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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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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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Bullpen hiccups cost Phillies series sweep against Nationals

It almost seems fitting that when MLB Network re-aired an episode of ‘The Pen’ documenting the ’09 Phillies bullpen the year after they won the World Series would be the day that this year’s almost perfect pen would blow it and put a skid to the Phils five game win streak.

For a second straight start (well his only two thus far) lefty J.A. (call me ‘Jay’) Happ didn’t allow an earned run.  However, again in his second straight start he didn’t last six innings.

Against the Nationals in the final game of the series in Philadelphia he did last 1/3 of an inning longer and only allowed 3 hits, as apposed to six in his first start.   However, he didn’t have any strikeouts and walked six batters.  Walking six and not allowing an earned run is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but why put that much pressure on yourself.

Not taking anything away from Scott Olsen who pitched adequately but this game really started when both starters left the game.  It seems the Nats bullpen took a page from the Phillies for this game.  The night before after the two inning slugfest to start the game, the Phillies bullpen came in and held Washington to only four hits and one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.  The Nats bullpen didn’t fair so well giving up seven hits, seven runs and four walks in only 4 innings.

After Jose Contreras struck out the final two batters in the 6th coming in for Happ, the rest of the night was a bit shaky.  Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and Ryan Madson pitched an inning each in which combined they allowed six hits and six earned runs.  The biggest blow was the pinch-hit two-run homerun by Ryan Zimmerman, which put the Nats up by one.

Obviously the bullpen is going to have its troubles, just like the starting rotation, but they should be expected to hold it down against a team like Washington?  Ok maybe that is not fair.  Yes they are a Major League team but again they are the Washington Nationals.

Let’s look at it this way.  Relievers are supposedly brought it depending on match ups.  Now when a pitcher doesn’t last 6 innings, the bullpen may be required to pitch longer than usual and face hitters they normally would not be left in to face.  And with logging over seven innings the night before, the bullpen was a little skinny.  Last night against the Nats the bullpen trio for Philly (Bastardo, Baez, Madson) faced a total of 18 batters.  Of those 18, nine reached base via a hit or a walk.  When two of those hits turn out to be homeruns, then the walks really hurt.

Hopefully with Roy Halladay pitching today, that will give the bullpen a rest.

Worth noting:  Placido Polanco once again has two hits in a game and is batting a league high .475.  Jimmy Rollins replacement at shortstop while he is on the DL Juan Castro went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.  Chase Utley, for the series with Washington, had 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R.

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Oddities on Opening Day in Big Win for Phillies

All the things you expected to happen, did.  Thousands of Phillies fans made the trip to the Nation’s capitol to see the Phillies take on the Nationals for Opening Day of the 2010 season.  The Phillies delivered in crushing fashion beating Washington 11-1.  Roy Halladay made his debut and looked stellar.  Allowing only one run in 7 innings and striking out nine.  The Phillies hit the ball.  And I mean hit.  Ryan Howard put those ‘slow start’ talks aside and crushed a John Lannan offering into the right field seats to give the Phightins a 2-1 lead.  It was all down hill from there.

As Phillies fans, we all expected this.  We expected, as we do every game, for the Phillies to win.  And win big.  Philadelphia has always been called an AL lineup in the National League.  They are going to hit homeruns.  We also expected Halladay to dominate.  And facing the lowly Nationals it was no problem.  Lifted after 7 innings and 87 pitches, I am confident he could have pitched a complete game.  But there was no need for

With the group at the Phillies Nation tailgate.

that.  A call to the bullpen showed confidence in the new arms.  Antonio Bastardo, Danny Baez and David Herndon finsihed out the game only allowing three hits and striking out two in the final two innings.

But like I said, we all expected this.  There were a few things that made me, at least, say hmmmm.  The first thing happened at about 10:15 Monday morning getting to the parking lot.  This was the parking lot under the bridge on the Potomac where Phillies Nation was holding their Opening Day Tailgate party.  Which by the way was amazing.  If you weren’t in this parking lot bare with me for a bit.  Upon pulling into the parking lot a middle aged gentleman walked up to the car and said ‘Parking?  $15.”

This wasn’t the weird part, because we knew we would have to pay to park.  He was wearing a 3-piece suit in almost 80 degree weather directing people where to park.  And this was a dirt parking lot.  Seemed like odd attire for a job like that.  Now we move on to the game.  Or right before it I should say.  President Barack Obama came out to throw the first pitch.  Smiling hugely as he walked out of the dugout, he shook hands with a couple discharged military people and Nationals Coach Jim Riggleman.  I noticed he had a glove under his arm, like an 8 yr-old hoping to catch a foul ball.  Still not the oddest part.  He walked to the mound and put on a Chicago White Sox cap.  We all know he is from Chicago and an avid sports fan but this seemed a little much.  Almost in bad taste.  But then again it is the Nationals and he is a politician.

Other oddities actually happened in the stat columns.  Halladay had always been a pitcher that doesn’t walk a lot of batters.  Last season he had more starts than he did walks.  On Opening Day he issued two walks, one of which was in the first inning.  After the game the Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz, said Halladay never once shook him off.  So it seemed Roy was comfortable throwing whatever Chooch asked for.

Next was the third baseman trotting out to the hot corner for the Phils.  Polacido Polanco netted six rbis for the day with four of them coming on a grand slam in the 7th inning against Nationals reliever Jason Bergmann.  A great start to his second stint with Philadelphia.

Throw in an error in left for Raul Ibanez, a stolen base by Jimmy Rollins and a base hit for Halladay it was a very exciting game.  What a way to start the season!  Go Phillies!

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This Valdez not sunken, lifts Phillies to walk-off win

It was bound to happen soon enough.  I mean Cole Hamels is human.  We all know that from last season’s World Series hangover where we saw Hamels struggle all year and in the playoffs.

Hamels has been working on new pitches to add to his arsenal this season.  He is mixing in a curve and a cutter to go along with his fastball and change-up.  And so far this spring they have been working.  In over 10 IP, Hamels has only given up 5 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out 9.  Today against the New York Yankees he lasted only 4 innings surrendering 9 hits and 6 runs.

Lucky for him some guys new to the Phillies uniforms helped bailed him out.  After Hamels gave up a first inning run, the Phightins came right back with a five spot in the bottom half thanks to a two-run home run from new third baseman Placido Polanco and a three-run double from catcher Dane Sardinha who later hit a solo shot to tie the game up at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth.

Hamels really got into trouble in the 4th inning giving up a triple to Ramiro Pena, who finished 2 for 4, and a two-run homer to Mark Teixeira to give the Yankees a 7-5 lead.  Teixeira would go on to finish 4 for 4 and Hamels would barely finish the 4th inning.  His day was done after recording the final out to end the 4th.

The Phillies then brought in a Rule 5 pick up David Herndon who has not given up a run in eight innings pitched this spring.  He pitched two scoreless innings to keep Philadelphia in the game.  Antonio Bastardo then came in with a little of the same not allowing a run in two innings while striking out three.  Michael Stutes pitched a scoreless ninth to set of some more Philly dramatics.

Wilson Valdez hit a two out, two-run walk off home run scoring Greg Dobbs for the Phillies.  It still is Spring Training but a win is a win.

On a side note – Sardinha was catching today for the regular everyday start Carlos Ruiz who was out with the flu.

The Phillies are 9-7-1 this Spring.

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