Tagged: All-Star

Phillies Stumble Into All-Star Break With Little Hope to Save Their Season

The Phillies were swept by the Braves today in a depressing 4-3 loss.  There was not even a little comic relief, as in Saturday’s loss when Hunter Pence bowled over 3rd base coach Juan Samuel while rounding the bases towards home.  That bit had everyone except Samuel laughing to the point of tears.

The only laughs today came before the game started:

After that, absolutely nothing was funny.  Even the presentation of All-Star jersey’s to Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels was somehow lacking in enthusiasm.

And then fans learned that Shane Victorino was pulled from the line-up at the last moment, prompting rumors of a possible trade or injury.  But what actually happened, according to Charlie Manuel, was that Shane was feeling “down” and had “a lot on his mind…”  And so, Charlie took him out in favor of Jason Pridie.

That turned out to be the only good move of the day.  Pridie hit a 2-run homer and a double, which accounted for all 3 Phillies runs in the game.

Vance Worley battled through 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, which was a nice improvement over his last start where he have up 6 runs in 4 innings.  But despite the quality start, not much was going the way of the Phillies.

There were some nice defensive plays:

But the offense was lackluster, despite having both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the line-up.  The top 4 in the line-up went 1-for-16 collectively, although Jimmy Rollins did go 3-for-3 in pop-fly outs.  I am not sure that is a stat to be proud of, but at least he is consistent (note my sarcasm, in case you missed it).

Ultimately, Raul Valdes gave up a solo homer to who else, but Brian McCann, giving the Braves a 1-run lead that the Phillies failed to overcome.

So the Braves had a nice visit to Philly, complete with attempts to steal young Phillies fans.  Here is ex-Phil Chad Durbin and Dan Uggla before the game playing nice with one of the kids chosen for the traditional Sunday Starting 9:

Actually, it was very sweet.  But Durbin was always that kind of guy; his presence is still missed on this ballclub.

So the Phillies go into the All-Star break in the midst of a complete disaster.  They have won only 1 of their last 12 games and sit in dead last in the NL East, 14 games out of first.  Get ready fans; I am afraid change is coming, and not the good kind.

For a pleasant distraction, check out my Photo Album from the game; just pretend they win and the photos look even better!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Get Wrecked by the Mets for 6 Straight Loses

An 11-1 loss against the Mets tonight was a complete and utter disaster on all sides for the Phillies.  The pitching stunk, the offense was invisible and the defense phoned it in too.

Vance Worley had the worst start of his career, allowing 6 runs in only 4 innings.  When Raul Valdes took over, he left 2 runners on base in the 6th before being pulled with 2 outs recorded.  Why was he pulled?  Because apparently, he was not giving up enough home runs.  So the Phillies brought in Brian Sanches from our minor-league bullpen to take care of that.  David Wright thanks him for the 3 RBI.

Behind the pitchers, the defense was not great either.  John Mayberry Jr. missed a fly ball he should have caught.  Chase Utley made a mistake on what could have been a double play ball.  Instead, both runners were safe.  And Placido Polanco was charged with a throwing error.

But the offense was even worse.  The Phillies managed only 3 hits and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.  The only Phillies run in the game was a solo homer from Carlos Ruiz in the 2nd inning.

Folks, this is as bad as it could possibly get right now.  This game was the epitome of this horrible season, now more than halfway over.  We could all try chanting the insurance jingle, “Like a good agent, State Farm is there…with a 10-game winning streak!  Poof!”  But I have a very bad feeling that even that will not help.

Instead, you could go to blast some virtual home runs online at statefarm.com/gotobat for the chance to win two tickets to the World Series.  So even if the team doesn’t win, you can get back that feeling of good baseball, even if it is just a virtual version.

I mention that because the Go To Bat charity has offered me a video interview with Ryan Howard!  I will be posting that sometime next week during the All-Star break; Ryan will be in Kansas City promoting the charity and I have a few fun questions for him.

So there is a little bit of good news in the midst of a whole bunch of bad.

The Phillies will try once again to conjure a win tomorrow at 1:10pm.  Start praying for a 4th of July miracle!

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Utley photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

No Doubt, Chase Utley Has Returned!

Chase Utley is back!  Even better, he is healthy and looks like the All-Star player we have known him to be.  Utley announced his return in his first at-bat of the year with a huge bang.  His fairy tale comeback began with a monster home run to center on a 2-2 count amidst 45,000 fans cheering wildly.

The ballpark exploded with joy from the upper levels down to the dugout where teammates showered Utley with man-hugs, high fives and ear-to-ear grins.  It appears the Chutley magic has returned!

As if that moment were not amazing enough, Carlos Ruiz made it even more special with another home run right after Utley’s and while the crowd was still celebrating the first one.  This had to be sign of better things to come for the Phillies.  For one inning, it felt as if the world was right again.

In honor of Utley’s amazing comeback, here is a montage of some of my favorite photos I have taken of him over the years:

Three cheers for Chase!  And 3 hits as well; Utley went 3-for-5 in his first game of the season.

But the elation of the moment was soon squashed by the Phillies dreadful bullpen, which ruined the day.  Short a starter because of the rain-out last weekend, the Phils were stuck with a bullpen game.  Raul Valdes started and, in the 1st inning, things looked promising.  But by the 2nd, things began to unravel quickly.

Valdes allowed a 3 run homer with 2 outs and the pitcher on deck.  Joe Savery took over in the 3rd and managed one clean inning before things got much worse.  He ended up with 5 runs allowed, two of which scored after Michael Schwimer took over with 2 outs in the 5th.  Savery was sent back to the minors after the game.

But the drama did not end there.  The Phillies actually mounted a comeback and cut the 8-2 deficit to 8-7 by the 7th inning.  It looked like they might actually still have a shot to win, which along with Utley’s return, would have been a massive boost for this team.

But the bullpen even managed to ruin that possibility.  That’s right…Chad Qualls strikes again.  Only he hardly threw any strikes.  Once he walked the first batter, it was clear that a large load of crap was about to hit the fan…again.  Sure enough, Qualls gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run homer.  That handed the Pirates an 11-7 win.

So we are left with three cheers for Chase and about three-hundred boo’s for the bullpen.  If this pen sucked any worse, it would be a little league pen.  Folks, this is BAD.  If the Phillies do not find some better arms soon, it won’t matter how many 3-for-5 games Utley has.  And I am pretty sure that Brian Sanches, called up in place of Savery, is not the answer.

Ryan Howard is starting a rehab assignment today, which should have him back with the team at least after the All-Star break.  But again, the Phillies still need a more solidified bullpen if he is going to be able to make an impact.

The final game of this series begins early, at 1:05pm.  Kyle Kendrick, who has been basically dreadful of late, is starting.  Cross all your fingers and toes that he snaps out of whatever funk he is in so the Phillies can win this 4-game series!

UPDATE: Chad Qualls is outta here!  The Phillies cut him today (“designated for assignment”) after many disasterous pitching efforts.  Excuse me for a moment while I do the happy dance…  Ok, I am back.  Filling his spot will be lefty Jeremy Horst, a rookie aquired in the Wilson Valdez trade.  I do not know much about him except he posted a 2.11 ERA in 26 games in Triple-A and he has to be better than Qualls.  We shall see…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Chooch Leads Phillies to a Big Win

If someone had told me that by the end of June this season, Carlos Ruiz would be leading all of baseball in batting average, I may have checked to see if that person was running a fever.  Chooch has always been a good player; but he has never been .361 with 10 home runs-good.  The 10 homers, including one in last night’s 5-4 win over the Pirates, is a career high.  And it is only June…

So yes, Chooch leads everyone in batting average with .361.  That is better than past MVP’s Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton.  Ruiz has also outhit fellow catchers and All-Star voting leaders Yadier Molina and Brian McCann. Soooooo….VOTE FOR CHOOCH!  We have until Thursday to get him to the All-Star game!

But even if that fails, manager Charlie Manuel told reporters yesterday that he plans on calling Tony La Russa, the NL All-Star team manager, to plead the case for Chooch.  Manuel always sticks up for his players, but especially in this case, Ruiz really deserves the honor.

Chooch put his stamp all over last night’s win.  He went 3-for-4 with a homer and 2 RBI.  And while catching, Ruiz saved two runs from scoring by blocking the plate and tagging out the runners.

The biggest of those plays came in the 7th inning after starter Vance Worley got into a real jam.  With no outs, 2 runners on base and 1 run already across, Worley was removed and rookie Michael Schwimer took over.  Schwimer coaxed a ground out and then a short fly ball to left.  One the fly ball, John Mayberry Jr. made a great throw home, which Ruiz caught and tagged the runner for an inning-ending double play.

That play kept the Phillies lead intact and Chooch’s subsequent homer added to that lead.  The home run he hit in the 8th turned out to be a game saver as closer Jonathan Papelbon struggled in the 9th, allowing a solo homer.  But the Ruiz blast made the difference in the 5-4 win.

The Phillies have now won 2 of the first 4 games against the Pirates, which is great news; because tonight’s 7:05pm game is going to be started and finished by the Phillies bullpen.  The rainout on Friday forced a juggling of the pitching staff, leaving them 1 starter short this week.  So Raul Valdes will start the game and likely pitch 3 innings, passing the ball on to the rest of the pen after that.

And while you are watching the game, do not forget to VOTE FOR CHOOCH!

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Photo 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*

Hunter Was The Hunted; Now, He Is A Phillie

July 29th has been a significant day in recent Phillies history.  On July 29, 2009, the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee.  That same day in 2010, they picked up Roy Oswalt.  And this year, Hunter Pence is the big prize.

A report from Phillies Beat Writer Todd Zolecki states that Pence will be sent from the Astros to the Phillies in exchange for Class A first baseman Jonathan Singleton, Class A pitcher Jarred Cosart and two yet unnamed prospects.

The best news of the night is that neither pitcher Vance Worley or outfielder Domonic Brown were included in the deal.  While the two named prospects are highly touted, the Phillies really pulled off an amazing deal without having to give up any major league talent.  This is another huge score for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.

Pence, 28,  is a lifetime .290 hitter and 2-time All-Star who combines both power and speed.  Pence hit 25 home runs each year from 2008-2010 and had a career high 91 RBI’s last season.  In addition, Pence cannot become a free agent until the 2014 season, putting the Phillies in control for years to come.

With the addition of Pence and also Placido Polanco returning from the DL this weekend, two moves will have to be made.  My best guess is that Brown will be sent back to Triple-A to work on his game.  The second casualty could be John Mayberry Jr.

While the playoffs and the World Series are promised to no one, the addition of Pence certainly does improve the Phillies’ chances.

And in case you missed it amidst all the excitement, there was actually a game tonight.  The Phillies beat the Pirates by a score of 10-3 with Roy Halladay pitching seven one-hit innings.  Andrew Carpenter allowed three runs in the eighth.

The offensive highlights included Chase Utley coming up just a double short of hitting for the cycle.  His 3-run homer in the second inning put the Phillies far ahead very early. 

Shane Victorino also came close to hitting for the cycle, but missed out on the home run.  Jimmy Rollins smacked a 2-run homer in the seventh, but sadly for Victorino, he was not allowed to share the homer and help out his buddy Shane.

Oddly enough, Rollins hit that home run off pitcher Jason Grilli, who until a week ago was in the Phillies minor league system.  The Pirates picked him up after the Phillies released him on July 20, 2011.

This is now set up to be a very exciting weekend for the Phillies.  When Pence will be in the line-up probably depends on how soon he can get here from Houston.  Add Polanco back into the line-up and the Phillies are set up nicely for a strong run to the playoffs.

Game two with the Pirates is Saturday night at 7:05pm; Cliff Lee will pitch.

 

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Photo by http://blogs.houstonpress.com/

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

Phillies Open Second Half With a Win Over the Mets

Although the day began with the Phillies placing Placido Polanco on the DL, it ended well.  Polanco, battling back pain, should be back around July 20.

All of the recent injuries have given many young players big opportunities.  Michael Martinez started at third again and John Mayberry Jr. started in center and had a huge day at the plate.  In the 7-2 win over the Mets, Mayberry accounted for five of those runs with a single and a bases-clearing double.

Having struggled in his last trip to the majors earlier this year, it looks like Mayberry has finally made the adjustments he needed in order to get his swing straight.  If Mayberry keeps up this pace, the Phillies may not to need any further for a powerful right-handed bat.

Vance Worley also had a nice day on the mound.  He allowed only one run through 5.1 innings.  The only issue was that Worley walked four batters and had a high pitch count early.  He still has some work to do, but so far, Worley is fitting right in to this rotation.

When Worley was called back up today, Ryan Madson joined him as well, coming off the DL after dealing with a bruised hand.  The two roster spots were cleared by Polanco’s DL trip and Scott Mathieson was sent down.

Madson pitched the seventh inning and it appears that he has not skipped a beat.  His command was good and he had zip on his fastball.  Michael Stutes, on the other hand, looked rusty after the All-Star break and he gave up a homer in the eighth.

One other item of note today was the performance of Raul Ibanez.  His bat is suddenly on fire and as a result, he was named the National League Player of the Week.  The week before the All-Star game, Ibanez hit .310 with three homers and 13 RBI.  He hit another home run tonight and also singled.  Congrats to RAUUUUUUL!

Game 2 with the Mets is Saturday afternoon at 4:10pm.  Cole Hamels will pitch with Kyle Kendrick on Sunday.  The top two aces, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, are getting a break after pitching almost two innings each in the All-Star game on Tuesday.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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