Yesterday we pondered the question, will April Showers produce May Flowers for the Phillies? Well, with Roy Halladay on the mound they will. Now all they need to do is tip-toe through the tulips and meander their way back to first place.
Because as of last night, if you peered at the NL East standings, you may have thought you were looking through a mirror. Those 5 teams are experiencing a bit of a role reversal from what most people predicted. Here was the order from first place to last: Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins, Braves. The Mets and Nats should be in the last 2 spots, right? The Phillies seriously need to return order to the division.
The Phillies took one small step in that direction today with a complete game shut-out from Halladay in their 10-0 win over the Mets to even the series at a game apiece. They are currently tied for 2nd with the Nats. As usual, Halladay was unbelievable; he allowed only 3 hits, a walk and hit one batter, throwing 118 pitches. This man is a pitching machine. The rest of the Phillies pitching staff had better be taking notes.
Behind the amazing performance of Halladay, the Phillies bats finally woke up. The only player who did not have a hit in the game was Placido Polanco. Even Halladay knocked a single. Chase Utley went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and Shane Victorino hit a 3-run homer in the 4th. Victorino was criticized last night after not hustling on a dropped third strike; he made up for the lack of effort today.
Mets pitcher Mike Pelfry came into this game with a record of 4-0 and a miniscule 0.69 ERA. He left with his first loss of the year and a very human 2.40 ERA. The Phils offense exploited the Mets bullpen as well, scoring 3 more runs off reliever Raul Valdez. This energy will need to carry over into tomorrow night if the Phillies are going to win the series.
As for the huge pile of Phillies injuries, JA Happ, suffering from his second forearm strain in three years, had what the Phils are calling a “minor setback” in his rehab. Translate that anyway you like, but it is still not good news.
The bad news is magnified of course by the performance of Kyle Kendrick so far this year. With a 7.61 ERA and no wins to his credit on the year, Kendrick is pitching like a minor leaguer and frankly, that is where he needs to go. Once Joe Blanton returns, which could be as soon as Monday, Kendrick may get the boot. Nelson Figueroa has the experience to fill in until Happ returns and Kendrick has done nothing to warrant keeping him in the rotation.
But first things first; tomorrow Jamie Moyer will take the mound opposite the Mets ace, Johan Santana. On paper, this looks like a slaughter for the Phillies. Moyer has allowed at least 4 runs in 3 out of his last 4 starts. But Santana is not untouchable either and the Phillies have hit him in the past. This should be an interesting one. Game time is 8:05pm for the national ESPN broadcast. I will be there and should be posting photos sometime Monday afternoon. Go Phillies!
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies started tonight’s game with the hope of winning and avoiding a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Giants. More than once, it looked like the Phils were going down in flames. And more than once, it looked like they might pull it out. It is hard to believe how it all went down:
The game stayed very close until the 6th inning when pitcher Cole Hamels fell apart. Having pitched very well through 5 innings, striking out 10 batters and allowing just 1 run, seeing him self-destruct in the 6th was hugely disappointing.
Hamels had the bases loaded and 2 outs and walked a run home. Any good pitcher in this situation, 2-outs, bases loaded and a full count, has to be able to throw a strike. The walk gave the Giants 2-1 lead and all the momentum. The next batter whacked a single to right, which scored 2 more runs and nearly sentenced the Phillies to a 3-game sweep.
Because the Phillies offense has been completely non-existent recently, you had to figure there was no way they could climb out of the 1-4 hole against back-to-back Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum. In fact, if you skipped the next 2 innings, you did not miss anything. Well, except maybe some additional humiliation imparted upon the Phils by Lincecum.
Ryan Howard hit him hard twice, once for a homer and once for a double. The only other hit for the Phillies off Lincecum was a blooper into right from Placido Polanco. Do not even worry about men left on base for this one through 8 innings; they didn’t have anyone on base to leave there.
But after Lincecum walked a batter with 1 out in the 9th, the Giants put in their closer, Brian Wilson.
This move helped out Chase Utley as he knocked a single for the 1,000 hit of his career. Congrats to Chase!
But Utley was not the only one to benefit from this bonehead move. The Phillies loaded the bases with 2 outs and Wilson on the mound. Jayson Werth stepped to the plate and smashed a 3-run double to right to tie the game up at 4-4! Giants fans got real quiet, real fast.
But hey, no worries for the Giants, right? Because the Phillies went ahead and countered that bonehead move with one of their own. That’s right, we’ll see your Brian Wilson and raise you Ryan Madson. In save situations, Madson has not been good…at all. Despite that fact, Madson pitched the 10th inning after the Phillies had finally taken the lead by a score of 5-4 on a wild pitch. And what does Madson do? Well, I figure maybe he felt bad for Wilson blowing the save for the Giants so he went ahead and blew the save for the Phillies. Nice of him to share the humiliation.
So it was on to the 11th inning with a 5-5 tie. Raul Ibanez started the inning off with a single and moved up to 2nd on a sac bunt. Our back-up, back-up short stop, Wilson Valdez, doubled to score him on a ball that bounced off the outfield wall just over the head of left fielder Eugenio Velez. And the adventure for Velez did not end there. Shane Victorino hit a routine fly ball to him, but Velez one-handed the catch and the ball bounced off his glove, allowing an insurance run to score for the Phils. Can you say “embarrassing?” Ouch.
Now the Phillies have a 7-5 lead and send sometimes bullpen guy, sometimes starter, Nelson Figueroa to the mound. He can now add sometimes closer to his resume…although the save did not come easy. Juan Uribe wound up with a single on a hit ball that ricocheted off Figueroa’s leg, allowing a runner to advance to 3rd. That runner then scored when the next batter doubled. The lead was down to one run with 1 out in the inning and runners on 2nd and 3rd.
Velez, still not done with his extra innings adventure, hit into a fielder’s choice which Ryan Howard fielded and threw home to get Uribe out at the plate. Catcher Brian Schneider did an amazing job blocking the plate with his glove and Uribe basically tagged himself out. The next batter grounded out to end the game and Figueroa picks up the first save of his career. Unbelievable.
This win gave the Phillies 4 wins and 5 losses on this road trip; certainly not great, but it could have been worse. The Phillies have the day off tomorrow to prepare for the 3-game home series against the Mets. And now, I need a Valium…whew!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The big question going into tonight’s Phillies – Diamondbacks match-up was how spot-starter Nelson Figueroa was going to fare. Overall, he did a great job. Although he had quite a few base runners and ran some deep counts, Figueroa mostly did very well, allowing just 2 runs in 5 innings. Considering he was not very stretched out having been in the bullpen, Figueroa gave an excellent effort.
Another question mark lately has been the Phillies offense which went from red-hot during the first 10 games of the season to stone-cold this past week. In fact, the only two bats that showed up today were Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez. Werth hit two monster home runs to centerfield; one came in the 2nd inning and the other gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead in the 9th. Werth also made two great catches in the outfield and collected his first assist of the year, throwing a runner out at second.
Ibanez hit a home run in the 7th to tie the game up; it was his first home run of the year. Ibanez has been struggling so far this season but finally looks like he may break out of the slump. He also singled in the 9th, bringing his average up above the Mendoza line at .222.
Right after the Ibanez homer, Wilson Valdez stepped to the plate in place of Juan Castro and Phillies fans everywhere started to get that all too familiar twinge of panic. Castro has been outstanding in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins and there was no apparent reason to pull him out early. It was announced shortly after that Castro is suffering from mild left hamstring soreness.
This Phillies team is beginning to resemble a MASH unit instead of a ball club. The constant flow of injuries is alarming. They are already down 2 starting pitchers, 1 closer and a short stop. If Castro is really hurt and they are forced to go to the 3rd string short stop in Valdez, this could get ugly. Cross your fingers…
So, the bullpen had to keep the game close tonight as Figueroa was done in after the 5th inning. Chad Durbin was spectacular in 2 innings where he struck out 3 and allowed only 1 hit and no runs. Jose Contreras also struck out 3 in the 8th and the Ryan Madson came in for the 9th. Madson has not looked great as the team’s closer in place of the injured Brad Lidge, but tonight with a 1-run lead, he redeemed himself. He allowed 1 hit, no runs and struck out two for his 4th save of the year.
The 3-2 win tonight ties up the series in Arizona. The Phillies will send Kyle Kendrick to the mound tomorrow in search of his first win this year. Game time is 4:10pm. Go Phillies!
Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Last night’s Hamels Arizona adventure included a 4th inning where he gave up 4 home runs for 5 runs scored total. The following inning, he gave up another homer, making it 5 homers on the night. Prior to that, he looked like the Hamels of old, striking out batters and confusing them with his change-up. Then all of a sudden, Hamels got the ball up in the zone and threw nearly everything right over the plate. He looked like he was pitching batting practice to a thankful D-Backs team.
Hamels even had a hand in scoring before the mysterious 4th inning disaster happened; he belted a double in the 3rd inning and Shane Victorino drove him home with a triple. A very strange play led to the Phillies 2nd run of the night; Jayson Werth hit a long fly ball in the 4th which center fielder Chris Young caught, for just a moment. Young let the ball dribble out the bottom of his glove before he made the exchange to his throwing hand and it was ruled a ball in play. Werth saw the ball drop and kept running until he crossed home plate.
The D-Backs manager A.J. Hinch, who played for the Phillies in 2004, argued that it was a catch but the ump ruled it was not a catch as the fielder did not have control and did not make the exchange to his other hand before dropping it. It was scored as a 4-base error. There’s one you won’t see every day.
So things were looking up for the Phillies until the bottom of that same inning when the bottom fell out for Hamels and batting practice took over. JC Romero made his season debut after coming off the DL but he looked very rusty. Romero fell behind both batters he faced, giving up a solo homer and walking the next batter.
Jose Contreras took over the 7th inning and escaped without further drama. Rookie David Herndon pitched the 8th and did a good job as well. The Phillies entered the 9th inning losing 3-7. Victorino managed a 2-out single and RBI, but the Phillies rally ended there and they lost 4-7 to a last place team.
The only proper response to a pounding by a last place team is to win the next two games. And the Phillies had better do just that if they are going to avoid total humiliation. Nelson Figueroa will pitch tonight in place of the injured JA Happ. I do not envy Figueroa; this poor guy has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now. Best of luck to him…game time is 8:10pm.
Head shot by Jenn; cartoon by grinningplanet.com
Two old dudes battled it out tonight in Atlanta; the Braves Derek Lowe, 36, and the Phillies Jamie Moyer, 47. When I say I old, I am talking in baseball terms, of course. The elder Moyer out-dueled Lowe allowing just 4 hits and no earned runs in 6 innings. Lowe fell victim to the powerful Phillies offense which ran him out of the game after only 5 innings and racked up 5 runs.
Moyer continues to amaze and defy the laws of time with every victory. And tonight, he did something I had never seen before; in the 2nd inning, he hit the Braves rookie Jason Heyward with a pitch. That was not the fun part though. As the ball left Moyer’s hand, you could hear him yell to Heyward, “Look out!” as the pitch ran too far inside. Moyer is a true gentleman. Of course, the ball was only travelling about 74 mph so I think Heyward will be okay ;o)
The defense behind Moyer was pretty good, although Chase Utley did have one adventurous inning. Right after announcer Tom McCarthy commented on how much Utley has improved and that he has a shot at a Gold Glove one day, Utley’s ears must have been burning because he committed two errors in the 5th inning.
While trying to turn a double play, Utley bobbled the feed from Juan Castro, dropped the ball twice and a run scored. The very next play, he tried another double play but threw the ball wide to 1st, which flew past Ryan Howard and allowed another run to score. So it is official; no one is allowed to talk about Gold Gloves in relation to Utley for the rest of the year. Clearly, it was a jinx.
Utley’s offense has not been affected by a jinx though, as he has now reached base safely in every game so far this year. He had one hit and 2 walks tonight. Greg Dobbs did a great job filling in for Placido Polanco; he went 2 for 3. Castro went 3 for 5 and had 1 RBI, making it 5 for 8 from the back-up starters.
Actually, the only other jinx I can see for this team is the bullpen, which has been fairly awful. Roy Halladay avoided that jinx yesterday by pitching all 9 innings himself. Moyer only went 6, which is about average from him so sadly, the pen had to be counted on. Chad Durbin worked his way into a bases loaded jam with 1 out in the 7th and then ran a 3-0 count to the next batter. Fans everywhere had to be saying, “Oh crap…here we go again…”
Durbin got a sac fly out of that one and thanks to the Braves generosity in swinging at balls, he escaped the inning having allowed just the one run. But there was no one exhaling just yet. The Phillies had an 8-3 lead, but still 2 more innings of scary bullpen work to get through.
This bullpen could totally blow a 5-run lead….I have seen it happen. But tonight, Danys Baez rebounded from his last disastrous outing and got through the 8th inning with no damage. In the 9th, rookie David Herndon pitched and things got hairy with a few base runners. But Herdon worked through it and the Phillies won, 8-3.
There was a bit of bad news today before the game began; pitcher JA Happ has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 16th. The left forearm strain that was revealed after an MRI is apparently a bigger issue than the Phillies first anticipated. Nelson Figueroa will take Happ’s place in the starting rotation for now and his spot in the bullpen will be taken over by JC Romero, who was removed from the DL today. Welcome back, JC! We missed you!
So it is a bit of good news with a bit of bad news. As for 3rd baseman, Placido Polanco, he was left out of the line-up tonight after being hit by a pitch in the elbow yesterday. Polanco told the media today that he should be ready to play again tomorrow night. Assuming this is the case, that is very good news. Losing another starter right now could be a small disaster.
And yes, it is already that time again…All Star Voting. Why they start this so early in the season always puzzles me, but nonetheless, VOTING began yesterday. Let’s get a head start; VOTE for your Phillies today!
And Happy Earth Day everyone! Remember to recycle and conserve energy…for Phillies fans, that might mean drinking a beer from a recycled can and lazing on the couch to conserve energy. But hey, every little bit helps. :O)
Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
On behalf of Cole Hamels, can I get a collective “Arrgghhhh!” please? Thank you. This poor guy pitched like a real ace today against the Marlins and has nothing to show for it. His first two outings this year stunk, but the offense scored 8 and 7 runs for him, respectively. Today, Hamels allowed just 2 runs over 8 innings, striking out 8 batters and did not issue any walks. And this game, he loses by a score of 0-2. Ugh.
There were a few moments in the game where it looked like Hamels may revert to his 2009 ways and lose his cool. The home run to Dan Uggla in the 2nd inning was one, but he just kept on pitching as if it did not happen. The second instance was huge; with no outs in the 3rd, the inning began with a double to centerfield from the Marlins pitcher. Allowing hits to the opposing pitcher, especially extra base hits, is usually the one thing you can count on to mess with a pitchers head. But instead, Hamels struck out the next 2 batters and got the 3rd on a ground ball. Bravo, Cole! This is the guy we had all been missing.
But even after the huge effort put forth by Hamels, the offense came up with a great big ZERO. The Phillies had opportunities, including 3 walks in the 2nd inning to Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz, but they still failed to score. Incidentally, those same 3 players accounted for 3 of the 4 Phillies hits tonight. The 4th was Placido Polanco. So while Charlie Manuel apparently took my hint yesterday about player Francisco in place of Raul Ibanez, Francisco’s walk and double were wasted by those who batted after him.
Here are a few photos from the game:
In that same 2nd inning, Werth could have scored on the fly out by Juan Castro but did not. He tagged up and started to run from third base, but for some reason he stopped and went back. With Werth’s speed, he had a chance to make it. Plus, there were 2 outs in the inning and the pitcher, Hamels, was due up next. It was worth the risk. And as luck would have it, the throw home sailed past the catcher, meaning Werth would have scored easily. Another wasted opportunity.
For their final chance in the 9th, three pinch hitters were sent in; Ross Gload, Ibanez and Greg Dobbs all went down without a fight, faster than fans could run to the parking lot. And there you have it; the Phillies first shut-out of the year and first lost series of the year. They are now only ½ game in front of the Marlins for first place.
The Phillies have the day off tomorrow to collect themselves, but more bad news may be on the horizon. JA Happ is suffering from a sore forearm and his scheduled Wednesday start is uncertain as a result. They are already missing Joe Blanton from the rotation; if Happ is forced to the DL as well, the Phillies may be in big trouble. Nelson Figueroa can probably fill in as a starter, but the pitching is starting to look awfully thin. Please think Happ-Y thoughts this week and perhaps we can all will him to health :O) It is worth a shot…
So, here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, which includes the always entertaining Phanatic Birthday celebration. Check out the stuffed Clam, Clammy Sosa, eating and then spitting out an umpire…classic.
Photos by Jenn
The second game in the series against the Nationals tonight did not start out well. It was Kyle Kendrick’s second start this year; both starts have been against these Nats. In his first start, he got beat up pretty good. Tonight, the Nats completely destroyed him.
Kendrick gave up 3 runs right away in the 1st inning but in the bottom of that same inning, the Phillies bats bailed him out with 4 runs to take the lead. So what does Kendrick do in the 2nd inning? He gave up 3 more runs and handed the lead right back. Kendrick was pulled after only 1 2/3 innings and his ERA soared to a shocking 17.47.
The most disturbing part of Kendrick’s start to the season is that both outings were against the Nationals, probably the worst team in the league. So I have to ask, where is the Kendrick from February and March who gave up only 2 runs in all of spring training? You may have an easier time finding that pesky Waldo then finding the Kendrick of spring. Oh wait, I see him…he is being charcoaled on the grill…
But the Nationals could not keep this team down; the Phils took that 2nd inning lead right back from the Nats in their half of the inning, scoring 3 more runs to make it a 7-6 game. Nelson Figueroa did a great job filling in as the long man, allowing just 1 run in his 3 1/3 innings. The Phillies bats scored a bunch more runs for him too, lining Figueroa up to be the winning pitcher. Figueroa went 2 for 2 at the plate as well, with a single and a double. Chad Durbin pitched 2 scoreless innings after that and Antonio Bastardo took over in the 8th. David Herndon finished off the 9th; in all, the pen allowed just the one run.
A few of the offensive highlight tonight included 4 hits and 5 RBI from Shane Victorino, who had been struggling at the plate until tonight. His 7th inning bases clearing, 3-run triple was just what everyone had been waiting to see. Victorino is batting lead-off now that Jimmy Rollins is on the DL with a calf strain. J-Roll’s recovery time may be anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
While J-Roll will be sorely missed, the offense did not skip a beat without him tonight. Wilson Valdez was called up to fill the bench spot. Juan Castro should do a fine job filling in at shortstop in the meantime, even if his bat is not very impressive; he went 0-4 tonight at the plate.
But the rest of the team is hitting, so all is well. Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard had 2 hits each and Chase Utley hit 2 home runs in the game; one was a 3-run homer in the 2nd to give the lead back to the Phils and the other was a solo shot into the second deck of right field. Utley looked more like he was wielding a sledgehammer than a bat.
So the Phillies walk away with a 14-7 win and still have only had one game this year where they scored fewer than 5 runs in a game. Tomorrow at 3:05pm, JA Happ will start. Roy Halladay’s first home start has been moved up to Friday to keep him on his normal rest schedule after Tuesday’s day off. Jamie Moyer will pitch on Saturday.
Photos by Jenn