Tagged: Astros

Are We Seriously Only Halfway Through Spring Training?

Is it just me, or is it taking forever to get to the regular season?  I was excited when Spring Training began, because a little baseball is better than no baseball.  But that excitement has waned slowly and transformed into impatience.  Can we get to the real games already!

There is not much else in Philly to get excited about right now.  The Flyers are good one day, and suck the next.  They are in last place in their division.  And the 76ers are all but out of playoff contention, unless a small miracle occurs.  And no, that miracle will not be Andrew Bynum, who does not appear to have any desire to play this year.  He will sit back and collect his massive paycheck.

Some people are excited about the Papal Conclave in Rome.  I get it.  I was just in Rome this past October; I took the whole 9-mile tour of the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel.  It was an ethereal experience for sure.  But unless the smoke coming out of that chapel chimney signals the start of the regular season, I don’t have much to get excited about.

They will pick a new pope.  Some people will celebrate, some will complain and life will go on.  But what I really need is some baseball!

I like Spring Training; it is a necessary part of baseball.  But some things about it annoy me.  Mainly, that it is 6-weeks long, the games don’t count and the fact that I am not in Florida right now.  Ugh.

However, there have been a number of rather interesting incidents this spring.  A Hooter’s ball girl screwed up and fielded a fair ball (not that interesting I guess; this happens every year); Charlie Manuel was accosted by a strange man on a tricycle at a game against the Astros; and several Phillies playing for Team Canada in the WBC brawled with Team Mexico this past Saturday.  Apparently, Pete Orr was thrown out of the game.  Tyson Gillies, who has a habit of finding trouble, body slammed a Red Sox pitcher who was playing for Mexico.  And Phillies Sebastian Valle, who played for Mexico, swung his catcher’s helmet at opposing players, despite their being at least 3 of his Phillies teammates on Canada’s team.  Oops.

So while Spring Training has not been dull, it is just not over yet!  But we are half-way there and everyone, so far, is healthy (cross all fingers and toes)…3 weeks to go!

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Lee’s Effort Returns Phillies To .500

After a disastrous weekend in Houston, the Phillies managed to crawl back to the .500 mark after a 3-1 win over the Mets on Monday night.  Cliff Lee pitched extremely well, allowing only 1 run over 8 innings.  His strong performance kept the Phillies in the game against tough knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey.

For the offense, Jimmy Rollins is on a serious hot streak.  It seems lately that even when he slips up, luck is on his side.  He struck out in the 1st inning last night to start the game, but wound up being safe at first base anyway on a passed ball.  He eventually scored on a Chase Utley sac fly.  Rollins ended the game with 2 runs scored, a home run and a walk.

The home run was interesting; the ball snuck over the right field wall but appeared for a moment to have dribbled off the glove of outfielder Scott Hairston.  Then without prompting, the umpires decided to review the play and correctly called it a home run.  That is the first time I have seen any MLB umpire voluntarily review a play without first being harassed by a manager.  It is about time.

Domonic Brown provided the other run with a solo shot in the 7th to give the Phillies a little more breathing room.  Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save in the 9th.

This win was a nice lift for the Phillies who remain 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race with 15 games to play.  Realistically, the horrendous Houston weekend probably killed any shot they had at the postseason this year.  So while it is great to see this team playing well, as far as the playoffs, don’t hold your breath.

Game 2 with the Mets is tonight at 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Houston: The Phillies Have Problems

Just in case the Houston Astros were previously unaware, it should be clear today that both teams, especially the Phillies, have serious problems.  What problem could be bigger than being the Astros, the worst team in baseball, you say?  The answer is: Being beaten in 3 out of 4 games by the worst team in baseball.  And all that happened while the Phillies hopes for the postseason continue to quickly dwindle away.

I had said previously that it would take a miracle for the Phillies to make the playoffs this year.  I stand corrected.  It will actually take 3-4 large miracles, including the complete collapse of several other teams in the National League who are ahead of the Phils in the Wild Card race.  Quick, someone call a priest; Last Rights may be in order shortly.  The Phillies are on life support.

Bad plays, errors and walks plus a sporadic offense contributed to the embarrassing losses against the Astros.  Worse, 2 of the 3 losses came against starting pitchers who began each game with an ERA above 5.00, including yesterday’s shut-out loss and today’s 7-6 disaster.

Roy Halladay gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, but the Phillies still had the lead when he left the game.  And then, for what feels like the 1,000th time this year, the bullpen blew it again.  The 4-run 7th for the Astros included an error and 3 walks, one for each Phillies pitcher, although 1 was intentional.

The offense left runners stranded all over the place, 8 in all, while going only 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.  Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits and Ryan Howard picked up 2 RBI, but only after being humiliated by the Astros twice; they intentionally walked Chase Utley twice to get to Howard.

With 15 games remaining, the Phillies cannot afford more than a loss or two until the end of the season.  Plus, they need a lot of other teams to lose as well.  It does not look good, folks.

The Mets are up next.  Game time Monday night is 7:10pm.

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The Phillies Are Optimists

The Phillies have definitely been playing better lately.  They are 3 games back in the race for the 2nd Wild Card spot with 17 games left to play.  And so early this morning, the Phillies decided to send out Postseason ticket invoices to all of their season ticket holders in the hopes of making a run.

I wonder how many fans will actually bite?  Will you or will you not shell out $400-$500 or more for 2-3 playoff tickets that the Phils may or may not play?  If they do not play, the Phillies will kindly keep your money, without accruing interest of course, and apply it towards next year’s season ticket bill.

Today, I am asking myself that very question.  Let us examine the recent evidence.  On Thursday, the Phillies dropped a depressing game to the worst team in baseball.  Many rookies were involved in the loss, making it slightly more understandable.

Then last night, the team put a whooping on the Astros and won by what was still too close a score for me, 12-6.  Jimmy Rollins led off the game with his 20th home run of the season.  He is now the Phillies season leader in homers, not typical for either a lead-off hitter or a shortstop.  In fact, only 11 other shortstops in baseball history have had 20 home run seasons 4 times or more, like Rollins.

Hits from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and John Mayberry Jr. turned that 1st inning into 4 huge runs to start the game before Cole Hamels even stepped onto the mound.  Hamels was not super-sharp, but 3 earned runs over 7 innings was sufficient.

Mayberry continued to pound out hits and went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI.  Howard also had 3 RBI on 2 hits.  Another big blow came from Domonic Brown with a 2-run mega-long homer in the 7th.  He hit the ball so hard the Astros pitcher actually fell to his knees in a semi-Wayne’s World gesture of, “We’re not worthy!”  Ok, maybe not…he was probably just depressed.

Still, with all that offense, the Phillies committed 3 errors in the game which allowed 3 unearned runs to the Astros….again, the worst team in baseball.  That kind of sloppy play is what might keep them from making the postseason.

So will you be digging deep into your pockets for potential postseason tickets?  We have, according to my invoice, until 9/21/12 to decide.  That is 5 more games; 2 with the Astros and 3 with the Mets.  Decisions, decisions…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Playoff Hopes: Fool’s Gold or the Real Deal?

Out of the 9 Phillies Opening Day 2012 starters, 6 have landed either on the disabled list or with another team at some point during the year.  And that does not even include Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who started the year on the DL.  So basically, 8 out of 9 regular starters missed a lot of time this year.  The only one who avoided either a trade or the DL was Jimmy Rollins.

It is fitting then that a 2-run shot from J-Roll last night led the team to a 3-game sweep of the Miami MarlinsCliff Lee did his part as well, allowing just 1 run, which was unearned due to an error, over 7 innings.

The win has placed the Phillies only 3 games back in the Wild Card race, which is something not many people saw coming.  This team was beaten up so badly throughout most of the year and played so poorly that a possible playoff run, until now, seemed impossible.  Here is a look at the Wild Card standings:

But even after a 7-game win streak, is all this new playoff hope just fool’s gold or can the Phillies really sneak in the backdoor?  Consider this:  6 of those 7 games in the streak came against two of the worst teams in baseball, the Marlins and the Rockies.  Just a few weeks ago, the Phillies lost a series to the Mets, who are also pretty bad.

Then again, the momentum of a 7-game win streak could be enough to help elevate the Phillies performance and confidence to the point where they can start stomping on good teams as well.  But we are not going to know if that is possible for a while as the Houston Astros are next on the agenda.  With a record of 45-98, the Astros are by far the worst team in all of baseball.  Losing even 1 of the 4 games against the Astros would be a tragedy.

So maybe this series could be a descent barometer after all.  Because if the Phillies struggle against the Astros, I think the faint light of playoff hopes would be markedly dimmed.  But if they beat the crap out of the Astros, as they very well should, then go ahead and keep the light of hope burning.  Then we can all say, “Watch out National League!  Here come the Phillies…”

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The Ups, Downs and All Around of Hunter Pence

This season has been quite a roller coaster ride for Hunter Pence.  And Tuesday’s extra inning win over his old team, the Astros, was a microcosm of his year so far.

Ups – Pence gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the 6th inning with a solo home run to right field.  It was the first time in a long time he got ahead of pitch and sent it the other way.  Brian Schneider had a 2-run homer in the 1st inning which accounted for the other 2 runs to that point.

Downs – With a 3-1 score in the 9th, thanks to 8 amazing innings pitched from Cliff Lee, the wheels began to fall off.  Chad Qualls did his Jekyll and Hyde routine again, giving up hits left and right.  But even after the Astros crept closer, cutting the lead to 3-2, Hunter Pence had another bad moment.

On a single to right with a man on third, Pence fielded the ball nicely, freezing the runner.  But after he exchanged the ball to his hand, it fell out off his hand, bounced off his knee and skidded away, allowing the run to score and tie the game.  This is a really original error; I have never seen anything like it.

All Around – What comes around, goes around, or so they say.  And luckily for Pence, the game came full circle as he was given a chance to redeem himself in the 10th inning.  The walk-off homer he smashed to left was made even more sweet by the fact that it came off a pitch from former Phillie, and Pence’s former teammate, Brett Myers.  Ah, redemption!

The one thing I can tell you about Pence for sure is that he is not boring.  As far as what may be in store for Pence next, I do not think even he knows….toss a coin.

The Phillies are in Chicago next for 2 games starting tonight at 8:05pm against the CubsVance Worley stayed in Philly to have a sore elbow checked out so Kyle Kendrick will start instead.  There has been no word on Worley’s condition yet…stay tuned.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Polanco’s 2000th Hit Helps Phillies Win

The Phillies Monday night 5-1 win over the Astros was full of hopeful signs.  A little at a time, things are getting better for this team, which is currently still in last place in the NL East.

Starting pitcher Joe Blanton had another great outing, making us all wonder where this guy has been all these years.  He has transformed from Average Joe to “I have an ERA under 3.00” Joe.  Over 7 innings, Blanton allowed only 1 run on 6 hits and a walk.

Things got shaky in the top of the 8th when he allowed that one run via a solo homer and then gave up a single.  Manager Charlie Manuel, not wanting to ruin and otherwise great start, pulled Blanton and let the pen take over.  Blanton was visibly surprised at the move, but ultimately, it was for the best.              

In the meantime, the Phillies offense showed signs of life.  Carlos Ruiz and John Mayberry Jr. remain hot at the plate, each collecting 2 hits on the night.  Rookie Freddy Galvis is finally catching on and had 3 hits plus 2 RBI.

But the best moment of the night came in the bottom of the 8th when Placido Polanco added his 2000th career hit in grand fashion.  The 2-run homer was probably the best situation he could have imagined for this milestone.  Congrats to Polly on this historic accomplishment!

And perhaps the back end of the Phillies bullpen is also getting into the swing of things.  Antonio Bastardo, Chad Qualls and Jonathan Papelbon combined to close out the 8th and 9th innings and secure the win.  Bastardo even provided his team with some comic relief as he hopped off the mound with enthusiasm thinking the inning was over when there were actually only 2 outs.  Bastardo grinned as his teammates poked fun at him while he sauntered back to the mound.

It is nice to see this team finally having some fun out there.  Winning certainly helps, but if they can keep their spirits up as well, that may go a long way towards digging their season out of the basement.

Game 2 with the Astros starts early today at 1:05pm.

 

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography