Friday, May 27, 2011

Phils take series with 10-4 victory

It wasn't easy, but the Phillies took three out of four from the Cincinnati Reds this week. It took a 19 inning affair in which Wilson Valdez pitched a scoreless inning to pick-up the victory (I was in attendance; rough day at work yesterday), and a rally on an extremely hot day yesterday after blowing a lead.

The Phils (31-19) remain just one game in front of the Florida Marlins who just keep winning. The scuffling Reds fell to third place in the Central, four games behind the front-running Cardinals.

Already leading 1-0 in the third yesterday, Raul Ibanez continued to swing a hot stick, blasting a three-shot shot to put the Phils in front 4-0. With Cliff Lee on the mound, the game seemed over. Cincinnati had just suffered that marathon loss, and were trailing Lee on an extremely hot and a getaway day. Most teams would have thrown in the towel. The Reds decided to rally.

A Paul Janish two-run single in the fourth closed the gap to two, and the red hot Jay Bruce's two-run homer in the sixth tied it.

The Phils came right back in the sixth with an answer of their own. The bottom of the lineup worked the bases loaded with no out for Lee. He stepped to the plate and smoked the first pitch he saw to deep center-field, which went for a two-run ground-rule double.

They took a 7-4 lead that inning and would eventually take the game 10-4. Lee added an RBI single in the seventh, and Chase Utley hit his first home run of the year in the eighth.

Every regular had at least one hit, and Lee ended up striking out eight over eight solid innings. Jose Contreras made his return from the DL to pitch a one-two-three ninth with one strikeout.

It's the second time this series the Phillies scored double digit runs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reds even series at 1

Ryan Madson hit his first speed bump of the season last night. Entering last night's contest, he was sporting a 0.47 ERA with nine saves in as many opportunities. With the game knotted at three in the top of the ninth, Madson got the call.

He ended up allowed three runs on three hits and one walk, handing Cincinnati a 6-3 victory.

With one out and no one on, Drew Stubbs layed down a bunt. Madson hurried off the mound and threw the ball away, allowing Stubbs to reach second. It was ruled a single and an error on Madson, but had he let Placido Polanco, who was in a much better position to make the play, Polly might have nailed him.

With two outs, after an intentional walk to Joey Votto and a Scott Rolen single, Jay Bruce hit a bases clearing double to center, sealing the win.

Madson took his first loss of the season, rising his ERA to 1.80.

The Phillies led for the first part of the game. After Votto scored in the first on a bloop single from Scott Rolen, which Vance Worley made a terrific pitch busting him in, the Phils responded in the second.

Raul Ibanez hit an RBI double and Domonic Brown put them in front 2-1 with a sacrifice fly. Carlos Ruiz tacked on a run in the fourth with an RBI double.

The Reds rallied to tie the game in the fifth, thanks in large part to a Johnny Cueto lead-off walk.

Worley pitched pretty well but had some hard luck, Cincinnati found some holes and blooped some balls into no man's land. He ended up going five, allowing three runs on six hits, four walks and three strikeouts.

Chase Utley got his first hit of the season, going 1-for-4. He's 1-for-9 (.111) through two games.

Ruiz continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI, raising his average to .256.

Roy Halladay takes the mound tonight against Travis Wood, leaving a good chance that Utley gets his first day off since his call-up, with a lefty on the mound.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bats explode as Utley returns

Last night was all about Chase Utley. And while he may have gone 0-for-5 at the dish, his presence was felt in the lineup as the bats woke from their slumber, slugging home ten runs in a 10-3 victory.

It's the first time they've posted double digit runs since a 10-3 victory over the Mets on April 29. It also ended a stretch of nine straight games of three runs scored or less. They went 3-6 over that period.

The bottom of the first last night brought quite a scene at Citizen's Bank Park. After Jimmy Rollins led-off with a single, Utley stepped to the dish in the uncustomary second hole to a standing ovation. There was a clear excitement among Phillies' fans, bringing electricity to the air. Utley got a fastball to hit and ripped it to center, but the defense had him played perfectly.

Placido Polanco finished with a two-run home run, his third home run of the season, and the Phillies never looked back.

The Phils put a seven spot in the board in the third, highlighted by a Jimmy Rollins three-run blast to right, his third of the year, putting the Phillies in front 9-0. With a dominant Cole Hamels on the mound, the game appeared to be wrapped up.

But Cincinnati answered in the fourth when Jay Bruce jacked a three-run shot of his own off the right-field foul pole.

Raul Ibanez's fifth home run of the year, this one to straight away center, got one run back for the Phils and capped the scoring for the ballgame.

Hamels went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Danys Baez each pitched a solid scoreless inning in relief.

Bronson Arroyo on the other hand had by far his worst start of the season. Lasting just 2.2 innings, he allowed nine runs on ten hits, one walk and two strikeouts.

Every Phillies' starter had at least one hit, with the exception of Utley. They had six extra base hits: homers from Polanco, Rollins and Ibanez and doubles from Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Chooch was 3-for-3 with a walk.

Weather permitting, Vance Worley takes the mound tonight against Johnny Cueto.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Phils take two of three, set for Cincy and Utley's return

Despite scoring just five runs against the Rangers over the weekend, the Phillies took two of three from Texas. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were tremendous in 3-2 and 2-0 wins respectively. Roy Oswalt took the tough luck 2-0 loss in the finale yesterday.

The lineup will receive quite a boost tonight as Chase Utley is expected to make his season debut, and bat third in the lineup. Domonic Brown should also make his second start of the season, with an opposing right handed pitcher taking the mound.

Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Phillies tonight, facing the Reds, who are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, for the first time since he ended their 2010 season with a five-hit complete game shutout in Game 3 of the NLDS. Here's a look at the match-ups:

Tonight: Bronson Arroyo (3-4 4.11) vs. Hamels (5-2 2.92)

Tuesday: Johnny Cueto (2-1 1.45) vs. Vance Worley (2-0 1.13)
Worley gets the call with Joe Blanton heading back to the DL. The Phillies loved what they've seen from Worley, and for good reason. As a starter this year, his ERA is 0.75.

Cueto didn't make his first start of the year until May 8 against the Cubs, but what a start he's off to. Picking up wins in his first two starts against the Cubs and Cardinals without allowing an earned run, Cueto lasted just five innings in his last start against the Pirates. He only allowed three runs, but he also walked three and had thrown 94 pitches. Cueto can be a little wild, but he has great stuff and can rack up the K's.

Wednesday: Travis Wood (3-3 5.17) vs. Halladay (6-3 2.21)
Wood took a perfect game into the ninth inning in Philadelphia before losing it. He also carried a no-hitter into the sixth against the Indians in his last start, but imploded after losing the no-no. He didn't retire a hitter in that sixth frame.

Halladay finally got back into the 'W' column after losing two straight despite pitching complete games in both outings. He was dominant in a 3-2 win over Texas.

Thursday: Homer Bailey (3-1 2.08) vs. Lee (3-4 3.38)
Bailey has started just four games this season but he has been terrific. He beat Houston twice in a row and the then the Cubs, allowing one, zero and three earned runs respectively. He took the loss in his last start, allowing two runs over seven innings against Cleveland. He had retired 17 of 18 batters in the seventh when Travis Buck jacked a two-run shot off Bailey.

Lee was thrilled to get his first win since April 14 when he blanked his former team on Saturday, fanning ten in the process.

Surprisingly to me at least, the Phillies optioned Pete Orr to Triple-A to make room for Utley. While Orr is not having a tremendous year, he's more valuable than Michael Martinez. Orr has a ton of speed and Major League experience. He's hitting .230 with three doubles, three RBI, five walks, ten strikeouts and a stolen base. Martinez is batting just .194 with no extra base hits, one RBI, two walks, nine strikeouts and no steals. If they'd Martinez instead of Orr, they'd have to offer him back to his former team. At this point, he doesn't seem like he can help this club too much though.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lee faces former squad, Brown batting second

With Cliff Lee on the mound against his former team in search of his first win since April 14, Domonic Brown is in the lineup and batting second:

1. J. Rollins, SS
2. D. Brown, RF
3. P. Polanco, 3B
4. R. Howard, 1B
5. R. Ibanez, LF
6. C. Ruiz, C
7. J. Mayberry, CF
8. W. Valdez, 2B
9. C. Lee, P

After Roy Halladay pitched a strong game in defeating Texas last night, highlighted by home runs from Ben Fracisco and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies are looking to clinch the series win tonight. Colby Lewis (4-4 3.80) opposes Lee (2-4 3.83)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vic to the DL, Brown promoted

Domonic Brown was promoted to the big league club to replace ailing Shane Victorino who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

In eleven games for Lehigh Valley, Brown was hitting .341 with two home runs and ten RBI. It's unclear if he'll be available for tonight's game against Texas.

David Herndon was also recalled, while Scott Mathieson was optioned back to Lehigh Valley.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Offense continues to sputter versus Cardinals

The Phillies' anemic offense continued at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals swept the short two-game set.

The Phils scored a total of two runs, dropping the opener 3-1 and last night's game 2-1. Truth is, they should have been shutout.

John Mayberry scored the lone run in the opener, after stealing second and scoring on a Ben Francisco RBI single. The only problem was: Mayberry was out. The tag beat him but the Phils caught a break as he was called safe. It put them ahead 1-0 at the time, but Cliff Lee wasn't able to hold the Cards off the board, taking another tough luck loss.

Roy Oswalt was outstanding in his return last night, dueling against Jaime Garcia who is having a tremendous season for St. Louis. The Phils managed to tie the game in the eighth when Tyler Greene, who'd been inserted into the game as a defensive replacement, dropped an easy pop-up off the bat of Jimmy Rollins. A Michael Martinez single and Placido Polanco sac fly later, the Phils had scored their first run of the game.

Danys Baez had a terrible bottom of the ninth though, loading the bases with no one out. After forcing Matt Holliday into a fielders choice out at the plate, J.C. Romero entered and threw one pitch to Lance Berkman, which he blasted to center for a walk-off RBI single.

These offensive struggles are becoming a real concern. Hopefully reinforcements are coming soon. They hope to have Shane Victorino back off the shelf soon, while Chase Utley and Domonic Brown could be nearing a call-up.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bats falter as Braves take the series

The bats once again failed to support Roy Halladay as the Phillies fell 3-2 in yesterday's game in Atlanta, dropping two out of three to the Braves.

Tough break for the Phils who opened the series with a 5-4 victory on Friday.

Joe Blanton pitched a decent game on Saturday after allowing home runs to the first two batters he faced, but the Phillies couldn't rally to take him off the hook in a 5-3 loss.

John Mayberry accounted for the Phillies' runs yesterday, slugging a game tying two-run shot off Tim Hudson. But Dan Uggla got the best of Halladay, leading off the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot to put the Braves ahead for good.

Mayberry is certainly making a case for more playing time. He's only gotten 44 at bats this season, but he's hitting .295 with a .415 OBP and a .500 slugging percentage. He has two home runs, seven RBI, three doubles, nine walks, ten strikeouts and two stolen bases.

He may not be an everyday player, but he's been far more productive than a struggling Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez. Toward the end of the year, we may be seeing a lot more of Mayberry and Domonic Brown occupying the corner outfield spot.

The Phils open a brief two game road series in St. Louis to take on the Cardinals tonight.

Cliff Lee (2-3 3.78) is hoping to finally get some run support tonight as he opposes Jake Westbrook (2-3 6.92)

Roy Oswalt (3-1 3.33) makes his return to the mound tomorrow against the red hot Jaime Garcia (5-0 1.89).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Phils open series against Fish with 6-4 victory

The Phillies continued to hit Javier Vazquez well and moved three games ahead of the Marlins in the NL East with a 6-4 victory at Sun Life Stadium, their seventh straight in Florida's ballpark.

Joe Blanton picked up his first win of the season with an average outing which he allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out two.

After the Phillies spotted Blanton a first inning run on the strength of a Jimmy Rollins lead-off home run, his second dinger of the year, the Fish came out swinging in the first.

Gaby Sanchez continued swinging a hot bat, doubling in two in the first and erasing the Phillies' lead.

Trailing 3-1 in the third, the Phils rallied against Vazquez. Blanton singled to lead-off the inning, followed by singles from Rollins and Placido Polanco. With the bases loaded, Ryan Howard smoked a line drive basehit to right, scoring Blanton.

Ross Gload followed, coming up big against his former team. He singled through the hole into left, scoring Rollins. Polanco would also come around to score on a bizarre play.

Emilio Bonifacio airmailed the throw from left, and Vazquez didn't back the play up, forcing catcher John Buck to retrieve the ball. Polanco was about half way down the line, and couldn't decide which way he break. He finally settled on toward the plate and would have been a dead duck, but Vazquez dropped the throw from Buck, allowing Polanco to eventually cross the plate. Vazquez lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits and one walk with no strikeouts.

The Phillies would not relinquish the lead.

They added two more in the fifth, on a Polanco sac fly and a Gload RBI single.

Vance Worley pitched three solid innings in relief, but served up a solo shot to Sanchez as one of two hits allowed.

Ryan Madson closed the door for his fourth save of the year.

Tonight's pitching match-up will draw plenty of buzz from MLB as Roy Halladay opposes Josh Johnson. Halladay pitched a perfect game in Florida last season in a 1-0 victory against Johnson. JJ turned the tables on Halladay last year though, also handing him a 1-0 defeat; the only game Halladay has lost against the NL East in his time with the Phillies.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hamels takes tough luck loss as Phils drop series, Fish next in battle for 1st

First place is up for grabs as the Phillies open a series in Florida against the second place Marlins. The Fish are two games behind the Phils for the top spot in the NL East, a day after Florida beat Washington 8-0 to salvage a game in their weekend set, and the Phils dropped last night's game to Atlanta 5-2.

The Phillies had plenty of chance, bringing the tying run to the plate in the eight and ninth innings but failing to come up with a clutch hit. Cole Hamels pitched well in defeat, allowing three runs over seven innings on five hits, one walk and a season high nine strikeouts. He surrendered two long balls which became his undoing.

It's the second time this series a Phillies' starter struck out a season high and took the loss. Cliff Lee fanned 16 Braves in a 5-0 defeat on Friday, which set the mark for most strikeouts in MLB thus far in 2011.

The Phillies are 1-1 against the Marlins this year, splitting a home series which was shorted by a rain-out. Here's a look at the match-ups:

Tonight: Joe Blanton (0-1 5.92) vs. Javier Vazquez (2-2 6.39)

Two struggling starters take the hill tonight, with Blanton making his first start back from the disabled list. He pitched seven solid innings in his last outing in San Diego on April 23, allowing two runs on eight hits. He's lowered his ERA each time he's taken the hill this year, except for his first start of course.

Vazquez blew a four run lead against St. Louis his last time out, allowing six runs (four earned) in 5.2 innings. He got a no decision against the Phillies on April 15, allowing three earned runs over five innings, walking four and striking out just one.

Tuesday: Roy Halladay (5-1 2.19) vs. Josh Johnson (3-1 1.68)

Two of the best pitchers in baseball take the hill in this marquee match-up. Halladay pitched very well against Florida last season, and he returns to the mound in which he threw a perfect game at the Fish last May. Doc allowed two runs or less in each of his last three starts, picking up a win in each outing. He's allowed two runs or less in all of his starts except for his one poor outing against Milwaukee on April 19.

Johnson leads the league in ERA and in the NL pitcher of the month for April. He's coming off his worst start of the year, in which he allowed five runs over 7.1 innings against the Cardinals, for his only loss of the season. He exited the game in a 3-3 tie, but Lance Berkman hit a first pitch, three-run home run and JJ's was responsible for the two men his left on base. Before that, he'd allowed two runs or less in all of his starts, and aside from Opening Day, had allowed one run or less, a stretch of five straight games.

Wednesday: Cliff Lee (2-3 3.69) vs. Ricky Nolasco (3-0 3-23)

Lee is coming off that 16 strikeout performance against the Braves on Friday, and has struck out batters in the double digits in four of his seven starts this season. Lee hasn't gotten a ton of run support this season, coming off a 5-0 loss on Friday and a no decision in his previous start which he allowed just one run over seven innings. He's searching for his first win since April 14, a complete game shutout victory over the Nationals. His only victories this year have been over the lowly Nats and Houston Astros.

Nolasco is coming off a season high 11 K performance against Washington over seven innings in a no decision; he allowed two runs. He's pitched a quality start in all but one start this season, when he allowed five earned over five innings against the Braves on April 14 in a no decision.

This should be an interesting series, with fairly even pitching match-ups. Florida would need to sweep the Phils to come out in first place.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Phils sweep the Nats, look ahead to Braves

The Phillies swept their third series of the season, taking down the Washington Nationals behind dominant pitching and a potential slump busting three games from Raul Ibanez. They improved to a National League best 21-9, and moved two games ahead of the Florida Marlins in the East.

Cole Hamels was dominant in a 4-1 complete game victory on Tuesday, possessing excellent control of his fastball and cutter.

Vance Worley pitched another great game on Wednesday, allowing just one run over six innings in a 7-4 win.

Roy Halladay finished off the Nationals last night 7-3, improving to ten straight wins over the Nats which John Lannon dropped his tenth straight game to the Phils.

Ibanez entered the series batting .154, marred in a 0-for-34 slump. After extending his streak to 0-for-35, Ibanez broke out in a big way. He finished the series 8-for-11 with two (longggg) home runs, three doubles and four RBI. He's now batting .222. Ibanez still has a long way to go overall, but that's quite a turnaround in just three days.

Roy Oswalt is back with the team and hopes to start on Saturday against the Braves, while Joe Blanton could return for Monday's opener against the Marlins. The way Worley has pitched, no one is holding their breath for Blanton's return.

Chase Utley is also expected to start extended spring training today down in Florida; obviously excellent news.

The Phils are set for a weekend match-up with the 18-15 Atlanta Braves at Citizen's Bank Park. The Braves are 4.5 games behind the Phils. Here's a look at the probables:

Friday: Derek Lowe (2-3 3.72) vs Cliff Lee (2-2 3.66)
Lee is coming off a strong start against the Mets, but his worst start of the season came against the Braves at Turner Field. He lasted just 3.1 innings, allowing six runs on ten hits. He'll look for better results tonight.
The Phillies beat Lowe in their only match-up this season, but Lowe pitched seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits with no walks.

Saturday: Jair Jurrjens (3-0 1.52) vs Oswalt (3-1 3.33)
Oswalt was off to a dominant 3-0 start with a 1.88 ERA until Arizona got to him in his last start for five runs in just three innings. This came the day before Oswalt left the team to be with his family. He was excellent in his one outing against Atlanta earlier, picking up the win, allowing one run over six innings on five hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
Jurrjens, as the numbers would indicate, is off to a fantastic start. He's allowed two runs or less in all of his starts this season. He's yet to face the Phils in 2011.

Sunday: TBD vs Cole Hamels (4-1 2.66)
Hamels has been terrific since his season opening debacle, and is coming off his first complete game of the season. He picked up his first win of the season against Atlanta, tossing seven shutout innings at the Braves, allowing just four hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rollins back at the top

Jimmy Rollins is back where he's spent most of his career. Leading off.
When the Phils host the Nationals and Jayson Werth for the first time tonight, Rollins will be back at the top of the lineup.

Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco each slide down a spot, into the two and three holes respectively.

Polanco has easily been the Phillies' best hitter this season, and the three spot is typically where teams pencil in their most consistent bat. However, Polanco doesn't hit for much power, which a three hitter typically possesses. The move could also remove him from his comfort zone; he's long been one of the best and most effective two hitters in the league, if not the best.

Still, it's nice to see Charlie Manuel shaking up a struggling lineup in an attempt to find the right fit. Cole Hamels takes the mound and will face Werth for the first time in his career.