Tagged: Joe Blanton

One Huge Error, Two More Losses as Phils Drop 8th Straight

Game one of today’s doubleheader against the Mets was highlighted by a superb performance from Cole Hamels, more crappy offense and a failure of basic math skills.  Hamels went seven strong innings, allowing just a solo homer.  Sadly, the homer was hit by Val Pascucci who had not hit a long ball since 2004.  Pascucci spent 2008 spring training with the Phillies.

The Phillies offense sucked again against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  I am not sure what the R.A. stands for, but I am going with “Really Annoying.”  Mr. Annoying had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning when Shane Victorino finally ended the humiliation with a double.

Before that, the only base runner for the Phillies was Carlos Ruiz who worked a walk in the 6th, although the home plate umpire tried really hard not to allow it.  On ball 4, Ruiz trotted to first as ump John Hirschbeck called him back, swearing it was only ball 3.  Everyone else in the ballpark had apparently passed 1st grade math and knew it was ball 4.  The umps actually had to hold a meeting to convince Hirschbeck that he sucked at basic math.  It was yet another shiny, happy moment for MLB umpires everywhere.

Moving on, Ryan Howard played in his first game since having a cortisone shot in his left ankle.  He singled in that same inning to score Victorino, which was the only offense in the game for the Phillies.  Howard also made a sliding grab on a foul ball where his right foot smashed into the wall along the first base line.  The right foot…not the left…whew!

After that little adventure, Brad Lidge gave up the go-ahead run to the Mets in the 8th, spoiling the day for Hamels.  The Phillies took a 2-1 loss for their seventh straight.  This team is giving me a headache.

But why stop there?  More sucky baseball was yet to follow.  In game 2 of the doubleheader, Joe Blanton pitched two good innings to start off, giving the false illusion that the Phillies might actually have a shot to win a game.

David Herndon quickly tried to stomp on all our hopes of a positive evening when he put two runners on base in the 3rd.  However, a long fly ball with two outs looked liked the savior of the inning.  But Hunter Pence put a quick end to that silly dream as he dropped the ball and two runs scored.

Pence was already having a bad day in his first start since being rested with knee issues.  In the first inning, he hit into a double play with no outs and the bases loaded.  The Phillies did not score.

As the 3rd inning disaster continued, Herndon walked another batter and Kyle Kendrick had to be brought in.  Kendrick did little to help the situation, giving up two straight hits and 3 more runs.  The total for the inning was 5 unearned runs gift wrapped for the Mets.  And all that happened right after the Phils offense scratched and clawed for 3 runs combined in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

Kendrick, not having sucked badly enough, gave up one more run in the 4th, making those 3 Phillies runs seem totally useless.  The 6-3 lead handed to the Mets would stick for the final score as the offense basically gave up after that horrid 3rd inning.

The Phillies have now lost 8 straight since clinching the division title.  But these games don’t count, right?  Some fans says, no worries, it does not count.  Other say that bad baseball can become a habit, which will be heard to break going into the playoffs.  So, after sucking pretty badly this past week, can the Phillies just flip the switch come playoff time next Saturday?  There are four regular season games left, so I guess only time will tell.

 

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Howard photo by Jenn Zambri Photography; Happy Bunny by Jim Benton

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Happy Hangover Hampers Hamels & Phils

After Saturday night’s NL East title celebration, both the Phillies and the fans came out a little sluggish on Sunday against the Cardinals.  The crowd was quiet and so were the Phillies bats.  After the late night champagne shower, everyone looked a little hung over.

A few bad pitches from Cole Hamels put the Phillies into an early 2-0 hole when Albert Pujols smacked a 2-run homer in the first inning.  Hamels seemed to bounce back quickly after that, but the offense did nothing to help him.  Then in the sixth inning, Hamels gave up another 2-run homer.

With only eight hits in the game, all of them singles, the Phillies did not have too many opportunities to score.  But the few times they did have runners on base, they hit into double plays.  Hunter Pence, Raul Ibanez and Ross Gload all hit into double plays, ending any possible offensive threat.

Three of the Phillies’ eight hits came off the bat of Chase Utley, which was one positive in the game.  Utley has struggled to find his swing again since getting hit in the head with a pitch.  That sort of shot would scramble anyone’s brain.  But it appears that Utley has found all his marbles and got his timing back at the plate.
 

Down 4-0, the Cardinals padded their lead in the eighth with a solo shot off pitcher Joe Blanton.  It was Blanton’s second appearance since coming off the DL and one he is sure to want to forget.

On the other hand, Justin DeFratus made his major league debut which was almost spoiled by Lance Berkman.  DeFratus’ first pitch was destroyed by Berkman, but the ball landed in Shane Victorino’s glove inches from the center field fence.  DeFratus managed to escape the inning without allowing a hit.

Slightly more exciting than the actual game was batting practice, where I spotted all of the newest members of the Phillies:

And even more exciting than that was the community mural painting which I participated in.  The new Phillies Mural will be eight stories high, facing the Schuylkill River.  It should be done by next summer.  In the meantime, the Phillies are allowing fans to help paint with large chunks of the mural drawn out in pencil like a paint-by-number.  Here I am painting part of the Phanatic:

Game 4 with the Cardinals starts tonight at 7:05pm.  And here is the full Photo Album from the game, including pre-game ceremonies.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Phillies May Be Riding A Mud Slide Out of Houston

There are several adjectives that come to mind when mentally reviewing these last few Phillies games against the Astros; sloppy, messy, disgusting, lackadaisical and slothful, are just a few.

Some low-lights from Monday night’s 1-5 loss include:

  • Michael Martinez watched a bouncing grounder fly past his glove at third base.
  • Raul Ibanez dropped a low fly ball to left that bounced out of his glove.
  • Covering first base, Roy Oswalt missed an descent throw on what looked like an easy out.
  •  Jimmy Rollins and Pete Orr collided near second base on what should have been an easy double play if they had simply remembered who was covering what area.

But the fun did not end there.  On Tuesday night, the Phillies tried to out-sloppy their Monday night performance with these gems:

  • John Mayberry Jr. watched a ground ball to center roll mysteriously under his glove.
  • Mayberry recovered, tossed to Martinez and then Martinez proceeded to make one of the crappiest throws to third that you have ever seen.  With a good throw, the runner would have been out, despite the Mayberry error.  Instead, the guy winds up on third.
  • Ryan Howard dropped an easy ground ball to first, allowing the Astros pitcher to be safe at first and move a runner to third.  This lead to four runs in the inning, including a 3-run homer hit off Cole Hamels.

In these two games, the Phillies faced many of their old teammates, including pitchers Brett Myers and J.A. Happ.  Neither pitcher was having a good year, but the Phillies may have just single-handedly revived both their seasons.

Also in the Phillies – Astros trade merry-go-round, both Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence made their first trip back to Houston since coming to Philly.  Oswalt had a bad game Monday, allowing five runs in seven innings.

As for Pence, he seemed to be the only Phillie interested in winning these games.  Pence went 2-for-4 Monday with a double.  And he also hit a solo homer on Tuesday.

The only other good news is that Joe Blanton pitched in Monday’s game for the first time since May 14th.  He allowed one hit but looked pretty good overall.

What I am wondering now is, where have the Phillies gone?  Because this is not the same team we have been watching all year.  They seem to be in a coma.  It may not seem like they have much to play for right now, but home field advantage can be a big boost in the playoffs.

So come on Phillies…wake up!  Get your behinds off the mud slide and back onto solid ground.  Thank you in advance. ;o)

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Vance Worley Needs To Stay in Philadelphia…For Now

In Tuesday night’s 7-2 victory over the Giants, Phillies pitcher Vance Worley earned his seventh win of the year and lowered his ERA to 2.02.  It was also the rookie’s first career complete game.

In 11 starts for the Phillies this season, Worley has just one loss and a WHIP of 1.09.  He has also shown steady improvement between starts and gotten much better at keeping his pitch count down.

Filling in for the injured Joe Blanton, Worley has been outstanding.  As for Blanton, a recent report from Matt Snyder at CBS Sports indicates that Blanton has nerve damage in his elbow and he may be done for the year.

Once Roy Oswalt returns to the rotation, the Phillies will be using Worley as the fifth starter.  Kyle Kendrick is also available, but he has been more useful in a long relief role.  In nine starts, Kendrick has a 3-2 record and 3.97 ERA.  In relief, his ERA drops to 2.49.

Arguments to trade Worley include his rookie status, which some think gives him an edge as most teams have not faced him.  If that is the case, it is thought he may not be as good next year so the Phillies should trade him now.  J.A. Happ encountered the rookie curse after being traded to Houston where he has performed very poorly since a sparkling rookie campaign.

If Worley is traded now, while he is performing well, certainly he will be worth more.  However, if Worley continues to excel from now until the end of the season, he will be worth just as much in a trade during the offseason, before he has a chance to suffer from the sophomore slump.

With this in mind, it makes sense to keep him for the year, especially with the news on Blanton.

The Phillies could use an upgrade in the form of a right-handed bat, but losing Worley seems to steep a price right now.  If the Phillies could get Hunter Pence, Domonic Brown would be a better trade piece, along with some prospects.  Pence would be under team control, like Brown is now, and both the defense and offense would improve.

There are a number of other possibilities as well.  But if Worley goes in exchange for a right-handed bat, where would that person play?  Brown needs playing time if the Phillies plan on keeping him and developing him.  The rest of the positions seem pretty well set for the year, barring further injuries.

There is another option as well.  The Phillies do not have to make a trade if the right situation does not present itself.

The offense has improved since the All-Star break and bench players like John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Martinez have shown promise.  Mayberry is a power right-hander and Martinez is a switch hitter.  Also, Ben Francisco is batting .353 as a pinch-hitter.

Whether the Phillies decide to make a move or not, hopefully, Worley will be staying in Philadelphia…at least for now.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Philadelphia Phillies 2011 First Half Report Card

Having ended the first half of the season with a 57-34 record, the best in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have much to look forward to in the second half.  And although many injuries and questions still loom in the background, the first half of play was very successful for this team.

What makes the first half even more remarkable is that the Phillies were able to win despite injuries and missed time from a bucket-full of All-Star caliber players including Chase Utley, Roy Oswalt, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco.

In the bullpen, the Phillies are currently on their fourth closer of the year as the first three all went on the DL.  First Brad Lidge, then Jose Contreras and finally, Ryan Madson.

The rest of the pen has been run primarily by rookies and inexperienced players over the last several month.  But these players have stepped up and are keeping hope alive.

The following  is a look at the Phillies 2011 First Half Report Card.

Starting Pitching:  A+

The Phillies ended the first half with the best ERA in baseball at 3.02, the fewest earned runs allowed with 279 plus 11 complete games and 13 shut-outs, both of which are also the most in baseball.

Both Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have earned 11 wins each and their ERA’s are 2.45 and 2.32, respectively.  Those numbers have prompted talk of a Cy Young award for one of the two pitchers.  Cliff Lee has been outstanding as well with a 2.82 ERA and nine wins.

The starters have suffered some major injuries, including Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton, both of whom are on the DL.  But the rookie Vance Worley has filled in admirably with an occasional spot start from Kyle Kendrick.

Bullpen:   B+

The Phillies bullpen has had some real challenges this year, including a plethora of injuries.  But thanks to some very young, very solid talent, the pen has endured.

What was thought to be a major team weakness at the start of the year has turned into a strength in many ways.

Lefty Antonio Bastardo has been outstanding and probably should have earned an All-Star nod.  In 33 innings, Bastardo has allowed only three earned runs and has a microscopic ERA of 0.82.  He has also gone 5-for-5 in save attempts since the Phillies sent their first three closer to the DL.

Michael Stutes and Juan Perez have also been very nice surprises.  If Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson can come back healthy in the second half, the bullpen will only be that much stronger.

Offense:  C-

The Phillies offense for the first half ranks 20th in all of baseball and 10th in the National League with a .250 team batting average.  Statistically, this puts them below average.

But their 377 RBI moves them up the list a little, ranking 11th among all teams and 10th in on-base percentage with .323.

The first couple months were rough without Chase Utley, who is hitting .280 since his return.  But other top team hitters like Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco have missed time with injuries as well, making it difficult for manager Charlie Manuel to post any sort of consistent line-up on a regular basis.

Ryan Howard is tied for the league lead in RBI with 72, which has helped carry this weakened offense.  But with so many rookies in the line-up because of injuries, the other veteran players will need to step up in the second half.

Defense:  A-

Statistically, the Phillies have the best defense in the National League and are around fourth best in all of baseball with 45 errors and a .987 fielding percentage.  Many teams have similar numbers, but looking at the major categories, I would put them in about fourth place.

Among position players, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard have the highest fielding percentages on the team with .996 and .995, respectively.  Howard has improved his defense greatly over the past couple of years.

This team has a very solid defense.  There were a few games this year where sloppy play brought that into question, but they are humans, not robots.  Overall, it was a very good first half for the defense.

Attendance:  A+

The Phillies ended the first half on Sunday with their 172nd consecutive home sellout.  They are also first in total attendance for all of baseball with 2,228,630 fans so far this year, according to ESPN.  The Yankees were second with 2,173,619 fans.

The Phillies keep winning, and the fans keep the party going. 

1st Half MVP:  Roy Halladay

Because their numbers are very similar, I was tempted to go with Cole Hamels on this one.  But with six complete games and the most innings pitched in the National League, I am giving the first half MVP to Roy Halladay.

This man is a beast.  In Tuesday night’s All-Star game, Brian Wilson of the Giants called Halladay a “Cyborg.”  That seems fitting.

There is nothing Halladay won’t do to help his team win.  With 11 wins, a 2.45 ERA and team-leading 138 strike-outs, Halladay is the MVP.

Most Memorable 1st Half Moment:  Tie, Wilson Valdez & Cliff Lee

This one had to be a draw, because both players provided Phillies fans with some amazing memories this year so far.

First, watching Wilson Valdez tow the rubber in the May 25th 5-4 win in 19 innings over the Reds was simply unforgettable.  The Phillies ran out of pitchers and Valdez volunteered.  He pitched one perfect inning and the Phillies won the game in the bottom of the 19th as a result of his effort.

Before this win by Valdez, the last player to start a game in the field and get the win as a pitcher was Babe Ruth in 1921.  But the best part was hearing Valdez joke after the game that he could have gone three or four more innings if needed.

And then this past Saturday, pitcher Cliff Lee provided another memorable moment.  In the third inning, after a 10-pitch at-bat and six foul balls, Lee smashed his 1st career home run off the Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson, who watched in disbelief.

Lee spent most of his career in the American League, with few chances to hit.  But Lee has remarked on many occasions that he prefers the National League because he loves to hit.  And that joy was all over his face as he rounded the bases in front of thousands of screaming fans who gave him a standing ovation.

Watching a man who truly loves the game of baseball be rewarded in a way that is rarely seen was a real treat.  Pitchers do not hit many home runs and it is even less common among pitchers of Lee’s caliber. 

That was a moment that both Lee and all of the Philadelphia fans watching will not soon forget.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Madson Has a Bad Day in Loss to Reds

Ryan Madson had been plowing down hitters, allowing just one run all season until Tuesday night.  The Phillies lost to the Reds by a score of 6-3 after a hairy ninth inning.

Rookie Vance Worley started the game and was a little rusty after being switched from starter to reliever to the minors and back to starting again as Joe Blanton made his second trip to the DL this month.  Worley was still pretty good, considering the way he has been bounced around lately.

 

Over five innings, Worley allowed three runs on six hits and four walks.

Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz carried the offense as both players are suddenly on fire.  Ibanez went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Ruiz was 2-for-3, also with an RBI. 

 

Chase Utley was in the line-up again since returning from the DL.  He was hitless on Monday, but finally got a hit Tuesday night.  That single turned out to be a momentum shift in the game, only not in the right direction.

 

Juan Samuel waived home Jimmy Rollins from second on the play for no apparent reason and he was a dead duck at home plate by about a mile.  There had been only one out in the inning at the time and losing that run seemed to kill the Phillies offense.

Utley was involved in a number of odd plays in the field as well, which sent him scrambling all over the place to track down balls hit into no-man’s land.  Here are a few of those plus some other plays:

 

But in the end, the game came down to the bullpen.  After a 13-inning scoreless streak, Ryan Madson finally had a bad day.  With one out in the ninth, Madson made a bad throw to first and things snowballed from there.

After loading the bases, Madson gave up a 3-run double to Jay Bruce.  The Reds had a 6-3 lead and the Phillies offense was unable to come back in the bottom of the inning.  Hopefully, Madson can start a new streak tonight.

Here is the full Photo Album from the game.  The third game with the Reds is tonight at 7:05pm.

 

Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

 

Oswalt Loses at Citizens Bank Park for the First Time

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

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*