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
In game 3 of this Phillies – Nationals series, the playoff-bound Phils looked very relaxed. Joe Blanton pitched 7 fairly easy innings allowing only 3 hits and one unearned run. Blanton probably will not get much playing time in the NLDS as the rotation is set up to include only Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. So this was a good outing for Blanton to end the regular season with; his final record is 9-6 with a 4.74 ERA.
A barrage of home runs from the Phillies bench players helped Blanton out tonight. Taking full advantage of extra playing time, Ben Francisco smashed two home runs and went 3 for 4 at the plate with 3 RBI. John Mayberry Jr. also had a big night with a 3-run homer and a single. Mayberry made vast improvements in AAA this year and is now hitting both right and left handed pitching well.
Also joining the home run party was Mike Sweeney; he whacked a long ball to left center in the 2nd. He and Francisco went back to back that inning. And you know what a Sweeney home run means…HUGS for everyone! If you do not know what I mean, check out my “I Want A Hug From Mike Sweeney” Facebook page.
I love watching this guy play; he has brought an exuberance to this team that is rarely seen. It will be a joy to see him in the playoffs, finally, after 16 years in the majors.
Catcher Paul Hoover also got some playing time, but went 0 for 4 at the plate. Regulars like Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Wilson Valdez (a regular due to many injuries) all went hitless. But Greg Dobbs bounced back after a bad game yesterday and had 2 hits. The best pinch hitter in the National League in 2008, Dobbs has suffered a very bad season this year. Maybe this extra playing time will snap him out of the funk.
The Phillies went on to win the game by a score of 7-1, giving them a record of 95-64, which will either be the best record in baseball or very close to tied for the best after all the games are done tonight. The Phils are off tomorrow and will return on Friday. The remaining 3 games will be in Atlanta where the Braves are still battling for the Wild Card spot.
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
For the fourth consecutive year, the Philadelphia Phillies have won the National League East title. It is the first time they have won 4 straight in Phillies history. They also currently hold the best record in the league with a record of 94-63. Roy Halladay took the mound tonight at Nationals Park in search of his 21st win of the year; he got that win plus his first division title and will play in the postseason for the first time in his 13-year career.
Not only that, but Halladay accomplished the feat by pitching a complete game shut-out against the Nats. Halladay only allowed 2 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 6. He even avoided having his head chopped off by a wild pitch while batting in the 9th. The bat saved him as the ball ricocheted off it.
The offense early on was provided mostly by Jayson Werth. Werth homered in the 2nd and then drove in 2 more runs with a double in the 6th. Carlos Ruiz then doubled Werth home to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead over the Nats. But the real explosion came in the 9th where they scored 4 more runs, all with 2 outs in the inning. Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Werth all collected RBI’s in the 9th.
The bottom of the 9th went by quickly as Halladay knocked the Nats down to clinch the division. He hesitated for a moment before celebrating after the final out; either he was soaking it in, or he was just not sure it was really happening. After the game, Halladay told Gary Matthews, “It was fun but it’s only going to get funner.” Halladay is amazing…he is totally allowed to make up his own word ;o)
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NL EAST CHAMPION PHILLIES!!
By the way, many Phillies fans have been wondering, where is J-Roll?
Manager Charlie Manuel has said a few times this week that we are going to see a start from Jimmy Rollins who has been nursing a hamstring injury. He finally pinch hit on Sunday but was supposed to start today and did not due to “rain.” Yes, they are being so careful with J-Roll that he cannot play in rain. Is he made of china or is this just extreme precaution? Or perhaps he has been kidnapped, trapped under a heavy object or tied up with Duct tape? Hmmm…. Manuel says now he will start tomorrow…we shall see.
With the division all tied up, not only should Rollins get some playing time, but expect to see many bench players getting tuned up for the playoffs while the regulars get some rest. The Phils have 2 more games in DC and 3 in Atlanta. Tomorrow’s game time is 7:05pm. In the meantime, pop the champagne…time to celebrate!
My day at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies final home game today against the Mets started off a bit dreary. It was rainy and cold. But soon after entering the park, two Phillies players walked right past me; Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. I said, “Hey Dom Brown!” and he said hello back and waved. I then proceeded to follow them through the park. They stopped at the first base gate and began handing out rally towels to fans coming through the turnstiles as part of the Fan Appreciation Day surprises.
Once the crowd died down and Brown looked bored, I asked an usher if I could go up close and take a photo. He said I could so I walked over, said hi and asked Brown to take a photo with me.
I held up the camera and pushed the button; as I did, two security guards started yelling at me to stop and go away. I turned my head to see what they were yelling about and the shot to the right is the result. Well, at least we are both in it…lol I thanked Dom as I ran off before I got yelled at some more.
So while that was fun, the rest of the day was not. Cole Hamels did not pitch well and allowed 5 runs over only 4 innings while looking visibly frustrated at both himself and many of the umpires’ ball-strike calls. As a result, there were a lot of pitchers used in the game, including rookie Vance Worley who pitched a scoreless inning:
Down 5-0 in the 5th, things look grim for the Phillies who were getting beat by a very average pitcher in Pat Misch. They finally scored when Chase Utley smashed a 3-run homer. But that was the only highlight of the game as the Phillies went on to leave 9 men on base and were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Defensively, they did at least embarrass Jose Reyes one more time. In all 3 games this series, Reyes was picked off base. Today, he was thrown out at home and also caught stealing third base; Shane Victorino got the assist on the out at home. The Phillies defense also turned one double play while Carlos Ruiz hit into a double play to end a scoring threat in the 4th.
This loss was disappointing on many levels. First, the Braves lost which means, had the Phillies won, they could have clinched the NL East at home and the fans, myself included, would have been able to participate in the celebration.
Also, it was Fan Appreciation Day which means after the game, the players traditionally would toss t-shirts and signed Nerf-like balls into the stands. But since they lost, they all went to the clubhouse instead of thanking the fans who stayed to the end. The ball girls were left to handle the duty. As the bullpen members walked in, a few of them, like Brad Lidge and JC Romero, stopped and helped out the ball girls, which was nice. But overall, it was a very disappointing day and a letdown for the fans.
The good news is, the magic number is now just ONE. So the Phillies only need one more win or one more Braves loss to clinch. Right now, the worst they can do it tie with the Braves for the NL East title.
The Phillies go to DC now for 3 games against the Nats; tomorrow’s game time is 7:05pm and Roy Halladay will pitch. Here is the full Photo Album from the game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Needing only two wins and/or Braves losses to clinch the NL East, the Phillies came out a bit sluggish in tonight’s game against the Mets. Ryan Howard smashed a 2-run homer in the 1st after a Chase Utley single, but after that, not much happened for the offense.
And while Kyle Kendrick did a good job through 6 scoreless innings, he was left in the game too long. The hits started coming for the Mets as Kendrick got tired in the 7th. A mix-up between Utley and Wilson Valdez on a possible double play cost them an out. Then an error by Howard at first loaded the bases with one out. The next batter singled home a run and Kendrick was finally pulled.
Chad Durbin was put in with the bases still loaded in relief of Kendrick. As soon as I saw who was coming in, I knew exactly what would happen next…some sort of bases clearing hit.
How did I know this? The same way the Phillies coaching staff should have known this; Durbin does it all the time with inherited runners. Take a look at the stats for Durbin coming into tonight’s game:
Runners on base
RISP w/2 outs
Notice a trend here? The tighter the situation, the more runs Durbin allows. And I knew that before looking up the stats. Dear Phillies, please STOP putting Durbin in with runners on base! I still love ya, Chad, but clearly, this is not your forte.
So 3 earned runs plus one unearned were charged to Kendrick and Durbin picked up one earned for himself. The offense did not bother to pick up their teammates today and they lost by a score of 5-2.
A win would have ensured a playoff spot. Of course, they can still take care of that tomorrow. What will not be as easy now is clinching the division at home. Tomorrow is the last home game for the Phillies and they will need a win plus a Braves loss to clinch. It could happen. But it is a lot less likely now that they lost tonight.
I will be at the game tomorrow with all my fingers and toes crossed for an NL East celebration. Either way, I will be back with photos. Game time is 1:35pm and Cole Hamels will pitch.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography