Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oswalt dominates in 1-0 victory as Phils sweeps Braves

The Phillies' magic number is down to four after their sweep over the Atlanta Braves all but secured the NL East for a fourth consecutive year.

Tommy Hanson showed up for the Braves, shutting the Phillies down and holding them to no runs on just two hits, three walks and four strikeouts. But a recurring theme was present: Roy Oswalt was better.

Oswalt allowed just one hit over seven shutout innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

In the bottom of the eighth in a scoreless ballgame, Brad Lidge was warming up and primed to enter the game in the ninth. Little did he know, they'd need him to convert his third save of the series.

After a Ryan Howard double play erased Chase Utley from the base-paths, Jayson Werth walked with two outs. Jonny Venters fell behind Raul Ibanez and left a pitch up which Ibanez smacked down the left field line. It landed just fair and when Nate McLouth's throw missed the cut-off man, Werth scored easily from first. It'd be the only run support Oswalt, Ryan Madson and Lidge would need in a 1-0 victory.

The Braves are left scrambling for their playoff lives. They hold a half game lead in the Wild Card race over the Giants.

The Phillies shuffled their rotation again, deciding to pitch Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Hamels in the upcoming series against the Mets.

With nine to play, losing a six game lead would be a monumental collapse. But that's not in this team's makeup.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Halladay wins 20th as Phils take 5 game lead

This whirlwind season is reaching its finale. It appears to be a happy ending.

After last night's 5-3 victory over Atlanta, the Phillies have taken a five game lead in the NL East with ten to play. It'd take a nearly monumental collapse for them to miss the post-season, let alone lose the division. Roy Halladay became the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games since Steve Carlton in 1982.

The Braves, meanwhile, are scrambling. Not only are they in a free0fall out of the division race, but their lead in the Wild Card is down to one. They'll need to find a few victories in their last four contests against the Phils.

The Phillies look to sweep the Braves tonight and give themselves a nearly insurmountable six game lead. They have the man for the job on the mound.

Roy Oswalt is 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his last nine starts. He'll face Tommy Hanson, the best pitcher Atlanta will throw in this series. Still, Oswalt is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball since landing in Philadelphia and the Phillies have gotten to Hanson before. You'd have to favor the Phillies in this match-up as they go for the sweep.

An interesting thing to consider; if the Phillies have the division wrapped up before their season ending seres in Atlanta, they could have some decisions to make. Naturally, they'd want to rest their starters and some of their bullpen as they head into the playoffs. But if the Braves are fighting for their post-season lives, wouldn't the Phillies want to squash their playoff dreams? It's unlikely that they'd stretch out their starters to do so, but I'm sure the Phillies would love to knock the Braves out of post-season contention.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hamels, Lidge dominant in 3-1 win over Braves

Cole Hamels was spectacular once again last night as the Phillies took Game 1 from the Braves, 3-1. They've extended their lead in the NL East to four games. One would imagine that if the Braves don't take the next two, the division race is all but over.

Stranger things have happened as well all well know, but if the Phillies split the next two, Atlanta will have a hard time gaining four games on the Phillies in the last nine games. They'd need some help, and to sweep the Phillies down in Atlanta. An unlikely scenario.

So, the Phillies need to win one of the next two. If they could manage to sweep, the division race will be unofficially officially over. This would be huge in allowing them to rest some players before the post-season begins.

Roy Halladay takes the mound against Mike Minor tonight. Hallday has a 4.41 ERA in his last five starts, but he's been getting the run support that failed him earlier in the season.

Minor hasn't pitched deeper than six innings this season, and has lasted five or less in his last four starts. He's allowed 14 earned runs in his last three starts. He could, however, find some success against the Phillies' left handed lineup. It'll be interesting to see if Charlie Manuel shakes up the lineup a bit to include maybe a Mike Sweeney or Ben Francisco.

Last night, the Phillies won their biggest game of the season. Tonight, they'll look to repeat the results in their most important game of the season.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Phils vs. Braves, Jurrjens scratched, Beachy to make debut

The Phillies open their biggest series of the year tonight against the Braves at Citizen's Bank Park.

Cole Hamels, who's been lights out in his last five starts takes the ball for the Phillies. The Braves have scratched Jair Jurrjens from making the start tonight. He tweaked his knee during a bullpen session last Friday and will be replaced by rookie Brandon Beachy.

Beachy is making his Major League debut which could spell trouble for the Phillies. They've struggled in the past against young pitchers whom they've yet to face.

According to Braves blog Talking Chop, Beachy is "a standard three-pitch pitcher, with a plus fastball, plus curve and an above average change-up."

After another dramatic and improbable ninth inning comeback, the Phillies remain three games up entering the series. Fortunately, Atlanta's best case scenario would still leave the Phillies in a first place tie upon the end of the series.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Phillies 2010 Team Awards

Phillies 2010 Team Awards: In my Opinion

MVP: I'm excluding pitchers from this category because they have their own. This is just too tough to call. Co-MVP's: Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.

It's been an up and down season for the Phillies, with injuries and inconsistent play at the plate. But two men stayed rock solid despite a few minor injuries.

Polanco is currently hitting .300, down from the area of .320 where he hit most of the season. But Polanco has been consistent at the plate and in the field. He puts the ball in play, comes up with clutch hit after clutch hit, leads the team in batting average and has made just four errors at third base, none at second. He answered all concerns that the transition from second to third wouldn't be a smooth one by playing a gold glove caliber hot corner.

Ruiz, or choooch as he's affectionately known by the fans, is a rock behind the plate. He handles the pitching staff to perfection, and comes through time and time again by blocking the plate, throwing out runners or blocking that famous Brad Lidge slider in the dirt. But Ruiz, who's flourished at the plate in the post-season the last few seasons, transitioned his consistent bat into a full year. Batting a career high .299, Ruiz has also been one of the team's best clutch hitters. Charlie Manuel gains more confidence in Ruiz at the plate everyday after he used to pinch-hit for Ruiz in key spots.

While Polanco solidifies the top of the order and the infield, Ruiz does the same with the bottom of the order and the pitching staff. The team would not be in first place right now if not for their co-MVP's.

Cy Young: This couldn't be more obvious. Roy Halladay not only unanimously takes the title here, he may win the NL Cy Young as well. Halladay is currently tied with CC Sabathia more most wins in Major League Baseball at 19. He leads the NL in strikeouts. His ERA (2.49) is as low as it's been to close a season since 2005. He's likely to reach 20 wins for just the third time in his career. Halladay has been as dominant as they come on the mound this season, and easily takes the Cy Young award while many would consider him the team MVP as well.

Comeback Player of the Year: Brad Lidge. After a horrendous 2009 campaign which saw him blow 11 saves and post a career high ERA over seven, Lidge is back to form on the mound. He's lowered his ERA to 3.49 and has saved 22 out of 27 situations. After getting off to a slow start this season, Lidge has summoned the demons of his dominant 2008 year. He's saved 12 of his last 13 opportunities while posting a .052 ERA during that stretch. If the Phillies look to make another deep post-season run, Lidge will need to retain the form which earns him the Phillies Comeback Player of the Year.

5 Tool Player: I made this one up, but it goes to the player who best exemplfies all five tools. Shane Victorino has done it all. He's third on the team in home runs (17), fourth in doubles (24), first in triples (10), fourth in RBI (65), sixth in walks (46), first in stolen bases (32), first in fielding percentage (.994), first among outfielders in assists (8) and first among outfielders in putouts (329). He's done it with the bat, his legs, his arm and his glove and that's why Victorino has been best at using all five tools.

Unsung Hero: Wilson Valdez has been called upon much more than anticipated. In a season decimated by injuries for Jimmy Rollins, Valdez has filed in admirably. He's played 48 games at shortstop, 39 at second base and 6 at third. He's made just two errors at short, one at third and none at second. Rollins has impossible shoes to fill in his ability to play shortstop, but Valdez has come just about as close as possible while fielding tremendously in the infield this season. Anything he's done at the plate has just been a bonus, but Valdez is hitting .253 with a career high four home runs (he'd hit one in his career prior to 2010), 31 RBI, 12 doubles and four stolen bases without being caught. He's helped fill the gap left by Rollins' absence and has contributed to this team's success beyond what shows up in the box scores.

Gold Gloves: A number of players could win the NL gold glove, but let's pick the three best: Victorino, Ruiz and Polanco.

Silver Slugger: Ryan Howard is most likely the only silver slugger award winner from the Phillies this season, and even he may not win it. Utley is usually a perennial winner, but at just .274 with 15 home runs, he's not at all likely to repeat his crown.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Halladay wins 19th in sweep over Fish, Phils 3 games up

The Phillies completed the sweep over the Marlins last night, finalizing their record against Florida this season at 13-5. More importantly, the Phillies moved three games ahead of Atlanta.

Roy Halladay picked up his 19th victory which ties him for the Major League lead with CC Sabathia. He wasn't as sharp as he's been, but he was still overall very effective in shutting down the Marlins.

The Braves are now holding just a half game lead over San Francisco in the wild card race.

The Phillies are set for a three-game series against Washington, who played the role of spoilers effectively in taking two out of three from the Braves this week. The Phillies will send Roy Oswalt, Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton to the mound.

More good news for the Phillies: it appears as though they won't face Tim Hudson in the upcoming series vs. Atlanta. Hudson will pitch Saturday against the Mets and Derek Lowe pitches on Sunday.

That sets up Jair Jurrjens to face Cole Hamels in the series opener, Mike Minor vs. Halladay on Tuesday and Tommy Hanson against Oswalt in the finale.

The Phillies would be more than happy with those match-ups, missing two of Atlanta's best starters.

The primary focus this weekend should be at least staying three games ahead of Atlanta. It'd be great to gain ground, but if they maintain their three game lead, the best Atlanta can hope for is a tie after next week's series.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hamels, Lidge shutdown Fish, Phils move two games ahead of ATL

Cole Hamels' 25 consecutive scoreless innings streak ended when he allowed a first inning run against the Marlins last night. Then, he started a new one.

Behind a once again dominant Hamels, the Phillies beat Florida 2-1 and moved two games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East.

Hamels threw a career high 127 pitches over 6.2 innings in which he struck out 13 batters; the most strikeouts for a Phillies' pitcher since Hamels struck out 13 Marlins in June, 2008.

Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth inning to notch his 22nd save on the year. He's converted 12 of 13 save opportunities with a 0.52 ERA since July 31.

The Phillies have a sweep being served to them on a silver platter tonight, as Roy Halladay faces relief pitcher Jorge Sosa. It's likely he'll be held to three innings of work before turning it over to several different members of the bullpen. If the Phillies complete the sweep tonight, they'll be 13-5 against Florida this year, with a 8-1 record at Sun Life Stadium.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big 3 to face Atlanta twice, Phils remain in 1st after 11-4 beatdown

Rich Dubee said there is a "good chance" that Roy Oswalt will start Friday's series opener against Washington rather than starting on Saturday as he would following the normal rotation. This sets up the Phillies to throw Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Oswalt against the Braves in both of the three-game series.

"I don't think there's any downside to pitching Oswalt, Hamels and Halladay," Dubee said. "They are our front three starters. I would think if you have two series with the Braves, you'd want the best guys available, if possible."

With Joe Blanton pitching much better of late, there is no downside. The only potential downside would have been two struggling starters, Blanton and Kyle Kendrick, pitching in back-to-back games. But, Blanton pitched very well against in last night's dominant victory over the Marlins, and sending the big three against Atlanta bodes well for Philly's postseason hopes.

Speaking of last night's 11-4 victory in Miami, the Phillies are now 11-5 against Florida and 6-1 in Florida this season. Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and even Greg Dobbs homered for the Phillies as part of their 15 hits on the night.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Phils Remain atop NL East, A Look Ahead

The Phillies exit this weekend the same way they entered: with a one-game lead in the NL East. The Phils will open a three-game set with the Florida Marlins tonight, while Atlanta is set to square off against Washington. Here's a look ahead:

The Phillies will send Joe Blanton to the mound tonight against Andrew Miller. Blanton is 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA since the all-star break and is 1-0 in his last three starts. Miller is win-less in his career against the Phillies with a 6+ ERA. In his last start, the Phillies touched him up for seven runs on 11 hits in four innings. They'll look to repeat that effort down in South Florida tonight.

Derek Lowe takes the hill for Atlanta tonight against Yunesky Maya. Lowe's had an up and down season, overall at 12-12 with a 4.42 ERA. In his last start, he defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing just one run. Maya made his Major League debut for the Nationals on Tuesday. He allowed four runs in his first two innings, but responded by retiring 11 of 12 batters. Maya took the loss and his ERA stands at 7.20.

Cole Hamels takes his 25 consecutive scoreless innings streak to the mound tomorrow against the Marlins. Hamels made his last start against the Marlins, obviously not allowing a run. The Marlins send Adalberto Mendez against the Phils. Mendez made his Major League debut against the Phillies last Monday in the only game they'd win in the series. Mendez shut the Phillies out, allowing just one hit over six shutout innings.

The Braves start Jair Jurrjens against Livan Hernandez. Jurrjens has been largely inconsistent this season. He allowed seven runs in two of his last four starts, but possesses some quality stuff. Hernandez is a solid veteran pitcher with a solid ERA and a losing record on a losing team. He's always capable of pitching deep into any ballgame.

Roy Halladay pitching the finale against TBD. The pinnacle of Halladay's illustrious career came this season when he threw a perfect game against the Marlins. His only loss to the Fish this year: a 1-0 loss to Josh Johnson. TBD has struggled for the Marlins.

The finale between the Braves and Nats features Mike Minor (3-0 5.63) vs. John Lannan (7-7 4.69). Minor admitted he's fatigued as of late; his velocity is down and he's had command trouble. Lannan is an enigma. He's capable of pitching a solid game at times but usually gets roughed up and some point during the game.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Phils a full game up, Rotation down the stretch

The Phillies moved a full game ahead of Atlanta last night without lifting a finger, thanks to the Cardinals shellacking Jair Jurrjens for seven runs in less than four innings.

We're knee deep in the stretch run, leaving an interesting thing to ponder: how to set up the rotation.

The Phillies could re-work the rotation so that the big three (Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels) all pitch against Atlanta on regular rest in both series. That sounds great, except, once against the Mets and once against the Nationals, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley would start in back-to-back games.

The six games remaining with the Braves are of utmost importance. But, one could argue that the Phillies are best setup to win every series and avoid losing two games in a row the rest of the season. If they won every series the rest of the year, they'd win the division.

Of course, if they take four of six or better from the Braves, they most likely win the division. Pitching the big three against Atlanta every time gives you the best chance to do that.

We should find out on the 17th what the team plans to do. Roy Oswalt is pitching Sunday against the Mets. There is an off-day on Thursday the 16th. The series opener on the 17 against Washington is where the Phillies will make their first decision. It would be Kendrick/Worley's spot in the rotation. If the Phillies moved Oswalt up to the 17th, on full rest because of the day off, he'd be set up to pitch against the Braves. Then they'd have to hope that Kendrick/Worley and or Joe Blanton could beat Washington in hopes to not drop that series.

It will be very interesting to see which way the Phillies decide to go. For now though, the Phillies have very favorable pitching match-ups this weekend in Halladay and Oswalt's starts, and are in position to at least take two of three.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Phillies lead NL in victories

On Tuesday, the Phillies became the first team in the National League with 80 wins while moving into first place past Atlanta.

After last night's victory, the Phillies took over the top NL spot. The win, combined with a Reds' loss propelled the Phillies to the best winning percentage in the NL at .574. San Diego and Atlanta are just behind the Phils at .572 and .571 respectively. The Reds dropped to .568.

The bats are hot again for the Phillies. After scoring just one-run in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Monday, the Phillies took the next three from the Marlins, scoring 25 runs in those victories.

The Marlins came into town with nasty plans of playing spoilers. They left two games further behind Philly than when they arrived.

The Mets are next on tap after a well deserved off day, with Roy Halladay taking the mound in Friday's opener. The Phillies have yet to announce a starter for Saturday, but most of the Delaware Valley is likely hoping to see Vance Worley get the nod ahead of a struggling Kyle Kendrick.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Phils split double header, 0.5 GB

The Phillies' up and down season continues, but after splitting yesterday's double header against the Marlins, they find themselves just a half game behind the Braves.

After a 1-0 victory on Friday, the Phils wrapped up yet another series behind Roy Halladay on Saturday in a 5-4 victory. Halladay allowed a career high four home runs in the game.

Then, the bats went quiet again; scoring a total of three runs over the next two games, both losses. Last night, the Phillies rallied against the Marlins and Anibal Sanchez by staying patient and hitting line drives. The 7-4 victory puts the Phillies just behind the Braves and leaves them a game and a half in front of the Giants in the wild card race.

The Phillies have been winning lately, but they still don't look quite right. With the exception of Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz, the offense is still struggling and every other player in the lineup could be considered as having a down year. Ryan Howard has hit a few home runs here in September, but thus far is not having nearly the month he typically produces this time of year.

Getting hot at the right time is the key to postseason success though. If they can stay afloat down the stretch and beat the Braves, they'll make the postseason for a fourth consecutive season and then it's anyone's game. Things are coming down to the wire and the significance of each game increases every time the calendar turns a page.

Joe Blanton looks to bounce back from him rough outing against Colorado tonight against Chris Volstad. Volstad beat the Nationals in his last start, and was involved in that benches clearing brawl with Nyjer Morgan.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hamels' gem puts Phils 1 GB ATL. Extends WC lead to 3

The Phillies remain red-hot here in September, a month in which they've thrived in recent years. After winning five of six on the west coast, including a sweep over the Padres, who possess the NL's best record, the Phillies continue to show they can win games in any fashion.

The Phillies have closed to just one game behind the Braves in the NL East, and hold a three game lead in the wild card.

Stopping briefly in Colorado for a make-up game against the Rockies, the Phils added another come from behind victory to their resume in a wild affair. Joe Blanton had a bad start and put the Phillies in an early 4-0 hole.

In the top of the sixth, the Phillies cut the deficit to 6-3. Recently recalled lefty Antonio Bastardo took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and this is when things really started to get crazy. Chris Nelson hit a lead-off bloop single to center and Eric Young followed with an oddly placed bunt near the second base bag which put the first two runners aboard. Dexter Fowler followed with a bunt and was called safe on Ryan Howard's throw to Chase Utley at first. Replays indicated that Fowler should have been out. The bases were loaded after a pop-up and two bunts.

Bastardo, though, mostly pitched out of trouble. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez, and should have induced an inning ending double play from Troy Tulowitzki, but Bastardo deflected the ball away from Jimmy Rollins for an infield single, scoring the only run of the inning.

The Phillies immediately went to work in the a nine run seventh, taking a 12-7 lead. They would need all 12 runs, as they held on for a 12-11 victory. Here's a brief and simple recap of the spectacular inning: Polanco single, Utley single, Howard home run, Werth home run, Ibanez fly out, Victorino single, Schneider single, Francisco single, Rollins single, Polanco strike out, Utley grand slam, Howard line out.

Brad Lidge held on by the skin of his teeth for his 19th save of the season.

The Phils returned home last night to open a set against Milwaukee. Once again, the Phillies played an unlikely game and proved that they can win games in any fashion. After the slug fest the previous night, the Phillies took the first game from the Brewers, 1-0.

Cole Hamels was the story of this one, throwing seven shutout innings of three hit ball. He struck out seven and walked three. He was lifted in the eighth for Jose Contreras after throwing 103 pitches, 70 for strikes. Contreras fell behind two batters 3-0, but pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two. Ryan Madson picked up his fifth save of the season after a perfect ninth.

The Phils only mustered four hits against Milwaukee starter Chris Capuano, and none off the Brewers' bullpen. Carlos Ruiz knocked in the only run of the ballgame on a ground-out in the second inning.

Roy Halladay takes the mound tonight against Dave Bush. Halladay looks to get back on track; he's lost his last two starts after winning his previous six.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nyjer Morgan is bad for baseball

Nyjer Morgan , you are an idiot. Morgan is a little punk and his behavior in Major League Baseball should not be tolerated. He should be suspended for the season, before he injures a player who actually has a chance to go to the postseason.

Morgan is currently appealing a suspension for drilling a fan with a baseball in Philadelphia. He had an ongoing war of words with a heckler in the stands. After an inning, he fake tossed the ball and and threw it at the heckler, missed him (big shock), and hit an innocent bystander in the head while injuring him. MLB handed down only a seven-game suspension instead of pulling the clown off the field longer for the incident which could have killed someone.

On August 28, in a route over the St. Louis Cardinals (a playoff contender) Morgan was coming in to score without a throw. He charged full speed at St. Louis catcher Bryan Anderson, who was standing well in front of the plate. Morgan crashed into Anderson from behind, jarring him and knocking his glove off of his hand. Morgan, the genius, missed the plate and was called out on the play when his teammates had to grab him and physically push him back toward the plate behind he had no sense to touch the plate himself. Anderson remained shockingly calm during the incident.

On August 31, Morgan was trying to score against the Marlins when the throw easily beat him to the plate. He drilled into Florida catcher Brett Hayes. Hayes now has a separated shoulder.

Last night, Chris Volstad retaliated by hitting Morgan. Being the cocky player he is, Morgan stole second and third and eventually scored. His next time up, Volstad threw behind Morgan and he charged the mound. He got in one punch to the back of Volstad's neck somehow (Morgan is about 5' 10", Volstad is about 6' 7") before Gaby Sanchez came in from first base and drilled the (expletive deleted) to the ground. Benches and bullpens obviously cleared and as Morgan was escorted off the field, he raised his arms to the crowd like he's done anything respectable all year.

He's horrible for baseball and should be suspended for the season. Morgan is an absolute joke. The Washington Nationals should be embarrassed.