Saturday, May 30, 2009

Phils beat Nats in second straight; Bastardo will start Tuesday

The Phillies powered their way past the Nationals tonight, as Ryan Howard hit two bombs, including a grand slam which reached the third deck out in right field. It was an absolute blast, putting the team in front and the Phillies never looked back. Cole Hamels was not all that encouraging as he didn't pitch very well, but the bullpen was excellent and held the lead, giving the Phillies a chance to sweep the series against Washington this weekend.

The Phillies have announced that Antonio Bastardo will take Brett Myers' place on Tuesday, opposing the San Diego Padres and Jake Peavy. The team decided to base their move on minor league statistics, with Bastardo performing the best of the candidates. In the minors this season, Bastardo is 3-2 with a 1.89 ERA. He's struck out 51 and walked 10. This marks the first time in recent history that the Phillies have four left handed pitchers in the starting rotation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blanton, Victorino lead Phils to victory over Fish

Last night's victory was important for the Phils, after dropping game one against Florida on Monday. The Phillies managed a home victory, something that's eluded them much of this season. Behind Joe Blanton's dominant 11 strikeout performance, Brett Myers and the Phillies have a chance to take the important series tonight.

Some redemption for the Phils last night, as Brad Lidge struck Wes Helms out to end the ballgame with the tying run at second base. The ninth inning was terrifying, frankly, but Lidge held on and picked up the save. Shane Victorino was also tremendous last night, going 4-for-5. Florida beware, Raul Ibanez has just one hit in this series. The way he's been hitting, that could actually be considered a slump. Look for Ibanez to break out in a big way tonight and do some damage at "The Bank."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Phils beat Yankees, call-up Mayberry, win 6 of last 7

The Phillies have caught fire as of late, especially after taking the first game at the new Yankee Stadium last night, ending New York's nine game winning streak with a 7-3 victory. Last night's game featured just about anything a fan could hope for.

It literally started off with a bang, as Jimmy Rollins continued to show his improved swing by hitting the first pitch of the ballgame into the right field stands. A.J. Burnett glared at Rollins as he circled the basepaths. It's still not evident what Burnett was upset about, as Rollins did not stand and admire his shot and he did not appear to say anything. Burnett drilled Chase Utley up around the should with the next pitch. When Brett Myers took the hill in the bottom of the first, he threw his second pitch behind Derek Jeter, prompting the home plate umpire to warn Myers and both dugouts. Shenanigans over.

Myers needed to respond and he did, but in a smart way. If he hits Jeter, the lead-off hitter reaches base and Myers is in a jam. If Myers throws up and in to send a message, he could slip and hit Jeter in the head. Throwing behind him was the perfect way to send a message and then bear down and get back to pitching well, which he did. Burnett, on the other hand, intentionally hit Utley and dug himself into a hole after Raul Ibanez's single put runners at the corners with no outs. Burnett did pitch out of the jam, but there is no excuse to put yourself into that situation so early in the game. Maybe that's why his ERA is up to 5.28.

Myers pitched a great game, going eight strong innings with five strikeouts and no walks. The fact that he threw strikes was huge, as he allowed three solo home runs, accounting for all of his runs.

The Phils jacked four homers, three off Burnett and one off Chien-Ming Wang. After J-Roll's solo shots, Carlos Chooch Ruiz muscled a two-run shot into the first row of the left-center field bleachers, and Jayson Werth hit a two-run bomb to deep left field. The National League's best hitter thus far, Rauuuuuuul Ibanez, jacked a two-run shot off Wang to cap the scoring in the seventh.

J.A. Happ will make his long anticipated rotation debut this afternoon against Andy Pettite. Tomorrow's pitching match-up is one to marvel, as Cole Hamels toes the rubber against CC Sabathia. I wonder if Shane Victorino will be in the lineup for that game. The Phillies have called John Mayberry Jr. up from Triple-A to serve as designated hitter, likely today and tomorrow. Mayberry could provide a right handed power bat, especially if he hits like he did in spring training.

The series victory in Cincinnati was key for this team. They did something they failed to do during their last homestand: win the series after taking the first game. After beating the Reds in the opener, they dropped the second game, setting up a rubber match on Thursday afternoon. The Phillies rallied, and took the series, which is something all the good teams do. It was also impressive, how the Phillies jumped to a 6-0 lead in that game, and then rallied again to put more runs on the board after Joe Blanton allowed the Reds to score five runs, all in one inning.

The Phillies are showing more heart than they were earlier in the season, and they are getting hot at a good time. The Marlins are playing horrible baseball, and the Mets are playing average. If the Phillies keep it up, they could establish a solid lead in the NL East before the all star break.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

J.A. Happ finally earns his spot in rotation

J.A. Happ has finally been awarded his spot in the starting rotation. Happ will make his first start of this season against the Yankees this weekend. He's been deserving of a spot since his call-up last season, and it's great to see him finally getting his shot. Also, Chan Ho Park could be a great bullpen arm for the Phils. He's comfortable in the role, and has thrived in it. Hopefully Park can help solidify the bullpen, and Happ should give them a good chance of victory every fifth day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Phillies hanging in there while issues surround team

There are many concerns about the Phillies and while these issues loom large, the team is hanging around in the NL East as no one is showing they want to take the division just yet.

For some reason, the Mets have owned the Phillies since the Phils' dominance in 2007. The Mets clearly get up for all the games against the Phillies, and would be an excellent team if they did when playing the rest of the league as well.

The Phillies' last home stand was just inexcusable though. They took the first game against division rival Atlanta, and proceeded to drop the next two and lose the series. They followed by doing the exact same thing against the Dodgers. They need to show a bit more of that killer instinct that was so prominent last season. After taking the first game of a home series, they absolutely need to at least win the series. If they drop the second game, they need to find a way to rebound and take the series. Last year they were doing just that, but last year they also had a rock solid bullpen and closer.

Brad Lidge needs to figure it out. He blew another save in last night's game in Washington; thankfully the Phils bounced back and took the game in extra innings. Unfortunately, Lidge hurt the team with a day night double header scheduled today, as J.A. Happ was used in an emergency relief appearance in extra innings last night. This prevents Happ from making the start tonight that he should have been making. The team called up Andrew Carpenter to start in his place.

I feel sorry for Happ. He's done such a good job for this team, and is better suited as a starter. He told the broadcasters he was looking forward to the opportunity to start tonight's ballgame, a role he should be have been in all along. Happ would have given them a strong chance to win tonight; but no one knows exactly what to expect from Carpenter. Hopefully Happ hangs in there and doesn't become discouraged. They can't keep him out of the rotation much longer.

Lastly, we get to the old man. I'm as much of a Jamie Moyer fan as nearly anyone out there, but I wonder if he should have retired last season. As we all know, that would have been the perfect way to go out, sitting on top of the pitching rubber in the locker room after winning the World Series. His 8.15 era is horrendous, and while I'm sure it'll slowly lower itself, the Moyer we've come to know may be gone. I hope for his and our sake that he figures it out and gets it going again, but it's rather doubtful at this point. Jamie should be going out on his own terms, and hopefully the game doesn't force him out. I'd hate to see baseball dictate his departure; but rather Moyer calling it quits when he decides the time is right.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Phils give game away to Mets, waste Park's effort

The Phillies aren't accustomed to giving games away. In fact, they have the best fielding percentage as a team in Major League Baseball. But they gave one away last night in New York against the Mets. Johan Santana was un-hittable, but shockingly so was Chan Ho Park. The Phils ended up with more errors, in the 1-0 loss, than New York had hits.

Park was absolutely tremendous last night. He kept New York's hitters off balance all night, changed pitches and speeds well, and kept the ball out of the middle of the plate. A particularly intriguing moment evident of Park's stuff came with Jose Reyes at the plate. Park threw a cutter that started on the inside corner. As Reyes took a big swing, the ball sharply cut inside, and Reyes came no where near it. After the miss, Reyes stood there and then glared back at Park, and even one of the Phils' broadcasters noticed it and said something along the lines of, 'he looks back out at him like, where'd that come from?' He allowed just one hit over six innings, and it was a little cue shot off Daniel Murphy's bat that dropped into the left-center field gap.

Park got himself in trouble in the sixth, dropping the ball on a play at first after Ryan Howard's spectacular diving stop and perfect throw, allowing Reyes to reach first base. Reyes followed by stealing second and advancing to third on Carlos Ruiz's throwing error. After a walk, Park settled down to retire the National League's leading hitter, Carlos Beltran, to end the inning.

I do not agree with the way Charlie Manuel played the seventh inning, which ended up costing them the game. Raul Ibanez led off with a double, but Santana settled down and Ibanez was still standing at second with two outs and Park due up. Manuel brought Eric Bruntlett in to pinch hit, trying to take advantage of a runner in scoring position, realizing that Santana hasn't allowed many. Bruntlett went down with some feeble swings, and the starting pitcher who had allowed just one hit and had plenty of gas left in the tank was gone from the game. Bruntlett didn't have much of a shot in that situation against Santana. In New York, cold off the bench, against the best pitcher in the game who was throwing everything he had to get out of the jam. Send Park up there, hope that Santana walks him again, and hope that Park keeps putting goose eggs up on the scoreboard.

The next mistake was bringing Scott Eyre into a tie game late when Manuel had the entire bullpen as his disposer. Eyre walked the lead off hitter and nearly followed by walking David Wright, but Wright got himself out with a terrible 3-1 swing. The play that cost them the game and allowed Carlos Delgado to score all the way from first is a play Pedro Feliz won't try to make 99 times out of 100. He clearly had no shot at throwing Fernando Tatis out at first base, but the magnitude of the game and the stage in which he was playing it drove Feliz to want to end the inning with a spectacular play. Instead, he made a very uncharacteristic horrendous throwing error, and then for some reason, Jayson Werth hesitated to throw home before throwing a perfect strike to Chooch. Delgado is a dead duck is Werth throws the ball right away. I haven't seen the play enough times to determine if there was a reason for Werth's hesitation. One announcer mentioned that maybe someone was blocking his path to the plate, but I didn't see anyone.

This is not the type of game that the Phillies lose. They don't make errors and they don't typically lose late in ballgames. Hopefully the team chalks it up to exactly what it was, a blunder and a fluke. A similar play may occur again this season, but it will not happen in a situation like last night. You won't see the Phillies make another play like that late in a close ballgame that leads to the winning run scoring. It's not going to happen again. The team's defense is still tremendous, and they'll need to rebound immediately with Jamie Moyer on the hill tonight in New York. Feliz should get plenty of chances to redeem himself, as the Mets are sure to give him plenty of action tonight with Moyer pitching.

Park bounced back from a tough start against the Mets last weekend, now Moyer needs to follow suit. A win tonight gives the Phillies a split in New York and a 3-1 road-trip. That'd be tremendous.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Phils sweep Cards, set for showdown in the Citi

Another great win for the Phils last night as they sweep the Cardinals in a two-game set and take over first place in the NL East.

They did a remarkable job of first handing the 3-0 Kyle Lohse his first defeat, and then doing the same to the 3-0 Adam Wainwright with a 10-7 win.

The ball was flying out of Busch Stadium, as Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth homered for the Phils, and Ryan Ludwick, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols went deep for St. Louis.

Brett Myers started the game very well, but ended up allowing five runs on nine hits, serving up back-to-back jacks to Ludwick and Molina that cut the Phils' lead, that had been 4-0, to 4-3. Werth's clutch homer regained the Phillies' insurance runs and they never looked back.

Brad Lidge pitched very well with a four run lead in the ninth, despite allowing Pujols his first and only hit of the series, an absolute blast to left field. Pujols can hit the ball out against anyone, but seems to have Lidge's number and may even be in his head. As much as Lidge denies it, it seems lie Pujols always steps up ready to hit against Lidge, and he usually does.

Of course after mentioning that Miguel Cairo has no role on this team and shouldn't be wasting a bench spot, he's given the start at second base last night. He filled in nicely in the field, and picked up his first hit as a Phil, going 1-for-4. Still, Bruntlett could have filled in just the same, but the Phillies just wanted to give Cairo some action. His role on the team remains minuscule.

The Phillies have already guaranteed themselves at least the 2-2 road-trip I was hoping for, and a split with the Mets and 3-1 trip would be tremendous. Usually I'm looking to sweep New York, especially in a two game set, but not with Chan Ho Park on the mound against Johan Santana. That's an uphill battle, but you never know. Park can not afford to allow four or five runs in the game, neither for himself or for his team. That'd likely be an insurmountable deficit against Santana, and Park's rotation spot may be on the line with this start. Let's hope he manages to pull out a gem and keeps the fightins in first place.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Howard slams Lohse, Blanton dominant in 6-1 win

The Phillies started the road-trip off with a slam last night, as Ryan Howard hit his second grand slam of the season and Joe Blanton pitched great as the Phils defeated Kyle Lohse and the Cardinals, 6-1. Howard's grand slam was the seventh of his career, tying Mike Schmidt for the all-time team lead in that category. Jayson Werth also jacked his third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth.

Blanton gave the team six very solid innings, allowing just four hits and two walks. The entire pitching staff held the red hot Albert Pujols hit-less for the game. Lohse had a great start to the game, but appeared to unravel a bit after getting beaned on his non-pitching elbow in the third. After being hit, Lohse threw his bat in a rage, and glared back at Blanton on the mound before walking to first. For some reason, he thought Blanton would be throwing at the pitcher, in a two strike count. He continued to steam at first base, even attempting to steal second base. He came all the way around to score the loan Cards' run on a Joe Thurston double.

His anger may have carried over to the mound, or maybe the Phillies just flipped a switch and started hitting. Regardless, the following inning, Werth hit his blast and Howard's grand slam the following inning dealt Lohse his first loss of the season.

Brett Myers looks for a strong outing against Adam Wainwright tonight, before the team heads to New York for a showdown at Citi Field.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tough week ahead; Cairo's role

This will certainly be a challenging week for the Phils, as they face talented teams and unfavorable pitching match-ups. The mini road-trip will be a good indication of where the Phillies currently stand.

Starting tonight in St. Louis, against the team with the second best record in the National League at 17-8, the Phils have drawn the Cardinals' two best starting pitchers for this short two game set. Former Phil Kyle Lohse (3-0 1.97) takes the hill tonight against Joe Blanton, and Brett Myers opposes Adam Wainwright (3-0 2.76) tomorrow. Blanton and Myers' combined record is 1-4. It won't be easy, breaking up the perfect records of either Lohse or Wainwright this week, and the Phillies certainly have their work cut out for them.

After St. Louis, they will play their first game ever at Citi Field, in the most unbalanced pitching match-up imaginable. Chan Ho Park, who was rocked by the Mets his last time out, takes his win-less record and 8.57 era up against Johan Santana (3-1 1.10). The series closes with Jamie Moyer, who also struggled against New York this weekend, against Mike Pelfrey who pitched very well against the Phils on Friday.

Going 2-2 during this stretch would be a major positive, and preventing a sweep is crucial. On the road against two tough teams and four tough pitchers, the Phillies need to fight, scratch and claw their way to a few wins during this stretch. If they can't manage to do so, it could carry over and deflate the team a bit as they return home to face the Atlanta Braves. Fortunately, Cole Hamels is slated to take the ball on in Friday's opener against Atlanta.

On another note, what exactly is Miguel Cairo doing on this team? He has just eight at bats, and it is not fair to judge him on such limited playing time, but he has no role on this team whatsoever. He's also hit-less in those eight at bats, but that's not the major factor. Eric Bruntlett is the same type of player, but better, and is the primary utility infielder on the team. That bench spot seems as though it could be better used, on a power hitter or potential base-stealer for late in games. Cairo is a solid defender, but is not getting any time as a defensive replacement and would not be a long-term solution should an injury arise.
Hopefully Big Joe rebounds from a terrible start his last time out and the Phils put on a hitting clinic against Lohse tonight to get the roadtrip off to a great start.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rubber Game washed out

Today's finale against the Mets has been postponed to a date to be named later. The Phils will head to St. Louis to take on the Cards for two, and then make their first trip to Citi Field to face the Mets in a two game set starting Wednesday.

The most conventional of wins: The walk-off walk

A bit anti-climatic, but I'll take it, especially against New York; I just love to watch the Mets' bullpen implode. The truth is, the Phillies were lucky to win that ballgame and had they lost, it wouldn't have been the Mets that beat them. They would have beaten themselves.

Bad Ollie showed up for New York, as he has all season, and the Phillies got off to a great start against him. Shane Victorino led-off with a triple that struggling outfielder Daniel Murphy misplayed, and Carlos Beltran was once again, not hustling for the Mets and failed to back-up the play. Raul Ibanez drove him in, of course, and Jimmy Rollins knocked in another run to put them ahead 2-0 after the first for a successful start, despite Carlos Ruiz's bases loaded popup on a 3-1 pitch.

Jamie Moyer was inconsistent, and not his typical self, walking four batters, three of which led off an inning. With Moyer struggling but limiting the Mets, the Phillies needed to jump on Perez and take advantage of all their opportunities, but failed to do so. After Perez walked Moyer to force in a run and was lifted from the game, Victorino smoked a ball up the middle that hit the pitcher who then started an odd 1-2-6 double play to end the inning. In the fourth, the Phils left a runner stranded at third, with less than two outs.

Even though the Mets typically don't score late in games, you could see and feel a rally coming as they kept chipping away at Moyer but not quite breaking through. The problem with the Mets sixth inning rally to take the lead is the way it happened. Moyer retired the first two batters of the inning and was facing the bottom of the lineup. A veteran pitcher like Moyer needs to end that inning with the lead intact. Certainly after Murphy's home run, he needs to settle down and retire the next batter, with his team clinging to a one-run lead. He was unable to do these things, and Scott Eyre was once again horrendous in relief,as the Mets went ahead by one after Clay Condrey terrifyingly retired Gary Sheffield with the bags juiced.

Raul Ibanez hit an absolute blast in the bottom of the sixth to tie it, Jayson Werth threw Omir Santos out at the plate to bail Ryan Madson out, and Victorino's bases loaded walk in the tenth won the game. Fortunately, all the Phillies' mistakes didn't cost them the game and they could take a series this afternoon if Joe Blanton can bounce back from a lousy start. Today's starter John Maine was brought into yesterday's game as a pinch runner. He didn't do any strenuous running, but who knows, maybe he'll become fatigued an inning earlier than he would have, had he not entered the game. Something to keep an eye on.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mets take game one; Chan Ho Park awful in loss

The Mets took last night's series opener, jumping on Chan Ho Park early and often, propelling them to a 7-4 victory.

Park was absolutely terrible once again. He's been brutal in his starts this season, and had trouble finding the strike zone last night. The Phils made a mini-rally in the third inning, scoring three runs, but Park allowed the Mets to take two of them right back. The Phillies have been playing from behind all season and scoring late runs, but they can't do it in every game. The Mets bullpen is also much improved, making the task that much more daunting.

I said it in spring training and I'm saying it again; Chan Ho Park should not be a starting pitcher on this team. Even if he finds a way to settle into what he typically gives a team, it still won't be all that good. He's an average pitcher with average stuff, and we can do better. J.A. Happ deserves a shot in the rotation, and should take over for Park as soon as possible. He hasn't been tremendous out of the bullpen this season, but looking at last year, he was excellent in the rotation and mediocre of out the 'pen. He's a starter, not a reliever. Park, on the other hand, can do both and should be used in the long relief role.

The Mets played their typical ball, scoring all their runs in the first five innings. Score on them late, you win the game; that's simply the way to beat them. Mike Pelfrey gave them a very solid start last night, turning in his best performance of the year. Meanwhile, Chris Coste continued to look lost at the plate and his years of producing at the plate are likely long gone.

K-Rod picked up the save, striking out two of the four batters he faced. He's good, but not un-hittable, and while it's concerning that the Phils are going to face him in the ninth a whole lot for the next few years, most of them had never faced him before last night. He has good stuff and a ridiculous delivery, and it takes time to get a look at him and what he's throwing. Once the Phils grow accustomed to the new Mets' relievers, expect them to put up a better fight late in games.

Look for Jamie Moyer to get the team back on track with a good outing this afternoon while the Mets are wondering which Ollie will show up. Hopefully it's the same one that's been showing up all season for them, as Oliver Perez has been awful this season. The Phillies need a good start from Moyer, as falling behind early again could be discouraging for them.