Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’

Two Wins and Some Verbal Fireworks

After getting destroyed by the Indians earlier this week, the Phillies have won their first 2 games against the lowly Marlins.  Both Kyle Kendrick and rookie Jonathan Pettibone pitched well and the offense even managed to score some runs.  Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown hit home runs in each of the 2 games.

But keep in mind, all of this was against the smelly Fish, who did not have their best little fishy, Giancarlo Stanton, in the line-up.  With an 8-22 record, this team sucks.  So please excuse me for not being too impressed with these wins.  The Phillies beat bad teams in April as well, but they did not beat too many good ones.  So if they finish out this series strong and then give the San Francisco Giants a big-boy spanking, then I might be a little more excited.

What was sort of exciting this week was reading all the stories about the verbal spat between Phillies pitching coach and former-Phil’s closer turned baseball analyst, Mitch Williams.  Apparently, Rich Dubee yelled at Williams in Spring Training for trying to interfere with his pitchers.  Then this week, Mitchy-Poo went off via the WIP radio show on Dubee for not helping Phillies pitchers fix their mechanical issues.

There is nothing like a good dose of man-on-man hissy-fit drama early in the morning…yum!

But the best part was yet to come…When asked about Mitchy-Poo’s comments, Roy Halladay came to Dubee’s rescue like a knight on a white horse.  A normally reserved Halladay called Williams, “the mechanical wonder,” and said he was “completely out of line.”  Doc even demanded that Williams “make amends” for his criticism of Dubee.

And in his usual no-nonsense/smarty-pants style, Dubee suggested that Williams “submit a resume” if he wants to be a pitching coach.  Oh my.

I’ll say this about it, having spoken to both guys in the past on a variety of occasions.  Mitchy-Poo is a guy who, right or wrong, always speaks his mind.  I have a great deal of respect for him in that regard.  He speaks from his heart.  Dubee is very similar; he does not take crap from anyone and will always tell it like it is.

Once in the bullpen at a charity event, Dubee was showing me how to toss a fastball.  I quickly realized I had forgotten to take a ring off that I was wearing.  In order not to remove my glove and be quick about it, I pulled the ring off with my mouth, spit it into my palm and shoved in my pocket.  Dubee folded his arms, grinned and said, “What, you can’t toss a pitch with that rock on your finger?”  He then made a sarcastic comment about me trying to throw a spitball.  After that, I was videotaping him working in the pen with someone else, and he asked me if I was going to use that video against him later.

Dubee loves a good joke; he is a naturally funny guy, whether he is trying to be or not.  And he treats everyone the same, which I love about him.  I did not want to be babied in the bullpen just because I was a girl and I was not disappointed.

So maybe Williams should not be butting in with Phillies pitching, but then again, he is just doing his job as an analyst.  And Dubee is doing his job, protecting his players.  Both are good guys with good hearts.

In that case, who is right and who is wrong is sort of a mute point.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  However, I do think this little drama might inadvertently be a very good thing for the Phillies.  If Phillies pitchers want to defend the honor of their pitching coach, there is only one way to do that effectively…win!

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Head shot and photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Hamels Gets 1st Win as Chooch Returns for Sweep of Mets

Perhaps it is fitting that Cole Hamels did not get his first win of the season until the day Carlos Ruiz returned from a 25-game suspension.  Throughout the weekend, the Phillies suddenly began to show signs of life.  Maybe a lot of that had to do with the anticipation of Chooch’s return.

After losing 3 of 4 to the Pirates, the Phils proceeded to storm New York and sweep the Mets in 3 games.  Kyle Kendrick shut them out on Friday and Jonathan Pettibone collected his first major league win on Saturday.  Then Sunday afternoon, Hamels held the Mets to 1 run to complete the sweep.

While Ruiz did not have a huge impact on the game, going 1 for 4, his mere presence did seem to have everyone in high spirits.  The game was tied 1-1 going into the 7th; in previous games, this lack of offense would have had the entire team tied up in knots, pressing at the plate.  But today, everyone was a little more relaxed.

That 7th inning was the key; Laynce Nix came through again as a pinch-hitter with a 2-out single and Jimmy Rollins followed with a single of his own.  Then Ryan Howard, who did not start the game, smacked a 2-run, pinch-hit double to put the Phillies on top.  Chase Utley singled to score Howard and add to the lead.

Even the bullpen finally looked normal.  Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon each pitched a scoreless inning to nail down the 5-1 win.  This is the team we have all been waiting to see.  The question is, can they keep the momentum going?

Monday is an off day and Tuesday, the Phillies will be in Cleveland to take on the Indians at 7:05pm.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Kendrick’s Complete Game Shut-Out Ends Losing Streak

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  No!  It’s Super-KK!  What a relief for the Phillies after dropping 3 straight games to the Pirates, to see Kyle Kendrick pitch a gem against the Mets.  The 4-0 win came just in the nick of time, before this team spiraled way out of control.

In the complete game shut-out, Kendrick allowed only 3 hits and a walk.  He kept his cool, even after the home plate umpire suddenly ran off the field in the first inning.  Umpire Brian O’Nora apparently took ill and Kendrick was left standing around on the mound around 9-10 minutes waiting for Adrian Johnson to get his home plate gear on.

The delay did not deter the mighty Kendrick.  And by some small miracle, the offense actually scored some runs for him.  The Phillies had been leaving runners all over the base paths lately.  But tonight, they finally came through in the clutch.

In the 6th inning, Michael Young took a break from hitting into double plays for a change and actually singled to score Jimmy Rollins.  Then Ryan Howard did what we have been waiting for him to do for weeks and broke the game open with a 3-run bomb to center.  Whew!

With Kendrick firing bullets at the Mets, those 4 runs held up.  But can the winning continue with a rookie on the mound tomorrow?  Jonathan Pettibone takes the mound at 1:05pm tomorrow for his second major league start.  Good luck!

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Drama Ensues in Phillies Win Over the Cards

A 7-3 win for the Phillies over the Cardinals on Sunday night ended the series with each team taking 2 out of 4 games.  It was a very long game, on a very cold night with a virtual buffet of interesting and weird happenings.

It all began with the Phanatic’s birthday bash/movie premiere (Time Traveling Phanatic DVD) which was highlighted by faux Hollywood stars and actors from the movie.  I am sure all the parent who brought, or were going to bring, their kids to this fun event were less than thrilled about ESPN moving the game from 1:35pm to 8:05pm on a school night.  The fun went on, but there were not too many people there to see it.

Then Kyle Kendrick took the mound and, once again, he struggled early.  But Kendrick seems to have this routine down now; he tosses a boat-load of pitches early, gets in and out of trouble and eventually comes out with a quality start.  In this case, he allowed only 2 runs in 6 innings.  The extra drama does seem to motivate him lately.

The Phillies looked like they might get their bats going again in the first inning.  Starting with a Jimmy Rollins triple, they scored two runs.  But that inning also launched a very strange night for Chase Utley.  Apparently forgetting there was only one out, Utley ran from second to home on a fly ball by Michael Young and was doubled up before he even realized the blunder.

The Utley Sunday night adventure did not end there.  He later ran past second base on a ground-rule double, thinking it was a home run when it actually just bounced over the outfield wall.  And then Utley threw away a fairly routine ground ball in the 7th which sailed past Ryan Howard.   That same runner later scored, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

Utley did have 2 hits on the night, but where his head was all night long is a mystery.  Perhaps he was just getting it all out of his system and will now be error-free the rest of the year?  One can only hope…

The crowd was restless most of the night.  The game was dragging (3 ½ hours long!), it was getting colder and later, the defense was not great and the offense died again after that run in the first inning.  Both Young and Ben Revere hit into double plays to kill rallies.  People were shouting not-so-nice things at players all night long.  It was a bit depressing.  This team has not given fans a lot to cheer about lately.

But the Phillies finally found redemption in the bottom of the 8th inning; the biggest redemption was for Revere.  With 1 out and runners on the corners, Revere singled to center to put the Phils ahead.  Catcher Erik Kratz, who was batting a paltry .192 coming into the game, then smashed a 3-run homer to give the Phillies a 7-3 lead which led to the win.  Whew!

In other weird news, the Phillies have called up 22-year old Jonathan Pettibone to make a spot start tonight since John Lannan is on the DL.  This is weird because, in 2 starts this season in Triple-A, Pettibone has a 9.64 ERA.  I guess there was no one else available?  It should be an interesting night; either he will get destroyed very early by the Pirates or he will totally surprise everyone.  Good luck to him!

And here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Halladay Finds His Mojo Against the Cards

The Roy Halladay we have all been waiting to see returned last night in an 8-2 win over the Cardinals.  It began with his last start against the Marlins and then Friday night, he continued to improve in an impressive 7-inning effort.

The game was called due to rain after the 7th, so this will go in the books as a complete game for Halladay.  He allowed only 2 runs, both solo homers.

