get much playing time in the NLDS as the rotation is set up to include only Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  So this was a good outing for Blanton to end the regular season with; his final record is 9-6 with a 4.74 ERA.

P4189553A.jpgA barrage of home runs from the Phillies bench players helped Blanton out tonight.  Taking full advantage of extra playing time, Ben Francisco smashed two home runs and went 3 for 4 at the plate with 3 RBI.  John Mayberry Jr. also had a big night with a 3-run homer and a single.  Mayberry made vast improvements in AAA this year and is now hitting both right and left handed pitching well.

Also joining the home run party was Mike Sweeney; he whacked a long ball to left center in the 2nd.  He and Francisco went back to back that inning.  And you know what a Sweeney home run means…HUGS for everyone!  If you do not know what I mean, check out my “I Want A Hug From Mike Sweeney” Facebook page. 
I love watching this guy play; he has brought an exuberance to this team that is rarely seen.  It will be a joy to see him in the playoffs, finally, after 16 years in the majors.

Catcher Paul Hoover also got some playing time, but went 0 for 4 at the plate.  Regulars like Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Wilson Valdez (a regular due to many injuries) all went hitless.  But Greg Dobbs bounced back after a bad game yesterday and had 2 hits.  The best pinch hitter in the National League in 2008, Dobbs has suffered a very bad season this year.  Maybe this extra playing time will snap him out of the funk.

The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 7-1, giving them a record of 95-64, which will either be the best record in baseball or very close to tied for the best after all the games are done tonight.  The Phils are off tomorrow and will return on Friday.  The remaining 3 games will be in Atlanta where the Braves are still battling for the Wild Card spot.


Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


The Back-Up Plan

rman4000l.jpgWith both the division and home field advantage wrapped up, the plan for the Phillies back-up players this week is simple: Make the post-season roster.  With the September call-ups plus the usual bench players, the Phillies have a lot of spare parts.  A few of those will make the roster; the rest will sit and watch.  After tonight against the Nationals, there are 4 games remaining to decide who will fill the roles.

A few position players who made a good case in tonight’s game were Domonic Brown in right field and Ben Francisco in center.  Francisco went 2 for 4 and should be a lock for the roster.  Brown had 1 hit, a stolen base and a walk; he will likely be competing with Greg Dobbs for a roster spot.  Dobbs did not help his case with an error at third base tonight, no hits and he also dribbled a ball in front of home plate for an easy force out with the bases loaded and only one out.

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Decisions in the bullpen will be a bit more complicated.  After a fairly awful year, Danys Baez pitched mostly okay in one inning tonight, although he did walk a batter.  David Herndon looked better with two easy outs in the 7th.  The two lefties JC Romero and Antonio Bastardo each pitched one scoreless inning.  Bastardo is going to have an electric arm if he learns to control it; but the problem with him and all the other bullpen pieces we saw tonight is a lack of consistency.

But under pressure against the Nats knowing he was competing for a roster spot, Bastardo turned up the heat and struck out the side.  If a decision had to be made tonight, I would take Bastardo over Baez, keeping the two lefties.

Roy Oswalt started the game and pitched 5 innings allowing only an unearned run after the Dobbs error.  Sadly, he did not get a win as he left the game with a 1-1 tie score after a Raul Ibanez home run.  So Oswalt, if he does not pitch again in the regular season, will end with a 13-13 record.  12 of those 13 loses came when he was with the Astros.

Jimmy Rollins finally started a game tonight for the first time since September 8th.  He moved well in the field and went 1 for 3 at the plate.  Rollins played 5 innings total and should see more playing time as the week goes on in order to prepare him for the playoffs.  The hamstring injury did not appear to be an issue tonight…fingers crossed!

While the Phillies had a few hits in the game, it was still a 1-1 tie in the 9th.  Jose Contreras pitched the final inning for the Phils and threw only 3 pitches.  Adam Dunn mashed a long home run off Contreras, giving the Nats a 2-1 walk-off win.  While the loss makes little difference at this point, the performance by Contreras was not a good thing.  However, Contreras has been fairly reliable most of the year.

The battle of the back-ups will continue tomorrow in DC; game time is 7:05pm.


Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Phillies Win 4th Consecutive NL East Title


For the fourth consecutive year, the Philadelphia Phillies have won the National League East title.  It is the first time they have won 4 straight in Phillies history.  They also currently hold the best record in the league with a record of 94-63.  Roy Halladay took the mound tonight at Nationals Park in search of his 21st win of the year; he got that win plus his first division title and will play in the postseason for the first time in his 13-year career.

Not only that, but Halladay accomplished the feat by pitching a complete game shut-out against the Nats.  Halladay only allowed 2 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 6.  He even avoided having his head chopped off by a wild pitch while batting in the 9th.  The bat saved him as the ball ricocheted off it.

The offense early on was provided mostly by Jayson Werth.  Werth homered in the 2nd and then drove in 2 more runs with a double in the 6th.  Carlos Ruiz then doubled Werth home to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead over the Nats.  But the real explosion came in the 9th where they scored 4 more runs, all with 2 outs in the inning.  Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Werth all collected RBI’s in the 9th.

The bottom of the 9th went by quickly as Halladay knocked the Nats down to clinch the division.  He hesitated for a moment before celebrating after the final out; either he was soaking it in, or he was just not sure it was really happening.  After the game, Halladay told Gary Matthews, “It was fun but it’s only going to get funner.”  Halladay is amazing…he is totally allowed to make up his own word ;o)



J-Roll Update

By the way, many Phillies fans have been wondering, where is J-Roll? 

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Manager Charlie Manuel has said a few times this week that we are going to see a start from Jimmy Rollins who has been nursing a hamstring injury.  He finally pinch hit on Sunday but was supposed to start today and did not due to “rain.”  Yes, they are being so careful with J-Roll that he cannot play in rain.  Is he made of china or is this just extreme precaution?  Or perhaps he has been kidnapped, trapped under a heavy object or tied up with Duct tape?  Hmmm….  Manuel says now he will start tomorrow…we shall see.

With the division all tied up, not only should Rollins get some playing time, but expect to see many bench players getting tuned up for the playoffs while the regulars get some rest.  The Phils have 2 more games in DC and 3 in Atlanta.  Tomorrow’s game time is 7:05pm.  In the meantime, pop the champagne…time to celebrate!

Disappointing Final Home Game For Phillies

My day at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies final home game today against the Mets started off a bit dreary.  It was rainy and cold.  But soon after entering the park, two Phillies players walked right past me; Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr.  I said, “Hey Dom Brown!” and he said hello back and waved.  I then proceeded to follow them through the park.  They stopped at the first base gate and began handing out rally towels to fans coming through the turnstiles as part of the Fan Appreciation Day surprises.

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Once the crowd died down and Brown looked bored, I asked an usher if I could go up close and take a photo.  He said I could so I walked over, said hi and asked Brown to take a photo with me. 
I held up the camera and pushed the button; as I did, two security guards started yelling at me to stop and go away.  I turned my head to see what they were yelling about and the shot to the right is the result.  Well, at least we are both in it…lol  I thanked Dom as I ran off before I got yelled at some more.

So while that was fun, the rest of the day was not.  Cole Hamels did not pitch well and allowed 5 runs over only 4 innings while looking visibly frustrated at both himself and many of the umpires’ ball-strike calls.  As a result, there were a lot of pitchers used in the game, including rookie Vance Worley who pitched a scoreless inning:

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Down 5-0 in the 5th, things look grim for the Phillies who were getting beat by a very average pitcher in Pat Misch.  They finally scored when Chase Utley smashed a 3-run homer.  But that was the only highlight of the game as the Phillies went on to leave 9 men on base and were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

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Defensively, they did at least embarrass Jose Reyes one more time.  In all 3 games this series, Reyes was picked off base.  Today, he was thrown out at home and also caught stealing third base; Shane Victorino got the assist on the out at home.  The Phillies defense also turned one double play while Carlos Ruiz hit into a double play to end a scoring threat in the 4th.

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This loss was disappointing on many levels.  First, the Braves lost which means, had the Phillies won, they could have clinched the NL East at home and the fans, myself included, would have been able to participate in the celebration. 

P9261856Q.jpgAlso, it was Fan Appreciation Day which means after the game, the players traditionally would toss t-shirts and signed Nerf-like balls into the stands.  But since they lost, they all went to the clubhouse instead of thanking the fans who stayed to the end.  The ball girls were left to handle the duty.  As the bullpen members walked in, a few of them, like Brad Lidge and JC Romero, stopped and helped out the ball girls, which was nice.  But overall, it was a very disappointing day and a letdown for the fans.

The good news is, the magic number is now just ONE.  So the Phillies only need one more win or one more Braves loss to clinch.  Right now, the worst they can do it tie with the Braves for the NL East title. 

The Phillies go to DC now for 3 games against the Nats; tomorrow’s game time is 7:05pm and Roy Halladay will pitch.  Here is the full Photo Album from the game.


Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


A Let Down Loss After 11 Straight Wins

Needing only two wins and/or Braves losses to clinch the NL East, the Phillies came out a bit sluggish in tonight’s game against the Mets.  Ryan Howard smashed a 2-run homer in the 1st after a Chase Utley single, but after that, not much happened for the offense.

And while Kyle Kendrick did a good job through 6 scoreless innings, he was left in the game too long.  The hits started coming for the Mets as Kendrick got tired in the 7th.  A mix-up between Utley and Wilson Valdez on a possible double play cost them an out.  Then an error by Howard at first loaded the bases with one out.  The next batter singled home a run and Kendrick was finally pulled.

Chad Durbin was put in with the bases still loaded in relief of Kendrick.  As soon as I saw who was coming in, I knew exactly what would happen next…some sort of bases clearing hit. 
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How did I know this?  The same way the Phillies coaching staff should have known this; Durbin does it all the time with inherited runners.  Take a look at the stats for Durbin coming into tonight’s game:



Bases empty


Runners on base




RISP w/2 outs



Notice a trend here?  The tighter the situation, the more runs Durbin allows.  And I knew that before looking up the stats.  Dear Phillies, please STOP putting Durbin in with runners on base!  I still love ya, Chad, but clearly, this is not your forte.

So 3 earned runs plus one unearned were charged to Kendrick and Durbin picked up one earned for himself.  The offense did not bother to pick up their teammates today and they lost by a score of 5-2. 

A win would have ensured a playoff spot.  Of course, they can still take care of that tomorrow.  What will not be as easy now is clinching the division at home.  Tomorrow is the last home game for the Phillies and they will need a win plus a Braves loss to clinch.  It could happen.  But it is a lot less likely now that they lost tonight.

I will be at the game tomorrow with all my fingers and toes crossed for an NL East celebration.  Either way, I will be back with photos.  Game time is 1:35pm and Cole Hamels will pitch.


Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Phillies Get Closer To October With 11th Straight Win

Scoreboard watching is officially in high gear in Philadelphia.  With a magic number of 4 to start the night, fans were intently watching both the Phillies game and the scoreboard report on the BravesNationals match-up as well.  The 4-1 Nationals lead was of great interest as the Phillies led tonight over the Mets 3-2 going into the 8th.

The Phillies starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, did a great job keeping the game close.  He struggled with 2 outs, allowing a single and a homer in the 4th plus two doubles with 2 outs in later innings.  But Blanton made it through 7 innings with just the 2 runs allowed on 6 hits and a walk.

The defense played well behind Blanton, keeping extra runs off the board.  Raul Ibanez made a sliding grab in left that save a 2-out run from scoring.  Even Blanton got in on the act.  In the 7th, he dove for a short roller towards first and flipped the ball with his glove to Ryan Howard for the out.  Face down in the dirt, Blanton looked like he had just done a belly flop into a pool.

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He even needed a towel afterwards to clean up, as his teammates broke up in laughter over the play.  While Blanton will not get any style points for the dive, it got the job done.

Shane Victorino led the game off with a solo homer against knuckleballer RA Dickey.  Victorino had an RBI-double as well in the 2nd inning.  The go ahead run was scored by Ibanez in the 4th, who was singled in by Carlos Ruiz.  Placido Polanco had a good night as well, with 2 hits.  However, the offense as a whole was fairly quiet, as they have been in the past against Dickey and other knuckleballers.  The 3 runs they scratched out would have to be enough.

Things got pretty tense in the 9th inning as Brad Lidge tried to save the game with that slim 1-run lead.  Lidge has been amazing this month, so expectations were high.  With two outs and a runner on third, Lidge pitched around and walked rookie catcher Josh Thole.  What happened next is hard to imagine…

Lidge went into his windup and the third base umpire, Hunter Wendelstedt, suddenly called time out for the Mets to put in a pinch runner.  With the pitch already delivered, the batter grounded out and the game should have been over.  Instead, after much arguing, it was a do over.

Charlie Manuel was nearly tossed from the game sticking up for his team, and who could blame him.  It was another ridiculous, unprofessional act by yet another major league umpire.  You cannot call time out when the pitcher is already in his windup!  Unbelievable.  But even this moron could not stop the Phillies.  Lidge struck the batter out and collected the save.

The Braves are down 6-1 in DC in the top of the 7th as I write this.  If they go on to lose, the magic number will be down to TWO!  That means the Phillies could clinch the division either Saturday or Sunday.  I am SO ready for October!!

UPDATE: The Braves lost; the Phillies Magic Number is now TWO!!!


Blanton photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Phillies Sweep Braves! Magic Number = 4

The Phillies offense had their hands full tonight against a very good pitcher in Tommy Hanson.  They did not manage a hit off Hanson until the 5th inning and totaled only 2 hits during his 6 innings of work.  But with Roy Oswalt on the mound for the Phillies, the Braves kept running into a similar brick wall.

Oswalt flamethrower.jpgOswalt gave up his first and only hit allowed in the 4th inning; it was a double from Martin Prado.  No other Brave could figure him out.  Oswalt went 7 innings with just the one hit, no runs and struck out 8 batters.  It looked like he was wielding a flamethrower.

And the team needed this performance out of Oswalt because they were getting nothing done on the offensive.  Several times, they put men on base, but could not take advantage.  In the 5th, with 2 men in scoring position and 2 outs, Shane Victorino went down looking at a fastball right down the middle.  In the 6th, Ryan Howard was called out on a ball that catcher Brain McCann had to raise his glove above his head to catch.  How that was a strike, apparently, only the umpire knows.

But that was the way it went all night long until Raul Ibanez finally put the Phillies on the board in the 8th inning.  The Ibanez double scored Jayson Werth who had walked.  With a slim 1-0 lead, the Phils went into the 9th with Brad Lidge again.

Contrary to a very long stretch earlier in the year, Lidge had been “Light’s Out” lately.  If anyone had said that he would make it through the year with his job intact back then, most may have laughed.  But Lidge took what looked like a bad, injury-plagued year and turned it around…just in time.  Tonight, he recorded his 26th save in 31 opportunities.

This 3-game sweep of the Braves puts the Phillies 6 games ahead in the division with only 4 wins and/or combination of Braves loses to clinch.  The Phillies are now 18 and 3 in the month of September…amazing!  There is a well deserved day off tomorrow and then on Friday, the Mets come to town for 3 games.  The Phillies could clinch this weekend, at home.  How awesome would that be?  Go Phillies!


Head shot by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Halladay Wins #20; Phillies Extend Division Lead

Four games ahead in the division, the Phillies were poised to deliver a serious gut punch to the Braves tonight.  A victory would ensure a series win and reduce the Phillies magic number to 6.  With Roy Halladay set to pitch, the Phillies had to feel pretty good about their chances.

In the first inning, Halladay looked like he was firing bullets out of his arm.  He set the Braves down in order on only 6 pitches.  But after that, the struggles began and Halladay had issues with his control.  But in typical Halladay style, he worked in and out of jams to keep the game close.
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Despite the difficulties, Halladay made it through 7 innings while allowing 3 runs.  It was enough to earn him his 20th win of the season; no pitcher has reached that mark in the National League since 2005.  For the Phillies, the last time was in 1982 when Steve Carlton had 23 wins. 

So while tonight was not Halladay’s best effort, the poor man does look awfully tired after pitching 241 2/3 innings so far this year.  And with 20 wins, it is hard to complain.  With any luck, the Phillies can clinch the division early and give the Doc some much needed rest.

The offense was a little sluggish as well tonight, leaving 12 men on base.  But for the 2nd time this week, Jayson Werth came through at just the right time with a 3-run homer in the 3rd inning.  An even bigger clutch hit came with a 3-2 score in the 6th inning; Raul Ibanez smashed a 2-run double with 2 outs.  That gave the Phillies a bit more cushion to work with.

The defense was key to the team’s success as well.  Just like last night, the Phillies turned 3 great double plays to help out their pitchers.  Wilson Valdez almost had another one in the 5th, but Rick Ankiel charged 2nd with his hands up and Valdez hit him in the arm with the attempted throw to first.  It probably could have been called interference as Ankiel did not go straight for the bag, but the Phils had to settle for one out there.

Up by a score of 5-3 in the 8th, it was up to Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge to finish off the win.  Madson benefited from one of the double plays in the 8th, helping to get him out of the inning.  And Lidge pitched another great 9th inning to save the game.

So to recap, the Phillies are FIVE games ahead in the division with the magic number of 6 to win the division!  Game 3 with the Braves is tomorrow at 7:05pm…let’s go for the SWEEP!!!


Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Hamels Hammers The Braves

Cole Hamels was walking a very tight rope tonight against the division rival Braves.  Both team battled and runs would be hard to come by.  Luckily, the runs were more difficult for the Braves.

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Hamels pitched 8 amazing innings, shutting down Braves hitters.  He struck out 6, walked 1 and allowed only 1 run all night.  But there were many highlights in this game.  Here are just a few:

 Cole Hamels!  Duh.

 A key 2-out RBI double from Carlos Ruiz in the 2nd inning.

 3 double plays turned with the help of Wilson Valdez’s cannon of an arm and Chase Utley’s acrobatics.

 RBI’s by Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez.

Diaz bionic foot.jpg Another idiot ran onto the field during the game; but instead of the taser gun, the Phils used their secret weapon, Braves left fielder, Matt Diaz.  Using his super-bionic foot, Diaz tripped up the moron and security teams swept in to collect the stunned fan.  Take that, taser gun!  You have been foiled by Matt Diaz ;o)

 A super SAVE by Brad Lidge and a 3-1 win!

 The Phillies are now FOUR games ahead of the Braves in the NL East!

Not only are the Phils up by four games, they have decreased their magic number to 8!  With Roy 2.0, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, set to pitch the next two games, things look good for the Phillies.  Game time tomorrow is 7:05pm….Go Phillies!


Hamels photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*


Walk-Off Win Maintains Phillies NL East Lead

Until the 9th inning today, it looked like the Phillies may lose a game in the standings, where they lead the Braves by 3 games.  Down 6-3 against the Nationals, a win and a 3-game sweep look unlikely.  But if you have ever seen this Phillies team play, you know never to say never.

Joe Blanton appeared to be cruising right along at the start of the game.  But that dreaded 6th inning came creeping up on him and Blanton did his Jekyll and Hyde routine and became Blah-anton.  With 2 outs in the inning, he allowed a 3-run homer to give the Nats a 4-3 lead.  So close, yet so far….Blanton has had issues in the 6th inning of games all year long.

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The Phillies had some issues hitting Yunesky Maya, a rookie whom they have never faced.  Generally, this offense struggles against new pitchers.  It took until the 4th inning for them to figure him out when a Brian Schneider double scored their first 2 runs.  Then a Jayson Werth single scored Placido Polanco in the 5th.

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But drama unfolded in the 6th when Shane Victorino struck out on a check swing.  He got upset and tossed his helmet and bat.  3rd base umpire Angel Hernandez either did not like the outburst or maybe Victorino said something and he threw Victorino out of the game.  For now, the details are unclear.  Victorino’s reaction, on the other hand, was easy to spot:

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Victorino pushed past the home plate ump and ran towards Hernandez.  3rd base coach Sam Perlozzo had to restrain him while manager Charlie Manuel ran out to see what was going on.  No one knows yet what the consequences will be for Victorino, but it was a bonehead move on his part.  Victorino should have controlled himself.  Now we wait to see what happens next…

The Phils offense went to sleep for 2 innings after that while the bullpen gave up 2 more runs.  The 6-3 deficit looked insurmountable based on the way the Phils were playing…until the 9th inning.  Polanco singled, Chase Utley doubled and Ryan Howard singled to score both runners.  Howard was hitless to that point, so it was a huge boost for both him and the whole team.  Werth stepped to the plate and smashed a walk-off home run, giving the Phillies an improbable 7-6 win.

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With this win today and the Braves also winning, the Phillies maintain their 3-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.  The real fun begins tomorrow night when the Phils start a 3-game series with the Braves that has massive playoff implications.  With 12 games to go, the Phillies need a combination of wins and/or Braves losses equal to 10 to clinch.  These next 3 games are HUGE.

In the meantime, check out the Photo Album from today’s game which includes the game, the Philadelphia Zoo at the ballpark and the Paul Owens minor league awards presentation.  Scott Mathieson won the Best Pitcher award and Domonic Brown won the Best Player award.


Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*