Tagged: playoffs

Lee’s Effort Returns Phillies To .500

After a disastrous weekend in Houston, the Phillies managed to crawl back to the .500 mark after a 3-1 win over the Mets on Monday night.  Cliff Lee pitched extremely well, allowing only 1 run over 8 innings.  His strong performance kept the Phillies in the game against tough knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey.

For the offense, Jimmy Rollins is on a serious hot streak.  It seems lately that even when he slips up, luck is on his side.  He struck out in the 1st inning last night to start the game, but wound up being safe at first base anyway on a passed ball.  He eventually scored on a Chase Utley sac fly.  Rollins ended the game with 2 runs scored, a home run and a walk.

The home run was interesting; the ball snuck over the right field wall but appeared for a moment to have dribbled off the glove of outfielder Scott Hairston.  Then without prompting, the umpires decided to review the play and correctly called it a home run.  That is the first time I have seen any MLB umpire voluntarily review a play without first being harassed by a manager.  It is about time.

Domonic Brown provided the other run with a solo shot in the 7th to give the Phillies a little more breathing room.  Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save in the 9th.

This win was a nice lift for the Phillies who remain 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race with 15 games to play.  Realistically, the horrendous Houston weekend probably killed any shot they had at the postseason this year.  So while it is great to see this team playing well, as far as the playoffs, don’t hold your breath.

Game 2 with the Mets is tonight at 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Houston: The Phillies Have Problems

Just in case the Houston Astros were previously unaware, it should be clear today that both teams, especially the Phillies, have serious problems.  What problem could be bigger than being the Astros, the worst team in baseball, you say?  The answer is: Being beaten in 3 out of 4 games by the worst team in baseball.  And all that happened while the Phillies hopes for the postseason continue to quickly dwindle away.

I had said previously that it would take a miracle for the Phillies to make the playoffs this year.  I stand corrected.  It will actually take 3-4 large miracles, including the complete collapse of several other teams in the National League who are ahead of the Phils in the Wild Card race.  Quick, someone call a priest; Last Rights may be in order shortly.  The Phillies are on life support.

Bad plays, errors and walks plus a sporadic offense contributed to the embarrassing losses against the Astros.  Worse, 2 of the 3 losses came against starting pitchers who began each game with an ERA above 5.00, including yesterday’s shut-out loss and today’s 7-6 disaster.

Roy Halladay gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, but the Phillies still had the lead when he left the game.  And then, for what feels like the 1,000th time this year, the bullpen blew it again.  The 4-run 7th for the Astros included an error and 3 walks, one for each Phillies pitcher, although 1 was intentional.

The offense left runners stranded all over the place, 8 in all, while going only 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.  Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits and Ryan Howard picked up 2 RBI, but only after being humiliated by the Astros twice; they intentionally walked Chase Utley twice to get to Howard.

With 15 games remaining, the Phillies cannot afford more than a loss or two until the end of the season.  Plus, they need a lot of other teams to lose as well.  It does not look good, folks.

The Mets are up next.  Game time Monday night is 7:10pm.

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The Phillies Are Optimists

The Phillies have definitely been playing better lately.  They are 3 games back in the race for the 2nd Wild Card spot with 17 games left to play.  And so early this morning, the Phillies decided to send out Postseason ticket invoices to all of their season ticket holders in the hopes of making a run.

I wonder how many fans will actually bite?  Will you or will you not shell out $400-$500 or more for 2-3 playoff tickets that the Phils may or may not play?  If they do not play, the Phillies will kindly keep your money, without accruing interest of course, and apply it towards next year’s season ticket bill.

Today, I am asking myself that very question.  Let us examine the recent evidence.  On Thursday, the Phillies dropped a depressing game to the worst team in baseball.  Many rookies were involved in the loss, making it slightly more understandable.

Then last night, the team put a whooping on the Astros and won by what was still too close a score for me, 12-6.  Jimmy Rollins led off the game with his 20th home run of the season.  He is now the Phillies season leader in homers, not typical for either a lead-off hitter or a shortstop.  In fact, only 11 other shortstops in baseball history have had 20 home run seasons 4 times or more, like Rollins.

Hits from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and John Mayberry Jr. turned that 1st inning into 4 huge runs to start the game before Cole Hamels even stepped onto the mound.  Hamels was not super-sharp, but 3 earned runs over 7 innings was sufficient.

Mayberry continued to pound out hits and went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI.  Howard also had 3 RBI on 2 hits.  Another big blow came from Domonic Brown with a 2-run mega-long homer in the 7th.  He hit the ball so hard the Astros pitcher actually fell to his knees in a semi-Wayne’s World gesture of, “We’re not worthy!”  Ok, maybe not…he was probably just depressed.

Still, with all that offense, the Phillies committed 3 errors in the game which allowed 3 unearned runs to the Astros….again, the worst team in baseball.  That kind of sloppy play is what might keep them from making the postseason.

So will you be digging deep into your pockets for potential postseason tickets?  We have, according to my invoice, until 9/21/12 to decide.  That is 5 more games; 2 with the Astros and 3 with the Mets.  Decisions, decisions…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Playoff Hopes: Fool’s Gold or the Real Deal?

Out of the 9 Phillies Opening Day 2012 starters, 6 have landed either on the disabled list or with another team at some point during the year.  And that does not even include Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who started the year on the DL.  So basically, 8 out of 9 regular starters missed a lot of time this year.  The only one who avoided either a trade or the DL was Jimmy Rollins.

It is fitting then that a 2-run shot from J-Roll last night led the team to a 3-game sweep of the Miami MarlinsCliff Lee did his part as well, allowing just 1 run, which was unearned due to an error, over 7 innings.

The win has placed the Phillies only 3 games back in the Wild Card race, which is something not many people saw coming.  This team was beaten up so badly throughout most of the year and played so poorly that a possible playoff run, until now, seemed impossible.  Here is a look at the Wild Card standings:

But even after a 7-game win streak, is all this new playoff hope just fool’s gold or can the Phillies really sneak in the backdoor?  Consider this:  6 of those 7 games in the streak came against two of the worst teams in baseball, the Marlins and the Rockies.  Just a few weeks ago, the Phillies lost a series to the Mets, who are also pretty bad.

Then again, the momentum of a 7-game win streak could be enough to help elevate the Phillies performance and confidence to the point where they can start stomping on good teams as well.  But we are not going to know if that is possible for a while as the Houston Astros are next on the agenda.  With a record of 45-98, the Astros are by far the worst team in all of baseball.  Losing even 1 of the 4 games against the Astros would be a tragedy.

So maybe this series could be a descent barometer after all.  Because if the Phillies struggle against the Astros, I think the faint light of playoff hopes would be markedly dimmed.  But if they beat the crap out of the Astros, as they very well should, then go ahead and keep the light of hope burning.  Then we can all say, “Watch out National League!  Here come the Phillies…”

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The Chase’s Are Wild as Phillies Trump the Fish

The Wild Card chase is back on for the Phillies who have won 6 in a row.  They now sit only 4 games out of a potential playoff spot.  The other Chase, that being Chase Utley, is starting to look like the guy we all remember.  Despite a costly error in the game against the Marlins, Utley went 3-for-3 last night with 2 walks and an RBI.  He reached base in all 5 of his at-bats.

Juan Pierre also continues to produce; he also had 3 hits in the game, plus an RBI.  And Jimmy Rollins took advantage of a huge error by the Marlins catcher who dropped what appeared to be Jimmy’s 5,000th or so pop-up this year.  Ok, maybe I exaggerate…but J-Roll followed the dropped pop-up with a 2-run homer on the next pitch.  Rollins ended the night with 3 RBI on 2 hits.

But as the runs continued to pour in, Phillies pitchers continued to give them right back.  Roy Halladay did not look great again, allowing 5 runs in 6 ½ innings while walking 3 batters.  Just when it looks like Halladay is doing well again, he has a game like this.

But the bullpen was not much better.  Manager Charlie Manuel had to use 4 pitchers to get though the 7th inning as it seemed no one wanted to get the final out.  Halladay and the pen combined to allow 4 runs that inning.

In the bottom of the 7th, things got progressively weirder.  After Rollins collected his 3rd RBI of the night, the Marlins manager apparently suffered a momentary lapse of reason.  Ozzie Guillen, already considered one of the strangest men in baseball, made yet another move to solidify his crazy-man reputation.  He ordered an intentional walk of Kevin Frandsen to pitch to Utley instead.

To break it down, Guillen decided he wanted to pitch to a guy who already had 3 hits in the game instead of a guy with a stress fracture in his left leg.  Forget the left-handed, right-handed theory; a broken leg VS. 3-for-3…and broken leg won.  Wow.  Utley wound up walking as well and no damage was done, but that was a seriously weird chain of events.

The 9-7 put the Phillies back at the .500 mark for the season so far.  That is a small miracle considering how bad most of the season has gone.  Could a large miracle be in the works?  It is a long-shot, but if the Phillies keep winning, who knows?

Game 3 with the Marlins starts early today at 4:05pm.  Let’s go for the sweep!

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Is There a Bright Side to the Phillies Skid?

With 6 straight losses, horrible defense, an anemic offense and banged up pitching staff, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies are going nowhere fast.  Unless of course the “somewhere” you are thinking of involves a deep, dark, black hole in an alternate universe.

But for those of us stuck in the reality of here and now, being a Phillies fan sucks right now.  And there are no signs of relief on the way either.

I have been a Phillies fan for over 30 years and will always be a Phillies fan.  I remember all the ups and downs; even the mention of the name “Joe Carter” still makes me want to vomit.

But this recent downhill spiral is harder to take than most.  It is a combination of a lot of factors: Getting used to winning in the recent past; the enormous $175 million payroll; the injuries to key players; paying more for everything from parking to tickets to food at the ballpark; the utter depletion of the farm system to get all this expensive players; etc…

Before spring training even started, I predicted that the Phillies would not make the playoffs this year.  I also hoped that I was wrong.  But check out the trend:

2008: World Series win!

2009: NLCS Champs, World Series loss :O(

2010: NLDS Champs, NLCS loss

2011: NL East Division Champs; NLDS loss

The Phillies have literally gone down exactly 1 step on the postseason ladder every year since winning the World Series in 2008.  If the trend continues, that means either a Wild Card spot or no playoffs at all.

And the off-season moves the Phillies made did not inspire confidence either.  It was like Ruben Amaro Jr. tossed a coin and said, “Gee, I hope this is enough for us to scrape by with.”  Hmmm…no so much.

So let’s take a few moments to review the bright side of cheering for a bad team.  I worked very hard on this list so hang in there with me…

–          If you can afford it, it will be a lot easier to find tickets to the games in a good spot (i.e. – not the nosebleeds).

–          Games will be less crowded, therefore concession stand lines will be shorter (again, if you can afford to buy food at an overpriced stadium).

–          Better parking spots!

–          Less traffic!

–          Lower expectations: It is easier to watch your team suck when you totally expect them to suck.  Trust me…I have a lot of experience with this.

–          Fewer people at games also means it should be easier to get autographs!  And the players who were once too smug to sign should have a new attitude very soon.

–          When someone on the street sees your Phillies gear and tells you how bad they suck, you can simply reply with, “Yes, we suck.  But they are still my team.”  This is WAY less work than feeling the need to defend your team to a total stranger.

So who’s with me for the next home stand?!  Meet me Tony Luke’s in the 3rd inning; don’t worry, the line will be short so we won’t miss much of the game and once we return to our seats behind home plate, we will have a great time cheering despite strike-outs, pop-ups and bad plays while easily fending off haters rooting for the opposing team.

It’s a plan.  Go Phils!

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Philosophizing the Proposed Playoff Profit-Pumping Plan

On Wednesday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that MLB has decided to go ahead with the new 10-team playoff format starting with the 2012 season.  The official announcement has not yet been made.

The new format means that each league will have two Wild-Card winners instead of one, those with the best records after the division winners.  Those 2 Wild-Card teams will then play a one-game playoff to determine who moves on.  Please excuse me while I throw-up…

Bud Selig seems determined to be the most hated guy in the baseball universe once again.  Congrats, Bud.  You win 1st prize in my book.

Basically, a team who previously had no business being in the playoffs now gets to be in the playoffs.  In my opinion, this demeans the hard work of all the division winners.  One Wild-Card per division was already slightly annoying but two worse.

What is the point of winning your division when you now may have to play a mediocre team who may, simply by a stroke of luck, knock you out before you get a chance to play the best of the best?  At least if you get beat by a good team, you can live with that.  But to get beat by a team that should not even have been there?  That is truly depressing.

Because as baseball fans know, it is not always the best team that wins.  Injuries, scheduling, weather and pure luck play a big part sometimes.  This new format increases the odds tremendously that an average team will catch a break and push a more exciting team to an early exit.

And then think about the logistics of such a schedule.  Baseball has already struggled in recent years with weather delay’s and postponements in October; this adds a new wrinkle to that conundrum.  And how are they going to sell tickets for this one-game playoff?  Because you probably will not know who the two Wild-Card teams are until very close to the last day of the season.

But more importantly, it is unfair.  The new system caters to rich teams.  As a Phillies fan, you cannot say I am biased on this issue…we have a huge payroll.  This system gives big market teams a BIG advantage.  For example, how would you like to see BOTH the Yankees and the Red Sox, who are consistently at the top of their division and of the AL, make the playoffs every year?  You can now be pretty confident that at least one of those teams always gets in.

The Red Sox had a horrible September last year, winning only 7 games.  But under these new rules, they would have been in the playoffs anyway.  That is ridiculous.

I am sure there are plenty of people out there who think this is great.  It offers more excitement with the one-game playoff and a chance for more teams to “profit,” in more ways than one.  Because no matter what reasons MLB gives us for the change, the bottom line is always the bottom line.  That is, more ticket sales, more TV ratings…more MONEY.  It is always about the money.

I wish MLB would not insist that this is for the betterment of the game and the enjoyment of the fans.  Do not insult our intelligence…it is and always has been about the profits.

Maybe no one is really complaining yet…but just wait until the Yanks and Sox both make the playoffs for fans of low-market teams  to start crying foul.  And as always, feel free to disagree with me :O)

Thoughts to Ponder…

In my previous post, I posted a few silly interview questions I came up with to ask major league ball players that would be highly entertaining, but have zero chance of ever being asked or ever receiving an honest answer on. So instead of asking the players, I asked the readers to give their opinion.  Here are a few fun responses from Jersey Josh, a fellow MLBlogger:

– (Not that this will ever be a reality but…) Would you agree to a pay for performance structure throughout baseball instead of the current guaranteed contracts?  Why or why not? JOSH:  I think any ballplayer would pimp slap me into next week if asked that one. The union wouldn’t allow that one, they don’t have performance based vesting contracts, just “appearance” based ones (games started, plate appearances, etc).

– Which teammate, current or former, do/did you dislike the most and why?  JOSH:  Dykstra probably owes everyone money.

– In a fight between Bud Selig and Satan, who wins and why?  JOSH:  Selig would postpone the fight indefinitely on the grounds that Satan cannot pass a drug test. (#1 answer, in my opinion :O)

Thanks to Josh for playing along!

 

 

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