Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phils add Dontrelle Willis

The D-Train will run through Citizen's Bank Park in 2012.

The Phillies agreed to a one-year contract with left handed pitcher, Dontrelle Willis worth less than $1 million plus incentives.

It's a classic low risk, high reward situation. Willis posted double digit wins for the Marlins from 2003-2007 before struggling mightily over parts of four seasons with Detroit, Arizona and Cincinnati. He was 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA last season for the Reds. In his first season with the Tigers, he was 0-2 with a 9.38 ERA.

The Phillies plan to use him as an addition left handed reliever out of the bullpen. Lefties bat just .127 against Willis last season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Phils trade Francisco to Toronto for reliever

The Phillies shipped Ben Francisco to the Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon for minor league left-handed relief pitcher Frank Gailey.

The Philadelphia native is 23-15 with a .245 ERA in 175 career appearances in the minors.

Francisco fell a long way in a short period of time with the Phillies. After winning the opening day left fielder position last year, he quickly dropped further and further down Charlie Manuel's bench. With John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix now expected to occupy left field together and a few more additions to the bench, there was no room for Benny.

Francisco hit .259 in parts of three seasons with the Phils with 17 home runs and 75 RBI. The biggest moment in his Phillies' career came in Game 3 of this season's NLDS when his pinch-hit, three-run shot lifted the Phillies over the Cardinals and gave them what appeared to be a stranglehold on the series.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rollins' return could be imminent

It appears the Phillies and Jimmy Rollins are close to agreeing on a new contract.

The Milwaukee Brewers, thought to be the Phillies' top competition for the shortstop, have apparently backed out because they were told it wasn't worth their time. The Brewers believe Rollins is close to signing with the Phillies.

Ruben Amaro Jr. played it cool, responding "That's good news, I guess. I haven't heard that yet. I hope it's true."

Most sources expect the Phillies back down from Aramis Ramirez if they're able to re-sign Rollins. Ramirez is thought to be more of a backup plan.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Phils add Nix, linked to Ramirez

Things are heating up around baseball.

The Phillies have agreed to a two-year deal with nine-year veteran Laynce Nix in what will likely be a platoon situation with John Mayberry Jr. in left field.

Nix spent last season with Washinton, batting .250 with 16 home runs (a career high), 44 RBI, 15 doubles, 23 walks and 82 strikeouts with an OBP of .299. He's a career .244 hitter. Nix is a bit of a down grade from Raul Ibanez, but comes at a much lower price.

They've also been linked to having serious interest in free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins have made the biggest splash of the off-season, first signing closer Heath Bell and then agreeing on a six-year deal with superstar Jose Reyes. Hanley Ramirez is expected to move to third base, not become trade bait.

The Nix move isn't likely to get fans too excited. He's not exactly what the team needed. Yet another left handed batter who hits for a low average and a low on base percentage. The signing all but secures Ibanez's departure from pinstripes, and also likely means the team's pursuit of Michael Cuddyer has ended.

This is the first off-season in quite some time that the Phillies have made a series of questionable moves. Starting with handing a major contract to Jonathan Papelbon, to the signings of veterans past their prime: Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and now Nix. Of course, Thome was a great signing, but the others remain to be seen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Phils sign Thome, Papelbon

Well, the end of the 2011 season hurt a little too much to talk about. Besides, there's really nothing I could say that wasn't already said over and over again on any and every news outlet.

Fortunately, Ruben Amaro Jr. is going to work early this off-season.

After the great move to bring fan favorite Jim Thome back for what could be the last season of his illustrious career, it appears they've agreed to terms with Jonathan Papelbon to take over as closer.

It's a shame to see Ryan Madson go, but Papelbon has been dominant through most of his six years as Boston's closer.

The deal is reportedly for four years around $50 million.

More thoughts later...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

And then there was One. Phils vs. Cardinals Game Five

No one donning a Phillies uniform wanted it to come to this. Not the players. Not the coaches. Certainly not the fans.

The best team in Phillies history needs to win on Friday, or else they become one of, if not the most disappointing team in Philadelphia history.

Yes, the Phillies have Roy Halladay on the mound. But Chris Carpenter is damn good. Don't judge him on his Game Two performance. He'd never pitched on short rest before, and it clearly affected him. And Halladay has taken some time to settle down of late, including Game One when he allowed a three-run shot to Lance Berkman in the first inning before retiring 23 of the last 24 batters he faced.

The bats need to come alive, plain and simple. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have been great at the plate; although Utley made a bonehead play on the bases yesterday. Ryan Howard, after a big go ahead three-run homer in Game One and two more RBI in Game Two looks really lost at the plate. He's coming up, time and time again in a big spot with runners aboard and not coming through. Shane Victorino is also really scuffling, which may prompt Charlie Manuel to put Hunter Pence back into the five hole to give Howard some protection. The bottom of the lineup, comprised of Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz is doing next to nothing.

This could be Rollins' last game in a Phillies uniform. It could also be Albert Pujols' last as a Cardinal.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day leading up to Game Five, and a loss with prompt an even longer off-season filled with questions.

Three of the four Division Series are going to a best-of-five, and while it's very dramatic, Major League Baseball needs to seriously consider changing it to a best-of-seven like the Championship Series and World Series. Too many fluky things can happen in baseball, and the best team in baseball all season could be bounced on a fluke. It's time to be nervous, but it's also time to have faith in the great Doc.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Francisco provides spark off bench, Phils up 2-1

Ben Francisco provided the spark off the bench in yesterday's nail biter, hitting a three-run pinch-hit home run in the seventh to break a scoreless tie as the Phils would hold on for a 3-2 victory. That game was about as frightening a Phillies games as I can remember.

Cole Hamels pitched very well, but worked in and out of trouble just about the entire game. His pitch count was elevated from the start, while his counterpart Jaime Garcia was on cruise control.

You had to get the feeling that the Cardinals were going to scratch a run across on Hamels on some bleeder or blooper, and that the bats may have a tough time rallying against Garcia. The game seemed to be heading that way.

But, the Phillies started putting better at bats together in the sixth, raising Garcia's pitch count. Garcia intentionally walked Hunter Pence, with a runner on second, and two outs in the sixth to get to Ryan Howard. He should have gotten fired up that Garcia wanted to face him. Thought he'd be the easier out. Turns out Garcia was right, as Howard bounced out weakly to end the threat.

Hamels also worked in and out of trouble in the sixth. After striking out the first two batters, Ryan Theriot came up with yet another single, and Jon Jay worked a walk. Tony LaRussa opted to leave Garcia in the game, and Hamels struck him out to end the frame.

A similar situation arose for the Phils in the seventh, and this time, they took advantage. With Shane Victorino on second with two outs, Garcia intentionally walked Carlos Ruiz. Francisco stepped to the plate, pinch-hitting for Hamels. Francisco got a high fastball and it crushed it into the Phillies bullpen in left-centerfield for a three-run shot.

St. Louis would threaten against the Phillies' bullpen, scoring one run off Vance Worley in his one inning of work. Antonio Bastardo retired the only batter he faced, before Brad Lidge came on in the eighth to allow the two batters he faced to reach to load the bases.

Charlie Manuel turned to Ryan Madson for a five-out save for the first time this year. Madson induced a huge double play from Allen Craig to end the threat.

Madson would allow a run in the ninth, closing the lead to 3-2, before getting Theriot to finally make an out, as he grounded out to Chase Utley with a runner aboard to end the ballgame.

Hamels threw six scoreless innings, surrendering five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. He threw 117 pitches.

Garcia allowed three runs over seven innings on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts.

Through three games, Jimmy Rollins (.583), Utley (.400), Pence (.273) and Victorino (.333) are all swinging the bat well. Meanwhile, Howard (.182), Placido Polanco (.083) and Carlos Ruiz (.091) are struggling.

Roy Oswalt looks to close it out tonight against a team with a lot of experience and success against him in the past. Edwin Jackson will oppose him, hoping to force a Game Five back in Philly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pivitol Game 3 tonight, series knotted at 1

Tonight has to put a bit of a scare into Phils fans. If there was one pitcher on the staff, going into the series, that really causes matchup problems for the Phillies it was Jaime Garcia.

But, if all went according to plan, it wouldn't matter. The Phils were "supposed" to win games 1 and 2 at home with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee on the mound.

We all know that didn't pan out, as Lee couldn't hold a 4-0 lead, and now the Phillies have to beat Garcia to avoid falling behind 2-1.

Fortunately, the Phillies have Cole Hamels on the mound tonight in what could be a very low scoring game.

Of course, Hamels is used to little to no run support. His win total should have been higher by at least four or five games, but the bats time and again failed to back him in many of his starts.

Garcia is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his career against the Phillies. Hopefully, John Mayberry Jr. can provide a spark to the lineup against him as a powerful right handed bat.

Hamels is 2-3 with a 3.27 in his career against the Cardinals. He had his worst month of the season in September, going 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA.

Charlie Manuel could have considered a Tony LaRussa like maneuver, and slid Roy Oswalt into tonight's slot and pushed Hamels back to Game Four.

The advantage: if the Phillies are once again unable to hit Garcia and waste a good outing from Hamels, they have to rely on Oswalt to keep their season alive tomorrow. If Oswalt pitches tonight and the Phils still don't hit Garcia, the Phillies have Hamels and then Halladay in an opportunity to win back-to-back games and advance.

Hopefully, the bats will get to Garcia and that will all be a moot point.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

100 wins for the Phils

The Phillies reached 100 wins last night, taking the first game over the Braves 4-2 in front of stunned, saddened, miserable fans in Atlanta.

The Braves caught a break from our good buddy Ed Wade, as his Astros defeated the the Cardinals, keeping Atlanta one game up in the Wild Card.

Cliff Lee's final tuneup before Sunday's NLDS Game Two went relatively well, despite a slow start.

Chipper Jones hit a two-out solo shot, his 18th of the year, off Lee in the first. Atlanta added another run in the second on back-to-back doubles from Matt Diaz and Alex Gonzalez, and the chop was out in full force.

But as Lee settled down, allowing two runs on five hits, no walks and six strikeouts over six innings, and the Phils started to chip away things started to quiet down.

Jimmy Rollins' 15th home run of the year tied it in the fifth, and RBIs in the sixth and eighth from Raul Ibanez put the Phils in front for good.

It was great to see the bullpen come in and nail down the final nine outs against a desperate Braves' lineup. Lefty Joe Savery retired a batter in the seventh, and Michael Stutes retired the next two in order. Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson followed, each pitching a scoreless inning. Lidge worked out of a one-out, two runners aboard situation by inducing a double-play from Jones, while Madson worked around a leadoff double to secure his 32nd save of the season.

The Phillies are 2-0 since Charlie Manuel moved Chase Utley out of the three-hole. Utley wasn't producing in that spot, and so far, he's not producing batting second either. He was 0-for-4 last night with a strikeout and a runner left on base.

Roy Oswalt (8-10, 3.86) takes the ball tonight against Dereke Lowe (9-16, 4.92).

Oswalt is 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA in his last three starts, and is just 1-3 with a 5.15 ERA in his career against Atlanta. Oswalt pitched well against Atlanta on September 7th, allowing two runs on four hits, four walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings.

Lowe is 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA in his last three starts, and 8-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 113.1 innings against the Phillies. He's 1-3 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts against the Phils this season.

Milwaukee and Arizona both lost, meaning the Brewers stay one game ahead of the Diamondbacks for the second spot.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Revamped lineup helps end skid, Wild Card Race

The losing streak is over.

Charlie Manuel made a long overdue lineup change yesterday, moving Chase Utley out of the three-hole, and it paid dividends immediately.

Utley was moved up to second (I would have dropped him to sixth, for the time being) with Hunter Pence batting third and Shane Victorino sliding into the five-hole.

The Phils ended the losing streak with a 9-4 victory over the Mets. They scored three in the first, one in the second, one in the third and four in the fourth. Pence hit his 21st home run of the year; a two-run shot off Mike Pelfrey in the first.

Roy Halladay cruised to his 19th win, tossing six scoreless innings and throwing just 77 pitches before being lifted from his final tuneup before Saturday's NLDS Game One.

Antonio Bastardo once again struggled mightily, and hopes that he would return to his previous dominant form are in jeopardy.

He allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, while retiring just one batter. His ERA has ballooned up to 2.68. It was 1.38 on September 1st.

The Phils need Bastardo to figure it out if they are to make a deep run in the postseason. The starters aren't always going to throw eight or nine innings.

These last three days are a bit scary and conflicting.

The Phils face the Braves in Atlanta, and it'd be great to see them win a couple games on the road against a division rival fighting for their playoff lives.

That being said, if the St. Louis Cardinals, who are one game behind Atlanta in the Wild Card race, overtake the Braves they'll be Philly's first round opponent. That sounds a bit frightening.

As long as Milwaukee keeps winning, they'll secure the second seed. If the Braves win the Wild Card, the Phils would face Arizona in the first round.

While I would love to see the Phils bounce Atlanta from postseason contention, St. Louis seems to be a much for formidable opponent.

My hope for the Phillies over these last three days: play really well, but maybe not quite well enough.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Postseason picture taking shape as Phils look to regroup

Heading into the final six games of the 2011 regular season, the playoff picture is becoming more clear by the day.

The Phillies, losers of a season high six straight look to get back on track in New York and Atlanta starting with today's doubleheader.

The Braves were struggling, and the red hot Cardinals were closing in on them for the Wild Card spot. Atlanta turned it on and won some big games, and maintain a three game lead. While the Phillies could help bounce their division rival from the postseason in the final three games, it's doubtful they'd want to. St. Louis seems to be a much tougher first rounder match-up than, say, Arizona.

Milwaukee holds just a one game lead over the Diamondbacks for the second best record in the National League. Assuming Atlanta wraps up the Wild Card, the Phillies will play the third seed. Just about everyone should hope that's Arizona. Milwaukee seems much less daunting in a seven game series than in five.

If the season ended today, the Phils would host Arizona and Milwaukee would host Atlanta. That's the Phillies' ideal scenario. Let's hope it holds up over these last few days, and the Phillies can regroup and win some ballgames over the Mets and Braves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scuffling Phillies limping toward the finish line

The Phillies were swept in the day-night doubleheader against the Nationals yesterday. It's the first time the Montreal/Washington organization swept a doubleheader from the Phils since 1997.

They're 5-8 in their last 13 games, scoring three runs or fewer in twelve of them.

It's certainly not time to hit the panic button yet, but sure, be a little worried.

The bats went ice cold in the postseason last year, ultimately leading to their demise against San Francisco. The Phillies have tremendous starting pitching, as everyone knows. But those pitchers can't win without support.

The Phils have nothing to play for right now though. Charlie Manuel calls it just a lack of focus. One has to think that Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee won't struggle to bear down and focus in a postseason game, as opposed to a meaningless regular season game against the Nats.

But still, the Phillies aren't producing runs and meaningful games loom. Hopefully, heading out on the road to New York and Atlanta can help them regain their focus and win some games down the stretch.

Vance Worley makes what is expected to be his last start of the season tonight. The Phillies will move him into the bullpen in preparation of coming out of the 'pen in the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Phils clinch home field after loss to Cards

Despite a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals last night, the Phillies clinched home field advantage throughout the post-season because of Milwaukee's loss to the Cubs.

Currently standing at 98-54. the Phils will finish with the best record in the National League. They'll own home field advantage in the World Series, should they advance that far of course, because of the NL's victory in the All-Star game.

The red hot Cardinals took three of four from the Phils, closing their gap in the Wild Card race to 2.5 behind Atlanta. The Phils may have a chance to knock the Braves out of the Wild Card spot with their series next week, during the last three games of the season. Although at this point, many would prefer not to face St. Louis in the first round.

The Phils look to get back on the winning track today, and they'll have two chances to do so during a day-night doubleheader at the Bank against Washington.

Kyle Kendrick (8-6, 3.22) takes the ball in Game One against Ross Detwiler (2-5, 3.76).

Kendrick pitched well, beating the Marlins in the first game of a doubleheader last week. He's 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last three starts, but just 2-3 with a 6.02 ERA lifetime against the Nats.

Detwiler has been solid this year but has struggled lately, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his last three starts. He's 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his career against Philadelphia.

Cliff Lee (16-7, 2.38) looks to continue his red hot streak in the nightcap against Tom Milone (1-0, 4.60).

Everyone knows how ridiculous Lee has been lately. He's 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA in his career against Washington.

Milone picked up his first Major League victory in his last start against the Mets, allowing just one run over 5.2 innings. He's made three career starts, all this month. He picked up no decisions against the Mets and Astros earlier in September. Over 15.2 innings, he's allowed eight runs on 17 hits and three walks. He's struck out nine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Phils sweep doubleheader, magic number at 2

The Phillies took care of business against the Marlins, despite a still struggling offense, sweeping the twin bill at Citizen's Bank Park. With the victories, the magic number to clinch a fifth consecutive NL East crown is down to two. They could clinch as early as tonight with a win over St. Louis and an Atlanta loss to the Mets.

Kyle Kendrick pitched well in Game One, out-dueling Anibal Sanchez in a 3-1 victory. KK improved to 8-6, allowing one run, on Logan Morrison's 20th home run of the season, on just two hits and no walks with six strikeouts over five innings. Antonio Bastardo, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson all struggled in the late innings, but held on to secure the victory. Hunter Pence and Raul Ibanez each had an RBI double, and Placido Polanco drove in a run.

Cliff Lee was brilliant in Game Two. The Phils managed just one run of support, a John Mayberry Jr. home run in the sixth. Lee was making it stick though. He was one strike away from yet another complete game shutout with Jose Lopez at the plate with an 0-2 count in the ninth. Lee made his first mistake of the night, hanging a high cutter that Lopez drove out of the yard.

Ryan Howard hit a walk-off RBI double in the tenth, scoring Michael Martinez from first base. Lee was left with a no decision, allowing the one run on five hits and no walks with 12 strikeouts. He certainly deserved a better fate. Just one more strike would have given him his 17th win of the year, and a remarkable seventh complete game shutout.

Vance Worley (11-2, 2.92) takes the mound tonight, looking to inch the Phils closer to the crown. Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.68) will oppose him for the Cardinals. Atlanta's game starts 30 minutes after the Phillies, so if they're to wrap up the division tonight, it's unlikely the celebration will come on the field.

Worley is 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA in his last three starts and has never faced St. Louis. His last few starts have been a rough stretch for Worley, but he's battled and pitched out of a bunch of jams.

Garcia is 2-1 with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts. He's 2-1 with a 1.17 ERA in his career against the Phils with 17 strikeouts over 23 innings.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Halladay's first shutout ends three game losing streak, clinches playoff berth

Well, Doc put an end to that mini skid. The Phillies avoided being swept for the first time in a three-game series all season by beating the Houston Astros 1-0 yesterday afternoon. The win also clinched a playoff berth for the Phils, setting a franchise record for fewest games to clinch a spot.

Roy Halladay's masterful complete game shutout was his first shutout of the season. Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, that was his first shutout. In eight complete games, that's the first time he's blanked his opponent for nine innings this season. Last season, he completed nine games with four shutouts. He allowed six hits and one walk while fanning seven.

The offense continued to sputter; the first two batters of the game accounted for its only run. Shane Victorino led off with a double, and Placido Polanco drove him in with a single up the middle. The Phils finished with just four hits.

Today, they're faced with the tough task of a day-night doubleheader against the Marlins today. Rather than making a September call-up to start one of the games, as many anticipated, Kyle Kendrick will take the ball in Game One.

Kendrick (7-6, 3.29) will face the Marlins' best pitcher this season, Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 3.64).

KK is 6-2 in his career against Florida with a 4.60 ERA. He's appeared in 30 games this season, 13 of which have been starts.

Sanchez is 3-7 in his career with a 5.24 ERA, but he's pitched some really good games against them. He's 1-1 with a 0.86 ERA in his last three starts. This is his fifth start of the season against the Phils, and he's yet to pick up a decision against them; an indication that he keeps his team close. The Phillies just saw him on September 4, when he allowed two unearned runs on six hits and three walks over six innings.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Phils finish 6-1 vs. Playoff contenders, lose to Astros

The Phillies wrapped up their "Playoff Preview Week," finishing a ridiculous 6-1. After sweeping the Atlanta Braves, which essentially wrapped up a fifth consecutive NL East crown, they won the first three in Milwaukee. Vance Worley pitched well in the finale, but was unable to best Yovani Gallardo who struck out twelve over seven strong innings.

Two of the three Phillies' victories against the Brewers came without Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard or Chase Utley in the starting lineup.

They opened a series last night in Houston, and former Astros Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence were unable to defeat former Phillie Brett Myers in their return to Minute Maid Park.

Oswalt dropped to 7-9, allowing five runs on eleven hits and two walks over seven innings. He struck out two. Pence fared much better, going 2-for-4 with a double in his first at bat.

Joe Blanton made his first appearance since May 14, tossing a scoreless inning. He allowed one hit and struck out one.

Myers allowed just one run on six hits and one walk over eight dominant innings. He struck out four. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA lifetime against his former club.

The Phils will face another former Phillie tonight when Cole Hamels (14-7, 2.60) takes on J.A. Happ (5-15, 5.77).

Happ beat the Phillies in his only appearance against them last season. Hamels is just 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA in his career against Houston.

The Phillies magic numbers are:

1- to clinch a playoff berth

5- to clinch the NL East

7- to clinch home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Phils handling business against NL playoff teams

The local media made a big deal out of this week for the Phillies. Many dubbed it "Postseason Preview Week," as the Phils were set to take on the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. So far, they're 5-0.

The Phils swept the Braves, all but ending any possible NL East race down the stretch. Atlanta now stands eleven games behind the Phillies in the standings.

The Phillies have also taken the first two from the Brewers, even winning the opener 7-2 without Ryan Howard, Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins in the lineup.

Each magic number continues to shrink, as the Phillies could even clinch a playoff spot as early as tomorrow with about three weeks still remaining in the season.

Is this the best team in franchise history? Is there really even a question?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phils take series against Atlanta behind Worley, Ibanez

The Phillies secured a series victory over Atlanta on a rain soaked night with a 6-3 victory, moving 9 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East.

They're the first team to win 90 games this season; and reached 90 victories the fastest in franchise history, five games fewer than in 1977.

The Phils won their 14th straight game in which Vance Worley took the rubber. Worley was very good once again, battling through six innings to improve to 11-1. He allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

Worley, as he typically does, battled out of some tough jams. Leading 2-1 in the sixth, the Braves loaded the bases with no outs. He settled down, and retired the next three batters, allowing just one run to score on a sacrifice fly.

The offense put Worley back on top and in position for the win in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on second and third with no outs, thanks to a Ryan Howard leadoff walk and Hunter Pence's 33rd double of the year, Raul Ibanez was at the plate. Howard would end up scoring on a wild pitch; a decision that could have been costly had Brian McCann handled the ball cleanly as he retrieved it. The bobble allowed Howard to score easily. Ibanez followed by crushing a ball to the deepest part of right-centerfield, just to the right of the Phillies' bullpen. It drilled the top of the wall, just eluding a home run, but Pence scored and the Phils took a 4-2 lead.

The Braves would put pressure on the Phillies' bullpen, but Michael Stutes, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson got the job done. Stutes allowed a run, while Lidge and Madson each pitched a scoreless frame. Lidge struck out three in the eighth, and Madson picked up save number 28.

The Phils had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Braves' starter Tim Hudson a little after 9pm. Chase Utley, who is starting to swing the bat much better, belted a solo shot into the Phillies' bullpen, and Raul Ibanez knocked in a run to complete four straight hits in the inning.

Ibanez had a huge night, going 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Cliff Lee was named NL Pitcher of the Month for August; which is a surprise to no one.

The Phils will go for the sweep tonight with Roy Oswalt (7-8, 3.80) on the mound against Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.37).

Oswalt is seeking some consistency in the last month of the season to earn the fourth spot in the playoff rotation. He's 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his last three starts. He's struggled against the Braves in his career, going 1-3 with a 5.56 ERA. He picked up that one win back in April, allowing one run on five hits over six innings in his second start of the year.

Beachy has been tremendous for Atlanta this season. He hasn't lost since July 19. He's 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last three starts. He's 0-3 in his career against the Phils with a 4.50 ERA in five starts.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lee cruises in CG SO over Braves

What a way to start out a potentially big three-game series against Atlanta.

Cliff Lee extended him dominant August into September, and the bats kept producing as the Phils cruised to a 9-0 victory over Derek Lowe and the Braves.

Lee picked up his 16th win and sixth complete game shutout of the year. He allowed just five hits and no walks with six strikeouts. He's 6-0 with just two runs allowed over his last six starts. He eclipsed 200 strikeouts in a season for the first time in his career last night.

Hunter Pence drove in three runs, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz each drove in two and Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard knocked in one.

Howard smacked his 31st homer of the season; a solo shot in the seventh.

Chase Utley, who's been struggling mightily, went 2-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored.

The Phils moved 8.5 games ahead of the second place Braves in the NL East. Only an Atlanta sweep would have put pressure on the Phils in the division, but they squashed that possibility early.

The Phillies would do well to keep sticking it to the Braves, to continue drilling it in their heads that they have Atlanta's number once the postseason rolls around.

Vance Worley (10-1, 2.85) takes the ball tonight against Tim Hudson (14-8, 3.05).

The Phillies have won each of Worley's last 13 starts. His September could be an audition for the playoff rotation, as he continues to make a strong case over Roy Oswalt, who has been inconsistent.

He's 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in his last three starts. He hasn't allowed a run in six career innings against the Braves.

Hudson is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in his last three starts, and is 7-7 with a 3.65 ERA in his career against the Phils. In two starts against Philly this season, he's 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lee closes book on dominant August

Cliff Lee finished off a brilliant month of August with 8.2 shutout innings in Cincinnati last night in a 3-0 victory. He allowed six hits, one walk and a hit batter, with seven strikeouts while picking up his 15th victory of the season. Ryan Madson came on with the bases loaded and picked up the final out.

Lee all but assured himself Pitcher of the Month for the second time in three months. He finished August 5-0, with a 0.45 ERA, 39 strikeouts, eight walks, one complete game shutout, two runs and 23 hits allowed in 39.2 innings pitched. In June, when he won Pitcher of the Month, he went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA, allowing just one run that month with three consecutive complete game shutouts.

The Phils extended their NL East lead over the Braves to 7.5. Vance Worley takes the mound this afternoon, looking to complete a remarkable four-game road sweep over the Reds.

Worley (9-1, 2.65) will be opposed by Mike Leake (11-8, 4.04). Worley struck out a career high nine batters in his last outing against the Mets, in which he allowed just one run and five hits. He's 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in his last three starts, but he lasted just three scoreless innings against Arizona in one of those starts because of rain. He pitched five innings against the Reds back on May 24, allowing three runs on six hits, four walks and three strikeouts in a no decision.

Leake is 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA in his last three starts. He's 0-0 with a 6.91 ERA in 14.1 innings in his career against the Phillies.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Florida takes single game, Phils in Cincy

For the first time this season, the Florida Marlins took a series from the Phillies. Well, kind of.

Hurricane Irene forced the final two games of the series to be postponed until September 15, when the Phils and Fish will square off in a day-night doubleheader.

The Marlins took Friday's game, 6-5.

Roy Oswalt took his eighth loss of the year, tossing 5.2 innings and allowing six runs (five earned) on 12 hits, one walk and two strikeouts. John Buck had the big blast of the game, hitting a sixth inning grand slam off Oswalt.

The Phils started to battle back in the bottom of the sixth, when Ryan Howard crushed a three-run homer which cut the deficit to 6-4.

With one out in the ninth, Cliff Lee came on to pinch run for Raul Ibanez who'd come up with a big pinch hit single. Michael Martinez doubled Lee home all the way from first, cutting the Marlins' lead to one and putting the tying run in scoring position.

That's where he'd stay, as Shane Victorino flied out, and Placido Polanco grounded out to end the ballgame.

The rescheduled doubleheader puts the Phils at a major disadvantage. They no longer have an off day in September. They'll also have to play two doubleheaders in a six game span.

Fortunately, rosters expand this week for September call-ups. The Phils will almost surely pitch someone from Triple-A in one game of each doubleheader.

The team arrived safely in Cincinnati on Saturday, flying out just about as soon as Game One was rained out. They'll open a three-game set with the Reds tonight, as Cole Hamels (13-7, 2.62) comes off the DL to face Homer Bailey (7-5, 4.44)

Hamels was on the mound when the Phils eliminated the Reds from last year's postseason, after he pitched a complete game shut-out to secure Game Three. He beat the Reds back on May 23, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings, with two walks and four strikeouts.

In his career against Cincinnati, he's a remarkable 7-0 with a 1.43 ERA.

Bailey took a no-decision against the Phils on May 26. He allowed four runs on five hits over four innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. He's 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in his last three starts, and is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA over 18 innings in his career against Philly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Phils drop finale to Mets

The Phillies were unable to complete the sweep over the Mets yesterday, dropping the finale 7-4.

Kyle Kendrick was hurt in the first inning. First, by Michael Martinez booting a double-play ball which would have left the bases cleared with two outs. Second, by Nick Evans' three-run shot.

Kendrick fell to 7-6, lasting just four innings and allowing six runs (two earned) on seven hits, one walk and one strikeout.

David Wright also took KK deep, with a solo shot to right in the third.

Shane Victorino drove in two more runs for the Phils from the leadoff spot, while Chase Utley and Hunter Pence each tacked on an RBI.

Now let me just say this: Mike Pelfrey is a clown. The Phils have hit him very well in the past, and they've also had some problems with him on the field. He tried to start something again yesterday.

On a harmless play, with no on on base, he threw inside to Placido Polanco. Everything looked normal, until Pelfrey started barking at Polly, apparently upset that he was trying to let the ball hit him.

First of all, that's baseball. The Phillies just lost a game when Brad Lidge hit a batter with the bases loaded on about a 35 MPH slider that took 25 seconds to reach home plate. The batter could have easily moved, but he leaned in and let it hit him. Umpires very rarely call the rule of a batter not making an attempt to get out of the way. Until they do, batters will keep doing this.

Second of all, Polanco was just stepping into the ball, and did appear to move his elbow guard out of the way at the last second. But that's neither here nor there. If you don't want to hit him, don't throw it close to him. Batters don't instantly move out of the way, because pitches tail back toward the plate. Even the Mets' catcher appeared to disagree with his pitcher's reaction and handled the situation very well. He immediately talked to Polanco, calming him down before anything escalated, and then went out to talk to Pelfrey. Nice job Josh Thole. The last thing the Phils need is another benches clearing incident, resulting in suspensions and possible injuries.

After a day off, the Phils will open a three-game set with the Marlins. Well, maybe. The northeast is supposed to get slammed by hurricane Irene, getting hit hardest on Sunday. Down in Florida, the Reds and Marlins cancelled their game today, and played a doubleheader yesterday. The Phils may want to do the same and play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. If they don't, this will be a two-game series.

The Phillies are 9-3 against Florida this season, outscoring them 64-30. Roy Oswalt (6-7, 3.51) is set to take the ball in the opener against reliever turned starter Clay Hensley (1-5. 5.47).

Oswalt is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA since returning from the DL. He threw eight shutout innings against Washington in his last outing. He faced Florida back in April, picking up a no decision after throwing six innings, allowing two runs on four hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

Hensley is 0-1 with a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts. He threw two-thirds of an inning in relief against the Phils in April. He's 1-1 with a 2.94 ERA in his career against Philly.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another offensive outburst against NY, going for sweep today

Another day, another rout over the Mets and the Phillies are in position to sweep the series this afternoon.

A day after routing the Mets 10-0, the Phils were back at it last night with a 9-4 victory.
The Phils built a 9-0 lead in the fifth, before the bullpen allowed New York to tack on a few meaningless runs in the end.

The big blast in the game came from, you guessed it, John Mayberry Jr. His three-run shot in the third put the Phils on top 4-0. Mayberry is absolutely on fire, and there is no way Charlie Manuel can take him out of the lineup at this point. In his last six games, Mayberry has ten hits, three home runs and ten RBI.

Shane Victorino hit a solo shot earlier in the third to break a scoreless tie; a shot down the left field line which cleared the lower level and landed on the concourse toward the new Harry Kalas statue.

Victorino also a two-run triple in the fifth, his 16th triple of the year and second two-run triple in as many days.

Vance Worley struggled from the get go, but battled as he always does. In the first, he pitched out of a first and third, with no outs jam, and struck out Nick Evans looking to leave the bases loaded. In the second, he was in a second and third, no outs jam and pitched out of that as well by striking out the next three batters, all looking.

He struggled with his command, but Worley is the ultimate competitor and his efforts were rewarded, as he improved to 9-1. He threw seven innings, allowing one run on five hits, one walk and nine strikeouts.

Michael Stutes pitched the final two innings, allowing three runs on four hits.

The Phils got to Mets starter Jon Niese, who lasted just four innings. He surrendered eight runs on ten hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

The Phillies and Kyle Kendrick (7-5 3.24) look to sweep the Mets who will send Mike Pelfrey (6-10 4.61) to the mound this afternoon.

Kendrick is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in his last three starts. Lifetime against NY, he's 4-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He has one start against New York this season on July 17. He picked up the win, tossing seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits and three walks.

The Phillies are Pelfrey's nemesis this season. He's 0-2 in four starts with a 7.58 ERA this season. He's 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in his last three starts. He's 6-6 with a 5.12 ERA lifetime against the Phils.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Phils jump on Mets in opener, 10-0

The Phillies got back on the winning track last night, embarrassing the Mets in a 10-0 victory.

Remember when the Phils and Mets were rivals? All the verbal sparring and games that mattered; fighting for the division down the stretch with the Phils ultimately erasing a late deficit and taking the division two years in a row? That seems like ages ago.

These two franchises are heading in opposite directions. The Phillies have remained successful, having won the divison every year since their epic comeback to take the NL East in 2007. They have the best record in baseball, and should be a legitimate threat to contend for another championship in October.

The Mets, on the other hand, have faded into obscurity. They're in fourth place, seven games under .500 and 22.5 games behind the Phils. Last year, they finished 18 games out, with a losing record. In 2009, they finished 70-92, 23 games behind the Phils. Stop me if you see a pattern.

Last night was no different. Cliff Lee took the ball and once again dominated, throwing seven seemingly easy scoreless innings, although he did walk an uncharacteristic three batters. He struck out seven, picked up his 14th win of the year and improved to 4-0 in August with just two runs allowed over 31 innings with 32 strikeouts.

The lineup lost two of its regulars, but saw the return of Placido Polanco. Just like they have all year, when someone gets wounded, someone else steps up. Jimmy Rollins hit the DL and Raul Ibanez was scratched with a sore groin. Wilson Valdez filled in at shortstop, and the red hot John Mayberry Jr. occupied left field.

Looks like Mayberry can hit righties too. He hit a two-run homer off Mets starter Dillon Gee in the third inning, his eleventh of the year. Mayberry also added an RBI on a bases loaded walk.

Shane Victorino started the scoring in the second, triping home Wilson Valdez and Cliff Lee, both of whom had singled. Lee hustled around the base-paths on the play, scoring all the way from first.

Carlos Ruiz added a two-run single after Mayberry's walk, and Hunter Pence jacked a two-run shot in the sixth, his 16th of the year and fifth with the Phils.

Polanco went 2-for-4 in his return to the lineup, batting second behind Victorino.

Gee lasted on 3.2 innings, allowing eight runs on seven hits, six walks and three strikeouts.

The Phils' bullpen pitched two scoreless innings; a sight for sore eyes.

David Herndon allowed just two hits over his two frames, with one strikeout. Herndon has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances totaling 10.2 innings, lowering his season ERA from 4.83 to 3.61.

The Phils and Mets get right back at it tonight, with Vance Worley (8-1 2.76) squaring off against Jon Niese (11-10 4.05).

Worley should be well rested after pitching three strong innings against Arizona before a rain delay forced him from the game. Worley is 2-1 in three starts against NY this year. He beat them on July 15, allowing one run on four hits on 5.1 innings with four walks and four strikeouts. His other victory came on his first outing of the year back on April 29. He threw six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and four walks with five strikeouts. His only defeat was an ugly one on May 29. Worley lasted just three innings, allowing eight runs (five earned) on twelve hits.

Niese is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA He's 3-3 in his career against Philly with a 2.82 ERA. He's started against the Phillies four times this season, losing twice in April and beating them in May and July. Over his two victories, he allowed just three runs (one earned) and struck out twelve. The Phils tagged him for six runs over just four innings back on April 7th.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rollins hits the DL

The revolving door that is the Phillies' infield keeps spinning, as Jimmy Rollins is hitting the 15-day DL with a mild Grade 2 right groin strain.

He left the game yesterday after the second inning when he strained the groin fielding a ball at the middle, spinning and throwing to first.

Placido Polanco is expected to activated for tonight's game against New York. No official word yet, but Polanco should be in the lineup, playing third. Wilson Valdez will likely occupy shortstop for Rollins.

J-Roll won't be eligiable to come back until September 6.

Another blown save gives Nats series

The Phillies have uncharacteristically blown three of their last six games in the ninth inning. They're 3-3 over that span.

It started with Roy Halladay failing to fend off the Diamondbacks at Citizen's Bank Park, and ending with Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo blowing two of three in Washington over the weekend.

Bastardo had a wicked slider yesterday, and was one out away from shutting down the Nationals until he made one mistake, hanging a 1-2 slider to Ian Desmond who smacked the game tying homer. Brad Lidge promptly stunk it up in the 10th, giving the Nats a walk-off victory on a hit batter.

Rain robbed Roy Halladay of a chance at his 16th victory, and after Michael Schwimer blew the lead by allowing a blast to the first batter he faced in his Major League career, he actually pitched very well.

Schwimer would have picked up the win had Bastardo not blown the game. He pitched three innings, allowing two hits and striking out four.

Atlanta moved to 6.5 behind the Phils, who need to start securing victories to fend off the once again hot Braves. Those ninth inning melt downs are the difference between going 6-0 and 3-3 in their last six. Unfortunately, they went the latter.

The Phils play host to the Mets for three games starting tonight. Cliff Lee (13-7 2.82) will face Dillon Gee (11-4 3.92).

Lee is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his last three starts. Lee faced New York once this year, back on May 1. He picked up a no decision, tossing seven innings allowing one runs and two walks with five strikeouts. He's 1-0 in his career against NY with a 0.64 ERA and ten strikeouts in 14 innings.

Gee is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in his last three starts. He faced the Phils in relief back on April 29, allowing four runs in just 1.2 innings. He's 1-0 in his career against the Phillies with a 6.23 ERA. He's been one of the Mets' best arms this year, but he's struggled lately. Entering July, he was 8-1. Since then, he's 3-3.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rain forces Doc out, costs him win

Rain has interfered with the Phillies' starting pitching once again. Roy Halladay lost his shot at victory number 16 this afternoon due to yet another rain delay.

Leading 3-2 in the top of the sixth, the downpour started and effectively ended Doc's day.

Michael Schwimer entered the game in the bottom of the sixth after the delay, making his Major League debut. He allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Danny Espinsoa, to tie the game. Schwimer put his finger in the air after the ball left the bat, as if calling it a pop-up. Yeah, dude, they knew it was in the air. It only cleared the centerfield wall.

This coming two days after the series opener never should have started, entering a long delay in the first inning and wasting Roy Oswalt's warm-up as the Phils had to shut him down.

Jimmy Rollins left the game with a strained right groin after the second inning. Right now, he's day to day.

The game remains tied, entering the bottom of the seventh.

Mayberry getting more time

John Mayberry Jr. is earning time in Charlie Manuel's lineup. He deserves it.

He's made some adjustments in his swing and approach, and the difference is palpable.

Mayberry's biggest area of improvement: consistency. Everyone has seen his potential and the power in his mighty bat. But since his recall, he's producing on a much more consistent basis.

He's batting .269 with 10 homers, 35 RBI, 13 doubles and six stolen bases in just 189 at bats. His .511 slugging percentage is third on the team behind Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Same with his .841 OPS.

Overall, Mayberry is hitting .273 against left-handed pitching with five home runs. Lately, Manuel has used him more against lefties and he's come through in a big way.

Todd Zolecki did a feature on Mayberry, that since he rejoined the team in July, the Phils have faced nine left-handed starters. Mayberry started eight of them, hitting .276 with two doubles, four homers, seven RBI and a .759 slugging percentage in those games. Raul Ibanez hit .172 with one double, one home run, seven RBI, a .172 on base percentage and a .310 slugging percentage in that same span.

Mayberry got the start against lefty John Lannan in last night's 5-0 victory, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Roy Oswalt showed encouraging signs that he could be back to form, tossing eight shutout innings, striking out nine.

Mayberry is not quite in a platoon situation with Ibanez, but he's a big bat to be able to add against a tough lefty, or come off the bench late as he did in Colorado with a pinch-hit game tying home run. In the postseason, Mayberry could be an even more valuable tool for Manuel to pencil into the lineup against southpaws.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Worley looks good before rain, Phils take series

Thunder and rain couldn't prevent the Phils from ending the Diamondbacks' impressive road winning streak. The last time Arizona dropped two of three on the road came in Oakland back on July 3.

Starters Vance Worley and Ian Kennedy would only last three innings due to a rain delay of nearly two and a half hours. But it was Worley pitching like a 15 game winner; and the Phils' bats finally getting to Kennedy

The Phils lead 3-0 in the delay, on the strength of John Mayberry Jr's tenth home run of the year, a two-run bullet off the left field foul pole. Doubles from Raul Ibanez and Wilson Valdez accounted for the Fightins' other run.

They'd go on to win 4-1 just before Midnight, taking two of three from the D-Backs, coming up a Roy Halladay blown lead in the ninth short of a sweep.

David Herndon pitched great in relief, earning his first victory of the season. He tossed three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out four.

Kennedy picked up just his fourth loss of the year, while Worley allowed just one hit with two strikeouts over his three innings of work.

Paul Goldschmidt slugged his second homer in as many games for Arizona, hitting a solo shot to dead center off Michael Stutes.

The win brings the Phillies to a league best 80-42. They'll head to Washington for a weekend series against the Nats.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bats erupt late, giving Lee 13th win

As Hunter Pence returned to the dugout after the top of the seventh inning last night, deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, he pondered his next at bat and how he could help Cliff Lee and his offense re-take the lead. Jimmy Rollins had put the Phils up 1-0 with his 37th career leadoff home run on the first pitch he saw.

After Lee allowed two in the second, Pence and John Mayberry Jr. tied it in the bottom of the second with a leadoff double and an RBI single respectively.

Then, both Lee and Joe Saunders settled in to bring the game to the bottom of the seventh still tied.

So Pence stepped in and delivered a pitcher's worst nightmare: the leadoff walk.

It sparked a rally, which plated three in the frame and four more in the eighth, giving the Phils a 9-2 victory and some redemption against the D-Backs.

Wilson Valdez started the scoring by crushing a double off the wall in dead centerfield, plating Pence and Mayberry who'd singled and read the ball of Valdez's bat perfectly. Ben Francisco added a pinch hit sacrifice fly in the inning.

Mayberry, Brian Schneider, Rollins and Shane Victorino each drove in a run in the eighth.

Cliff Lee improved to 13-7, allowing two runs over seven innings on three hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. Not quite the 12 K performance in Arizona back on April 25, but I'm sure Lee will settle for the win. All sarcasm aside, Lee pitched another tremendous game despite his scoreless innings streak coming to a halt at 18. He allowed a two-run shot in the second to Paul Goldschmidt, but settled down to allow just two singles over his final 5+ innings of work.
The Phillies have two wins in five games against Arizona this year, and Saunders has taken the loss in both of them.

The rubber-match is tonight, weather permitting, with Ian Kennedy on the hill against Vance Worley. Kennedy is tied with Roy Halladay for the NL lead in wins (15) and pitched a complete game, three hit shutout against the Phils in April. Worley is also having an outstanding year, but is coming off the worst outing of his career.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doc falters in the 9th, D-Backs take Game One

Tough loss for the Phils last night, dropping the opening game against Arizona after leading in the ninth inning, 3-2.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the ninth, the Phils had struggled against D-Backs' starter Josh Collmenter all night. Shane Victorino's bullet two-run shot in the fifth gave them a lead, which Halladay had protected. Doc tied a career high with 14 strikeouts. But he labored in the ninth.

Justin Upton and Miguel Montero lead-off the inning with singles. After striking out Chris Young, who failed to execute a sacrfice bunt, recently signed Lyle Overbay drove a double into the right-centerfield gap, plating Upton and Montero to give the Diamondbacks the lead for good.

Halladay picked up his seventh complete game of the year and the 65th of his career in a losing effort. He dropped to 15-5.

Collmenter tossed 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. He's just the type of pitcher to give the Phils fits: a soft tosser that they've hardly seen before. Collmenter kept the Phils off balance with a lot of changeups, and mixed speeds well.

Tonight's game is a big one for the Phils, who send Cliff Lee to the mound looking for a third consecutive gem. He's thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings; a complete game shutout against the Giants in San Francisco followed by eight shutout innings in Los Angeles. Tonight is big because the D-Backs will send Ian Kennedy to the mound tomorrow against Vance Worley. Kennedy is having a phenomenal year, and pitched a complete game, three hit shutout over the Phils in April. Worley is coming off what could be considered the worst start of his professional career.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Phils split with Nats, open possibly NLDS preview with D-Backs

Saturday's 11-3 beatdown of the Nats gave Roy Oswalt just his second victory since April 21, and his first since June 12.

He allowed three runs over seven innings on six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. While Oswalt was good, the bats did most of the work. Ryan Howard hit a two-run shot in the first off John Lannan, his 26th of the year. Howard finished with four RBI, Raul Ibanez drove in two while Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence, Oswalt and Carlos Ruiz each knocked in a run.

The Phils open a three-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow at CBP, weather permitting, in what could be a first round post-season preview. The D-Backs are red hot; winners of six straight, they've climbed two games ahead of the struggling San Francisco Giants in the NL West. As I pointed out in my last post, the Phils are very likely to face the winner of that division in the NLDS. Expect it to the Arizona.

Two of the hottest teams in the National League square off in Philly starting tomorrow. Here's the probables:

Tuesday: Roy Halladay (15-4, 2.51) vs. Josh Collmenter (7-7, 3.51)
Halladay is 3-0 lifetime against Arizona. Collementer pitched one scoreless inning in relief against the Phils back in April.

Wednesday: Cliff Lee (12-7, 2.83) vs. Joe Saunders (8-9, 3.76)
Lee took the loss in Arizona back on April 25, allowing four runs while fanning 12 D-Backs. Saunders took the only loss against the Phils back in April, allowing six runs over 5.2 innings.

Thursday: Vance Worley (8-1, 2.85) vs. Ian Kennedy (15-3, 3.12)
Worley is looking to bounce back from one of the worst, if not the worst, starts of his career in LA. Kennedy is having a tremendous year, and pitched a complete game, three hit shutout against the Phils and Lee back on April 25.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Phils vs. NL West in Division Series? Probably

The Phillies should have an interest as to whom comes out on top of the NL West; they're likely to face them in the first round of the post season.

First off, the Phils have the disadvantage of facing a division winner, because they are very likely to secure the Number One seed (they currently hold a ten game lead) and Atlanta is very likely to win the Wild Card (five game lead). Of course, teams from the same division can not face each other in Division series, therefore, the Phils would face the team with the third best record.

The Arizona Diamondbacks currently lead the NL West by just one game over the San Francisco Giants. Who would you rather face?

Well, that's a tough one. The Diamondbacks have been playing great ball, and if they win the division, we can assume they continue playing very well throughout their final 44 games. The Giants have been scuffling, but that pitching rotation can be un-hitable, as well all well know, and the possibility of a five-game series against their pitching is that much more daunting. Lose Game One to Tim Lincecum, and there is less time to bounce back before their backs are against the wall.

The Milwaukee Brewers lead the NL Central, and hold just a two-game lead over Arizona. The possibility remains that the Phils square off against the Brew Crew in Round One, but I doubt it. The Brewers are a tough team, and Arizona and San Fran figure to beat up on each other a bit down the stretch while fighting for the division championship. I see Milwaukee cruising to an NL Central crown, and a date with the Braves in the division series.

Against Arizona this year, the Phils are 1-2. But that series came back in April. Ian Kennedy pitched a complete game shutout in the first game, striking out ten and allowing just three hits. He beat Cliff Lee who struck out twelve. The D-Backs took the series with a 7-5 victory in Game Two, as Daniel Hudson beat Roy Oswalt, who allowed five runs over just three innings. Cole Hamels took the finale for the Phils against Joe Saunders.

The Phils will host the D-Backs for the three game set starting Tuesday, which should shed some insight on how the Phils match-up.

The Phillies are 4-3 against the Giants this season, with three of the four victories coming on this last road trip against a struggling club. Linecum has beaten the Phils twice this season, but Roy Halladay has yet to face the Giants. Obviously the Phils can beat them, but of course, the Giants can get hot at the right time and are the one team that may be able to counter the Phils' tremendous pitching.

Of course, this is all assuming these teams makes the playoffs. The Phils have, by no means, wrapped anything up. But, they've had the best record in MLB for most of the season, and there's no reason to believe they're about to start struggling.

The Phillies are likely to clinch the division far earlier than any other season since their consecutive wins streak started in 2007. If that's the case, hopefully watching other teams battle for playoff spots and positioning will keep us entertained during the last few weeks of September.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Phils' Franchise Best Road-Trip and More

Wow, what a road trip! In fact it's the Phils' best road trip of more than seven games ever. Yesterday's 9-8 come from behind victory capped it at 9-1.

The Phillies are 77-40, are running away with the NL East as the Braves trail by 8.5 games and seem to be well on their way to a franchise best regular season.

Vance Worley didn't have his best stuff yesterday, he lasted just four innings and allowed six runs, but you have to give him credit for battling after a brutal first inning in which he allowed five runs. Had Charlie Manuel needed to turn to the 'pen in the first, who knows how the game would have turned out. Worley even chipped in an RBI single in the fourth.

Worley's ERA is rising at a rapid pace. Just four starts ago, his 2.02 ERA thrust him into Rookie of the Year contention. It's now risen to 2.85, which is still spectacular. Hopefully Worley bounces back after the occasional rough outing, like he's done all year.

The Phillies are 12-1 with Hunter Pence, who hit a two-run shot to center yesterday for his third in a Phillies' uniform. They've scored 186 runs since the end of June, which leads the National League. A potent offense combined that their lethal rotation is obviously a tremendous combination. That's why we're being treated to history this year.

After a long flight home and a day off today, the Phils will host Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals over the weekend. Who would you rather have right now, Werth or Pence?

This year: Werth .226, .332 OBP, .387 SLUG, .719 OPS, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 22 2B, 1 3B, 51 Runs, 14 SB, 118 K, 59 BB.

Pence: .313, .360 OBP, .484 SLUG, .844 OPS, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 29 2B, 3 3B, 55 Runs, 7 SB, 95 K, 34 BB.

Oh, did I mention that Pence is about $700 million cheaper?

Here's a look at the probables:

Friday: Livan Hernandez (6-11, 4.41) vs. Cole Hamels (13-6, 2.53)

Saturday: John Lannan (8-7, 3.56) vs. Roy Oswalt (4-7, 3.84)

Sunday: TBD vs. Roy Halladay (15-4, 2.51)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Victorino to be suspended, helps lift Phils over LA

Shane Victorino is the only player to be suspended for his role in Friday's benches clearing incident in San Francisco. MLB handed down a three-game suspension which Victorino has appealed.

Thankfully he did. His solo home run in the top of the ninth in Los Angeles, where he still receives his share of boos for the playoff incident when he took exception to them throwing at his head, helped the Phils hang on for a 5-3 victory and give Roy Halladay his NL leading 15 win.

Victorino should not be the only player targeted by MLB. Ramon Ramirez started the incident by throwing at Victorino. Maybe it was because he was frustrated from getting lit up. Maybe Jimmy Rollins swiping second base irritated them. Even if it was partially because J-Roll ran, it's not like the game was out of hand. Whatever the case, Ramirez started the incident and Shane reacted. He didn't throw any punches. He just walked toward the mound. Eli Whiteside was the biggest antagonizer in the whole scene, jumping up and down in Vic's face as if saying "bring it on," and then tackling Placido Polanco.

Victorino could have stopped though. He did push an umpire off of him and dive back into the pile, which was his biggest offense. Pitchers can throw a baseball at 90+ MPH at a hitter, but how is a hitter supposed to defend himself? If he charged the mound, that's different. But he has to be allowed to say, "you know what, I'm not gonna take that." Whiteside, Ramirez and Victorino should all be suspended an equal amount of time, but that's not the case. Fortunetly, the Phils are running away with the NL East while the Giants look less and less like a play-off team everyday. Victorino's appeal will likely drop the suspension down  to two games.

In the meantime, let's hope he keeps producing like he has been while the Phillies get the chance to enjoy his services.

They'll look to win their eighth game in nine tries of their current road-trip tonight with Cliff Lee (11-7, 2.96) on the mound fresh off a complete game shut-out over the Giants. Ted Lilly (7-11, 4.86) takes the ball for the Dodgers.

Hunter Pence has the most AB's on the Phils against Lilly (32) with little success. He's batting .188 with one RBI against him in his career. Ryan Howard is hitting .286 against him with two homers, and Victorino is batting .333 with a home run. It will be interesting to see if John Mayberry Jr. will get his first look at Lilly tonight, but Raul Ibanez has a homer and three RBI in just four at bats against him.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Phils sweep 2nd straight

The Phillies continue to roll. In face, they haven't lost a game since Hunter Pence has been penciled into the five hole.

The Phils completed their second consecutive sweep yesterday, taking all three from the Rockies in Colorado. A day after Kyle Kendrick left the rotation in style, by tossing eight shut-out innings, and Ryan Howard's two home runs powered them to victory, Roy Halladay was on the mound for the finale.

Doc didn't fair quite as well as Kendrick (yes, that sentence just happened. I can't believe it either). Halladay did not have his best stuff in Denver yesterday, but he grinded out his 14th victory of the season. He ended up allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits, one walk and seven strikeouts over seven innings.

The Phils' bats supported Doc in the 8-6 victory, but it didn't exactly start out that way.

Jason Hammell, who dropped to 6-11 by allowing six runs over five innings, walked the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the first. The Phils had an opportunity to give Doc a major cushion, but managed only one run. Howard stuck out, Pence knocked in a run with a sac fly and Raul Ibanez stuck out to end the frame.

Then, a strange bottom of the first allowed the Rockies to briefly capture the lead. Eric Young led-off with a bunt base hit, that actually lofted over Howard's head and dropped into shallow right field as he charged in because of the bunt attempt. After stealing second with Dexter Fowler at the plate, Fowler hit a routine grounder to first. Howard dropped the ball twice, and then flipped it over Halladay's head at first, allowing Young to score and Fowler to advance to second. Howard was correctly charged with a double error on the play, and Colorado led 2-1 after one.

It didn't last long though. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each tacked on an RBI single in the second before Howard made up for his brutal start with a two-run double to center. Howard later homered in the sixth and finished 2-for-4 with a walk and four RBI. The Phils would never trail again after the second, but Colorado battled and hung around the entire game.

Brad Lidge came on in the ninth and picked up his first save of the season, and 100th with the Phils, in a flawless inning.

The Phils head to San Francisco looking for some revenge from the team that knocked them out of last year's playoffs and ended their series winning streak at nine just last week. Here's a look at the probables:

Tonight: Cliff Lee (10-7, 3.14) vs. Madison Bumgarner (6-10, 3.80)

Friday: Vance Worley (7-1, 2.33) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (4-5, 3.81)

Saturday: Cole Hamels (12-6, 2.62) vs. Matt Cain (9-7, 3.10)

Sunday: Roy Oswalt (4-6, 3.79) vs. Tim Lincecum (9-9, 2.77)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Different day, different heros for Phils

Another day, more late inning heroics, another victory. I'd say things are going pretty well.

Last night's game had it all: a pitching duel, clutching hitting, home runs, late inning drama, long hard fought at bats and a benches clearing brawl. OK, I made that last part up, but that's just about the only excitement missing from last night's series opener in Colorado.

The Phillies were down to their last strike in the top of the ninth with Rockies' closer Huston Street on the mound. who'd converted 28 of 30 saves. John Mayberry Jr. came to the plate to pinch hit representing the tying run with a runner aboard, trailing 3-1.

Mayberry fell behind early, flailing wildly at a nasty slider that ran down and off the plate. But then Mayberry shortened his stroke, laying off sliders off the plate and fouling off strikes. He knew Street wasn't going to throw him a fastball. He just needed to make a mistake. He did. Mayberry ripped a game tying, pinch-hit two-run home run over the left-field fence, capping a hard fought at bat. The Phillies' bench knew it right away, celebrating with the crack of the bat. Utley's reaction is about the most emotion Philadelphia has ever seen out of him.

Jimmy Rollins followed, crushing a ball to right-center that looked like a go-ahead home run, only to watch it settle into Dexter Fowler's glove at the wall.

Rex Brothers replaced Street in the top of the tenth to a rude greeting. No, not from Rockies' fans. Shane Victorino lead-off and crushed a high fast ball to left for a go-ahead run, and the Phils would remarkably take the game 4-3; their first lead of the game.

Both starters were tremendous. Cole Hamels was about to take another tough luck loss, after allowing two runs on six hits, one walk and five strikeouts over six innings. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh with the tying run in scoring position, but Ross Gload grounded out.

Colorado starter Jhoulys Chacin was even better, once again stifling the Phils by allowing just one run on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts over 7.1 innings. In 14.1 innings against the Phils this year, he's allowed just two runs and struck out eleven.

Michael Stutes surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced in the seventh, but settled in to pitch two solid innings.

Raul Ibanez knocked in the Phils' other run in the seventh with an RBI double that just missed clearing the fence, scoring Hunter Pence.

Kyle Kendrick (5-5, 3.52) takes the ball tonight in what is likely his last start for some time with Roy Oswalt expected back over the weekend. The Rockies will send Aaron Cook (2-5 5.05) to oppose him.

Kendrick started against Colorado back on May 19 and got lit up for five runs over three innings, taking the loss.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rauuuuuuul plays hero for Phils

What a day for Raul Ibanez. The veteran has been heating up as of late, culminating with a terrific performance in yesterday's finale to give the Phils a series sweep.

After he'd already hit a solo shot to dead center-field in the second inning, Ibanez stepped to the dish in the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner aboard, two outs and the Phillies trailing 5-3.

Vance Worley had his worst start, in fact his only start that wasn't tremendous, since May 29 against the Mets.

Ryan Howard had just made a base running blunder. After a one-out double, Hunter Pence chopped a ball toward the hole in left. Shortstop Brandon Wood made a nice play to field the ball, but had no play on Pence for what would have been an infield single. The only problem: Howard tried to advance to third on a ball hit to his right; a big no-no. It was an aggressive play, trying to get to third with less than two-out, but it ended up hurting the Phils.

That is until Ibanez crushed a high fastball from Jose Veras into the left-field stands for a game tying, two-run home run, his second long ball of the day.

The game would go extra innings after Chase Utley failed to bring home the winning run from second in the bottom of the ninth.

In the bottom of the tenth, after Howard struck out, Pence lined a ball into the left-field corner for a one-out double. Ibanez stepped up and capped his huge day with a walk-off double into right-field, scoring an ecstatic Pence from second.

Antonio Bastardo picked up the win, he's now 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA. Ibanez's 3-for-5 day gives him 16 homers on the year and 59 RBI.

Worley lasted six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. He was dominant early, but got into some trouble in the middle innings. Still, Worley didn't pitch all that badly. His ERA rose to 2.33.

Brad Lidge allowed a run in one inning of work on one hit, one walk and one strikeout.

The Phillies will open up a series in Denver tonight against the Rockies. Colorado just traded ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians, and star out-fielder Carlos Gonzalez is currently on the disabled list. Cole Hamels (12-6, 2.61) will be on the mound for the Phils against Jhoulys Chacin (8-8, 3.50). The Phils faced Chacin on May 19, taking the loss and mustering just one run on four hits and one walk, with nine strikeouts against him. Game time is 8:40.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Phils land Pence, Doc dominates Bucs

For the third straight year, July 29 is a great day for the Phillies. In 2009, the Phils acquired Cliff Lee on that date. Last year, Roy Oswalt came to Philly. Tonight, the Phils landed much coveted outfielder Hunter Pence from Houston and our old buddy Ed Wade.

Pence will provide an immediate boost to the Phils. He's a proven commodity, likely to bat fifth in the lineup. He's a fast, hard working player; Pence is a very good outfielder and he has some pop in his bat.

The Phils also didn't have to part with any Major League talent. Domonic Brown and Vance Worley will remain in the organization.

The 4-for-1 deal sends two of Philadelphia's top prospects, Class A first baseman Jonathan Singleton and Class A pitcher Jared Cosart to Houston. Double-A pitcher Josh Zeid will also go to the Astros, with a fourth player to be named later.

This is a great pick-up for the Phils. He's not the sexy, 30 home run bat many would like to see, but Pence is a very good player. Sure, the Phils may have payed a steep price for him, but you never know with prospects. Pence is still relatively young and can make an immediate impact, and hopefully help the club win a World Series.

Meanwhile, the Phils took Game One against the Pirates easily tonight, 10-3. Roy Halladay was absolutely dominant, allowing no runs on just one hit through seven innings with no walks and five strikeouts. Doc was cruising and would have pitched deeper, but he had a 10-0 lead at the time.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins homered, with Utley coming up a double shy of the cycle and driving in four runs.

Cliff Lee and Pence will take on Pittsburgh tomorrow night, looking to start a new series win streak at one.

Phils drop first series since June 17-19

The Phillies' consecutive series win streak is over, as they dropped two of three to the Giants. Tim Lincecum finally took the mound last night, and if he was still feeling any ill effects, you couldn't tell.

Lincecum lasted six innings, allowing no runs on three hits, four walks and six strikeouts while picking up his ninth win in a 4-1 victory.

Carlos Beltran's debut with San Fran was uneventful; he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

The Phillies will open a series with the Pirates tonight, with Roy Halladay on the mound. Pittsburgh always plays the Phils tough, but the Bucs are playing great ball this year, making them that much more dangerous.

There are plenty of updates and rumors swirling about. The Phillies are continuing to get healthy, and reinforcements could be coming soon. Placido Polanco went 0-for-2 with a walk in six innings of a rehab start. He reported no pain and is expected to play a full nine innings tonight. If all goes well, he could return this weekend.

After throwing four innings for Triple-A on Wednesday, Roy Oswalt is expected to make his second rehab start on Monday. He could rejoin the rotation by the end of next week. If Oswalt is healthy, that rotation will be more potent than we'd even anticipated entering the season. Vance Worley joining the "Big Four" is a lethal combination for any opponent.

The Phils may also be added reinforcements from their Triple-A squad, the Houston Astros. Well, at least it seems that way. The team does acquire a Astro seemingly every year.

Talks about Hunter Pence have intensified, and it's rumored that the Phillies have until today to close the deal before Houston looks elsewhere. It's being widely reported that the Phils may not have to give up Domonic Brown and/or Worley as once thought. The big names being mentioned are high class A first baseman Jonathan Singleton and high class A righthander Jarred Cosart.

While they are big prospects, they're just that, prospects. Pence is a proven commodity that could help this team in the post-season when they face a team with a rotation like San Francisco's. Giving up Worley in the deal would be a mistake, but keeping all your Major League talent and adding Pence seems like a no-brainer. Get it done Ruben!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Phils hope to keep streak alive

The Phillies need a victory in tonight's rubber-match with the Giants to keep their series winning streak alive and extend it to ten. An all-star will stand in their way with either Tim Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong on the mound. San Francisco is also expected to have Carlos Beltran in the lineup, making his Giants debut.

Game One of this series was one of the more exciting games I've had the privilege of attending in recent memory.

Vance Worley continued his dominant stretch on the mound, tossing 114 pitches for his first career complete game. He improved to 7-1 while allowing two runs on three hits, one walk and five strikeouts; throwing himself into the NL Rookie of the Year award race. His remarkable streak of starts lasting five innings or more, while allowing one run or less ended at six, when former fan favorite Aaron Rowand hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth.

The offense delivered plenty of support for Worley, putting seven runs on the board on the strength of four home runs. Chase Utley's certainly drew the most buzz, as he sped around the bases for his third career inside the park home run. He's tied for the lead in that category among active players with Jimmy Rollins and Bobby Abreu among others. Raul Ibanez helped erase the Phils' early 1-0 deficit with a three-run homer in the first, on the first pitch he saw from Barry Zito.

John Mayberry Jr. and Ryan Howard each added solo shots for the Phils.

The bats weren't quite as loud against Matt Cain last night; while Cole Hamels was once again the tough luck loser. Hamels allowed two runs (although Domonic Brown's blunder aided San Fran in scoring their second run) on six hits, one walk and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Cain was better, allowing one run (unearned) on four hits, one walk and one strikeout.

Brad Lidge came in to pick up the final out of the eighth inning, and he did so by striking out Cody Ross. Antonio Bastardo fanned two in a one-two-three top of the ninth.

Brian Wilson picked up his league leading 32nd save in a perfect bottom of the ninth.

Kyle Kendrick (5-4 3.45) looks to fend off the Giants' bats tonight, and hopes to gain some run support.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Phils win 9th Straight Series, Trade Rumors

The Phillies have been on fire, securing their ninth straight series victory with a 5-3 win over the Padres yesterday. They'll try for the four-game sweep with Cliff Lee on the mound this afternoon.

Unfortunately for the Phils, the Braves have been hot and right on their heels for a good month or so. Yes, 3.5 games isn't exactly right on their heels, but you got the sense that if the Phils started to struggle a bit, the Braves were in position to pounce. The Phils are starting to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NL East of late, moving six games ahead of the second place Braves after Atlanta dropped last night's game to the Reds on Sunday Night Baseball. The Fightins' are 13-5 in July with some tough opponents (San Francisco, Pittsburgh) ahead to close out the month.

Roy Halladay made his first start after leaving the mound in Chicago due to heat exhaustion, and he bounced back strong. Doc wasn't dominant at the start, but he only grew stronger as the game wore on. Halladay picked up his 12th win of the year by tossing eight innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired the last ten batters he faced before being removed for Antonio Bastardo who picked up his eighth save a day after a very shaky performance. Doc joined Cole Hamels and Jair Jurrjens with 12 victories to lead the National League.

No news on the trade front yet. Carlos Beltran reportedly has informed the Mets that he would only like to be traded within the National League, and only to a first place team. Atlanta falling back in the NL East race recently may hurt their chances of acquiring Beltran.

It was rumored that Vance Worley would be centered around any deal the Phils put in place for Hunter Pence of Houston. One word: Don't Do It!

Pence would look great with the Phils, I'd much prefer him to Beltran, but the Phils can't keep trading away their young pitching. Their starting rotation is tremendous, but the only good, young pitchers are Hamels and Worley. They've already traded J.A. Happ, who is having a bad year for the Astros but was tremendous with the Phils, for an old pitcher who is struggling to stay healthy. While you always have to give to receive, Houston doesn't have that much need for  Major League ready talent anyway. They're in no position to be considered a legitimate contender in the next few years. Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ed Wade have made several swaps in the past. Wade is familiar with the Phillies' farm system, and if Amaro pushed hard enough, he may be able to pry Pence away from the Stros' without the big league roster taking a hit. Worley is just too valuable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Worley dominates, Rollins slugs Phils to series win

Vance Worley is quickly making a name for himself in the big leagues. Yet another dominant performance in the sweltering heat yesterday afternoon in Chicago led the way to a Phillies 9-1 victory, as they won their eighth consecutive series. Worley improved to 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA by tossing eight innings, allowing one run on four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

Worley has now made six consecutive starts going five or more innings and allowing one earned run or less in each start. The last Phillies starter to do that: Steve Carlton in 1972. Worley and Carlton are the only Phillies pitchers since since 1920 to accomplish such a feat. Since June 18, when Worley was recalled from the minors, no pitcher has a lower ERA.

Worley could cause a problem, albeit a good problem, for the Phillies' brass if and when Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton are set to return to the rotation. The team can't send this guy down, and he shouldn't be pitching out of the bullpen. In the meantime, hopefully Worley keeps pitching well and we can all enjoy the show.

The offense did a lot to back Worley and get him a lead from the start. Jimmy Rollins homered twice, once from each side of the plate for the second time in his career. Chase Utley drove in two runs, and chipping in an RBI were: Michael Martinez, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Brian Schneider.

The Phils scored two in the first, three in the second and one in each the third and fourth, chasing Ryan Dempster early. He lasted just three innings, allowing six run on seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts.

The bats put together a rather unlikely two-out rally in the second. After Domonic Brown and Schneider struck out, Worley was the only man standing between Dempster and a quick one-two-three inning. Worley responded by ripping his first career double into the right-center field gap. Rollins followed with a double down the right-field line. Martinez drove him in with an RBI single, stole second, and scored on Utley's double.

Martinez is lucky his ground-ball found its' way into center-field, otherwise he would have made a terrible mistake. Worley had just scored from second base on the scorching hot afternoon, and had just gotten back into the dugout. He hadn't even had a chance to sit down, when Martinez swung at the first pitch and hit it into center. Had Martinez hit a weak grounder to second, Worley would have had to take the mound immediately after running the bases. A veteran player like Utley would have taken a pitch if not more to give his pitcher time to rest. Someone must have pointed this out to Martinez, because next time it could come back to bite the Phillies' starter.

With a Braves loss, the Phils moved 4.5 games up in the NL East. The Phils are off today before opening a four-game set with San Diego, while the Braves will wrap up their series in Colorado at 3:10. Tommy Hanson is on the mound for Atlanta, while the Rockies will send Jhoulys Chacin to the hill.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rollins, Martinez clutch in Phils come back win

The top of the lineup did something last night in Chicago the Phillies have been waiting for it to do for a long time: steal a game.

The duo of Jimmy Rollins and Michael Martinez did just that in a 4-2 victory that splits the series at one game a piece entering this afternoon's finale.

Trailing 2-0 entering the eighth inning, Matt Garza was still on the mound. He'd allowed just three hits over seven innings, and Chicago even let him bat to lead-off the bottom of the seventh. Rollins led-off the inning and his single did two key things. It put the lead-off man aboard, and it removed Garza from the hill.

Sean Marshall entered the game, and promptly surrendered a single to Martinez and the Phils had their first two men on. Chase Utley, who's struggled mightily of late and has been terrible against lefties all year stroked a double into the left-center field gap, plating Rollins and Martinez to tie the score.

An inning later, the Phillies started a two out rally.

Ben Francisco's pinch hit single brought Rollins to the plate. J-Roll ripped a ball down the third base line that likely would have tied the game, had Aramis Ramirez not been guarding the line. Ramirez made a tremendous play to knock the ball down, but Rollins' infield single kept the inning alive.

Martinez followed with a bloop double down the right-field line that rattled around against the wall in the Phillies' bullpen. Reed Johnson bobbled the ball, which allowed Rollins to score behind Francisco, putting the Phillies up for good, 4-2.

Antonio Bastardo dominated once again, striking out the side in a one-two-three bottom of the ninth for his seventh save of the season.

It looked like once again, the Phillies' all-star rotation was struggling post all-star break. Cliff Lee started the game by allowing a double, a home run and a double to put the Phils in an early 2-0 hole. Fortunately, he settled down to pitch six innings, allowing those two runs on eight hits, no walks and six strikeouts.

Today is supposed to be another scorcher in Chicago. Hopefully Vance Worley doesn't suffer the same ill effects Roy Halladay did on Monday.

Fox Sports is reporting the Phillies and the Boston Red Sox are the most aggressive suitors for Carlos Beltran. The report states the Mets may not have to pay as much of Beltran's remaining $6 million salary this season as anticipated, because of the high interest from many teams. A prior report indicated the Mets may be willing to pay most or all of his remaining salary for a top prospect in return. Beltran will be a free agent, and would likely be a rental if acquired. While Beltran would look great in red pinstripes, hopefully they don't decimate the farm system for a rental player not quite of superstar stature any longer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doc suffers heat exhaustion, first loss in two months

Roy Halladay is human. Who knew?

Typically, Charlie Manuel has to hogtie Halladay and drag him from the mound to remove him from a game. Last night, Doc removed himself.

After struggling with the heat all night, it finally got the best of him in the fifth, trailing 3-1. Halladay was suffering from heat exhaustion and the Phils had to make an early call to the pen.

Halladay took the loss  in the 6-1 defeat, but more importantly he is fine and intends to make his next start. Last night was a struggle for him though.

"He was hot and dizzy," Manuel said. "You could tell in that third inning. He was kind of gasping for air. He was really sweating."

It's disappointing that the offense wasn't able to help out on such a brutally hot and humid night. After all, the Cubs had Rodrigo Lopez on the mound. Lopez's career ERA against the Phils was close to six. He has a career ERA of 4.81, and sported a 5.70 ERA during his tenure with the Phillies in 2009. Basically, he's hittable.
The Phillies managed just one run on five hits against Lopez in 6.2 innings. The lone run coming on Jimmy Rollins' ninth home run of the year.

The Phillies are 2-2 after the all-star break, losing games started by all-stars Cole Hamels and Halladay, and winning games started by Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick. Another all-star takes the mound tonight. Can Cliff Lee reverse the trend?

He may have extra enforcements backing him up tonight. Shane Victorino is expected to be activated prior to tonight's game, and could be in the lineup. Meanwhile, Placido Polanco is not getting better and he requested a cortisone shot in his back. He'd been trying to avoid the shot, because he had four last season, but he's still in considerable pain. He's eligible to come off the DL tomorrow, which clearly will not happen.

Phils fans have a reason to be hopeful that a roster move is coming. Manuel told Ruben Amaro Jr. that he wants a big right handed bat and a relief pitcher. Here's some of what he said to reporters:

"I want somebody good. If we're going to get somebody, I want somebody good. I want somebody that's going to help us. I don't want to get what we've already got. I always think big. There's some guys out there."

Music to all of our ears for sure. Yes, it will be difficult with the team very close to the luxury tax, but they've surprised us before. And with names like Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran floating around, well, we can all hope.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A look at current Phillies all-star game careers

Despite joining their teammates on the National League all-star roster, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino were not able to play due to injuries. I decided to take a look at how the current Phillies hitters have fared in their all-star history. It's not very pretty.

Chase Utley 2-for-9 (.222 average), one strikeout

Ryan Howard 0-for-4, two strikeouts

Jimmy Rollins 3-for-3, two runs scored, one walk, one stolen base

Victorino 1-for-2, one run, one strikeout

Raul Ibanez 0-for-2

Polanco 0-for-1

That's a total of 6-for-21 (.285) with no RBI and no extra base hits.

What does this mean? Well, nothing. But it satisfied my curiosity.

Doc perfect in AS Game, Lee has a hiccup

The Phillies' representatives at this year's Mid-Summer Classic were on the verge of doing something special last night.

Roy Halladay had the honor of starting on the mound for the National League. He responded by pitching two perfect innings with one strikeout and a lot of weak ground-balls. He threw 19 pitches, 14 for strikes.

Teammate Cliff Lee followed Halladay to the hill, and pitched a perfect third inning. The Phils had retired the American League's starting lineup in order to start the game. In a bit of a surprising move, Lee came back out for the fourth. After retiring the first two batters, Adrian Gonzalez stood between the Phils' aces and a 12 up, 12 down contribution to the National League squad.

But Lee missed his spot with a fastball, and Gonzalez broke a scoreless tie by blasting a solo shot to right-center field.

Lee settled down and should have been out of the inning, when he forced Miguel Bautista to hit a weak pop-up down the right-field line. Prince Fielder dropped the ball though, and Bautista was awarded a single. Josh Hamilton followed with a broken bat blooper that dropped into center field and ended Lee's night.

Adrian Beltre followed by lacing a single to left off Nationals' reliever Tyler Clippard, who would get the win in the National League's 5-1 victory, but Hunter Pence threw a rocket right on the money to Brian McCann and Bautista was out by 15 feet.

Lee pitched 1.2 innings and allowed one run on three hits.

Prince Fielder jacked a three-run shot in the following inning, and seven pitchers followed for the National League to keep the AL off the board and hold on for a second straight National League victory.

The Phillies' schedule resumes on Friday with Vance Worley (4-1 2.20) toeing the rubber against knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey (4-7 3.61).

Cole Hamels (11-4 2.32) takes the ball on Saturday against Jon Niese (8-7 3.88).

Roy Halladay said he hopes to take the mound for Sunday's finale against Mike Pelfrey (5-8 4.55), but no decision has been made.

The Phillies won't have to worry about K-Rod closing out any games in the series. It's being reported that the Mets have traded their closer to the Brewers for players to be named later. That's good news for the Phillies this weekend, but potentially bad news later in the season as the Brewers should be one of the NL's last teams standing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Phils enter break hot, Doc to start

After a dominating 14-1 win on Sunday gave the Phillies an important series victory over Atlanta, the Phils head into the All-Star break tied for the franchise record in victories with 57. Their 57-34 record is the best in baseball, and places them 3.5 games ahead of the Braves.

The victory also gave Cole Hamels his eleventh victory of the year, tying him with Roy Halladay for the team lead.

Of the Phillies' five all-stars, only two can actually play. Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino are both out due to injury, and Hamels in ineligible because he pitched on Sunday. But, Halladay will have a big impact on the game as he's been chosen as the National League's starting pitcher by Giants' manager Bruce Bochey. Doc will likely be the only NL pitcher to throw two innings.

Bochey mentioned during a press conference today that he'd discussed adding Ryan Howard to his roster, but decided against it because he already had three first baseman.

When the unofficial second half opens for the Phils on Friday, they'll send Vance Worley to the hill in New York against the Mets. Worley's one bad outing this season came at Citi Field on May 29, when he lasted just three innings and allowed eight runs (five earned) on 12 hits. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game until his June 18 recall in Seattle. He claimed he was tired, after entering several games in relief, and that he wasn't stretched out enough for the debacle against the Mets.

Some of the Phillies team leaders at the break are:

Victorino- Batting Average (.303), Runs (53), Triples (9), OPS (.900)

Howard- Home Runs (18), RBI (72), Doubles (18), Walks (47)

Jimmy Rollins- Stolen Bases (19), Hits (95)

Raul Ibanez- Doubles (18)

Halladay- Wins (11), Strikeouts (138)

Hamels- Wins (11), ERA (2.32), WHIP (0.93)

Ryan Madson- Saves (15)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bats break out in 14-2 win over Fish

The Phillies secured another series victory over the Florida Marlins last night in convincing fashion, 14-2. The Phils put up season highs in runs and hits (18).

The offensive outburst backed Cole Hamels, who joined Roy Halladay in the 10+ win club. Hamels improved to 10-4, allowing two runs on eight hits, one walk and five strikeouts over eight strong innings. The Halladay-Hamels duo is the Phillies' first tandem with ten or more wins before the all-star break since Kevin Millwood and Randy Wolf did it in 2003.

The Phils continued to pound Chris Volstad, who lasted just four innings and allowed seven runs on nine hits, one walk and four strikeouts.

Ryan Howard's dominance of Volstad continued, as he went 4-for-5 with four RBI, three runs scored and one walk. He hit a two-run bomb off Volstad during a five run third inning.

Jimmy Rollins also joined the four-hit club, raising his average to .261 with three runs scored and a walk of his own.

The Phillies went off on former Phil Brian Sanches in the ninth, putting six more runs on the board. Michael Martinez turned around his 0-for-5 night in the ninth with a bases clearing, three-run triple. Howard would drive him in with an RBI double, and Raul Ibanez followed with a two-run shot to right to cap the scoring.

Every starter, except Hamels, had at least one hit in the game.

The Phillies will look for the sweep tonight which will be no easy task. Kyle Kendrick takes the hill, opposing Florida's best starter this season, Anibal Sanchez.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Phils have at least 4 All-Stars

The Phillies' dominant starting rotation will be well represented at the all-star game, as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will all join elected starting third baseman Placido Polanco to represent the National League.

Cole Hamels won't pitch in the game, as long as the Phils stick with their projected rotation which has Hamels pitching tonight in Florida and on Sunday against Atlanta. Starters that throw on the day before the break are not permitted to participate in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Shane Victorino could join his teammates in Phoenix, as he's once again nominated for the Final Vote in the NL. He won the Final Vote last season and would be the first two-time victor. After 24 hours, he had a narrow lead. Victorino is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow.

The Phillies optioned Vance Worley to Triple-A, only to keep him throwing during the All-Star break. The Phillies plan to use the big three of Halladay, Lee and Hamels against Atlanta before the break, leaving no opening for Worley to start another game before the break. He's been tremendous, and will return to the club when MLB play resumes.

John Mayberry Jr. was recalled to fill Worley's spot. In 28 games for the Iron Pigs, Mayberry is batting .265 with four home runs, 15 RBI, 16 runs, eight doubles, five walks, 23 strikeouts and two stolen bases. He went 1-for-4 yesterday with a homer.

Mayberry is expected to be with the club in Florida tonight as the Phillies continue their series with the Marlins. Hamels will take the mound for the first time since exiting against Boston when Adrian Gonzalez lined a ball off his glove hand. Hamels is 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA. Chris Volstad, who the Phillies have a ton of success against, will oppose him. In one meeting this year, the Phils tagged Volstad for eight runs on ten hits.