Tagged: Pirates

No Doubt, Chase Utley Has Returned!

Chase Utley is back!  Even better, he is healthy and looks like the All-Star player we have known him to be.  Utley announced his return in his first at-bat of the year with a huge bang.  His fairy tale comeback began with a monster home run to center on a 2-2 count amidst 45,000 fans cheering wildly.

The ballpark exploded with joy from the upper levels down to the dugout where teammates showered Utley with man-hugs, high fives and ear-to-ear grins.  It appears the Chutley magic has returned!

As if that moment were not amazing enough, Carlos Ruiz made it even more special with another home run right after Utley’s and while the crowd was still celebrating the first one.  This had to be sign of better things to come for the Phillies.  For one inning, it felt as if the world was right again.

In honor of Utley’s amazing comeback, here is a montage of some of my favorite photos I have taken of him over the years:

Three cheers for Chase!  And 3 hits as well; Utley went 3-for-5 in his first game of the season.

But the elation of the moment was soon squashed by the Phillies dreadful bullpen, which ruined the day.  Short a starter because of the rain-out last weekend, the Phils were stuck with a bullpen game.  Raul Valdes started and, in the 1st inning, things looked promising.  But by the 2nd, things began to unravel quickly.

Valdes allowed a 3 run homer with 2 outs and the pitcher on deck.  Joe Savery took over in the 3rd and managed one clean inning before things got much worse.  He ended up with 5 runs allowed, two of which scored after Michael Schwimer took over with 2 outs in the 5th.  Savery was sent back to the minors after the game.

But the drama did not end there.  The Phillies actually mounted a comeback and cut the 8-2 deficit to 8-7 by the 7th inning.  It looked like they might actually still have a shot to win, which along with Utley’s return, would have been a massive boost for this team.

But the bullpen even managed to ruin that possibility.  That’s right…Chad Qualls strikes again.  Only he hardly threw any strikes.  Once he walked the first batter, it was clear that a large load of crap was about to hit the fan…again.  Sure enough, Qualls gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run homer.  That handed the Pirates an 11-7 win.

So we are left with three cheers for Chase and about three-hundred boo’s for the bullpen.  If this pen sucked any worse, it would be a little league pen.  Folks, this is BAD.  If the Phillies do not find some better arms soon, it won’t matter how many 3-for-5 games Utley has.  And I am pretty sure that Brian Sanches, called up in place of Savery, is not the answer.

Ryan Howard is starting a rehab assignment today, which should have him back with the team at least after the All-Star break.  But again, the Phillies still need a more solidified bullpen if he is going to be able to make an impact.

The final game of this series begins early, at 1:05pm.  Kyle Kendrick, who has been basically dreadful of late, is starting.  Cross all your fingers and toes that he snaps out of whatever funk he is in so the Phillies can win this 4-game series!

UPDATE: Chad Qualls is outta here!  The Phillies cut him today (“designated for assignment”) after many disasterous pitching efforts.  Excuse me for a moment while I do the happy dance…  Ok, I am back.  Filling his spot will be lefty Jeremy Horst, a rookie aquired in the Wilson Valdez trade.  I do not know much about him except he posted a 2.11 ERA in 26 games in Triple-A and he has to be better than Qualls.  We shall see…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Chooch Leads Phillies to a Big Win

If someone had told me that by the end of June this season, Carlos Ruiz would be leading all of baseball in batting average, I may have checked to see if that person was running a fever.  Chooch has always been a good player; but he has never been .361 with 10 home runs-good.  The 10 homers, including one in last night’s 5-4 win over the Pirates, is a career high.  And it is only June…

So yes, Chooch leads everyone in batting average with .361.  That is better than past MVP’s Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton.  Ruiz has also outhit fellow catchers and All-Star voting leaders Yadier Molina and Brian McCann. Soooooo….VOTE FOR CHOOCH!  We have until Thursday to get him to the All-Star game!

But even if that fails, manager Charlie Manuel told reporters yesterday that he plans on calling Tony La Russa, the NL All-Star team manager, to plead the case for Chooch.  Manuel always sticks up for his players, but especially in this case, Ruiz really deserves the honor.

Chooch put his stamp all over last night’s win.  He went 3-for-4 with a homer and 2 RBI.  And while catching, Ruiz saved two runs from scoring by blocking the plate and tagging out the runners.

The biggest of those plays came in the 7th inning after starter Vance Worley got into a real jam.  With no outs, 2 runners on base and 1 run already across, Worley was removed and rookie Michael Schwimer took over.  Schwimer coaxed a ground out and then a short fly ball to left.  One the fly ball, John Mayberry Jr. made a great throw home, which Ruiz caught and tagged the runner for an inning-ending double play.

That play kept the Phillies lead intact and Chooch’s subsequent homer added to that lead.  The home run he hit in the 8th turned out to be a game saver as closer Jonathan Papelbon struggled in the 9th, allowing a solo homer.  But the Ruiz blast made the difference in the 5-4 win.

The Phillies have now won 2 of the first 4 games against the Pirates, which is great news; because tonight’s 7:05pm game is going to be started and finished by the Phillies bullpen.  The rainout on Friday forced a juggling of the pitching staff, leaving them 1 starter short this week.  So Raul Valdes will start the game and likely pitch 3 innings, passing the ball on to the rest of the pen after that.

And while you are watching the game, do not forget to VOTE FOR CHOOCH!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

How the Phillies Spell Relief: P-I-R-A-T-E-S

After a dreadful Sunday during which the Phillies lost two games to the Rays in spectacularly bad fashion, this team needed a break.  And that break came in the form of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  How do you spell relief?  P-I-R-A-T-E-S!

The 8-3 win was a welcome sight, even if it did come at the expense of what appeared to be a little league team.  Thankfully though, the Bucos took the pounding like men and no tears were shed.

The first inning set the tone as the Pirates fielders tossed the baseball all over the place, as if they were blindfolded at a child’s birthday party while trying to whack a piñata.  The ball bounced all around, smacking dirt, bases and the infield walls.  Still, no candy prizes fell from the sky.  Instead, the Pirates were given 3 errors in the inning, which lead to a 4-0 lead for the Phillies.

The party continued for the Phillies offense, which exploded for 4 more runs.  Jimmy Rollins nailed a home run to right that nearly made it to the second deck of seats.  Carlos Ruiz continued his All-Star campaign, going 3-for-5 and 3 other Phils had a multi-hit night.  This was apparently the precursor to the post-game fireworks that were planned.

On the downside, the Phillies are still struggling with runners in scoring position.  They loaded the bases with no outs in the 7th and only managed one run, which resulted from a walk to Ty Wigginton.  The next 3 batters all struck out.

Starting the game, Joe Blanton pitched pretty well.  He went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 of which were earned.  But still, in the 8th inning, after the offense failed to add on in the 7th, you could feel the doubt in the air as the bullpen took over.  Could a 5 run lead really not be sufficient here?

It was enough on this day.  But in the past, that has very often not been the case for this team.  And this fact still leaves Phillies fans anxious about what might happen in a similar situation the next time.

The Pirates are a bad team that the Phillies should really beat up on over the next 3 games.  If they can manage to do that, there may be hope for this team yet.

Speaking of hope, it looks like Chase Utley should be back with the team on Wednesday.  He is playing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley tonight.  I will temper my enthusiasm until I see it for myself…

In the meantime, game 2 with the Pirates begins tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Double Disaster as Phillies Lose Two Against the Rays

The Phillies managed to spend only one day out of the basement in the NL East after Saturday’s win.  But Sunday’s twin killing against the Rays propelled them right back to where they apparently belong; in last place.  When your two best starters are pitching and you still lose both games, things have clearly gone very, very wrong.

In the first game, Cole Hamels was practically unhittable.  He did not allow a run over 7 innings and gave up only 3 hits.

Leaving the game with a 1-0 lead, the bullpen was going to have to pitch 2 clean innings.  And as you probably already know, that did not happen.

I try not to say too much about how Charlie Manuel handles this team.  Because frankly, what he has been given to work with is on par with a minor league team.  But after Antonio Bastardo walked 2 batters in the 8th with just a 1-run lead, he should not have been allowed to continue.  Bastardo was awful the day before and clearly, he still has not found proper command of his pitches.  So why then is he left in to pitch to Carlos Pena?

Apparently, he was left in to clear the bases for the next pitcher as he gave up a 3-run homer to Pena.  I saw that coming, as did everyone in my section screaming, “Take him out!”  But Manuel puts blind faith in these guys even when it has become obvious to everyone else that the leash has gotten far too long.

Then again, look at the players Manuel has to choose from.  The pickings are slim.  This bullpen just sucks, so in that regard, it is still hard to blame the manager.  I still don’t agree with the decision to leave Bastardo in, but I am also glad I was not the one having to make that decision.

And then in the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, Manuel left Michael Martinez in to bat instead of pinch hitting.  Martinez is hitting .133 and could not hit the broad side of a barn right now.  After the game, Manuel told the media that neither Juan Pierre nor Mike Fontenot were hitting lefties well, so he left Martinez in.  The issue with that is, Martinez is not hitting ANYONE right now.

Angry at the media for asking, Manuel suggested the reporters should tweet him with their in-game decisions saying, “You guys can float the information down there to me, being as I ain’t smart enough to get it.”  Oh my…

Here are a few other random shots from the 1st game, which the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2.

In game 2, Cliff Lee basically squashed any shot he may have had at his first win of the season by allowing 5 runs over 7 innings.  His last 3 starts have been awful.  Where did our ace go?

Perhaps the strain of not having a win has finally stolen whatever small amount of sanity he had left?   No one really knows what is going on here.

Placido Polanco tried to get this team going.  He went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk.  John Mayberry Jr. also had a big hit and an RBI.  And it was apparently “opposite day” for Hunter Pence who drew 3 walks in the game.

But the offense literally ended there.  The Phillies managed only 4 hits and left 6 men on base.

And just so Lee did not feel singled out in this one, some of the rookie pitchers decided to help out with 5 walks, a wild pitch and 2 more runs for the Rays in one inning.  It looks like B.J. Rosenberg’s major league career may be over before it began.  He was responsible for all that damage except 1 of the walks.

Adding insult to injury, catcher Brian Schneider was leveled at home plate by Sean Rodriguez coming in to score.  He left the game with a sprained ankle.  Later, Pence almost took out the Rays catcher in a weird semi-collision with Jose Molina’s outstretched leg.

Schneider is now on the DL and the Phillies went down for the count in a 7-3 loss.

Here are the Photo Albums from both games: Game 1: Hamels start, Game 2: Lee start.

The Pirates come to town next for a 4-game series starting tonight at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Offense: Here We Go Again…??

The Phillies anorexic offense has gotten off to a seriously slim start during the first two games of 2012.  After a 1-0 win in the opener against the Pirates, the Phillies again scored only one run in Game #2 through 10 innings.

The only run starter Cliff Lee allowed was on a rare wild pitch in the 6th inning.  Lee looked a little uncomfortable most of the game, however, he managed to hold his ground.

But while Lee clawed his way through the Pirates line-up, the Phillies offense was mostly absent.  Hunter Pence collected the lone RBI with a single in the first inning to score Shane Victorino.

Throughout the game though, you could not help but expect to see that “magic” moment occur to get the Phils over the hump.  Freddy Galvis is still waiting for his first major league hit; wouldn’t it be great if that happened at a key moment to put the Phillies ahead?  And Jim Thome stepped in as a pinch hitter late in the game; you thought, surely our old friend can conjure something special in his 1st official at-bat as a Phillie again.

But sadly, the magic never appeared.  And so on to extra innings they went…

Joe Blanton, who started Monday’s exhibition game, was called on in the 10th and immediately got into trouble.  He gave up a double to Phillie-killer Rod Barajas that missed going over the outfield wall by about an inch.  And just a few batters later, a single knocked in the winning run.

While it is only two games into the season, these two games are still cause for concern.  Not panic…just worrisome.  Because this is essentially a carry-over from last year where the Phillies offense regularly stunk up the ballpark.

In addition, having 3 ace pitchers will do them no good if they need those 3 guys to toss a shut-out every time.  That whole pitching staff has to thinking already, “Oh no, here we go again…”  And many fans are thinking the exact same thing right now.

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Phillies Opening Day: One Game, One Win

In the 10th straight opening day start of his career, Roy Halladay was nearly perfect.  Through 8 innings against the Pirates, he allowed only 2 hits, both of which came in the 1st inning.  After the 1st, he was unhittable.

And it is a very good thing, too.  Because the Phillies offense got off to a bit of a slow start with a few exceptions.  Carlos Ruiz went 3 for 3 and drove in the only run of the game in the 7th inning.  John Mayberry Jr.  help set up Chooch with 2 hits and made several key plays in left field.

The only other offense was a bunt single from Jimmy Rollins and a single from Mr. Fantastic himself, Halladay.  There was little else the Phils could have asked from Halladay today.

The sad story of the day was rookie Freddy Galvis.  In his first major league game, Galvis started his career with 2 straight double play balls.  His third at-bat would have been a double play as well if there had been a runner on 1st at the time and less than two outs.  For the finale, Galvis struck out.

It was not pretty, but give the rookie some time.  Hopefully, he will bounce back in game 2.

Not wanting to drain his ace too early, manager Charlie Manuel pulled Halladay after the 8th and gave their new closer a shot in the 9th.  Jonathan Papelbon was as advertised.  He reached 95 on the gun and sent the Bucos down in order.

The Phillies sauntered off with a slim 1-0 win over the Pirates.  If this is any indication of the season to come, hang on Phillies fans, it is going to be a nail-biting 161 games remaining!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

John Bowker Hits the Baseball Lottery

After two dismal years from 2008 – 2009 in San Francisco, John Bowker was traded halfway through 2010 to the Pirates.  Yes, just as the Giants were heading towards a World Series win, Bowker got dumped.

And while he still technically qualified for a ring, Bowker sat at home last October watching his old team win it all without him.  That had to suck.

This year, Bowker spent a little time with the Pirates and a lot of time in the minors.  A lifetime .237 hitter, even the lowly, fourth place Pirates finally decided they did not want him anymore.  Bowker was designated for assignment on Thursday.

But then a miracle occurred.  One day before the end of August with only a month left in the regular season, John Bowker won the lottery.  And oddly enough, he has the Phillies to thank.

To recap, Bowker got sent away from a World Series-bound team in 2010, dumped by one of the worst teams in baseball in 2011 and now, by some weird act of God, he has landed a spot with a playoff-bound team, the Phillies.

Some guys have all the luck.

The Phillies apparently acquired Bowker as an extra left-hander off the bench.  Why, I am not quite sure.  Maybe they lost a bet?  Or with all the success this year, perhaps they were in a charitable mood.

But seriously, Bowker had a nice run in Triple-A this year so I am sure the Phillies are hoping he can feed off that success and contribute to a World Series run.

So welcome to Philly, Mr. Bowker!  You still cannot believe your luck, can you?  Don’t worry; it will all sink in right about the beginning of October.

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*