But the really encouraging part was seeing Halladay get angry.  Not the fiery red-faced, frustrated sort of anger; this was his old competitive fire, finally burning once again.  He got mad in situations that most would just shrug off; for example, Ben Revere made another amazing catch in center field, but Halladay was visibly annoyed that the batter was able to hit the ball that hard, even though it turned into an out.

Halladay also had no issues trying to intimidate first-year major league umpire, Alan Porter, by staring him down or barking at him when he didn’t get the call he wanted.  Porter had blown a fair/foul call the day before that put the Phillies in a hole, so no one was sad to see Roy giving him a hard time.

Seeing Halladay back to his old, grouchy self is a very positive sign.  For some pitchers, this might mean the guy is getting frazzled; but for Halladay, being grouchy means he is on his game, ready to compete.  When good is not good enough for the Doc, you know he is feeling confident.

Just as exciting as seeing Halladay find his mojo again was seeing the Phillies offense finally get some hits.  The Phils busted out for 5 runs in the first inning, which was triggered by Chase Utley drawing a 2-out walk.  And thank goodness someone walked, because I was getting beyond tired of hearing every single sports reporter whine about the lack of walks.  Now they can all get back to whining about Ryan Howard

Howard did not play last night due to a sore groin and he is day-to-day.  Kevin Frandsen filled in at 1st base and drew the 2nd walk of the game for the Phillies and scored twice.  Freddy Galvis started his second consecutive game in left field and made one of the weirdest diving catches you will ever see.  His hand actually did a 360-degree turn on the ground, with the ball in the mitt.  Of course, I cannot find a video of it anywhere…but it does look like we may have another outfielder.  This guy looks like he can play anywhere…amazing.

So the real question tonight is will the Phillies offense come to play two days in a row?  Cliff Lee hopes so; he takes the mound at 7:05pm tonight.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

A Tale of Two Pitchers

While Cliff Lee is pitching like a man at the peak of his career, Roy Halladay seems to be in a free fall.  With an 8-3 pounding of the Mets last night, Lee has started the season off with a 2-0 record.  Halladay, on the other hand, has begun with 2 awful losses.

Even the offense seemed pumped to perform for Lee.  The Phillies even hit 3 home runs in 1 inning to support their ace on the mound.  Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry Jr. all went yard for the first time this year.

Lee gave up only 2 earned runs and nearly pitched a complete game, coming just one out shy.  Manager Charlie Manual decided his pitch count was high enough at 106 and had Mike Adams finish off the game.

On the exact opposite side of things, Halladay looks like a little lost boy out on the mound searching for home.   His 2-7 loss to the Mets on Monday was especially difficult to watch.  Halladay allowed 7 runs in only 4 innings before being chased out of the game.  The Mets looked like they were taking batting practice off him.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems here.  But I would like to point out one issue that I have not heard anyone else mention.  Keep in mind, I am not a doctor and this is just an observation on my part; I have no inside knowledge here.  The Doc looks like he needs a doc.

The temperature at game time on Monday was 72 degrees, which dropped into the mid-60’s by the 2nd inning.  And yet, Halladay was sweating so profusely that it looked like rain coming off the brim of his cap.  His face was not just red; it was almost purple.  And this is not a new observation.  Halladay has been exhibiting the fire-faced sweats since Spring Training.

During the spring, they blamed it on the flu or some kind of virus.  I think it is safe to assume he no longer has this virus.  Still, in 65 degree weather, at night, Halladay looked like he might pass out on the mound.  This is a problem that I think might go beyond age or mechanics.  I am seriously beginning to think he may be ill.

I could be totally off base here, but I am worried about the guy.  I cannot help but wonder if the medical staff has done any blood tests or if a proud man like Halladay would even submit to such testing?

This very well could just be Father Time catching up to a man who dominated the pitching world for so long.  Maybe he is just out of bullets.  Maybe the fire-faced sweats are just a combination of the usual work that goes into pitching and a boat-load of stress.  And maybe he will figure out how to locate his pitches again and all will be well with the world.  I hope that is the case.

Perhaps I am just grasping at straws here for an answer.  And I am sure no one wants Roy Halladay to figure out what the issue is more than Roy Halladay.  In the meantime, all we can do is watch and hope for the best.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Home Opener Disaster for Phillies

The day began so promising for the Phillies.  The sun was shining, people were smiling and the Home Opener was upon us:

The festivities continued with the traditional patriotism, Leap Frog jumpers falling from the sky and team introductions.  Retired Phillies Mike Schmidt and Dickie Noles joined their former rival from the 1980 Phillies-Royals World Series, George Brett on the field for some pre-game pitches.  All was well with the world…

And then the game started.

