Tagged: Cliff Lee

The Rumor Mill Begins to Turn…

The Phillies have done themselves no favors during the first half of the season.  Their mediocre play has left them in 3rd place in the NL East and 9.5 games out of first.  Losing 3 out of 4 against the Dodgers this past weekend did not help their case either.

And so the rumor mill begins to turn with names like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in the mix.  If the team does not pick up their play significantly in the next few weeks, this could signal the end of an era.  It is hard to envision a Phillies team without Utley or Rollins, but that may soon be the reality.

The most persistent rumor recently has the Red Sox making a run at 3rd baseman Michael Young.  The Phillies signed Young as basically a 1-year rental, so his departure would not be surprising.  Utley is in the last year of his contract, so losing him is also a possibility, although not one that most people would be very happy about.

Utley may be the most beloved player in franchise history.  If the Phillies trade him, they run the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base.  This is guy who blurted out the F-word on national television, not once, but twice, and people still say he can do no wrong.  That is a powerful show of affection, especially in a city like Philadelphia.

Rollins, on the other hand, may not be missed quite as much.  While he is the longest tenured active Phillie and a former MVP, Rollins still has that magical ability to piss people off.  He has made derogatory comments in the past about Philly Fans and he has been criticized for a lack of hustle.  More recently, Rollins said he was “not disappointed” with the team’s 1-3 performance in Los Angeles this past weekend.

While Rollins has a point, that being he believes the team will overcome, it still rubs some people the wrong way.  Personally, I like Jimmy.  He speaks his mind and I respect that.  So seeing him in another uniform would be quite a shock.  It would not, however, induce the same type of freak-out that losing Utley would.

On Tuesday night, the Phillies pulled out a 3-1 win over the best team in baseball right now, the Pirates.  That is still weird to say…  However, even that win may not help quite the trade rumors.  A sweep of the Bucos might be helpful, but even in a win, the Phillies still have some very obvious, glaring problems.

The bullpen, for example, is a huge mess.  It took 3 pitchers who combined to load the bases to get the Phillies through the 8th inning last night.  It did work out, but could have easily ended in disaster.  The offense is getting better, but they are still not hitting consistently with runners in scoring position.  And the defense is very shaky; Delmon Young dropped a routine fly ball last night which is a prime example of the issues on the field.

All we can do now is hold our collective breaths, wait and hope the Phillies can pull out a string of convincing wins before the All-Star break.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Get Papelbombed for Fourth Time in a Week

Prior to this past week, Jonathan Papelbon had converted all 13 of his save opportunities.  But last night against the Padres, he dropped another bomb on the Phillies; it was his 4th blown save in his last 5 attempts.  Red alert!  The Phillies have been Papelbombed!

Worse than that, starting pitcher Cliff Lee took a 3-0 lead into the 9th inning before the bomb dropped.  After putting 2 men on base, Lee was pulled and the air raid ensued.  Papelbon gave up a 2-run single, hit the next batter and then managed a double-play ball.  But with 2 outs and a runner on third, catcher Carlos Ruiz let the next pitch sail past him, which scored the tying run.

The end result was a mind-blowing, 10-inning 3-4 loss to the Padres.  Please excuse me while I vomit…

The Phillies bullpen is the worst in all of baseball with a 4.67 ERA entering last night’s game.  Now every starter on this team has to think that if he cannot go all 9 innings, he has no shot at a win.  Just take a quick look at the pen’s instability:

–          Raul Valdes bombed and was sent to the minors in May

–          Veteran Chad Durbin was so bad they released him

–          Mike Adams, the $12 million dollar man, has been on the DL twice and may not pitch again this year.

–          Jeremy Horst was awful all year and is now on the DL

–          Michael Stutes, having missed all of 2012 and part of 2013 due to surgery, is once again on the DL.

–          Papelbon has lost his mind/command/sanity??

–          The rest of the pen, except Antonio Bastardo, consists of rookies, most of whom have bounced back and forth from the majors to the minors.

It is sad to say, but this team may have just hit rock bottom.  Start bracing yourselves…I predict more bombs to be dropping in the very near future.  Duck and cover!

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Death By Twizzler: Cliff Lee Gets No Decision

You could blame the Phillies pitching, stinky offense or the sloppy defense for last night’s 4-5 loss to the Brewers.  Or you can join me in blaming the Twizzlers.  I do believe that red devil candy somehow sucked the mojo right out of Cliff Lee.  The fact that the evil licorice was handed to Lee by a young Brewers fan reinforces my theory:

Animation by The Fightins

Then again, a few other factors may have contributed to the end of the Phillies 5-game win streak.  For example, the Phils scored 4 runs in the first 4 innings and then the offense proceeded to take a vacation.  There were also 2 errors; a very bad throw from Freddy Galvis and a botched routine grounder my Michael Young.

And then there was Lee.  3 earned runs in 7 innings is generally a good day for most pitchers.  But Lee has looked unstoppable in his previous 6 starts.  That is what made last night’s labor-intensive outing where Lee walked 3 batters so shocking.

He was bound to have an off day at some point.  No one can maintain that pace all season long.

But I still blame the candy.

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Phils End Skid Behind Lee and Brown

The Phillies ended a 3-game losing streak today with a 7-5 win over the Brewers thanks to some key contributions.  And although they nearly blew it in the end, those 7 runs, all scored in the first 2 innings, kept them in the game.

4 of those 7 runs were driven in by Domonic Brown, who is still on fire after a scorching month of May.  He fell just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.  He and Ryan Howard did their special home run dance after his 3-run homer in the 1st inning to celebrate:

And the hits kept coming…both Jimmy Rollins and Freddy Galvis collected 2 hits apiece.  Erik Kratz and John Mayberry Jr. each drove in runs.  The Phillies took a 7-0 lead all the way into the 8th inning.

On the mound, Cliff Lee performed his usual magic for 7 straight innings.  He struck out 11 batters and appeared to be cruising until the 8th.

Dehydration set in and Lee started giving up hits.  He wound up putting 3 runners on base before he was pulled in favor of Justin DeFratus.  But even with 2 outs in the inning, DeFratus could not manage to escape unscathed.  The Phillies gave up runs in the 8th inning in every game of this Brewers series and this day would be no different.  After an almost grand slam that was overturned by replay, the Phils left the 8th inning with only a 7-4 lead.

In the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon was nowhere to be seen.  He had apparently taken ill and was not available to pitch.  Antonio Bastardo took the mound and allowed another Brewers run as the crowd began to panic.  But he finally got out of the inning and the Phils walked away with the win despite the late-inning drama.

Prior to the game, Kyle Kendrick’s father was honored for the Phillies Father’s Day celebration.  His very pregnant wife and daughter were there as well, which was really cute.

To see the rest of my photos from the game, check out this Photo Album.

The Phillies will start a 3-game series with the Marlins tomorrow night at 7:05pm.  Kendrick will pitch.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lee Pitches Another Gem

In a year full of drama for the Phillies, Cliff Lee stepping on the mound is a sight for sore eyes.  The same can be said when he steps to the plate as well.  In a complete game shut-out of the Marlins last night, Lee also collected 2 hits, giving him a team-leading .316 batting average.  And his .350 on-base percentage is second only to Michael Young (.378) among active Phillies.

Simply put, Cliff Lee is amazing.

Yet those offensive numbers are a bit disturbing in another respect.  When your ace pitcher is leading the team in average and OBP, there are some serious problems.  Granted, Lee only plays once every 5 games, but it is still a somewhat revealing statistic on a team that has struggled to score runs.

There was some offense last night though, and some signs of life all around.  Although they only scored 3 runs, most guys hit the ball well and as team, they collected 12 hits, which is way better than their usual production this year.  On Tuesday night with Tyler Cloyd pitching, the Phillies racked up 7 runs on 15 hits in the win.

But again, this has been a pattern; the Phillies have 1 or 2 games with solid offense and then they go right back to not being able to hit the broad side of a barn.  And with the injuries mounting, can they get any kind of consistency?

The latest injury to Chase Utley is extremely worrisome.  Utley was finally having a good year, after missing time in both of the previous 2 seasons with knee issues.  Now, it appears he has an oblique strain of some sort; he will have an MRI today and will likely be put on the DL along with Roy Halladay, Mike Adams, John Lannan and Carlos Ruiz.  Stay tuned…

Today is an off day as the team travels to Washington to take on the Nationals.  News on Utley should be coming very soon…cross your fingers!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Dramatic Walk-Off Win Gives Phillies a Series Win

I returned from my trip to the Galapagos Islands this weekend just in time to attend today’s PhilliesReds game.  But before we get to that, check out what my little friend the Phanatic was up to on our trip to his homeland.  He visited 5 different islands, some beaches and even a distant relative, the Marine Iguana:

Yes, the Phanatic and I had a lovely vacation where we swam with sharks, rays, turtles and fish and wandered the land with giant tortoises.  It was amazing!

I had to catch up on my Phillies news when I returned and it appears much has happened.  Roy Halladay is having surgery (yikes!), the Phils signed hot-head Carlos Zambrano to a minor league deal (double-yikes!), Raul Valdes became the first regular bullpen guy to get sent down to the minors (more may be coming), Mike Adams has a bad back (oh my…), Tyler Cloyd started a game, Kyle Kendrick returned to earth in a loss yesterday after an amazing start to the season….and oh yeah, the offense still sucks.  Did I miss anything?

All that drama aside, the Phillies did manage to pull out a win today, which based on the first 7 ½ innings, did not look likely.   Jonathan Pettibone was very solid again, only allowing 2 runs, and the defense backed him up.

But once again the offense was asleep and the feeling of dread grew deeper when Carlos Ruiz was pulled from the game with a strained hamstring.

Finally, the Phillies scratched out a run in the 8th, thanks to Ben Revere legging out a base hit.  Revere led the team with 3 hits today.  Then in the 9th, it appeared as if the Phils were going down in flames, despite getting the first runner of the inning on base against flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman.  Because as soon as Cliff Lee came in to pinch run for Delmon Young, he got picked off at first.  Ugh.

But when Erik Kratz smacked a home run to tie the game, the tide turned quickly.  Freddy Galvis was up next and hit a line-drive homer just over the left field wall for the walk-off win!  It was the first time Chapman gave up more than one homer in a game…ever.  Go figure.

So even after a 0-10 pounding on Saturday, the Phillies still walked away with the series win and, hopefully, some momentum going into Miami tomorrow.  Game time is 7:10pm.

And here is the Photo Album from today’s win.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Mayday! Mayday! The Phillies Are in Trouble

Yes, it is May.  And yes, it is a new day.  But although Wednesday’s May-day marked the start of a new month for the Phillies, it did not appear to be any different than the month of April; or any different than the year 2012, for that matter.  Now, cries of “Mayday!” can be heard throughout Philadelphia.  This team has serious problems.

Over 2 games against the Indians, the Phillies were outscored 20 runs to 2.  And last night’s 0-6 shut-out was even worse than the 2-14 pounding they look on Tuesday.  The Phillies had only 3 hits in last night’s game against a rookie pitcher, who was so wild, he walked 6 batters.  With 7 walks total handed to the Phils, they still could not manage to score a single run.  That is nearly impossible, but this team found a way to do it.

And here is a thought; perhaps someone should come up with a fun drinking game for every time Michael Young or Ben Revere hits into a double play?  Including one last night, Young has 7 already on the season and Revere has 5.  Then again, that may not be frequent enough to really put me out of my misery.  So let’s add in runners left on base!  There were 9 of those last night, plus the Phillies went 0-10 with runners in scoring position.  Now we can do some serious alcoholic damage!

Yes, this team is driving me to drink.  As I predicted about a week ago, the Phillies have kept us all on this sickening roller coaster ride.  They suck, then bounce back for a few games (like the 3-game sweep of the Mets this past weekend) and then they go right back to sucking, once again proving that they just cannot get the job done on a consistent basis.

Both Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young are now in the line-up and nothing has changed.  Sure, it has not been very long for either, but it is not like they both arrived cold, having not played in a while.  Both guys were baseball-ready after playing in rehab games.  Still, after one day of excitement for seeing Chooch again, the thrill is already gone and the offense is still stagnant.

Even Cliff Lee could not get the job done against the Indians, his former team.  Roy Halladay was awful the day before that.  The only highlight last night was watching Layne Nix rob an Indian of a home run with a leaping catch just before the ball cleared the wall.  And this is not the first time this season that Nix has been the only bright spot in a game.  That is a very, very bad sign.

And this has all been going on far too long for it to just be a slump.  I am seriously beginning to think this team will not be able to recover.  Could all of this be the beginning of the end for this era in Phillies baseball?  Only time will tell; and the Phillies are quickly running out of that time…

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