Results tagged ‘ Red Sox ’

The Rumor Mill Begins to Turn…

The Phillies have done themselves no favors during the first half of the season.  Their mediocre play has left them in 3rd place in the NL East and 9.5 games out of first.  Losing 3 out of 4 against the Dodgers this past weekend did not help their case either.

And so the rumor mill begins to turn with names like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in the mix.  If the team does not pick up their play significantly in the next few weeks, this could signal the end of an era.  It is hard to envision a Phillies team without Utley or Rollins, but that may soon be the reality.

The most persistent rumor recently has the Red Sox making a run at 3rd baseman Michael Young.  The Phillies signed Young as basically a 1-year rental, so his departure would not be surprising.  Utley is in the last year of his contract, so losing him is also a possibility, although not one that most people would be very happy about.

Utley may be the most beloved player in franchise history.  If the Phillies trade him, they run the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base.  This is guy who blurted out the F-word on national television, not once, but twice, and people still say he can do no wrong.  That is a powerful show of affection, especially in a city like Philadelphia.

Rollins, on the other hand, may not be missed quite as much.  While he is the longest tenured active Phillie and a former MVP, Rollins still has that magical ability to piss people off.  He has made derogatory comments in the past about Philly Fans and he has been criticized for a lack of hustle.  More recently, Rollins said he was “not disappointed” with the team’s 1-3 performance in Los Angeles this past weekend.

While Rollins has a point, that being he believes the team will overcome, it still rubs some people the wrong way.  Personally, I like Jimmy.  He speaks his mind and I respect that.  So seeing him in another uniform would be quite a shock.  It would not, however, induce the same type of freak-out that losing Utley would.

On Tuesday night, the Phillies pulled out a 3-1 win over the best team in baseball right now, the Pirates.  That is still weird to say…  However, even that win may not help quite the trade rumors.  A sweep of the Bucos might be helpful, but even in a win, the Phillies still have some very obvious, glaring problems.

The bullpen, for example, is a huge mess.  It took 3 pitchers who combined to load the bases to get the Phillies through the 8th inning last night.  It did work out, but could have easily ended in disaster.  The offense is getting better, but they are still not hitting consistently with runners in scoring position.  And the defense is very shaky; Delmon Young dropped a routine fly ball last night which is a prime example of the issues on the field.

All we can do now is hold our collective breaths, wait and hope the Phillies can pull out a string of convincing wins before the All-Star break.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Brown’s Bombs

Hitting five homers in his last four game, Domonic Brown is on fire…and it is about time.  The Phillies have been waiting for Brown to explode and reach his potential for years now.  It looks like he may be right on track now.

Fresh off his first Player of the Week honors, Brown may now be in the running for Player of the Month.  He has been the one bright spot in an otherwise drab Phillies season so far.  Brown’s efforts have helped the Phillies win the last 2 games against the Red Sox, but can the Phillies keep up the pace?

The team lost another player yesterday due to a family issue; Michael Young was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list and will be gone 3-7 days.  There was no clarification beyond that.  And Chase Utley is progressing slower than everyone had hoped after an oblique injury.  With many other Phils on the DL as well, it will not be easy for this team to keep their heads above water.

Brown’s recent performance has been a big boost.  Erik Kratz looks like he is finding his groove as well.  But clutch hitting on this team is still not happening much.  With 1 out and the bases loaded last night in the 7th, Ryan Howard struck out and John Mayberry Jr. then popped out.  With 1 out and 2 runners on in the 6th, Freddy Galvis ended the inning by hitting into a double play.  These examples are the exact opposite of clutch hitting and sadly, it happens more often than not.

Last night’s win was the result of good pitching and 4 solo home runs.  I stress the “solo” part because no one seems to want to hit with runners on base.  For example, the Phillies had 4 stolen bases in the game, but none of those runners scored.  The team left 8 men on base and went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Still, it was a win so we’ll take it.  But Brown’s bombs are not going to carry a team; he is going to need a tad more help.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Big Questions About the Big Piece

The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers.  Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.

Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:

Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better.  By May 23rd, he needed a break again.  He started the next 2 games and went 1-8.  On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game.  And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base.  He appeared to be having great difficulty running.

All of this is very bad news.  The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears.  If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited.  And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.

And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.”  Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure.  It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury.  In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.

Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history.  With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.

And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster.  There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.

Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win?  Remember Howard’s response to that criticism?  He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.

Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion.  The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan.  There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation.  The bullpen is horrible.  The offense is non-existent.  The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.

As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.

Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The First Series Win of 2013

The Phillies won their first series of the season by beating the Mets on Wednesday night by a 7-3 score.  It was certainly hitting weather; all 10 runs scored in the game came from home runs.  The real difference in the game was that the Phillies hit with men on base and the Mets did not.

The other big bangs of the night came from the thunder and lightning in the sky, which delayed the game for just under half an hour.  But pitcher Kyle Kendrick weathered the storm and rebounded from a bad first start of the season at the Home Opener.  He struggled at times, but worked out of the jams with determination.

This was a very big win for the Phils who were off to a very scary start in the first 9 games of the year, of which they have now won 4.  Not great, but things are looking up.

On the other hand, attendance is trending downward.  There were an awful lot of empty seats at Citizens Bank Park this home stand, with attendance dipping as low as 35,393 on Monday night.  I suppose fewer and fewer folks are feeling optimistic about the team these days.

But don’t feel bad; the Phillies are not alone.  The Red Sox record-breaking streak of 820 games (794 in the regular season) finally ended last night.  Ah yes, the fans of Boston are but mere mortals once again.

So cheer up people!  It is a new season and everyone has still got a chance…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Add More Pitching & Hamels Gets an Unpleasant Surprise

The Phillies have added three right handed pitchers;  Juan Cruz, Aaron Cook and Rodrigo Lopez.  They have each been asked to attend Spring Training as non-roster invitees on minor league contracts.

You may remember Lopez (photo to the right); he started 5 games for the Phillies in 2009.  He spent the last 2 years with the Cubs and in the minors.  Lopez, 37, has a career 4.82 ERA in the majors and compiled a 5.28 ERA in the minors last year over 18 games.

Cook and Cruz are both 34 years old.  Cook posted a 5.65 ERA in 18 starts with the Red Sox last year and will get $1.625 million if he makes the roster.  Cruz was with the Pirates in 2012 and went 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 43 games.

The combined age of all three pitchers is 105.  Clearly, these signings were not meant to help the team get any younger.  These are just more spare parts in case Cole Hamels breaks a finger nail or Roy Halladay’s arm falls off.

Hamels is already having a rough off-season.  In October, the star pitcher apparently had a sore shoulder, which the Phillies have since downplayed as being nothing serious.

And more recently, Hamels found out that the Philadelphia school system flat out lied to him in regards to donations he and his wife made to 3 Philly schools that are now slated for closure.  They were assured these schools would remain open.  The Hamels Foundation is now trying to save those schools so that the playgrounds and library they helped build do not get torn down and turned into apartment complexes or the like.

At least Spring Training is almost here…26 days to go!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

An UnbeLEEvable Let Down

So this is what I get for being optimistic…a clunker from Cliff Lee.  Ugh.  The Phillies lost the 3-game series to the Red Sox today with a 5-1 loss.  Lee still does not have a win on the season, although the previous losses were not his fault.

The offense kept letting Lee down.  Today, it was Lee’s turn :O(  The first batter he faced smacked a home run to center, which was not a good omen.  Through 7 innings, Lee surrendered 5 runs, all of which came in the first 3 innings.  Lee found his groove after that, but it was too late.

The offense simply stunk again.  Lee created the most excitement at the plate with a double in the 3rd.  But while there was plenty of action at second base, the Phillies could not seem to find home plate.

Hunter Pence had two hits in the game and missed what may have been a third hit except that it was lined sharply to first.  I do not know why the Red Sox were belly aching about having less defense with David Ortiz at first base due to National League rules, because Big Papi snagged every ball that came his way.  He was quite annoying.

But Big Papi also had a little fun with rookie Freddy Galvis when they met at first base.  Galvis had one hit in the game and played amazing defense, like usual.  And now, he has been officially baptized in the majors as Ortiz appeared to razz him a bit.  Although the look on Galvis’ face in the photo to the far right below says about all you need to know about how this game went…

But do you want to know what the real problem with the Phillies offense is?  For starters, Jimmy Rollins has been quietly having an awful year.  He is batting .229.  Shane Victorino is not far off with a .253 average.  Essentially, all of the regular starters (meaning, those not on the DL) are underperforming while the “bench” guys or secondary starters are doing most of the damage.

Oh, and the other issue.  A photo is worth a thousand words (see photo to the right)…need I say more?

In the “good news” column, Jake Diekman appears to be back on track after one bad outing.  He was really sharp as he struck out the side in the 8th inning.

The Phillies squeaked out one run in the bottom of the 8th, but left the bases loaded…again.  They seem to be allergic to home plate.  Benadryl, anyone?  Ah-chooo!

And just in time, when the offense has begun to stink again, here come the Nationals…Game 1 is Monday night at 7:05pm.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Blanton Bombs Against Red Sox

Now that Phillies fans have all gotten used to seeing Joe Blanton in top form, I suppose he was due to throw a clunker.  Blanton had only given up 2 home runs all year, but last night, he gave up 4 in just one game against the Red Sox.

By the middle of the 4th inning, the score was 5-1 and Blanton had also already made two huge fielding errors in the game.  Clearly, this was not his night.  So when Pete Orr was on deck in the bottom of the 4th to hit for Blanton, I thought, great idea!  Let’s get some more runs and let the pen have a shot at shutting down the Sox.

Imagine my dismay when, after Freddy Galvis smacked a 2-run homer, Orr was called back to the dugout and Blanton went out to hit!  Really?  Those 2 runs meant Blanton would suddenly snap out of his funk?  I think not…

And sadly, I was correct.  I get that manager Charlie Manuel did want to rely on what has been an unreliable bullpen.  But if there was ever a time to give them a shot to redeem themselves, this was it.  Blanton looked awful out there and the insanity continued in the 5th inning.

Only after allowing 3 more hits, including a 2-run homer, was Blanton finally pulled from the game, having recorded only 1 out in the inning.  Buried in a 7-4 hole, the bullpen did actually get the job done after that, not allowing another run to score.  But by that time, the damage was done and the Phillies scored only one more run.

The offense had changes, but luck did not go their way.  Carlos Ruiz, the teams hottest hitter, was robbed of what should have been a 2-run double in the 7th by Ryan Sweeney, who suddenly grew wings, flew through the air and snagged Ruiz’s hit out of the air.  It was an amazing play.

In the 9th, Ruiz was robbed again as he smoked a ball…unfortunately, it went right to the shortstop and was caught.  The ball was hit so hard that Hunter Pence had no chance to get back to first and was doubled up.  Bad luck, indeed…

Later, Shane Victorino popped out on the first pitch he saw with the bases loaded in the 8th.  And that was the end of the threat as the Phillies went on to lose by a score of 7-5.

There were some bright spots, like Galvis’ homer, making it 2 games in a row with a bomb.  And John Mayberry Jr. reached base all 5 times he stepped to the plate for the first time in his career.  Hector Luna also had a great night with 3 hits and an RBI.

But mostly, the good news is that the Phillies never gave up, even when it looked like the game was out of reach.  This is something that we have all been waiting for this season…a little extra fight even when they are down.

They have another shot at the Sox today.  If they win, the Phils will take the series.  Cliff Lee is pitching and I will return with photos!  Game time is 1:35pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Friday Night Smackdown: Philadelphia 2, Boston 0

Both the Red Sox and the Celtics were in town Friday night, which is something that does not happen very often.  Also a rare occurrence, both home teams came out on top…the Phillies beat the Sox, 6-4 and the 76ers took down the Celtics, 92-83 in playoff action.  The stars aligned in Philly for what was a special night.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had a great view of the game from the Hall of Fame club section as he served his one day suspension for a heated argument with umpire Bob Davidson on Tuesday.  Davidson was also suspended one game, even though he is the one who instigated the entire incident.  I felt like he should have gotten more…but hey, MLB suspending an umpire publically?  That is also something you do not see every day so we’ll take it.

An even bigger story last night was closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was looking forward to facing his old team.  He had many reason to be fired up, including the fact that after last season, the Red Sox did not even bother to offer him a contract.  But whether or not Papelbon was going to get a shot at revenge would depend on the rest of the team…

Cole Hamels did his part, winning 6 straight starts in games in which he earned a decision for the first time in his career.  He allowed 3 runs over 7 innings last night while striking out 9 batters.

Meanwhile, the Carlos Ruiz ridiculous hit parade continued with 2 more hits, 2 more RBI, another stolen base and a run scored in the game.  Hunter Pence is reaping the rewards of Chooch’s success; batting in front of Ruiz, Pence is getting better pitches to hit.  Pence homered in the game and had 2 hits total.  Freddy Galvis and John Mayberry Jr. each also had a hit and an RBI.

Chad Qualls came out of the pen for the 8th and right away cut the Phillies lead to 5-4 as he gave up a homer.  Luckily, the Galvis home run in the bottom of the inning gave Papelbon some breathing room in the 9th.

Then, as if it was scripted, Papelbon got his wish; a 2-run lead and a save situation in the 9th against his former team.  And just like a storybook ending, Papelbon got the save.  But as he noted after the game, he will got gloat until the Phillies win the 3-game series.

Game 2 starts a little late tonight at 7:15pm as Pat Burrell will retire before the game on a 1-day contract with the Phillies.  If you had not heard, a group of comedians (www.birdtext.com) recently made a video spoof which pokes fun at Burrell’s reputation with the ladies.  According to the model who stars in the video, Burrell saw the video and liked it so much, he invited them all to tonight’s game and even requested the tee-shirts they are selling to promote the video.  You can hear her interview on the Preston and Steve show here or at www.birdtext.com .

You have to see this….it is hysterical:

So remember, don’t let your mom, wife, sister, girlfriend or whoever get “Burrelled” tonight ;o)

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

5 in a Row!

Winning 5 games in a row seemed an impossible task for the Phillies until now.  Their longest win streak of the season previous to this one was only 2 games.  They have also gone above the .500 mark for the first time since the first game of the year.

Even having Roy Halladay on the mound has been no guarantee of a win this year as the offense has underperformed.  Against the Cubs on Thursday night, Halladay finally got some run support and had a good game himself as well.

Over 8 innings, Halladay allowed 3 runs, 2 of which were solo homers.  But he was even hotter at the plate, going 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored.  Only 3 other Phillies had multi-hit nights,

One of those guys was Halladay’s battery mate, Carlos Ruiz.  To say Ruiz is on fire right now is an understatement.  He is scorching every pitch that comes his way.  In this game, Ruiz went 4 for 5 with 3 RBI and he is now hitting .363.  He even stole a base.  Wow.

Juan Pierre continues to nip at Ruiz’s heels with a .343 average and 2 more hits in last night’s game.  Pierre also made several outstanding grabs in left field.

But while the offense was cooking and it looked like this game might be a laugher, the all too familiar bullpen monster reared its ugly head again.  With an 8-3 lead in the 9th, we saw the other side of rookie Jake Diekman.  Two games ago, he was spectacular in his major league debut.  But last night, he was the exact opposite…awful.

Diekman walked 2 batters, hit a third batter and then gave up a bases-clearing double.  The score narrowed to 8-6 with 2 outs and Jonathan Papelbon had to be brought in to close the game.  He allowed an RBI single to the first batter he faced, making the total line for Diekman 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning.  Yikes!

Papelbon did finally get the job done, but the final score was a frighteningly close 8-7.  And the “other” side of Diekman was not something we would ever like to see again.

So the Phillies are heading home for a 3-game interleague series with the Red Sox.  Game 1 starts at 7:05pm tonight.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Reaction to Phillies Signing of Jonathan Papelbon

I have had a few days to let the Jonathan Papelbon signing sink in now and I am still not sure what to think.  Papelbon is a proven closer and a 4-time All-Star.  In 2011, he saved 31 out of 34 games for the Red Sox and posted a 2.94 ERA.

Madson byebyeABoth Papelbon and Ryan Madson are the same age and have similar stats with the big difference being experience as a closer.  Papelbon has six years experience, Madson has just over a year all together.

Rumor has it that Madson was willing to take a 4-year, $44 million deal.  The Phillies signed Papelbon for  4-years and $50 million.  Madson would have been cheaper, theoretically, but Paplebon has the edge in experience.

My only concern is this: Madson seems to be on an up-swing with his stats improving over the past 3-years as he worked into the closer role.  On the other hand, Papelbon had a horrid 2010 season, improving in 2011, but still nowhere near his All-Star numbers from 2006-2009.  To me, this seems like a slight downward trend.

Then again, perhaps a change of scenery and removal from a Red Sox team that just had several surprisingly bad years will be the key to Papelbon’s return to form.

I realize I sound schizophrenic but I am just caught in between here.  This move to me is not good or bad…yet.  If Madson signs for a lot less than $50 million, this move may not look good.  Otherwise, only time will tell.

This $50 million deal also brings up a few other questions.  Will the Phillies have enough cash left to re-sign Jimmy Rollins?  Can they still work out a deal for a role player like Michael Cuddyer?  Once again, the Phillies raised ticket prices for the upcoming season so clearly, money is on their minds.

By the way, my favorite part of that article about the tickets is when John Weber, vice president of sales, says, “we will work with anyone who wants to move to another seating area.”  Really?  Because I tried that last year and was basically laughed at by a sales rep who told me there was almost no chance of a different seat opening up.  Anyone else had the same experience?

Back to the topic of closer, I would like to know what everyone else thinks of the move.  Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

And best of luck to Madson; he will be missed.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

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