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
Realizing the season is not quite even halfway over, it is hard to say that the Phillies are done. But after losing 3 out of 4 games to the worst team in the league this weekend, it sure does feel that way. Murphy’s Law has ruled this team for about 2 months now where anything that can go wrong does. Massive injuries to star players, a serious and prolonged offensive slump, pitching and hitting never going well on the same day and now this; 3 loses to the Pirates.
The one win in this series came on an offensive explosion of 12 runs. But if the Phillies need to score 12 runs every time to win a game, then I guess their season really may be over.
5 runs on 9 hits today did not cut it. Dane Sardinha, the Phils 4th string catcher, getting two hits and a home run did not help. Greg Dobbs, who is in the worst hitting slump of his career, got a hit and an RBI; no matter though. It also did not help.
The big boys like Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins did absolutely nothing in this game. And besides the solo home run by Sardinha in the 7th, the Phillies offense gave up after the 3rd inning. And then there was the pitching…
While Joe Blanton looked solid through most of the game today, he began to fall apart quickly after 6 innings. He threw 3 pitches at the start of the 7th inning which ended up like this: home run, single, double. Blanton left with one out and Jose Contreras came in with two runners on base. Contreras picked up the disaster right where Blanton left off, allowing a double, a single and 3 more runs to give the Pirates a 6-5 lead. So the Phils entered the 7th with a 3-run lead and the pitching blew it.
It only got worse when Mike Zagurski came in for Contreras and allowed two more runs to score on a 2-out single. So Blanton’s final line was 5 runs over 6 1/3 innings. He was fine through 6 innings, but when Blanton starts to fall apart, he really goes down hard. Then the bullpen totally ruins the day by allowing a 3-run lead to turn into a 3-run deficit…against a last place team. Disgusting.
So the Phillies went on to lose by a score of 5-8. If the Braves win today, the Phillies will enter tomorrow’s 3-game series with the Braves down by 6 games. That means, even if they win the series, they will still be a minimum of 3 games back with only 4 to play before the All-Star break. Or worse, they will lose ground and dig a hole too deep to emerge from.
Does anyone out there think the Phils can sweep the Braves? After losing 3 of 4 to the Pirates, they do not stand a chance. I will be happy to eat those words if they do, but the odds are certainly not in their favor.
With all the recent injuries, many Phillies, like Placido Polanco, dropped off in the All-Star voting late. As a result, the only Phillie to make it in via fan vote was Chase Utley. Utley cannot play due to his recent surgery and will be replaced by Martin Prado of the Braves.
Two more Phillies were added to the roster; Roy Halladay won the player’s vote and Ryan Howard was added by manager Charlie Manuel. Both are very deserving. Halladay’s dominant performances plus the Perfect Game he pitched this year make him an obvious choice. Howard is one of the league leaders in RBI’s with 58 and was batting .296 coming into today’s game.
Earlier today, MLB.com posted the starting rosters for each league. Take a look at the list. Notice anything wrong? Either the writer just got used to typing the word “Yankees” over and over or Evan Longoria was just involved in some weird, mysterious trade. No need to panic Rays fans; Longoria is still in Tampa.
By the way, I hope everyone has a Happy 4th of July, despite the Phillies being a major bummer. This is one of my favorite photos that I have ever taken and it always makes me feel better:
Happy Independence Day!
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography; Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz
With a 3-2 victory over the Braves last night to win the series 2 game to 1, the Phillies will have an 8-game lead in the NL East over both the Braves and the Marlins going into September. Joe Blanton pitched another beautiful game and got through 7 innings of one run ball; the only run came off a solo homer from Martin Prado in the first inning. Blanton looked a bit shaky through those first few innings, but settled in well and only gave up 3 hits.
And for the 2nd night in a row, Chase Utley went yard; his solo shot to right field in the 4th was the only run for the Phillies until Carlos Ruiz stepped up in the 7th. In honor of the Ruiz backpack night, a giveaway for kids 14 and under, Ruiz smacked a double to left to score Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz. Ruiz went 3 for 3 on the night; it was his 5th 3-hit game of the year. Maybe the Phillies should give away a Ruiz bobble head next?
In the not-so-great offensive category, the Phillies are still struggling with runners in scoring position. They left 14 men on base and again, had the bases loaded with no outs and failed to score. Blanton hit a line-drive to first base and Ruiz was double off after the catch. Jimmy Rollins then hit a weak grounder to end the inning. The offensive outage is concerning, but thanks to great pitching, they came out on top.
Defense was a big part of the win as well. Ryan Madson, who is entering Brad Lidge-bad territory, got into a huge jam in the 8th inning again. He hit the first batter he faced and then gave up back-to-back singles which scored a run for the Braves. Without recording an out, he was removed from the game and Scott Eyre took over.
Brain McCann then hit a sharp grounder to Utley, who fielded it perfectly and flipped to Rollins who threw to Feliz at third; Feliz tagged Chipper Jones for the unusual 4-6-5 double play. Having eliminated the lead runner, Eyre saved the Phillies from disaster and gave Lidge a 3-2 lead to work with. Amazingly, Lidge nailed down the save with relative ease; it was his second save in a row. Whew!
By the way, did anyone see the actor, Paul Rudd (movies: “I Love You, Man”; “Anchorman”; “Knocked Up”), sitting in the 10th row behind home plate last night? He was just a few sections over from me so I took a few photos. The woman next to him (right side, dark brown hair) is none other than Jen Utley, Chase’s wife.
A very welcome off-day is upon us as the Phillies offense needs to rest and charge up for the September charge. Watch for September call-up’s which may include pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Jack Taschner and Rodrigo Lopez; infielders Mike Cervenak and Andy Tracy; outfielders John Mayberry Jr. and Jason Ellison; and we will likely see a catcher added – maybe Paul Hoover. Those are my guesses anyway.
A lot of moves will be made as the Phillies are also anticipating the return of Brett Myers, JC Romero and Clay Condrey to the bullpen plus Greg Dobbs. All four have been on the DL and are very close to coming back.
And finally, here is the complete Photo Album from last night’s Phillies – Braves game. Tomorrow, the San Francisco Giants come to town for 3 games and some serious pitching battles will ensue. You may remember the Phillies were stomped in San Fran back in July, losing 3 out of 4 games. The Giants are tied for a wildcard spot right now so this will be a very tough match match-up. Cole Hamels starts it off tomorrow at 7:05pm.
Photos by Jenn