I will start with the good news. Roy Oswalt looked good Tuesday night and had some speed on his fastball. Through five innings, he allowed only one run, which could have been avoided if third-string catcher, Dane Sardinha knew how to tag anyone at the plate.
And now the bad news….the Phillies offense is still missing in action. The Phillies collected only six hits, two of which were from rookie Michael Martinez. Ryan Howard struck out three times and left three men on base, which is unusual for him in his hometown of St. Louis. Howard normally rakes when he is home.
All together, the Phils left 10 men on base and the only run they scored was unearned after Tyler Greene dropped a routine Jimmy Rollins pop-up.
And now for the ugly…Danys Baez came into a tie 1-1 game in the ninth and proceeded to load the bases before recording an out. J.C. Romero was in next and he threw only one pitch. That one pitch went deep center field, handing the game to the Cardinals for a two-game sweep.
And now for the “Oh crap!” moment of the game…rookie reliever Michael Stutes tossed three pitches in the sixth before signaling to the bench that he was hurt. He left the game with a strained a right side muscle. No word yet on how serious it is, but this is just one more disaster that the Phillies cannot afford.
The offense has been so bad for this team, I am finally out of words to describe it. If the Phillies do not find a way out of this slump fast, they will find themselves plummeting down the ranks of the NL East. The Marlins are only 1/2 game behind them and the Braves are 1.5 games back. Ugh.
In two out of three games in this Braves series, the Phillies bats left their pitchers hanging. They did not score at all for Cliff Lee on Friday. On Sunday, they got some hits for Cole Hamels, but only two runs.
The 12 hits from the Phils offense was certainly better than two on Friday. However, the hits were not timely and caused little damage. Here is just one frustrating example. Wilson Valdez smacked a two-out double in the second inning with no one on base. Later in the sixth, with runners at the corners and one out, Valdez hit a weak ground ball for an inning-ending double play, leaving a runner stranded on third.
Hitting without clutch hitting is practically useless, especially in a close game.
And Hamels really could have used some clutch hitting. He went seven innings, striking out nine batters, but allowed three runs on two homers. Still, it was a quality start and one that he should expect to win.
The youngsters in the bullpen did not help the situation either, which is the opposite of what happened in Saturday’s win. Michael Stutes entered the game not having surrendered a run in 6.1 innings this year. But in 1/3 of an inning on Sunday, he walked two batters and allowed a two-run homer.
Stutes looked like he had never even heard of a strike zone. He was that far off, throwing only two strikes to three batters. This was also the first time the Phillies used him in back-to-back games. You can be sure they will not do that again anytime soon.
As for Scott Mathieson, he took over for Stutes and gave up a hit, but exited the inning unscathed. But then to start the ninth, Mathieson began to unravel. After a hit, a sac bunt and two walks on five pitches each, Danys Baez was brought in to bail Mathieson out.
When your savior for the night is Danys Baez, you know you are having a very bad day. Baez has been unreliable at best since last season, but on Sunday night he was able to coax an inning ending double play.
I will say this for Baez; he is always great with the fans and a very nice guy. Last night, he was headed to the clubhouse after warm-ups and an elderly lady next to me over the dugout asked him to sign a ball. Most players are in full-out game concentration mode at this point and do not stop. But Baez smiled, had her toss the ball over the dugout and he signed it for her and even waved to everyone standing there.
So with no ninth inning rally in sight, the Phillies went on to lose the game by a score of 5-2 and lost the series 2-1. Heading to Miami tonight, first place in the division is on the line for this series as the Marlins are only two games back now.
Joe Blanton is back on the roster and will pitch tonight at 7:10pm. Carlos Ruiz was put on the DL yesterday, so no one had to be bumped to add Blanton back. The DL move was backdated to 4/28, so Ruiz could return in about five days or so if his back is feeling better.
Also, Sunday was the Phillies annual Mother’s Day celebration where a players has his mother flown in for the weekend at the Phillies’ expense to spend time with their son and see him play. A different player is chosen each year, although there were two in 2010. I have attended these particular games every year since 2006 so here is a photo gallery of all six years with the player, mom and sometimes other family members as well. The only person I cannot remember is who is in the 2006 photo. I think it is Jon Lieber, but I am not sure. If you know, please let me know :O)
And here is the full Photo Album from Sunday’s game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Game two against the Nationals was a very good day for young pitcher Vance Worley. Filling in for the injured starter, Joe Blanton, Worley made his second start of the year tonight and notched his second win.
Through six innings, Worley allowed only one run on four hits with one hit batter. He also smacked a single into left and later scored in the fifth inning. Worley has been so good, some may be wishing that Blanton really takes his time coming back.
By the way, have you all seen the new Vance Worley fan club? They call themselves “Worley’s Warriors.” So is it just me, or do they look less like warriors and more like a Mariachi Band?
Anyway, the offense did their job tonight as well. Raul Ibanez put the final touches on a newly busted slump, going 3 for 4 with a solo homer. While his batting average will take some time to recover, currently at .194, the hitting funk is officially over.
Jimmy Rollins had a nice day as well, relishing his return to the lead-off spot with two hits, an RBI and a walk. Also with two hits, Brian Schneider continues to fill in for the ailing Carlos Ruiz. And Shane Victorino collected two RBI.
The best part of the offense tonight was watching the Phillies go around the diamond one base at a time in the sixth inning to score four runs. The small ball is back and the Phillies are scoring again.
Another return tonight was that of J.C. Romero, fresh off a rehab assignment. Romero pitched a clean seventh inning and appears to be in very good shape. Upon being added to the roster, pitcher David Herndon, who has been struggling, was optioned to AAA.
The Phillies went on to win by a score of 7-4 after Danys Baez allowed a 3-run homer in the 9th. Ugh.
FYI – Our old buddy Jayson Werth has had only one hit in the series so far.
The final game of the series is Thursday night at 7:05pm. Roy Halladay will pitch.
Side note: Matt Stairs, now with the Nationals, got his 100th career pinch hit tonight. Congrats, Matt!
***Important Blog FYI: The entire MLBlogs community is going to be switched to a WordPress format beginning on Friday, May 6. The transition may last through Monday night, May 9. All MLBlogs writers will be unable to post and you will be unable to access any MLBlogs during this transition. So do not panic if this and other blogs suddenly disappear during that weekend…we will be back :O)***
The Phillies bullpen returned from their 2-day vacation tonight. Due to some amazing starting pitching, the pen had not been used since Tuesday. Many are wishing that the vacation had never ended.
Roy Oswalt was lights-out for four innings and finally gave up a hit in the fifth, a solo homer. He then allowed one more run after back-to-back doubles by the Marlins in the sixth.
After a bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning, Oswalt grabbed his left side as he crossed first base. Uh-oh. While he walked to the mound to start the seventh, Charlie Manuel and the Phillies trainer quickly ran out after him and removed him before he threw a pitch. The diagnosis was a lower back strain.
Oswalt has a history of back issues, while was one of the main concerns when he was traded to the Phils last year. How serious this particular issue is has yet to be determined.
With the injury to Oswalt, the bullpen’s vacation was officially over. JC Romero came in for one batter and on a hopping ground ball, he could not resist the urge to attempt to field it as it bounced over his head. The ball glanced off his glove and spun away from Pete Orr at second base giving Logan Morrison an infield single.
Bad luck for Romero turned into a disaster for Danys Baez. He quickly issued a walk and a single to load the bases. Then instead of bringing in lefty Antonio Bastardo to face ex-Phillie Greg Dobbs, Manuel left Baez in. Big mistake. Dobbs greeted the undeserved boos from the crowd with a 2-run single. The boos came before the hit.
Dobbs was an amazing pinch hitter for the Phils in 2008 when he helped them win the World Championship. He had a bad year last year, but that was certainly not deserving of such a reception. In addition, Dobbs is one of the nicest players I have ever met. Genuinely nice, not just putting on a show. He always had time to chat, time for autographs and did some great charity work with disabled children in the Philly area. Those who booed him should be ashamed.
But I digress…those two runs Dobbs knocked in gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead. But what it also did was give Phillies fan one more reason to dislike Baez. He looked better than last year early in the year and in the spring, but clearly, he cannot be trusted in a close game.
While the rest of bullpen held, the offense could not come though. Orr swung at the first pitch in the ninth inning and flew out. John Mayberry Jr. drew a walk, but both Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco flew out as well.
This was a depressing game to lose, but the Phillies have made a habit early this year of losing the first game of a series and then winning the next two. Let’s hope that trend continues.
In the meantime, here is a little comic relief. It is a make-believe conversation between Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth. Warning: If cuss words offend you or small children are around, do not play the video. Otherwise, enjoy ;o)
Photo 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
The Phillies played two games today in split squad action. Kyle Kendrick started against the Rays in Clearwater and Vance Worley took the mound against the Pirates in Bradenton.
Worley did well and allowed just one run over 3.1 innings on two hits and two walks while striking out five batters.
Kendrick, on the other hand, looked good for two innings but was then slammed with three homers from lefties in his final two innings. The five runs Kendrick surrendered contributed to a 6-2 Phillies loss.
While it is only spring training, the question of whether or not Kendrick can get left-handed batters out still remains. In four seasons with the Phillies, Kendrick has been consistently inconsistent. The issues with lefties, a sinker ball that does not always sink and Kendrick’s tendency to become frustrated on the mound are concerning.
With all the experience he had gained over the years, the time for Kendrick to get it together into one complete package may be now or never.
Worley, 23, is younger and has less experience. But in the long run, he may turn out to be the better pitcher between the two. In 13 innings with the big club last year, Worley posted a 1.38 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. His minor league lifetime WHIP is 1.280.
In addition, Worley has a variety of pitches including both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, slider, curve and cut fastball.
It is possible that Worley will have outpitched Kendrick by the end of spring. If so, do the Phillies go with Worley or stick with experience in Kendrick?
There is a different possibility as well. If another bullpen pitcher bombs, like Danys Baez for example, there could be room for both players. This also gives the Phillies additional options in the case that a starting pitcher gets injured. Although, having two long-men in the bullpen seems unlikely as Worley could easily be recalled from the minors if needed.
With only a few weeks left this spring, both pitchers will need to bring their A-games.
Amaro’s Contract Extension
Earlier today, Ruben Amaro Jr. signed a four-year contract extension with the Phillies. Amaro has been with the Phillies organization for a very long time and it appears that will not end anytime soon.
Amaro played for the Phillies from 1992 to 1993 and again from 1996 to 1998. Right after that, he moved to the Phillies front office, serving as Assistant GM until being promoted to GM at the end of the 2008 season. Amaro grew up in Philadelphia and his father, Ruben Amaro Sr., also played for the Phillies for six seasons.
Chase Utley’s Knee
The Phillies have issued a statement that Chase Utley has made “a small improvement” in his rehab after suffering patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation this spring.
The news is underwhelming.
However, a newspaper cartoonist had another take on the subject:
It seems he feels like Utley is comparable to Humpty Dumpty. Quick, get the Super Glue!
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography; Cartoon from The Dover Post
Baseball is finally back! After an 8-0 win in an exhibition game against Florida State on Thursday, the Phillies took on the Yankees today in the first official spring training game. Cole Hamels started in the 5-4 victory and went 2 innings allowing an unearned run.
Notably absent from the game were short stop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley. Rollins was said to be a healthy scratch after missing a few days of camp for a Motown event at the White House. The absences were excused.
The Motown Tribute was held for President Obama in celebration of Black History Month lead by musicians Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. And while that sounds like lots of fun, it also does not appear that Rollins was required to be there for any reason.
J-Roll is in the music business and has his own label, but his job right now is baseball. Leaving his team for two days to schmooze with famous musicians seems irresponsible. Outside interests should be left for the off-season. Of course, that is just my humble opinion.
As for Utley, rumors have been flying about his physical condition. Mentions of “soreness” in his knees and legs are raising eyebrows. Utley missed both the exhibition game and the first official game this week after “intense workouts” during the first week of camp. He may not play tomorrow either.
Utley has been developing a pattern of injuries over the past several years which are becoming alarming. Rumors of a hip injury followed him throughout the second half of 2008. After winning the World Series, he did finally undergo surgery.
His health was questioned after that for much of the 2009 season, although he did not miss signifigant time. In 2010, Utley sprained his thumb and was put on the DL in June. The injury was more serious than initially disclosed and Utley had to undergo surgery on the thumb. He missed 47 games that year.
Not only have the injuries become a pattern, but so has disguising them. A war of words ensued in 2008 when then GM Pat Gillick slipped and told a reporter that Utley was experiencing hip problems. Utley vehemently denied the statement, yet in the offseason, it became apparent that Gillick was telling the truth as Utley had hip surgery.
The thumb injury was underplayed as well in 2010. Now, when rumors of Utley’s health arise, most are inclined to think there is truth to the rumor. Then when Utley drops coy comments to reporters like, “If there’s cause for concern you’ll be the first to know,” it leads people to wonder if they should be worried.
Utley is not a big guy. His weight has been generously listed as 190 pounds on his MLB bio page. His smaller than average baseball player frame has led to questions about his endurance for years. When the previous injuries and previous denials about injuries are all mixed in, it is a recipe for trouble.
The current issue may just be a simple matter of Utley being over-zealous and working himself too hard in camp. But until he gets into a regular spring routine, the questions will linger.
In Other News
– It appears that the Phillies have lost out on relief pitcher Chad Durbin. Offered a minor league deal, Durbin decided instead to sign with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year contract. Durbin is a great guy and he will be missed. I wish him all the best!
– Another relief pitcher, Danys Baez, was a huge disappointment last year. But after signing a two-year deal, the Phillies are stuck with him and hope he can rebound. However, in a B-game today, Baez allowed five hits, five runs and one walk in just two-thirds of an inning. Not good. Even sadder, the $2.75 million he will be paid this year could have been put to better use, like signing Durbin.
The Phillies next spring action is tomorrow and they will again face the Yankees, this time at home in Clearwater. Game time is 1:00pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography