The month of June did not start off as the Phillies may have hoped. After a win on Monday, the Phils went on to lose two straight to the lowly, last place Washington Nationals by a score of 2-1.
Domonic Brown was almost the hero as he blasted a shot to left center that should have scored the three runners on base at the time. But the Nats left fielder, Laynce Nix, ripped the Superman cape right off Brown’s back, put it on himself and literally flew through the air to snatch the ball out of no-man’s land. Nix won the tug-o-war battle.
That catch will be on highlight reels all week. Nix also hit the go-ahead home run off pitcher Roy Oswalt. He was a one-man wrecking crew.
Oswalt had a descent game, allowing just the two runs. He was pulled early after five innings in order to send Brown in with the bases loaded, after which Brown was robbed of that big hit.
The real disappointment, however, was watching the Phillies offense revert back to old habits. They had only five hits in the game, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 9 men on base. Ryan Howard had two of the five hits. No one collected an RBI as the lone run scored after a Nats error.
Chase Utley is another concern. He is hitting only .194 since coming off the DL. And although he appears healthy, his swing is simply not there. That is especially concerning when you remember that the only thing Utley was able to do the entire time he was injured was hit.
The Phillies have a day off tomorrow to lick their wounds, but things do not get much better on Friday. They are headed to Pittsburgh and recent history shows the Phillies have a rough time there. Despite the Pirates fielding fairly awful teams over the years, the Phillies simply play badly in Pittsburgh. They better hope that changes.
Shane Victorino should be back for the series, which will hopefully be a nice boost for the offense. However, who will be sent down to make room?
My feeling is that John Mayberry Jr. has to stay, as he is the only suitable center field back-up who can match Victorino’s defense. Brown should be here to stay. Michael Martinez is a Rule-5 and the Phils do not want to lose him. But Ross Gload is injured. He can hit, but cannot run or play the field. If it were up to me, he’d be going on the DL to make room.
Another option is pitcher Mike Zagurski, but it seems like the Phillies want an extra pitcher around. However, Zagurski still has not shown he is a major leaguer.
It is a tough decision. Glad I do not have to make it :O)
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
Who was that pitcher on the mound for the Phillies Tuesday night? Certainly it could not be Cliff Lee. At least not the one we are used to. He must be an imposter!
After a careful review of the statistics, the mystery Lee went only 5.1 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits to a last place Nationals team. He also walked three batters and gave up two home runs.
Upon witnessing this disastrous outing, I can come to only one conclusion: Cliff Lee has been abducted by aliens. They are conducting a number of probing experiments on him in order to clone the near-perfect pitcher. This totally explains why an imposter was sent in his place to give up six runs in less than six innings.
Perhaps many do not agree with my assessment. However, I assure you that the alternative is much more difficult to swallow. Cliff Lee had a horrible game? Against a crappy team?? No way. Aliens…I tell you, it must be aliens.
On the other hand, many pitchers sucked without alien intervention. Danys Baez has been returned to earth after a spectacular five innings in last week’s 19-inning marathon. On this night, Baez coughed up three runs in just one inning.
And then lefty Mike Zagurski, called up to take Vance Worley’s roster spot, walked the opposing pitcher, gave up one run and another walk in just one inning. Zagurski has been given a plethora of chances in the Bigs over the years. But each time, despite doing well in the minors, he tanks as soon as he is called up.
The offense took the night off as well, apparently refusing to play with imposter aliens. The only excitement was when Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. smacked back-to-back homers in the fifth.
So the Phils went down in flames by a score of 10-2…against the Nationals. Ugh. Well, tomorrow is another day and with any luck, the aliens have returned the real Cliff Lee and maybe will visit the Marlins or Braves next. ;o)
Lee Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
In a week full of opposites, Roy Halladay had a bad game against the Brewers. The night before Joe Blanton had a good game and in both games, the offense did not show up. The Phillies are currently in some sort of cruel and unusual time warp where nothing is as it should be.
To their credit, the Brewers defense stole a few hits from the Phillies with running grabs in the outfield. Those balls looked like they were far out of reach, but the Brewers ran them down.
The Phillies did not look like themselves at all. Carlos Ruiz threw away a ground ball that should have been an out; Ryan Howard missed a grounder at first; and then the bullpen handed the Brewers a bunch of runs in a game that was already out of control.
As Halladay was pulled in a 4-0 game, David Herndon threw two pitches and gave up a 3-run homer. Mike Zagurski, recalled from AAA to take JC Romero’s spot on the roster, also did some damage. He walked the first batter he saw and then allowed a 2-run single. Both run were charged to Herndon and all that happened with two outs in the inning. The score was 9-0 after that seventh inning.
As a side note, Zagurski has been recalled from AAA a number of times over the years in both 2007 and 2010, after multiple injuries and surgeries. His lifetime ERA in the Bigs through 2010 is 6.99. In other words, he does well in the minors and implodes in the majors. It has happened every time and Tuesday night was no different. Although, the runs he allowed will not be charged to him, he still failed to hold the score down and give the Phils a chance to come back.
The Phillies offense is now officially a major problem. They went through these super-slumps all last year, which eventually resulted in the firing of hitting coach Milt Thompson. Like a bad case of deja vu, here we go again.
In fact, the Phillies lead hitter with runners in scoring position is currently Wilson Valdez. Not Ryan Howard, not Jimmy Rollins or even Raul Ibanez…Wilson Valdez, going into today’s game was batting .556 with RISP. Howard is at .286, Rollins is .188…you get the picture. No offense to Valdez who is a very solid player, but if he is the team leader in hits with RISP, there is a serious problem.
The Phillies have one shot left at a win over the Brew Crew tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pm. Cliff Lee will pitch and hopefully, the offense will show up for him.
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
Win some, lose some…the Phillies could not have done so today in a more upside down fashion. Two games; two very different results:
Vance Worley made his first start in the majors today against the Marlins and did a pretty good job. Certainly it was good enough to de-throne Kyle Kendrick from the 5th starters spot. Kendrick has been awful and the Phillies pitching coach, Rich Dubee, was really upset about his performance yesterday. Worley went 5 innings and allowed 2 runs; he was only pulled after 5 because the offense was sleeping and Charlie Manuel put in a pinch hitter. Worley did his job; the offense did not.
The Phils offense had just 1 hit through 8 innings and that was a Brian Schneider single in the 2nd. They were facing another pitcher making his starting debut, Adalberto Mendez. Rather than beat up on the rookie, the Phillies swung at junk and popped up balls that were right down the middle. They made a first-timer look like a Cy Young winner.
Just as disgusting as the offense was sloppy play in the field. Raul Ibanez made two very bad throws in the 1st inning. Later in the game, Placido Polanco watched a Dan Uggla double sail past him down the 3rd base line. That was just a good hit. But later, with Uggla at the plate again, Polanco was playing off the line…again. Result? Same thing; a double down the line. Why was Polanco playing off the line when he had just gotten burned there in Uggla’s last at bat? Ugh.
A lot about this game was inexplicable, much like the Phillies magical vanishing offense all year long. When you see this team play like this, it makes you wonder how they have stayed in the NL East race all year.
There were some other revelations in the last few days as well. Clearly, Mike Zagurski is not going to make it in the Bigs. This kid has been up, down, multiple injuries, up and down again and today, with yet another chance to show what he has, he failed miserably. 3 runs allowed on 2 hits and a walk…it was bad. Scott Mathieson did the same thing yesterday when he walked 2 batters and showed a serious lack of control. I feel for these guys, but maybe the Phillies need to move on?
Ok, so let’s see if they are still asleep for game two…
Oh, here are the bats! Game 2 was the polar opposite of Game 1. Much like a mental patient suffering from multiple personality disorder, the Phillies played two totally different games today. The Game 2 persona is certainly the one Phillies fans would like to see more of.
A five run 2nd inning got this game off to a good start. Jimmy Rollins, batting from the 5-hole, led off the inning with a single. Raul Ibanez followed his lead and then Domonic Brown walked. With the bases loaded, Carlos Ruiz worked out a walk for an easy RBI. Later that same inning with 2 outs, Placido Polanco hit a 2-run double and then Chase Utley singled to score Polanco.
It was a very upside down kind of day for Utley. He did not have a hit in the first game, but for Game 2, Utley racked up 2 hits, 2 RBI and he was also hit by a pitch. Brown got a rare start as Jayson Werth was rested and he managed to work out 2 walks. But having sat on the bench for a while, Brown looks rusty. Hopefully, this start will get him back into the “swing” of things.
Starting the game was pitcher Roy Oswalt who had some issues with the long ball. He allowed 3 homers for 4 runs in the first 5 innings. This seems to be a “Roy” issue this week; Roy Halladay gave up 4 runs on 4 homers on Saturday against the Brewers. Luckily, the Phillies bats were heating up tonight to bail Oswalt out of trouble, as they also did on Saturday for Halladay.
With a 7-4 lead, Ryan Madson took care of the 8th inning after JC Romero walked the first batter. Brad Lidge pitched the 9th and recorded the save! Lidge has been super lately…keep it up, Brad!
Tomorrow night at 7:05pm, Joe Blanton will pitch in game 3 of this series with the Fish. The Braves lost today so with one win and one loss today, the Phillies are 1/2 game behind them in the NL East.
And a few reminders: Do not forget to check out my new Facebook community page, “I Want A Hug From Mike Sweeney.” And when you are done there, hop over to the Phillies #1 fan contest and VOTE for me! You can vote up to 25 times a day :O) Thank you to all for your support!
Worley photo by CBSsports.com; Utley photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
It is simple math, right? Well tonight’s Phillies – Braves match-up boiled down to that very simple math.
Pitcher’s Cole Hamels and Jair Jurrjens battled fairly evenly, each allowing just 3 runs. Hamels went 7 innings and Jurrjens was pulled after 6 plus. Hamels did a nice job, but would the offense come through for him?
The Phillies managed only 2 hits of Jurrjens, one of which was a 2-run homer from Raul Ibanez in the 1st inning. The other hit came in the 7th when Ryan Howard tied the game up 3-3 with a triple to score Ibanez, who had drawn a walk. But with no outs and Howard on third, they failed to score again.
Jayson Werth stood at the plate and watched strike three go by. All he had to do was make contact and he just stood there like a deer in headlights. Then Ben Francisco hit what could have been a sac fly, but either Howard, the third base coach or both decided not to tag up as it was a shallow hit ball.
Here is my issue with this: they had to know Wilson Valdez was coming up with 2 outs. Did they expect him to be the hero and get a 2-out hit? I know I certainly did not. While Howard is no speed demon, he has one advantage: size. He should have tagged and if the ball beat him, why not go old-school and knock the catcher over? I would have taken that risk over expecting a 2-out hit from Valdez.
That decision looked like it might come back to haunt them when the bullpen took over in the 8th. Jose Contreras quickly got into trouble with men on first and third and no outs. But Chipper Jones got jammed in between third and home and Dane Sardinha made a great toss to trap and tag him out. Eventually, with help from JC Romero, they escaped the inning unscathed.
With no scoring in the 8th for the Phils, Brad Lidge came into a tie game in the 9th. It was his first game since last week when he blew a save against the Reds. Lidge sent the Braves down in order, but with no scoring from the Phils in the bottom of the 9th, this would be a battle of the bullpens.
Sadly, in a battle of the bullpens, the Phillies were likely to come out on the losing end. David Herndon did a great job in the 10th, but finally surrendered the lead in the 11th after a single and a double. With the offense totally stalled, the 3-4 deficit looked insurmountable. In fact, for many months now, the lack of hitting has made these very small deficits look like impossible obstacles to overcome.
But Mike Zagurski came into the game and made things even worse. He looked great striking out the first two hitters, but made one very big, very costly mistake. Eric Hinske took that mistake and tossed it over the right field wall for a 2-run homer. The Phillies entered the bottom of the 11th down 3-6.
Watching these self-destructive games are very sad, especially in light of the talent this team possesses. They just cannot seem to conjure it up at the most crucial moments. The main players, like Jimmy Rollins and Werth, went hitless as they have many, many times this week. The bottom of the lineup did absolutely nothing. You cannot expect to win games with only three hits.
Add to that the fact that the bullpen cannot hold a tie game down. It is all a recipe for disaster. And so it was; a 3-6 disastrous loss. Jamie Moyer will try to win one tomorrow, but without any offense, how will he fare? Not well is my guess.
Pitcher JA Happ came off the DL today but instead of going to the majors, he was optioned back to AAA. The Phillies are not happy with how he has pitched in his rehab, but they are hoping he will bounce back after some time in the minors.
As for catcher Carlos Ruiz, he will begin a rehab assignment this week, which is good news. The concussion has healed to the point where he can start playing again. Get well soon, Carlos!
By the way, we have now entered Day 8 of my Chase Utley withdrawal. I am not doing too bad so far. I have no fingernails left and I am stuttering a little, but all in all, it has been a mostly sanity-intact week. Of course, we have about 7 weeks left to go so do say a short prayer for me. Thanks…you guys rock.
Zagurski photo 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