Tagged: Hunter Pence

Phillies Stumble Into All-Star Break With Little Hope to Save Their Season

The Phillies were swept by the Braves today in a depressing 4-3 loss.  There was not even a little comic relief, as in Saturday’s loss when Hunter Pence bowled over 3rd base coach Juan Samuel while rounding the bases towards home.  That bit had everyone except Samuel laughing to the point of tears.

The only laughs today came before the game started:

After that, absolutely nothing was funny.  Even the presentation of All-Star jersey’s to Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels was somehow lacking in enthusiasm.

And then fans learned that Shane Victorino was pulled from the line-up at the last moment, prompting rumors of a possible trade or injury.  But what actually happened, according to Charlie Manuel, was that Shane was feeling “down” and had “a lot on his mind…”  And so, Charlie took him out in favor of Jason Pridie.

That turned out to be the only good move of the day.  Pridie hit a 2-run homer and a double, which accounted for all 3 Phillies runs in the game.

Vance Worley battled through 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, which was a nice improvement over his last start where he have up 6 runs in 4 innings.  But despite the quality start, not much was going the way of the Phillies.

There were some nice defensive plays:

But the offense was lackluster, despite having both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the line-up.  The top 4 in the line-up went 1-for-16 collectively, although Jimmy Rollins did go 3-for-3 in pop-fly outs.  I am not sure that is a stat to be proud of, but at least he is consistent (note my sarcasm, in case you missed it).

Ultimately, Raul Valdes gave up a solo homer to who else, but Brian McCann, giving the Braves a 1-run lead that the Phillies failed to overcome.

So the Braves had a nice visit to Philly, complete with attempts to steal young Phillies fans.  Here is ex-Phil Chad Durbin and Dan Uggla before the game playing nice with one of the kids chosen for the traditional Sunday Starting 9:

Actually, it was very sweet.  But Durbin was always that kind of guy; his presence is still missed on this ballclub.

So the Phillies go into the All-Star break in the midst of a complete disaster.  They have won only 1 of their last 12 games and sit in dead last in the NL East, 14 games out of first.  Get ready fans; I am afraid change is coming, and not the good kind.

For a pleasant distraction, check out my Photo Album from the game; just pretend they win and the photos look even better!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Are Halfway to Nowhere

After being swept by the Marlins today, the Phillies are 10.5 games back in the division with a 36-45 record.  It is their worst effort through 81 games since 1997.

It is the halfway point of the season; time to count the bodies and see exactly how big the hole is that the Phillies are digging.  Let’s begin with Jim Thome.  He was traded to the Orioles in exchange for 2 prospects: Class A catcher Gabriel Lino and right-hander Kyle Simon, both of whom will report to Class A Lakewood.  So the Phillies did not even get a player who could help out right now.

If the Phillies were actually contending, Thome might still be here.  But it is the best move for Thome, who will actually get some playing time in the American League.  I wish him the best.

And how about Cliff Lee…when Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki asked pitching coach Rich Dubee about Lee’s struggles, Dubee basically pleaded the 5th.  The response given multiple times was, “I’m not going into it.”  Lee appears healthy, no mechanical issues were mentioned.  That leads one to believe that Lee, winless in 13 starts, has thrown in the towel.  I hope that is not the case, but Lee has not seemed right in a long time now.

And the bodies continue to mount.  Jimmy Rollins’ hot streak is over; he is hitless in his last 11 at-bats.  Placido Polanco is 2 for his last 15.  Antonio Bastardo has allowed 6 runs in his last 4 2/3 innings in relief.

The next head on the block might actually be Cole Hamels.  Just announced as an All-Star this year along with Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Papelbon, it is rumored that the Phillies are shopping Hamels to other teams.  If team management feels Hamels will walk once he hits free agency and this 2012 team is down for the count, Hamels may be gone soon.

That would be a terrible shame, but if the Phillies do not pick themselves up and start winning, Hamels will not be the only casualty.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

What’s Happened to Cliff Lee?

What in the world is going on with Cliff Lee?  Has he been abducted by aliens and replaced with a look-alike?  Maybe the aliens are trying to clone him for their big MLB invasion plan.  But this guy they left behind is not fooling anyone.  This is not the Cliff Lee we have come to know.

Lee has allowed 20 earned runs in his last four games, including 6 tonight against the Miami Marlins.  He only made it through 4 2/3 innings before getting the hook.  Lee looked so bad, that manager Charlie Manuel actually pulled him when the next batter scheduled to hit was the opposing pitcher.  Ouch.

And it has not just been the last 4 games.  Lee has been up and down all year, with a trip to the DL for a sore oblique thrown in the middle.  So what exactly has happened to this 3-time All-Star and Cy Young award winner?

It seems clear that the only person who can answer that question is Cliff Lee.  And right now, he does not seem to have a clue either.

This is now 13 starts for Lee in 2012 without recording a single win.  It appears someone has stolen his mojo.  Anyone have a self-help book we can toss at him?

But Lee’s season has paralleled the Phillies season as a whole.  It has been a real head-scratcher all around, laden with injuries and disappointment.

The Phillies went on to lose their 3rd straight game tonight, which was a combination of Lee’s performance and a non-existent offense.  The only Phillies run of the game through 8 innings was a solo homer by Hunter Pence.

To recap, Chase Utley is back and the Phillies have not won a game since.  Ryan Howard is on a rehab assignment and will be back soon.  But if the pitching continues along this dreadful path, none of it will matter.

So please, little green men, we are begging you!  Return the real Cliff Lee to us before it is too late!

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Lee Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Double Disaster as Phillies Lose Two Against the Rays

The Phillies managed to spend only one day out of the basement in the NL East after Saturday’s win.  But Sunday’s twin killing against the Rays propelled them right back to where they apparently belong; in last place.  When your two best starters are pitching and you still lose both games, things have clearly gone very, very wrong.

In the first game, Cole Hamels was practically unhittable.  He did not allow a run over 7 innings and gave up only 3 hits.

Leaving the game with a 1-0 lead, the bullpen was going to have to pitch 2 clean innings.  And as you probably already know, that did not happen.

I try not to say too much about how Charlie Manuel handles this team.  Because frankly, what he has been given to work with is on par with a minor league team.  But after Antonio Bastardo walked 2 batters in the 8th with just a 1-run lead, he should not have been allowed to continue.  Bastardo was awful the day before and clearly, he still has not found proper command of his pitches.  So why then is he left in to pitch to Carlos Pena?

Apparently, he was left in to clear the bases for the next pitcher as he gave up a 3-run homer to Pena.  I saw that coming, as did everyone in my section screaming, “Take him out!”  But Manuel puts blind faith in these guys even when it has become obvious to everyone else that the leash has gotten far too long.

Then again, look at the players Manuel has to choose from.  The pickings are slim.  This bullpen just sucks, so in that regard, it is still hard to blame the manager.  I still don’t agree with the decision to leave Bastardo in, but I am also glad I was not the one having to make that decision.

And then in the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Manuel left Michael Martinez in to bat instead of pinch hitting.  Martinez is hitting .133 and could not hit the broad side of a barn right now.  After the game, Manuel told the media that neither Juan Pierre nor Mike Fontenot were hitting lefties well, so he left Martinez in.  The issue with that is, Martinez is not hitting ANYONE right now.

Angry at the media for asking, Manuel suggested the reporters should tweet him with their in-game decisions saying, “You guys can float the information down there to me, being as I ain’t smart enough to get it.”  Oh my…

Here are a few other random shots from the 1st game, which the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2.

In game 2, Cliff Lee basically squashed any shot he may have had at his first win of the season by allowing 5 runs over 7 innings.  His last 3 starts have been awful.  Where did our ace go?

Perhaps the strain of not having a win has finally stolen whatever small amount of sanity he had left?   No one really knows what is going on here.

Placido Polanco tried to get this team going.  He went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk.  John Mayberry Jr. also had a big hit and an RBI.  And it was apparently “opposite day” for Hunter Pence who drew 3 walks in the game.

But the offense literally ended there.  The Phillies managed only 4 hits and left 6 men on base.

And just so Lee did not feel singled out in this one, some of the rookie pitchers decided to help out with 5 walks, a wild pitch and 2 more runs for the Rays in one inning.  It looks like B.J. Rosenberg’s major league career may be over before it began.  He was responsible for all that damage except 1 of the walks.

Adding insult to injury, catcher Brian Schneider was leveled at home plate by Sean Rodriguez coming in to score.  He left the game with a sprained ankle.  Later, Pence almost took out the Rays catcher in a weird semi-collision with Jose Molina’s outstretched leg.

Schneider is now on the DL and the Phillies went down for the count in a 7-3 loss.

Here are the Photo Albums from both games: Game 1: Hamels start, Game 2: Lee start.

The Pirates come to town next for a 4-game series starting tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Dear Phillies, Please Stop Toying With Our Emotions

After two big wins over the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Phillies failed to sweep the series with a loss on Thursday.  And the Rockies are a team they very well should have swept.

The first two victories gave fans hope that this struggling team might finally be getting their act together.  They played well and showed a winning attitude.  But last night’s disaster saw those hopes dashed and frustration set it once again.

It is not that they lost the game.  This is baseball; losses happen.  The issue is how they lost the game.

Let us begin by looking at the opposing pitcher, Jeff Francis.  This guy had a minor league deal with the Reds this year, who finally released him.  The Rockies picked him up and Francis had a 12.46 ERA in 2 starts for them coming into this game.  This is a guy that the Phillies should have absolutely pounded.

Instead, they left 7 men on base and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.  Worse than that, the Phillies continue to fail to score runners from 3rd with less than 2 outs.  In the 2nd inning, Jimmy Rollins, who homered to start the game, popped out with 1 out and a man on third.  J-Roll had 2 pop-outs and a ground ball double play to go with his solo homer in this game.

Then in the 8th, the Phillies squandered a lead-off double by Ty WiggintonHunter Pence struck out swinging at a crap pitch…again.  Carlos Ruiz flied out and Shane Victorino popped out to end the inning.  Both Pence and Victorino walked back to the dugout to a chorus of boo’s from the frustrated fans who are tired of watching the same mistakes over and over and over…

As for the pitching, Vance Worley and his bone-chip plagued elbow were a bit shaky.  But he kept the team in the game and walked off the mound to a 2-1 score with the Phillies trailing.  Still, he did all he could.

But the bullpen failed once again.  Chad Qualls had a bad inning but escaped without allowing a run thanks to a good defensive play by Ruiz at home plate.  Still, Qualls heard the boo’s too as his season has been much worse than you would expect from a veteran bullpen guy.

The problem there is that the rest of the pen is mostly rookies who are clearly not ready for the bigs.  Between Jake Diekman and Michael Schwimer, the Rockies padded their lead to a 4-1 score.

Down by 3 runs in the 9th, there would be no comeback on this day as the Phillies went down in order.  Yes, right back to the old 2012 ways we have become so accustomed to this season.

A 3-game series with the Rays begins tonight and fans can only pray for a miracle.  Cliff Lee will try, once again, to get his first win of the season.  Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Stomp Rockies by a Toe Length

The Phillies won the second game of their series with the Rockies, not by a nose or even by the hair of their chins; they won by a toe.  It was Todd Helton’s toe, to be exact.

In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs, the bases loaded and a tie game, Placido Polanco stepped to the plate.  He hit a bouncing grounder to short that looked like it might end the game.  It did end the game, just not in the way you might expect.

Polanco hustled down the line and, for some unknown reason, veteran Todd Helton suddenly forgot how to play first base.  He had the wrong foot back towards the bag and had to juggle his feet around.  As a result, his foot was not on the bag by about a toe length when Polanco crossed.  Polanco was safe, the runner on 3rd scored and the Phillies won in walk-off fashion.

I am so grateful to Helton’s toe that I decided to write a short poem about it:

Ode to the Toe
Oh, to the toe
Many thanks must go
Trying to save face
You danced around the base
Giving Polanco plenty of time
To get down the line
The winning run would score
As the crowd began to roar
So thank you little toe
We did so enjoy the show

The toe, however, was not the only star of the game.  The Phillies played with a lot of hustle and enthusiasm, which is something we have not seen too much of this season.

The 9th inning was especially nice to see because of the way the whole situation unfolded.  Back in the top of the inning, the Phillies were in a 5-5 tie game with Jonathan Papelbon on the mound.  As has been the case in non-save situations, Papelbon faltered and gave up a run.

Then down 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th, the first two Phillies batters went down fast.  With 2 outs, it looked like they were doomed.  And judging by the season so far, a comeback with 2 outs in the 9th almost seemed impossible.

But then something wonderful happened.  The Phillies fought back…finally.  This is the moment we have been waiting to witness all year long.

After Ty Wigginton singles, Hunter Pence came up with a clutch double; another rarity this year.  Even more impressive, Wigginton tore up the base paths, as if he had a psychic vision that he could go all the way.  Without hesitation, Wiggy actually scored from first base to tie the game, 6-6.

After Carlos Ruiz was walked intentionally, Shane Victorino found his happy place again and loaded the bases with a single.  Victorino beat out the throw from the short stop by about half of a second.  His hustle kept the inning alive.

And you know the rest; Polanco is safe by a toe!  Phillies win!

If the Phillies can keep the hustle going and sweep the Rockies tonight, there may be hope for this season yet…

Game time tonight is 7:05pm.

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Victorino photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome’s Hot Bat Helps Phillies to a Win

The Phillies finally won a game last night, although by the skin of their teeth. The 9-8 victory over the Twins broke up a 3 game losing streak in a month where wins have been hard to come by.

The return of Jim Thome from the DL seems to have sparked an offensive explosion. After hitting at a rate of .100 before he went on the DL, Thome now has 10 hits in his last 5 games serving as the DH against the American League. Thome has also hit 2 home runs in that span, the longest of which was a whopping 466 feet last night. The slugger has officially returned!

A bunch of Phillies had big offensive days as well. Juan Pierre, Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz all had 3 hist. And John Mayberry Jr. racked up 4 RBI on 2 hits, including a 3-run homer in the 1st inning.

That first inning was a bit unusual though. The Twins starter, P.J. Walters wound up leaving the game with 4 runs allowed without even recording a single out. It was later reported that he was experiencing shoulder pain.

So the Phillies caught a break and racked up 6 runs in one inning, adding 3 more later. But they still showed the same problems they have been dealing with all year. For example, they Phillies loaded the bases with NO outs in the 9th and once again, failed to score. They could not even muster a sac fly. That is just not going to win them ballgames.

And what has become another disturbing trend is the starting pitching. Cole Hamels, probably the Phillies’ best pitcher not on the DL right now, has really fallen apart lately. Against the Twins, with that huge 6-run lead after the top of the 1st inning, Hamels got knocked around, allowing 7 runs over 6+ innings. Antonio Bastardo allowed one more, all of which turned a 6-run lead into only a 1-run lead.

Luckily, Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the win, having to record 4 outs in order to do so. But I am sure he was just glad to be able to pitch in a save situation, which there have been very few of lately.

Despite all the drama, there were a few great defensive moments thanks to Michael Martinez who also just came off the DL after breaking his foot in spring training. He made the last out of the game by catching a pop-up that was over his head and about to drop in the middle of nowhere. And earlier in the game, he dove to snag a ball hit hard up the middle and in the same motion, made an amazing glove toss to Jimmy Rollins at second.

The return of Martinez is a welcome site now that Freddy Galvis is on the DL with a back fracture (ouch!). Mikey-Mart is about the same offensively as Galvis and his defense, while not quite as spectacular, is still very solid. So welcome back, Mikey!

Although it may be a long shot, the Phillies ‘could’ – maybe – possibly – win this series with a victory tonight. Joe Blanton is pitching and he has given up a minimum of 5 runs in each of his last 5 games. Let us hope that trend ends tonight. Game time is 8:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography