After allowing a minimum of 5 runs in each of his last 5 starts, no one expected a stand-out performance from Joe Blanton last night against the Twins. But the oddities this Phillies season seemingly never cease.
Going the whole 9 innings, Blanton allowed only 1 run on a solo homer, 7 hits and struck out 7. Blanton’s season has gone from great to awful and now, back to great again. Of the 3 complete games for Phillies pitchers this year, Blanton has 2 and Kyle Kendrick, who has been terrible lately, has the other. And this is on a staff of pitchers that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Go figure.
Continuing to terrorize American League pitching, Jim Thome added 3 more RBI to his stats last night with yet another bomb. The best part was watching fans dig through the flower beds in the outfield trying to recover the home run ball. That went on for several innings until security put a stop to it for fear of someone bending over too far and falling onto the field.
The mysterious, disappearing ball was never found. I guess those plants were really hungry. Either that or the ball was hit so hard, it ricocheted off into space and is currently in orbit.
While the mystery ball remains at large, the Phillies are moving right along. In fact, they are leaving the country. It is off to Toronto for 3 games with the Blue Jays next.
Perhaps these 2 wins will be the boost they needed to get their season back on track? Let us hope so. Game time tonight is 7:07pm.
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Blanton photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
As many of my readers are aware, I spent a week in Toronto to see the 3-game series between the Phillies and the Blue Jays this past weekend. If you missed the game photos, check out my previous posts from July 1-3, 2011.
Here are my thoughts on the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where the Blue Jays play:
PROS: I loved the retractable roof. Yes, many find it annoying and not very traditional, but I like the option in terms of weather and temperature control. The roof was open for the 3-game series, but had it rained, I would have been thrilled to avoid rain delays and getting my camera wet.
The location in the city is a nice area and not too difficult to get to with a variety of parking options. There were many attractions nearby, although they were nearly impossible to get to with an after-game crowd wandering about.
And the staff at the stadium was very nice, helpful and talkative. Although, sometimes it was annoying. For instance, I had an usher give me a 15 minute verbal tour of the stadium, it’s features and concessions when all I asked was if I could stand in that spot during batting practice. Nice guy, but I was exhausted after that ;o)
CONS: The concourse was dark and dingy with little to no ambiance. More like a dungeon than a ballpark, it was even a bit creepy.
The food was bad, overpriced and the selection was slim. I had the nachos, which were just chips and cheese and the chips were super salty…blech! I think that was $8.50 Canadian, which is about $9.00 USD.
The seats were nicely spaced side-to-side, but with NO leg room at all in the front. My knees were almost in the head of the person in front of me. And the curvature of the seats meant I wound up with huge bruises on both knees from butting up against the seat in front of me. Ouch!
The seating arrangement was unlike anything I have ever seen. The tickets have an “L” or “R” after the section number, which I found out meant “left” and “right.” Had I not asked, I would never have known as nothing is labeled “L” or “R.”
The seats were numbered in one row consecutively like this: #101-108 followed by #8-1. NO break in the seats…so directly next to seat 108 was seat 8. Weird. And half the seat numbers were missing which made finding my seat a real adventure.
Also, there was NO wireless internet. Most ballparks have this now, but what made this especially weird was that the stadium is called the “Rogers Centre.” Rogers Communications is Canada’s largest provider of wireless internet and digital / cable TV in the entire country. Seriously…and they could not provide internet? Cheap.
Overall, I’d give the stadium about a C+.
Review of Toronto and the surrounding area
So besides baseball, there is plenty to do in the province of Ontario. The city of Toronto and areas nearby were clean and safe with very friendly people. I travel alone a lot and felt very comfortable there.
If you are into history and architecture, this place has lots of it. The buildings and homes are almost all made of brick and sort of look like you travelled back in time except they are very well preserved. There are a lot of nature areas and parks which are calm, serene places within the city to relax.
Constructed from 1911 – 1914 is a medieval castle, Casa Loma, which was gorgeous and filled with Victorian-style furnishings and dramatic woodwork. It is right in the city and easy to find…a must-see.
But beware of all the stairs and walking involved. Not just in the castle, but all around the city is not terribly handicapped-accessible. There is a LOT of walking and even more stairs, especially around the stadium. My calves are still burning.
I also went to the Toronto Zoo, which is HUGE. Again, more walking than you may have imagined. I also visited Jungle Cat World where they let me pet and play with a tiger, a lynx and a lemur. Awesome! And yes, I am slightly insane:
Niagara Falls was also nearby right at the Canadian – US border. The Canadian side is very nice, the US side is basically a dump, except for the immediate falls area. The water is incredible and breathtaking. Go on the Maid of the Mist boat ride under the falls if you get there one day. It was crazy.
And how about driving in Canada? Glad you asked…It was very confusing at first, but I got the hang of it after a few days. But my first day was rather amusing…
The first sign I saw on the highway said, “ETR, Express Toll Road.” Naturally, I thought there would be a toll to pay, but after many miles, nothing. Then I saw a digital sign that read, “Collectors moving slowly after next transfer.” I thought it was sort of rude to call out their toll collectors like that, but again, I kept waiting for the toll booth.
10 miles passed….no toll booth. 60 miles later, same messages, same traffic, no tolls. When I got to the hotel, I had to ask what in the world all that was about. Turns out, there are no tolls. I still have NO idea why it is called an Express Toll Road. And the “collectors” are actually the non-bypass roads that travel paralell to the express roads. It is like I-95 & I-495 in Wilmington. 95 would be the “collector” and 495 is the “express” as it bypasses the city and many exits.
And the “collector” road literally “collects” traffic from the express in the left lanes and then the right lanes turn into “exit only.” This happened about every 2 miles. So if you were in the right lane, to stay on the highway, you had to move left like every two miles. It was very, very odd.
So to sum it up, Canada was odd, friendly and very amusing. I officially hate the metric system. And I have about 20 pounds (or 9.07 kilograms) of Canadian coins in my wallet. They use coins for $1 and $2 – no bills until you reach $5. I know also know that 100 km/hr is only 60 mph on the roads, which was disappointing. And gas costs almost twice as much there and is measured in liters, not gallons. But overall, a very nice trip :O)
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
In the month of June, Cliff Lee was untouchable. After five starts, he allowed only one run and threw 3-consecutive complete game shut-outs. But today, it was apparent that the magical month of June was officially over for Lee.
Prior to the game, the vibes were nothing but positive. The Phillies were so loose and happy that they laughed and chatted with the mass of fans standing behind the dugout, most of whom had travelled great distances to see their team play in Toronto. Many bantered with a particularly exuberant fan a few feet away from me who was shouting their names one after another.
The Phillies are always great with the fans, but today there was a level of interaction that I have never seen before during warm-ups. Everyone was smiling and laughing, even the Blue Jays fans and stadium employees. Nothing but hugs and smiles, literally:
So when the game began, it felt like nothing could quell the excitement. The Phillies offense got off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the second inning. It looked like the bats were going to be hot all day.
But perhaps the Phillies were a bit too relaxed going into this one. Because after the second inning, the offense went right to sleep.
However, with Cliff Lee pitching, it seemed like four runs should get the job done. But through seven innings, Lee had allowed three runs narrowing the Phils lead to 4-3. Multiple stolen bases and balls finding holes put the Jays back in the game.
Shane Victorino added to the drama of the day when he got his cleat stuck in the astro turf and jammed his thumb. He was eventually fine and stayed in the game. But then in the eighth after hitting a double, Victorino got picked off leaning too far off base.
Then in the bottom of the eighth inning, the wheels completely fell off. On the first pitch of the inning, Eric Thames took Lee deep to centerfield to tie the game. And the horror did not end there. Jose Bautista homered next, as he did in each game of this series. An Adam Lind single was followed shortly after by the third home run of inning, this time from Edwin Encarnacion.
And just like that, Lee was lifted from the game and the Phillies were down by a score of 7-4.
So while they did not sweep, the Phillies still won 2 out of 3 in this series to end Interleague play for the year. The Marlins are up next starting tomorrow night at 6:10pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game. Once I return home at the end of the week, I will also post photos from the rest of my trip to Canada for anyone who is curious. Check back for that.
The All-Stars have been announced. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Placido Polanco will be representing the Phillies!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Just being in the Rogers Centre in Toronto today, I could sense that it was going to be a big game. Fans on both sides were anxious to see Roy Halladay pitch. The Blue Jays fans wanted to welcome Roy back to Toronto and Phillies fans were salivating for another win.
With all the hype going into the game, no one could have anticipated the fireworks that were about to explode inside the dome.
Halladay got a standing ovation as he took the mound. It was a unifying moment between Jays fans and the many Phillies fans who traveled to another country to see their team play. But the moment lasted exactly that long; for only a moment.
The Phillies offense jumped on the Jays early, scoring a run, although they should have scored much more. But once Halladay began pitching, the game took on a new life. It turned into a rollercoaster battle with a number of lead changes.
The Jays rallied in the fifth after a Chase Utley throwing error turned an out into a triple. The Jays scored twice, but Utley made up for it my smashing a 2-run homer in the seventh to give the lead back to the Phils.
The defense was mostly solid, despite the one error and Jimmy Rollins even turned a double play to end the game.
But before that, all sorts of drama ensued in the ninth inning. First, a rabid fan ran onto the field and had to be hunted down by security. Why he had no shoes on is a mystery, but it was very entertaining:
And just when you thought the inning could not get any better, pitcher John Rauch issued a walk to Ryan Howard which he clearly did not think was a walk. He did not say anything though until the next batter, Shane Victorino, singled to score Utley:
Directly after the run scored, the 6’10” Rauch got in the umpires face and screamed at him. As Rauch was ejected, he lost his mind and went all Incredible Hulk on the ump, even having his jersey torn off in the process. Being that Rauch is big enough to be the Hulk, umpire Alfonso Marquez quickly realized that he did not like Rauch when he was angry ;o)
The Jays manager got into it next after helping to restrain Rauch and he too was ejected.
Fans quickly got on the umpire, tossing things onto the field and Marquez had to call security for extra assistance. But the game remained a 5-3 Phillies lead, despite all the hollering.
Halladay finally took the mound for the bottom of the ninth and closed out the game, going the distance once again. Over nine innings, he allowed just eight hits, three runs and struck out eight batters.
Here is the full Photo Album from the game. I will have photos after tomorrow’s game as well when Cliff Lee takes the mound and tries for a 3-game sweep of the Jays.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
We are sorry for ruining your holiday. Perhaps next year, you can play the Mets on Canada Day instead. Sincerely,
So yes, the Phillies pulled off an improbable 7-6 comeback win today against the Blue Jays, amidst holiday festivities. Canadians take this day very seriously; everything was closed and parties were all over the place. Even Wal-Mart was closed. Know you know how important this day was for Canada. No Wal-Mart…I shudder at the thought.
The festivities also included a pre-game celebration:
And then former Blue-Jay Roy Halladay was asked to present the line-up card for the Phillies and go over the ground rules, like the coach normally does. The Toronto fans gave him a loud standing ovation.
One fan told me the reason they love Halladay so much was not because he is an awesome pitcher, but because he always gave 110% even when the team sucked for all those years. He never slacked off, even though they were not winning.
Also part of the celebration, all players and even the mascots wore jerseys that said “Canada” on the back instead of their names:
The match-up of Kyle Kendrick and Ricky Romero looked ominous as Kendrick plunked the first batter he faced. Yunel Escobar wound up having to leave the game with a badly bruised hand and Kendrick proceeded to give up a bunch of runs.
But while Kendrick faltered, the Phillies offense battled back and by the seventh inning they had a 5-4 lead after a Shane Victorino triple and then a sac fly from Ben Francisco scored two runs.
The defense on both sides was a bit sloppy, but the Phillies were able to recover.
The Jays then landed what looked like a knock-out blow in the bottom of the seventh. With a 5-4 lead and 2 outs, Kendrick made a huge mistake to slugger Jose Bautista who deposited the ball over the fence in left.
With the air out of the balloon and now losing by 6-5, it looked like Kendrick had blown the game. But the Phillies mustered a comeback in the ninth. Placido Polanco walked, Chase Utley doubled and then Ryan Howard served up a 2 RBI-single to give the Phils a 7-6 lead.
Antonio Bastardo sent the shell-shocked Jays down in order in the bottom of the ninth for the save. And now, they Jays have to contend with Halladay and Cliff Lee in the next two games. I like the chances for the Phillies.
Here is the full Photo Album from the game. More photos to come after tomorrow’s game as well!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies had a chance to sweep the Red Sox today in this 3-game series, but once Cole Hamels was pulled early, that opportunity passed by. In the fourth inning, a line-drive from Adrian Gonzalez knocked the glove off Hamels’ non-pitching hand. He exited the game to receive treatment.
The injury is being called a bruise but it is unclear if Hamels will make his next start. It will depend on whether or not he can grip his glove and bat.
So the game was handed over to a very young, inexperienced bullpen. David Herndon allowed three runs over two innings. Then Drew Carpenter gave up two more.
But the bullpen’s performance really made little difference as the Phillies mustered only four hits in the game and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The only scoring was a 2-run bomb from Ryan Howard in the ninth inning.
The lack of offense is gruesome as usual. And with pitchers dropping like flies, the Phillies may have to lean on their bats in the near future. So, someone better figure out where they hid those bats…fast.
This weekend, the Phillies face the Blue Jays for three games and I am here in Toronto to bring you all the torrid details. Kyle Kendrick pitches tomorrow but Saturday is a big one. It will be the first time Roy Halladay pitches against his old team in Toronto.
The people of Toronto are so excited to see Roy Halladay again, the local TV station is even running a promo about it detailing Halladay’s time in Toronto and how much he meant to the city. The ad encourages fans to come to the game and cheer for Halladay to welcome him back. It is a real class move by Toronto. However, I assume the cheering will stop once Halladay starts mowing down Jays.
Tomorrow is also Canada Day here, which celebrates the country’s independence from the United Kingdom. I find it odd, however, that their currency still bears the Queen’s image on their $20 bill. I would tell you who is on the $100 dollar bill, but sadly, I don’t have any of those ;o)
But I digress…anyway, check back for updates on the games and, of course, photos! Speaking of which, here is one I took of Niagara Falls before I headed over to Toronto:
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The five teams in the NL East, the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Nationals, have all had busy off-seasons trying to improve their clubs. Some have been more successful than others. And some, like the Phillies and Mets, are moving very slowly through the free agent and trade possibilities.
Here is a countdown of the top 10 moves so far within the division and a breakdown of potential future moves for each team.
#10 – Three Relief Pitchers to the Marlins
In mid-November, the Red Sox swapped lefty relievers with the Marlins. Dustin Richardson went to the Marlins and Andrew Miller landed with the Red Sox. Miller, previously a highly-touted prospect, was a disappointment in Florida. He struggled with control and lacked consistency.
The addition of Richardson is a good move for the Marlins. At only 26-years of age, Richardson posted a 4.15 in 26 relief appearances in the bigs, although most of his time has been spent in the minors. This lefty has great potential. The Marlins hope they can mould him into a solid reliever.
The very next day, the Marlins also acquired two right-handers, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. The Marlins sent Cameron Maybin to the Padres in exchange. Webb has averaged a 3.19 ERA in two major league seasons while Mujica is going into his 6th season having posted a 3.62 ERA last year.
These three pitchers combined should make a major impact on the Marlins 2011 bullpen.
#9 – Dennys Reyes to the Phillies
The Phillies have agreed to terms with veteran left-hander, Dennys Reyes. The 33-year-old reliever posted a 3.55 ERA in 59 relief appearances last season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies chose not to re-sign JC Romero after Romero struggled with control and left elbow surgery last offseason seemed to alter his mechanics. Reyes will be counted on to take over for Romero.
The only other lefty who has had much success with the Phillies in the few past years is Antonio Bastardo. The Phillies will likely go into the 2011 season with these two left-handed relievers in the bullpen.
#8 – Javier Vazquez to the Marlins
Right-handed starter Javier Vazquez struggled last year with the Yankees, ending the season with a 10-10 record and a 5.32 ERA. However, Vazquez pitched for the Braves in 2009 and ended with a 2.87 ERA. A return to the NL East may be exactly what Vazquez needs to get back on track.
The Marlins also like the idea that Vazquez can eat innings for them, which is something they have been lacking. This 13-year veteran is sure to bring some stability to the Marlins rotation.
#7 – Eric Hinske re-signs with the Braves
The Braves liked Eric Hinske in left field last year, where he made only 1 error in 360 innings. At the plate, Hinske hit .256 with 11 homers and a .793 OPS. In 2011, Hinske is likely to serve as a left-handed pinch-hitter who may fill in for Martin Prado from time to time.
#6 – John Buck to the Marlins
Catcher John Buck will enter his 8th major league season with a 3-contract from the Florida Marlins. Buck had a breakout year in 2010 with the Blue Jays and made the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Buck set career highs in batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.314), homers (20) and RBIs (66) with the Jays and also threw out 28% of runners attempting to steal. The Marlins may have hit a home run with this signing.
Jose Contreras spent most of his career as a starter until last year with the Phillies where he made a nice transition into a full-time reliever. Contreras was one of the most dependable relievers in the Phillies bullpen and as such, the Phillies rewarded him with a new 2-year deal, including an option for a third year.
Contreras went 6-4 with four saves and a 3.34 ERA in 67 games in 2010. He is able to pitch multiple innings when necessary and can also fill in as a closer. This gives the Phillies some much needed stability in the bullpen.
#4 – Scott Linebrink to the Braves
There was one more pitching swap this offseason as the Braves sent Kyle Cofield to the White Sox in exchange for another righty, Scott Linebrink. At 23 years of age, Cofield was moved in favor of experience. Linebrink is a 12-year veteran who has had a fairly consistent career. He went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA as a reliever for the White Sox last year and will be a solid piece in the Braves bullpen.
#3 – George Sherrill to the Braves
Continuing to add pitching, the Braves signed lefty reliever George Sherrill, who will be entering his 8th season in the majors. The one-year deal is a smart one for the Braves as it is fairly low-risk. Sherrill performed well in 2008 and 2009, but last year, he ran into trouble. Posting a 6.69 ERA with the Dodgers in 65 games, Sherrill got destroyed facing right-handed hitters who batted .427 off him.
If Sherrill can rebound to his 2009 form, the Braves move will pay major dividends. If not, they only spent $1.2 million dollars to sign him. This looks like a winner for the Braves.
#2 – Dan Uggla to the Braves
His name is Dan Uggla and yes, he is now a Brave. This All-Star second baseman has been tearing up the NL East for five years now. The Marlins refused to meet Uggla’s demand of a five-year contract and decided to trade him. They received Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Michael Dunn in exchange.
The winner of this trade may be a tough call. Uggla, with 33 homers last year, gives the Braves a right-handed power bat. However, Infante is a more versatile and solid defender. Plus, Infante batted over .300 each of the past two seasons. And with good left-handed relievers hard to come by, Dunn’s 1.89 ERA in 25 games last year looks pretty good. However, Dunn is a rookie with little experience so the Marlins cannot be sure what they will get out of him.
The worst news about this trade for the NL East is that Uggla remains in the NL East. The Marlins may have just shot themselves, plus three other teams, directly in the foot.
If anything is certain about this signing, it is that no one saw it coming. The 7-year, $126 million dollar deal handed to right fielder Jayson Werth is the biggest move made in the NL East so far this offseason. It may even wind up being one of the top five deals in all of baseball by the time 2011 gets started.
The Phillies could not afford to meet Werth’s demand, who made his first All-Star appearance with them in 2009. Batting .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBI last year, this five-tool player is a great addition to any team. However, at 31 years of age, Werth’s 7-year deal may look foolish a few seasons down the road.
Potential Future Moves: The Phillies
A name you are likely to hear a lot in the coming weeks is Zack Greinke. In fact, the only NL East team who has not been linked to Greinke is the Mets. The Royals have made it known that they are willing to part with this right-handed starter for the right price. Once Cliff Lee signs somewhere, the market for Greinke will certainly heat up.
While Greinke is on the Phillies wish list, they may also be looking at right fielder Delwyn Young. Having spent the last two years with the Pirates, Young has not exactly been lighting up the batter’s box, hitting only .236 last year. But the Phillies are still deciding how to replace Jayson Werth. Young is a possibility, but look for the Phils to fill the spot internally.
Potential Future Moves: The Braves
Aside from Zack Greinke, the Braves are also rumored to be in talks with lefty reliever Ron Mahay. While with the Braves the last few months of 2007, Mahay posted a 2.25 ERA in 30 appearances and has since expressed interest in returning to the Braves.
Mahay had surgery near the end of the 2010 season for a torn rotator cuff. but with left-handers in short supply, the Braves may take a look at re-signing Mahay.
Despite signing a few lefties already, the Marlins are still looking for depth in this area. Ron Mahay, whom the Braves are looking into, is also a possibility here. A few other lefties the Marlins may consider are Joe Beimel and JC Romero. Beimel posted a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings last year and Romero had a 3.68 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
The Marlins have also been tossing around the idea of signing right fielder Delwyn Young, whom the Phillies expressed interest in as well.
Potential Future Moves: The Mets
The Mets have not made many moves this offseason aside from a few smaller players like catcher Ronnie Paulino and righty DJ Carrasco. The biggest potential move for the Mets may be simply retaining outfielder Carlos Beltran. Already signed through 2011, several teams including the Red Sox, have expressed interest in a trade for Beltran.
With budget concerns, the Mets have little room to squeak out any significant deals. Therefore, the most important move they make may just be retaining players like Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes. The Mets will need to resist the urge to dump payroll if they are to have a chance to compete in 2011.
Potential Future Moves: The Nationals
While the Nationals severely overpaid for right fielder Jayson Werth, they may not be done just yet. It seems, that like a lot of teams, star pitcher Cliff Lee is on their radar. And similar to the Werth deal, no one would ever see it coming. But the Nats appear to have money to burn so Lee may not be out of the question.
Veteran outfielder Randy Winn has also been rumored to be generating interest in Washington. Also add first baseman Adam LaRoche to their wish list and right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg. Gregg spent two years in the NL East with the Marlins from 2007 to 2008. He pitched in 63 games for the Blue Jays last year and posted a 3.51 ERA. Several teams, including the Nationals, have been courting the reliever.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography