After not allowing a single run to the Padres in two straight games, the Phillies finally yielded on Saturday night in the first inning. Joe Blanton got roughed up quickly. On his first three pitches of the game, he allowed a single and an RBI triple to break the Padres scoreless streak.
But after getting out of the early jam, Blanton settled down and actually pitched very well. In seven innings, he allowed just two runs on eight hits and two walks. Blanton finally lowered his ERA below six; it sits at 5.92 right now and hopefully, will get better as the season progresses.
Placido Polanco got the day off at third base, which seemed like an odd choice considering he is the only Phillie really hitting right now. Wilson Valdez took third and Pete Orr filled in at second. Both players had one hit each, but overall, the offense suffered again.
Jimmy Rollins and Ben Francisco accounted for the Phillies two runs. After Rollins walked in the fourth, Francisco tripled to score him. Then in the sixth, Rollins singled to score Orr who had doubled before him.
Just a quick side note, I noticed last week that Orr already has a fan club, Orr’s Oars. A group of fans have been wielding boat oars in the outfield in Orr’s honor. Also interesting to note, Orr’s cousin, Nick Boynton, plays for the Flyers.
And yes, that is how sad the offense was in this game. I was so bored, I made a hockey reference.
Here are just a few examples of the Phillies offensive woes: Raul Ibanez has not had a hit in 17 at-bats. Frankly, I think John Mayberry Jr. should get some playing time until Ibanez figures it out. And Rollins is batting .120 in his last seven games.
The Padres have similar issues and as such, neither team looked good on offense. That led to extra innings after both teams were unable to score again in a 2-2 tie game. This would become a battle of the bullpens.
As it turned out, the Phillies bullpen came out on top thanks to an RBI-single by Howard in the 11th. That hit was huge for Howard as he had struck out in each of his previous four at-bats. The two runs that scored gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead which Ryan Madson held down for his second save in a row.
The Phillies are up 3-0 in the series with the final game today at 4:05pm.
On Thursday night, the Phillies snuck away with a 3-0 win against the Padres even though their offense is still anemic. Home runs by Ben Francisco and Brian Schneider paved the way for Roy Oswalt to collect his third win of the year.
While Oswalt appeared to have no ill effects from last week’s back issue, he did wind up having to toss a lot of pitches to get through six innings. It was 106 pitches, to be exact. The bullpen held the lead despite each reliever allowing one hit and one walk each.
Friday night, Cole Hamels took the mound and looked great in front of his hometown crowd. Usually comfy in San Diego, Hamels seemed to be relaxed and in control. He was even one of the best batters of the night with two hits, although he had a brain freeze and got picked off first base once.
Hamels cruised through eight innings without allowing a run. The Padres managed only four hits and three walks, one of which was intentional.
As for the Phillies offense, there has been very little of that lately. Two walks in the third inning led to a 2-RBI triple by Ryan Howard which accounted for the Phillies only two runs of the game. Lucky for them, Hamels brought his A-game and kept the Padres off the scoreboard.
The ninth inning was handed to Ryan Madson. Jose Contreras got a day off since he has pitched a lot lately. Madson has struggled in the closer role in the past, but tonight he had no issues. The Phillies went on to win by a score of 2-0.
There are two more games in the series. Saturday’s game time is 8:35pm and Joe Blanton will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies celebrated the Phanatic’s birthday today. Afterwards, they got to celebrate a win as well. In a very close 3-2 victory over the Marlins, the Phillies saw their season record improve to 10-4 in front of the second largest regular season crowd since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004.
All 45,716 people were treated to a birthday party for the Phanatic before the game began. Local Philly mascots and some mascots from other MLB teams joined the party too. The ZOOperstars also attended and yes, there was a cake made entirely of Tastycakes:
As for the game, Placido Polanco got the Phillies off to fast start with a solo homer off Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez in the first inning. A single by Raul Ibanez later knocked Jimmy Rollins in for a 2-0 lead.
And that is how the score would remain for five innings as Cole Hamels looked very sharp. He finally bent in the sixth, allowing two runs, but finished seven full innings without giving up a big inning.
Hamels’ performance was what kept the Phillies in the game as the hits were not coming easily. Polanco would up with three hits and Ben Francisco had two. That accounted for five of the Phillies eight hits total.
There were some odd and sloppy plays throughout the game by both teams. Ibanez made a spectacular running catch in the fourth inning (see photo below). But the next inning, he missed basically the exact same ball. And Shane Victorino stumbled while on first base and got picked off in the fifth:
The third run for the Phillies was courtesy of a Marlins goof in the eighth. Ryan Howard hit a fly ball to left and Logan Morrison somehow missed it as the sun appeared to interfere with his vision. Francisco took advantage and singled and then Ibanez moved Howard to third on a ground out. Carlos Ruiz put the RBI on the board with a sac fly, giving the Phils the 3-2 lead.
In the ninth, Jose Contreras did his best Brad Lidge imitation and scared the crap out of everyone in attendance with a circus-like save. He walked the first batter and a few ground balls moved the runner to third.
As if this were not frightening enough, Contreras then walked Chris Coghlan, who then stole second base. But Omar Infante then grounded out for the third out and Contreras got his third save of the year, although it was not pretty.
The Phillies split the 2 games with the Marlins as Saturday’s game has been rescheduled for 6/15. On Monday night, they begin a 3-game series with the Brewers. Game time is 7:05pm and Joe Blanton will pitch.
The full Photo Album from today’s game, including batting practice and the birthday bash, will be posted tomorrow afternoon. Check back for that.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies beat the Mets today by a score of 11-0 to win the series two games to one. Roy Halladay was his usual, spectacular self as he shut down the opposition. Halladay went seven innings without allowing a run on six hits and his first walk issued for the season.
The offense went back to work, pounding Mets pitching mercilessly. Every Phillies starter had a hit, including Halladay. Wilson Valdez led the team with four hits and three RBI. Placido Polanco had three RBI on two hits and Raul Ibanez smacked his first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the seventh.
The Phillies finish their first home stand of the year with a 5-1 record, scoring 43 runs in the process. Overall, the start of 2011 has been a great success for the Phillies. Here are some of the most encouraging signs:
The Offense: Those 43 runs in six games are a very big deal for a team whose offensive potential looked grim to some in the absence of both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, who is now with the Nationals.
The runs have not been the only good news. The way they scored those runs is also impressive. Normally known as a home-run led offense, the Phillies have learned how to run the bases and play small ball, going station to station with a more patient approach at the plate.
The homers are still there, but have not played as prominent a role as they have in years past. In other words, the Phillies can score runs without the big bangs.
Over all six games, Howard has collected 12 hits, including three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. On Wednesday night against the Mets, Howard went four for four at the plate. He is now batting .480.
If the All-Star first baseman can keep up this pace, he is going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers all year long.
As for Rollins, he had a very rough 2010 that was plagued with injuries. But he is off to a good start in 2011, which is also a contract year for him.
Batting .375 in the three-hole so far, Rollins may be back to the J-Roll of old.
Wilson Valdez Is Up To The Task: When Chase Utley reported major knee injuries this spring training, the fan base let out a collective sigh of disappointment. The perennial All-Star is one of leaders on this team and probably their best overall hitter.
But Wilson Valdez, coming off a season where he got a lot of playing time due to injuries, is ready to fill the void.
Hitting .429 through six games and five starts, Valdez tried to imitate Ryan Howard on Thursday afternoon, going four for four with three RBI. With nine hits and five RBI in his five starts, Valdez has more than adequately filled the Utley void.
And his defense is probably a slight upgrade over Utley. Valdez has a cannon for an arm and now, his bat is on fire too.
Starting Pitching: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt all gave solid performances this week, as expected. Halladay has pitched twice and was even better in his second start.
As for Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, their first starts did not go quite as well. But three out of five is not bad.
However, no one should panic about either Hamels or Blanton. Hamels is a notoriously slow starter. Clearly, the California kid does not like chilly weather. His lifetime ERA in April is 4.45. In 2010, Hamels posted a 5.28 ERA in April.
Blanton has similar issues. So both pitchers should get better as the season progresses.
But these five guys are going to be something very special.
The Bullpen: Once thought to be the Achilles heel of this Phillies team, the bullpen has really stepped up their game this year.
Danys Baez has been great after being a total nightmare in 2010. Youngster Antonio Bastardo has matured and also looks very sharp. And J.C. Romero appears to have made the necessary adjustments to his game that were needed after he had issues in 2010 following elbow surgery.
With Brad Lidge gone and probably not returning until after the All-Star break, there are concerns about the back end of the pen, too. But both Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras are on the ball so far. Contreras collected his first save on Wednesday night and neither pitcher has allowed a run yet.
The pen is ready for the season!
Werth Who? : Ben Francisco is quickly making Phillies fans forget all about Jayson Werth and his exorbitant $129 million pay check with the Nationals.
Batting .320, Francisco has eight hits, five RBI and two home runs so far. He might have a few more bombs if not for the cold, windy conditions in Philly right now. Francisco has hit the ball very, very hard in nearly every at-bat.
His defense has been good as well. Giving himself up for the team, Francisco smashed into the right field wall, back first on Sunday to catch a very long fly ball. He hit it so hard, part of the out of town scoreboard was knocked loose.
Francisco’s effort and right-handed power are exactly what the Phillies need in their starting right fielder.
The Phillies are off on their first road trip of the season. They take on the Braves in Atlanta tomorrow with Cliff Lee pitching. Game time is 7:35pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Early in tonight’s game, it looked like the Phillies had the Mets by the throat. Ryan Howard was on fire. By the fourth inning, Howard had two doubles and a home run. Even pitcher Joe Blanton smacked a 2-RBI single in the third inning.
But as Howard set the field on fire, Blanton began to cool off on the mound. After the Phillies supplied him with a 7-0 lead, Blanton allowed a two-run homer in the fourth. In the fifth, the wheels all fell off as his pitches began to sail up and into the happy zone for the Mets. Four runs later, Blanton was finally pulled. A fifth run scored before the inning was over, which was charged to Blanton and tied the game 7-7.
I feel like I may have said this close to 100 times in the last several years but, if Joe Blanton starts giving up runs in the fifth inning, take him out! If you look at Blanton’s stats from 2010 as an example, batters go from hitting .184 off him in the fourth inning to .305 in the fifth. And it gets worse from there.
But this is a pattern with him that you do not really need stats to tell you. It is pretty obvious. Trouble for Blanton almost always starts in the fifth or sixth. He began elevating his pitches at the start of the fifth tonight and that should have been like a siren going off for the Phils manager.
Charlie Manuel struggles with pulling Blanton because he hopes he can get through five to qualify for the win. But Manuel needs to start getting tougher with him or come up with a solution. You simply cannot allow a pitcher to blow a seven run lead. When you see the tidal wave coming, get out of the way!
Luckily for the Phillies, the offense kept on picking away at the Mets. Ben Francisco hit his second home run of the year. And on three hits, Placido Polanco collected three RBI. One of those RBI’s put the Phillies back in the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Also helping out during the game, Pete Orr, who started at second, went two for three at the plate. Howard ended his night going 4 for 4 with 2 RBI.
The bullpen held down the new lead for the Phillies. Both J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson pitched scoreless innings, turning the game over to the new closer, Jose Contreras. Getting the job done, Contreras got his first save of the year in a 10-7 win.
The final game of the series is tomorrow afternoon at 3:05pm. Roy Halladay will try to pitch the Phillies to series win over the Mets.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Sitting among the second largest crowd in Citizen Bank Park’s history to witness another historical feat was amazing. All in attendance saw the Phillies open a season at home 3-0 for the first time since 1970 and open a season at home with a three-game series sweep for the first time since 1899. Yes, 1899.
The one-two-three punch of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt proved to be too much for the Houston Astros to handle. Oswalt was great today, pitching six innings and allowing just two runs on five hits against his former ball club in the 7-3 win.
It was Oswalt’s first start against his old team in his first start of the season. But there were many first’s in this game. Ryan Howard hit his first homer of the season while collecting a team-high four RBI in the game. Michael Martinez made his first major league start in place of Shane Victorino in center. Martinez later collected his first major league hit and first RBI in the same at bat.
Ben Francisco also smacked his first home run of the season today and made a huge first impression as the starting right fielder this weekend. With three hits in this game, all he had left to prove was that he could play hard in right. Francisco accomplished that with an amazing catch in right where he crashed into the wall hard, knocking the “SD” out of the out of town scoreboard.
As Francisco gave up his body to make the play, the fans jumped to their feet and screamed his praises. It was Francisco’s very own “Aaron Rowand moment.” Remember back in 2006 when Rowand smashed face-first into the center field wall to make a game-saving catch? He was a home town hero after that.
And while Francisco did not leave the field bloodied and battered, the effort was very much the same. And just like that, Jayson Werth is a distant memory.
Victorino sat today to rest his sore calf, but was able to pinch-hit later in the sixth and then stayed in the game. He saw exactly one pitch in his first at-bat and sent it to right for an RBI single. Looks like the calf is just fine.
The Phillies are off on Monday and start a three game series with the Mets on Tuesday. Cole Hamels will pitch and game time is 7:05pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
When the Phillies announced that they re-signed Cliff Lee this past December, it was hard to believe. From the shocking trade after the 2009 season, to Lee’s return and now, his first start back in a Phils uniform, it has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride.
But when Lee took the mound tonight against the Astros, the reality truly set in. Fans jumped to their feet and roared before Lee even threw a pitch. The excitement was palpable. Like a gift from heaven, Cliff Lee is home again.
As expected, Lee dominated the Astros line-up for most of the game. The only issue he ran into was his namesake, Carlos Lee who smashed a two-run homer. Lee wound up going seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out 11 batter.
The only remaining question for the Phillies was could they muster any offense. The answer is yes. After the amazing Opening Day ninth inning comeback rally on Friday, the Phils offense picked up today where they left off yesterday.
The Phillies got off to a quick start with two runs in the first inning. Between the fourth and fifth innings, they scored five more runs. The highlights were a Raul Ibanez double, a two-run Shane Victorino bloop single and a Ben Francisco double, just to name a few.
The real encouraging factor was not just the runs, but the way they scored the runs. It was a combination of good base running, patience at the plate, small ball and timely hitting. This is the Phillies offense everyone has been waiting to see.
Of course, we all loved the home run days and there will still be some of those. But in the past, the Phillies offense really seemed to rely on the big hits with little to no focus on manufacturing runs. With Chase Utley hurt and Jayson Werth gone, the big concern going into 2011 was the lack of power on a team that has issues playing small ball.
While we have only seen two games so far, it does look like the offense has finally figured out how to go one base at a time to score runs. With the incredible pitching they have, if the offense can keep up this pace and be consistent, this will be a very scary team.
Of course, where there is good news, sometime bad news follows. After a collision in center field with Francisco, Victorino left the game early. Reports say that he has soreness in his left calf. While his previous injury was to the left calf, there is still concern. Hopefully, pulling him was just a precaution. There is no word yet on how serious it may be.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 9-4. On Sunday, they will go for the series sweep with Roy Oswalt on the mound against his former team. Former Phillie J.A. Happ was scheduled to pitch for the Astros but has been scratched due to an oblique issue. Bud Norris will pitch instead. Game time is 1:35pm and I will return with photos.
Lee photo by Jenn Zambri Photography