It has been an interesting few days for the Phillies. On Sunday, they finished off a four-game sweep of the Padres, scoring only 12 runs total in all of those games. An inside-the-park homer by Shane Victorino helped seal Sunday’s sweep.
That same day, closer Jose Contreras was sent to the DL with a strained right flexor pronator tendon in his elbow. As a result, Michael Stutes joined the club to fill the roster spot and made his major league debut on Monday.
Also on Monday night, the Phillies five-game win streak ended with a 0-4 shut-out loss to the D-Backs. Cliff Lee pitched an odd game where he struck out 12 batters but still allowed four runs in seven innings. However, Lee’s performance was basically rendered obsolete as the Phils offense did absolutely nothing to help out.
The three-hit shutout by the Diamondbacks Ian Kennedy where he struck out 10 batters and did not issue a walk, matched a team record. Only two other pitchers in team history tossed a shutout while allowing three or fewer hits with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks. One was Curt Schilling on April 10, 2001 against the Dodgers (2 hits allowed, 10 SO) and the other, Randy Johnson, when he pitched a perfect game on May 18, 2004 at Atlanta (13 SO).
While that feat by Kennedy is very impressive, the Phillies offense certainly made it a little easier on him by swinging at bad pitches and watching good ones fly by.
The Phils offensive offense has not scored more than four runs in 14 consecutive games this season. They currently rank 28th in baseball for runs scored since April 9th.
The worst offender amongst the starters has been Raul Ibanez, who is hitting just .179. He should be benched in favor of John Mayberry Jr. until he figures things out. Maybe at almost 39-year old, Ibanez needs to be in a platoon with Mayberry to get him more rest.
Team leader Jimmy Rollins is also not producing. He got off to a hot start and has seriously cooled off. Rollins has not had a multi-hit game since April12th. He has batted .182 since that time.
But a few players are not to blame. The entire team is just not hitting, as if they all caught the same virus at once. If the disease continues to spread, who will be the fall guy? Last year it was hitting coach Milt Thompson. Frankly, the players themselves need to be held accountable. Play the bench guys until the starters find their swings.
While the bench is solid, it is not the long-term solution. However, maybe benching a few guys will light a fire under them. Because the Phillies have few other options.
Their payroll is maxed out. The Phillies will never be a team that decides to pay the luxury tax along with the Yankees. So as far as getting new blood into the line-up, they are out of options. Besides, it is only April and no teams are ready to trade anyone yet.
Then again, it is only April. The team is still winning, despite the offense, thanks to a solid starting staff. But even the pitchers are going to get weary of the lack of support very soon.
So choose your most relaxing yoga pose and just keep telling yourself, “It’s only April. Its only April…”
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
While the big news of the day was the trade of Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, there was still a game to be played amidst all the hoopla. And tonight, the Phillies were looking for a 7-game home stand sweep.
Kyle Kendrick started against the D-Backs and did very well through 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one run. Kendrick did walk one batter in each of the first 3 innings, but settled in after that. With JA Happ gone in the trade today, the rotation spot belongs to Kendrick and he will need to keep up the solid pitching.
The Phillies offense, which has been on fire this entire home stand, finally sputtered a bit tonight. Carlos Ruiz hit an RBI double in the 5th to score Cody Ransom. The next inning, Raul Ibanez hit a solo homer to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. But the offense ended there. They did have 9 hits off Joe Saunders, but could not score. Saunders had a very bad year with the Angels and was just traded to the D-Backs. He looked ripe for the picking, but the Phillies let him off the hook.
Chad Durbin finished pitching the 7th and Ryan Madson had a very good 8th inning. But manager Charlie Manuel left Madson in for the 9th. One can only assume this is because his confidence in Brad Lidge with a slim 1-run lead is just not there. And who could blame him. But Madson has not pitched more than an inning since coming off the DL and he quickly got into trouble, giving up a lead-off double to start the 9th.
JC Romero took over and allowed a single; a ground out then scored the runner from third, which was charged to Madson. With the game then tied, the drama continued. After an intentional walk and an unintentional walk, the bases were loaded for Romero. Gerardo Para stepped to the plate and grounded into his second double play of the night. Para was so upset, he slammed his helmet to the ground and was ejected by the first base umpire, Adrian Johnson.
The bad luck for Para seemed like good luck for the Phillies who entered the bottom of the 9th with a chance to win the game. But Jayson Werth, Ransom and Ruiz went down in order and the game headed into extra innings. In the 10th, Lidge was “Light’s Out” finally, sending the D-Backs down in order. So if they had put him in for the 9th, this game may have been over already. Go figure. But you just don’t know what you are going to get out of Lidge these days.
The Phillies loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning with 2 outs. Ryan Howard, who was 0 for 4 on the night to that point, had a chance to redeem himself. But in the past few games, Howard has started to look very, very confused at the plate. And that translated into a strike out in the 10th to end the inning. During this home stand, Howard is hitting only .185 including the 0 for 5 tonight.
But more bottom of the order heroics were on the way. Ransom, Ruiz and Wilson Valdez, the 6, 7 and 8-hole hitters accounted for 7 of the Phillies 12 hits tonight. So it was only fitting that in the 11th, the same three guys would finally win the game for their team. Ransom walked, Ruiz singled and Valdez knocked in the winning run with a liner to centerfield. The final score was 3-2 which completed a 7-game home stand sweep.
By the way, the Braves lost tonight so the Phillies picked up one more game in the standings. They are now 2.5 games out of first place in the NL East.
Tomorrow there will more high drama surrounding the Phillies as Roy Oswalt takes the mound in pinstripes for the first time. He will face the Nationals in DC; game time is 7:05pm. That game marks the first in a 6-game, 7 day road trip; 3 with the Nats and 3 with the Marlins in Miami after the off day on Monday.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The long awaited major league debut of Phillies top prospect Domonic Brown is finally in the books. Replacing Shane Victorino on the roster after he landed on the DL today, Brown played right field while Jayson Werth moved to center. And Brown could not have done much more to impress.
In his first at-bat, Brown smacked an RBI-double off the wall in centerfield, which was just a few feet away from a home run. He moved to third on a Carlos Ruiz single and scored on a Wilson Valdez ground out. Brown grounded out his second time up but singled and scored again in the 6th inning. He added a sac fly RBI later as well.
While I was not at the game, I did sneak a few photos off the TV:
So Brown went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s, one of those coming on a sac fly. While that may have exceeded expectations for a nervous rookie, even Ryan Howard said before the game that he expected “big things” from Brown today. Well, he got his wish.
And Jayson Werth looks like he got something as well; a new best friend! Werth and Brown chatted in the outfield a lot; not too unusual really. But they were also seen smiling and gabbing in the dugout a number of times. Then after scoring in the 6th, Brown followed Werth down the stairs into the dugout like an anxious puppy. In the 2nd, Brown got many high fives after his double and score, but only Werth gave him a big HUG!
While I am sure a lot of people would like to hug Brown right now, it seems only Werth will have that honor today ;o) And Werth has extra reasons to smile; with no other player who can handle centerfield, the odds of Werth being traded by the deadline are now slim to none. Also, Werth went 3 for 4 tonight. Not a bad day at all.
Another guy who did not have a bad day at all was Roy Halladay. With all the hoopla surrounding Brown, an outstanding performance from Halladay may have been slightly overlooked. But Halladay was on fire tonight, mowing down D-Backs hitters left and right. There was a scary moment in the 4th inning when Adam LaRoche smacked a liner right at Halladay. The ball hit him square in the backside.
Afterwards, pitching coach Rich Dubee said Halladay was just fine and that the ball “hit him in the meaty part.” So there you have it: Roy Halladay has a meaty butt. ;o) Sorry, I could not resist.
Halladay pitched a complete game but lost the shut-out in the 9th when the rookie Brown finally made a mistake. Brown dove for ball that he should have caught on a hop; instead the ball flew past him and a run scored. So Halladay’s scoreless innings streak ends at 33 innings. But I think we can all live with that ;o) GREAT job from Halladay, as usual!
And with the 7-1 win tonight, the Phillies extend their winning streak to 7 games overall and 10 game at home. Kyle Kendrick will pitch tomorrow night in the series finale. It is also 80’s night at the ballpark, which is always a fun type of promotion. Players shown on Phantavision are going to photoshopped into 80’s TV Stars. Howard will be Mr. T. That alone is worth the trip.
It has been a while since Phillies fans have been treated to a home run barrage. Tonight, the Phillies embraced the long ball, knocking three 2-run homers out of the ballpark; once each in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings. Jayson Werth got the first one, which had to be a big relief for him. Werth has not hit a homer in over a month, since June 23rd. Ryan Howard and Cody Ransom collected the other two bombs.
Cole Hamels had a bit of a rough outing, so the homers were a welcome sight. In the 1st inning with two outs, Hamels allowed a single, hit a batter and walked two more, which walked a run home. In 5 innings, Hamels walked 4 batters, hit two batters and allowed 3 runs. So while he was not at his best, he did still keep the team in the game.
David Herndon pitched one inning in relief and had some trouble as well. With one run already across, it looked like Herndon had a ground ball double play to end the inning. Placido Polanco fielded the ball, tagged the runner and tossed to first. But the runner going to second was called safe, despite insistence from both Polanco and manager Charlie Manuel that he did indeed tag the runner. The ump did not see it and another run scored.
But the home runs kept coming and the Phillies took the lead right back. Then in the 7th, Shane Victorino caught what appeared to be a routine fly ball but was wincing in pain before the ball even arrived. He called the trainer over and was taken out of the game. The report is that Victorino has a left oblique strain. Oblique strains are tricky so if he lands on the DL, it would not be shocking.
What is shocking is that the Phillies cannot seem to catch a break with all the injuries. Yesterday, Jimmy Rollins got hurt when he fouled a ball off his foot. He seems to be feeling better, but may still miss another game or two. Now Victorino; plus Chase Utley is still recovering from his thumb injury and at one point, the Phils had seven players on the DL all at once.
The injuries are getting old; but the current win streak, despite the injuries, is certainly not getting old. After sweeping the Rockies in 4 games, they beat the D-Backs tonight by a score of 9-5 for their 6th straight win. The rookie Herndon picked up his first major league win. In addition, the Braves lost tonight so the Phillies gain a game on them. The Phils are now 3.5 games out of first.
There are two more games with the D-Backs left before the Phillies hit the road again. As for Victorino, we should know more tomorrow. If he lands on the DL, the Phils will probably call up either Domonic Brown or John Mayberry to take his spot. I know everyone will be rooting for Brown, but Mayberry may get the nod because he has already been in the majors and they may not want to start the clock on Brown’s options just yet. But my vote is that Victorino is okay…here’s hoping.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, collected his 500th victory for the team today with a 4-game sweep of the Rockies. Only two other Phils managers since 1900 have more wins: Gene Mauch, 645 and Danny Ozark, 594.
The game did not start well as pitcher Joe Blanton quickly gave up 2 runs in the first innings to the anxious Rockies who were hoping to salvage one game in this series. But, despite a few walks, Blanton was sharp after the 1st and wound up going 6 innings.
The Phillies offense got them back into the game quickly, which was also a huge help. In order, Ross Gload singled, Greg Dobbs doubled and Brian Schneider tripled. All that was missing was a home run. Instead of the homer, Blanton reached first on a missed catch by Jason Giambi at first.
But then Jimmy Rollins batted and wound up fouling a ball off his foot, sending him to the ground in pain. He limped through the rest of the game and afterwards had an X-Ray. There was no break; he just has a bruise. However, it is still unknown how long he may have to rest his foot before playing again. Here is the sequence, with a nice moment of sportsmanship too:
Things got quiet for a while after that until the Phillies scored 2 more runs in the 6th. Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez each hit RBI-singles to extend the lead. But many players contributed to the offense today, especially Schneider, with the huge triple in the 2nd and he also walked and scored in the 6th. Greg Dobbs went 2 for 4 and Polanco had 2 hits as well. Here are a few shot from the game:
There was some great defense and really amazing efforts on tough plays also:
And then came the heart-stopping 9th inning. You know when I mention heart attacks, Brad Lidge must somehow be involved, right? Well he sure was. It started with a double, but Lidge got two outs after that. With just one out to go, ahead of the batter in the count, Lidge grooved a fastball right over the plate which Seth Smith hammered for a 2-run homer, cutting the lead to 5-4. Two walks and a single later and the bases were loaded…again…just like the day before. But Lidge finally got a ground ball, which he fielded himself for the final out.
While Lidge is totally on my last nerve with these cardiac episode inducing outings, what is the alternative? Do we need a new closer? Probably. But has anyone else in the pen proved they can handle the job? No. This is the proverbial rock and a hard place. Others have tried to close and failed, like Ryan Madson, for example. So sadly, it looks like we are stuck with Lidge for now.
As for the recent trade rumors, Dan Haren went to the Angels so it looks like Roy Oswalt is the final option for the Phils to pick up a starter. But as I talked about on yesterday’s Fightin’ Phillies podcast, Oswalt does not seem interested in coming here and with the no-trade clause, he has final say. But do we really want a guy who is scared of the media and shies away from pressure? I know I don’t. It will be interesting to see if anything happens before the trade deadline.
In the meantime, feel free to check out the Photo Album from today’s game. Thanks to my friend, Audrea, I was in one of the business suites today, which are very, very nice. I put a few photos of that in the album as well.
The D-Backs come to town tomorrow. Game time is 7:05pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Have you ever noticed how a player on your favorite team seems like an Angel in the right uniform?
But when he goes to another team, he becomes the Devil. Such is the case with Rodrigo Lopez who pitched for the Phillies last year and went to the Diamondbacks for 2010. Lopez started the game against the Phillies today and pitched 6 innings, allowing 6 runs. So, while we thank him for the 6 runs, sadly, he would only have earned his wings back if he gave us about 15 runs.
Because it looked like the Phillies were going to need 15 runs to win this one. Kyle Kendrick started out pitching really well, but that only lasted 4 innings. By the 5th, Kendrick had returned to his old ways, leaving balls way up in the hitter’s happy-zones and before you knew it, 5 runs had crossed the plate. Kendrick was pulled after 5 innings and his outing turned into a huge disappointment.
The offense tried to keep pace and by the top of the 6th, they had gone ahead of the D-Backs by a score of 6-5. Greg Dobbs hit a 2-run homer in the first, Ross Gload had 2 hits and an RBI and Carlos Ruiz gave them the lead with a 2-out, 2-run single.
The line-up tonight was a bit odd, with Gload and Dobbs in the 1 & 2 spots and Wilson Valdez at short stop. Juan Castro is still nursing a sore hamstring; Shane Victorino sat in order to re-group as he has not been hitting lately; and Dobbs took 3rd base for Placido Polanco. Polly has not looked the same since getting hit in the elbow with a pitch.
So if the Phillies were going to pull out a series win, they were going to have to depend on the back-up players and also hope that the pitching would hold up. The back-ups did their job; the pitchers did not.
After Kendrick’s disastrous 5th inning, Danys Baez could not hold the lead. He gave up 1 run in the 7th to tie the game at 6-6. David Herdon got into trouble in the 8th; with no outs, Raul Ibanez threw a runner out going home and Ruiz held onto the ball for the out. Herndon got a second chance, but he blew it. A 1-out double scored the go-ahead run and then the hits kept coming. By the end of the inning, the Phillies were down by a score of 6-8 and only 1 inning left to get back in it.
And as expected with this suddenly unpredictable offense, the Phillies fell short in the 9th and went down 6-8. Having lost this series 1 game to 2, the Phillies have a lot of issues to address, not the least of which is starting pitching. One man does not a rotation make and Roy Halladay can only win 1 game every five days. Kendrick and Cole Hamels need to get their act together…fast. Joe Blanton and JA Happ had better get well soon and Jamie Moyer is holding his own in the 5th spot.
An even bigger issue is the bullpen; their performance has varied from inconsistent to just plain awful. A lot of the pen pitchers, like Baez, seem to have a one game on, one game off thing going on. It is like the see-saw ride from hell. You just never know which end is going to be up or down and when.
And now the Phillies are heading to San Francisco to face the Giants red-hot pitching staff. With all the injuries and inconsistent performances, the Phillies may be headed into big, big trouble. And Trouble is called Jonathan Sanchez and Tim “I have 2 Cy Youngs” Lincecum. The first game of the series starts tomorrow at 10:15pm. Bust out the bottle of Tums; this is going to be interesting.
Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography except Lopez as a D-Back; MLB.com
The big question going into tonight’s Phillies – Diamondbacks match-up was how spot-starter Nelson Figueroa was going to fare. Overall, he did a great job. Although he had quite a few base runners and ran some deep counts, Figueroa mostly did very well, allowing just 2 runs in 5 innings. Considering he was not very stretched out having been in the bullpen, Figueroa gave an excellent effort.
Another question mark lately has been the Phillies offense which went from red-hot during the first 10 games of the season to stone-cold this past week. In fact, the only two bats that showed up today were Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez. Werth hit two monster home runs to centerfield; one came in the 2nd inning and the other gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead in the 9th. Werth also made two great catches in the outfield and collected his first assist of the year, throwing a runner out at second.
Ibanez hit a home run in the 7th to tie the game up; it was his first home run of the year. Ibanez has been struggling so far this season but finally looks like he may break out of the slump. He also singled in the 9th, bringing his average up above the Mendoza line at .222.
Right after the Ibanez homer, Wilson Valdez stepped to the plate in place of Juan Castro and Phillies fans everywhere started to get that all too familiar twinge of panic. Castro has been outstanding in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins and there was no apparent reason to pull him out early. It was announced shortly after that Castro is suffering from mild left hamstring soreness.
This Phillies team is beginning to resemble a MASH unit instead of a ball club. The constant flow of injuries is alarming. They are already down 2 starting pitchers, 1 closer and a short stop. If Castro is really hurt and they are forced to go to the 3rd string short stop in Valdez, this could get ugly. Cross your fingers…
So, the bullpen had to keep the game close tonight as Figueroa was done in after the 5th inning. Chad Durbin was spectacular in 2 innings where he struck out 3 and allowed only 1 hit and no runs. Jose Contreras also struck out 3 in the 8th and the Ryan Madson came in for the 9th. Madson has not looked great as the team’s closer in place of the injured Brad Lidge, but tonight with a 1-run lead, he redeemed himself. He allowed 1 hit, no runs and struck out two for his 4th save of the year.
The 3-2 win tonight ties up the series in Arizona. The Phillies will send Kyle Kendrick to the mound tomorrow in search of his first win this year. Game time is 4:10pm. Go Phillies!
Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography