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Archive for September, 2009

Feliz, Werth, Happ Lead Phillies Past Astros, 1 Game From Clinch

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

       Pedro Feliz    J.A. Happ    Jayson Werth

Phillies rookie-of-the-year candidate lefthander J.A. Happ pitched 2 run, 7 hit ball into the sixth inning on Tuesday to up his season record to 12-4.  3rd baseman Pedro Feliz broke up a 1-1 game with a none out fourth inning grand slam, his 2nd slam of the season, off of Houston starter Wilton Lopez following 2 singles and a walk.  With the Phils up by 5-2 in the fifth inning, rightfielder Jayson Werth followed a 2 out walk to leftfielder Raul Ibanez by belting a 2 run shot off of lefthanded reliever Wesley Wright which provided insurance as Feliz, Werth and Happ led the Phillies past the Astros by a 7-4 margin and to within 1 Game of clinching the NL East division title for the 3rd time in 3 seasons.

With the win, the Phils’ NL East division lead bumped up again to 5 games with 5 games remaining as Atlanta was nipped by Florida on Tuesday.  The magic number for clinch is 1 — another Phillies win and/or another Braves loss.

Manager Charlie Manuel called a team meeting a few hours before Tuesday’s game in light of the recent inconsistent offense and relief pitching as well as the offensive snooze which saw them beaten in the Houston opener by a pitcher they cut in spring training who possesses an 8.23 ERA in 3 starts and 6 other relief outings. 

It looked, for at least Wednesday’s game 2, as if the meeting had the desired impact on the team.  Holding a 7-2 lead in the sixth inning, Happ coughed up a 2nd homer in the gamr, a 2 run shot by 2nd baseman Kazuo Matsui, to cut the Phils lead to 7-4.   But then relievers Jamie Moyer and Ryan Madson barred the door on the Astros the rest of the way, with Madson recording a two inning save going clean on 9 pitches in the eighth before getting into a 1st and 2nd pickle with 1 out.  Madson came on strong to strike out both leftfielder Carlos Lee and rightfielder Hunter Pence; Lee swinging and Pence looking, to end the game.  Madson recorded his 10th save in 16 opportunities.

Phillies Nation’s Amanda Orr provides this recap of Wednesday’s win:

Wilton Lopez made a huge mistake by hanging a slider to Pedro Feliz. Feliz took advantage and sent the pitch into the left field seats.

J.A Happ pitched better than his line indicated.  In 5.2 innings, he allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits.  He struck out six. Happ became the first Phillies rookie to win 12 games since  [Jim Owens in] 1959.  Happ made two mistakes: a down and in fastball to Lance Berkman and a middle-in fastball to Kaz Matsui.  Both pitches resulted in home runs.

Jimmy Rollins’ 42nd double of the season put the Phillies on the board, but it was Feliz who provided the big blow.  With the bases loaded and nobody out,  Feliz jumped on the first pitch and took it for a ride.  The grand slam put the Phillies ahead, 5-1.  It was Feliz’s second grand slam of the year, and it extended the franchise record for most grand slams in a season (11).  The rally towels proudly waved and it was loud for the rest of the night.

In the fifth inning, Jayson Werth added insurance with a two-run home run.  The runs proved to be key since the ninth inning is always nerve-racking.

          Jamie Moyer      Ryan Madson

Jamie Moyer ate 1.1 scoreless innings in relief.  However, on the last pitch he threw, he fell to the ground with a groin injury.

Ryan Madson threw nine pitches in the eighth inning, and returned to the mound in the ninth to a standing ovation.  Madson allowed two singles, but struck out Hunter Pence to end the game.  Madson did a perfect job of mixing his pitches.

For the scores of all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

In Wednesday’s game 3, Pedro Martinez will start, in what the Phils hope is the division clincher, opposing Brian Moehler for the Astros. Ace lefthander  Cliff Lee, whose recent starts have been mixed bags, had his start pushed back until Thursday’s final with the Astros where he’ll oppose 2-11 Felipe Paulino.  AP sports writer Rob Maaddi reports:

The move also puts Lee in position to pitch Game 1 of the NL division series.

For all of Wednesday’s games, click here.

Phillies Beaten By Spring Training Cut in Loss to Houston

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Houston starter Yorman Bazardo, cut by the Phillies during spring training, held the Phils to 2 runs and 2 hits in 5 2/3 innings on Monday although walking 4 to notch his first win in almost 2 seasons.  Meanwhile, the Astros pounded lefthander Cole Hamels who gave up a single fourth inning run before being belted for 2 runs in the sixth and 4 more in the seventh.  3 Astros relievers took over for Bazardo holding the Phillies scoreless as 4 of their hitters reached over the final 3 1/3 innings, including on a hit batsman and an infield error, as the Phillies were beaten by a spring training cut in an 8-2 Loss to Houston.

With the loss, the Phillies watched their NL East division lead dwindle to 4 games over 2nd place Atlanta, who beat 3rd place Florida, who remained 7 1/2 games back.  The Phils’ magic number (any combination of Phillies’ wins and/or Braves losses) to clinch the division remains at 3 games.

I’m sorry that this blog may have been perhaps the first to hint at a possible Phillies late-season collapse.  2 days later, the mantra has been picked across the board; from the AP game recap, to Philly.com’s Bill Conlin,  to  a downplayed version on the Phillies Nation blog to other more or less cloaked versions throughout blogosphere.  And it doesn’t help that the Phils are so far winless in 5 games against the Astros this season.

Phillies Nation’s Brian Michaels provides a recap on another ugly loss:

Hamels cruised through the first three innings, allowing just a single hit after Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley manufactured a run in the bottom of the first.  He coughed up a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth before the Astros really took it to him.  With two outs in the seventh, Michael Bourne singled and stole second.  A Miguel Tejada RBI single and intentional walk later and Hamels gave way to Tyler Walker.  Walker allowed another three runs to score [1 of the runs charged to Hamels] in the inning and with an 8-2 score, the game was out of reach.

Astros’ starter, Yorman Bazardo – whom the Phillies released in Spring Training – kept the Phils’ bats in-check despite allowing a run on a balk.  Chase Utley saw only 8 pitches the entire night as the zombie lineup mustered just four hits.

AP’s sports writer Rob Maaddi provides background on Bazardo for Yahoo sports:

Bazardo (1-2) allowed two runs and two hits to earn his third career win and first since Sept. 25, 2007, with Detroit. The 25-year-old right-hander signed with the Phillies as a minor league free agent last December and was released on March 29. He entered with an 11.74 ERA in four starts this season.

Winning pitcher Bazardo left with 2 out in the sixth after balking in a run — centerfielder Shane Victorino from 3rd base.  3 relievers polished off the Phils the rest of the way. 

The Phils had a scoring chances in the eighth after Victorino’s 2 out triple and after Utley was hit by a pitch.  After Utley moved to 2nd base on fielder’s indifference on a steal attempt, Howard added to his strikeout total with yet another to end the inning.

In the ninth, the Phils had 1st and 2nd base with 1 out on rightfielder Jayson Werth’s single and 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz reaching on an infield error.  But pinch hitter Greg Dobbs grounded into a doubleplay to end the game.

Losing pitcher Hamels threw 103 pitches in 6 2/3 innings giving up 6 runs on 9 hits while walking 3 and striking out 5 and knotting his season record at 10-10 in a sub-par outing.

For the scores of all of Monday’s games, click here.

In Tuesday’s game 2, rookie lefthander J.A. Happ looks toward a clutch start to push the Phils closer to the NL East title.  He is opposed by Wilton Lopez for the Astros.

For all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

Phillies Salvage Split Edging Brewers in Series Final

Monday, September 28th, 2009

               Jimmy Rollins      Ryan Madson

Phillies starter Joe Blanton held Milwaukee to 1 run on 6 hits through five innings before being charged with 4 runs, on a 3 run homer and an RBI single, in the sixth.  When Blanton left with a 6-4 lead,  Clay Condrey came on to give up leftfielder Ryan Braun’s run-scoring single before lefthanded reliever Sergio Escalona came on to get the final out in the inning. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins solo homered leading off the game, centerfielder Shane Victorino had a 2 run single, 1st baseman Ryan Howard had a run-scoring double and 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz punched a 2 run single to cap the Phillies scoring off of Brewers’ starter Dave Bush and reliever Josh Butler.  Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson finished off the Brewers with three innings of clutch scoreless relief to preserve Blanton’s 12th win.  Madson was credited with his 9th save as the Phillies salvaged as series split by edging the Brewers by a 6-5 score in series final.

With the win, the Phils’ NL East division lead remained at 5 games over 2nd place Atlanta, who beat Washington, while their lead over 3rd place Florida, who lost to the Mets, increased to 7 1/2.  The Phils’ magic number (any combination of Phillies’ wins and/or Braves losses) to clinch the division dropped to 3 games.

AP sports writer Chris Jenkins recaps the game for Yahoo sports:

Rollins hit his 21st home run of the season and Ryan Howard tied [Prince] Fielder for the major league RBI lead as the Phillies jumped on struggling Brewers starter Dave Bush (5-9) early.

Rollins hit his fifth leadoff homer of the season, Chase Utley tripled off the wall in center field with one out and Howard smacked a double, tying Fielder for the major league RBI lead with 137.

Bush, who has struggled since returning from the disabled list late last month, had more trouble in the second.

With the Brewers trailing 2-0 and runners on first and second, Blanton squared to lay down a sacrifice bunt—and Bush hit him in the thigh with a soft curveball, loading the bases with one out. Bush gave up a two-run double to Shane Victorino that put the Phillies up 4-0  [4-1] .

Mike Cameron slammed leadoff second inning solo homer off of Blanton but the Phils added 5th and 6th runs in the fifth inning off of Bush and reliever Josh Butler on Feliz’s single.  The 5th run was charged to Bush and the 6th to Butler who walked 4 in the inning.   The Phils needed every one of those 6 runs as Blanton was not as sharp as he’s been in other recent outings.

AP’s Jenkins continues:

With Milwaukee trailing 6-1 in the sixth, Brewers pinch-hitter Mat Gamel hit a three-run homer off starter Joe Blanton. Ryan Braun added an RBI single off Clay Condrey to cut the lead to one, but the Brewers couldn’t get any closer in their final home game of a disappointing season.

It was an opportunity for redemption for Madson, who still was smarting from the decisive home run he gave up to the New York Mets’ David Wright on Sept. 12.

Madson got Braun to ground out in the ninth before giving up a double to Fielder. Pinch-hitter Felipe Lopez tapped a ball back to Madson for a groundout, and Fielder advanced to third. Cameron took a called third strike to end the game.

For the scores of all of Sunday’s games, click here.

On Monday, the Phils return home to finish out the regular season with 4 games against the Houston Astros and 3 against the NL East 3rd place Florida Marlins.  In the Houston opener, lefthander Cole Hamels is scheduled to oppose former Phil Yorman Bazardo for the Astros.

For all of Monday’s games click here.

Phillies Blow 2 Leads, Bow to Brewers on Braun’s Walkoff

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Reliever Tyler Walker flubbed his audition for the all-important closer role Saturday with the 2 run ninth inning walkoff homer he coughed up to  Milwaukee leftfielder Ryan Braun as the Phillies struggle to find a viable closer alternative to Brad Lidge.  But there was plenty of blame to go-around as the Phils blew 4-0 and 5-3 leads.  Starter Kyle Kendrick was pulled after 4 innings having given up 3 runs on 5 hits and leaving with the Phils up 4-3.  Meanwhile, the Phils had Brewers’ starter  Braden Looper on the ropes in the second and third innings but couldn’t deliver a knockout of either Looper or the Brewer bullpen as the top 3 hitters in the order went a collective 0-14.  Despite a 2 run second inning homer by catcher Paul Bako and a fifth inning solo shot by 1st baseman Ryan Howard, Phillies failed to seize control of the game and suffered a messy defensive lapse between centerfielder Shane Victorino and shortstop Jimmy Rollins with the result that 3rd baseman Craig Counsell’s blooper  bounced off of Rollins for a game-tying 2 run-scoring error.  The bottom line in this ugly mess of a game: 2 blown Phillies leads as they bowed to Brewers again, this time by a 7-5 score on Braun’s walkoff homer.

With their 2nd loss to the Brewers, the Phils’ NL East division lead dropped to 5 games over 2nd place Atlanta while their lead over 3rd place Florida, who beat the Mets, dropped at 6 1/2.  The Phils’ magic number to clinch the division remains at 4 games.

The Phillies’s struggle to come up with a closing alternative to Brad Lidge continues to appear totally futile.  Lidge has blown 11 of 42 save opportunities in 2009 with 8 of those blown saves resulting in lost ballgames.  GM Ruben Amaro made a few great deals this season, such as acquiring lefthander Cliff Lee.  But the deal Amaro didn’t make — acquiring a viable closer such as lefthander Billy Wagner or Trevor Hoffman when he had the chances, may just turn out to cost the Phils in the playoffs, if not in the regular season. (1964 meltdown revisited??)  Hoffman’s gone clean on the Phils in 2 innings over the last 2 games to pick up 2 saves.  And all of this stuff about Chan Ho Park, Pedro and J.A. Happ vying for the closer spot — all just plain insane and  totally irrational reminiscent of that old 1958 trade of rookie-of-the-year pitcher Jack Sanford to the Giants for Ruben Gomez and Valmy Thomas.  On that trade, the Phils owner of the time, Bob Carpenter was heard to remark, “it was the worst trade I ever made.”  Are Amaro and manager Manuel travelling down the irrational “Gomez and Valmy Thomas” road? 

Phillies Nation’s Amanda Orr provides a recap of the game:

Paul Bako opened the scoring with a two-run shot in the second inning. By the third inning, the Phillies led 4-0.  In addition, Ryan Howard hit an upper-decker in the fifth inning.

Kyle Kendrick made a spot start for an ailing Pedro Martinez.  In four innings, Kendrick allowed three runs (2 earned).  Moyer pitched four innings in relief, and gave up two runs.  Braden Looper allowed five runs (3 earned) in six innings.

The game was highlighted with four errors, two committed by each team. Raul Ibanez couldn’t keep a ball in front of him.  Kendrick made an overthrow.  Jayson Werth and Chase Utley miscommunicated on a blooper down the right field line.  To top it off, Craig Counsell’s flair bounced off Rollins’ leg, tying the game at five.

The ninth inning must be cursed.  Tyler Walker hoped to send the game into extra innings.  With a runner on, Walker threw a meatball down the middle of the plate.  That’s not something you want to do with Ryan Braun batting. Braun’s walk-off home run cleared the right center field wall.

Kendrick threw 81 pitches in four innings giving up 3 runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.  Apparently Manuel figured that, on Kendrick’s pitch count, he was spent.  Thus he went to Moyer who couldn’t cling to a 2 run lead.

In light of Walker’s failed tryout, the closest to viable alternatives to Lidge are if lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero or Brett Myers can come off of the DL and straighten the ship.  But Romero is NOT a viable closer.  He is a late inning situational reliever good for an out or 2 to get through an inning.  And while Myers thrived in the closer role down the regular season stretch in 2007, he has a track record such that one never knows what issue, suspect injury or, who knows what, is going throw him back on the shelf in the heat of the final 8 games of the regular season or the playoffs. 

For the scores of all of Saturday’s games click here.

The Phillies hope to salvage a series split with Sunday’s final as Joe Blanton takes the mound opposed by Dave Bush for the Brewers.  On Monday, the Phils return home to finish out the regular season with 4 games against the Houston Astros and 3 against the NL East 3rd place Florida Marlins.  In the series opener on Monday, lefthander Cole Hamels is scheduled to oppose former Phil Yorman Bazardo for the Astros.

For all of Sunday’s and Monday’s games, click here and here.

Brewers Pound Lee, Club Phillies

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

The Milwaukee Brewers got to Phillies lefthander Cliff Lee for 4 runs in the first inning on Friday with the big blow being a 2 out, 3 run homer by centerfielder  Mike Cameron.  The Phils closed to 4-2 in the fourth inning as 1st baseman  Ryan Howard slammed a 2 run single to rightfield off of lefthander Manny Parra scoring runners on 2nd and 3rd.  But the Brewers salted away the game on 1st baseman Prince Fielders’ 3 run fifth inning dinger.  They added another in the seventh and the Phils’ 2 run rally in the eighth fell short as the Brewers pounded Lee and clubbed the Phillies by an 8-4 count in game 2 of the their 4 game series.

With the loss, the Phils’ NL East division lead dropped to 6 games over 2nd place Atlanta while their lead over 3rd place Florida, who lost to the Mets, remained at 7 1/2.  The Phils’ magic number to clinch the division remains at 4 games.

AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins recapped Friday’s Phillies loss for Yahoo sports:

…While the defending World Series champions are still in good shape to get back to the playoffs, they’re certainly experiencing some angst along the way.

They aren’t sure about their closer. Pedro Martinez won’t make his scheduled start Saturday. And Cliff Lee once again was missing the dominant form he showed immediately after he was acquired in a trade, giving up a pair of three-run homers in an 8-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Lee (7-3) is struggling with his command.

“I’d say right now that’s one of his big problems, yeah,” Manuel said. “He made some mistakes here tonight, and they made him pay.”

One of Lee’s two big mistakes was a changeup down the middle to Prince Fielder, who hit his 43rd homer and drove in four runs to become the major league leader in RBIs.

Fielder hit a run-scoring single in the first and the three-run shot in the fifth to give him 136 RBIs—one more than the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, who drove in three runs with two singles.

Manny Parra (11-10) made his first start for Milwaukee since leaving his Sept. 8 outing after one inning because of neck spasms, giving up four hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts.

“I feel it actually refreshed me, if anything,” Parra said of the layoff. “I really didn’t put too much pressure on myself.”

After the Phillies put their first two runners on in the ninth, Trevor Hoffman came in and retired three straight for his 36th save.

The Phillies Nation blog adds these comments on a Phillies offense which continues to struggle:

The offense for the Phillies couldn’t quite pull it together despite scoring four runs in the game. The Phillies couldn’t muster a single base-runner off of Brewers starter Manny Parra until the fourth inning when Jimmy Rollins reached base on a Milwaukee error. After a Shane Victorino walk and a Chase Utley ground-out, Ryan Howard single in two, cutting the four run Brewers lead in half.

Lee’s other miscue was early, as Cameron pounded a 3 run first inning shot of the lefthander.

Manuel tried Brad Lidge in the seventh, taking over from Lee.  But as usual, Lidge coughed another run on 2 hits as 3rd baseman Casey McGehee singled to shallow center to cap Milwaukee’s scoring.  Thus, the Phillies have yet to resolve their back-end relief woes.

Lefthanded reliever Sergio Escalona came on in the eighth inning giving up a hit and walking 1 but striking out the side. 

While Lee threw 93 pitches and was pounded for 7 runs on 9 hits in six innings while walking none and striking out 6 in losing his 3rd game as a Phil, the Phils could muster no offense against Parra other than in the fourth.  Parra went seven innings throwing 92 while giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and walking 1 while striking out 8.  The Brewers needed 5 relief pitchers over the last 2 innings, including Hoffman, to nail down the win.

In related news, Phillies Nation also reports on the chaotic closer situation and that the Phils announced that “Lidge will not be the closer for the duration of the regular season” but that GM Amaro indicates that “‘…Lidge could still be one of the guys. It could be Madson, could be Lidge, or it could be a few different guys.’”

For the scores of all of Friday’s games, click here.

On Saturday, the Phillies scratched Pedro Martinez, due to lingering neck woes, for Kyle Kendrick who opposes Braden Looper.

For all of Saturday’s games click here.

Phillies’ Offense Takes Control, Pounds Brewers

Friday, September 25th, 2009

                       J.A. Happ          Jimmy Rollins

The Phillies offense, led by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz, broke open Thursday’s opener with the  Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth inning by pounding Jeff Suppan for 6 runs while rookie lefthander J.A. Happ and the Phillies bullpen maintained the momentum the rest of the way.  Feliz had 2 hits and 2 RBIs, Howard had 2 hits and an RBI, centerfielder Shane Victorino went 3 for 5 and Happ helped his own cause with a fifth inning RBI single.  J-Roll’s 3 run shot to rightfield capped the 6 run fifth inning as the Phillies’ offense took control pounding the Brewers by a 9-4 score in their series opener.

The Phils’ NL East division lead increased to 7 games over 2nd place Atlanta and 7 1/2 over 3rd place Florida, both of whom had Thursday off.  The Phils’ magic number to clinch the division now stands at 4 games.

With the back-end of the Phils’ bullpen in crisis, the key to Phillies’ success seems to be: get control early and not let momentum shift.  We saw that work in game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader with Florida and we saw it again here.  In Wednesday’s series final against the Marlins, we saw what can happen when the momentum shifts without a sufficient closer.  On Thursday, although the Phils grabbed control of the game and held it throughout, Manuel and Amaro have got to come up with a closer solution — and fast.

The Phils were first to hit the scoreboard on Howard’s 2 out RBI single to right centerfield.   The Brewers knotted the score in the third on 2nd baseman  Felipe Lopez lined a ball off of Happ which deflected to Utley whose throw was juggled by Howard.  Catcher Jason Kendall, who reached with a triple, scored on the play.  Feliz got the run back in the fourth as he and leftfielder Ben Francisco hit back-to-back doubles to open the inning.  The Phils had 2 chances for more but Feliz was out at home on a fielders choice by Victorino.  With runners having advanced to 2nd and 3rd base on the previous out, Utley popped out to end the inning.

With the Phils up by 2-1 and Happ through four innings with a 2 hitter, the Phils broke this one wide open pounding Suppan for a 6 run fifth inning.  The Phillies Nation blog recaps the inning:

Jayson Werth started the hit-parade in the fifth when he reached base on a one-out throwing error. Following the error, the Phillies scored three runs on four straight singles, including an R.B.I. single from pitcher J.A. Happ. Jimmy Rollins capped off the inning with a three-run shot to give the Phillies the commanding 8-1 lead.

With the six run inning, the Phillies tied the Brewers for the most innings with five or more runs scored at 23.

With the Phils now up 8-1, the Brewers scored a 2nd run against Happ in the sixth as 1st baseman Prince Fielder and 3rd baseman Casey McGehee pounded back-to-back doubles with Fielder scoring on McGehee’s.  With 2 out in the sixth Happ gave way to reliever Chad Durbin who went 1 1/3 innings and who, in turn handed the ball to Tyler Walker who pitched the eighth innings — both shutting Milwaukee down uneventfully. 

Rollins scored the Phillies final run from 3rd base on Felipe Lopez’s fielding error of Howard’s grounder in the eighth.  Reliever Clay Condrey gave up 2 ninth inning garbage runs as the Phils had the game well out of the Brewers’ reach.

Winning pitcher Happ went 5 2/3 innings throwing 91 pitches and giving up 2 runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7 to extend his record to 11-4 with a NL-leading rookie 2.79 ERA.  Losing pitcher Jeff Suppan went 4 1/3 innings throwing 105 pitches and giving up 8 runs on 12 hits while walking 2, striking out 2 and giving up Rollins’ 3 run shot in the sixth.  Suppan’s record dropped to 7-11 — no “Lady-Luck” here.

For the scores of all of Thursday’s games click here.

Friday’s game 2 shapes up as a battle of lefthanders with Phillies’ ace Cliff Lee opposed by Manny Parra.  On Saturday, Pedro Martinez, hopefully recovered from neck pains, opposes Braden Looper.

For all of Friday’s and Saturday’s games click here and here.