Monday, September 28, 2009

Plenty to watch with one week to play

It's hard to believe there's only one week left in the regular season. The Phillies have all but wrapped up their third consecutive NL East title, but there's still plenty to look for in this final week.

Getting the bullpen healthy and on track for the postseason is priority number one. Charlie Manuel mentioned that Brett Myers is his number one back-up plan as postseason closer, should he steer away from closer by committee. Getting Myers, J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre among other players healthy is crucial to their success in the playoffs. Players should know their role come playoff time, and having an established closer is important. The ninth inning shouldn't belong to four or five different guys. Each player has enough stress on him in the playoffs and should be able to just focus on his individual role. When each player does his job, as they did last season, it bodes well for the team.

It should also be interesting as to who the Phillies face in the NLDS. While the Phillies could pass the Dodgers for the top seed in the National League, it's more likely that LA will capture that title. If they do, it will be between the Phillies and Cardinals, who are within a half game of each other, to fill out the second and third seeds. If the Phillies take the top spot or the second spot, they will face the Colorado Rockies for the second time in three seasons. If the Phillies finish third, they will be in Los Angeles for game one of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

All eyes will be on Pedro Martinez is he makes his scheduled start this week. It's likely that if Pedro pitches and does well, he will pitch as the fourth and final starter in the rotation. Hopefully if J.A. Happ is sent to the bullpen, he is used in key spots late in games rather than being used as a long reliever. Happ has proven his value and could be a valuable lefty out of the 'pen in the seventh, eighth or maybe even ninth inning.

This week's final tuneup will be interesting as the Phils get ready for yet another wild postseason.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How much longer can we stick with Lidge?

The Phillies cannot and will not win in the postseason without a solid, if not spectacular closer. How much longer can the team and its fans endure Brad Lidge? After blowing last night's game against the division rival Florida Marlins, Charlie Manuel said Lidge will remain closer.


He's been brutal all year. For the longest time I was on ship with Charlie in saying, "hey, look how great he was last year. He'll turn it around."

Well, it's September 24. If it hasn't been turned around yet, it's not happening. Is there an alternative? Ryan Madson has struggled in the closer's role and Brett Myers has health issues and hasn't closed a game since 2007. J.C. Romero also has health issues and hasn't closed games in quite some time either.

At this point, trying someone new is a better option than throwing Lidge out there, time after time. They all but have the division wrapped up, and now would be the time to find a good closer for the playoffs. One blown save in the postseason is huge. Look at Mariano Rivera against the Diamondbacks in game seven of the World Series in 2001. He had been dominant but one blown save cost the Yankees a World Series title. The Phillies can't afford to have anyone other than a dominant closer on the mound, and they shouldn't stand for it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Phils are rolling; I'm engaged!

The Phillies are on cruise control after taking the series from Atlanta. Barring a disaster in the six games remaining with the Marlins, the Phillies are easily destined for the postseason for a third consecutive season.

My girlfriend Jamie and I attended the Dave Matthews Band concerts on Saturday and Sunday night, and we got engaged on Sunday night while Dave played You & Me. Great concert with a rare treat of Halloween as the closer, and a great night for Jamie and myself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kendrick, Pedro lead Phils to twin bill sweep

Kyle Kendrick and Pedro Martinez dominated on the mound in yesterday's day-night doubleheader sweep over the Mets, which officially eliminated New York from playoff contention.

Sending Kendrick to the hill in the first game of the twin bill was terrifying. He started the afternoon by striking out the side. Those would be his only three k's on the day, but Kendrick was spectacular. Charlie pulled Kendrick after seven and one third innings, following an Anderson Hernandez two-run home run. The homer cut the Phillies' lead to 4-2, but Tyler Walker was able to finish the eighth inning. Brad Lidge entered the ninth inning with a three run lead, his first save situation since being pulled from last Tuesday's game. Lidge struggled again, allowing two runs, but stranded the tying run on base and earned the save.

Pedro has been a great signing for the Phillies. Adding him to the rotation in favor of Jamie Moyer could not have worked out better. Moyer allowed five earned runs against the Mets the night before in a spot start for the injured J.A. Happ, but Pedro stifled New York's lineup last night. His eight shutout innings improved the Phillies to 7-0 when he takes the mound, as Pedro improved to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.87.

With two outs in the eighth and the tying runner in scoring position, Pedro had already thrown 128 pitches and Charlie Manuel was on his way to the mound. Chase Utley told a disappointed Pedro that Charlie might not get him. As Charlie asked Pedro if he has anything left, Pedro said "I want him." Showing confidence in his veteran starter, Charlie left Pedro in the game and Carlos Ruiz got the Phils out of the inning on a bonehead play from Daniel Murphy. Ruiz blocked Pedro's throw in the dirt as Murphy astoundingly took off for third base. Ruiz threw him out to end the inning and close the book on Pedro's great night. Ryan Madson closed out the nightcap with an impressive ninth.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moyer, Madson lit up by Mets

The Phillies' closing problems continued this afternoon against the Mets when Ryan Madson blew his sixth save in 13 opportunities this season. The pitching was generally horrendous in a game the Phils should have won easily.

Jamie Moyer, starting making his second consecutive start in place of the injured J.A. Happ, got the ball rolling by allowing the first four Mets' batters of the game to score, proving once again that he is a below average starter in this league.

The offense rallied and built an 8-4 lead, but Moyer allowed another run before exiting with an 8-5 lead. Brett Myers was lit up for the first time since returning from the DL, allowing three earned runs in one third of an inning. Chan Ho Park struggled as well after entering in favor of Myers.

Madson was called upon once again to save this one, clinging to a one run lead. He promptly retired the first two batters before allowing Fernando Tatis to reach on a single down the first base line. David Wright following by blasting the first pitch he saw, an absolute cookie right down the pike, into the left field seats, putting New York in front 10-9.

K-Rod came on for the Mets and secured victory by pitching a perfect ninth inning.

Hamels throws another great game, What to do with Lidge?

Cole Hamels may just be back, hurling a great game against the Mets last night, improving his record to 9-9. He's been much improved lately, and appears to be getting closer and closer to his old dominant just in time for the stretch run.

It appears that Charlie Manuel has removed Brad Lidge from the closer's role. Actions speak louder than words and despite Charlie saying he'll determine how he uses Lidge and Ryan Madson based on match-ups, he's called upon Madson for every save situation since pulling Lidge from Tuesday's game. Madson has responded well, picking up the save in all of his opportunities this week. Also, Brett Myers has been excellent out of the bullpen. He needed just six pitches to throw a scoreless eighth inning against the Mets last night.

Madson and Myers are getting the job done as closer and setup man respectively, but where does that leave Brad Lidge? Charlie should go with the guys who are producing, but Lidge is not a middle reliever. It's not fair to use him as a mop up guy or a sixth inning guy. But it's a what have you done for me lately situation and he doesn't deserve to be the closer on this team because he can't get the job done.

He has an undefined role, as Madson and Myers do, and that could be a problem during the postseason. The back-end of the bullpen needs to be established before the playoffs roll around, so each guy can determine his role and prepare for it. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lidge blows save, game vs. former team

Brad Lidge entered the game in the ninth with the team clinging to a 4-3 lead, looking for a victory after the team rallied from a 3-0 deficit. After loading the bases with one out by allowing former Phillies Chris Coste and Jason Michaels to reach, Lidge induced a groundball from another former Phil, Michael Bourn. Ryan Howard made a nice play and threw home to Carlos Ruiz for a force at the plate. Lidge followed by allowing a walk-off, two-run single to Kaz Matsui, delivering a 5-4 victory to Houston.

The offense struggled early against Roy Oswalt, but Joe Blanton kept the team in the game and the Phils made their comeback, turning a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

Brett Myers pitched a scoreless eighth, facing just three batters, in his first regular season relief appearance since the Phillies clinched the NL East in 2007.

Lidge had been pitching well as of late and appeared to be on the right track. Tonight's setback is a major cause of concern as the season is winding down and the Phillies need someone who can get the job done.

Phils' offense fails again as Lee struggles

The Phils' offense remains anemic as they fall to Houston 7-0 on Cliff Lee's second consecutive poor outing.

After failing to put a single run on the board in support of J.A. Happ on Saturday after a 1-0 win the night before, the Phillies played one of their more exciting games of the season on Sunday. Pedro Martinez outdueled Tim Lincecum in a 2-1 victory in which Pedro was extremely impressive, striking out nine batters over seven innings.

Pedro has turned out to be a great signing thus far. He's 3-0 with a low three ERA, and the Phillies are 5-0 in his starts.

Last night, Lee struggled early and the offense did nothing to back him against Wandy Rodriguez.

Fortunately, fans should not be concerned about the offense or Lee. The offense is one of the most potent in baseball, as everyone knows, and will rebound in a big way. Lee has proved to be human in his last two outings, but his mechanics appear to be the same and he should bounce back with a nice outing in his next start.

I like Charlie's decision to pull Cliff from the game after three innings. He was clearly laboring and pulling him at that point will only make him that much more rested and ready to go in his next outing. Hopefully Lee didn't take this as a sign of distrust, but realizes that Charlie is making the best decision for the team and for Cliff.

Tonight's match-up is an intriguing one, as two tough righties face-off on the mound in Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hamels dominant in two hit shutout over San Fran

Cole Hamels made major strides toward returning to the dominant form we’ve come to expect from him last night, hurling a complete game, two hit shutout against the Giants at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Phillies’ fans already know the importance of Hamels pitching well; as evident in last year’s postseson, when Hamels was dominant on the mound in all three playoff series, propelling him to World Series MVP honors.

If last night is any indication that Hamels have straightened out whatever has ailed him this season, the Phillies will be in great shape entering the playoffs.

Hopefully the offense can give J.A. Happ some more run support than he’s been getting tonight and the Phils can do their best to ensure the Giants and their tremendous starting rotation don’t make the postseason.