Friday, April 30, 2010

Lidge returns, Madson to DL

Just in time for Brad Lidge's return from the DL, Ryan Madson has been placed on the 15-day DL with a broken toe. The injury occurred after Madson's blown save on Wednesday. He claims he fell down a flight of stairs and kicked a metal chair. He had trouble walking the next morning and realized the injury was worse than he'd originally thought.

Apparently, the only thing Madson's found more difficult than walking this season has been retiring batters. It would have been nice to see Lidge return to the closer role and Madson slide back into the set-up position to which he's better suited; all that contingent on Lidge pitching better than he did in 2009 of course.

Antonio Bastardo, who'd been optioned to Triple-A to make room for Lidge, was recalled.

Joe Blanton will need a spot on the roster as he prepares to return next week. Nelson Figueroa, Kyle Kendrick or Bastardo will be the odd man out.

Phillies vs. Mets Round 1

The rivalry rose to a new level in 2007, starting with Jimmy Rollins' declaration that the Phillies were the team to beat. Players had a battle of words, and some incredible battles on the field. The end result was a monumental collapse by the Mets, which the Phillies won the division and dominated their foes from the north throughout the season.

The last few years, the rivalry has been far less intense. The Mets have been terrible, while the Phillies obviously went on to do great things. The Mets hope they are back, as they've taken first place in the NL East, the first time the Phils have fallen out of the top spot since May of 2009. New York's first real test could come this weekend when they square off with the old thorn in their side.

The Mets are riding a seven game win streak entering tonight's contest at the Bank. The Phils are hopeful that Kyle Kendrick has things figured out and is ready to end that streak right off the bat. Kendrick (0-0 7.71) opposes Jon Niese (0-1 3.68). While Kendrick has pitched poorly, except for his brilliant outing against Atlanta that Ryan Madson blew, the team continues to have faith in him. Niese is a left-handed pitcher and has pitched pretty well this season. He's struggled to pitch deep into games, but expect him to keep the Mets in the game.

Saturday's match-up could be a spectacular one. Roy Halladay (4-1 1.80) looks to rebound from his first loss. Meanwhile, Mike Pelfrey (4-0 0.69) appears to have finally hit his stride. Like most of the Mets' rotation, Pelfrey struggled with consistency the last few seasons. While he can't keep pitching at that pace, he has been great this season and hasn't allowed a run in 24 innings. The Phillies will need to break that streak to give Halladay some run support, something they failed to do in his last start.

Two polar opposite left-handed pitchers take the mound in the finale as veteran Jamie Moyer (2-2 5-25) takes on Johan Santana (3-1 2.08). Santana is off to a good start after crowning himself as the "beast of the NL East." The Phillies will likely need to get to Santana early; it's unlikely that Moyer will be able to keep the Mets off the scoreboard.

It should be an interesting series with first place in the division on the line, albeit May.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Phils win strange finale of strange series

That was a bizarre series, capped off by a bizarre game. Looking at the series in advance, one might like the Phillies' chances in games one and two. The 4-0 Roy Halladay was pitching the first game, and the Phils were opposing Todd Wellemeyer. They've hit Wellemeyer well in the past, including one of those 20 run outburst games. But Halladay lost his first game as a Fightin, and Wellemeyer dominated the Phils struggling lineup.

The series finale is the game one may have handed the Giants, with Tim Lincecum on the mound. He was nasty, fanning 11 batters in 8.1 innings. That's when the fun began. Lincecum was pulled after allowing his first walk of the game, the Phillies loaded the bases and Jayson Werth's bloop double cleared the bases and tied the game.

Ryan Madson blew a save in the 10th, the Phils scored two more in the 11th and Nelson Figueroa picked up his first career save in a strange and stressful inning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Big Man in Town

Ryan Howard signed a five-year extension today, keeping him in red pinstripes through 2016. Worth at least $125 million, the deal includes a club option for the sixth year. Howard received a limited no trade clause in the deal.

Howard, the fastest player to reach 200 home runs in his career, is obviously a remarkable talent and the premier power hitter in Major League Baseball. It's great to see him sticking around instead of seeking an even larger contract as a free agent.

There is no telling what the thirty-year-old Howard can accomplish during the next five or six seasons, but he's primed to do more great things for this city and franchise.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Halladay, Happ, Polanco, Romero

On the heels of Roy Halladay's dominance in a complete game shutout victory over the Braves, the Phillies announced some disappointing news as well as some positive.

First, Halladay is now 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA with two complete games and one shutout. He's been better than advertised and has to be the early season Cy Young award favorite.

The Phils' second best starter this season, J.A. Happ was placed on the DL today as a result of the elbow injury which caused him to miss his start in Atlanta. Nelson Figueroa will start on Saturday in Happ's place.

Placido Polanco, who left last night's game with a bruised left elbow after being hit by a pitch, will sit out tonight's rubber match in Atlanta. He could return to the lineup Friday in Arizona.

On a positive note, reliever J.C. Romero was added to the active roster. He pitched well in his rehab outings and should help some of the early season bullpen woes.

Tonight, sinker-baller Derek Lowe takes the mound against Jamie Moyer in an important start for Moyer. He's pitched well in his two starts, if not for a horrendous inning mixed into each outing. Inconsistency plagued Moyer last season and it's something he needs to overcome this year to be successful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Madson blows save, wastes Kendrick's outing

The Phillies' bullpen strikes again.

The team cannot afford to continue losing games this way.

Kyle Kendrick, after two bad outings against the Nationals, pitched a very strong game in Atlanta. He was effectively wild while scattering four hits in his eight shutout innings on the mound. His ERA dropped from somewhere in the 17 range to 7.24.

Enter Ryan Madson. After starting the inning well, he allowed a two-out, two-run bomb to Troy Glaus. The lead was down to 3-2 and Rich Dubee came out to the mound, warning Madson to be careful against Braves' phenom Jason Heyward. Heyward promptly blasted a game-tying shot. It's Madson's first blown save of the year, although he hasn't pitched particularly well to this point. His ERA stands at 7.71.

Jose Contreras entered in the 10th and allowed the first batter he faced, Nate McLouth to hit a walk-off bomb as the Braves took the first meeting with the Phils this season, 4-3.

Two dominant veteran pitchers take the hill tonight as Roy Halladay squares off against Tim Hudson.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Phils drop two straight to Marlins

After taking the series opener from Florida, the Phils dropped two straight for the first time this season, losing their first series. The offense went from plentiful to anemic in the two losses of 5-1 and 2-0.

Jamie Moyer, once again had one terrible inning around a decent outing. Allowing five runs in the first, the Marlins never looked back behind a terrific start from Ricky Nolasco. Jayson Werth's solo homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth broke the shutout, but Nolasco still pitched a complete game victory.

Cole Hamels was excellent in the rubber match. Dan Uggla hit a solo shot off the foul pole and Ryan Madson allowed an inherited base runner to score, which was more than enough for Nate Robertson and the Marlins. Hamels pitched in and out of jams all day, but he got big outs when he needed them and made quality pitches; an encouraging sign and certainly an outing Hamels can build from. He falls to 2-1 as his record is started to balance out. He was fortunate to pick up two straight victories to start the season over Washington as he was backed by an offensive onslaught. Now he takes a tough luck loss but he will undoubtedly focus on the positives after that start.

The Phillies have the day off before regrouping for their series in Atlanta starting tomorrow. Phils fans will get their first look at twenty year old phenom Jason Heyward; as well as Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe. That's some tremendous pitching the Phils will see in Atlanta this week. Hope they bring some hots bats with them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kendrick not cutting it

Kyle Kendrick's up and down career has been well documented. It appeared he'd put his struggles behind him, working out his problems and pitching exceptionally well during the spring. Then, the season started.

Kendrick's ERA is 17.47 and he lasted a total of just 5.2 innings in his two starts this season. The only thing worse: that ERA is strictly against the Washington Nationals.

One has to wonder if Kendrick will ever have what it takes to be a productive Major League pitcher. His struggles continue and it took a 14 run outburst on Wednesday to bail Kendrick out. The offense has taken him off the hook both times, as he remains without a decision this season.

The rest of the rotation has been solid. Roy Halladay has been Halladay, J.A. Happ has yet to allow an earned run in his two starts, Moyer was decent but inconsistent his first time out and Cole Hamels is 2-0 despite an ERA over five against Washington.

Moyer looks to continue his dominance over the Florida Marlins tonight and lock up their fourth straight series win to start the season.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rollins appears destined for DL

Jimmy Rollins is likely to land on the disabled list due to his strained calf, which made him a late subtraction from Monday's lineup. The team will decide today.

Rollins is off to his best start in recent memory. He's truly been the catalyst at the top of the lineup, sparking the team's offensive outburst through the first week of the season. He's hitting .391 with a team leading .516 on base percentage. He already has three doubles, a triple and a home run, seven walks, just four strikeouts and two stolen bases without being caught.

If Rollins were to miss significant time, the lineup would clearly be lacking a certain element. Juan Castro could fill in admirably, but the team is just better with Rollins on the field. Castro led-off on Monday, but it'll be interesting to see if Charlie Manuel moves Shane Victorino into the top spot with Rollins out.

The Phils are an impressive 6-1, followed by Florida (4-4), Atlanta and Washington (each 3-4), and the lowly New York Mets (2-5).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Offense carries inconsistent Moyer

The Phillies keep on rolling and for the second straight time to start the season, they will go for the sweep in the series finale. The match-up: Roy Halladay vs. Roy Oswalt. Doesn't get much better than that.

It looked as though the Phils were on their way to another easy victory last night, jumping out to a 4-0 lead thanks to Jayson Werth three RBI, Ryan Howard's triple and Jamie Moyer retiring the first eight batters he faced.

Then, the inconsistency that marred Moyer last season arose again when he allowed a double to the opposing pitcher in the third. Former Phil Jason Michaels followed with a two-run homer and the wheels fell off in a hurry. As quickly as he retired the first eight batters, he allowed eight straight hitters to reach base. Houston took a 5-4 lead, their first lead of the season.

But Moyer settled down and kept the Phils in the game. Good thing. Ryan Howard crushed a two-run blast to left-center in the seventh; Shane Victorino hit his first homer of the season and the Phils never looked back.

Chad Durbin and Danys Baez each pitched a perfect inning and Ryan Madson allowed one run as the Phils won 9-6.

They are 4-1 and have 10 hits in every game to start the season. That speaks for itself.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happ shuts out Houston, offense rolling

It wasn't always sexy, but J.A. Happ proved last night once again, that he is one of the best pitchers on this staff.

Happ was effectively wild at times, but he kept Houston's lineup off balance, scattering five hits and two walks over five scoreless innings while striking out five. He's even allowed less runs than Roy Halladay this season, which should be rather short lived.

The offense continued to roll, a rarity for this time of year. Placido Polanco continues to showcase all of his tremendous talents as a true baseball player. He's hitting .579 and his presence in the lineup should continue to help Jimmy Rollins, who is also off to an outstanding start.

Jamie Moyer takes the hill in Houston tonight, looking to translate his strong spring into a productive regular season outing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hamels looks to follow up Halladay's dominant outing

Tonight's game at Washington is as big as the second game of the season could possibly be for the Phillies. Following up opening day's 11-1 demolition of the Nats, in which Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco couldn't have done better, Cole Hamels takes the mound for the Phillies tonight.

Infamously, Hamels proclaimed that he couldn't wait for the season to be over last year during the World Series. Now a new season is here for Hamels and he is looking to start a new chapter and put last year's struggles behind him. Hamels is widely considered the key to the Phillies' 2010 season and with good reason. Obviously, if he returns to his previously dominant form pitching behind Halladay, the Phillies are going to win a whole lot of ball games.

Jason Marquis is making his Nationals debut. Marquis is a good pick-up for the Nats, and the sinker baller should do well in the large confines of Nationals Park.