The last time the Phillies won seven games in a row in the month of June was in 1982. In 2011, they have done it again…finally. And they also swept the Marlins in a four game series.
Cliff Lee was on fire today, only in a good way, not in a call the fire department way. He was no-hitting the Fish until Mike Stanton singled with 2 outs in the 5th. Still, Lee wound up pitching a complete game shut-out in the 3-0 win.
In addition, Lee was hot at the plate as well. He had two hits in the game, the second of which was an RBI-double off the right-center field wall. He missed a home run by only a few feet.
And that one run, the first of the game, turned out to be all Lee needed to win the game. But just for good measure, Ryan Howard added on with a solo homer in the 5th and Jimmy Rollins knocked in the third run in the 6th with a double.
The Phillies are now on their way to Seattle where they will begin a 3-game series with the Mariners Friday night at 10:10pm. Roy Oswalt will pitch and Cole Hamels will start on Sunday.
Due to the doubleheader yesterday, the Phillies were in need of a spot starter for Saturday, which is going to be rookie Vance Worley. That brings us to the sad news of the day…
To make room for Worley, the Phillies chose to designate J.C. Romero for assignment. They have 10 days to trade him, release him or place him on waivers. Romero could be offered a minor league deal if no one takes him, but the odds are slim that he would accept that deal.
While Romero has struggled since having elbow surgery before the 2010 season, the emergence of lefty Antonio Bastardo has also made it difficult for Romero to get innings. Romero will always be remembered in Philadelphia for his contributions to the 2008 World Series championship plus a League Championship and two NL East titles.
On a personal note, I have had the privilege of being able to spend some time with J.C. and his family over the last 3+ years and I will miss them. The Romero’s are generous, kind people who contributed much more than just baseball to the city of Philadelphia and other communities in need.
I wish them the very best.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Third baseman Placido Polanco smacked his 100th career homer in Friday night’s Phillies – Cubs game. The grand slam not only marked a significant career achievement, it also helped the Phillies win the game.
Roy Halladay was his usual awesome self on the mound and it looked like he would not need much assistance. Domonic Brown hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Then Polly’s slam made it a seven run lead in the seventh.
So after seven innings of no-run ball for Halladay, manager Charlie Manuel decided to give him a little rest and use the bullpen for the final two innings. That almost wound up being a disaster.
Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero nearly blew the seven run lead, which was especially scary considering how hard it has been for the Phillies to score any runs lately. Contreras walked two of the first four batters he faced, loaded the bases and had given up two runs by the time he was pulled after recording only one out.
Things got worse when Romero entered and proceeded to walk the first batter he faced on four pitches. Then back-to-back singles scored three more runs for the Cubs. Without having recorded an out, Romero was lifted from the game. The seven run lead had turned into a 7-5 ballgame quickly.
Rookie Michael Stutes was called upon to stop the bleeding, which he did. Stutes also started the ninth inning where a strike-out, throw-out double play with a strong toss to second from catcher Carlos Ruiz retired two Cubs in one shot. Antonio Bastardo then struck out lefty Carlos Pena to earn the save.
While the Phillies won the game 7-5, the performance from Contreras and Romero is raising eyebrows. Contreras is still struggling with his command since coming off the DL. Hopefully, time and getting some more work in will correct the issue. Romero seems healthy, but he is still having serious issues throwing strikes.
The outlook for these bullpen pieces remains to be seen, but it does appear that the back-end of the pen is in the midst of a youth movement. Both Stutes and Bastardo have outpitched the more experienced Contreras and Romero and will likely be transitioned into the later innings role for the foreseeable future.
Game three with the Cubs is this afternoon at 4:10pm. Cliff Lee will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
It looks like #13 was unlucky for Roy Oswalt. In his 13th career start at Citizens Bank Park, Oswalt lost his first game in the ballpark thanks to a non-existent offense. It was a 2-0 shut-out by the Rangers.
Let me rephrase: The Phillies did have bats and some did swing them, but no runs ever crossed the plate. In the last nine games, the Phillies are averaging FIVE hits a game. Yes, five hits, not runs. They hit over 5 runs only twice in that spam.
Sunday was no different. Five hits, NO runs. This has been a bad case of déjà vu for the starting pitchers, who have been the victims of the invisible run support.
Today, there were a lot of pop-ups, swings at bad pitches, no swings at good pitches, confused looks and ball hit right at fielders:
The déjà vu continued as catcher Dane Sardinha got on base in both the 3rd and 5th innings. Both times, Oswalt bunted him to second. And both times, with one out and a runner in scoring position, Jimmy Rollins popped out.
Oswalt continued to pitch well, despite the disappointing offense. He went seven innings, allowing only one run. And the Phillies had some nice defensive plays as well, including a pair of double plays and some acrobatics by Wilson Valdez.
And then there was this play, where Rollins tagged out Elvis Andrus, but the umpire missed the tag. It did not matter anyway, as Oswalt got out of the inning.
The second Rangers run was charged to J.C. Romero. But again, it did not really matter as the Phillies batters were hitting anything.
The good news is that Chase Utley is back! Pete Orr was sent to the minors to make room and Utley will make his 2011 debut on Monday night against the Reds. The Phillies are counting on Utley to light a fire under this offense.
Joe Blanton was placed on the DL as expected and Vance Worley will replace him, pitching on Tuesday night.
The Phils also signed veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik to a minor-league deal as a back-up plan after the Blue Jays released him. Podsednik is a lifetime .279 hitter but he has had issues with plantar fasciitis in his foot, which is why the Jays let him go. If he can take time to heal, he could be useful later in the season.
The Reds game starts at 7:05pm tomorrow night. In the meantime, here is the full Photo Album from today’s massacre…I mean, game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
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.
Friday the 13th turned out to be a reversal of fortune for the Phillies, on a day that is traditionally known for bad luck. It was also a day where some very young, unproven pitchers were tossed into the fire and emerged unscathed.
Cole Hamels was to start the game, but before he took the mound, Ryan Howard blasted a three-run homer to give him a nice lead to work with. And although Hamels gave a run back to the Braves in the first inning, it looked like he was on cruise control after that, at least until the fifth inning.
A single and two straight doubles by the Braves in the fifth tied the game at 3-3. In the sixth, Hamels uncorked a wild pitch with a runner on third to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. After six innings, Hamels had allowed four runs on eight hits while both Hamels and Placido Polanco committed errors in the game.
It was starting to look like a real Friday the 13th nightmare until Shane Victorino hit an RBI-single in the seventh to tie the game again. But as quickly as things began to look up, they went downhill again fast.
Relief pitcher J.C. Romero started the bottom of the seventh and got into big trouble quickly. Martin Prado doubled; it seemed like he could not fail to get on base after doing so four straight times in this game. After a sac bunt that moved Prado to third, Romero walked the next two batters to load the bases.
With one out and the bases juiced, the rookie Michael Stutes took over, looking like fresh meat tossed into a pack of wolves. Stutes was not rattled and he struck out Dan Uggla, making it look easy. Antonio Bastardo was up next and before you could blink, the count was a scary 3-0. But the young lefty refocused and came back to strike out a very frustrated Freddie Freeman, who began slamming equipment to the ground.
The Phillies were able to retake the lead in the eighth after Howard doubled and Raul Ibanez singled to score him. With a very slim 5-4 lead, another rookie would be called upon to hold the Braves down. Vance Worley took the mound and on one pitch, gave up a single. Still not shaken, Worley got the next three outs, including Prado, who failed to reach base for the first time all night.
Ryan Madson closed out the game and is now 6-for-6 in save attempts. But the best news of the night was seeing a very young group of bullpen pitchers pass the biggest test of their budding careers. Stutes, Bastardo and Worley were outstanding and there can be no question now that they all have what it takes to pitch in the majors.
Game two with the Braves is at 1:10pm Saturday and Joe Blanton will pitch.
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!
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Players are dropping like flies in Philadelphia. Joe Blanton is the latest victim of this injury virus which seems to be spreading quicker than both the Swine and Bird Flu combined.
The diagnosis is medial impingement of the right elbow, which is Blanton’s throwing arm. Treatment for this injury can vary from rest and medication to surgery. There is no word yet on how Blanton’s treatment will play out.
Blanton now joins fellow teammates on the DL, including shortstop Chase Utley, closer Brad Lidge, back-up closer Jose Contreras, relief pitcher JC Romero and outfielder Domonic Brown.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz is also going to be inactive for several days while he recovers from a back issue. For now, he will not be placed on the DL and Brian Schneider will fill in.
Vance Worley has been called up from the AAA Iron Pigs to start tomorrow’s game against the Mets in place of Blanton. In four starts this year, Worley is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 9.9 K/9. In 13 innings last year with the major league club, Worley was impressive with a 1.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts.
While this is a great opportunity for a young prospect, the news for Blanton is surprising. Blanton is coming off two straight quality starts after having a rough start to the season. He showed no signs of elbow issues Saturday against the Padres. Just when things were looking up for Blanton, the crap has suddenly hit the fan.
What was once a very experienced pitching staff for the Phillies has just gotten a whole lot younger very quickly. Having to depend on younger arms both in the starting staff and in the bullpen is a little nerve racking.
How a younger pitcher will respond to a stressful situation is the great unknown. Although in Worley’s case, he showed very good poise last year in his short time with the big club. That is a plus.
But this is a new year with new pressures, including having to keep pace with four of the best starters in the game in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. If Worley can stick to competing with himself, instead of the rest of this veteran staff, he should be just fine.
For Phillies fans, the way to look at all this carnage is simple. Perhaps the team is getting all the injuries out of the way early so everyone will be healthy late in the season. Or, is that too optimistic? Time will tell.
In the interim, just keep sending out that positive, happy energy and hope for the best.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography