The Atlanta Braves must feel like they have been unknowingly cast in a bad horror flick. With their playoff hopes on the line, the Phillies have now beat them 2 days in a row with only one game left in the season. In the meantime, their Wild Card foe, the Padres, keep winning.
Yielding a large axe, rookie pitcher Vance Worley did his best impersonation of the Grim Reaper today against the Braves. They did not manage a single hit off Worley until the 4th inning. Worley went 5 innings, allowing only the one hit and looked like a seasoned veteran. The only reason he was pulled after 5 innings was because there was a runner on third and the Phils chose to pinch hit for him.
Actually, the Phillies offense had runners on 3rd with only 1 out twice and failed to score. That finally changed in the 7th inning when a walk by Jimmy Rollins kick started some scoring. A Braves fielding error followed by a bunch of Phillies singles ended in a 4-run inning. Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino all picked up RBI’s.
Placido Polanco returned to the field today after having a cortisone shot in his elbow earlier this week. Polly went 2 for 4 at the plate, which is a very good sign. He did have one error at third early in the game, but he is probably still shaking the rust off. It is good to see Polly feeling better though!
The Phillies bullpen pitchers were scary as well. Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras continued to stab Braves hitters through the heart, sending them back to the dugout, one by one. The horror continued for the Braves as the Phillies tacked on more runs in the 8th and 9th for a 7-0 lead. And that was the final score.
With the Braves loss and a Padres win, the Wild Card race is a dead tie going into the final day of the regular season tomorrow. As a result, who the Phillies will play in the NLDS is still uncertain. What is certain is that, no matter the outcome tomorrow, the Phils will end the season with at least 97 wins and the best record in all of baseball!
The final game of the regular season tomorrow starts at 1:35pm. Cole Hamels will start the game.
By the way, I would like to send congratulations to Shane and Melissa Victorino on the birth of their baby boy, Kingston Shane Victorino, this past Thursday. The 7 lb. 8 oz. slugger is the second child for the couple; they have a daughter names Kali’a and Melissa has a teenage boy, Keenan, as well. Shane & Melissa are great people; I wish them much happiness!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography except baby photo by CSN
After sweeping the Braves in 3-games just over a week ago, the Phillies added insult to injury tonight by smacking the Braves around some more. The Braves and Padres are battling for the NL Wild Card spot and the Padres were trailing by 2 games before the game today. If the Phillies win one or both of the final 2 regular season games against the Braves, it will have major implications in the Wild Card race.
Just because they have won the NL East does not mean the Phils will let up on the Braves. Because several players are competing for either a spot on the postseason roster or possibly a spot with the team next year. Kyle Kendrick is one of those players. After a very inconsistent season, Kendrick needed to have a good outing tonight. He did a pretty good job, allowing 2 runs over 5 innings, although he walked 3 batters, including the opposing pitcher.
The Phillies scored 5 runs in the 6th with a Jimmy Rollins grand slam and Domonic Brown walked to force a run in. The big lead took Kendrick out of the game and gave a few more pitchers an opportunity to show off their skills…or lack thereof. Four pitchers, Antonio Bastardo, JC Romero, Chad Durbin and Jose Contreras, all pitched well.
Mike Zagurski, on the other hand, probably ended his career prospects tonight after giving up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning in the 9th. The 11-2 lead he started with was cut down to 11-5. Zagurski pitched well in AAA but in his 7 appearances with the big club this year, he has allowed 8 runs in 6 2/3 innings for a 10.80 ERA. David Herndon had to come in to get the final out…after walking one batter, just so Zagurski did not feel too bad ;o)
Tomorrow will be no easier for the Braves. Rookie Vance Worley will get the start and he will be anxious to prove he can pitch in the big leagues. His future with the club can be given a huge boost with a solid performance tomorrow. Game time is 4:10pm.
By the way, the Phillies starting pitchers 70-50 record is the best for the team since 1980…the same year they won their first World Series Championship.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
With both the division and home field advantage wrapped up, the plan for the Phillies back-up players this week is simple: Make the post-season roster. With the September call-ups plus the usual bench players, the Phillies have a lot of spare parts. A few of those will make the roster; the rest will sit and watch. After tonight against the Nationals, there are 4 games remaining to decide who will fill the roles.
A few position players who made a good case in tonight’s game were Domonic Brown in right field and Ben Francisco in center. Francisco went 2 for 4 and should be a lock for the roster. Brown had 1 hit, a stolen base and a walk; he will likely be competing with Greg Dobbs for a roster spot. Dobbs did not help his case with an error at third base tonight, no hits and he also dribbled a ball in front of home plate for an easy force out with the bases loaded and only one out.
Decisions in the bullpen will be a bit more complicated. After a fairly awful year, Danys Baez pitched mostly okay in one inning tonight, although he did walk a batter. David Herndon looked better with two easy outs in the 7th. The two lefties JC Romero and Antonio Bastardo each pitched one scoreless inning. Bastardo is going to have an electric arm if he learns to control it; but the problem with him and all the other bullpen pieces we saw tonight is a lack of consistency.
But under pressure against the Nats knowing he was competing for a roster spot, Bastardo turned up the heat and struck out the side. If a decision had to be made tonight, I would take Bastardo over Baez, keeping the two lefties.
Roy Oswalt started the game and pitched 5 innings allowing only an unearned run after the Dobbs error. Sadly, he did not get a win as he left the game with a 1-1 tie score after a Raul Ibanez home run. So Oswalt, if he does not pitch again in the regular season, will end with a 13-13 record. 12 of those 13 loses came when he was with the Astros.
Jimmy Rollins finally started a game tonight for the first time since September 8th. He moved well in the field and went 1 for 3 at the plate. Rollins played 5 innings total and should see more playing time as the week goes on in order to prepare him for the playoffs. The hamstring injury did not appear to be an issue tonight…fingers crossed!
While the Phillies had a few hits in the game, it was still a 1-1 tie in the 9th. Jose Contreras pitched the final inning for the Phils and threw only 3 pitches. Adam Dunn mashed a long home run off Contreras, giving the Nats a 2-1 walk-off win. While the loss makes little difference at this point, the performance by Contreras was not a good thing. However, Contreras has been fairly reliable most of the year.
The battle of the back-ups will continue tomorrow in DC; game time is 7:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies went to Florida today and filleted the Fish with 11 runs scored. The dinner bell rang early as Jayson Werth smacked a solo homer in the 2nd inning to start the feast. The offense continued to rack up runs in every inning from the 2nd to the 7th.
Four home runs tonight were a welcome sight; Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Greg Dobbs all followed in Werth’s footsteps after the first bomb in the 2nd. Utley looked very hungry with his homer plus 2 walks. And Ruiz snacked on the Marlins with 3 hits and 4 RBI. Even starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, helped out with a hit and a run scored.
Blanton allowed just one run through 6 innings and had a fairly easy time knocking down Marlins batters. With 8 strike outs recorded, the only real disappointment was that Blanton could not go 7 innings. Blanton has struggled all year to get past 6 innings; he has pitched 7 innings or more only 8 times in 25 starts.
But with an 11-1 lead in the 7th, there was no need to push Blanton further. The bullpen was fully rested after a Roy Oswalt complete game shut-out yesterday. Jose Contreras pitched the 7th and did well. In his last 2 outings, he allowed 2 runs each game and looked tired. A clean outing tonight was probably a nice confidence boost for him.
On the other hand, David Herndon was brought in to get some work in the 8th and got beat up by the angry Fish. He gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run homer. But after he finally got out of the inning, the Phillies still led by a score of 11-4.
The Phillies were able to rest some of their regulars near the end of the game, giving bench players like Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. a chance to play. Wilson Valdez is still filling in for Jimmy Rollins who had an MRI on his hamstring today. The MRI showed a slight strain, but no tear. So Rollins should be back in action in a few days. Although, Valdez has been great in his absence; Valdez collected 2 hits tonight.
With the Phillies win plus a Braves win over the Nationals tonight, the Phils remain 1 game in first place. They have 2 more games with the Fish…game time tomorrow is 7:10pm and Cole Hamels will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Game 3 with the Marlins today turned into a Big Top Circus act. Both teams battled and drama ensued…
To start with, it was not an awful game for Joe Blanton tonight. But there was certainly some excitement. The 3rd inning in particular had a little bit of everything, much like a circus; a couple hits, an error, a minor injury, a deflected ball and a few runs. And Blanton was involved in all of it. He gave up the hits, committed the error, got nailed in the leg with a hit ball and later deflected a sure double play ball, ruining the opportunity for Chase Utley who could then only get one out. The only thing missing from this inning was a juggling clown.
But after Blanton survived the 3rd inning weirdness, he did fairly well. It was not pretty, but it kept the Phillies in the game. Blanton ended up with 6 1/3 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, 2 unearned runs, 2 walks and 5 strike outs.
The offense worked out some runs to help Blanton out as well. The middle of the line-up was productive with Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins getting 2 hits each; 1 RBI for Howard and 2 for Rollins. Raul Ibanez had a huge night with 3 hits and 3 RBI; Ibanez, Howard and Shane Victorino each hit solo home runs as well.
But all that offense was about to be erased by the Phillies bullpen. Oh yes, the circus has come back to town…and not in a good way. Antonio Bastardo allowed one of Blanton’s runners to score in the 7th. But the 8th inning was nearly the killer as the bullpen got into serious hot water…
Jose Contreras looked like he had never pitched in the majors before; he started off with a home run and a double. A Jayson Werth throwing error later allowed another run to score and Contreras wound up with 3 earned runs. With 2 outs, JC Romero came in and balked, moving the Marlins runner to 3rd base. He then walked Logan Morrison on 4 pitches.
However, it was not over yet…Ryan Madson came in and tossed a wild pitch, which probably should have been handled my Carlos Ruiz. Instead, the runner on 3rd scored to tie the game. So the Phillies bullpen took a 7-4 lead and blew it. And 2 of those 3 runs scored with 2 outs in the inning. Disgusting.
With a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the 8th, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco put the “T” in team; Victorino singled and stole second. Then Polly singled to score Victorino. And that all happened with 2 outs; what a way to pick-up your teammates!
In the 9th, it would be in the hands of Madson to save this see-saw game. He got 2 outs quickly and then walked a batter. Then facing ex-Phillie Wes Helms with a runner on, Madson struck out his old teammate. This 8-7 win, plus a Braves loss tonight = FIRST PLACE! The Phillies also became the first team in the National League to reach 80 wins. Again, it wasn’t pretty…but we’ll take it. You may now exhale…whew!
Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Very little happened in today’s Phillies – Padres match-up until the 5th inning. Both pitchers were dealing and hits were few and far between. Then Padres starter Jon Garland started the 5th off by hitting Jayson Werth with a pitch. Raul Ibanez moved him over with a grounder and a single from Shane Victorino allowed Werth to score.
With a run finally on the board, Phillies starter Joe Blanton got into trouble later that same inning. A walk and a couple of singles allowed tied the game. But Victorino showed his defensive skills, throwing Nick Hundley out at the plate trying to score.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian was all over this game; Victorino smacked a triple in the 7th to score Werth again, who had walked earlier. Then after an intentional walk to Carlos Ruiz, Mike Sweeney was put in to pinch hit for Blanton. Sweeney hit a ground ball that was almost a double play. Instead, he legged it out and Ruiz barreled into 2nd with a take-out slide; Sweeney was safe and Victorino scored.
The Padres paid little attention to Sweeney on first as he is not known for speed. As a result, with a little prodding from first base coach Davey Lopes, Sweeney swiped his first bag in 4 years. Sweeney’s enthusiasm and hustle are just what this team needs. He fits in very well with the Phillies club.
Blanton ended his outing with just one run allowed in 6 innings; it was a great effort from Blanton. After Blanton was pulled in the 7th, the 3-1 game was turned over to the Phillies bullpen. Jose Contreras pitched a perfect 7th and Ryan Madson followed suit in the 8th. You know what that means, right? You guessed it….Brad Lidge time. (Gulp!)
After a horrible outing yesterday where Lidge balked in the tying run with 2 outs in the 9th, tonight was a different story. With a strike-out, a pop-up and a fly ball, Lidge closed the game successfully, handing the Phillies a 3-1 win.
Game 3 with the Padres begins at 4:05pm tomorrow afternoon. Cole Hamels will pitch and hopefully, put a 3-game sweep of the Padres in the bag.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Before today’s game against the Dodgers, Shane Victorino was activated off the DL and lefty Antonio Bastardo was sent to AAA to make room. Victorino did not start the game as Charlie Manuel had already told Ben Francisco he would start tonight. Victorino did pinch hit in the 8th and drew a walk. Francisco had a much more interesting game…more on that shortly.
Pitcher Joe Blanton started the game and sadly, had another Blah-anton-type outing. He allowed 3 runs right off the bat in the first inning. After 5 2/3 innings, Blanton had walked 4 batters, allowed 8 hits and 4 runs total. The hole was dug deeper by relief pitcher Chad Durbin who did not provide any relief. Durbin allowed a 2-run homer in the 7th to put the Phillies down 6-2.
But the damage did not end there. JC Romero pitched the 8th inning and while Romero has had trouble of late, this time it was the defense that let him down. Mike Sweeney missed a ground ball at first to start the inning. Carlos Ruiz had an error as well and two unearned runs scored. Jose Contreras came in to relieve Romero and gave up another run.
Down 9-2 going into the bottom of the 8th, it looked like this game was over. Then suddenly, the hits started coming. It began with 4 straight hits: singles from Placido Polanco, Sweeney, Jayson Werth and a double from Francisco. Wilson Valdez got another hit for the 4th run of the inning. The 9-6 score seemed a tad more manageable.
The Dodgers sent their closer in for the 9th, Jonathan Broxton. The same 4 players that ignited the 8th inning rally started another one in the 9th. Polanco was hit by a pitch; Sweeney and Werth both walked. Francisco got on base after an error and 2 runs scored. Just like that, the bases were loaded with no outs for Carlos Ruiz with a 9-8 score. Ruiz smashed a walk-off double to win the game!
The Phillies came back from a 7 run deficit to win the game and take 2 of 3 games in the series. When asked how he felt after the game, Ruiz told Gary Matthews, “I’m happy, I’m so happy.” Well Chooch, we are SO happy too! Werth then ran up behind him and dumped a bucket of Gatorade over Ruiz’s head. I supposed shaving cream pies are out of fashion now.
Next up: the Mets in New York for the weekend. Game time tomorrow is 7:10pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography