Category Archives: MLB

Hamels tosses gem, Phillies complete sweep of Reds

Yes a Phillies win.  And yes a four game sweep of the NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds.  All is good in Philly.  Right?  I don’t mean to get personal in a post game wrap up but this four game sweep doesn’t really make me feel any better.  Yes, don’t get me wrong, a sweep is exactly what the Phillies needed going into the All-Star break.

However, playing against such a potent offense like the Reds you would think a sweep means the Phillies were back to their normal ways of smashing the ball and putting up crooked numbers.  Not the case.  Except for the ninth inning Friday night, every inning the Phillies have scored in this series has only been the one run.  It did work don’t get me wrong.  But nothing is fixed.  The starting pitchers, minus Kentucky Fried Blanton, really stepped it up.  The trio of Kyle Kendrick, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels threw a combined 23.1 innings and allowed only 14 hits and one earned run.  It was exactly what the Phillies offense needed only supporting their efforts with six runs over those three games.

The one good thing about the offense is they are putting the ball in play only striking out four times in this game.  Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz each had a walk and a hit while Jimmy Rollins contributed the other two hits including an RBI single in the third inning scoring Ruiz for the only run of the game.

That was all Hamels would need.  He didn’t allow a run for the first time in his 18 starts this season.  This does not mean he is back to his ’08 form yet but he is getting there.  He worked out a bases loaded with no outs jam in the fourth.  Hamels only struck out three but was able to trust the defense with balls in play.  He also had three walk throwing 112 pitches.

After escaping a jam in last night’s game, Brad Lidge came in for the ninth to record the final two outs for his sixth save of the season.  He needed only five pitches to end the game.

Worth noting: The Mets beat the Braves 3-0 which puts the Phillies 4 1/2 games behind the Braves and only a 1/2 game behind the Mets.

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Moyer breaks HR record while Phillies’ bats pound Blue Jays

After taking the night off yesterday, the Phillies offense got it going early and often today against the Toronto Blue Jays in the series finale of what was a road series in their home ballpark at Citizens Bank beating the Jays 11-2.

Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ben Francisco each had three hits apiece for the Phils who have been on a scoring tear for the past four series.  They are averaging almost six runs a game while playing the Yankees, Twins, Indians and now Toronto winning 8 of 12.  They scored all their runs today without help from the long ball, which should be a good sign their offense is clicking.

Jaime Moyer broke Phillies Hall of Famer Robin Roberts’ record of home runs allowed in a career.  Moyer gave up number 506 to Vernon Wells in the third inning but by then it was already too late.  Philly bats chased Toronto’s starter Brett Cecil in the fifth inning after he allowed seven runs and threw 97 pitches.  Phillies starters were showing patience at the plate, seeing almost four pitches per at bat.  Another sign they are seeing the ball really well.

Record breaking jitters aside, it was business as usual for Moyer.  Other than the homer to Wells, Moyer only allowed five hits and struck out seven before finishing out the seventh inning.  He is now tied for the team lead in wins with Roy Halladay at nine.  Over his last three starts, Moyer has thrown 23 innings and only allowed five earned runs while striking out 17.  The Phillies, not surprisingly, are 3-0 in those games.

The Phillies were without Placido Polanco for a second straight game after he said he aggravated his elbow making a play in Friday’s game.  He is scheduled to receive another cortisone shot today which will likely keep him out until Tuesday at the earliest.

The only Phils starters without a hit were Jayson Werth and Wilson Valdez.  They both went 0-5.

Worth mentioning: Rollins, Francisco and catcher Dane Sardinha each had two RBIs.  I know all of you started him in fantasy.  Right?

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A Battle of, and for, the Ages

The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees get set to start a three game series of inter-league play at Yankee Stadium starting tomorrow night.  Now I know one story line will be how the Phillies have slowly dropped out of first place and sit firmly in third behind the new look Braves and always dangerous Mets.  The other will probably read as a never-say-die kind of team in the Yankees as they find themselves tied atop the American League East with the Tampa Bay (no Devil here) Rays.

There is another story here.  The one I see is the third and final game of this series.  This game will feature two of the four active pitchers to have at least 11 wins in 10 or more seasons.  The other two being Tim Hudson of the Braves and Tim Wakefield from Boston.

Veteran lefties Jamie Moyer and Andy Pettitte are tops on that list with 15 and 14, respectively, 11-win seasons.  Moyer has won at least 15 games five times while Pettitte has eight seasons of 15 or more wins.  These two pitchers have 40 years of Major League experience between them.  Thats 501 wins and only 337 losses.  Combined Pettitte and Moyer have pitched in 1,159 games for nine different teams.  Over 1,000 games started and 68 in relief.

The numbers here are astounding.  These two have seen over 7,000 hits, 759 home runs, 58 complete games, over 2,500 K’s and 2,075 BB’s.

This season has taken these pitchers on opposite paths.  While Pettitte is still acting like the ace of the rotation going 8-1, 2.46 ERA, Moyer has struggled at times going 6-6, 5.03 ERA.  The Yankees are 17 games over .500 and tied for first place.  The Phillies who have spent most the last two seasons in first place are only three games over and sitting in third.

I am not offering up any predictions for this game or the series for that matter.  I will, however give Andy Pettitte the edge.  Between the two veterans and 40 years of MLB service he has one HR.  And that is one more than Jamie Moyer.  Of course playing in an AL ballpark, this stat will not matter.

I will predict a huge aroma of Icy Hot and Baby Powder.

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Oh the Memories

Ah Memorial Day.  Maybe one of the most wrongly celebrated days in modern American history.  This is a day to honor those who fight every day to make sure we can have our cookouts and beer binges on this last day of May.  It is for those men and women who have given our lives so we can have this extra day off and to shorten our work week.  So Thank You to all military personnel who day in and day out fight for us!

Now, for me, on this Memorial Day I will be remembering something else along with the brave souls in uniforms.  I remember a day when crooked numbers were plentiful and joyous fans by the handful would pour out of Citizens Bank Park onto Broad Street.  I remember the Philadelphia Phillies as one of the most offensively scary teams in all of baseball.

This is something the town of Philadelphia has not seen in awhile.  The Phillies have lost six of their last eight and have only scored seven runs in those eight games.  They have been shut out of five times including three in a row to division rivals the New York Mets.  Now the good news is they Phillies had a big enough lead to where there are still sitting (barely) on top of the division by half a game.

That half game lead over the Braves makes this series, which starts today, very important.  The Phillies have grown accustomed to sitting on top of the division this year and most of last season.  But unless the bats wake up they might be looking up to their rivals instead of down.

The Phillies are hitting .186 since May 22 and have not hit a home run in 54 innings.  They have not scored a run in 69 of the last 74 innings.  The normally dangerous 3-4-5 hitters of the Phils Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth are a combined 11 for their last 84.  Werth went 0-4 last night with four strikeouts.  And for you beard fanatics counting at home thats 0-17 since he shaved the beard.  Bring it back Jayson, bring it back.

The Phillies are playing the Braves for three games, then after a four game set with San Diego they will welcome back Florida for three games.  If the bats don’t get to work, the Phillies could be bottom of the barrel after those 10 games.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.

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Lidge returns, Blanton Happ soon to follow

Brad Lidge is back.  And tonight, hopefully he will officially be back closing out Kyle Kendrick’s first decision of the 2010 season.  Kendrick has filled in as best he could thus far.  He has not factored in a decision in any of his first four starts this year.  His +7 ERA only seems manageable now that it’s in single digits.  Before his eight scoreless innings against the Braves (which the bullpen blew.  Again no decision for KK) his ERA was steadily climbing towards 20.00.

But with Lidge back and the possibility of him closing out the game tonight, I can not help but wonder if he might be closing out Kendrick’s season as well.  Kendrick was battling Jamie Moyer all Spring Training for the final rotation spot.  And while pitching in all ‘A’ games and pitching well, he took a back seat to Moyer who struggled in mostly ‘B’ games.  But 8 million sitting in the bullpen looks a lot different from 400k rounding out the pitching staff.  I guess when it counts Moyer has pitched well this season going 2-2 with an ERA just above five.

Joe Blanton, despite getting rocked a bit in his last rehab start, says he is ready to return to the big league club.  And soon behind him will be JA Happ and Jimmy Rollins.  Now we all know once Rollins comes back it will be Wilson Valdez on waivers.  He is all out of options so will have to get passed up by the rest of the league before going back to Lehigh Valley.  And with the injury bug biting a lot of teams already this year, that seems unlikely.

Antonio Bastardo has been optioned to Lehigh to make room for Lidge.  Phillies GM Ruben Amaro brought in former Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa to help out in the pen.  J.C. Romero is back, and bullpen residents Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson are not going anywhere.  So who leaves once Blanton and Happ come back?  Who are the odd men out?  My list is Kendrick, Danys Baez, Figgy, or David Herndon.

Herndon was a Rule 5 pick from the Angels and would have to be returned to LA if removed from the 25 man roster.  While he pitched great in Spring Training earning him a spot in the pen, he has struggled in relief in 8.2 IP with a +6 ERA.  Another option to leave would be Figueroa.  I know Rube thought he would be a good mid-game inning eater but Durbin and Jose Contreras if needed they can throw two or three innings.

Kendrick will be a good 4th or 5th starter some day but it is hard to see when he fits in here.  Unless he can get steady work he will continue to be unable to locate pitches.  He has as many walks as he does strikeouts this season (9).  Ultimately I think Kendrick moves to the bullpen once Blanton returns and Herndon is released.  As for Happ’s return I think this will cause Rube to release Figgy.  I only say this because Baez is set to make 2.5 million so the Phillies must have a lot of confidence in his abilities.  As for the Philly Phaithful, the jury is still out.

With the Phillies playing well enough to only spend their, now, third day out of first place since May 2009, the return of Blanton and Happ will be huge.  I am all for letting the Mets ‘peak’ this early in the season and see them run out of steam come the All Star break.

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Phillies bullpen stumbles again, luckily offense provides big enough cushion

Just from looking at the box score some could start to say ‘I didn’t know Brad Lidge was back.’

However, that would be both wrong and unfair.  But nonetheless the bullpen did, once again, stumble in the ninth inning of a game where the Phillies had a fairly comfortable lead.

Roy Halladay pitched brilliantly again like only the Doc knows how to do.  He went eight innings, while allowing two earned runs and eight hits.  He also struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.  His ERA has jumped up to 1.13.  No need to panic, I think he will recover from this one.  Halladay also helped put an end to Marlin Jorge Cantu’s streak of 10 games with at least one hit and RBI.  Until it ended, it was a Major League record.  To help his own cause, Halladay had a hit in the game.  He now has had at least one hit in each of his starts this season.

The Phillies offense averaging over seven runs a game wasted no time getting onto the board.   Three RBI singles from Ryan Howard, Juan Castro and Carlos Ruiz started the scoring early in the bottom of the 1st.  Philadelphia added a run in the 2nd and 3rd innings and finally chased Florida starter Anibal Sanchez after six innings.   He gave up eight hits and five earned runs.

Placido Polanco and Chase Utley each had a solo home run in the game.  Utley is now tied for the Major League lead in homers with Nelson Cruz of Texas and Toronto’s Vernon Wells with six.

The Phillies took a 8-2 lead into the ninth but with Halladay having already thrown 100 pitches and in the midst of a short rain delay, Manager Charlie Manuel opted to bring in David Herndon from the bullpen.  The Rule 5 Draft pick, who was stellar in Spring Training, saw his first real trouble of the young season allowing five hits and four earned runs in only a third of a inning.  Ryan Madson came in and mopped up the mess closing out the rest of the night.   The Phillies held on to a 8-6 victory in front of their 45th straight sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

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So far so good. For some at least…..NL East

It is entirely way too early to tell being only nine, some ten, games into the season but let’s take a look at how the NL East is shaping up thus far.  I believe it was Toby Keith who said, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then, I wish I could start this whole thing over again.”

He was most definitely talking about a girl there, but some GM’s might be singing the same song after this first week and a half of the 2010 season.  Going into the season teams have high expectations about their club without ultimately knowing how they will finish.  I can think of a couple teams that probably wish they were back at .500 (0-0).

So far, the Phillies, Braves, Nationals and Mets have each played nine games while the Marlins have competed in 10.  Most teams have made it at least twice through their pitching rotation, shuffled players between the DL, majors and minors, and have seen streaks and slumps broken.

Let’s get started shall we.  We will start from the bottom of the division.  And this has nothing to do with saving the best for last (Phillies, which they are) or exploiting that the Mets are in last place (which is admittedly awesome), it is about starting with bad news first and ending with the good.  Just like any meeting should progress.

New York Mets (3-6)

A preseason pick of 4th place in the division seems generous at this point but appears to be a good landing place for the Metropolitans once the season comes to a halt late October.  Coming into this season expectations were high, but then again you could not get much worse than last season.

The Mets are still a little sluggish from Spring Training and all the injury updates.  Carlos Beltran and Daniel Murphy are still on the DL with projected returns for early May.  Jose Reyes is back but has only played in 5 games and is hitting just .261.   He’s really not seeing the ball well having no homeruns or RBIs, and has struck out six times.  New York is currently ranked 10th in the National League in hitting with a .243 batting average.  There are only five teams who have hit fewer homeruns (9) than the Mets.  So far the offense is averaging only 4.4 runs this season.

The pitching rotation consists of Johan Santana and then, um, well actually no clue.  The staff is just barely in the top half of the NL in ERA at 4.33.  Which isn’t too much of a surprise considering after Santana the rotation skips a few tiers of talent.  To our surprise Mike Pelfrey has really stepped his game up this year.  He has two of the teams three wins, boasting a 1.38 ERA in 13 IP and only allowing nine hits while striking out 10 and walking just four batters.

The pitching will continue to be shaky and the offense not strong enough to support their high ERAs.  Look for New York to continue to sink at the bottom of the NL East.

Washington Nationals (4-5)

The Nationals are off to one of their better starts in years.  And to many people’s surprise, it has nothing to do with superstar sensation #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg.  He will get his time soon.  So, despite having one of the lowest (.233, only Braves and Astros are worse) batting averages the Nats have somehow found a way to win four out of their first nine games.  With two of them coming at the hands of the defending National League Champs the Philadelphia Phillies, it seems like this season might be the one where they venture out of the realm of the NL East Forgotten.

Veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez is once again showing these kids how to hit with a team leading .407.  Josh Willingham is hitting .333 with 2 HR and 9 RBIs (both team lead).  The usually dangerous 1-2 punch of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn is only hitting .250/.185 respectively with a homer a piece and six RBIs between them.

The offseason addition of Jason Marquis has not worked out quite as expected.  The notorious inning eater has lasted only 8 1/3 innings through two starts while watching his ERA skyrocket to 12.96.  Now that would be bad enough, yet unfortunately for Washington that is not the highest ERA amongst starters.   Craig Stammen is ballooning at 15.63 with only 6 1/3 innings pitched as a starter.  Throw in five other pitchers with +7 ERAs and the Nationals are second to last in team ERA (7.04) but are, interestingly enough, tied for first in saves (4).

The Nationals will not even sniff the top of the division this season but will generate a lot of buzz while an early mid-summer call up for Strasburg is pretty inevitable at this point.

Atlanta Braves (5-4)

In the last season for Bobby Cox, the Braves will be looking to get back to the top of the division.  A view they have not seen since 2005, the last of their 11-year streak as NL East Champs.

Hopes were high coming into the season opener finally having Tim Hudson back from injury.  He was a huge signing for Atlanta but just could not stay healthy.  Also the power-hitting rookie Jason Heyward was making highlight reels and dents during Spring Training with towering homers.   The rookie is hitting .303 with 3 HR and 12 RBIs.  The surprise for this offense is 2B Martin Prado hitting .459.  A great batting average but with no one hitting in front of him has only allowed him to pick up 2 RBIs.  Catcher Brian McCann is sitting comfortably 46 points above .300 where he will probably hover all season long.  3B Chipper Jones is having problems both with his oblique and at the plate (.150)

The pitching staff has been throwing well. Three of the five starters (Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kenshin Kawakami) possess an ERA of 3.00 or lower.  Hanson has struck out 14 hitters in 11 1/3 innings but has walked seven batters as well.   Billy Wagner is back closing ball games and already has a save and 10 K in 5 IP.  The Braves have a good pairing of a talented line-up and rotation.  I don’t think they have enough to overtake the Phillies though.  At least not this year.

Florida Marlins (6-4)

Ah the Florida Marlins.  The team where you will rarely hear an announcer saying “And in his 5th year with the club, is….”  Guys just don’t stick around too long here.  The Marlins are best known for their ‘fire sale’ after winning their first World Series after the ’97 season in which they traded all their star players claiming financial troubles from the front office.

While Florida has won two WS titles, they are still in search of their first division win.  Both playoff appearances came via the Wild Card.  Per usual, Florida is a young and talented team again this year.  Five guys in the starting lineup are hitting .300 or better with overall team average at .278.  1B Jorge Cantu has at least one hit and an RBI in every game this season; a new Major League record.  He has 15 RBIs in the first 10 games.

No one from the starting rotation has really stepped up as the clear-cut ace.  Josh Johnson has logged the most innings thus far with 16.  In those, he has struck out 20 while walking eight batters.   The bullpen looks ok, mixing in Save chances amongst three different guys.

The Marlins are always going to be an exciting team to watch.  Always going to score runs.  It is their pitching staff that will hinder them from climbing the ladder to overtake the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies (7-2)

The Phillies are in a share of the Major League lead in win percentage with the San Francisco Giants at .778.  They have won seven of their first nine games with ridiculous offense and tremendous pitching from Roy Halladay and Company.

Oh man where do I begin.  Not counting ABs, the Phillies are in the NL Top 3 for every offensive category.  They are leading the Majors in Runs, RBIs, Total Bases, and Slugging Percentage.  It is one of the greatest offensive starts for not just the Phillies, but of any team in Major League history.

Newly acquired 3B Placido Polanco is leading the team (and Majors) with a .475 average.  Besides a 0 for 3 against Houston on April 11, Polanco has collected at least two hits in every game this year.  Chase Utley is tied for the NL home run lead with Albert Pujols at 5.  Ryan Howard is 4th in RBIs.

Take a look at these numbers of offensive domination.  Out of the top 25 for AVG, HR, and RBIs the Phillies 4, 3, and 4 players on those lists respectively.

Can the Phillies keep up this pace?  Probably not but 100 wins is not out of the question here.  Aside from Jimmy Rollins, the Phils need to stay healthy and spread the wealth.  They have done a great job of not depending on one or two players to win the game.  Up to this point in the season it has truly been a team effort.

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