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Archive for May, 2008

Utley, Myers Rout Marlins, Phillies Take Division Lead

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

     Chase Utley    Ryan Howard    Chris Coste

Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and catcher  Chris Coste all homered to support Brett Myers who bounced off of the first inning ropes to hold Florida scoreless for the next 7 innings as the Phils routed the Marlins by a 12-3 score on Friday. 

The win extended the Phillies winning streak to 5 games, a streak during which they have outscored their opponents by a 60-13 margin.  By winning, the Phils also took over 1st place in the NL East as Florida dropped to 1/2 game out with Atlanta and the Mets, who both lost, remaining in 3rd and 4th place respectively 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 games behind the red pin-strippers.

                        Brett Myers

With hip tightness and a reliever warming up in the first inning, Myers seemed on his way to an early exit as Florida loaded the bases with none out and scored 3 runs out of the starting blocks.   AP sports writer Rob Maaddi describes Myers’ predicament and turn-around;

The crowd was booing and Myers didn’t feel right.

Myers, the Phillies’ opening-day starter, hadn’t won since beating Houston on April 17. He lost his previous five decisions.

Myers struggled with his control in the first. He walked two and allowed three hits. Jorge Cantu had an RBI single and Luis Gonzalez hit a two-run single to put Florida ahead 3-0.

Myers got better the longer he pitched. He struck out the side in the eighth and fanned five of the last six batters he faced.

“That little bit of a grin was back for Brett,” Coste said. “You can see that look in a guy’s eyes when they know they’re doing well.”

After the first, the Marlins could do nothing with Myers the rest of the way as he only permitted 4 more base runners from the second through the eighth innings.  The Marlins had runners on 1st and 2nd with two out in the third inning.  But Myers struck out catcher Matt Treanor to retire the side.  Myers fanned 11 while walking 3 during his eight innings of work to earn his 3rd win against 6 losses.

Meanwhile, the Phils bludgeoned 6′9″ 34 year old lefthander Mark Hendrickson for 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings to drop his record to 7-3 for the season.

The Phils rung Hendrickson up for 7 runs in the second inning as 10 hitters came to the plate.  Coste pounded a one out 3 run homer to left centerfield.  After rightfielder So Taguchi singled and Myers was walked, centerfielder Shane Victorino slammed a 2 out 2 run double to centerfield.  Utley followed with his MLB leading 18th homer, a 2 run shot to rightfield to put the Phils up 7-3.  To view the play-by-play of the big inning, click here.

The Phils added 4 more runs in the fourth inning off of Hendrickson and a reliever.  AP’s Maaddi describes the inning;

Jimmy Rollins had a bloop RBI single in the fourth and [after Utley singled] Howard greeted reliever Burke Badenhop with an opposite-field drive off the left-field foul pole to give the Phillies an 11-3 lead.

The Phils capped their scoring in the seventh inning off of both lefthanded reliever Taylor Tankersley and Justin Miller as Miller forced in a run by walking Taguchi in a bases loaded 2 out situation.

Reliever Clay Condrey pitched a 3-up, 3-down ninth striking out 2 Marlins to seal the win.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Friday’s games, click here.

Saturday’s match-up is Ricky Nolasco against ace lefthander Cole Hamels.  Sunday’s final is a duel of lefthanders as 23 year old Andrew Miller faces 45 year old Jamie Moyer.

After the Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for 3 games starting next Monday.

For the scores, boxscores and recaps on Saturday’s games, click here.

Pitcher: Baseball’s Most Vulnerable Position

Friday, May 30th, 2008

In recent days, baseball fans have witnessed three horrific injury situations.  Two of these events occurred on line drives striking pitchers and the third occurred when plate umpire Jerry Crawford was in the path of a swing follow-through by Houston’s Carlos Lee on a foul ball in last Monday’s game with the  Phillies.  The YouTube video of the pitch, swing and injury can be viewed here.

The possibility of injury occurring to a homeplate umpire increases as he positions himself to get as close-up a view of pitches as possible in order to make a ball/strike call.  Perhaps MLB should consider a reinforced football helmet protecting the top, back and sides of the head as a possible way of alleviating much of the serious injury danger in such situations, leaving the umpire with a ringing headache or perhaps a mild concussion, but no injury or loss of blood. 

However, the two recent situations of pitchers being hit by batted-ball line drives, starter Chris Young’s broken nose on Albert Pujols’ line drive and closer Jose Valverde’s drilling by a Pedro Feliz liner in the ninth inning of last Saturday’s game with the Phils point up the fact that pitcher’s position is undoubtedly the most vulnerable on the baseball diamond. 

The pitcher is a sitting duck with nowhere to hide.  He’s just completed his follow-through on a 90s plus fastball when a screaming liner comes back in his direction.  There’s very little that a pitcher can do to keep himself out of harm’s way when a rocket screams off of a bat headed directly for his face at dizzying speed.

                          Jim Bunning

A pitcher such as former Phillies great Jim Bunning, who won 17 or more games in 6 of 7 seasons at one point in his career,  would nearly fall off of the mound to the side on every follow-through thus taking himself out of the direct line of fire.   Baseball Library describes Bunning’s delivery;

The 6′3″ righthander’s unusual pitching style, a sweeping sidearm delivery that finished with his glove hand touching the ground well in front of the mound…

Of course, Bunning’s style, while bringing him to two no-hitters, including a perfect game on Father’s Day 1964, rendered him not exactly a candidate for a pitching gold glove award.

                                   Herb Score

But one cannot write about baseball’s most dangerous and most vulnerable position without touching on the career of sensational Cleveland Indians’ lefthander Herb Score who went 16-10 in his rookie season in 1955 and 20-9 in 1956, including a hitless appearance in the eighth inning of the 1956 All Star Game, racking up 508 strikeouts in his two seasons before before having his career wrecked by a line drive which hit him in the eye.

Baseball Library writes this of Score;

Score’s debut in 1955 was propitiously timed. He was the first and best of a young crop of Cleveland pitchers that included  Gary Bell, Mudcat Grant, and Jim Perry, and he was expected to lead the new staff in replacing the old.

Score astonished. He won 16 games, fanned a league-leading, rookie-record 245 batters, and was named AL Rookie of the Year. His 1956 seaon was more than an encore. He upped his strikeouts to 263 while taming some of the wildness he had shown in his rookie season. He posted 20 wins, pitched a league-leading five shutouts, and held opposition batters to a minuscule .186 average. Teammate Hal Newhouser, who was at the end of a career that saw him lead the AL in victories four times and in ERA and strikeouts twice, said he would trade his past for Score’s future in a minute.

On May 7, 1957 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, [Yankees shortstop] Gil  McDougald hit a line drive that struck Score in the eye and ended his season. Questions were raised in the aftermath of the bloody scene as to whether Score would ever see properly again. He made a partial comeback in 1958, and pitched a full season in 1959. Perhaps it was the layoff or fear or loss of vision; whatever the reason, he was no longer unhittable, despite retaining a fine ratio of strikeouts to innings pitched.

Just as the circumstances of Score’s injury haunted him undoubtedly
causing reflexual fear rendering him loss of effectiveness thus shortening his career, one myst wonder how Chris Young will react upon his return after the broken nose heals.   As for Valverde, miraculously he suffered little ill effect and went on to earn his 15th save against the Phillies and then to pitch a hitless inning of relief 5 days later against the
St. Louis Cardinals.

Phillies Sweep Rockies on Utley’s 17th HR, Eaton’s Pitching

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

        Chase Utley        Geoff Jenkins

Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley’s 3 run fifth inning homer unknotted a 1-1 game with rightfielder Geoff Jenkins following suit 3 batters later with a 2 run shot while Adam Eaton and the bullpen held Colorado at bay as the Phillies completed a 3 game sweep of the Rockies winning the final by a 6-1 score.

With the win, and with the Mets knocking off NL East leading Florida again, the Phils now stand 1/2 game behind the Marlins with the Braves, who lost 1-0 to the Brewers, 2 games behind the Phillies in 3d place and the Mets 4 games beneath the Phils in 4th place.

The Phillies got on the board in the first inning as centerfielder Shane Victorino singled through the middle with one out and stole 2nd base as starter Greg Reynolds proceeded to walk Utley.  Victorino had a 3 for 4 night and scored 2 runs. After 1st baseman Ryan Howard grounded out, Reynolds walked leftfielder Pat Burrell and Geoff Jenkins to force in the run.  Reynolds walked 8 in 5 1/3 innings.

After the second inning went 3 up/3 down for both teams, Eaton retired the first two hitters in the third.  But with runners on 1st and 3rd base, 1st baseman Todd Helton pounded a long RBI single to left field to tie the game at 1-1.  As in Tuesday’s game, rightfielder Seth Smith tried to score from 1st base on Helton’s single and was again nailed at home.

The game remained tied until the Phillies broke out in the fifth inning, in large part due to Reynold’s wildness in issuing 3 walks.  AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi describes the inning for Yahoo sports;

“We were in the game until the two homers,” Reynolds said. “It was pretty disappointing they had an inning like that.”

After Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino walked to start the bottom of the fifth, Utley drove one into the second deck in right field to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Jenkins connected after Ryan Howard walked to make it 6-1.

Utley is on pace to hit 50 homers, 18 more than his career high in 2006. The record for second basemen is 42, set by Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and tied by Davey Johnson in 1973.

Note: Baseball Almanac’s individual page for Davey Johnson shows him as having hit 43 homers in 1973, whereas the Almanac’s recordbook page shows him tied with Hornsby for the record for most homers in a season by a 2nd baseman with 42 HRs.

Losing pitcher Reynolds got into 2 out sixth inning hot water as Victorino singled and stole 2nd base as Utley walked sending Reynolds to the showers. Reliever Jason Grilli struck out Howard to retire the side.

In the seventh, things got a bit dicey as reliever Ryan Madson replaced winning pitcher Eaton who went six innings giving up 1 run on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4.

Leftfielder Ryan Spilborghs opened with a single through the middle and 2nd baseman Ian Stewart followed with a single to rightfield with Spilborghs taking 3rd base on Jenkins’ error and nailed at home attempting to score on the play. Madson then retired the side on a strikeout and a fly out to rightfield.

Madson got the 1st out in the eighth inning but then was replaced in a percentage play by J.C. Romero who got two ground outs to end the inning.

Chad Durbin replaced Romero in the ninth as things again got a bit dicey with runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, but Durbin got shortstop Omar Quintanilla to line out to leftfield to end the game.

                             Adam Eaton

Eaton had easily his best game of the season, maybe the best since he’s been with the Phils.  AP’s Maaddi notes Eaton’s reaction to his first win;

“I was nervous, to be honest with you,” said Eaton, who was winless in his first 10 starts. “It was a weird feeling. It was nice to get the first one out of the way the last week of May.”

Reliever Matt Herges finished up for the Rockies retiring the Phils in the eighth inning.

The Phillies got a measure of revenge for last year’s post-season play outscoring the Rockies by 33-10 in the 3 games to record their first series sweep of the season.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Wednesday’s games, click here.

The Phillies have the day off on Thursday before entertaining the Florida Marlins starting Friday for 3 games.  In Friday’s opener, 6′9″ 34 year old lefthander Mark Hendrickson, with a 7-2 record, faces a disappointing Brett Myers with a 2-6 record.  Saturday’s match-up is Ricky Nolasco against ace lefthander Cole Hamels.  Sunday’s final is a duel of lefthanders as 23 year old Andrew Miller faces 45 year old Jamie Moyer.

After the Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for 3 games starting next Monday.

For the scores, boxscores and recaps on Thursday’s games, click here.

Kendrick Gets Early Offensive Lift as Phillies Beat Rockies

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

     Pedro Feliz          Greg Dobbs

The Phillies offense jumped on Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez early sending 16 batters to the plate and scoring 7 runs in the first two innings as Kyle Kendrick had one of his best starts of 2008 and the Phils bullpen nailed down the 7-4 win over Colorado in game 2 of their series. 

The Phillies win, coupled with the Mets win over the NL East leading Florida Marlins and the Braves narrow loss to the Brewers, left the Phillies alone in 2nd place, 1 1/2 behind Florida, 1 game ahead of the 3rd place Braves and 4 games ahead of 4th place New York.

Kyle Kendrick went a career-best 7 1/3 innings and the bullpen closed out the Rockies after the offense shot out of the box with 7 runs in the first two innings against Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez who has struggled the entire season thus far.  The AP recap for Yahoo sports describes the Phillies early inning uprising;

[Greg] Dobbs, replacing left fielder Pat Burrell who was a late scratch with a stiff neck, hit a two-run single to right and  [Pedro] Feliz added a two-run double to left that gave Philadelphia a 4-0 lead in the first inning.  Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Geoff Jenkins knocked in runs in the second.   Jimmy Rollins singled to center and scored on Utley’s double to right. Utley scored on Howard’s single and Jenkins followed with a double.

After the second inning, the Phils managed just 3 baserunners, 2 on singles and a walk, for the rest of the game against Jimenez and the Rockies bullpen, which was ravaged in Tuesday’s rout.

                                    Kyle Kendrick

Meanwhile, Kendrick had little problem with the Rockies through the first three innings, got into a little hot water in a 2 on, 2 out situation in the fourth inning before striking out catcher Yorvit Torrealba to retire the side.

In the fifth, Kendrick got into more hot water as the Rockies scored their first run on a ground out.  But after a single and a walk put Kendrick in another 2 out, 2 out pickle, he got 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins to fly out to end the threat.

After retiring the next 6 batters he faced through the sixth and seventh innings, rightfielder Seth Smith, who had 3 hits for the game, opened the eighth inning with a double to deep rightfield followed by 1st baseman Todd Helton’s single to leftfield.  But recently called-up late-game leftfield replacement T.J. Bohn nailed Smith at home saving a run.

The AP recap notes;

Kendrick (4-2), using a sinking fastball to induce ground balls, allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out five and walking one. He previously had gone seven innings seven times in his career.

“(Kendrick) had pretty good command, worked both sides of the plate and took us to a good place in the game,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Reliever Tom Gordon was then sent in to replace Kendrick.  After Helton advanced to 2nd base on a Gordon wild pitch and Atkins grounded out sending Helton to 3rd, leftfielder Ryan Spilborghs clubbed his 2nd homer in two games, a two run shot to leftfield to narrow the lead to 7-3.   After another double and single put runners at 2nd and 3rd, Gordon got a groundout to retire the side.

Helton drove in the 4th Rockies run with a 2 out single in the ninth off of closer Brad Lidge.  After Helton advanced to 2nd base on fielder’s indifference, Lidge retired Atkins on a fly out to rightfield to end the game.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Tuesday’s games, click here.

The Phillies hope for a sweep in Wednesday’s final, rookie Greg Reynolds opposes Adam Eaton who has struggled in recent starts and has yet to win a game in 2008.

After the Rockies, the Phillies have the day off on Thursday before entertaining the Florida Marlins starting Friday for 3 games.  In Friday’s opener, 6′9″ 34 year old lefthander Mark Hendrickson, with a 7-2 record, faces a disappointing Brett Myers with a 2-6 record.

After the Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for 3 games starting next Monday.

For the scores, boxscores and recaps on Wednesday’s games, click here.

Phillies Blast Rockies, Utley’s Career-Best 6 RBIs

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

  Chase Utley   Pedro Feliz   Chris Coste

The Phillies offense, behind a career-best 6 RBIs by 2nd baseman Chase Utley as well as 3 hit nights by catcher Chris Coste (4 RBIs) and rightfielder  So Taguchi and a 4 hit, 4 RBI night by 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz, gave big-time run support to veteran 45 year old lefthander Jamie Moyer as the Phillies steam-rolled Colorado by a 20-5 score in their series opener.

With the win, the Phils remained 2 1/2 games behind the NL East leading  Florida Marlins who belted the Mets and tied for 2nd place with the Atlanta Braves who bested the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Both games ended in identical 7-3 scores.

The 20 runs scored by the Phillies was their highest run production in nearly 9 years.  AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi notes statistics for Yahoo sports;

Philadelphia scored its most runs since a 21-8 win over the  Chicago Cubs on July 3, 1999, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Phillies batted around three times and had season-highs in hits (19) and runs a day after beating Houston 15-6.

The 20 runs were the most the Rockies have ever surrendered on the road. They previously gave up 17 runs twice—at Arizona in 2002 and at San Francisco in 1993.

Utley finished 3-for-6, while Chris Coste added a three-run homer and Pedro Feliz had four hits and four RBIs.

The Rockies staked lefthanded starter Jorge De La Rosa to an early lead in the first inning as leftfielder Ryan Spilborghs solved Moyer for a 1 out, 3 run shot to centerfield.  But Utley’s 3 run clout to right centerfield in the Phils’ first, which followed walks to both leadoff hitter shortstop Jimmy Rollins and centerfielder Shane Victorino and by a balk which moved both runners up a base, knotted the score at 3-3.

Utley’s homer tied Houston’s Lance Berkman and Florida’s Dan Uggla for the major league lead with 16.

After both clubs went down in order in the 2nd inning, the Rockies took a brief 4-3 lead in the third inning on 3rd baseman Jeff Baker’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.  But the Phillies duplicated the Rockies in their half of the third as 1st baseman Ryan Howard drove in Victorino with a sacrifice fly to rightfield to tie the game at 4-4.

From there, the Phils pummelled De La Rosa and a parade of Rockies relievers for 16 runs with 6 run onslaughts in the fourth and sixth innings and 4 more runs for good measure in the eighth inning.  To follow the play-by-playof the Phillies’ offensive eruptions, click here.

                          Jamie Moyer

Meanwhile, Moyer settled down after the third inning and allowed only
two more Rockies base runners, both reaching on singles, through the
seventh inning.  Moyer retired 9 of the last 10 hitters he faced and finished giving up 4 runs on 6 hits including Spilborghs’ first inning homer, while walking 1 and striking out a season high 7 in winning his 5th game of the season against 3 losses. 
ESPN notes with an accompanying list;

Beating the Rockies for the first time in his career on Monday made Jamie Moyer the sixth pitcher to get a win against all 30 MLB teams.

Reliever Clay Condrey replaced Moyer in the eighth inning and finished the game giving up the 5th and final Colorado run on 2 hits in the ninth inning.

It is great to watch the Phillies offense produce big numbers and a few laughers, but inevitably, some of the runs scored in these explosions could go unscored in the clutch, in close and/or crucial ballgames where they are needed to maintain momentum with the division race on the line.

For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Monday’s games, click here.

On Tuesday, Ubaldo Jimenez faces Kyle Kendrick and in Wednesday’s final, rookie Greg Reynolds opposes Adam Eaton.

After the Rockies, the Phillies have the day off on Thursday before entertaining the Florida Marlins starting Friday for 3 games.  After the Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for 3 games starting next Monday.

For the scores, boxscores and recaps on Tuesday’s games, click here.

Hamels Pounded, Phillies Offense Explodes to Rout Astros

Monday, May 26th, 2008

   Geoff Jenkins   GregDobbsSwings1.jpg   Shane Victorino

Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels, who brought a scoreless string of 19 consecutive innings into Sunday’s game, lost it in a hurry being pounded for 3 first inning runs while pitching easily his worst game of the season to date.  But, five innings later after Hamels departed with the Astros leading 6-4, the Phils offense exploded for 5 in the sixth and 6 in the seventh, powered in part by homers by leftfielder Pat Burrell and 2nd baseman Chase Utley, enroute to a 15-6 rout. 
 
With the Phils winning, the
Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets losing and the Florida Marlins sweeping a doubleheader from the San Francisco Giants, they dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the NL East 1st place Marlins, again tied the Braves for 2nd place and lead the 4th place Mets by 3 full games.

After getting the first two Astro hitters out in the first inning and then giving up consecutive singles, Hamels lost his timing and concentration subsequent to a 12 game-delay after plate umpire Jerry Crawford was accidently struck in the head by the bat of leftfielder Carlos Lee.

When play resumed, Lee nailed Hamels’ second pitch to leftfield and the Astros were up 3-0.  The Phillies narrowed things to 3-2 off of starter Chris Sampson as rightfielder Geoff Jenkins drilled a 1 on, out homer to leftfield.

The Phils temporarily tied the game at 3-3 in the third inning as Hamels tried to help his cause with the first of two singles, went to 3rd base on shortstop  Jimmy Rollins’ double and scored on Utley’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.  But the Astros took a 5-3 lead in their third as Hamels faced 1st baseman Lance Berkman in a 1 out, 1st and 3rd jam.  Berkman singled to drive in the 4th run.  With a runner on 3rd, Lee grounded out to shortstop as the 5th run scored.

The Phils and Astros traded runs in the fourth as Hamels’ second hit, drove in catcher Carlos Ruiz who preceded him with a double to leftfield.  The Astros responded as centerfielder Michael Bourn grounded out scoring a runner from 3rd.  6-4 Astros.

Meanwhile, while Sampson retired the Phils in order in the fifth, he had thrown 90 pitches and thus was replaced to open the sixth.  Sampson gave up 4 runs on 5 hits, including Jenkins’ homer while walking 2 and striking out 3.  But the parade of Astros relievers who gave up a total of 11 runs to the Phillies’ feast or famine offense over the sixth and seventh inning dug Houston into a deep hole which they couldn’t climb out against the 4 Phillie relievers who replaced Hamels after the fourth inning.

Reliever Rudy Seanez was awarded the win although he gfot himself into a bases load jam after getting the 1st 2 hitters out in the fifth.   Relievers J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Clay Condrey allowed 3 harmless hits over the final four innings to seal the win.  AP sports writer Chris Duncan notes for Yahoo sports;

The Phillies’ bullpen came into the game with the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.85.

The big blows in the Phillies’ 5 run sixth were Burrell’s lead off solo homer to leftfield and centerfielder Shane Victorino’s 2 run double, also to leftfield.

In the seventh, pinch hitter extraordinaire’ Greg Dobbs tripled driving in 2 runs and Utley capped the Phillies scoring with his 15th homer, driving in 2. For more on the Phillies’ sixth and seventh inning offensive deluge, click here.

The Phils collected 16 hits in the game with 5 others, in addition to Hamels, collecting 2 or more hits.   Reliever Fernando Nieve, who relieved Sampson to open the sixth and who was pummelled for 4 runs while not getting anyone out, was charged with the loss and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock after the game.
 
For all of the scores, boxscores and recaps on Sunday’s games,
click here.

On Monday, the Phils return home for a rematch with the Colorado Rockies who swept them in last season’s NL divisional playoffs.  Monday’s opener with the Rockies shapes up as a duel of lefthanders as 27 year old Jorge De La Rosa opposes veteran 45 year old Jamie Moyer.  On Tuesday, Ubaldo Jimenez faces Kyle Kendrick and in Wednesday’s final, rookie Greg Reynolds opposes  Adam Eaton.

After the Rockies, the Phillies have the day off on Thursday before entertaining the Florida Marlins starting Friday for 3 games.  After the Marlins, the Cincinnati Reds come to town for 3 games starting next Monday.

For the scores, boxscores and recaps on Monday’s games, click here.