In the first inning of today’s Phillies – Pirates match-up, Chase Utley hit a solo home run off Paul Maholm; it was the first homer hit off the Pirate by a lefty all season. But after that, you may as well have taken a long nap because pretty much nothing happened all game until the 9th inning. I did come up with a few ways to pass the time though:
– Note all the different facial expressions Cole Hamels made each time a ball was called that he felt was a strike.
– Debate who is hotter: Utley or the poor guy in the Parrot/Pirate costume.
– Count the smudges on my TV screen
– Explain to my cat what a balk is
– Wonder why the cat wandered off mid-explanation
– Make a loud clicking noise with my tongue until I have annoyed myself
But it was actually a relief to see Cole Hamels have a boring game; boring is a nice change of pace for the lefty who has been pummeled all season-long. Tonight, Cole pitched 8 strong innings of scoreless baseball. He gave up 7 hits and 2 walks, but worked out of jams with relative ease. Is the old Hamels back? That remains to be seen, but this was certainly a good sign.
The Phillies had a rally going in the 9th inning, but again failed to score as Pedro Feliz decided that balls in the dirt were looking pretty good. So, with Brad Lidge on ice after 4 straight games and a disaster last night, Ryan Madson was given the nod to save the game. But while the Curse of Billy Penn seems to be over, the Curse of the Bullpen is not. This time it was Madson’s turn to BLOW the save! AAARRRGGGGHHHHH! A solo homer tied the game and sent it onto extra innings.
But luckily, Ryan Howard was having none of that; he blasted a 3-run shot in the 10th to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. And then Madson was given a second chance to redeem himself. Pitching the bottom of the 10th inning, Madson did allow a lead-off hit, which he replied to with various forms of the “F” word and other assorted expletives. But after that, he got the three outs he needed and the Phillies won. Hamels did not get the win as a result of the blown save, which was the real shame of it, but a win is a win :O)
One more game with the Bucos! JA Happ will take the mound tomorrow at 7:05pm and try to make us all Happ-Y!
Photo by Jenn
Even though there is still a lot of baseball left to play, JA Happ is definitely making a case for Rookie of the Year. Tonight, he took the Phillies through 7 solid innings of 1 run ball. This win gives him a record of 10-2 on the year plus an outstanding ERA of 2.59. Happ is the first rookie of the year to reach 10 wins even after starting his year in the bullpen – amazing. If I could reach through the TV and bear hug him, I totally would. He has made a lot of Phillies fan very, very Happ-Y this year!
Chase Utley added to the happiness in the 6th inning when he finally got the Phillies on the board with a 2-run homer. Until that moment, the offense was shut down by Tim Redding of the Mets in his 5 innings of work; Redding is a very below average pitcher but every time he faces the Phillies, he looks like a Cy Young candidate. Thank goodness Redding is old and can’t get much past 5 innings, because he is a Phillies nightmare.
After the Utley bomb, Raul Ibanez and Pedro Feliz went back to back with doubles to score one more run. The final RBI came off a sac fly from Carlos Ruiz.
Hoping for a small amount of redemption, Brad Lidge was given yet another save opportunity in the 9th inning. He struck out the first batter he faced to notch his 700th career strikeout, and get off to a good start. The next batter grounded out and the final batter struck out for #701. That’s right Phillies fans – Lidge saved a game and did it without a base runner! Is this a sign of things to come? Let us hope so.
We now go from 2 night games with the Mets in which the Phillies are 1-1, to 2 day games starting tomorrow at 1:10pm. Pedro Martinez will face his old team for the first time and face Oliver Perez of the Mets. After Martinez had a rain shortened outing his last time out, this is going to be a big game for him on a number of levels. Good luck to him!
Happ photo by Jenn
The Phillies lost the first of a 4-game series with the lowly Mets last night behind another sad performance from Cole Hamels. No one knows where the real Hamels is hiding, but I hope someone finds him quickly because this imposter is just not working out. Hamels got roughed up by a Mets team that is so bad, they resemble a minor league ball club. Ten hits, 4 runs and 5 innings later, his night was done.
Hamels has been so bad lately that he is making the pitcher’s mound look like a crime scene. Can someone please call CSI and ask them to dust for prints so we can get rid of this Hamels look-alike? In four starts this month, the imposter Hamels is sporting a 6.75 ERA and a sickening record of 0-3. Quite obviously, there is foul play involved. Arrest this criminal and bring us back the real Cole!
The offense must sense the treachery because they are now refusing to bail out this fake Hamels. Chase Utley went 2 for 4 with a walk and was also hit by a pitch, but still he refused to collect any RBI’s to help out! Jimmy Rollins had two hits as well, but if you thought he was going to step anywhere near home plate, think again. Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz accidentally fell into one RBI each, but they soon realized the error of their ways and that ended the scoring. With 11 men left on base, it is clear this team will not support an imposter!
So until the real Hamels is found, we had all better start rooting for the other 4 starting pitchers. JA Happ will take the mound tonight at 7:10pm so the investigation will have to be postponed for now. But the Phillies need to hire a detective and solve this mystery soon! We are all waiting impatiently.
Hamels photo by Jenn
After four amazing starts for his new team, all of Philadelphia is in love with Cliff Lee. At this point, the man can do no wrong. Lee could start smacking babies and rather than be outraged, the parents would thank him for keeping their kid in line. He is that popular. Having seen in person three of those first four starts, I can see why.
Last night, Lee did it all…again. He pitched a complete game and did not give up an earned run. The only run of the game was unearned due to a Pedro Feliz error. Into the 6th inning, Lee was working a no-hitter when a D-Back finally got lucky and shot one up the middle. But by the end of the game, Lee had given away only 2 hits, no walks and struck out 11 batters. UnbeLEEvable!
And as if that were not enough, Lee went 2 for 4 at the plate and even scored a run. He is now hitting .278. The first hit was a solid shot up the middle and second was a swinging bunt that rolled up the third base line and stayed fair as it hit the bag. The only feat he failed to execute was a stolen base; instead, he executed D-Back hitters all night long.
But Lee was not the only story of the night; the Phillies offense beat up All-Star pitcher Dan Haren to the tune of 9 hits and 6 earned runs in only 5 innings. D-Backs relief pitchers allowed 2 more runs for a final score of 8-1. Chase Utley stared the charge by knocking a 2-run homer in the 3rd inning. Incidentally, Utley hits a home run nearly every time I am at a game…coincidence? Hmmmmm….
Utley’s blast seemed to rattle Haren and after that, the real fun began. In the 5th inning, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth went back to back; Howard knocked in 3 runs with his homer and Werth then took the first pitch he saw deep for a 420-foot homer. Werth is on fire right now; he hit another solo shot later in the game and ended up with 3 hits, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.
Here is the full Photo Album from the game last night, including batting practice shots. Tonight, the Phillies will go for the sweep of the Diamondbacks at 7:05pm.
Photos by Jenn
Lidge saved a game? Whew! Please excuse my sarcasm…Brad Lidge, who has been just awful this year, saved a very close game tonight. With 2 men on base, Lidge got the final batter out on a long fly ball to left field. Another nail biter, but the 3-2 win over the Braves is ultimately what counts.
Shane Victorino had an interesting game as well. While Victorino only had 1 hit in the game and popped up with 1 out and a man on third, he made up for offensive outage with 2 amazing catches in deep centerfield. On the first one, he jumped in the air and shot backwards into the outfield wall as he saved an extra base hit. The second one was equally impressive as he caught the ball behind him while running at full speed. Nice job Shane! Those two grabs absolutely saved the game for the Phillies.
The only real offense in the game was a 2-run homer from Chase Utley in the 4th inning to tie the game up. After that, things got eerily quiet for a long time. But Ryan Howard broke the silence, and the tie, with a solo home run to lead off the 8th inning. That turned out to be all the Phillies needed.
But the pitching was the real story; Joe Blanton continues to amaze as he went 7 strong innings with only 1 earned run allowed. The other run was unearned after a Pedro Feliz error at third base, his 11th error of the year. Ryan Madson pitched the 8th and only needed 6 pitches to silence the Braves. And you already know how Lidge did.
But frankly, Lidge is still a BIG concern for this team. He cannot get through an inning without base runners and without getting hit hard. He got out of it tonight, but again, it was not pretty. With 7 blown saves on the season and the highest ERA among NL closers, Lidge makes everyone’s tummy turn.
But all is well that ends well and this one did just that. The Phillies have a huge opportunity here to BURY the Braves and end their season if they can get at least 2 out of 3 in this series. The battle continues tomorrow at 4:00pm. Go Phillies!
Photo by Jenn
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then God said, Let there be Lee: and so Lee was deposited into the lap of the Phillies. And God saw Lee, and it was good. Then on the seventh day, he created a sweep of the Cubs; and it was also good. He then rested and boarded a flight to Atlanta…
A little Biblical humor for you; however, I am sure the Cubs saw nothing funny about the 3-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies. Cliff Lee, who may indeed be a gift from the heavens, pitched 8 full innings of 1 run ball in the finale this afternoon. And just to put an exclamation point on the win, he struck out 8 batters and went 1 for 3 at the plate with a double; it was Lee’s 2nd double as a Phillie. In fact, Lee now has 3 hits as a Phillie and has given up a total of only 3 runs in 24 innings pitched. Stick a halo on the man’s head – he is officially an angel.
The bats continued their bid for sainthood today as well; even Ryan Howard has been resurrected and is beginning to hit again. Today, Howard went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI on a home run in the 4th inning. And after showing off his new speedy moves yesterday when he hit a triple, today he continued to amaze as he stole a base. Howard’s 5th stolen base of the year is a career high for him, and an impressive sight to behold from such a large and cumbersome looking man.
Pedro Feliz looked like he had his bat blessed by a higher power as well; Feliz had 3 hits in the game and 2 RBI, including a solo homer. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino had 2 hits each and are now hitting .299 and .311 respectively.
Can the Phillies offense continue to perform like they are playing on hallowed ground? A trip to Atlanta will give us the answer. Tomorrow night Joe Blanton will face the man named after a lotion, Jair Jurrjens (or is it Jergens?), who is a slippery opponent and generally, the Phillies hate facing him. The weekend series begins at 7:30pm. Go Phillies!
Lee photo by Jenn
So much for the presence of Cliff Lee taking some of the pressure off Cole Hamels; you can officially take that theory and flush it down the toilet. And down the toilet is exactly where this four game series went today as Hamels was destroyed by the Giants in a 7-3 loss. The Phillies lost 3 of 4 here in the city by the bay.
It all began to unravel in the 5th inning when, with 2 outs in the inning, Giants pitcher Barry Zito nubbed a good luck broken bat single up the middle. Instead of taking it for what it was, a stroke of luck, Hamels let the hit get into his head and chaos ensued. 3 runs later, the Giants moved onto the 6th inning with Hamels still annoyed about the previous disaster and 3 more runs scored in that next inning.
Hamels is looking more and more like a mental patient on the mound instead of an MVP. Can someone please call Dr. Phil? This guy needs a serious sit down. It does not matter how good a pitchers arm is; if he cannot handle the pressure, he will crack. And Hamels is cracking to the point of breaking. Let me ask you this; when Pedro Martinez arrives and one of the starters is going to get bumped to the bullpen, can the Phillies justify doing this to JA Happ when he has outpitched Hamels?
Think I am nuts? Look at the numbers: Hamels has a 7-6 record with a 4.68 ERA. Happ, in 17 fewer innings due to a season start in the pen, has a record of 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA. Hamels is averaging 5 2/3 innings pitched per game for the season; Happ is averaging 6 2/3 in his last 10 starts (could not use games he pitched from the pen, so went with last 10) and therefore, going deeper into games.
Is Cole the staff “ace”? Supposedly. And there is no denying the job he did last season. But why hurt the team while he gets his head on straight? Brett Myers knew that was the wrong thing to do last year when he accepted a minor league assignment in order to straighten himself out. Will Hamels ever follow suit? That is doubtful. Then it is up to the manager to make the decision for him. I am not saying he should be demoted to the minors, but Hamels needs to show this team that he can handle pressure and adjust in tight situations. If he cannot turn things around, I think a “spanking” of some sort is in order here.
And there is my Hamels rant for the day. The rest of the team did not do much this series to help out either. The offense was lacking and defense was sloppy, as evidenced by a Ryan Howard goof today that cost the team another run. In fact, the biggest hit of the day, besides a Jimmy Rollins solo shot, was a double off the bat of Eric Bruntlett that went deep into left field. When the standout star of the day is Eric “I am batting below .150” Bruntlett, you know it is going to be a very bad day.
But tomorrow is another day and the Phillies are still in first place. A three game series with the Rockies may be just what the doctor ordered Tuesday night beginning at 7:05pm.
I will be taking a tour of AT & T Park tomorrow morning and flying home tomorrow evening. I hope to post a review of San Francisco, both the city and the ballpark, sometime on Tuesday. I will also be posting a Photo Album from the entire West Coast trip and all 4 games with the Giants. For now, let’s see if the Phillies return home can spark some offense! Go Phillies!
Photos by Jenn