In game 3 of this Phillies – Nationals series, the playoff-bound Phils looked very relaxed. Joe Blanton pitched 7 fairly easy innings allowing only 3 hits and one unearned run. Blanton probably will not get much playing time in the NLDS as the rotation is set up to include only Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. So this was a good outing for Blanton to end the regular season with; his final record is 9-6 with a 4.74 ERA.
A barrage of home runs from the Phillies bench players helped Blanton out tonight. Taking full advantage of extra playing time, Ben Francisco smashed two home runs and went 3 for 4 at the plate with 3 RBI. John Mayberry Jr. also had a big night with a 3-run homer and a single. Mayberry made vast improvements in AAA this year and is now hitting both right and left handed pitching well.
Also joining the home run party was Mike Sweeney; he whacked a long ball to left center in the 2nd. He and Francisco went back to back that inning. And you know what a Sweeney home run means…HUGS for everyone! If you do not know what I mean, check out my “I Want A Hug From Mike Sweeney” Facebook page.
I love watching this guy play; he has brought an exuberance to this team that is rarely seen. It will be a joy to see him in the playoffs, finally, after 16 years in the majors.
Catcher Paul Hoover also got some playing time, but went 0 for 4 at the plate. Regulars like Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Wilson Valdez (a regular due to many injuries) all went hitless. But Greg Dobbs bounced back after a bad game yesterday and had 2 hits. The best pinch hitter in the National League in 2008, Dobbs has suffered a very bad season this year. Maybe this extra playing time will snap him out of the funk.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 7-1, giving them a record of 95-64, which will either be the best record in baseball or very close to tied for the best after all the games are done tonight. The Phils are off tomorrow and will return on Friday. The remaining 3 games will be in Atlanta where the Braves are still battling for the Wild Card spot.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
With both the division and home field advantage wrapped up, the plan for the Phillies back-up players this week is simple: Make the post-season roster. With the September call-ups plus the usual bench players, the Phillies have a lot of spare parts. A few of those will make the roster; the rest will sit and watch. After tonight against the Nationals, there are 4 games remaining to decide who will fill the roles.
A few position players who made a good case in tonight’s game were Domonic Brown in right field and Ben Francisco in center. Francisco went 2 for 4 and should be a lock for the roster. Brown had 1 hit, a stolen base and a walk; he will likely be competing with Greg Dobbs for a roster spot. Dobbs did not help his case with an error at third base tonight, no hits and he also dribbled a ball in front of home plate for an easy force out with the bases loaded and only one out.
Decisions in the bullpen will be a bit more complicated. After a fairly awful year, Danys Baez pitched mostly okay in one inning tonight, although he did walk a batter. David Herndon looked better with two easy outs in the 7th. The two lefties JC Romero and Antonio Bastardo each pitched one scoreless inning. Bastardo is going to have an electric arm if he learns to control it; but the problem with him and all the other bullpen pieces we saw tonight is a lack of consistency.
But under pressure against the Nats knowing he was competing for a roster spot, Bastardo turned up the heat and struck out the side. If a decision had to be made tonight, I would take Bastardo over Baez, keeping the two lefties.
Roy Oswalt started the game and pitched 5 innings allowing only an unearned run after the Dobbs error. Sadly, he did not get a win as he left the game with a 1-1 tie score after a Raul Ibanez home run. So Oswalt, if he does not pitch again in the regular season, will end with a 13-13 record. 12 of those 13 loses came when he was with the Astros.
Jimmy Rollins finally started a game tonight for the first time since September 8th. He moved well in the field and went 1 for 3 at the plate. Rollins played 5 innings total and should see more playing time as the week goes on in order to prepare him for the playoffs. The hamstring injury did not appear to be an issue tonight…fingers crossed!
While the Phillies had a few hits in the game, it was still a 1-1 tie in the 9th. Jose Contreras pitched the final inning for the Phils and threw only 3 pitches. Adam Dunn mashed a long home run off Contreras, giving the Nats a 2-1 walk-off win. While the loss makes little difference at this point, the performance by Contreras was not a good thing. However, Contreras has been fairly reliable most of the year.
The battle of the back-ups will continue tomorrow in DC; game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies went to Florida today and filleted the Fish with 11 runs scored. The dinner bell rang early as Jayson Werth smacked a solo homer in the 2nd inning to start the feast. The offense continued to rack up runs in every inning from the 2nd to the 7th.
Four home runs tonight were a welcome sight; Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Greg Dobbs all followed in Werth’s footsteps after the first bomb in the 2nd. Utley looked very hungry with his homer plus 2 walks. And Ruiz snacked on the Marlins with 3 hits and 4 RBI. Even starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, helped out with a hit and a run scored.
Blanton allowed just one run through 6 innings and had a fairly easy time knocking down Marlins batters. With 8 strike outs recorded, the only real disappointment was that Blanton could not go 7 innings. Blanton has struggled all year to get past 6 innings; he has pitched 7 innings or more only 8 times in 25 starts.
But with an 11-1 lead in the 7th, there was no need to push Blanton further. The bullpen was fully rested after a Roy Oswalt complete game shut-out yesterday. Jose Contreras pitched the 7th and did well. In his last 2 outings, he allowed 2 runs each game and looked tired. A clean outing tonight was probably a nice confidence boost for him.
On the other hand, David Herndon was brought in to get some work in the 8th and got beat up by the angry Fish. He gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run homer. But after he finally got out of the inning, the Phillies still led by a score of 11-4.
The Phillies were able to rest some of their regulars near the end of the game, giving bench players like Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. a chance to play. Wilson Valdez is still filling in for Jimmy Rollins who had an MRI on his hamstring today. The MRI showed a slight strain, but no tear. So Rollins should be back in action in a few days. Although, Valdez has been great in his absence; Valdez collected 2 hits tonight.
With the Phillies win plus a Braves win over the Nationals tonight, the Phils remain 1 game in first place. They have 2 more games with the Fish…game time tomorrow is 7:10pm and Cole Hamels will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies won their 4th game in a row tonight with an amazing start from Cole Hamels. The Brewers did not get a hit off Hamels until the 5th inning as he mowed down hitter after hitter. He walked 3 batters, gave up just 3 hits and struck out 7.
Most impressive with Hamels tonight was his demeanor. Even thought the Phils have not scored for him basically all year long, he did not let it bother him that the offense gave him only one run to work with…again. Hamels got into some trouble in the 7th when he issued a lead-off walk and then a single but he worked out of the jam.
Although it did not appear to affect him, Hamels must be wondering what he has done to offend his teammates. In his last 6 games, including tonight, the Phils offense scored 2 runs or less for him in five of those games, with two of them being shut-outs. Perhaps he needs to change deodorants?
Whatever the reason, runs seem to be impossible to come by when Hamels is on the mound. The one run scored tonight was after a 2nd inning Shane Victorino double; Raul Ibanez moved him to third and Carlos Ruiz grounded out to score him. But after that…nothing. The Phillies even left the bases loaded with NO outs in the 4th and did not score. Ibanez struck out and Ruiz hit into a line-drive double play, catching Jayson Werth off the bag. As a team, the Phillies went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
Despite the offensive struggle, the Phillies went on to win 1-0 and Ryan Madson got the save in the 9th. Roy Halladay will pitch tomorrow; game time is 7:05pm.
A few roster moves were made today also; Greg Dobbs was brought up from AAA and Ross Gload was activated off the DL after a groin injury last month. A few more moves will be made in the next few days as the Monday double-header approaches and an extra pitcher will be needed. No word yet on who will be called upon, but it may be Vance Worley who pitched very well in AAA and pitched one scoreless inning for the Phils in July. Other possibilities may be Nate Robertson or Drew Carpenter. We shall see.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Ryan Howard came off the DL today, trading places with Ross Gload who went on the DL with a strained groin. So Domonic Brown remains on the roster and Greg Dobbs has accepted an assignment in AAA. While the return of Howard was very good news, the Phillies offense still appears to be on hiatus.
The Phils managed only 2 hits and 1 run off the Nats Stephen Strasburg. Howard had the lone RBI. But early in the 5th inning, Strasburg looked at his elbow, obviously in pain, and was removed from the game. There is no word yet on how serious the injury might be. But even with the Nats rookie ace pulled from the game, the Phils offense still went silent.
Not helping the cause at all was pitcher Kyle Kendrick who had a horrible outing. Just when you thought Kendrick was getting on track, there he goes again with 5 earned runs allowed in the first 3 innings. Kendrick was pulled after just 5 2/3 innings. The Phillies have a serious decision to make here; Kendrick cannot be counted on and in a pennant race, that is not what they need.
After Chad Durbin gave up a 3-run homer in the 9th, sending the Phillies down by a score of 8-1. They will have one more shot at the Nats tomorrow at 1:35pm to try for a series win. Roy Oswalt will pitch and I will return with photos.
Roy Oswalt’s debut tonight in a Phillies uniform was a bit of a buzz kill. The last place Nationals smacked him around, scoring 5 runs in the first 5 innings.
By the end of 6, Oswalt had given up 7 hits, 2 walks and hit 2 batters which accounted for 4 earned runs and 1 unearned.
On the other side, Nats pitcher Craig Stammen came into tonight’s game with a 5.50 ERA and only 2 wins in 19 starts. When he was done with the Phillies, Stammen looked like a Cy Young winner. The stuttering Phils offense managed only 5 hits; 2 of those were from Raul Ibanez and another two, including a solo homer, were from Jayson Werth. Rookie Domonic Brown had the 5th hit for the team in only his 2nd start in the big leagues.
The defense was a bit shaky as well. Carlos Ruiz did something I personally have never seen before. In the 3rd inning with 2 men on base, Adam Kennedy squared to bunt and Greg Dobbs at third base charged to field the bunt, as he was supposed to. Ruiz got the ball instead; he then had a brain cramp and threw the bunted ball to third base even though NO ONE was there to catch it. Yes, Ruiz threw the ball to nobody. And then a run scored. Wow.
Things continued to go downhill after Oswalt left the game. Chad Durbin pitched the 7th and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. Down 8 to 1, the Phillies offense continued to do nothing. Brown got one more hit in the 9th inning, giving the Phillies 6 hits total from 3 players. And that was all the offense. Phillies lose, 8-1.
As for Oswalt, I suppose everyone is entitled to a bad day. It was just one start. We’ll see how it goes next time. By the way, in case anyone is interested, JA Happ made his first start for the Astros tonight; he gave up some walks, but only 2 hits and NO runs in 6 innings.
Joe Blanton will pitch in DC tomorrow; game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by http://www.motifake.com/
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