Monday, April 30, 2012

Blanton, Garza steal the show over the weekend

The weekend wielding mixed results for the Phillies, who beat the Cubs 5-2 on Saturday but were dominated by Matt Garza is yesterday's 5-1 defeat.

For Joe Blanton this season, it's been feast or famine; on the field at least, it's certainly always feast with big Joe off the field.

Blanton was terrific on Saturday, allowing two runs on eight hits, no walks and eight strikeouts over 7.1 innings. Chad Qualls got the final two outs of the eighth, to pick up his fifth hold of the season and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to pick up his seventh save in as many opportunities.

Carlos Ruiz had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with his third home run of the year and three RBI. Jimmy Rollins drove in the other two runs, with a looper down the right-field line that landed just fair for a two-run double in his first game of the season out of the lead-off hole.

Charlie Manuel mixed up the lineup for Saturday's game, putting J-Roll back on top, moving Hunter Pence to third and giving Jim Thome the start in the clean-up spot.

Thome was 0-for-1 and injured his back running the bases. No word on how much time he's miss just yet.

On Sunday, Garza continued his dominance over the Phillies, allowing no runs on just one hit over seven innings. He walked one and struck out ten. Ouch.

Kyle Kendrick pitched well, but was victimized by a mis-judged ball in right field by Hunter Pence which led to a second inning run, and a Laynce Nix error in the third. Kendrick allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. David Herndon allowed two more runs on three hits over two innings.

The always interesting Carlos Marmol entered with a 5-0 lead on the ninth, and made it an adventure as he typically does. He allowed one run on one hit and three walks. He walked Ty Wigginton with the bases loaded to force in a run and bring the tying run to the plate, but Shane Victorino bounced out to end the game.

Tonight the Phillies, who stand four games behind Atlanta and Washington and one game behind third place New York, look to split the four-game set with Chicago.

The Vanimal, Vance Worly (2-1, 2.16) takes the mound against former Florida Marlin Chris Volstad (0-3, 6.14) who is obviously off to a bad start with the Cubs.

Worley is 1-0 in his career against Chicago with a 1.13 ERA and seven strikeouts over eight innings,

Volstad is 2-5 lifetime against Philly, with a 5.88 ERA.

Starting tomorrow, the Phillies open an important stretch in which they'll see both Atlanta and Washington for the first time this season.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Phils Return Home, Drop Opener to Cubs 5-1

Tough night for the Phils who, after returning from a long west-coast trip which saw them finally put some crooked numbers on the board, struggled to produce in just their seventh home game of the season.

It looked promising. Roy Halladay was on the mound, and they had scored 20 runs in their last 19 innings. The Chicago Cubs have been struggling to score runs. It seemed like the perfect storm.

But the Phillies dropped the series opener 5-1, behind Doc who struggled but battled, and a faltering offense.

Once again, the first inning looked promising. Juan Piere led-off with a knock, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Placido Polanco's base hit. Jimmy Rollins, after a foul pop-up or two that made its way out of play, popped out foul to the catcher for the first out. Ouch. Hunter Pence followed with a pop-out to the shortstop for out number two. Ouch. Shane Victorino followed with an inning ending ground-out. OUCH.

Doc was dominant at the start, but struggled with command in the middle innings. He ended up falling to 3-2 after allowing three runs on six hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

The Phils managed nine hits, but only two were for extra bases; a double for Carlos Ruiz and a solo home run for Ty Wigginton, his second of the season.

Rollins continues to make a case for demotion from the three-hole, a spot typically reserved for the team's best hitter. His 0-for-4 dropped him to .216 for the season, and his first inning at bat is extremely tough to swallow. Even if he hits a double play ball, the Phils would have taken a 1-0 lead. He couldn't even manage that, as he left three runners on base for the game.

Joe Blanton (1-3 4.34) takes the ball tomorrow night against Randy Wells (0-0 3.60). Since Blanton's outstanding first start against Miami in which he allowed one run on three hits over seven innings, he struggled in his following two outings at San Francisco and San Diego. He's never beaten the Cubs, but has a 3.04 ERA against them in his career.

Wells has made just one start this season, allowing two runs on six hits and five walks over five innings against Cincinnati. He's decision-less against the Phils in his career, with a 2.89 ERA over just 9.1 innings.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bats continue to fail Phils, Lee

Our worst nightmare is coming true. Outstanding pitching performances are being wasted by a dreadful offense; and none was more egregious than last night.

Cliff Lee pitched ten scoreless innings, scattering seven hits and seven strikeouts with no walks. His opponent, Matt Cain pitched nine shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk with four strikeouts. After Lee's dominant outing and no decision, the bullpen lasted just 1/3 of an inning before allowing the Giants a walk-off victory. Antonio Bastardo took his first loss of the season.

According to Todd Zolecki, Lee became the first pitcher to toss ten innings in a game since Roy Halladay and Aaron Harang in 2007, the first to pitch ten scoreless innings since Mark Mulder in 2005 and the first Phillies pitcher to go ten since Terry Mulholland in 1993. He certainly deserved a win.

The Phils have sole possession of last place in the NL East at 5-7. They're four games behind the first place Nationals and a game and a half behind fourth place Miami.

The team actually has some decent averages, with Hunter Pence, Carlos Ruiz, Juan Piere, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino all batting .277 or better. And Freddy Galvis is batting .346 since he started the season 0-for-12. But, if they can't string together single after single, they aren't going to score runs.

They have just six home runs as a team, tied for second to last in all of baseball. Their 35 runs scored is second to last as is their 34 RBI. They have just 16 doubles, tied for second to last in MLB and are one of three teams with no triples. They're tied for last with just 20 walks.

The offensive numbers are horrible. Aside from their middle of the pack batting average, they're close to last in almost every category. Fans have to worry that not only will it have a negative impact on this season, but could sway Cole Hamels' decision to leave.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bats break out against JJ to support Doc

Roy Halladay picked up his second win of the season in as many outings last night against Marlins' ace John Johnson. It was also win number two on the season for the Phils.

Doc worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first, and allowed a run in the second on a Johnson RBI ground-out. Phils fans had to be thinking, 'oh no, not another 1-0 loss with Doc on the mound.' But the Phillies exploded for five in the third, putting them up for good in what would be a 7-1 victory.

Juan Pierre started it off with a one-out single. He then picked up his second stolen base of the season on a beneficial call; he was clearly out. Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino  all followed with singles. Two batters later, Freddy Galvis came up in a big spot and he delivered amid chants of "Freddy, Freddy" with a two-run double to right.

Johnson lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing six runs on a career high 11 hits, one walk and one strikeout.

Carlos Ruiz added a solo home run, just the Phillies' second homer of the season, in the seventh inning.

Halladay improved to 2-0, going seven innings and allowing one run on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts. Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes closed the door, each with a perfect inning.

Doc is the only pitcher with a win, while Cole Hamels, David Herndon and Joe Blanton each have a loss. Cliff Lee and Vance Worley each have a no decision. Blanton looks to become the first pitcher not named Halladay to pick up a win in 2012, not a bet anyone would have made. He'll oppose Mark Buehrle, making his second start as a Marlin. He lost his debut against Cincinnati, allowing two runs on seven hits, two walk and five strikeouts over six innings. He's 3-0 in his career against the Phils with a 5.06 ERA. Blanton is 6-2 with a 3.33 ERA lifetime against the Marlins.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bats/Mistakes have Phils struggling out of the gate

The 2012 Phillies have picked up right where the 2011 Phillies left off. Excellent starting pitching, anemic offense.

It's only four games of a long season, but the stats for the 1-3 Phils are alarming.

They've scored just eight runs while the team is batting .198 with one home run, three doubles, ten walks, 29 strikeouts and are 5-for-5 in stolen bases.

Rookie Freddy Galvis just got the first hit of his career yesterday, in 13 at bats, and is second on the team in RBI.

Carlos Ruiz is batting .400, Shane Victorino .308 and Hunter Pence is batting .267. John Mayberry Jr. and Jimmy Rollins are batting just .250, and Placido Polanco and Galvis are really struggling at .154 and .077 respectively.

The Phillies have used a different first baseman in each of their first four games; the first time any team has done so in MLB history.

It's certainly not time to hit the panic button, but there is certainly reason for concern. Tomorrow's match-up between Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson is sure to be an intriguing one that continues to the theme of a low scoring game.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Opening Day Roster is Set

The 25-man roster is set, and the biggest surprise is Joe Savery. Savery, who has just 2.2 career innings in the big leagues made the team and provides the Phillies with an extra left-hander out of the bullpen. Here's the roster:

Pitchers (12): Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton, Jonathan Papelbon, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, Chad Qualls, Mike Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Savery.

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider

Infielders (6): Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Freddy Galvis, Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and Pete Orr

Outfielders (5): Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Michael Martinez, Jose Contreras and Justin De Fratus were all placed on the DL.

Roster hopefulls Scott Podsednik, Hector Lunas and Raul Valdes were optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That's a tough break for Podsednik who had a great spring, and was clearly disappointed when Pierre was picked for the roster. Hopefully he can hang around long enough to earn a promotion when an inevitable injury strikes.

It apears Charlie Manuel will give Pierre a shot at the everyday left field position, and the lead-off spot; at least with Howard and Utley on the shelf. Here's my guess for tomorrow's Opening Day lineup against lefty Eric Bedard:

1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS
4. Hunter Pence, EF
5. Shane Victorino, CF
6. John Mayberry Jr., 1B
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Freddy Galvis, 2B
9. Roy Halladay, P

Victorino and Mayberry Jr. could potentially swap positions in Manuel's lineup. After originally stating Jim Thome could play in two games a week, Manuel recently stated that Thome is sore after playing six innings and would likely only play 20 games all season at first base. Hopefully, that's not the case and Thome grows more accustom to playing the field as he continues to get his work in.

This is a great time of year. Opening Day is one of the best days of the season! Hopefully tomorrow's contest is nearly as dramatic and exciting as last season's Opening Day was.