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.