There were a few signs of life from the Phillies in last night’s 4-2 win over the Red Sox. First, the fact that they won after a 0-8 beat down in the home opener is encouraging. Second, pitcher Aaron Harrang dominated the Red Sox line-up. No one was really sure what to expect from Harrang after a spring that seemed to be riddled with back issues. But through 6 1/3 scoreless innings, Harrang proved he is ready to go.
Jeff Francoeur also had something to prove after spending nearly all of last year languishing the Padres minor leagues. He gave the Phillies their first runs of the season with a 3-run homer in the 6th inning. If Francoeur can continue to find some of his old, Braves-days magic, he could see some descent playing time.
Another good sign was the speedy Ben Revere, who turned a Sox error into 3 bases in the 7th inning. His hustle led to a run after Chase Utley hit a sac fly. And Carlos Ruiz had 2 hits on the day batting 2nd, which is also nice to see.
The one not-so-great sign was Ken Giles. He was all over the place pitching in the 8th inning. Giles gave up a hit and 3 walks, which accounted for both Red Sox runs. After he walked a run home, manager Ryne Sandberg finally went out to get him and let Jonathan Papelbon earn a 4-out save against his old team. Giles had some soreness in spring training. His speed is down and his control is missing. One has to wonder how healthy he is.
Tonight, David Buchanan gets his first start after a very encouraging spring. Game time is 7:05pm.
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Photo by Jenn Zambri
In a shocking move, Jayson Werth has signed a 7-year deal with the last place Washington Nationals, snubbing higher-profile teams like the Red Sox. After losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox and star rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg to Tommy John surgery, the Nats needed a seat-filler. Attendance in DC has been pathetic over the years due to a lack of success for the team and very high ticket prices.
In the last two years, the Nats ranked 24th and 23rd place for attendance out of 30 teams. The acquisition of Werth should produce a spike in season ticket plans, not to mention a spike in team batting average and runs scored. The exact terms of the contract have not yet been disclosed, but it is in the area of $126 million dollars.
The real shock is that Werth chose to sign with a last-place team. The Nats are trying to build a winner, but realistically, this will not happen overnight. In fact, their biggest obstacle may be the Phillies who have won the division 4-straight years now. But Werth has his ring already so maybe winning is now lower on his list than money and stability.
As for the Phillies, they now have a huge, gaping hole in right field to be filled. With Domonic Brown leaving Winter Ball early today due to being “tired and sluggish,” big questions remain as to his ability to fill the spot. Worst case scenario is that the left-handed Brown will have to platoon with righty Ben Francisco.
Another right-hander who may be able to platoon with Francisco or even Ross Gload is John Mayberry Jr. In 11 games with the big club in 2010, Mayberry batted .333 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI. He has been working on his stroke in AAA and, if Brown is not ready, Mayberry might be a better option.
There is a list of free agents as well that may also be able to fill the hole. The top choice for Charlie Manuel is probably Matt Diaz. The two men live in the same neighborhood and spend time together in the offseason. Diaz is a lifetime .301 hitter who got little playing time with the Braves last season. However, Diaz did find time to tackle a rouge Phillies fan on the field back in September. He is almost a folk-hero in Philly already after that feat.
A few other options include Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Quentin or Scott Hairston. With a little more creativity, the Phillies may wish to consider former Phillie Aaron Rowand. The Giants have indicated that Rowand is not in their plans going forward and may be willing to eat his huge salary just to get rid of him. Rowand struggled last year at AT&T Park. Perhaps the smaller, friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park can revive his bat?
A few other long-shot free-agents might be Willie Bloomquist, Joe Inglett or Jose Guillen. Whichever way the Phillies decide to go, it is clear that Werth has left very big shoes to fill. He will be missed.
The match-up of Cole Hamels and Johan Santana tonight had potential to be a very tight pitcher’s duel. And that is exactly what happened; the two pitchers were fairly even through 6 innings. Santana did not allow a hit until Placido Polanco broke through in the 6th with a single. Hamels scattered 6 hits but also struck out 11 batters. The only scar on the line for Hamels was a solo homer from Jeff Francoeur in the 7th.
Hamels reached 99 pitches by the end of 7 and was pinch hit for in the bottom of the inning. Chad Durbin pitched the 8th and had a very scary outing. With the bases loaded, he nearly walked a run home. Luckily for the Phils, Francoeur was done with the home run hitting. He went fishing for a high fastball that would have been ball four and struck out.
With the score still 1-0 in favor of the Mets going into the bottom of the 8th. The Phils had an exciting inning with a few singles and a walk. But with the bases loaded and 2 outs, Ross Gload grounded out after a very good battle at the plate.
In the 9th inning, the Phillies still could not get anything done. They ended up with only 5 hits in the loss, went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 9 men on base. While it was a disappointing loss, overall it was a good game because of the pitching. Hamels was outstanding so it hurts to see him not get the win…again. Poor guy.
The final game with the Mets is tomorrow afternoon at 1:35pm. Roy Halladay will pitch :O) The Alumni Batting Challenge will also take place before the game with 3 teams; Kevin Stocker with Ricky Bottalico, Jim Eisenreich with Mitch Williams and Darren Daulton with Dickie Noles.
I will return with photos from both the pre-game event and the Halladay domination of the Mets – yes, I fully expect Halladay domination. J-Roll Smurf, our official Phillies Phollowers mascot, says it will be so. He is in charge of the voodoo and I believe him. J-Roll Smurf has been practicing his voodoo bat attack all day long, so expect results. Go Phillies!
Reyes and Smurf photos by Jenn Zambri Photography