A few of the Phillies bats had a small, yet short-lived, resurrection on Friday night against the Texas Rangers. Both Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez went deep to score all three of the Phillies runs in the 3-2 win.
Both players have been struggling, especially Francisco. Perhaps the call-up of Domonic Brown lit a fire under the two outfielders. Francisco won the right field spot out of spring training, but he may be on the verge of losing it now with his recent slump, the Brown call-up and better defense from John Mayberry Jr.
While the future of the outfield is up in the air, the starting rotation remains steady. Led by Roy Halladay, the Phillies put together a win while totaling only four hits in the game, two of which were home runs.
Both teams had issues with home plate umpire, Andy Fletcher, who had a moving strike zone that no one could nail down. But Halladay stayed on his game, despite the inconsistencies. He went eight innings, allowing just two runs on six hits and a walk. Halladay also struck out seven.
The closer role for the Phillies has been another question mark this year with both Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras going on the DL. But Ryan Madson, who had trouble with this role in the past, has left little doubt about who the Phillies closer should be.
Madson has been practically unhittable. He has allowed only one run the entire season so far and last night, he earned his eighth save in eight opportunities. So now it is Madson who is lights-out, not Lidge.
Saturday night Cliff Lee will face the reigning AL Champs and his former team, the Rangers. Game time is 7:10pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies pulled out a win today, although it was with heavy hearts. One of the best Phillies pitchers of all time, Robin Roberts, passed away today at age 83 of natural causes. Roberts played for the Phillies from 1948 – 1961 and in his entire career he had a 3.41 ERA over 676 games which included 305 complete games.
Roberts was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 and has been a regular around the Phillies for all these years. Roberts returned to Philly every year for annual induction ceremonies, special events and attended Spring Training each year as well.
Actually, Roberts was scheduled to attend a golf and dinner outing in honor of Harry Kalas in just a few weeks, along with many other Hall of Famers. I have been invited to the event and was very much looking forward to seeing him and having the opportunity to chat with him. But more than being very saddened by this news for that reason, I am terribly sorry for his family and the entire Phillies organization. My heart goes out to everyone who knew him. He was a very special individual.
But the game went on today despite the sad news and the Phillies won it for him. With the 1950 pennant hung at half mast and a black drape around Robert’s Wall of Fame plaque, Roy Halladay took the mound and was a true professional, as usual. Against the Cardinals, he pitched 7 innings and allowing only 1 earned run, Halladay was not super sharp, but still extremely effective.
Halladay walked 3 batters and had a lot of base runners; in the 7th inning with two outs and 2 men on, it even looked like manager Charlie Manuel may pull him from the game. Manuel went out to the mound but with a stern look on his face, Halladay convinced him that he could finish the inning. And with that, it only took one pitch to Matt Holliday to end it. This guy is amazing.
Jayson Werth had a special connection to Roberts as they grew up in the same town and spoke about that often; Werth channeled his grief into a huge game at the plate. He hit 2 doubles and a 3-run homer in the game. Werth did commit an error in right field when the wind and sun helped him drop a fly ball, but no one was complaining after his offensive output.
Carlos Ruiz had a 3-hit day as well with Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard collecting 2 hits each. Ibanez hit a solo homer in the 5th for the 900th RBI of his career. The opposing pitcher, Kyle Loshe, lasted only 4 innings and allowed 5 of the Phillies 7 runs, although 2 were unearned due to errors. Actually, it was a sloppy game all around defensively with each team committing 2 errors a piece.
The umpires did not have a clean game either. Andy Fletcher, who played the villain in Game 1 of this series, had another blooper today. While trying to turn a double play, the Cards Albert Pujols had to jump off first base to catch the ball for the 3rd out of the inning. Replay showed that as Wilson Valdez crossed the bag, Pujols was in mid-air and not on the bag. Valdez was called out by Fletcher who refused to argue with Manuel after the play and walked away. The home plate umpire had some questionable calls as well, but Halladay handled him with a quick chat after the 5th inning.
So the Phillies walk away with a 3 games to 1 series victory over the Cardinals, the best team in the National League. Although now, the Phillies have just 1 less win than the Cards and hold a 2 game lead for first place in the NL East. Tomorrow at 7:05pm, they will begin a 3-game series with the Braves and Jamie Moyer will pitch. The Phillies will begin wearing #36 patches on their jersey’s tomorrow as well in honor of Robin Roberts.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Joe Blanton made his season debut tonight after being on the DL through all of April. He had good command until part way through the 7th inning when it looked like he was getting tired. With 2 outs and 2 men on base, Blanton was pulled from the game and his otherwise good outing was spoiled as reliever Nelson Figueroa allowed both of those runs to score. Figueroa gave up 2 more runs of his own that same inning.
The Phillies offense had trouble against the Cardinal’s pitcher, Jaime Garcia. He pitched really well. The inconsistent strike zone did not help either. Home plate umpire, Andy Fletcher, made some very bad calls. The biggest of those was calling interference on Blanton in the 5th inning which cost the Phillies a run and ended the rally. Blanton ran to first after bunting and Fletcher decided he interfered with the catch at first base. The only problem is he did not interfere; he stayed in the baseline and went straight to the bag. Plus, the throw to first was off-line and the fielder had no chance to catch it anyway.
Raul Ibanez was out at third but Carlos Ruiz may have scored as the throw went wide so this imaginary interference called ended the inning and no run scored. Not only did they lose a possible run, but they lost the chance to keep scoring as the inning should have continued. Charlie Manuel was tossed from the game arguing the call.
Later in the game, Fletcher had words with Jayson Werth before his at-bat even started. I have no idea what Jayson said but Fletcher was clearly on the defensive, probably second guessing himself about the earlier call. And why was he calling the play at first anyway? Isn’t that the 1st base umpire’s job? At any rate, Werth answered Fletcher by whacking the first pitch he saw into the center field seats.
The controversy continued when Carlos Ruiz was called out on a strike that was actually a ball. Ruiz expressed his opinion and walked away. But instead of leaving it alone like a professional umpire should unless he is being cussed out, Fletcher followed Ruiz to continue the argument. We have seen this juvenile behavior from umpires more and more in the last several years. Remember the days when umps did not care what anyone thought and just called it as they saw it? Clearly, those days are gone.
I understand they have a job to do; so just do it then. Unless a player is being disrespectful or using foul language, why argue with them? They are entitled to their opinion. The umpire is supposed to rise above such things. Instead, it seems that many of them walk around with a chip on their shoulder just looking for someone to take their frustrations out on.
The Phillies did not lose the game because of the umpire, so that is not the point here. Figueroa pitched badly and the offense did not produce. But all the unnecessary drama is exactly that; unnecessary.
So the 3-6 loss is not the end of the world, but it is a bad start to a 4-game series with the Cards. Game 2 will start tomorrow night at 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography