As far as headlines go, the one above is not what Phillies fans generally expect to see. But it was a back-up player and a much maligned bullpen pitcher who saved the day for the Phillies on Wednesday night against the Reds.
It took more than six hours and nine pitchers, but the Phillies finally pulled out a 5-4, 19-inning win. Both offenses struggled to score runs and for the Phils, this has been problematic all season.
I have two words rattling around my brain in regards to the Phillies offense: frustrating and painful. This team has been painful to watch most of the season so far. And they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, which is incredibly frustrating.
For example, Raul Ibanez led off the sixth inning with a triple. So with NO outs and a man on third, what should happen just doesn’t. Carlos Ruiz swung at the first pitch and popped out. John Mayberry Jr. watched a called-strike three go by. And then Wilson Valdez is walked intentionally to get to the pitcher. Result: NO run, when all they needed was a sac fly or some form of contact with the ball that did not turn into a pop-up.
And this is exactly the sort of thing that is plaguing the Phillies offense. They faced a Reds pitcher who was off his game and they did not take advantage. Instead, they got themselves out by being impatient and swinging at bad pitches.
So just like Tuesday night, with a 3-1 lead, the Phillies watched the Reds come back to tie the game, 3-3 by the seventh inning. They got hurt, again, by Jay Bruce with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a two-run single off Roy Halladay, who had a few issues tonight. However, the defense behind him did little to help.
But once the game entered the wee hours of the morning, many forgot that Halladay had even started the game. The bullpen took over for a total of 12 innings.
Danys Baez, who has taken a lot of abuse from Phillies fans for his lack of consistency, was one of the hero’s in this game. He pitched a career-high five innings and 73 pitches to carry the Phils through the 18th inning. He allowed only one hit, one walk and zero runs.
Last year, Baez was so bad that many hoped he would be cut. And this year has been up and down for him. But rest assured that after an effort like this, Baez is keeping his job.
After Baez exited, the unexpected happened. Wilson Valdez stepped onto the pitcher’s mound. And he was tasked with facing the heart of the Reds line-up in Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce, who had absolutely been killing the Phils all series long.
But Valdez gave a valiant performance, even clocking over 90mph on the radar gun. He got Votto to fly out to deep center, hit Rolen with a pitch and then two more fly-outs to end the inning. As he exited the field, the crowd went crazy cheering for him.
Valdez is the first player to start in the field and move on to pitching since Babe Ruth. Seriously. He is also the first Phillies position player to pitch since Tomas Perez did it in 2002. The game win went to Valdez and afterwards he told Comcast Sportsnet, “I like to win,” in response to why he agreed to pitch. He also joked that he could have gone three or four more innings.
Raul Ibanez hit a sac fly to score Jimmy Rollins for the win in the 19th inning. In a game where an infielder pitched, a catcher (Carlos Ruiz) played third base and the team left 16 men on base, this win has to be a huge boost for the Phillies.
The last game with the Reds comes quick after this one; Thursday afternoon at 1:05pm. Cliff Lee will pitch.
Ross Gload is not playing right now due to a slight muscle tear in his hip. This is same sort of injury that Chase Utley played through in 2008, which eventually required surgery. Gload is expected to play through it as well.
Jose Contreras should return to the team sometime this week. Odds are good that David Herndon will be sent down to make room.
Chase Utley got a day off today, except for a pinch-hitting appearance, in what appears to be an effort to err on the side of caution by not pushing him too hard, too soon. He should play again Thursday.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Call it a game if you must, but tonight’s Phillies – Marlins match-up looked more like batting practice for both teams. It featured the Phillies worst starter, fresh off a DL stint, in Joe Blanton and the Marlins worst starter, Javier Vazquez. As hitters walked to the plate, they were literally salivating like a pack of ravenous hyenas standing over a fresh kill.
No one was more excited than Ross Gload, who has gotten very little playing time as a bench player this year. With a rare start in right field, Gload finally had an opportunity to do some damage. He took full advantage with two hits and two RBI.
A lot of Phillies had multi-hit games against the struggling Vazquez and some of the Marlins’ bullpen. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and even Raul Ibanez came up with at least two hits in the game, along with Gload.
The pitching was another story. Knowing he had the youngster Vance Worley nipping at his heels, Blanton must have been in a rush to get back to the team after going on the DL. He did not even pitch in a rehab game.
In his race to get healthy, Blanton looked like a guy seriously out of practice. But the defense bailed him out a number of times and he wound up with five innings, three runs allowed, two walks and eight hits.
Worley did wind up pitching in the game, taking over in the sixth. He got though two scoreless innings and then in the eight, allowed a solo homer to Gaby Sanchez. After Worley’s three innings of work, the score was then 6-4, surprisingly low for the number of hacks taken during the game.
The Phillies went on to win by the same score, with Ryan Madson collecting the save. Roy Halladay will pitch Tuesday night. Game time is 7:10pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Hope springs eternal for all 30 MLB teams this time of year. Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. At the first crack of the bat, anything is possible.
For the Phillies, 2011 could be all that and more. The potential of this team is unlimited. But potential does not guarantee success, as execution and a little bit of luck will play a major role in the outcome.
However, the Phillies do have plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Here are five good omens for the Phillies as they begin spring training.
If you have not heard all about the Phillies starting rotation, you are probably living in a cave. The media frenzy in Clearwater, Florida is in full swing but luckily, the players are not buying all the hype.
In a press conference on Monday, all five starters, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, looked very relaxed. They were so laid back that if one of them had dozed off, it would not have been surprising.
And it would be hard to blame any of these guys for taking a cat nap while reporters asked Lee all the same questions he has been answering repeatedly since signing in December. It became so redundant that a media member actually asked him if he liked the food in Philadelphia. Lee responded with, “I like Philly cheese steaks, but that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philadelphia.”
The fact that none of these pitchers take the attention too seriously is a very good omen for the Phillies. This rotation understands what it takes to win and how to avoid distractions, like ridiculous questions from baseball-starved reporters.
Their nonchalance in the face of all the hype is even more impressive when you add in the overwhelming talent and potential of this group which includes three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star selections and three postseason MVP awards.
In short, things look very good for the 2011 Phillies pitching staff.
Jimmy Rollins Becomes An Early Bird
Known almost as much for his consistent lateness as his batting average, Jimmy Rollins has never been a timely guy. He is normally the last player to report to camp every year. But for the first time in his Phillies career, Rollins arrived early.
Not only did Rollins show up a full week early but he arrived in excellent physical condition as a result of a more disciplined off-season routine. At 32-years of age and entering a contract year, Rollins obviously realizes the importance of the 2011 season.
It is important for Rollins as an individual and also for the team as a whole. After a very bad, injury plagued 2010, J-Roll needs to get back to being the engine that makes this Phillies offense go.
Arriving early to camp is a good sign that he is ready to do just that.
Brad Lidge Is Healthy
In his first year with the Phillies in 2008, Brad Lidge threw just one pitch off the mound in Spring Training and just like that, he tore the meniscus in his right knee. Lidge recovered well from surgery and went on to pitch the best season of his career and help the Phillies win a World Championship.
But in 2009, Lidge had a complete reversal of fortune. By the end of June, Lidge had blown six saves and landed on the disabled list again with a sprained right knee. Lidge finished the year with season with an 0-8 record, an ERA of 7.21 and he converted 31 saves in 42 opportunities.
Lidge then spent most of the first half of 2010 on the DL after elbow surgery. And although he finished the season much improved from 2009, questions about his healthy still lingered.
This year, Lidge reported to camp healthy and raring to go. When asked about the upcoming 2011 season, Lidge responded, ” Fans should be pumped up. I know I am.”
And if Lidge can channel his 2008 form while avoiding injury, the Phillies will have the anchor they need at the end of the bullpen to help propel them to another post-season.
Versatility And Depth
The Phillies have a handful of players in camp that they feel can fill multiple roles. Last year, Wilson Valdez was a lifesaver filling in for injured players and short stop, second base and third base.
This spring, the Phillies have decided to try him out in centerfield as well, in case Shane Victorino goes down. With Jayson Werth off to the Nationals, options in center are slim and Valdez has a rocket for an arm.
John Mayberry Jr. is another player who could fill other roles. Normally an outfielder, Mayberry played first base in college and will see time there this spring to add to his versatility.
Delwyn Young, a non-roster invitee, might be another possibility. He has played infield and outfield, although the odds of him making the team are not very good.
Still, the fact that the Phillies have a number of viable options for their bench is a good thing. And their willingness to experiment, moving players around, means they have confidence in this group they have assembled.
Competition In Right Field
Competition is good. It breeds motivation. Players like Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload have plenty of motivation since the departure of Jayson Werth.
The huge, gaping hole in right field is theirs for the taking. It will be a matter of whoever plays the best wins. The starting spot could go to one player or maybe two in a platoon situation.
Brown is especially anxious to show what he is made of. After a less than inspiring major league stint at the end of 2010 and then a bad showing in the Dominican Winter League which he left early, Brown has something to prove.
Only three days after leaving the Dominican Winter League, Brown went straight to Clearwater to work on his swing. With the help of hitting coach Greg Gross, Brown found the flaw in his swing and has spent the last two months fixing it.
There is nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in a ball player. Each of the right field-hopefuls have their work cut out for them.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
In a shocking move, Jayson Werth has signed a 7-year deal with the last place Washington Nationals, snubbing higher-profile teams like the Red Sox. After losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox and star rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg to Tommy John surgery, the Nats needed a seat-filler. Attendance in DC has been pathetic over the years due to a lack of success for the team and very high ticket prices.
In the last two years, the Nats ranked 24th and 23rd place for attendance out of 30 teams. The acquisition of Werth should produce a spike in season ticket plans, not to mention a spike in team batting average and runs scored. The exact terms of the contract have not yet been disclosed, but it is in the area of $126 million dollars.
The real shock is that Werth chose to sign with a last-place team. The Nats are trying to build a winner, but realistically, this will not happen overnight. In fact, their biggest obstacle may be the Phillies who have won the division 4-straight years now. But Werth has his ring already so maybe winning is now lower on his list than money and stability.
As for the Phillies, they now have a huge, gaping hole in right field to be filled. With Domonic Brown leaving Winter Ball early today due to being “tired and sluggish,” big questions remain as to his ability to fill the spot. Worst case scenario is that the left-handed Brown will have to platoon with righty Ben Francisco.
Another right-hander who may be able to platoon with Francisco or even Ross Gload is John Mayberry Jr. In 11 games with the big club in 2010, Mayberry batted .333 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI. He has been working on his stroke in AAA and, if Brown is not ready, Mayberry might be a better option.
There is a list of free agents as well that may also be able to fill the hole. The top choice for Charlie Manuel is probably Matt Diaz. The two men live in the same neighborhood and spend time together in the offseason. Diaz is a lifetime .301 hitter who got little playing time with the Braves last season. However, Diaz did find time to tackle a rouge Phillies fan on the field back in September. He is almost a folk-hero in Philly already after that feat.
A few other options include Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Quentin or Scott Hairston. With a little more creativity, the Phillies may wish to consider former Phillie Aaron Rowand. The Giants have indicated that Rowand is not in their plans going forward and may be willing to eat his huge salary just to get rid of him. Rowand struggled last year at AT&T Park. Perhaps the smaller, friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park can revive his bat?
A few other long-shot free-agents might be Willie Bloomquist, Joe Inglett or Jose Guillen. Whichever way the Phillies decide to go, it is clear that Werth has left very big shoes to fill. He will be missed.
I normally do not have this video done before Christmas, but it is amazing how much extra time that the lack of a World Series provides ;o) For those who have missed it previous years, at the end of every season, I pick out my favorite Phillies photos from that year and put them into a video slideshow. These photos were all taken by me and my giant zoom lens, from the stands, at both home and away games throughout the season.
In the 2010 season, I attended 27 games and 7 Phillies-related special events, like the Phestival and the Phillies Cruise. Yes, it was down year for me due to a lack of funds ;o) Going through the digital files on my computer, I calculate that I shot more than 18,000 photos at Phillies games this year. If you add in the special events, the total is over 25,000. Of those, I picked out and published around 5,000. The slideshow contains the best of the game shots for a total of 257 photos.
I am eternally grateful for the invention of the digital camera. Remember the days when we had to use film? That was one expensive habit. Well, here it is…enjoy!
Thank you for stopping by!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Everyone expected Roy Halladay to come out firing tonight with the Phillies season on the line. Instead, he walked the first batter he faced and allowed a run to score. The entire 6 innings he pitched were uncomfortable, at best. He did only allow 2 runs total; the second one, of course, off the bat of Cody Ross with an RBI-double. But he never looked settled, fell behind in counts and ended with 2 walks and only 5 strike outs.
While Halladay’s entire outing was a nail biter, he did battle through it and kept the Phils in the game. Tim Lincecum only had one bad inning through 7 and that was the 3rd. The Phillies scored 3 runs in a very odd sequence of events. Raul Ibanez, back in the line-up after being sat yesterday, singled to start the inning. That was his first hit this entire series.
Lincecum then hit Carlos Ruiz to put two men on base with no outs. Halladay bunted what looked like a foul ball but the umpire, much to everyone’s surprise, called it fair. The base runners moved up as Pablo Sandoval at third missed the bag while Ibanez slid in. Halladay just stood at home looking confused as he was thrown out at first on a foul ball.
But it worked out for the Phillies as an error by Aubrey Huff allowed both Ibanez and Ruiz to score. Placido Polanco singled to score another run. But then with runners on first and second, needing a simple sac fly to score again, Ryan Howard struck out…again. Howard has zero RBI’s this series. Jayson Werth flied out to end the inning, stranding 2 runners.
You had to wonder if these stranded runners would cost the Phillies both the game (again) and the season. They headed into the 7th clinging to the slim 3-2 lead. Jimmy Rollins singled and then stole 2 bases to land on 3rd with Ruiz on 1st and only one out. But again, the Phillies failed to score. Pinch hitter Ross Gload hit a line drive right to 1st. Huff caught the ball and stepped on 1st for the easy double play.
So it would be up to the bullpen to keep the series going and send it back to Philly. Jose Contreras and JC Romero took care of the 7th. Ryan Madson was tossing 95mph bullets in the 8th, despite having pitched the last two games. He struck out the side, including our old friend Pat Burrell. Remember when a Burrell strike out was SO frustrating? Not so much anymore ;o)
Giving the Phillies a little extra breathing room in the 9th, Werth hit a monster homer over the huge right field wall. Brad Lidge had a 4-2 lead to work with and got the first out quickly with a shallow fly ball. Next out, an easy ground ball. (Biting my nails…) Pinch hitter, whose name no one can pronounce…Travis Ishikawa…IsHeWaWa? IshiMama? IdunnoA? Whatever. He struck out, so who cares. Phillies win, 4-2!!! LIDGE gets it DONE!
With the win tonight, the NLCS series heads back to Philadelphia with the Phils trailing 2 games to 3. They have an off-day tomorrow for travel and will play Game 6 on Saturday, either at 3:57pm or 7:57pm, depending on the Rangers – Yankees series results tomorrow. I assume Roy Oswalt is still slated to pitch; we should know for sure tomorrow. Whatever happens, I am excited to go to the game on Saturday; this team may still have life in them yet.
UPDATE: Halladay apparently pulled his groin early in the game last night during either the 1st or 2nd inning. Manuel said 2nd, but also said it was during the Buster Posey at-bat, which was in the 1st. At any rate, he pitched basically the whole game injured. Halladay will have an MRI today to determine how bad the pull is.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies announced today who will be on the 25-man roster for the NLDS and there are really no surprises. Those notable players who did not make it include Kyle Kendrick, Danys Baez and David Herndon. Here is the breakdown:
Going with 10 pitchers instead of 11 allows the Phillies to add more fire power to the bench. They expect the 3 starters to go deep into games so extra long men in the pen will likely not be necessary. Blanton will fill the role if needed.
As for Ruiz and Romero, manager Charlie Manuel says both players are fine and ready to play after suffering minor injuries on Sunday.
If you are going to the game tomorrow, here is the information about pre-game festivities and other highlights:
2:00 p.m. – Phillies Postseason Party begins on Citizens Bank Way. Features music by Mr. Greengenes; Highlights include an inflatable obstacle course for children, face painters, an extreme rock wall climb and a Velcro race.
Ashburn Alley opens.
All gates open. Rally towels for all fans, compliments of StubHub.
3:30 p.m. – Phillies Postseason Rally on Citizens Bank Way! Special guests include former Phillies Scott Eyre and Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, Comcast SportsNet analyst Ricky Bottalico, the Phillie Phanatic and Phillies Ballgirls. Music provided by Mr. Greengenes; Scott Palmer, Phillies Director of Public Affairs, will emcee.
4:40 p.m. – On-field pre-game ceremony begins.
4:44 p.m. – Introduction of Cincinnati Reds.
4:48 p.m. – Introduction of Philadelphia Phillies.
4:54 p.m. – National Anthem: Sung by country singer Catherine Raney, niece of Tim McGraw, who will be representing the Tug McGraw Foundation.
4:56 p.m. – Color Guard introduced.
4:58 p.m. – Ceremonial First Pitch: Phillies alumnus Scott Eyre.
5:07 p.m. – Play ball! Phillies vs. Reds game begins.
5th Inning – “Lady PhaPha” makes her postseason debut.
7th Inning – God Bless America: Sung by national recording artist Lauren Hart, a Philadelphia native whose songs have been heard on television series and soap operas.
See you there!