Monday, August 30, 2010

Phils sweep Pads, set to face LA

The Phillies bounced back from a horrid stretch that saw them lose four straight to the Houston Astros the best way possible: by sweeping the NL's best team on the road.

Pitching led the way in San Diego as the Phillies swept the Padres behind great starts from Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels.

Oswalt pitched eight strong innings on Friday but failed to pick up the win when Brad Lidge balked in the tying run in a 'here we go again' moment. But Jimmy Rollins scored on a terrific slide when Placido Polanco singled in the 12th and Chad Durbin was excellent out of the 'pen as the Phils took game one 3-2.

Blaton was very strong in a 3-1 victory on Saturday when Shane Victorino played hero both at the plate and in the field. Cole Hamels threw eight shutout innings in last night's 5-0 victory. After the sweep, the Phillies will start a series in LA against the Dodgers tonight.

The Dodgers are unlikely to have the services of Manny Ramirez. It's expected that the White Sox will acquire him through a straight waiver claim after Manny's bonehead ejection yesterday.

Ramirez sat out of the starting lineup for a fourth straight game as talks between Chicago and LA continued. He was brought in as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded against Colorado yesterday. After the first pitch was a called strike, Manny argued and got tossed from the game, forcing the Dodgers to send another pinch hitter to the plate in an 0-1 count. That idiotic ejection seems to not only have ended his Dodgers' career but also inspired LA to let him go for nothing.

Roy Halladay takes the mound in tonight's opener against Hiroki Kuroda. You may remember Kuroda for throwing over Victorino's head in Game 3 of the 2008 NLCS, prompting both benches to clear and Victorino to tell Kuroda to throw at his body not at his head. Kuroda picked up the victory in that game, the only game of the series the Dodgers would win.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happ out-duels Halladay, Phils lose series to Houston

Once again, the Phillies struggle against Houston and fail to gain any ground on teams in the race. Yesterday, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis all lost. Of course, so did the Phillies.

J.A. Happ was excellent in his return to Philly, out-dueling Roy Halladay who had a six-game winning streak snapped with the loss. Houston continues to give the Phillies fits and add to their NL best record at Citizen's Bank Park.

Of course, there was more umpire controversy last night. Down by a run with one out, Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch and proceeded to first base. But Victorino was called back and it was ruled that he turned into the pitch. He clearly pulled his arm and elbow back, but didn't jump out of the way, a very common occurrence in Major League Baseball that goes uncalled nearly every time. He didn't push his arm into the pitch, but he didn't try his hardest to avoid it either. It's a play that will be ruled a hit batter 99 out of 100 times. Nevertheless, Victorino atoned for the call and singled a few pitches later.

Ben Francisco was picked off at third base by the catcher, another bonehead play on the base-paths. He represented the tying run at the time. It appeared to be more umpire controversy but upon review, the correct call was clearly made.

The Phillies desperately hope to avoid a four-game sweep this afternoon at the hands of the lowly Houston Astros. Their hope now rests in the right arm of Kyle Kendrick, and hopefully the bats.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Myers beats Phils

Brett Myers was excellent in his return to Philadelphia, beating the Phillies 3-2 at Citizen's Bank Park last night. Myers said he wanted to stick it to the Phillies after they decided to cut him loose after the 2009 season. That he did, throwing seven solid innings, allowing two runs and striking out nine.

Myers had departed the game for the pinch-hitter on the hook for the loss after Joe Blanton countered with seven innings of one run ball while also striking out nine. But Ryan Madson allowed two runs in the eighth, giving Myers the victory over his former club.

After the strange site of watching Myers take the mound at Citizen's Bank Park in an opposing uniform, it will be just as weird on Wednesday when J.A. Happ squares off against the Phils.

It feels as though the Phillies have been 2.5 games behind Atlanta for weeks now. It seems that every time the Phillies win, so do the Braves. When the Phils have a chance to gain some ground after a Braves' loss, the Phillies seem to lose too. Fortunately, the Phillies are in the division and Wild Card race.

The Phillies will look to secure a victory tonight against Houston who have been a thorn in the Phillies' side. It was announced last night that Houston, surprisingly has the best record at Citizen's Bank Park of any opposing NL team. Cole Hamels is looking to bounce back from a rare bad start tonight.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Phillies seek sweep of Giants, Hamels seeks support

The Phillies are red hot and now have a stranglehold over the NL Wild Card. After two impressive victories over the Giants to start the series, the Phillies are seeking a sweep tonight. They've guaranteed that they will lead the Wild Card after the series against the team that's now chasing the Phils.

Last night was impressive on so many levels. Joe Blanton, who typically gets off to bad starts, put the Phillies in an early first inning hole. But the Phils rallied behind Jimmy Rollins who was a double shy of hitting for a cycle and hit a big three-run home run in the fourth. Domonic Brown also hit an absolute blast into the upper deck as the Phillies continued to tack on late runs in an 8-2 victory.

Now, with a two game lead in the Wild Card, the Phillies send Cole Hamels to the mound. Hamels has lost two consecutive 1-0 games and ranks 47th out of 50 National League pitchers in worst run support. In his last seven games, he's allowed just ten earned runs. In those games, he's earned just one victory.

Hopefully this trend starts to turn around tonight and the Phillies continue to put runs on the board as they have.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Phillies take series from Mets, tied with SF for Wild Card

With last night's victory over the New York Mets to the series' rubber match, the Phillies have taken six of the last seven series. The victory leaves the Phils two games behind the division leading Braves, but most importantly the Phillies are now tied with the San Francisco Giants for the lead in the wild card. That's a perfect segway for this week, when the Giants come into Philly for a three-game series.

With today's off day, the Phillies could have rearranged the starting rotation to feature Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and then Roy Halladay on the mound against San Fran. It appears, however, that Halladay will miss this series and instead pitch the opener against the Washington Nationals on Friday.

Oswalt is scheduled to pitch tomorrow against Barry Zito, Blanton opposes Matt Cain on Wednesday and Hamels squares off with Jonathan Sanchez in the series finale. The highest ERA belonging to those three Giants belongs to Sanchez at 3.60. It should be a tough series with a ton of good starting pitchers taking the mound. It'd look even better if 'Doc were on the mound on Thursday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Victorino nearing his return

Enforcements are on the way.

Shane Victorino, after going 1-for-2 in his Lehigh Valley debut last night, hit a triple in his first at bat for the Iron Pigs tonight. He encored by hitting a home run in his second at bat.

Victorino appears to be ready for his return to the Phillies. It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do with Domonic Brown.

He can certainly help this team off the bench and getting the occasional start. But the organization would likely prefer Brown to be playing on an every day basis; the only opportunity for him to do so would be at Triple-A.

But, if the Phillies want to field the best possible team, Brown is more valuable than say a Greg Dobbs.

It will be great to have Vic' back on the big league club, but they may be losing a valuable asset in the process.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Phils take series from Mets, half game out of Wild Card

The red hot Phillies took an important series from the New York Mets at Citizen's Bank Park over the weekend with a win in the series finale on Sunday.

The team is firing on all cylinders and could easily have swept the series. An impressive rally in the eighth inning on Friday led to a 7-5 come from behind victory. If not for Johan Santana's gem on Saturday, the Phillies would have cruised to victory behind Cole Hamels' dominant performance. Instead, Santana was slightly better, beating the Phils 1-0.

Yesterday, Raul Ibanez hit a three-run blast in the third inning , putting the Phillies up for good and extending his career hit hit streak to 16-games. Ibanez has been on fire during that stretch, hitting .407 with four doubles, four homers and 16 RBI.

Roy Halladay didn't have his best stuff yesterday, but he battled against the Mets' lineup all day and barely held on to the lead as the Phils won 6-5.

On the other hand, the Phillies became the first team to solve New York's R.A. Dickey this season, getting to him for six runs in the first three innings. Dickey and Hamels will both be looking for redemption against each-other on Friday in the series opener at New York.

The Phillies remain two games behind the Braves in the division, but have crept to a 0.5 out of the wild card lead. A Cubs victory over the Giants tonight would put the Phillies into a wild card tie.

The Phillies have a tough series on tap against the Dodgers who will throw Vincente Padilla, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw against the Phils. Kendrick will battle Padilla tomorrow night,

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Phillies find themselves 1 GB after 5th straight win

The Atlanta Braves are looking in their rear view mirror only to find a not so familiar foe riding their bumper. Sure, the Phillies were expected to not only contend in the NL East, but were the favorite to win the division once again. But these aren't those same Phillies. Injuries to every key player on the team not named Roy Halladay or Cole Hamels have forced the Phillies to find a new identity.

They have. The team is receiving contributions from different players every day. Placido Polanco has been an excellent acquisition for the team. He's the rock they needed. He doesn't go into prolonged slumps. Polanco just produces, at the plate and in the field, every day. He and Halladay share the team MVP award to this point. Along with Polanco, countless players are propelling this team to victory. Carlos Ruiz is red hot, Wilson Valdez has been a pleasant surprise, Raul Ibanez is on fire, Rollins continues to play Gold Glove shortstop, Domonic Brown has a cannon for an arm and provides a spark, Ross Gload strings together quality at bat after quality at bat and seems to hit everything hard and recent acquisition Mike Sweeney produced in last night's victory over the Mets.

The pitching is coming around and the team is consistently playing good baseball. They've won 13 of their last 15 games; an astounding number that's propelled them into position to wrestle the lead in the NL East away from the Braves.

While the Florida Marlins have already faded out of contention in the division, partially thanks to a Phillies' sweep this week, the Phils have a chance to push the Mets to the brink of falling out of contention as well if they stay hot the next two days. Their task will be tough of course, with Johan Santana on the mound tonight and knuckleballer R.A Dickey pitching tomorrow. Of course, the Phillies are sending Hamels and Halladay to the mound.

It should be an interesting weekend. August has been kind to the Phillies thus far as they've failed to lose a game during the month. Phillies fans may be able to check the standings tomorrow morning and find the Fightins tied for first place.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When it Rains, It Pours

Friday is starting to seem like ages ago. The Phillies were in great shape at the start of the weekend. Winners of eight straight with Roy Oswalt, the most coveted player before the deadline, set to make his Phillies' debut.

Now, they come out hobbled. Oswalt was roughed up on Friday and Brad Lidge blew another game on Saturday to secure a series win for Washington. Now, Ryan Howard left today's game in the first inning with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

Much has been made of Howard's health throughout the years; while the Phillies were racking up injury after injury, Howard has been the one constant in the lineup. He rounded second base on Ben Francisco's RBI single, but turned around and went back into second just before the throw. He took an awkward hop into the bag and seemed to turn his ankle. Howard required help getting off the field and his status remains to be seen.

The Phillies can ill afford to lose their iron horse. So far this year, Howard has appeared in 103 games. In 2009 he played in 160. In 2008 he played in all 162. Phillies fans are holding their collective breaths across the Deleware Valley that Howard's injury is not serious.

Fortunately, the Phillies are holding a 2-0 lead after one and Cole Hamels looked sharp in the first. Hopefully they hold on to salvage a game in this series, even with their four, five hitters being Cody Ransom and Francisco respectively.