The Phillies actually looked like the World Series champs of old for about 4 innings.  Domonic Brown and Erik Kratz hit home runs; Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were hitting; and by the end of the 3rd inning, the Phillies had a 4-0 lead.

And then it all went downhill….fast.

Kyle Kendrick, who was solid to start the game, began getting hit hard by the 5th inning.  By the 6th inning, Kendrick was out of gas and pulled from the game.  But not before the Phils intentionally walked Billy Butler to load the bases with 2 outs.  This may have been the one call that sent the game into a real tailspin.

Because once the bullpen took over, all hell broke loose.  All 3 of those runs scored, thanks to Jeremy Horst.  Additional damage was done by the pen later, as the Royals scored in every single inning from the 5th on.

Ben Revere got called out when he looked safe (see photo)…Brown dove for a ball in the outfield and missed…it was a total disaster.

By the 8th inning, fans were scurrying to the exits like a herd of deer running from a hungry cougar.  It was ugly.

With this 4-13 loss, the Phillies have now dropped 3 of their first 4 games, allowing 29 runs in those 3 losses.  They seriously need a win tonight.

John Lannan makes his Phillies debut tonight at 7:05pm.  Best of luck to him…he’ll need it.

And here is the Photo Album from the game.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Weekend Prelude to Opening Day

The Phillies hosted two exhibition games this weekend, signaling the end of Spring Training and the start of the regular season on Monday. As they have the past several years, the Phillies planned a number of special events and surprises on Friday and Saturday.

Friday began with the On-Deck Reception, hosted by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. There were players signing autographs, several Q & A sessions with players and coaches, and an on-field introduction of the entire team:

I personally got autographs from Domonic Brown (and a photo as well), Erik Kratz, John Mayberry Jr. and Antonio Bastardo. This was my first time attending this particular event and it was well worth the effort. The only bummer of the day was I discovered that the autofocus on my very expensive camera had died :O( Ugh. So I apologize in advance for 2 days worth of so-so photos, as I had to use my mediocre eye sight to manually focus a very large lens.

The prior to the evenings game, players wandered around the stadium greeting fans and some stopped for photos. I had my picture taken with John Lannan, Antonio Bastardo, Humberto Quintero and hitting coach Wally Joyner.

Cliff Lee started the game that night and looked ready to go for the season. But his real highlight was helping Cole Hamels man the Phanatic’s hot dog shooter between innings:

To be honest, the game was rather boring, so the hot dog-interlude was a very welcome distraction. The Phils lost 1-0.

More fun was happening prior to Saturday’s game as well. After some very stealth stalking on my part, I managed to get photos with a few new guys and a Hall of Famer: Mike Adams, Ender Inciarte and third-base-coach/HOF guy, Ryne Sandburg. That was pretty awesome. Both exhibitions games were well worth the trip because of these little extras.

The game itself, however, did not go well against a very potent Blue Jays line-up. The Jays beat up on Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 5 runs in 3 innings. John Lannan took over for the next 3 innings and held the Jays to 1
more run. It was not quite out of reach for the Phillies though until very late. Here are a few highlights:

And Cliff Lee finally got his turn at the helm of the hot dog cannon, with Hamels “feeding” the device:

The end result was a 10-4 loss. But luckily, the game did not count.

The Phillies announced the Opening Day roster afterwards. There were not too many surprises there:

Rotation (5): Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

Bullpen (7): Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes.

Catchers (2): Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero.

Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis.

Outfielders (5): Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Ender Inciarte.

Inciarte is a Rule-5 guy; they have to keep him on the roster or offer him back to the D-backs. Only 22-years old, he has never played above High-A level. He offers some depth in the outfield for now. Plus, he is adorable, so I approve ;o)

So here we are, finally! Opening Day! Game time is 7:10pm Monday night in Atlanta.

And here are the links to my photo albums from the weekend: Friday’s On-Deck Reception and Exhibition Game and Saturday’s Exhibition Game.

Go Phillies!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Betancourt Released; Phillies Walking a Very Tight Rope

Despite a superb spring, Yuniesky Betancourt has been released.  In his contract, March 24th was designated as the deadline for the Phillies to either keep him on the big league roster or let him go.  They chose to let him go even after Betancourt hit .447 with 14 RBI with 3 doubles and a home run in 47 at-bats.

This means that both Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen will make the team as utility infielders.  I am a little confused by this move, but not in the way you may be thinking.  I like Frandsen; while there is no guarantee he will have a solid year like he did in 2012, he has paid his dues and earned a spot on the team.

Galvis still has options and therefore, could have started the year in Triple-A and worked on his offense where he will get many more at-bats.  If Betancourt did not work out, they could have released him and then brought up Galvis.  That would have given the Phillies more options.  As it stands now, they are walking across a very tight rope with little room for error.

And then there is the big question mark lingering in the air that no one seems to want to discuss.  Galvis was suspended 50 games last year for using performance-enhancing drugs.  Of course, like every player who tests positive, Galvis denies using PED’s.  But what if he were to test positive again?  Betancourt is gone and the options for the Phillies are now very limited.

I certainly hope nothing of the sort would happen, but think about Carlos Ruiz.  No one saw that one coming either.  Ruiz made the same mistake twice and so it follows that Galvis could fall into the same trap, as could anyone else for that matter.  You also have to wonder how each will perform without the use of PED’s.

I will not be popular for pointing this out, but it had to be said.  Galvis seems like a nice kid with a boat-load of talent and he can play multiple positions.  I think he will be a big contributor to the team.  So I am not saying letting Betancourt go in favor of Galvis was necessarily a terrible idea; in fact, I am glad I did not have to make that decision as it had to be a very tough one.  But Betancourt would have given the Phillies more wiggle room.

A Ruf Life

Speaking of not being popular, this one will not earn me any new friends either.  I think the Phillies should trade Darin Ruf.  Now, hear me out before you freak. 

I was really rooting for Ruf this Spring, but it became obvious that he is not an outfielder.  The Phillies sent him back to Triple-A to work on it, but I have to say that it just does not look like he will ever be ready to play left field.  Just look at him; he is built like a first baseman, or if he played football, a linebacker.  Ruf does not have the body-type to run down balls in the outfield.  He can improve, but to what extent?

First base is clearly where he belongs, however, Ryan Howard is not going away anytime soon.  And Ruf’s value will not be much higher than it is right now, which is why this is the time to trade him when the Phillies will get the most in return.

If the outfield does not pan out for Ruf, what do you do with him?  Ruf will be 27 years old in July; the clock is ticking…

Boom Goes The 3-4 Combo

In consecutive Spring Training games, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have hit back-to-back homers.  With the rate these two are hitting, is anyone else getting nervous?  I mean, we do not want them to run out of bullets before the season even starts, right?  Both Utley and Howard have gotten a ton of playing time this spring.  Perhaps it is time to stop pushing their luck and rest them before anyone gets hurt or worn out?

It is extremely uplifting to see Utley and Howard back in action and, more importantly, healthy!  So this is nervous excitement talking here, but pretty please, can we just give it a break until Opening Day?  Dear Phillies, please do not wear out this wonderful 3-4 combo before April 1st.  Thank you in advance.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Magic Moments of Phillies Spring Training

The first official Spring Training game for the Phillies will take place on Saturday.  I am excited for baseball!  But there is also a little sadness that I cannot be in Clearwater this year to enjoy the first crack of the bat under the warm Florida sunshine.  If you are lucky enough to be heading south, enjoy it!

Spring Training is a magical moment in time where players are generally happy, relaxed and having a good time.  The fan-friendly atmosphere and nice weather draws big crowds each year.  And while the games are interesting, they really don’t mean much.  The real reason to head to Clearwater is to mingle with other fans, chat with players, get autographs and photos and, most importantly, get a closer look at how major leaguers behave when their guard is down.

You may notice a lot of smiles, laughter and silly hijinks.  To demonstrate, and also to get you in the Spring Training frame of mind, here are some of my favorite photos and moments from years past in Clearwater:

First up, the normally quiet and reserved Chase Utley laughs out loud and on another occasion, poses and smiles for me:

Jimmy Rollins waves hello and later attempts to play golf with his bat and ball:

Phillies alum Mike Schmidt has some fun with Reggie Jackson; Charlie Manuel jokes around with his players:

Remember Fan Fest?  For some reason, the Phillies have cancelled this annual tradition of meeting players and getting autographs.  But it was amazing while it lasted.  Here are Chad Durbin and Kyle Kendrick signing and posing for me:

I attended a few Team USA games while in Clearwater.  The most memorable moment was watching Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees field balls side-by-side during warm-ups.  The second photo is Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, making an odd face at batting practice:

Here we have the Big Man, Ryan Howard, yucking it up on the field and later doing his impersonation of an airplane (or maybe he was just playing 1st base?):

And finally, just me and my camera hanging out by the field before batting practice.  You can see how close fans can get to the field:

Are you ready to pack your bags yet?  Wishing I was….sigh.  Maybe next year :O)

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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