After a very unusual start to the 1st inning in last night’s Phillies and Brewers match-up, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard reunited in a way that appeared to turn time back to better days. They went back-to-back with solo home runs and just that quickly, it was like old times again. Ah, together again…
In fact most of this previously lame Phillies squad is back off the DL and as a result, they are starting to turn things around. Last night’s walk-off win was the second in row for the Phillies and also their first comeback win when trailing after 8 innings this season. Prior to this, they were 0-42 when losing after 8 innings.
This game began in a very odd way though. Roy Halladay was not his normal, studley self. He gave up 2 runs in the first inning before Howard and Utley countered with their solo blasts.
Even stranger was what happened to Shane Victorino before those home runs. Ex-Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf hit Victorino in the funny bone with a pitch; because he turned his shoulder to in an attempt to get out of the way, the 1st base umpire apparently got confused and called him out on strikes. Replay showed that Victorino came nowhere near to swinging at the pitch.
Both Victorino, in obvious pain, and manager Charlie Manuel argued his case to no avail. Once again, an idiot umpire would cost the Phillies a base runner and, after the homers, it cost them an extra run. Even worse, Victorino’s hand went numb after the hit to the elbow and he had to be removed from the game. He says he is fine now and should be able to play tonight; the ball just struck a nerve in the wrong place.
The umpire idiocy did not end there either. Howard’s obvious solo shot was initially ruled a double after the ball bounced back onto the field out of the left field flower beds. They had to go to replay to get the call overturned. But it was quite apparent to the naked eye that the ball left the yard. I guess the umpire went temporarily blind; an affliction which seems to be contagious. And all that happened in the first inning.
By the 4th inning, things were getting out of hand as Halladay continued to self-destruct and allowed 4 more runs for a 6-2 Phillies deficit. But for the second day in a row, the bullpen came through and held the score there. And that set up the Phillies 1st comeback win after 8 innings all season long.
With 1 out in the 9th, the Phillies were still 4 runs behind and down to their final 2 outs when suddenly, the clock turned backwards again. The Phillies offense began channeling their 2008 selves. Jimmy Rollins drew a walk followed by a Juan Pierre single. Utley walked; Howard singled in 2 runs; Carlos Ruiz singled in another and Hunter Pence followed with another walk.
With still only 1 out in the inning and a man on third, all the Phillies needed was a sac fly. Most of the year, the Phillies have been unable to accomplish this seemingly routine task. But on this throwback night, Ty Wigginton summoned his inner super-Wigginess and sent a line drive to left which scored pinch-runner Erik Kratz.
And just like that, the Phillies have found themselves on the comeback trail. Like J-Roll said after Sunday’s win, it is time to start streaking…
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
In the third game of this four game Phillies – Brewers series, a pitching duel broke out between Cliff Lee and Randy Wolf. Both pitchers were very good, leaving little room for error.
The defense behind Lee was a little shaky with Michael Martinez at second base committing a huge throwing error in the 2nd inning that led to an unearned run for the Brewers. Casey McGehee scored by plowing into Carlos Ruiz at home plate. McGehee is literally twice the size of Ruiz. The violent, deliberate collision made McGehee look like a bully trying to take a kid’s lunch money. The ball flew out of Ruiz’s glove and McGehee was safe.
But as usual, Lee did not let anything shake his concentration. Through seven innings, Lee allowed only one earned run on six hits and two walks. He also struck out seven batters.
For the Phillies, both Hunter Pence and Placido Polanco hit solo home runs. Polanco’s homer was only his fifth of the year and it tied the game up at 2-2. And that score held up as the game went into extra innings.
In the 10th, Raul Ibanez doubled and Ruiz drove him home with a single to take a 3-2 lead. Jimmy Rollins then made his first appearance since coming off the DL as a pinch hitter and grounded out to move the runner. Rollins also played the field in the bottom of the 10th and looked pretty healthy.
Ryan Madson took care of the Brewers after that, although a walk and a sac bunt made things interesting. But Madson held on for the save and became only the ninth Phillies relief pitcher to save 30 games in a season. Fittingly, the final out was recorded on a ground ball from the school yard bully, McGehee. Ruiz and the Phillies got the last laugh.
And the Phillies also got another series win, beating the Brewers in three straight games with one more to go tomorrow at 2:10pm.
More good news arrived today when the results of Chase Utley’s concussion tests came in. Utley passed the ImPACT test and appears to be doing very well. The Phils will administer another test on Monday to be on the safe side and Utley will probably not play until after the Houston series. But all signs are very positive.
Post-Season Magic # – 2 games
Division Magic # – 7 games
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
This Phillies series with the Brewers has been touted by some as a possible playoff preview. If that is the case, things are not looking great for the Brewers so far.
After a 7-2 victory last night, the Phillies picked up right where they left off, scoring early and allowing their ace, Roy Halladay, to handle the Brewers hitters. Halladay was his usual sparkling self, allowing only one run through eight innings on four hits.
Ryan Howard was back in the line-up tonight after a day of rest yesterday. The break seemed to help as Howard smashed a 3-run homer in the first inning. He also walked twice after that.
After spending most of the year in the minors, Pete Orr finally saw some action tonight in place of Chase Utley who is still in Philly. Utley is being observed for a possible concussion after getting beamed in the head by a fastball on Wednesday. Orr took full advantage of the playing time, going 3-for-4 at the plate. Although, he was almost murdered by a rouge group of sausages ;o)
Several Phillies had multi-hit nights including Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez. Ruiz was on base in all four of his at-bats; he walked twice and collected 1 RBI.
But while Halladay and the offense were all clicking, there may be cause for concern about Antonio Bastardo. He started the 9th inning and put two runners on base with a hit and a walk, all without recording an out.
Bastardo had a similar situation only two appearances ago where he put two men on against the Marlins and was pulled before getting an out. In that game, both runs ended up scoring. Both runs scored tonight as well.
This young lefty has been so good all year, he has seemed practically unhittable. But suddenly, Bastardo does not look like the same pitcher. One could argue he has been overused, but before tonight’s game, Bastardo ranked 44th in innings pitched in the NL.
Still, Bastardo’s recent troubles are not a reason to panic, but it is something the Phillies need to keep an eye on. And tonight, Ryan Madson took over for Bastardo and was able to secure the 5-3 win.
This win ensures the Phillies cannot lose the four game series and they to grab only one of the next two to win it. Game 3 is Saturday night at 7:10pm with Cliff Lee pitching against former Phillie, Randy Wolf.
Post-Season Magic # – 3 games
Division Magic # – 10 games
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
In a week full of opposites, Roy Halladay had a bad game against the Brewers. The night before Joe Blanton had a good game and in both games, the offense did not show up. The Phillies are currently in some sort of cruel and unusual time warp where nothing is as it should be.
To their credit, the Brewers defense stole a few hits from the Phillies with running grabs in the outfield. Those balls looked like they were far out of reach, but the Brewers ran them down.
The Phillies did not look like themselves at all. Carlos Ruiz threw away a ground ball that should have been an out; Ryan Howard missed a grounder at first; and then the bullpen handed the Brewers a bunch of runs in a game that was already out of control.
As Halladay was pulled in a 4-0 game, David Herndon threw two pitches and gave up a 3-run homer. Mike Zagurski, recalled from AAA to take JC Romero’s spot on the roster, also did some damage. He walked the first batter he saw and then allowed a 2-run single. Both run were charged to Herndon and all that happened with two outs in the inning. The score was 9-0 after that seventh inning.
As a side note, Zagurski has been recalled from AAA a number of times over the years in both 2007 and 2010, after multiple injuries and surgeries. His lifetime ERA in the Bigs through 2010 is 6.99. In other words, he does well in the minors and implodes in the majors. It has happened every time and Tuesday night was no different. Although, the runs he allowed will not be charged to him, he still failed to hold the score down and give the Phils a chance to come back.
The Phillies offense is now officially a major problem. They went through these super-slumps all last year, which eventually resulted in the firing of hitting coach Milt Thompson. Like a bad case of deja vu, here we go again.
In fact, the Phillies lead hitter with runners in scoring position is currently Wilson Valdez. Not Ryan Howard, not Jimmy Rollins or even Raul Ibanez…Wilson Valdez, going into today’s game was batting .556 with RISP. Howard is at .286, Rollins is .188…you get the picture. No offense to Valdez who is a very solid player, but if he is the team leader in hits with RISP, there is a serious problem.
The Phillies have one shot left at a win over the Brew Crew tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pm. Cliff Lee will pitch and hopefully, the offense will show up for him.
Of course, I am not referring to an actual wolf…this wolf was Brewers pitcher and former Phillie, Randy Wolf. Although, had it been an actual wolf that devoured the Phillies, that would have been way more interesting.
But as it stands, Randy Wolf pitched 6 2/3 strong innings against his former team, allowing just 2 runs. For the Phillies, Kyle Kendrick basically stunk up the place. Kendrick started the game with a 3-run homer to Prince Fielder. He threw one pitch, missed his spot and Fielder gobbled up the cookie tossed his way. By the end of 4, Kendrick allowed 5 runs on 7 hits and a walk.
The worst part is that the Phillies have a doubleheader with the Marlins tomorrow so pitching was already at a premium. With Kendrick not able to get past 4 innings, many bullpen pitchers had to be used which means less pitching and/or tired pitching for tomorrow. Kendrick has been on a serious downhill slide since early August and seems to be getting worse instead of better as each start goes by.
Add in the fact that the Phillies offense is still struggling to score runs and this is another really disappointing loss. The only two runs scored by the Phils today came on a Carlos Ruiz double in the 2nd inning. After that, the offense had only 2 hits; one from Chase Utley and one from Jimmy Rollins. Of 7 hits on the day, 2 were from Utley.
As for some of the young Phillies arms, Scott Mathieson and Antonio Bastardo are back up from AAA and each pitched an inning. Bastardo looked sharp; Mathieson still lacks control and walked 2 batters. He did work out of the jam, but the big question mark still looms above Mathieson’s head. He can throw 97mph, but that is only helpful if he can throw strikes. So far, it is not looking that way.
The Braves lost their game today as well, so the Phillies missed out on the opportunity to put themselves in a tie for first. They still stand 1 game behind the Braves.
In the doubleheader tomorrow, Vance Worley will be called up to start the day game, probably with Nate Robertson in tow as a back-up/bullpen piece. Roy Oswalt will start the night game. The Marlins are on a role playing spoiler as they took 2 of 3 from the Braves this week so this will not be an easy series. The Phillies had better find their bats!
Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game. Enjoy.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Against the Brewers tonight, the Phillies came away with another win in another very close game. But early on, it was not looking like a Happy Halladay weekend for Roy Halladay. For the first time in his career, Halladay gave up 4 home runs in one game. The good news is that they were all solo shots. Halladay appeared to struggle with his command all night long and seemed visibly annoyed by many calls from the home plate umpire.
In Halladay’s last three starts combined, he has allowed 10 runs in 21 innings; that calculates to an ERA of 4.29. Granted, this is not terrible by any means, but it is also not typical Halladay. This brings a few questions to mind; has Halladay been overused and are the number of innings pitched catching up with him? With 7 innings pitched tonight, he is up to 221 innings for the year so far. That is more innings than any pitcher in all of baseball. The 33-year old reached a career high in 2003 with 266 innings pitched and is on pace to pass that record.
Although Halladay’s arm is unlikely to fall off anytime soon, the workload is very heavy for a pitcher at his age and with as much mileage as he has on that arm. Everyone keeps referring to Halladay as a “workhorse.” I hate that reference. Because when a horse goes lame, we all know what happens next. While no one is going to put a pitcher out of his misery, the Phillies need to watch Halladay carefully and be sure he stays healthy.
However, Halladay’s rough outing tonight was backed up by some great defense and even a little offense. Both Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth hit solo homers in the 2nd inning and Chase Utley drove in a run in the 3rd. Utley tried to destroy 2nd base after that during a steal attempt. But both the base and the Brewers won the battle as he was tagged out.
Down 4-3 going into the 7th, the Phillies took the lead with a few unusual runs. Wilson Valdez worked out a walk to load the bases and then made a great base running play. Carlos Ruiz scored on a sac fly and Valdez, reading the play quickly, saw the ball sail past home plate and he slid in behind Ruiz safely in a very close play. The aggressive move gave the Phils a 5-4 lead.
The Phillies bullpen, including Ryan Madson, JC Romero and Brad Lidge, held down the lead. Halladay got the win despite getting roughed up a bit and Lidge earned another save. The Braves won today, so the Phils are still just one game behind them.
The final game of the series is tomorrow afternoon at 1:35pm. Kyle Kendrick will face former Phillie Randy Wolf. I will return with photos!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Down 4-5 in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Phillies were down to their last out and their last 2 strikes when Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate with 2 runners on. Win, and the Phillies would have a huge 3-1 games advantage. Lose, and the series would be tied 2-2. What took place next was not only improbable, but it absolutely stunned the Dodgers.
Things looked good when the game started and Ryan Howard nailed a 2-run shot in the 1st inning. But the bats went quiet as ex-Phillies Randy Wolf bore down and kept the Dodgers in the game. Joe Blanton started for the Phillies and got roughed up a bit in the middle innings. By the end of the 6th, Blanton had allowed the 2-run lead slip away into a 2-4 deficit.
The bullpen took over in the 7th and held the Dodgers to those four runs. Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge got the job done. However, the offense still seemed sleepy after that 11-0 rout the previous day, so a comeback was looking unlikely.
But then Matt Stairs stepped the plate with one out in the 9th and everyone began hoping for the same miracle that occurred in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS: Stairs nailed a 2-run homer in the 8th inning of that 2008 game to give the Phillies the lead. Could this be a repeat performance?
Well, not quite. Facing the very same pitcher he got that hit off in 2008, Jonathan Broxton, Stairs felt confident. Broxton may not have felt quite as confident as he threw Stairs four straight balls. Eric Bruntlett was put in as a pinch runner. Broxton then proceeded to hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch.
But Greg Dobbs lined out for the 2nd out and things were looking good for the Dodgers. J-Roll stepped to the plate with one final out remaining and 2 runners on base. With a 1-1 count, Rollins whacked a line drive into the hole in right-center field. Bruntlett and Ruiz tore up the base path, scoring 2 runs to win the game for the Phillies. Phillies fans screamed in celebration while Dodgers fans squirmed in agony.
As amazing and uplifting as this win was for the Phillies, on the other side of the spectrum it was equally as painful and gut-wrenching for the Dodgers. This was a killer blow, putting the Phillies at a 3-1 advantage; they now need only one more win in 3 possible tries to lock up a second consecutive trip to the World Series with a chance to repeat.
This win also shows why the Phillies are the defending World Champions. They believe they will win, they support one another and they never give up until the final out is recorded. To be able to witness this is the greatest joy of any fans life. Repeat or no repeat, Phillies fans should be proud of their team! What a year this has been…and it is not over yet.
Here is the Photo Album from the game…Go Phillies!!!
PS: Thank you to all my readers for making Phillies Phollowers the#1 Phillies fan blog on the MLB site for the entire 2009 season! And I am #8 overall for ALL fan blogs! Your support is greatly appreciated; it is an honor to bring you the Phillies through my eyes…Thank you!
Photos by Jenn