Thursday, October 21, 2010

Phils trail 3-1 after Game 4 loss

No one saw this coming. After last night's devastating 6-5 loss, the Phillies have their backs against the wall, trailing 3-1 in the NLCS. A third consecutive trip to the World Series is unlikely, but if there is a team that can comeback, it's this one.

The bats finally woke up a little last night, although they still aren't swinging particularly well. Bringing in Roy Oswalt for the ninth was a bit strange, but he doesn't have to pitch until Saturday so it shouldn't affect him too much. Was it a bit of over-managing by Charlie? That's open for debate.

If the Phillies can win tonight, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. San Francisco would be disappointed that they didn't close it out in front of their home fans, and that they have to fly across the country. Philadelphia would have an opportunity to take care of business in their home park, but they obviously have to win tonight.

Roy Halladay must be chomping at the bit to get out there tonight. Coming off a Game 1 loss, Halladay is looking for redemption and that should be a scary thought for the Giants.

But Tim Lincecum has a chance to push his team into the World Series in front of his home crowd after he wasn't particularly sharp in Game 1. The Freak has plenty of motivation entering this game which should be a scary thought for the Philly faithful.

If nothing else, Game 5 could have one hell of a game. If the Phillies take it, hopefully they'll pick up some momentum heading home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bats go cold in Game 3, Blanton in Game 4

This is not where the Phillies expected to be. With all of their post-season experience the last few seasons, this is rather uncharted waters.

The only time they've trailed a series 2-1 the last few seasons was last year's World Series against the Yankees. That was their first series loss since 2007.

But this series has a different feel. Cliff Lee pitched the Phillies to a Game 1 victory in last year's World Series, seemingly putting them in command. But, it's the Giants who have taken control of this 2010 NLCS, forcing the Phillies to try to fight, scratch and claw their way back into this series.

The Giants took Game 1; the Phillies' first Game 1 loss since 2007's Colorado sweep. After bouncing back in Game 2, the Phillies lost 3-0 to Matt Cain and the Giants yesterday to fall behind in the series again.

This is the first time the Phillies have repeatedly tried to play catchup while another team plays the role of the rabbit.

The offense was horrendous yesterday and wasted a good performance from Cole Hamels. Hamels' line was a bit skewed after a poor decision to change Chase Utley's obvious error into a hit, adding an earned run to Hamels' line. Utley was awful in the game. He made two defensive blunders, one of which was and should have been ruled an error until the change. He also seemed to come up with men on base in just about every at bat, and he couldn't come through once. The offense was bad in general, but he had more chances than anyone and couldn't produce.

Entering the series with H2O, not many people who have envisioned so much riding on a start from Joe Blanton. That's exactly what tonight's game represents.

The Phillies can ill afford to fall behind 3-1 in the series. While it's not impossible, it's unlikely that the Phillies would win three straight. A loss tonight would give Tim Lincecum a chance to clinch the NL pennant in front of his home crowd in Game 5. I don't want to see him with any extra motivation.

This is the biggest swing game of the series. Win, and it's even with both aces on the mound in a big Game 5. Lose, and the Phillies are really fighting for their lives.

This is Blanton's biggest start for the Phillies. Bigger than his World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Bigger because their entire season is riding on his performance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Phils take Game 2 behind Oswalt, Rollins

The Phillies and Roy Oswalt were both looking to rebound in different ways. The Phils had just dropped their first series opener since 2007, and they did so with their ace on the mound.

Oswalt was looking to bounce back from a NLDS loss to the Reds. It was his first post-season start with the Phillies and he struggled from the onset.

They bounced back in a big way, taking Game 2 6-1 to even the series at one. The Phillies got to Jonathan Sanchez in the first inning, well, sort of. They waited him out and made him throw pitches. He eventually walked Jimmy Rollins to forced in a run. They left the bases loaded, but took a 1-0 lead without picking up a hit.

Oswalt was a force out of the gate. He stepped up and proved to be the pitcher that everyone already knew he is, but were waiting to see. Cody Ross broke up his no hitter in the fifth with, you guessed it, another solo home run. It tied the score at one at the time, but the Phillies got it right back in the bottom of the fifth.

The lineup manufactured a big run. Shane Victorino led off with a double, Chase Utley moved him to third and Placido Polanco's sacrifice fly drove him in.

Oswalt got fired up at the plate in the seventh. After using Utley's bat his first time up, Oswalt asked Rollins for one of his. Word of Oswalt's single made its way to Rollins in the batting cage, which he said inspired him.

That gave me confidence tonight, actually," Rollins said. "See, the bat still has hits in it. It's just the person using it."

After a sac bunt moved Oswalt to second and an intention walk to Utley, Polanco singled up the middle. As Oswalt rounded third, third base coach Sam Perlozzo held up the stop sign. Oswalt was already at least fifteen feet past the bag, so he turned around to find the ball. He kept right on running through the stop sign and scored with a nice slide at the plate.

A few batters later, Rollins showed up. He smacked a bases clearing double high off the right-center field wall, putting the Phils up 6-1.

Oswalt took care of the rest, finishing with eight strong innings, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out nine.

Ryan Madon got into some trouble in the ninth with a walk and a hit, but he closed out the game with a scoreless frame.

Tuesday's Game 3 is a big swing game in the series. The Phillies would hate to lose it and need to rely on Joe Blanton in Game 4 to avoid falling behind 3-1.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Phils vs Giants in NLCS, Halladay vs. Linecum

The Phillies are back in the NLCS for the third consecutive year. For the first time, their opponent won't be the Dodgers.

The Phils will square off against the San Francisco Giants starting Saturday at Citizen's Bank Park. This series has several underlying story and could be primed for an extended series. The longest series the Phillies have played during their post-seasons the last few years is six games, in last year's World Series.

Game one is an epic match-up of two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball as Roy Halladay faces off with Tim Lincecum. Game two is likely to be Roy Oswalt against Main Cain, a battle of tough lefties in game three with Cole Hamels vs. Jonathan Sanchez. Game four is where it gets interesting.

Last night, in game four of the NLDS, the Giants used Madison Bumgarner and he pitched very well. San Fran will likely go with a four man rotation in the championship series as well, setting up Linecum for game five, Cain in six and Sanchez in seven.

The Phillies will have a decision to make. They were setup for a three man rotation in the NLDS, but only because the schedule allowed them to pitch H2O all on regular rest. If Charlie Manuel wanted to bring Halladay back in game four, he'd be pitching on three days rest. Expect Joe Blanton to get a start at some point in this series.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Polanco in for Game 2. Victorino back at the top

Tonight's lineups for Game Two are in:




Game Two preview

The Reds are in a must win situation tonight. Even if they win tonight, they'll still face a tough road to the NLCS. But the Phillies are clearly in the driver seat.

The Reds must either find a way to beat Roy Halladay; first they should worry about trying to get a hit against him. Or, they have to beat Roy Oswalt twice and Cole Hamels. Both scenarios: unlikely.

Oswalt makes his Phillies post-season debut tonight. He's 23-3 with a 2.81 ERA in his career against the Reds. Two of those loses came this year though, when he was with Houston. On April 29, Oswalt took the loss after pitching seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out seven.

In his final game with Houston, the Reds once again beat Oswalt after he lasted just five innings, allowing six runs on nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

Oswalt became a different pitcher since joining the Phils though, reverting back to his previous dominant form.

He's 4-0 in his post-season career with a 3.66 ERA.

Bronson Arroyo starts the crucial game for Cincinnati. He's the only Reds pitcher with post-season experience. In his 17 playoff innings, Arroyo is winless with a 7.41 ERA.

In his career against the Phillies, Arroyo is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA in eight appearances. He'll need to pitch one of the best games of his career tonight.

Orlando Cabrera is sure to receive plenty of boo's from the Philly faithful tonight. He was the only Reds player to take credit away from Halladay following his no-hitter. He said they had no chance because he was "basically getting every pitch" from the umpire.

Cabrera's teammate Jonny Gomes disagreed. "I think Doc actually took the umpire out of the game by just throwing strikes. I really didn't have any questionable strikes on me. I'm not really worried about the umpire too much. I'm worried about the guy on the mound. He did a great job; all four corners, down and in, up and in, down and out. He threw all four pitches in all four corners."

Halladay was getting every pitch, because they were strikes. reviewed the game through Pitch F/X to determine the location of each pitch. They found just two questionable calls on Halladay pitches in the entire game. Neither came against Cabrera.

Sorry Orlando, but your conspiracy theory is debunked, and you sir, are a jackass.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Doctober starts with a no hitter

Roy Halladay waited his entire life for yesterday. Day after day, game after game, year after year in Toronto and every time it ended the same: done after 162 games.

Halladay made his long anticipated post-season debut last night and he did the unthinkable. No one could have predicted he’d throw the second no hitter in post-season history. Not in his first career playoff appearance, not in hitter friendly Citizen’s Bank Park, not against the NL’s best hitting team during the regular season. But Roy Halladay is a special pitcher.

Following his spectacular performance, in which he was one walk on a 3-2 pitch to Jay Bruce from being perfect again, Halladay once again credited Carlos Ruiz and the team. He would have been justified to bask in the glory that is his tremendous right arm. But that’s just not Halladay’s style.

The Reds were over-matched. The closest they came to a hit was pitcher Travis Wood’s line drive to right in the third inning which Jayson Werth was positioned perfectly for.

“It’s no fun out there,” Cincinnati MVP candidate Joey Votto said. “It’s like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”

An excellent quote from Votto with so much talk of Phillies starting pitchers all year. Roy Oswalt, who takes the ball on Friday, is an ace. Cole Hamels could be an ace. Fans were enraged when Cliff Lee, another ace was traded away in the off-season. With all those names and pitchers and arms, Halladay stands above the rest.

The Doc threw just 104 pitches, 79 for strikes and struck out eight. He also hit an RBI single in his first career post-season plate appearance, on the very first pitch he saw.

The lineup was unspectacular but they got the job done early. Edinson Volquez is the kind of pitcher teams need to get to in the first few innings and they did. Shane Victorino had a great at bat, ending in a double down the left-field line. He got a walking lead on Volquez and stole third easily, and Chase Utley knocked him in for a first inning 1-0 lead.

Volquez seemed to be cruising in the second, retiring Werth and Raul Ibanez for the first two outs, although having to throw a few pitches to do so. Carlos Ruiz worked a walk and Wilson Valdez hit a bouncing ball up the middle. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera fielded but had trouble getting it out of his glove before making a backhanded flip to Brandon Phillips at second base. The toss was errant and both runners were safe, setting up Halladay’s two out, RBI single to left. After Jimmy Rollins worked a walk, Victorino delivered a big two run single to center for a 4-0 lead.

Halladay didn’t need so much run support.

Cincinnati’s bullpen shut down the Phillies the rest of the game, but Halladay was the ultimate shutdown pitcher in this game.

Placido Polanco hopes to be back for game two on Friday after his back tightened up. The bullpen and Oswalt will be very well rested heading into Friday’s start; Halladay made sure of that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

NLDS vs. Reds likely

The Phillies have clinched the top spot in the National League and selected the series starting on Wednesday, October 6. This longer, eight day series, allows the Phils to go with their big-three on the mound for the entire series. They're expected to start Roy Halladay in Game 1, Roy Oswalt in Game 2 and Cole Hamels in Game 3. That's a dream setup for any team, to start with those three and follow with Halladay in Game 4 and Oswalt in Game 5 if necessary. There won't be a baseball writer in America who could pick against the Phillies in the five-game series against a NL team with that setup.

It looks as though the Phillies will square off against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. The Reds have clinched the NL Central with 89 wins and have nothing to play for this final weekend. San Francisco leads the NL West with 91 wins, but have yet to clinch their division. Their magic number is one. It's possible, but unlikely that the Reds will catch the Giants for the second best record in the NL. Unless San Diego catch the Braves, who hold a two game lead in the Wild Card, the Phillies would face the Reds. If San Diego catches Atlanta, the Phillies would face the Padres.

This could give the Phillies some incentive to win against Atlanta this weekend. Odds are, they'd much rather face a struggling Padres team than the Reds. The last time the Phillies faced San Diego was on the road, and the Phillies swept them when they were the best team in the NL at the time.