Thursday, June 30, 2011

Worley, Ibanez lead Phils to series victory over BoSox

The Phillies have wrapped up a series victory against the Boston Red Sox after taking Game Two, 2-1.

Vance Worley was outstanding once again in the biggest test of his career. He had all of his pitches working early, even locking up David Ortiz for a called strike three in his first at bat on nasty cutter which ran back over the outside corner of the plate.

Worley improved to 3-1, tossing seven strong innings, allowing one run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Boston starter John Lackey drove in their only run, with an RBI double in the fifth.

Raul Ibanez was the offensive hero for the Phils, going 3-for-3 and hitting the game winning home run in the seventh, breaking a 1-1 tie. He also had a double and drove in both of Philadelphia's runs. 

The most talked about move before the game was David Ortiz being reinserted to the lineup and playing first base, with Adrian Gonzalez moving to right field for the second time in his career. It didn't end up hurting the Sox in the field, but Big Papi was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two men left of base. Gonzo was 1-for-4.

The Phillies look for the sweep this afternoon, but it will be no easy task with Jon Lester on the mound. The same rings true for Boston, as the Phillies send Cole Hamels to the bump for the finale.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lee tosses third straight CG SO

Cliff Lee continued his dominant June once again, tossing his third consecutive complete game shutout against the vaunted Boston offense as the Phillies took game one 5-0.

Lee kept Boston off balance all night, allowing just two hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Lee improved to 5-0 in five June starts, with a 0.21 ERA . That's one run allowed in 42 innings. His scoreless streak increased to 32 innings, which is the fifth longest in franchise history. The record of 41 2/3 is held by Grover Cleveland Alexander. If Lee were to toss a fourth consecutive complete game shutout in his next outing, he'd still be just shy of the record, needing one more inning to surpass Alexander.

Lee had a no hitter through five innings, before Marco Scutaro led-off the sixth with a single. Darnell McDonald picked up Boston's only other hit.

Josh Beckett was making his first start since June 15, when he threw a one-hit complete game shutout. His following start was scratched because he was battling the flu. Beckett was not quite as sharp this time around as the Phils got to him early.

Domonic Brown hit a two-run shot into the Phillies' bullpen in the second inning, his fifth of the season. Lee helped his own cause by tacking on his fifth RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Shane Victorino sealed the deal in the sixth with a two-run shot of his own, his ninth of the year.

Beckett dropped to 6-3 while Lee improved to 9-5.

Many expect David Ortiz to make his first start of the year during Interleague Play at first base, with Adrian Gonzalez attempting the outfield for the first time in his career. Vance Worley could have his hands full.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Could/Should the Phillies get Happ Back?

J.A. Happ was terrific for the Phillies whenever they called upon him. He always seemed to be the tough luck last man out. He'd narrowly miss the roster out of camp despite pitching his tail off, or be banished to the bullpen after several tremendous starts. He's not a stud pitcher, probably never will be, but Happ was very good for the Fightins'. A big piece in the Roy Oswalt deal last year, Happ departed for Houston, once again being the tough luck man out of Philly.

Things haven't gone as smoothly for Happ with the Astros. After starting 2010 with the Phillies 1-0 with a 1.76 ERA, he declined but pitched solid in a Stros' uniform, going 5-4 with a 3.75 ERA.

This year, however, has been an entirely different story for Happ. He's 3-9 with a 5.54 ERA in 16 starts.

Why, you ask, would the Phillies want a 3-9 pitcher with a 5+ ERA?

Imagine pitching very well for a contending team, a team, that won a World Series and appeared in another while you were on the team, only to be traded to the Houston Astros, essentially guaranteeing an early finish to each season. That's not going to give many players much motivation.

Happ is still young, and could flourish once again with a change of scenery. The Phillies have much better coaching and personal than Houston, and with the injury issues of Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton, the team could use some extra insurance. Happ's price tag is also unlikely to ever be lower than it is now.

Houston has little need for a struggling middle of the rotation pitcher. The Phillies, however, have seen the upside in Happ and could once again. Could be a good time for Ruben Amaro Jr. to reach out to our old "pal" Ed Wade.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lee blanks Cards for 2nd straight shutout

Cliff Lee's dominant June continued last night, with his second consecutive complete game shut-out, in a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals.

Lee struck out just three and walked one, but allowed just six hits and no runs to lower his ERA to 2.87. The night didn't start out great for Lee, who uncharacteristically threw his first seven pitches out of the strike zone. But Lee regrouped, improving his June record to 4-0.

His ERA in June is 0.27 with 33 innings pitched, 19 hits allowed, 24 strikeouts and six walks.

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard each hit home runs in the fourth, and Shane Victorino tacked on his eighth triple of the year.

Roy Oswalt looks to complete the sweep tonight, and the Phillies hope Chris Carpenter's struggles continue, at least for one more start.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vargas blanks Phils who drop series in Seattle

The Phillies dropped two of three in Seattle over the weekend. The Mariners took the series yesterday behind a dominant performance from Jason Vargas who threw a three-hit complete game shutout. The Phillies really never threatened Vargas, who struck out six and walk two in the 2-0 victory.

Cole Hamels was the tough luck loser, matching zeros on the scoreboard with Vargas until the sixth. Hamels lasted 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, no walks and six strikeouts.

Oddly enough, the least favorable pitching match-up for the Phillies; Saturday's contest of Felix Hernandez vs. Vance Worley, turned out to be the only game the Phillies won in the series.

The Phillies are still holding a comfortable five game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

They have the night off before opening a three-game set in St. Louis against the Cardinals tomorrow. Here's a look at the probables:

Tuesday: Roy Halladay (9-3 2.56) vs. Kyle McClellan (6-3 3.96)
Halladay is coming off an outing against the Marlins in which he allowed four earned runs, which is tied for the most he's allowed in a game this season. He'll take his second shot at win number ten tomorrow, after picking up a no decision in the Florida outing which snapped a three-game win streak.

This is McClellan's second start back from the disabled list. He took the loss on June 15 against Washington, allowing five runs (three earned) in five innings. McClellan started the season 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in April, but fell off to 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA in May before being placed on the shelf.

Wednesday: Cliff Lee (7-5 3.12) vs. Kyle Lohse (7-3 2.88)
Lee has been dominant of late. He's 3-0 in June, with a 0.38 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. He pitched a dominant two-hit complete game shutout against the Marlins in his last outing.

Lohse started the season on a terrific note, going 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in April and 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA in May. However, in June, Lohse is 0-1 with a 6.48 ERA. He's allowed four earned runs in each of his last three starts, and has served up five home runs over that span after allowing just three in the first two months of the season.

Thursday: Roy Oswalt (4-5 3.38) vs. Chris Carpenter (1-7 4.47)
Oswalt has struggled since his return from the DL, going 1-4. He's received terrible run support, but has also allowed an unusually high number of base runners. He's 1-3 in June with a 4.81 ERA.

Carpenter usually form's one of the games most dynamic one-two punches with Adam Wainwright at the top of the St. Louis rotation. But Wainwright is out for the year, and Carpenter is having his worst year since 2002 thus far. In May, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA. In June, he's gone 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA. In his last two starts, he's allowed ten runs (nine earned). Carpenter is certainly the type of pitcher capable of turning around his season at any point. The Phillies are hoping it happens after they depart St. Louis.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lee's CG SO completes sweep

The Phillies and Cliff Lee took care of business yesterday, finishing off the four game sweep over the Marlins with a 3-0 victory.

Lee was tremendous from start to finish. He pitched a complete game two-hit shut-out en route to his seventh victory of the year. Lee didn't strike out many batters, just four, which allowed him to keep his pitch count down and cruise through the afternoon.

It took the Marlins until the fifth inning to come up with a base hit against Lee, when Mike Stanton hit a two-out single.

The Phils had just taken the lead the previous inning, thanks to a two-out, RBI double by Lee, smoking a ball off the wall in right-center field which allowed Michael Martinez to score all the way from first.

Lee gave himself a run and that was all he needed, although Ryan Howard tacked on a solo shot in the fifth and Jimmy Rollins hit an RBI double in the sixth.

The sweep pushed Florida (32-37) 11.5 games behind the Phils and in sole possession of last place in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Phillies have built a five game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves.

Following the game, the Phillies designated J.C. Romero for assignment, closing his tenure with the Phils. He was a valued asset in 2007 and 2008 after Boston let him go, but command has been a major issue for Romero and with the emergence of lefty Antonio Bastardo, it was time to let Romero go.

The Phillies are in Seattle this weekend as Interleague play kicks off across Major League Baseball once again. There are some interesting storylines, including Raul Ibanez's return to Seattle. Here's a look at the probables:

Tonight: Roy Oswalt (4-4 3.14) vs. Michael Pineda (6-4 2.72)
Oswalt snapped a four-game losing streak in his last outing against the Cubs, allowing three runs over seven innings. He's 1-0 in two career starts against the Mariners.

Pineda kicked off his career by going 4-1 in April with a 2.01 ERA. The big hard throwing rookie went 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in May but is coming off the worst start of his career. Against Detroit on June 11, he lasted just 5.1 innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He has 80 strikeouts in 82.2 innings this year, and just 23 walks. He's been a very good pitcher all year.

Saturday: Vance Worley (2-1 3.75) vs. Felix Hernandez (7-5 3.30)
Worley is back with the club, making his first start since he was demolished by the Mets on May 29. He lasted just three innings, allowed eight runs (five earned) on 12 hits. Until that point, he'd been 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA. Since his demotion, he's been lights out in Triple-A and is looking to prove he belongs with the big club. He has quite a task on his hands, as he opposes one of the game's most dominant arms.

Hernandez is one of the game's most electric starters, and arguably has the best stuff of any starter. His 103 strikeouts ranks fifth in MLB, and second in the AL. Hernandez is not having his typical year thus far. Last season he was 13-12 with 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts. In 2009, he was 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 217 strikeouts. He is truly one of the game's best and should be an interesting test for a Phillies offense that is starting to hit the ball again.

Sunday: Cole Hamels (9-2 2.49) vs. Jason Vargas (4-4 4.13)
Hamels has been the best left handed pitcher in baseball this year, and one of the game's best. He pitched seven great innings against the Marlins in his last start before leaving with back tightness. He says he's good to go and the Phillies certainly hope this is the case. He has 97 strikeouts in 97.2 innings, ranking fourth in the NL in K's behind teammates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

Vargas is coming off a 6-3 loss to the Angels in which he allowed five runs in seven innings. He's gone seven or more innings in seven of his last nine outings. The lefty is a solid veteran pitcher that eats innings and keeps his team in the ball game.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Phils sweep twin bill

Yesterday was a good day for the Phillies, who swept the day-night double-header and have taken the first three games of the series from Florida. Each game was very different.

In the first game, Elih Villanueva made his Major League debut and it was a memorable one for him. Just for all the wrong reasons.

He lasted just three innings, allowed eight runs on five hits and five walks with two strikeouts. He threw 92 pitches, 52 strikes and 40 balls.

Leading 2-1 in the third, the Phils put a six spot on the board to chase Villanueva from the game. They had just two hits in the inning, but made them count. Wilson Valdez came up with a huge bases clearing three-run triple, after a hit by pitch, a walk and an intentional walk. Jimmy Rollins would eventually follow with a three-run home run to seal the game.

It was J-Roll's fourth RBI of the game and second multi-run homer in as many days.

Kyle Kendrick pitched a solid seven innings, allowing one run on five hits, one walk and five strikeouts as the Phils took the first game 8-1.

The nightcap featured a good pitching match-up of Roy Halladay against Anibal Sanchez. Halladay didn't have his best stuff, but the bats took him off the hook with some late inning heroics.

Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth with Marlins' closer Leo Nunez on the mound, the Phils started a rally.

Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out single, and Ross Gload followed with a pinch hit single. Then, the Phillies' fortunes seemed to be turning against them.

Jimmy Rollins hit as absolute blast up the middle, which hit Nunez and rolled right to the first baseman who stepped on the bag for out number two. The ball would have been very difficult for any Florida fielder to reach, and would have likely been an RBI single which would have also moved the tying run to third.

But fortunately, Shane Victorino played hero, ripping a line drive to center field, just out of the reach of a diving Jose Lopez, tying the game at four.

An inning later, Carlos Ruiz hit a walk-off single, scoring Ryan Howard who was hit by a pitch to lead-off the inning.

The 5-4 victory pushes Florida 10.5 games out.

Halladay didn't pitch his best game for the Phils, allowing two runs in the first on a Logan Morrison RBI ground-out and a Gaby Sanchez home run.

He allowed two more in the fourth, on a weakly hit two-run single of the bat of John Buck.

Doc lasted seven innings, allowing the four runs on six hits, no walks an eight strikeouts. Ryan Madson picked up his third win of the season, pitching a scoreless top of the tenth.

Sanchez deserved a better fate, allowing two runs over seven innings on four hits, four walks and six strikeouts.

Cliff Lee looks to put the nail in Florida's coffin this afternoon. A sweep would push the Marlins 11.5 out, a likely insurmountable deficit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hamels wins 9th in 9-1 rout of Fish

The bats produced again last night, backing another strong outing from Cole Hamels who picked up his ninth victory of the season in a 9-1 win.

After allowing a run in the first, Hamels was nearly un-hittable over seven strong innings. He allowed the one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts. Through from the last out in the first through the seventh inning, Hamels retired sixteen consecutive batters before Logan Morrison reached on a Ryan Howard error to lead-off the seventh.

Ryan Howard hit a sight for sore eyes in the first inning: an opposite field home run. It was his first hit to left since May 10. The two-run shot gave the Phils a 2-1 lead and they never looked back.

The Phillies also got home runs from Chase Utley (two-run in the 3rd), Domonic Brown (solo in the fourth, solo in the seventh) and Jimmy Rollins (two-run in the sixth).

Placido Polanco also contributed an RBI, the only run not produced via the long ball.

Marlins' starter Chris Volstad dropped to 2-7, lasting 5.2 innings and allowing eight runs on ten hits, two walks, four home runs and four strikeouts.

With the loss and a Mets victory over the Braves, the Marlins fell into fourth place in the NL East, 8.5 behind the Phils, who moved 3.5 ahead of the second place Braves.

For the first game of today's doubleheader, the Marlins will send Elih Villanueva to the mound, making his Major League debut. He's 4-5 in Triple-A this season, with a 5.23 ERA. He's coming off a six inning shut-out performance on June 9, and has allowed a total of four earned runs over his last three starts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phils set for scuffling Fish

The Phillies open a four game set against the Florida Marlins tonight at Citizen's Bank Park.

After getting off to a strong start, it appeared the Fish would once again contend with the Phillies and Braves into dog days of summer. But the Marlins appear to be fading into the background earlier than usual; they're 1-11 in June, trailing the Phillies by 7.5 games and are just a half game ahead of the fourth place Mets.

The Phillies, meanwhile, have the best record in baseball at 40-26, despite all their offensive woes throughout the season.

This series is a tale of two clubs moving in opposite directions, and the Phillies have a chance to bury the Fish for the 2011 season. A sweep would push them 11.5 games back.

The Marlins do expect Hanley Ramirez back for this season, and they plan to bat him lead-off to replace a struggling Chris Coghlan at the top of the lineup. Coghlan is hitting just .235 with a .300 OBP. But Hanley is having a terrible year himself, batting only .210 with four home runs and a .306 OBP. It's do or die time for the Marlins mid-way through June.

Here's a look at the pitching probables:

Tonight: Chris Volstad (2-6 5.51) vs. Cole Hamels (8-2 2.58)
Despite tossing five no hit innings against the Braves in his last start, Volstad ended up dropping his fifth straight decision. He's struggled through most of the season for the Marlins. He's 2-4 with a 4.45 ERA in his career against the Phils.

Hamels has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball all year. In his last outing, he struck out nine Dodgers over eight scoreless frames. He faced Florida once this season, getting a no decision back on April 17. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

Wednesday Game 1: TBD vs. Kyle Kendrick (3-4 3.47)
Kendrick has been adequate filling in as the fifth starter. He pitched three scoreless innings against the Cubs in his last night before a rain delay swept him from the game. He's pitched one scoreless inning in relief against the Marlins this season.

Wednesday Game 2: Anibal Sanchez (6-1 3.06) vs. Roy Halladay (9-3 2.39)
Sanchez has been Florida's best starter with Josh Johnson on the shelf. The Marlins have won eight of his 13 starts, including six of the last seven. He faced the Phillies on April 17 against Hamels, also getting a no decision. He pitched six innings, surrendering two runs on six hits, four walks and eight strikeouts.

Halladay has been, once again, one of the best if not the best pitcher in the National League. He's won his last three starts and is coming off a nine strikeout, seven inning shutout. He's only faced Florida once this season, on May 10 against Josh Johnson and he was the tough luck loser. He outpitched Johnson in the game but the Phillies' offense continued to let Johnson off the hook. Halladay pitched eight innings, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.

Thursday: Javier Vazquez (3-6 7.09) vs. Cliff Lee (6-5 3.41)
Vazquez's Florida debut has not been a successful one thus far. He's struggled all season and it's been no different as of late. He's 0-2 in his last two starts, lasting a total of just 7.2 innings, allowing 13 earned runs. He's 0-1 in two starts against the Phillies this year.  The Phils beat him up on May 9, when he lasted just 4.1 innings, serving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits, one walk and no strikeouts. Back on April 15, he pitched five innings and allowed three runs in a no decision.

Lee has been terrific in June, after a first two unspectacular months of the season. He's 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks. He faced Florida once this season, picking up a no decision on May 11, allowing three runs on seven hits, no walks and four strikeouts over six innings.

I expect the Phillies to take three of four from the Marlins, which would push Florida 9.5 games behind the Phils.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Howard delivers as Phils take series

The Phillies came up with a solid 4-3, come from behind victory in yesterday afternoon's series finale against the Cubs.

The Phils took three out of four from Chicago, and sport a Major League best record of 40-26.

Roy Oswalt got off to a rocky start in the first, allowing an RBI double to Starlin Castro before serving up a two-run shot to Aramis Ramirez.

The Phillies were in a 3-0 hole before even stepping into the batter's box for the first time, but they began chipping away at Cubs' starter Doug Davis instantly.

With two men aboard and one out in the first, Ryan Howard came through with a great at bat, eventually hitting a hanging breaking ball to center for an RBI double. It looked like the Phils were going to explode, when Ben Fracisco followed with a walk to load the bases.

But Raul Ibanez looked off balance at the plate, striking out on a cutter inside. But with the score 3-1 and Ibanez at the plate in the third in the exact same situation, he delivered an RBI single to cut the deficit to 3-2.

In the seventh, for the second straight day, the Phils got to Sean Marshall. After hitting Victorino to lead-off the inning, Chase Utley lined a double to right and the Phils were in business.

Howard came through again, bouncing a slider up the middle and into center field for a two-run go ahead and eventual game winning hit.

The Big Piece was 3-for-3 with three RBI, a double and a walk.

Oswalt picked up his fourth win of the year, tossing seven strong innings. After allowing three runs on four hits in the first inning, he allowed just one hit over his final six frames. He walked two and struck out five.

Michael Stutes picked up his fourth hold of the season and Ryan Madson collected his fifteen save.

After the off-day today, the Phils will play host to the struggling Florida Marlins for a four game set. The Fish are 1-9 in their last ten games.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Phils new lineup producing

Charlie Manuel may be on to something. After the Phillies blew the first game to the Cubs, on Ryan Madson's first blown save of the year, Charlie changed the lineup.

Shane Victorino moved up to the two-hole, where he hit often during the Phillies' World Series runs of 2008 and 2009.

Placido Polanco, a prototypical two slot batter was dropped into the five spot ahead of Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown.

Normally, Polly should not be batting fifth. He's not a power hitter, even though he did hit a grand slam (his 100th career homer) in his first game in the five slot. He's much better suited to bat second and get runners in scoring position for the meat of the order.

But for that to happen, Jimmy Rollins needs to get on ahead of him, and the three-four-five hitters need to produce. None of those things were happening.

So Polanco, the team's most consistent hitter, moves into the five slot which has been a spot of frustration for this club all season.

It's not the most ideal lineup for the Phils, but it puts a batter behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard that is going to put the ball in play and more often than not, produce.

It's worked out so far. The Phils are 2-0 with that lineup with seven runs scored in each game, matching their highest run total of the month when they scored seven against Pittsburgh on June 5.

Roy Oswalt and the Phils look for the series victory today, but Manuel will have to rework the lineup as Polanco gets the day off.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hamels strikeouts nine in 2-0 win

Cole Hamels continued his dominant season last night, out-dueling Hiroki Kuroda for a 2-0 victory and the series win.

Hamels improved to 8-2 on the season with a 2.58 ERA and has been arguably the most consistent Phillies' starter.

He tossed eight shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing six hits and no walks.

Ryan Howard ended the Phils' homerless streak with a solo shot in the sixth, his thirteenth of the season, and Domonic Brown tacked on an RBI in the seventh.

Ryan Madson shut the door, picking up his 14th save of the season in the process.

The offense continues to sputter, and it appears this is what we're in store for throughout the season. Sure, they are most likely good enough to take the division, but a repeat performance of last year's postseason is a legitimate concern. They may have a hard time competing against some of the top NL teams, let alone a squad as loaded as the Boston Red Sox.

The lineup may get a boost tonight as Charlie Manuel indicated that Jimmy Rollins may be back at the top for the series opener against the Cubs. Here's a look at the probables:

Tonight: Randy Wells (1-1 5.74) vs. Kyle Kendrick (3-4 3.78)

Friday: Carlos Zambrano (5-2 3.98) vs. Roy Halladay (8-3 2.56)

Saturday: Matt Garza (2-5 4.07) vs. Cliff Lee (5-5 3.62)

Sunday: Doug Davis (0-5 6.38) vs. Roy Oswalt (3-4 3.05)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lee's 10 K's lead the way

Well, it was certainly nice of Cliff Lee to show up last night. Lee dominated the Dodgers to hand the Phillies a 3-1 victory in the series opener. He pitched seven strong, fanning ten, allowing seven hits and one walk. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh after firing 117 pitches.

After allowing ten runs over his last two starts, Lee bounced back in a big way with his third zero run outing of the season. It's the sixth time he struck out double digit batters in 2011.

Lee leads in the National League with 100 strikeouts, just ahead of Roy Halladay (97), Clayton Kershaw (96), Tim Lincecum (93) and Cole Hamels (82).

There wasn't much offense to speak of but three runs were plenty with Lee on the hill. They scored two runs in the third and one in the eighth, with one RBI from Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.

Roy Oswalt looks to keep the dominant pitching trend rolling tonight to hand the Phillies their first series victory since facing the Mets May 27-29.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Phils snap skid behind Doc

The Phillies snapped their four-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory in the series finale against Pittsburgh.

Once again, the Phillies struggled at PNC Park, dropping two of three after losing two of three in Washington.

Roy Halladay picked up his eighth win, tossing seven solid innings, allowing two runs on six hits, one walks and six strikeouts. Both runs came on Neil Walker's eighth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the first inning.

It was a rather strange game and things appeared to be, yet again, going against the Phils in the fourth.

After Chase Utley and Ryan Howard led-off the inning with walks and advanced on a passed ball, Raul Ibanez got the Phils on the board with a sacrifice fly, which also moved Howard to third. Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch, putting runners at the corners with one out. Domonic Brown followed with a scorching line drive up the middle and into center field, as Howard trotted home to tie the game.

The only problem: the second base umpire couldn't get out of the way and it was ruled a dead ball. Even though it was clearly going into center field, the play is automatically ruled a dead ball, Brown is awarded first and Ruiz is awarded second, but Howard has to stay at third. Wilson Valdez followed with an inning ending double-play.

This is something MLB should take a look at. In fairness to the game, that play should be at the umpire's discretion. Howard clearly would have scored, and should have been able to go home from third. If there was any question, that's a different story. But on a play like that, where the ball has already split the infielders, it's obvious that Howard would have no trouble scoring.

It's different if Howard were on second. They can't determine if the ball hadn't deflected if the outfielder would have gotten to it more quickly (which he most likely would), and been able to throw a runner out trying to score from second. They also can't determine if Ruiz would have been able to go from first to third. But on a simple play like a runner scoring from third, that's a terrible rule to call it a dead ball.

Fortunately, the bad luck didn't hurt the Phillies. They took the lead in the fifth, without recording a hit; thanks to three walks to start the inning, a Howard sac fly and Ruiz being hit by another pitch to score a second run.

The Phils had a 3-2 lead and never looked back, tacking on another run in the sixth, one in the eighth and two in the ninth.

Ryan Madson worked a scoreless frame in the ninth, pitching for the first time in nearly a week. He wasn't as sharp as usual, but he allowed just one hit and struck out two.

The Phillies' long road trip is over, and a ten game home-stand begins tonight with the LA Dodgers in town. Here are the probables:

Tonight: Ted Lilly (4-4 4.22) vs. Cliff Lee (4-5 3.94)

Tuesday: Rubby De La Rosa (Making first Major League start- 1-0 1.80) vs. Roy Oswalt (3-3 2.70)

Wednesday: Hiroki Kuroda (5-6 3.46) vs. Cole Hamels (7-2 2.83)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lannan beats Phils for 1st time, Nats take series

A day after Cliff Lee and the Phillies were crushed 10-2 in Washington, John Lannan beat the Phils for the first time in his career in the rubber match yesterday.

In 14 previous tries, Lannan had been 0-10 with a 6.44 ERA. He pitched 5.1 innings in the 2-1 victory, allowing one unearned run, just four hits, three walks and one strikeout.

Roy Oswalt was solid as well, allowing two runs over five innings on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Laynce Nix hit a solo shot in the third, his ninth of the year, to give the Nats a 2-1 lead. Surprisingly, that score would hold.

Nix also made the play of the game in the field in the top of the sixth. Domonic Brown pinch-hit for Oswalt with the bases loaded and two outs. He hit a line drive toward the gap in left-center, when Nix closed a ton of ground to make a game saving, full extension diving catch, which saved at least two runs from scoring.

Fortunately for the Phils, they have an off day today and should have Shane Victorino activated for tomorrow's game against the red hot Pittsburgh Pirates.