The chance to pull off the most amazing feat in baseball is upon us: The repeat! Can the Phillies become the new Big Red Machine? We will see.
The 10-4 win over the Dodgers tonight had a multitude of highlights. Here are just a few:
– Jayson Werth smashed not one, but two home runs! Those homers accounted for 4 RBI. Oh, and he hit a single too, just for good measure.
– Shane Victorino, who has been sick with a nasty cold all week, had 3 RBI in the game including a 2-run homer and a double.
– The Phillies bullpen which has been through the ringer this year, came through again this post-season with 4 2/3 innings of 1-run ball. Chad Durbin was spectacular! Chan Ho Park had 1 good inning but got into trouble in the next inning; Ryan Madson bailed him out. And Brad Lidge pitched the 9th; it was a non-save situation but he got the job done.
– The Phillies batters finally figured out Vincente Padilla; 6 runs were charged to Padilla on 4 hits and 2 walks.
– With this win, the Phillies have scored 55 runs in 9 post-season games. Nice.
– Even better, the Phillies are now the first National League team ever to record 16 wins in 20 post-season games. The only AL team to do it is the Yankees and it is likely that the Phils will face the Yankees in the World Series; they are up 3 games to 1 over the Angels so far.
The not so great news from this clinching game was Cole Hamels, who still cannot seem to remember how to pitch. Hamels lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowing 3 solo home runs to the Dodgers. Two of those homers came after Hamels had 2 strikes on the batter which is the really disturbing part. With 2 strikes, why is tossing cookies right down the middle of the plate? Hamels clearly cannot be counted on this year; it will be very interesting to see what Charlie Manuel does with the rotation for the World Series.
But I do not feel like thinking about that right now…it is time to celebrate! Put on your party hat and have a drink! The Phillies are going back to the World Series!!!
Fireworks photo by Jenn
The Phillies took a tough loss today against the Dodgers to tie this NLCS series 1 game each. Pedro Martinez was brilliant through 7 innings where he allowed only 2 hits and no runs. You could not have asked for more out of him. But Martinez was pulled before the 8th inning in favor of a pinch-hitter and that proved to be a costly move as the bullpen could not hold down the 1-0 lead.
The pen has been the Achilles heel of this team all year. Yesterday, they pulled through; today, they did not. Manager Charlie Manuel went through five pitchers in the 8th inning and they combined to blow the lead. Chan Ho Park, who was amazing yesterday, started the inning and gave up two base hits with no outs. But it looked like he may escape the jam when Russell Martin hit an easy double play ball to third. No such luck…
In a rare and truly scary move, Chase Utley, for the second night in a row, overthrew first base which allowed the tying run to score and left 2 men on with 1 out. Last night, the slow feed from Jimmy Rollins and off-balance throw appeared to blame. But tonight, Utley just plain blew it. He rushed the throw when he had plenty of time and killed any chance Park had of getting out of the inning unscathed.
Utley is human, of course. And you cannot blame the loss on him when the only scoring the Phillies did all game was a solo homer by Ryan Howard. But it was a terrible waste of a great performance by Martinez and an even bigger waste of the opportunity to go up 2-0 in what will be a very tough series for this team.
JA Happ allowed the winning run to score for the Dodgers when he walked Andre Ethier with the bases loaded. The run was charged to Park. Chad Durbin got them out of the inning, but in the 9th, they offense went down 1-2-3. And to add insult to injury, Utley made the last out of the game by flying out to Ethier in right. I am betting that right now, Utley needs a hug; or maybe a big bowl of ice cream. Stiff drink anyone? Ugh.
This loss was depressing on a number of levels. But the good news is that we now have 3 games in Philly, starting on Sunday night. With any luck, and some sort of miracle in the bullpen, the Phillies can use the home field to get themselves back on track.
Photo by Jenn
Happy Bunny by Jim Benton
The post-season roster has not been set for the Phillies; they have until 10am tomorrow to make the final decision. The central core is not in question, with 6 current and former All-Stars in starting roles. However, the pitching rotation, bullpen and bench players are going to be tough decisions.
Manager Charlie Manuel seems to favor Eric Bruntlett on the bench because he runs well and can play almost every position in the field. However, Bruntlett has not hit well and ended the year with 18 hits in 105 at-bats for a .171 average. Miguel Cairo has performed much better and can play most of the infield spots; he ended the season batting .267 and went 7 for his last 19 including a triple and a home run in the final game.
While Cairo should get the nod over Bruntlett, it may not happen that way. Bruntlett was with the team last year and Manuel tends to favor guys he is most familiar with. Both could make the team, but only if they sacrifice a bullpen spot. Ben Francisco, Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs should all be locks for the roster, despite the facts that Dobbs has been playing hurt and Stairs batted only .194 this year with 5 homers in 103 at-bats.
The pitching is even more complicated. Most likely Cliff Lee will start game 1 as Cole Hamels would only have 3 days rest. However, Lee has been mostly awful in his last 7 starts, allowing 27 runs in 39 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of about 6.13. Not good. The Phillies hope he will turn things around for his first post-season appearance.
Hamels was equally inconsistent, ending the season with a record of 10-11 and a 4.32 ERA. Pedro Martinez has been dealing with a sore neck, so his ability to pitch deep into a game effectively is in serious question. Joe Blanton and JA Happ have been the only two good, consistent arms in the rotation all year and now Happ may get bumped to the bullpen due to a lack of lefties. That would be a real shame though, because Happ has the best record of the starting staff with 12 wins, 4 losses and an ERA of 2.93. Honestly, I think they need to keep Happ as a starter and take their chances with the lefty situation in the pen. Happ is more valuable for 6-7 innings than he would be for only a few batters.
That brings us to the pen, which is basically a mess. Every regular bullpen pitcher has suffered at least one injury this year, except Ryan Madson. Right now, JC Romero, Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park are still hurt and will not play in the NLDS; Moyer is done for the year. That leaves Scott Eyre as the only experienced lefty, and he is pitching through a sore elbow. Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Brad Lidge and Madson are on the roster for sure. That leaves Tyler Walker, Kyle Kendrick, Brett Myers and the 2 rookies, Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo to fill the remaining spots.
Escalona and Bastardo are both lefties but lack experience and have exhibited a lack of pitching control at times as well. It would be tough to add one of them to the roster, even though lefties are needed. Kendrick spent most of the year in the minors, but pitched fairly well for the big club in September until his last outing where he gave up 3 runs. And Myers has suffered two injuries which kept him out almost the whole year and he still does not look quite right. That leaves Tyler Walker whose 3.06 ERA is 3rd best in the pen, behind Eyre and Condrey.
But with all the injuries, the Phillies options are limited. My best guess is this: Madson, Lidge, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Walker and Myers with Pedro Martinez added to the list instead of Happ. That makes 12 pitchers total, including the 4 starters: Happ, Lee, Hamels and Blanton. Although, if one lefty in the pen looks problematic, they may keep Bastardo instead of Walker. Of course, I may be totally off. We shall see.
The Phillies went down in flames last night against the Marlins, who are officially out of the post-season race. While the Phils have already clinched, home field advantage is still up for grabs but the team has been playing like they are not worried about home field. They looked tired and lifeless in a 2-7 loss last night. The team does play well on the road, with a 48-33 record this year. However, nothing beats the 10th man advantage at home.
Ryan Howard gave the Phils their only jolt of energy in the 1st inning when he blasted a 2-run homer. But pitcher Joe Blanton had a bad game, allowing 4 runs in the first 2 innings, which seemed to put the team right back to sleep. Overall, Blanton allowed 5 runs in 6 innings and took the loss. Several relief pitchers got some work and looked pretty good; Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey and Scott Eyre did not allow any runs in their outings and all 3 are recently recovered from injuries, so that is good news.
On the other hand, the rookie lefty Sergio Escalona, did not do well. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in 1 inning and now has a 5.25 ERA for the year. Escalona was the only lefty possibility out of the pen besides Eyre now that JC Romero is hurt. JA Happ may wind up in the bullpen as a result, because at this point, the Phillies cannot afford to put Escalona on the post-season roster.
If the Phillies can win their final 2 games, home field may still be possible. They own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals, but not the Dodgers. The Dodgers would need to lose their final 2 games. So at 4:10pm today, the Phillies will try to beat the Marlins and then tomorrow at 1:35pm. I will be at the last game and return with photos!
Congress & Steroids
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is looking into a possible Congressional inquest to see whether the regulations on dietary supplements should be revised by Congress. The inquiry is a result of over-the-counter supplements being tainted with steroids and illegal substances and Specter became interested in the subject due to JC Romero’s 50-game suspension this year.
Romero took an over-the-counter supplement after getting approval from the Major League Baseball Players Association but the supplement was illegally tainted. Romero sued the supplement manufacturer, but MLB refused to over-turn his ridiculous suspension. The CBS article on the topic goes into greater detail, but essentially these companies need to be held accountable. They are putting people’s lives at risk and it needs to stop. Best of luck to Senator Specter!
Photo by Jenn
Pop the champagne Phillies fans; for the 3rd year in a row, this team has won the NL East and will be playing in the post-season. In a game that included at least one RBI from every starting position player except lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies powered their way to a 10-3 mashing of the Astros to win the title. Rollins did have 2 hits in the game though, plus a walk and he scored twice.
A true team effort, the win included back-to-back triples by Rollins and Shane Victorino, a massive 2-run homer by Raul Ibanez, a sac fly, a stolen base and 3 doubles. Pedro Martinez pitched only 4 innings and allowed 3 runs, but his teammates picked him up with their hitting and some great relief pitching. Kyle Kendrick, who spent nearly the whole year in the minors, pitched 3 innings of scoreless ball allowing only 2 hits. Chad Durbin picked up the 8th; Scott Eyre got the 1st 2 outs in the 9th and, believe it or not, Charlie Manuel put Brad Lidge in to finish the game. Lidge got his old buddy Lance Berkman out on 1 pitch.
So, it is time to rejoice! Since I was not able to attend the game tonight, I broke out some old photos from the 2007 NL East clinching game. Here are a few ways the Phillies may now be celebrating:
Now just take a deep breath and exhale…ahhhhhh! Time to relax…for now. Home field advantage is still up for grabs. That challenge will begin with tomorrow night at 7:05pm in the last game of 4 against the Astros. Go Phillies!
Photos by Jenn
Except champagne photo by: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/t
The Phillies did not allow the injuries that occurred in Friday night’s game to change the outcome. But as those injuries begin to pile up, it is starting to have an effect.
Pedro Martinez pulled a muscle in his neck while swinging the bat last night and was forced to leave the game after 3 innings and 3 runs allowed. The fact that he threw 130 pitches in his last start combined with his age and injury history probably did not help.
Friday night, the bullpen kept the Braves in check after JA Happ was pulled after he appeared to be in some pain in the 3rd inning. But last night, the pen did not get the job done. Chad Durbin allowed 2 earned runs which were the direct result of 2 walked batters, both of whom scored. Paul Bako, filling in for an injured Carlos Ruiz made a throwing error in the 4th which, combined with a walk issued by Durbin, allowed Nate McLouth to score on a sac fly for an unearned run. Those 3 runs turned out to be the difference in a 4-6 loss to the Braves.
The offense was shut-out through 8 innings but made a run at a comeback in the 9th. Ryan Howard hit a two run homer with no outs; then singles by Greg Dobbs and Jimmy Rollins plated 2 more runs. Had the bullpen held the Braves down, those 4 runs would have won the game for the Phillies. Instead, they took a difficult loss. Now this afternoon’s finale of the series has become a must-win for the Phillies so they do not lose more ground to either the Braves or the Marlins, who also won their game last night.
Florida is now 7 games back and Atlanta is 7.5 back. Cliff Lee will try to get the Phillies a series win this afternoon at 1:30pm. Best of luck to him!
Photos by Jenn
The Phillies completed a 3-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 12-3 win tonight behind the big bats and big arms of the team. Ryan Howard hit a 3-run homer for the second night in row; Jayson Werth has also gone back to back games with home runs, hitting one tonight and 2 last night. Even Carlos Ruiz brought the big stick with a solo shot in the 6th. Hang onto your hats; it’s an earthquake at Citizens Bank Park!
And then do not forget about the huge bats of Phillies pitchers: Joe Blanton had 2 hits plus a sac fly for an RBI in the game. Cliff Lee had 2 hits in his start last night, starting the streak of hot pitcher’s bats. All that, and they both pitched well too! Tonight, Blanton went 8 innings allowing 3 runs on 10 hits; one of those runs came after Ben Francisco missed an easy fly ball, so maybe that one should not have happened. But Francisco had 2 RBI in the game as well, so all is forgiven.
The Phillies bullpen must be wondering when they will ever be used again. 8 innings tonight from Blanton, a complete game yesterday from Cliff Lee and the day before that, Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer pitched all 9 together. And then how about the day before that? It was an off-day. So that is 4 straight days of total boredom for the pen, except for Chad Durbin who pitched the 9th inning tonight. And I am still not counting Moyer as a pen guy since he pitched 6 innings in his relief effort; it was just about the same as a start for him.
So the Phillies will load the bus tonight and travel to New York to begin a long 4-game series with the Mets at Citi Field. Game time tomorrow is 7:10pm with Cole Hamels on the mound. Speaking of Cole, is it just me or….
Photos by Jenn