Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee needed a solid bounce-back game tonight after his last start was a small disaster. Against the Nationals in the third game of the series, Lee did more than bounce back. He pretty much destroyed the Nats line-up, one batter at a time.
Over nine innings in a complete game, Lee allowed only three hits, no runs, 1 walk and struck out 12 batters. The Nats bats looked baffled at the plate. At this rate, teams may have to start a support group soon for players who are totally humiliated by this Phillies pitching staff. They can call it C.R.A.P.P, Cannot Rally Against Phillies Pitching.
Lee’s competition, Jordan Zimmerman, kept up with Lee through five innings. He had a no-hitter going until the sixth when Carlos Ruiz smashed a home run to left. With one swing, the no-hitter was gone and Phillies took a 1-0 lead. Shane Victorino scored later that same inning on a Placido Polanco single.
Zimmerman was pulled in the eighth after both Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez singled and Lee reached on an error to load the bases. A ground out followed by a Jimmy Rollins single scored two more runs, increasing the Phillies lead to 4-0.
The Nats, in a four-run hole in the bottom of the ninth, attempted a comeback with a lead-off single. But Lee shut them down. Our old buddy Jayson Werth made the last out, which was the icing on the cake.
The win tonight means the Phillies have taken two out of three games in D.C. this week. This marks their fourth consecutive series win to start the season. It also marked the first time the Phillies had back-to-back complete games since May of 1999.
The Phils go back home to face the Marlins tomorrow. Roy Oswalt will pitch and game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Tonight’s Phillies game against the Nationals looked more like a game of dodgeball than baseball. Bats and balls were flying everywhere as players dodged out of the way or dropped the ball like it was on fire.
In the fourth inning, Jimmy Rollins reached base when Ian Desmond dropped an easy ground ball. One batter later, Desmond nearly football tackled Rollins who was on his way to third base. As J-Roll rolled to the ground, the umpire called interference on Desmond and Rollins was safe at third.
Both Rollins and Ryan Howard had ball-handling issues as well. The ball got stuck in each of their gloves at one point but they each recovered.
More flying objects threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning. Danny Espinosa shattered his bat on a swing and pieces of the bat flew right at Roy Halladay, who was standing defenseless on the mound. Luckily, the bat just grazed his glove. Right behind him, Wilson Valdez fielded the ball cleanly despite the flying debris an turned and amazing double play to end the inning.
Ryan Howard tried to dodge a ball in the fifth when pitcher John Lannan hit him in the hand. Nightmares of Chase Utley’s broken hand in 2007, who was also hit by Lannan, swirled in the air. But Howard was fine and a run was walked home as a result.
Oh, and Roy Halladay was pretty good tonight, too. With the offense spotting him three runs, Halladay mowed down Nats batters one by one. Even Jayson Werth, who was great on Tuesday night, could not dodge the bullets from his former teammate.
Werth finally got a hit in the ninth inning, as Halladay was then the one trying to dodge a bullet. With one run in, Werth on third and only one out in a 3-1 game, Charlie Manuel went to the mound to get Halladay who it appears, refused to leave. Manuel gave Halladay his wish and left him in. The next batter hit an infield single to cut the Phils lead to 3-2.
Still, Halladay stayed on the mound. Next up was another former Phillies, Matt Stairs. Normally one who swings away, Stairs froze as three straight strikes flew by. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez suffered the same fate as he struck out looking to end the game, despite protests to the umpire.
The Phillies won by a score of 3-2. As for Roy Halladay, bullet dodged.
The big story before today’s Phillies – Nationals match-up was the reunion with Jayson Werth who left for a larger payday this past offseason. While Werth heard some boos from the Phillies fans who generally overrun Nationals Stadium, he also got the last laugh…for today, anyway.
Werth had two hits, including a double and a home run. He also walked once and scored twice. The boos either did not bother him or he found it to be motivating.
As for starter Joe Blanton, in his second attempt of the year, he faltered again. Blanton allowed five runs over seven innings to an anemic Nationals team. His 10.45 ERA is disturbing, although, it is still early in the season. Regardless, losing to the lowly Nationals is never fun.
And the Phillies offense did little to help Blanton. They seemed puzzled against veteran Livan Hernandez. Ryan Howard touched him up for a homer in the second inning, but hits after that were hard to come by and certainly were not timely.
In the seventh, after three straight singles and only one out, both John Mayberry Jr. and Shane Victorino struck out to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Antonio Bastardo walked a run home to make the score 6-1.
The Phillies tried again to rally against the Nats bullpen in the eighth. But although they got some runners on base and two runs scored, one on a ground ball and another on a wild pitch, it was not enough. The Phils went on to lose by a final score of 7-4.
Roy Halladay will take the mound tomorrow and try to hold down Werth and the Nats. Game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Much has been made out of Jayson Werth’s offseason departure from the Phillies after accepting a huge $126 million, 7-year deal from the Nationals. On Tuesday night, Werth will face his former team for the first time as the Phillies travel to D.C. for a three-game series.
Some fans have expressed their disappointment that Werth chose a big paycheck over staying with a winning team. After all, Cliff Lee gave up more money from the Yankees to come back to Philadelphia.
But in the same circumstance, most people would take the money. And the offer Werth got from the Nats was significantly more than the Phillies offered. So can you really blame him?
Money aside, there may be other reasons that Phillies fans feel the need to boo Werth. For example, this past February, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post quoted Werth as saying, “I hate the Phillies, too,” in response to a comment made by Washington GM Mike Rizzo.
Then in late March, an interview with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. by nick DiUlio of Philadelphia Magazine revealed more angry words by Werth. Amaro stated he received a text message from Werth after the Lee signing that said, “BOOOOOOOO!”
The next part of the same article read as follows: “That reaction from Jayson was funny,” says Amaro in his office in February, again flashing that smile. “He was pissed*off. He had just signed with Washington. He said to me, ‘You dum*bass. You could’ve had both of us.’ And I said, ‘You’re the dum*bass. You could have taken our arbitration offer.'”
While Werth is clearly sore over the deal, should fans be sore about Werth’s reaction?
But a few childish and angry words should not overshadow what Werth contributed to the Phillies team over four seasons. He helped them win the 2008 World Championship, played solid defense and added some pop to the line-up.
While Werth’s choice of words could be perceived as blatant disrespect for a team and a fan base that always had his back, the words were spoken out of shock and likely, disappointment.
Games in D.C. against the Phillies have been traditionally overrun with Phillies fans in the past several years. So, despite this being a home game for the Nats, Phillies fans will be heard.
So the question then remains, to boo or not to boo? Booing is not really my style, but each person is free to make their own choice. Ultimately, I hope Werth hears more cheers than boos out of appreciation for the time he was in Philadelphia.
And if you would really like Werth to feel bad about his poor choices of words this offseason, there is no better way than offering up a loud, hearty cheer to make him regret the indiscretion.
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
Sitting among the second largest crowd in Citizen Bank Park’s history to witness another historical feat was amazing. All in attendance saw the Phillies open a season at home 3-0 for the first time since 1970 and open a season at home with a three-game series sweep for the first time since 1899. Yes, 1899.
The one-two-three punch of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt proved to be too much for the Houston Astros to handle. Oswalt was great today, pitching six innings and allowing just two runs on five hits against his former ball club in the 7-3 win.
It was Oswalt’s first start against his old team in his first start of the season. But there were many first’s in this game. Ryan Howard hit his first homer of the season while collecting a team-high four RBI in the game. Michael Martinez made his first major league start in place of Shane Victorino in center. Martinez later collected his first major league hit and first RBI in the same at bat.
Ben Francisco also smacked his first home run of the season today and made a huge first impression as the starting right fielder this weekend. With three hits in this game, all he had left to prove was that he could play hard in right. Francisco accomplished that with an amazing catch in right where he crashed into the wall hard, knocking the “SD” out of the out of town scoreboard.
As Francisco gave up his body to make the play, the fans jumped to their feet and screamed his praises. It was Francisco’s very own “Aaron Rowand moment.” Remember back in 2006 when Rowand smashed face-first into the center field wall to make a game-saving catch? He was a home town hero after that.
And while Francisco did not leave the field bloodied and battered, the effort was very much the same. And just like that, Jayson Werth is a distant memory.
Victorino sat today to rest his sore calf, but was able to pinch-hit later in the sixth and then stayed in the game. He saw exactly one pitch in his first at-bat and sent it to right for an RBI single. Looks like the calf is just fine.
The Phillies are off on Monday and start a three game series with the Mets on Tuesday. Cole Hamels will pitch and game time is 7:05pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
When the Phillies announced that they re-signed Cliff Lee this past December, it was hard to believe. From the shocking trade after the 2009 season, to Lee’s return and now, his first start back in a Phils uniform, it has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride.
But when Lee took the mound tonight against the Astros, the reality truly set in. Fans jumped to their feet and roared before Lee even threw a pitch. The excitement was palpable. Like a gift from heaven, Cliff Lee is home again.
As expected, Lee dominated the Astros line-up for most of the game. The only issue he ran into was his namesake, Carlos Lee who smashed a two-run homer. Lee wound up going seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out 11 batter.
The only remaining question for the Phillies was could they muster any offense. The answer is yes. After the amazing Opening Day ninth inning comeback rally on Friday, the Phils offense picked up today where they left off yesterday.
The Phillies got off to a quick start with two runs in the first inning. Between the fourth and fifth innings, they scored five more runs. The highlights were a Raul Ibanez double, a two-run Shane Victorino bloop single and a Ben Francisco double, just to name a few.
The real encouraging factor was not just the runs, but the way they scored the runs. It was a combination of good base running, patience at the plate, small ball and timely hitting. This is the Phillies offense everyone has been waiting to see.
Of course, we all loved the home run days and there will still be some of those. But in the past, the Phillies offense really seemed to rely on the big hits with little to no focus on manufacturing runs. With Chase Utley hurt and Jayson Werth gone, the big concern going into 2011 was the lack of power on a team that has issues playing small ball.
While we have only seen two games so far, it does look like the offense has finally figured out how to go one base at a time to score runs. With the incredible pitching they have, if the offense can keep up this pace and be consistent, this will be a very scary team.
Of course, where there is good news, sometime bad news follows. After a collision in center field with Francisco, Victorino left the game early. Reports say that he has soreness in his left calf. While his previous injury was to the left calf, there is still concern. Hopefully, pulling him was just a precaution. There is no word yet on how serious it may be.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 9-4. On Sunday, they will go for the series sweep with Roy Oswalt on the mound against his former team. Former Phillie J.A. Happ was scheduled to pitch for the Astros but has been scratched due to an oblique issue. Bud Norris will pitch instead. Game time is 1:35pm and I will return with photos.
Lee photo by Jenn Zambri Photography