Pitcher Roy Oswalt made his first start back from the DL today in the series finale against the Giants. Looking a little rusty, Oswalt allowed three runs, although it could have been worse. Over six innings, Oswalt gave up 12 hits, but still stranded 10 runners.
For the Giants, Tim Lincecum was his usual, amazing self, limiting the Phillies to just one run on seven hits. However, someone should inform the baby-faced Lincecum that he does not need to attempt to grow the world’s smallest goatee in order to be intimidating. Although, it is awfully cute.
Watching the Phillies score only one run was not so cute. Chase Utley had the lone RBI. And for the first time as a Phillie, Hunter Pence did not have a hit in the game. So both Pence’s hit streak and win streak ended on the same day.
The Phillies win streak as a team ended at nine; with Pence, they won eight straight. And as it turns out, Pence does not hit, the Phillies do not win. Pence must feel like he has entered the Twilight Zone, finally losing a game with his new team.
There were a few interesting moments in the game, aside from the lack of offense. Carlos Ruiz made two great plays, giving up his body to get outs. In the 4th, Ruiz dove to tag out Aubrey Huff by smashing him right in the face with the baseball (see photo). And then in the 5th, Ruiz ran down Jeff Keppinger who wandered too far of third and jumped on top of him right before he reached third to get the out.
Later in the 8th, Utley was clearly distracted by Lincecum’s adorable baby facial hair as he fouled off a ball and his bat went flying to the mound, hitting Lincecum in the knee. Utley went to check on little Timmy to make sure he was ok and Timmy handed him the bat back, indicating he was fine. It was a nice display of sportsmanship by both players.
The 3-1 loss leaves the Phillies still with a wide margin in the NL East, leading the Braves by 8.5 games. Plus, taking 3 of 4 games from the Giants is very big for their momentum and confidence as the leaders in the league.
Monday night, the Phillies begin a 3-game series with the Dodgers. Roy Halladay will pitch and game time is 10:10pm.
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Photos from Getty Images
Everyone expected Roy Halladay to come out firing tonight with the Phillies season on the line. Instead, he walked the first batter he faced and allowed a run to score. The entire 6 innings he pitched were uncomfortable, at best. He did only allow 2 runs total; the second one, of course, off the bat of Cody Ross with an RBI-double. But he never looked settled, fell behind in counts and ended with 2 walks and only 5 strike outs.
While Halladay’s entire outing was a nail biter, he did battle through it and kept the Phils in the game. Tim Lincecum only had one bad inning through 7 and that was the 3rd. The Phillies scored 3 runs in a very odd sequence of events. Raul Ibanez, back in the line-up after being sat yesterday, singled to start the inning. That was his first hit this entire series.
Lincecum then hit Carlos Ruiz to put two men on base with no outs. Halladay bunted what looked like a foul ball but the umpire, much to everyone’s surprise, called it fair. The base runners moved up as Pablo Sandoval at third missed the bag while Ibanez slid in. Halladay just stood at home looking confused as he was thrown out at first on a foul ball.
But it worked out for the Phillies as an error by Aubrey Huff allowed both Ibanez and Ruiz to score. Placido Polanco singled to score another run. But then with runners on first and second, needing a simple sac fly to score again, Ryan Howard struck out…again. Howard has zero RBI’s this series. Jayson Werth flied out to end the inning, stranding 2 runners.
You had to wonder if these stranded runners would cost the Phillies both the game (again) and the season. They headed into the 7th clinging to the slim 3-2 lead. Jimmy Rollins singled and then stole 2 bases to land on 3rd with Ruiz on 1st and only one out. But again, the Phillies failed to score. Pinch hitter Ross Gload hit a line drive right to 1st. Huff caught the ball and stepped on 1st for the easy double play.
So it would be up to the bullpen to keep the series going and send it back to Philly. Jose Contreras and JC Romero took care of the 7th. Ryan Madson was tossing 95mph bullets in the 8th, despite having pitched the last two games. He struck out the side, including our old friend Pat Burrell. Remember when a Burrell strike out was SO frustrating? Not so much anymore ;o)
Giving the Phillies a little extra breathing room in the 9th, Werth hit a monster homer over the huge right field wall. Brad Lidge had a 4-2 lead to work with and got the first out quickly with a shallow fly ball. Next out, an easy ground ball. (Biting my nails…) Pinch hitter, whose name no one can pronounce…Travis Ishikawa…IsHeWaWa? IshiMama? IdunnoA? Whatever. He struck out, so who cares. Phillies win, 4-2!!! LIDGE gets it DONE!
With the win tonight, the NLCS series heads back to Philadelphia with the Phils trailing 2 games to 3. They have an off-day tomorrow for travel and will play Game 6 on Saturday, either at 3:57pm or 7:57pm, depending on the Rangers – Yankees series results tomorrow. I assume Roy Oswalt is still slated to pitch; we should know for sure tomorrow. Whatever happens, I am excited to go to the game on Saturday; this team may still have life in them yet.
UPDATE: Halladay apparently pulled his groin early in the game last night during either the 1st or 2nd inning. Manuel said 2nd, but also said it was during the Buster Posey at-bat, which was in the 1st. At any rate, he pitched basically the whole game injured. Halladay will have an MRI today to determine how bad the pull is.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies seem determined to lose this NLCS series; they did everything they could think of to hand it over the Giants tonight to go down 3 games to 1. Lose tomorrow and they will go home. There are many ways to describe the Phillies effort this series, such as pathetic, disgusting or downright ugly. It appears they already have their bags packed.
Not to take anything away from the Giants who are a great team with an amazing pitching staff. But the effort they have gotten from Phillies so far in no way properly emulates the talent on this team. The offense has been minimal to non-existent and the pitching has varied from great (Roy Oswalt, Game 2) to unexpectedly lackluster (Roy Halladay, Game 1) to horrible (Joe Blanton plus Chad Durbin, Game 4).
Tonight, Blanton was not good. He allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and a walk in only 4 2/3 innings. All 3 runs were scored with two outs in the inning and one of those came after two wild pitches in the first inning. Worse than that, after the offense squeezed out 4 tough runs in the 5th for him, Blanton could not manage a shut-down inning and gave a run right back.
The 4 runs they managed came after a string of singles and a double by Placido Polanco. A hit batter loaded the bases but Jimmy Rollins swung at ball 4 to end the inning instead of adding on runs. The addition of Ben Francisco in place of Raul Ibanez was an improvement as Francisco actually hit the ball a few times. But in the end, not much else went right for the Phillies.
Trying to hand the game over on a silver platter, Chad Durbin and Carlos Ruiz combined to take a 4-3 Phillies lead in the 6th inning and turn it into a 4-5 deficit. Durbin led the inning off by walking Pat Burrell. Then, apparently leaving his brain back in Philadelphia, Ruiz called for inside fastballs to Cody Ross who has gobbled those same pitches up this series to the tune of 3 homers and 4 RBI. Well, he did it again with a double and eventually scored along with Burrell.
I hate to criticize Ruiz, who has been fabulous all year, but this was the 5th time he made the same mistake to Ross this series. FIVE times! WHEN will it end? And that was not the only mistake; Ruiz called for a high fastball to Pablo Sandoval that same inning, which led to a 2-RBI double. I was screaming at the TV, “Keep the ball down!” because I knew he wanted a high fastball. If I know this, WHY doesn’t Ruiz?? Sandoval took a ridiculous swing at a low curve ball earlier in the at-bat and missed badly. Plus, if you have EVER seen Sandoval hit, you know he likes them high. Hello??? Am I some sort of baseball genius or was this just a bonehead move by the pitcher and catcher? Hint: Bonehead move!!
I do not think “frustration” begins to cover the range of emotions I am experiencing right now, along with thousands of other Phillies fans. As just another example of this, why in that same 5th inning we discussed earlier did the 3rd base coach send Ruiz home from 2nd on a ball hit to very shallow center?
He was nailed at the plate by a mile. And why on that same play is Shane Victorino, who hit the ball, still standing on first base instead of advancing to 2nd during the play at home? Did he have a brain freeze? Whatever the issue, it was about to induce a brain aneurism as my head felt like it might explode.
In the 8th inning, doubles from Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth tied the game up. But is it just me, or did this not just seem to delay the inevitable? So going into the 9th inning and running out of pitchers that manager Charlie Manuel felt he could trust, he brought in starter Roy Oswalt on TWO days rest. I kid you not. He still had Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lidge and JC Romero in the pen, but went with Oswalt.
That turned out to be a huge disaster. Oswalt gave up two singles and a sac fly that scored the winning run for the Giants. Not Oswalt’s fault by any means; what did they expect from him on two days rest and off his usual routine?
Game 5 tomorrow – Roy Halladay will attempt to keep the series alive. Is it possible for the Phillies to win the next 3 games? Anything is possible I suppose.
Durbin photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies travelled to San Francisco for Game 3 of the NLCS but apparently, they did not take their bats with them. They did the same thing back in April when they scored only 3 runs in the first 2 games of that series. And last year, the Phils lost 3 of 4 against the Giants in San Fran. The Phillies lack of offense and extended slumps throughout the year were a big concern going into the postseason and it is easy to see why.
In today’s game, the Phillies left 7 men on base and went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. They had hit Giants pitcher Matt Cain very well in previous meetings, but not today. Cain blanked them through 7 innings despite hitting 2 batters and walking 3; that is 5 free base runners that the Phillies did absolutely nothing with.
Chase Utley was the worst offender, leaving 3 on base and hitting a bunch of weak grounders. He also missed a ground ball which led to runs, although it was officially not scored an error. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino left 2 on base and Raul Ibanez left 3. Ibanez looked ridiculous at the plate, swinging at pitches well out of the strike zone, even grounding into a double play to end the game. Early in the year, Ibanez suffered from prolonged slumps that took weeks and months to emerge from. The Phillies do not have time for him, or anyone else, to break out of it. I admire Charlie Manuel for sticking by his guys, but it is time for a wake-up call here.
So the Phillies offense wound up with only three hits the entire game. And although Cole Hamels was not at his best, it really didn’t matter what he did. Three hits are not going to win any ball games. Hamels had a quality start with 3 runs allowed in 6 innings, but I am sure even Hamels is not happy with that result. But he certainly did not get any help.
The two ex-Phillies on the Giants roster had a hand in the damage. Pat Burrell walked with 2 outs in the 4th to set up Cody “The Devil” Ross, who singled in a run. Burrell then scored on an Aubrey Huff single. Then Aaron Rowand led off the 5th with a double and eventually scored. I am sure Burrell and Rowand had a nice time sticking it to the team who sent them packing.
While this is a best of 7 series, the Phillies are now in big trouble. Joe Blanton was set to pitch tomorrow, but that game is now a must-win. It is possible that Manuel may ask his 3 ace’s all to pitch on 3 day’s rest. Blanton has not pitched since 9/24.
However, I am not so sure that short rest will be a good thing for any of these 3 starters, especially when you consider the number of innings they all pitched in the regular season. Roy Halladay pitched 250 2/3 innings this year, 2nd most in his career. Roy Oswalt pitched 211 2/3 and Hamels has never pitched on short rest. In fact, Hamels would be most affected as he has been very vocal in years past about being able to stick to his usual routine.
But even more concerning is the lack of energy and production out of this Phillies offense. They look lethargic and complacent. Right now, I feel like I am writing an obituary instead of a blog entry. No, they are not dead yet, but it is getting close. I would love to be wrong on this. Game 4 tomorrow: 7:30pm.
a post-game interview, Charlie Manuel said Blanton will start tomorrow.
Happy Bunny by Jim Benton