Tagged: Chase Utley

Braun Puts a Roid Rage Hurting on Phils Opening Day

Do not make Ryan Braun angry.  You won’t like him when he’s angry.  The Phillies found that out the hard way during Tuesday’s 1-day delayed Home Opener.  First it rained (Monday), then it poured (Braun).

The day must have been cursed from the start as Chase Utley was sent home with the flu before the game.  But aside from that, the day started off so nice, who would have guessed it would turn into a massacre?  The pre-game festivities, as always, were colorful:
040814 OD

Of course, for the umpteenth, the Navy parachuters jump was cancelled due to wind.  I seriously do not know why the Phillies bother scheduling this every year.  It almost never happens.

Instead, we got 2008 World Championship pitcher and current broadcaster, Jamie Moyer to toss the first pitch with his baseball idol, Steve Carlton looking on.  He had a nice reunion with Carlos Ruiz as well:
040814 Moyer

And then the game started and it was all downhill from there.  In his typical inconsistent behavior, Kyle Kendrick followed up a good 1st start with a horrible one on Tuesday.  Adding insult to injury, he pitched against former Phillie Kyle Loshe and gave up the first 2 of Braun’s 3 home runs.
040814 pitching

A former All-Star, Braun is actually best known for his steroid use and overall bad behavior.  He got away with a positive test by blaming the Fed Ex man, who was then fired from his job after Braun’s adamant denials.   But then Braun did finally get caught afterwards and was suspended 65 games.  The number of people Braun hurt with his lies is what makes him, in my opinion, one of the worst offenders in baseball.  It is also what prompted all of the boo’s and chants of “Cheater!” throughout the ballpark.

But those chants did nothing but fuel Braun’s fire to beat the Phils.  He even killed a Phillies rally in the 2nd inning with a diving catch in right field that would have scored 2 runs.

The Phillies did manage to scatter some hits throughout the day and made a few nice plays in the field.
040814 O&D

All of the good plays were unfortunately overshadowed by 3 errors and some head scratching misreads in the outfield.  The worst of the day was Ben Revere in deep center, who had the ball lined up to catch and then just missed it.  The 3rd photo below is the most interesting as you can see Revere’s head and face smashed into the fence.  That pretty much sums up the day:
040814 Revere

That misplay put another run on the board for the Brewers.  Then in the next inning, Braun hit his third homer of the day.  He finished with 7 RBI and single-handedly crush the Phils.  I seriously hope someone checked his urine after the game (insert your own sarcastic remarks here).

The 4-10 loss was a disappointment, to put it mildly.  But today is another day and maybe the Phillies can bounce back with a strong start from Roberto Hernandez.  Game time is 7:05pm.

Here is the full Photo Album from the Home Opener, including batting practice, pre-game festivities and more.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Take First Two in Chicago

After a devastating loss on Wednesday, the Phillies have bounced back in the next series, winning their first 2 games against the Cubs.  Friday’s game was a 7-2 score and today they won 2-0 as Cliff Lee stunned the Cubbies.

Lee was able to lower his horrible 14.40 Opening Day ERA to only 6.00 with this 7 inning effort.  So all is well again with the Phillies ace…yeah!

And the offense is not too shabby to start the season.  Chase Utley is absolutely on fire after a very slow Spring Training.  In the last 2 games, Utley has 5 hits and 4 RBI including 2 home runs.  He also hit his 300th career double today and ended the game just a triple shy of the cycle.

Domonic Brown has also come to life with 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 RBI in these 2 games, plus ZERO strikeouts.  Nada.  That alone tells me he is in the zone.

P7073923Another interesting note is that we are learning some things about the Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg, early in the season.  First, he is totally in love with Jake Diekman.  Diekman has pitched in 4 out of 5 games so far this season while fellow reliever Brad Lincoln has yet to throw a pitch.  Justin DeFratus has pitched 1 inning and Jeff Manship has thrown exactly 2 pitches total.

Sandberg says he is trying to establish who fits in which spots in the bullpen.  By the way, is that not what Spring Training was for?  Just saying.  And if he is looking for good fits, does this mean those 3 pitchers that have not been or barely been used do not “fit” anywhere?  Hmmmm…

We have also learned that Sandberg is not totally sold on Roberto Hernandez.  In Friday’s game, Hernandez appeared to be cruising in the 6th inning when, after one out was recorded, Sandberg pulled him and put in Diekman.  Hernandez had given up 2 runs in the first 5 innings, but his pitch count was low (73).  That was a weird move.

One last thing I like to mention about today’s game…Jonathan Papelbon saved a game!  Miracles never cease!  Yes, that comment is dripping with sarcasm.  When he saves 3 or 4 in a row with minimal drama, I will curb my smart remarks.  Until then, congrats Pap!  You live to fight another day!

Can the Phillies sweep this series?  Hope so!  Game 3 is Sunday at 2:20pm and A.J. Burnett will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Game 2 Questions

Only 2 games into the season, some odd things have happened with the Phillies.  Game 1 was a 14-10 hitting spree win.  And yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers was quite the opposite.  Manager Ryne Sandberg made some very puzzling moves with the line-up and pitching during the game.

First, not all the line-up changes were too weird.  I liked Ryan Howard hitting 5th against a lefty and using Chase Utley as the DH.  But starting Jayson Nix at third instead of Cody Asche the day after he has a career game with 4 runs scored and 3 hits?  That I do not understand.

I get the whole lefty facing a lefty thing and if it were a week or two into the season, then sure, give Asche a break against a lefty.  But the timing of this move in only the second game of the season with Asche having big momentum coming off Monday’s win is confusing.  I do not think it was the right call; but they don’t pay me to make those decisions.

Another decision I would not have made was tossing a rookie pitcher making his major league debut into a tie game in the 9th inning against a very strong lineup.  Poor Mario Hollands had to face Shin-Soo Choo (walk), Elvis Andrus (sac bunt) and Prince freaking Fielder (walk)!  Seriously?  Is there anyone else out there who thought this was a good idea?  Talk about being thrown into the fire…

Sandberg also reused 3 relievers who had pitched the day before while leaving 2 guys in the pen, Justin DeFratus and Brad Lincoln, who have not pitched at all in 2 games.   Lincoln did not have a great spring, but few Phillies did.  And I definitely would have thrown DeFratus out there in the 9th before a rookie who has barely pitched above Double-A ball.

The end result was a frustrating loss in a very winnable game.  Plus it wasted an outstanding effort on the mound by A.J. Burnett who allowed only 1 run over 6 innings.  Is this just growing pains for a new manager or is there some method to this madness I am not seeing?

Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and all around cool guy, so he will be given the benefit of the doubt here.  A win tonight would go a long way for me :o)  Game time is 8:05pm; Kyle Kendrick will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Opening Day Slug Fest

The Phillies first game of the regular season began with a bang to the tune of 14 runs on 17 hits including 3 homers, one of which was a Grand Slam.  It was a record-setting day on many levels.

First, Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 8 earned runs and still got the win.  That is only the 8th time in MLB history that a pitcher gave up 8 runs in at least 5 innings and still won.  It is also only the 3rd time in history that happened on Opening Day.

Then in his first Opening Day start, Cody Asche ended the game just a triple short of the cycle.  With his parents looking on, Asche had a career day with 3 hits, 2 RBI including a solo homer, a walk and 4 runs scored.

But the biggest day record-wise was had by Jimmy Rollins who belted a Grand Slam in the 2nd inning, marking his 200th career homer.  That home run made him only the 19th player in baseball history to have 400 or more doubles, 100 or more triples and 200 or more home runs in a career.  He also tied a record with Cal Ripken Jr. for 14 consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop with the same team.

Rollins may have had some extra inspiration yesterday as he is on baby-watch.  His wife Johari is expecting their second child any minute now.  Rollins stayed an extra day in Philly in case she went into labor and then joined the team in Texas on Sunday night, one day after the team arrived.

Records aside, many Phillies had big days in this game.  Both Chase Utley and Ben Revere had 3 hits, Marlon Byrd went 2-for-6 with a solo homer and Ryan Howard had 2 hits and a walk.  Maybe the biggest hit of the day, besides the grand slam, was a pinch hit 2-run double in the 5th inning by John Mayberry Jr.  In his first big move of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg had a gut feeling to switch Junior’s; Mayberry Jr. in place of Tony Gwynn Jr.  That double broke a 7-7 tie and propelled the Phillies to the win with some much needed momentum.

While I do not think the Phillies are going to score 14 runs again soon, this was an uplifting start the season.  Enjoy it!  Tonight, A.J. Burnett will make his Phillies debut; game time is 8:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Sandberg Signed; Phils Swept by Mets

It’s official – The Phillies announced today that Ryne Sandberg is no longer the “interim” manager.  He has been signed to a 3-year deal, with a club option for a 4th year.  With a new manager in place, everyone was smiling and laughing before the game.

But the smiles faded as the day wore on.  It is a shame the Phillies could not scrape out a win for Sandberg today; they got swept by the Mets in a 3-game series.

For the first 3 innings, Cliff Lee was so sharp, it looked like he may pitch a no-hitter.  But he ran into trouble in the 4th inning and allowed a run.  He wound up allowing 2 runs over 7 innings, which is still great, but only helpful if the offense does its part.

At the plate, the Phillies left too many runners on base (8) and went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.  There were a few amusing moments, like when Cliff Lee swung the bat so hard, it split in two, even though he did not hit the ball (see photo).  And Chase Utley apparently got a big chuckle out of the Mets pick-off attempt.

There were also many adventures in the outfield with balls played off the wall that could have been caught, Domonic Brown bobbling a ball which allowed an extra run to score and the Phanatic lost his shirt again.

And in the end, the Phillies could not muster a win.  I suppose that was a fitting end to the home games in a sad 2013 season.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, including pre-game shots.

The Phillies go to Miami on Monday for the second-to-last series of the year.  Game time is 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Sweep Braves Behind Hamels and Ruf

An odd thing happened today.  The Phillies actually showed signs of life as they swept the division leading Braves in a 3-game series.  Inspired baseball is not something we have seen a lot of this year, so this game was a real treat.

On top of his game again, Cole Hamels pitched 8 innings, allowing only 2 solo homers, both of which were absolutely murdered off the bat of Evan Gattis.  The official word is that the 1st homer went 486 feet, which is a MLB record for the season.  Yikes!

But aside from Gattis, Hamels had few problems.

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning, but could not seem to kick start a rally after that despite some base runners.

Actually, base running was a bit of an adventure on this day.  Jimmy Rollins stole a base, which was a plus.  But rookie centerfielder Cesar Hernandez got picked off right before that and then was thrown out later in the game because he hesitated going around second base.  He received a bit of coaching from Chase Utley in between innings (see photo):

The defense was solid and fans were oohing and ahhing again over Cody Asche, who made a few more spectacular plays.

With the game still tied in the 8th inning, the Phillies needed a spark.  Darin Ruf provided the juice, and the lead, with a solo home run, his 13th of the year.

The Phils went into the 9th with a 3-2 lead and, luckily, passed on Jonathan Papelbon who had blown a save the night before.  Papelbon also pitched 3 out of the last 4 days.  So instead, B.J. Rosenberg pitched a clean 9th inning for his first career save.

Here is the Photo Album from Sunday’s game, including a bunch of pre-game photos.

The Phils are off tomorrow and will face the Padres on Tuesday at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Chase Utley: A Phillie for Life

The Phillies made the official announcement yesterday that Chase Utley will be a Phillie for life.  They have signed him to a contract extension for 2-years at up to $27 million, with 3 option years that would max out the entire contract at around $75 million if he stays all 5 years.  He would be 39 years old in the 5th year.

There is some risk involved as Utley has battled serious knee issues over the years.  The 2nd year of the contract has a clause built-in which adds $5 million to his salary if he can avoid the disabled list.  Although the specifics of that are hazy, it appears that he can go on the DL once, but no more than that.  That does give the team at least a little insurance.

But Utley has not had any knee issues this year and his production is up.  He is also the leader of this team and a stellar example to all the young players of what being a major league player is all about.  That alone is worth keeping him around while the Phillies retool this beleaguered ball club.

There are so many reasons to be excited about Utley staying in Philadelphia that I cannot pick just one.  So here are a whole bunch:

He loves puppies and running through fields of flowers:

He is the Terminator:

Yet, he is also mysterious:

He plays the game hard and looks good doing it:

It looks like Chase has found just the right fit:

And thank goodness for that!

Congrats, Chase!  I am SOOOOOOO happy that you will be here for years to come!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography