Tagged: Juan Pierre

A New Era of Phillies Baseball Begins

Now that the dust has settled on baseball’s trade deadline, there is a lot of information to absorb and process.  And for the Phillies and their fans, there are a lot of emotions involved as well.  I think Ryan Howard summed it up best when he told beat writer Todd Zolecki, “Shane’s been here for a long time. Like I said, (he) was a very big part of this club. It is weird not seeing his face. It’s weird not seeing Hunter. But that’s how baseball works sometimes.”

“Weird” is an excellent description.  Everyone expected major change because of this backwards Phillies season, but it is still strange to see a guy like Shane Victorino in another uniform after being such an integral part of this team for so long.  He was indeed the “personality” of the team as well during their better days; loose, fun and fiery.

Shane was also open, honest and easily approachable, something many fans really appreciated.  I had the great pleasure of spending time with him and his wife Melissa on several Phillies Cruise’s and can tell you they are wonderful, generous people.  I wish Shane and his family all the best; they will be missed.

As for Hunter Pence, his energy will be missed.  But honestly, I won’t miss his free-swinging and awkward plate approach; it totally stressed me out!  But I am sure he will be a big help to the Giants; best of luck to him!

So what did the Phillies really get in return for all these moves?  Well first, they dumped some salary which will help keep them under the luxury tax this year.  They also got 5 new players; 2 major leaguers and 3 prospects.

The 2 major leaguers who will join the Phillies today are right-handed relief pitcher Josh Lindblom and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.  Lindblom has a 3.02 ERA in 48 games this year and should be able to help out the bullpen right away.  Schierholtz is a platoon player and lifetime .270 hitter.  He will be a huge defensive upgrade over Pence, but an offensive downgrade.

The 3 prospects are right-handed relief pitcher Ethan Martin, catcher Tommy Joseph and right-hander Seth Rosin.  Martin was the #7 prospect in the Dodgers top 20 and a former 1st round pick.  He is probably a few years away from the majors.

Joseph is an interesting prospect; he was #5 in the Giants top 20 and a 2012 Futures Gamer.  He is highly touted as a power-hitting run producer with a strong arm.  He will likely either take over for Carlos Ruiz after the 2013 season or be used as trade bait in the off-season.  Ruben Amaro Jr. has already gotten calls from other teams about him.

And finally, Rosin was #19 in the Giants top 20 with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90’s.  He has a 4.31 ERA so far this season.

These are obviously not mind-blowing pick-ups, but Amaro seems to have gotten as much as would be expected by these moves.  So now we get to see if Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. have what it takes to be everyday players.  How these 2 guys play will determine many off-season moves for the Phillies.

In the meantime, this team still will keep on playing.  Oddly enough, yesterday’s moves seem to have given the Phillies a little spark as they routed the 1st place Nationals 8-0.  Now that the pressure is off and they are not expected to climb out of this huge hole, we may see some better baseball.

Mayberry looked like a new man last night with 2 hits and a walk.  New Phillie Kevin Fransden played amazing defense at 3rd base and whacked a 2-run homer.  And Juan Pierre had 3 hits, although that is not unusual for him.

But the most exciting play of the game was a 2-run inside-the-park homer from Jimmy Rollins.  He sped around the bases so fast, he scored standing.

All of a sudden, the Phillies had everything working.  Even the pitching was going well as Cliff Lee finally notched his 2nd win of the year with 7 scoreless innings.  Now that is the Lee we have been missing lately.

So here are the new Phillies…for now.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, just for spite, they could sweep the Nationals?  Ok, maybe I am dreaming…but still hoping for better baseball ahead!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Together Again, Phillies Sluggers Turn Back Time

After a very unusual start to the 1st inning in last night’s Phillies and Brewers match-up, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard reunited in a way that appeared to turn time back to better days.  They went back-to-back with solo home runs and just that quickly, it was like old times again.  Ah, together again…

In fact most of this previously lame Phillies squad is back off the DL and as a result, they are starting to turn things around.  Last night’s walk-off win was the second in row for the Phillies and also their first comeback win when trailing after 8 innings this season.  Prior to this, they were 0-42 when losing after 8 innings.

This game began in a very odd way though.  Roy Halladay was not his normal, studley self.  He gave up 2 runs in the first inning before Howard and Utley countered with their solo blasts.

Even stranger was what happened to Shane Victorino before those home runs.  Ex-Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf hit Victorino in the funny bone with a pitch; because he turned his shoulder to in an attempt to get out of the way, the 1st base umpire apparently got confused and called him out on strikes.  Replay showed that Victorino came nowhere near to swinging at the pitch.

Both Victorino, in obvious pain, and manager Charlie Manuel argued his case to no avail.  Once again, an idiot umpire would cost the Phillies a base runner and, after the homers, it cost them an extra run.  Even worse, Victorino’s hand went numb after the hit to the elbow and he had to be removed from the game.  He says he is fine now and should be able to play tonight; the ball just struck a nerve in the wrong place.

The umpire idiocy did not end there either.  Howard’s obvious solo shot was initially ruled a double after the ball bounced back onto the field out of the left field flower beds.  They had to go to replay to get the call overturned.  But it was quite apparent to the naked eye that the ball left the yard.  I guess the umpire went temporarily blind; an affliction which seems to be contagious.  And all that happened in the first inning.

By the 4th inning, things were getting out of hand as Halladay continued to self-destruct and allowed 4 more runs for a 6-2 Phillies deficit.  But for the second day in a row, the bullpen came through and held the score there.  And that set up the Phillies 1st comeback win after 8 innings all season long.

With 1 out in the 9th, the Phillies were still 4 runs behind and down to their final 2 outs when suddenly, the clock turned backwards again.  The Phillies offense began channeling their 2008 selves.  Jimmy Rollins drew a walk followed by a Juan Pierre single.  Utley walked; Howard singled in 2 runs; Carlos Ruiz singled in another and Hunter Pence followed with another walk.

With still only 1 out in the inning and a man on third, all the Phillies needed was a sac fly.  Most of the year, the Phillies have been unable to accomplish this seemingly routine task.  But on this throwback night, Ty Wigginton summoned his inner super-Wigginess and sent a line drive to left which scored pinch-runner Erik Kratz.

And just like that, the Phillies have found themselves on the comeback trail.  Like J-Roll said after Sunday’s win, it is time to start streaking…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Can the Phillies Save Themselves?

There is a lot of chatter and trade rumors creeping around the Phillies right now.  Who will stay and who will go?  And, do they even have any real choices here?

One of the predominant theories says that if the Phillies make a strong run in the 2nd half, they may be able to keep guys like Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino.  But to do so would mean winning a LOT of games.

Last night’s win over the Dodgers gave the Phillies a 3-game winning streak.  That is nice, but not exactly a season-saving run just yet.  Yet there were reasons to hope; Joe Blanton pitched extremely well, allowing just 2 runs in 8 innings, keeping the unreliable bullpen at bay.  Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the year.  And Victorino had 3 hits in the game.

But even if this short streak of better baseball continues, is it enough to keep the team together beyond the trade deadline?

Sadly, I believe the answer is no.

The Phillies bullpen needs serious help and a guy like Victorino is exactly what many teams will want in exchange for a solid pitcher or two.  Even a player like Juan Pierre could help out a team ready to make a run at the playoffs.  With Domonic Brown healthy again in Triple-A, the possibility of trading an outfielder greatly increases.  Plus, both Pierre and Victorino have contracts that expire after this season.

And then there is the sad tale of Cole Hamels.  The Phillies failed to get a long-term contract done last year, leaving Hamels close enough to free-agency for him to get a really big whiff of the huge piles of money waiting for him.  If they cannot come to terms, Hamels will be traded before the deadline.

The Phillies really have little choice.  If they know that Hamels will test free agency, the odds of retaining him are slim to none.  Other teams who are not on the brink of the luxury tax and whose teams did not suck this year will be gunning for Hamels.  And if you are going to lose him, you might as well get something for him in exchange.

I am not happy about this and I am sure many of you feel the same way.  But the cold, hard truth is that a very large, steaming pile of poo is about to hit the fan.  I hope I am wrong, but brace yourselves, just in case I am not.

The good news is that Roy Halladay returns to the mound tonight!  In his first start off the DL, Halladay will face the Dodgers at 10:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Double Disaster as Phillies Lose Two Against the Rays

The Phillies managed to spend only one day out of the basement in the NL East after Saturday’s win.  But Sunday’s twin killing against the Rays propelled them right back to where they apparently belong; in last place.  When your two best starters are pitching and you still lose both games, things have clearly gone very, very wrong.

In the first game, Cole Hamels was practically unhittable.  He did not allow a run over 7 innings and gave up only 3 hits.

Leaving the game with a 1-0 lead, the bullpen was going to have to pitch 2 clean innings.  And as you probably already know, that did not happen.

I try not to say too much about how Charlie Manuel handles this team.  Because frankly, what he has been given to work with is on par with a minor league team.  But after Antonio Bastardo walked 2 batters in the 8th with just a 1-run lead, he should not have been allowed to continue.  Bastardo was awful the day before and clearly, he still has not found proper command of his pitches.  So why then is he left in to pitch to Carlos Pena?

Apparently, he was left in to clear the bases for the next pitcher as he gave up a 3-run homer to Pena.  I saw that coming, as did everyone in my section screaming, “Take him out!”  But Manuel puts blind faith in these guys even when it has become obvious to everyone else that the leash has gotten far too long.

Then again, look at the players Manuel has to choose from.  The pickings are slim.  This bullpen just sucks, so in that regard, it is still hard to blame the manager.  I still don’t agree with the decision to leave Bastardo in, but I am also glad I was not the one having to make that decision.

And then in the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Manuel left Michael Martinez in to bat instead of pinch hitting.  Martinez is hitting .133 and could not hit the broad side of a barn right now.  After the game, Manuel told the media that neither Juan Pierre nor Mike Fontenot were hitting lefties well, so he left Martinez in.  The issue with that is, Martinez is not hitting ANYONE right now.

Angry at the media for asking, Manuel suggested the reporters should tweet him with their in-game decisions saying, “You guys can float the information down there to me, being as I ain’t smart enough to get it.”  Oh my…

Here are a few other random shots from the 1st game, which the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2.

In game 2, Cliff Lee basically squashed any shot he may have had at his first win of the season by allowing 5 runs over 7 innings.  His last 3 starts have been awful.  Where did our ace go?

Perhaps the strain of not having a win has finally stolen whatever small amount of sanity he had left?   No one really knows what is going on here.

Placido Polanco tried to get this team going.  He went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk.  John Mayberry Jr. also had a big hit and an RBI.  And it was apparently “opposite day” for Hunter Pence who drew 3 walks in the game.

But the offense literally ended there.  The Phillies managed only 4 hits and left 6 men on base.

And just so Lee did not feel singled out in this one, some of the rookie pitchers decided to help out with 5 walks, a wild pitch and 2 more runs for the Rays in one inning.  It looks like B.J. Rosenberg’s major league career may be over before it began.  He was responsible for all that damage except 1 of the walks.

Adding insult to injury, catcher Brian Schneider was leveled at home plate by Sean Rodriguez coming in to score.  He left the game with a sprained ankle.  Later, Pence almost took out the Rays catcher in a weird semi-collision with Jose Molina’s outstretched leg.

Schneider is now on the DL and the Phillies went down for the count in a 7-3 loss.

Here are the Photo Albums from both games: Game 1: Hamels start, Game 2: Lee start.

The Pirates come to town next for a 4-game series starting tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome Sets Another Record in Phillies Walk-Off Win

In their 1st visit back to Philadelphia since losing the 2008 World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays once again brought the rain with them.  Friday night’s Phillies – Rays game was rained out and will be played as part of a doubleheader on Sunday.  The originally scheduled 1:35pm game will start instead at 1:05pm and the make-up game will begin at 6:35pm.

For today’s game, Kyle Kendrick started as originally planned, with Cliff Lee being pushed back to Sunday.  After Lee had fully warmed up Friday night, they did not want to take any chances by having him go today.

Kendrick did not have a great day, getting speeches while on the mound from teammates Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins and then pitching coach Rich Dubee.  It seemed like a lot of work just to get Kendrick through what turned out to be only 4 innings.  He walked 3 and allowed 3 runs.

But the offense gave the pitching a boost with big home runs from Rollins and Juan Pierre.  For Pierre, it was his first homer since August of last year and his first 3-run homer since 2004.  Pierre is not typically a long-ball hitter and as a result, there were huge smiles all around the Phillies bench when he hit that one.  Pierre got to play Superman, if only for just one day.

For the bullpen, Raul Valdes did a commendable job picking up the slack for Kendrick.  Fresh back from the minors, Valdes pitched 2 very solid innings.  Antonio Bastardo had a little trouble in the 8th where he loaded the bases but did pitch out of it after allowing only one run.

The 6-4 lead carried the Phillies into the 9th with a save opportunity for Jonathan Papelbon.  It was not exactly smooth sailing.  In fact, he blew his first save of season, giving up 2 runs and really putting the Phillies in a very bad position with a doubleheader scheduled the next day.  This could not have been worse timing, except…

In the bottom of the 9th, a future Hall of Famer was lying in wait to bail Papelbon out.  Jim Thome stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th and absolutely crushed a ball to deep left field.  And just like that, BOOM!  The Phillies won it in walk-off style.

It was Thome’s 13th career walk-off homer, which is a major league record.  He is also the all-time leader in Interleague play home runs.  And Thome is now tied with Sammy Sosa for 7th place in career homers with 609.

On Sunday, Cole Hamels will pitch the first game and Lee will pitch the second one.  I will be at both games and shall return with photos.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Thome’s Hot Bat Helps Phillies to a Win

The Phillies finally won a game last night, although by the skin of their teeth. The 9-8 victory over the Twins broke up a 3 game losing streak in a month where wins have been hard to come by.

The return of Jim Thome from the DL seems to have sparked an offensive explosion. After hitting at a rate of .100 before he went on the DL, Thome now has 10 hits in his last 5 games serving as the DH against the American League. Thome has also hit 2 home runs in that span, the longest of which was a whopping 466 feet last night. The slugger has officially returned!

A bunch of Phillies had big offensive days as well. Juan Pierre, Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz all had 3 hist. And John Mayberry Jr. racked up 4 RBI on 2 hits, including a 3-run homer in the 1st inning.

That first inning was a bit unusual though. The Twins starter, P.J. Walters wound up leaving the game with 4 runs allowed without even recording a single out. It was later reported that he was experiencing shoulder pain.

So the Phillies caught a break and racked up 6 runs in one inning, adding 3 more later. But they still showed the same problems they have been dealing with all year. For example, they Phillies loaded the bases with NO outs in the 9th and once again, failed to score. They could not even muster a sac fly. That is just not going to win them ballgames.

And what has become another disturbing trend is the starting pitching. Cole Hamels, probably the Phillies’ best pitcher not on the DL right now, has really fallen apart lately. Against the Twins, with that huge 6-run lead after the top of the 1st inning, Hamels got knocked around, allowing 7 runs over 6+ innings. Antonio Bastardo allowed one more, all of which turned a 6-run lead into only a 1-run lead.

Luckily, Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the win, having to record 4 outs in order to do so. But I am sure he was just glad to be able to pitch in a save situation, which there have been very few of lately.

Despite all the drama, there were a few great defensive moments thanks to Michael Martinez who also just came off the DL after breaking his foot in spring training. He made the last out of the game by catching a pop-up that was over his head and about to drop in the middle of nowhere. And earlier in the game, he dove to snag a ball hit hard up the middle and in the same motion, made an amazing glove toss to Jimmy Rollins at second.

The return of Martinez is a welcome site now that Freddy Galvis is on the DL with a back fracture (ouch!). Mikey-Mart is about the same offensively as Galvis and his defense, while not quite as spectacular, is still very solid. So welcome back, Mikey!

Although it may be a long shot, the Phillies ‘could’ – maybe – possibly – win this series with a victory tonight. Joe Blanton is pitching and he has given up a minimum of 5 runs in each of his last 5 games. Let us hope that trend ends tonight. Game time is 8:10pm.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Lee Still Winless in 9 Starts

If April showers bring May flowers, then what does June bring?  The only thing I know for sure is that for Cliff Lee, June has not yet brought him a win.   That is 9 starts, a 2.92 ERA and a 0-3 record.  Yikes.

And it is not that Lee has not deserved a win; the Phillies offense has simply not scored for him.  In Lee’s 9 starts, the Phillies have scored a total of 16 runs while he was the pitcher of record.  In 5 of those 9 starts, the Phillies scored only 1 run or NO runs while Lee was pitching.

In last night’s 2-1 loss to the Dodgers, it started out looking like perhaps this was Lee’s night.  Jimmy Rollins led off with a double, Juan Pierre moved him to third with a sac fly and then Hunter Pence finally got a hit with a runner in scoring position.  This sort of start HAD to be sign, right?  Wrong.

After those first three batters and one run, that was it for the offense.  The bats went right back to sleep and never woke up.  In fact, after the 1st inning, only 1 Phillie even made it past first base for the rest of the game.

Lee is a great pitcher; but even he needs more than a 1 run cushion to get a win.  The lack of offense blew up in his face in the 8th inning.  With 2 outs and 2 men on base, Lee finally threw a bad pitch which turned into a 2-run double for the Dodgers who took the lead.  It was pitch #122.

Had the Phillies scored more than 1 run in this game, it is possible Lee would not even have been out there for the 8th as his pitch count was rising.  With the exception of that one pitch, Lee was fantastic all night long.  And as in most of his other starts, he should have gotten a win here.

Game 3 with the Dodgers starts at 7:05pm tonight; Kyle Kendrick will pitch.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography