Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hamels wins 8th with help from Wiggy, Doc, Vanimal Updates

What a difference a year makes!

Cole Hamels was great last year. He was great in 2010. But he was a victim of a lack of run support. He was 14-9 in 2011, with a tremendous 2.79 ERA and 194 strikeouts. In 2010, he was just 12-11 with a 3.06 ERA and 211 strikeouts. Those numbers should certainly produce a better win-loss record.

This year, Hamels is already 8-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 72 K's.

Last night's 8-4 victory over the Mets is a prime example of the difference. Hamels was very good, but he made a few mistakes. He was dominant early, running on cruise control. But in the fith and sixth innings, he allowed a two-run home run, blowing a 2-0 lead and a 4-2 lead.

Last year, that would have been a 4-1 loss despite allowing just four hits and striking out six over eight strong. Or this year, that may have been a 4-1 loss for another pitcher, say the win-less Cliff Lee. But Hamels, while pitching dominantly all season, has been the benefactor of some run support his fellow starters haven't been.

Ty Wigginton had a big game against one of his former teams to back Hamels batting in the five-hole. He was 3-for-3 with a home run, six RBI, two runs scored and two walks.

The great day, his best with the Phils, earned him a promotion to the clean-up spot tonight. Carlos Ruiz remains out of the lineup with a sore hamstring. He's supposedly available off the bench.

Roy Halladay was placed on the DL and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a strained lat. Vance Worley threw a pain free bullpen session today. He'll throw at least another, but with the loss of Doc his return is becoming crucial.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Phils need Cole to Contend

The Phillies cannot afford to lose Cole Hamels. On a staff of aces, he's emerged as the ace.

As strange as it may seem, I'd wager that Hamels and Carlos Ruiz would be the top two vote getters in a pole of least expendable names on the roster.

Hamels is the young, left-handed home grown dominant pitcher. The Phils just can't lose him. He's been "the guy" this year. The guy who takes the mound and ends a losing streak (as he did last night) when you need him to. The guy who delivers a win when you need it. The guy who welcomes a 19 year old cocky rookie to the league with a fastball in the ribs.

He's a team best 7-1; the next closest in wins are Joe Blanton and Roy Halladay, each are 4-4. His 2.17 leads the starting staff, as do his 66 strikeouts by a wide margin. Halladay is second with with 56, but he's pitched 70.1 innings compared to Hamels' 62.1. Opponents are batting just .220 against Hamels, only Cliff Lee (.213) is better.

Last season, Hamels was just a notch beneath Halladay and Lee. This season, he's certainly on the same level if not having surpassed them. But, Hamels is just 28 years old. Halladay is 35, and Lee is 33.

Hamels will be a major investment for the club, but it is clearly one they need to make if they expect to be contenders in the near future. Doc and Lee may have their best years behind them. They are still dominant, top-tier pitchers. No doubt. But a young, dominant lefty like Hamels is a rare thing. He's the type of player you HAVE to keep in your organization when you have the opportunity. If that means moving someone, you do it. Lee's wife may not let Ruben Amaro Jr. leave with his manhood if he traded him a second time, but if it cleared up payroll and replenished the minor leagues, it may be the right move. That is, of course, only if a deal for Hamels was in place first and they needed to clear some payroll to dot the I's and cross the T's. There's no I or T in Cole Hamels? Eh, you get the point.

We love Doc. We love Lee. We love J-Roll and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. But none of them are less expendable than Hamels. King Cole is the key to this franchise's future success. If he leaves, expect some dark years of Phillies' baseball. Lee will regret not resigning with Texas, who appear to be a power house. Other players, like Doc and Jonathan Papelbon may grow to resent ending up Philly; especially Doc who is in search of a World Championship and may not have a ton of time left to achieve it.  But if Amaro can lock up Hamels and keep Doc and Lee on the staff, this team will continue to be a contender. And if they get healthy, which is a big if, they could emerge as a front runner once again. But they need Cole in pin-stripes to have that chance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Phils in midst of 3 game losing streak, Doc vs Nats

This is an interesting team. They've gone from red hot to ice cold, turning a six-game winning streak into a three-game losing streak.

After dropping two of three to the Boston Red Sox, the Phils lost the series opener with Washington last night 2-1. They've lost three of four to the Nationals this season.

The Phils outhit the Nats 6-5, but went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They had several chances, but also made crucial mistakes. Placido Polanco had a particularly brutal game, despite going 2-for-4 with a walk.

Polly failed to tag-up on a Hunter Pence fly ball that should have resulted in a run. He was cut down at the plate on a grounder to first base and he made the final out of the game with two runners in scoring position.

Hunter Pence was 0-for-3 with seven runners left on base.

That basically was more than enough for them to lose the game. Your clean-up hitter can't leave that many runners on base, and your smart veteran player can't have mental lapses on the base-paths.

Kyle Kendrick was solid once again, but dropped to 0-4. He allowed two runs on five hits, two walk and four strikeouts over seven innings. The Phillies have scored a total of five runs in his five starts while he's been in the ballgame.

Gio Gonzalez dominated the Phillies' lineup once again, tossing six shutout innings with nine strikeouts.

Roy Halladay (4-3, 3.22) heads to the bump tonight, after finally picking up his first win in his last outing since winning his first three starts of the season. It's his first start against Washington this season, and he's 11-1 in his career against the Nats with a 2.28 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 110.2 innings.

Jordan Zimmermann (2-4, 2.58) opposes him. Zimmermann lost to the Phillies on May 6, allowing three runs over six innings. He's 0-3 in his career against the Phils with a 6.00 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 21 innings.

Jimmy Rollins is still away from the team on paternity leave, while Vance Worley returned to the team after visiting with renowned specialist Dr. James Andrews. Fortunately, he does not require Tommy John Surgery.

Tonight's lineup:

1. J. Pierre, LF
2. P, Polanco, 3B
3. S. Victorino, CF
4. H. Pence, RF
5. C. Ruiz, C
6. H. Luna, 1B
7. F. Galvis, SS
8. M. Fontenot, 2B
9. Halladay, P

Friday, May 18, 2012

Phils welcome Beantown to Philly

The BoSox are coming, the BoSox are coming!

Everyone circles Boston on the calendar when the schedule is first announced. They're a major draw around MLB, and this series will feature two underachieving and banged up last place teams.

The Phillies are in the midst of a season high five-game win streak, have pulled one game ahead of .500 and are just four games out of first. Boston is two games under .500, and are 6.5 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore.

Charlie Manuel found out he was suspended for one game resulting from his altercation with Bob Davidson. Davidson was also suspended one game by MLB for repeated violations of "situation handling," Both men will serve their suspensions tonight.

Jonathan Paplebon will face his former team for the first time. No doubt he'll be more than fired up to shut 'em down.

Placido Polanco is not in the lineup because of his bruised knee. He's available to hit, but can't play the field.

Bobby Valentine had said he was comfortable playing David Ortiz at first base and Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield. Big Papi is not in tonight's starting lineup though. He's likely to start tomorrow against righty Joe Blanton. Gozo is batting third and playing first base, while Villain Cody Ross is in right field and batting fourth. Former Phils Marlon Byrd is in center field, batting eighth.

Red-hot Carlos Ruiz stays in the five-hole, while Ty Wigginton will fill in at third base and bat sixth.

Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28) is a remarkable 3-0 in his career against Boston with a 1.44 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 25 innings. Bard (3-4, 4.30) has pitched just 3.2 innings in relief against the Phillies. He has a 9.82 ERA with five strikeouts.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pence Walk-off Homer caps Wild Finale

The Phils picked up their first walk-off win of the season today, 4-3 on a Hunter Pence home run in the 10th inning. They swept the two-game series from Houston.

Cliff Lee was tremendous, allowing one run on five hits, one walk and ten strikeouts over eight innings.  He left the game with a 3-1 lead, but was once again denied his first victory of the season. Chad Qualls blew his fourth save of the season, allowing two runs on four hits over 0.2 innings. It's hard to imagine the pitchers wanting to put up with this much longer.

Brian Schneider put them in front 2-0 with his first home run of the season in the second inning.

Pence added a solo shot in the 6th, and ended the game off former Phillie Brett Myers in the 10th with his ninth home run of the season.

Jake Diekman made his Major League debut and was tremendous, picking up the first win of his career. He pitched out of a two-out, two on jam in the ninth and followed with a perfect 10th. He struck out three of the four batters he faced.

Vance Worley, who was scheduled to pitch the opener in Chicago tomorrow, did not make the trip with the team because of elbow soreness. Kyle Kendrick will make the start instead Joe Savery will reportedly take Worley's spot on the roster should he hit the DL. Matt Garza starts for the Cubs tomorrow. He made the Phils look like a little league team back on April 29, allowing just a bloop single and striking out ten over seven innings.

Are the Phillies turning it around?

They haven't been overly impressive over their last four games, but they are doing something they failed to do earlier in the season. They're beating the teams they're supposed to.

After taking two of three from San Diego over the weekend; although they wasted yet another strong performance from Roy Halladay that should have given them a sweep, they took the opener from Houston last night 5-1.

Joe Blanton turned in yet another dominant outing, and Placido Polanco picked up his 2,000th career hit in style, jacking a two-run shot in the eighth inning.

Blanton allowed just one run on six hits, one walk and seven strikeouts over seven strong innings. After going 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in April, Blanton improved to 2-0 over three May starts with a 1.99 ERA. He's allowed just five runs this month over 22 innings with 20 strikeouts and just four walks.

Bazooka Joe is second on the team in wins (4), the third best ERA among starters (2.96), second in innings pitched (48.2) and still has the only complete game and the only shut-out.

He's been terrific, and if he continues pitching well he could be valuable trade bait to land a bat near the trading deadline.

Carlos Ruiz was moved up to the five-hole, a long deserved promotion. He delivered once again, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Weather permitting (unlikely) Cliff Lee will wrap up the short two-game series this afternoon. Lee is still looking for his first victory of the season.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gut Punch: Phils swept by Mets

This is really getting hard to watch. The Phillies were swept, at home, by the New York Mets.


They blew leads in every game, scoring first and then collapsing in each game. Hard to imagine sending Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to the mound against the Mets in a three-game set would not yield a victory.

The Phillies aren't too far buried in the East yet. They're in last place, five games behind the first place Nationals and Braves. They're 4.5 games behind New York and 2.5 games behind Miami.

The ugly 10-6 loss caused Charlie Manuel to hold a meeting after the game.

It's about time.

As each day goes by, I can't help but fear Cole Hamels is coming closer and closer to the realization that this may not be the organization to get him another World Series ring down the line. It certainly won't be the organization that offers him the most money.

Maybe a drastic lineup change is in order. Jimmy Rollins is batting .230 with no home runs and just five RBI. He has 23 strikeouts and only nine walks. He's been terrible out of the three hole, and leading off.

Here is what I would try:

1. Juan Pierre LF (.341)
2. Placido Polanco 3B (.275)
3. Carlos Ruiz C (.319)
4. Hunter Pence RF (.262)
5. Shane Victorino CF (.244)
6. Laynce Nix 1B (.326)/ Ty Wigginton (.284)
7. Jimmy Rollins SS (.230)
8. Freddy Galvis 2B (.213)

It's worth a shot.

Up next, the Phillies will host San Diego, worst team in the NL at 11-21.

Vance Worley (2-2, 2.84) will face Clayton Richard (1-4, 4.89) in tomorrow's opener after a much needed day off. The Vanimal beat San Diego back on April 19, throwing seven scoreless innings and striking out a season high eleven.

Richard is 0-2 in his career against Philly, with a low 2.40 ERA over 15 innings.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Phils drop Opener to Nats/Umps, Lee Update

The Phillies dropped their series opener in Washington last night, 4-3 in the 11th. It was the first time the Phillies have visited Washington since the whole "Take Back the Park; Natitude Park” thing started. One thing is for sure, there were still a ton of Phillies' fans in attendance.

You hate to blame the umpires very often for a loss, but the Phils certainly have a legitimate gripe with the men blue.

It's amazing that as long as the game has been around and as much as it has progressed, if an umpire is scratched late for whatever reason, that they can't get another umpire to fill in. And if there had been four umpires last night, the Phillies would have won.

Charlie Manuel was tossed in the first inning, when Bryce Harper walked on a check-swing. The appeal went to third base, which was no occupied by an umpire. The second-base umpire, clearly in no position to determine whether or not it was a swing, ruled it a check. It was the wrong call, and Manuel was tossed extremely quickly.

More crucial a mistake, in the top of the seventh with the Phillies holding onto a one run lead, the umpires butchered two calls. With Shane Victorino on second base and one-out, Carlos Ruiz ripped a ball down the third-base line, over the bag and fair. Victorino was coming in to score easily. Only problem: the umpire called it a foul ball. Victorino then took off for third and stole the base. Only problem: the umpire called him out. He was clearly safe. Ruiz followed with a base-hit to right, which once again should have been an RBI hit, but two bad calls cost the Phillies a run and eventually the game.

The Nationals rallied to tie the game in the eighth, as Chad Qualls was once again unable to hold a lead. After a single, a sac bunt and an intentional walk, Jesus Flores doubled Chad Tracy home to tie the score. The game would remain tied, until Wilson Ramos came up with a two-out, bases loaded single in the 11th off Michael Schwimer to end the game.

The Phillies had gotten to Stephen Strasburg, touching him up for three runs over six innings on a two-run home run from Hunter Pence and a solo shot from the red-hot Ruiz. Strasburg stood to take his first loss of the season when he exited the ballgame.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kendrick pitched a great game and deserved the win. He allowed just one run on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts over five innings. He allowed a solo shot to Tracy in the fourth.

The Phillies got some good news today. They expect Cliff Lee to return on Wednesday against the Mets.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Phils drop strange, draining 11 inning slugfest, 15-13

Well, what the hell was that?

Last night, the Phillies played one of their most bizarre games in recent memory, and the Braves eventually came out on top 15-13 in eleven innings on Chipper Jones' walk-off, two-run home run.

The teams combined for 28 runs, 36 hits and 395 pitches thrown.

It's not often, or ever, that Roy Halladay is unable to hold a 6-0 lead, but that was the case last night. He struggled and labored and looked similar to his bout with heat exhaustion last season in Chicago.

Atlanta railed in the fifth, and tied the game on a Brian McCann grand slam. Atlanta took an 8-6 lead on Doc in the sixth, on a pinch-hit two-run single from Jason Heyward.

Carlos Ruiz got it right back for them in the seventh, with a titanic three-run jack to left. Chooch had a monster game, going 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored and seven RBI. It's the most RBI ever by a Phillies' catcher.

Ruiz also hit a three-run double in the eighth, putting the Phils up 12-8. But once again, Atlanta answered in the bottom of the inning against Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer. Jimmy Rollins made a key error on a Chipper Jones ground-ball that should have been a double-play, and it led to Atlanta's rally.

The Phils tied the game off last year's rookie of the year Craig Kimbrel and a two-out, infield single from Shane Victorino which plated Juan Piere.

Obviously, a wild and crazy game. The Phillies have wasted so many excellent pitching performances with a lack of run support this year and last. It's such a shame to see Doc waste the offensive onslaught they managed to produce last night.

Oddly, Cole Hamels and Halladay have blown leads they've been staked in this series, both picking upa no-decision. Hamels' blown lead was only 2-0, but more often than not, Hamels is going to nail that lead down.

Joe Blanton (2-3, 3.81) takes the ball into today's finale against Randall Delgado (2-2, 6.30). Blanton is just 1-4 with a 5.43 ERA in his career against Atlanta. Delgado has pitched only five innings against the Phils, and sports a 3.60 ERA.

Tomorrow, the Phillies open a series in Washington against the first place Nationals and Stephen Strasburg.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Phils take opener from Braves, 4-2

The Phils extended their winning streak over Atlanta to eight last night, with a clutch 4-2 victory.

Tied at two in the top of the eighth, John Mayberry Jr. came up large with a one-out, pinch-hit double. Jimmy Rollins' single moved Mayberry Jr. to third, and he came home on a wild pitch with Placido Polanco at the dish. Hunter Pence but them up 4-2, with a ground-ball base hit through the hole vacated by Dan Uggla as he covered second base on the hit-and-run play. This came off Atlanta's
all-star reliever Jonny Venters, who'd entered the game 2-0 without allowing a run all season.

Chad Qualls struggled for a second straight game, allowing two hits and a walk but ultimately striking out Juan Francisco to end the threat.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a first ninth, fanning Michael Bourn to end the game and give Pap his ninth save in an many chances.

Both starting pitchers were good, but Cole Hamels was unable to hold a 2-0 lead and he and Brandon Beachy both picked up a no decision. Hamels allowed two run on six hits, two walks and six strikeouts over six innings. Beach allowed two runs on five hits, no walks and two strikeouts over seven.

The Phils had jumped ahead 2-0 in the fourth on a two-run single from Ty Wigginton.

Atlanta got one right back in the bottom of the fourth, on Brian McCann's fourth homer of the year. The Braves tied it in the sixth on Francisco's sacrifice fly.

Washington and New York both lost, moving the Phils 2.5 games behind the front running Nationals, 2 games behind Atlanta and 1 game behind the Mets.

Tonight certainly features another great match-up on the hill, as Roy Halladay (3-2, 1.95) opposes Tommy Hanson (3-2, 3.00). Doc is 4-1 lifetime against Atlanta with a 1.78 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. Hanson is 1-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his career against the Phils with 33 strikeouts in 36.1 innings pitched.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Polly gives Phils split, Braves next, Phils searching Waivers?

The Phillies salvaged a split in their four-game series with the Cubs with a 6-4 victory last night. Placido Polanco, who is starting to come out of his early season slump was the hero, hit a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth to break a 4-4 tie. It was the first time the Phils won a game on their final at bat all season. Jonathan Papelbon picked up his eighth save of the season in as many opportunities, working around a lead-off walk.

Vance Worley pitched another great game, allowing one run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts over seven innings. He excited with a 4-1 lead, but Chad Qualls blew the lead on Bryan LaHair's game tying dinger. Despite the blown save, Qualls picked up his first win of the season, thanks to Polly. Polanco was batting just .196 on April 24. His average spiked to .254 on April 27. He's currently batting .250; rather unimpressive overall but he has seven hits in his last four games.

The Phillies open a big series with Atlanta tonight. Cole Hamels (3-1, 2.73) takes the hill against Brandon Beachy (2-1, 1.05). Hamels is 11-6 in his career against the Braves with a 3.72 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. Beachy, who is off to a tremendous start this season, going at least seven innings in three straight starts is 0-3 with a 3.94 ERA against the Phils in his career.

There are a few interesting options on the waiver wire for the Phillies and their struggling offense. This name will conjure up some bad memories for Phillies' fans and some good ones for others, but Bobby Abreu was released by the Angels. He may not be the player he used to be, but he is still an on-base guy who can take a walk; something the team is lacking. Third baseman Jorge Cantu opted out of his minor league contract, making him a free agent. He was batting .294 with four home runs and 22 RBI in Triple-A. He's not the defensive player Polanco is, but he certainly has a lot more pop. He'd be an interesting option to make some starts at third, at a discounted price. Ruben Amaro Jr. is certain to be looking into these players. It will be interesting to see if he makes a push for one.