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Archive for April, 2011

Phillies Bats Alive, Pound 3 Homers to Beat D-Backs

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Placido Polanco      Cole Hamels     Jimmy Rollins

The Phillies lineup came alive on Wednesday to pummel Arizona Diamondbacks’ starter Joe Saunders as Cole Hamels had far the better of things in the match-up of the 2 lefthanders.   The Phils tagged Saunders for 3 first inning runs on 4 hits before Saunders was able to notch the 2nd out of the inning.   The first six hitters in the Phils lineup, and Hamels too collected all 12 hits, each getting at least 1 hit with 3rd baseman Placido Polanco going 4 for 5 and scoring 3 runs.   Centerfielder Shane Victorino, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and 1st baseman Ryan Howard all homered as the Phils staked Hamels to a 6-1 lead and he left the game after seven full innings with a 7-3 lead.   D-Backs centerfielder Chris Young slammed 2 homers, the 2nd one a solo shot off of eighth inning reliever Antonio Bastardo — the only hit Bastardo gave up while striking out 2.  Young drove in 3 of Arizona’s 4 runs, but Bastardo and closing committee member Ryan Madson made the lead stand up as Phillies bats came alive to pound 3 homers to beat the D-Backs by 8-4 to salvage the series final.

The Phils, who won 5 of the 7 games of their western road trip, found themselves back in 1st place by 1/2 game in the NL East as the Florida Marlins were edged on Wednesday by the L.A. Dodgers.

Hamels, staked to a 4-1 lead early, cruised through the the 1st 5 innings despite the loss of catcher Carlos Ruiz who left the game with lower back pain after flying out in the first inning.  The PhilliesNation blog notes on Ruiz’s injury:

Chooch left the game with lower back pain, which he felt after his first inning at-bat. Ruiz told Jim Salisbury of that he is worried about… the ailment. Team physicians will examine him in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Brian Schneider replaced Ruiz going 0-3 with an RBI on a walk which forced in the Phils’ 7th run.

Rollins had a big bat in this one making his 2 hits count; a first inning RBI double and his fifth inning 2 run homer.  Polanco went 4 for 5 and missed hitting for the cycle for lack of a homer.   Rightfielder Ben Francisco went 1 for 4 hitting a first inning double which drove in 2 of the inning’s 3 runs.  Victorino slammed a 2 out second inning solo shot.  Howard poked a 1 out ninth inning solo shot off of Arizona’s closer J.J. Putz to cap the Phils’ scoring.

Hamels, though not dominant as we have seen him previously, cruised throwing 108 pitches notch his 3rd win and giving up 3 runs on 4 hits while walking 1, striking out 8 and coughing up the 1st of Chris Young’s 2 homers.  Losing pitcher Sauders was plastered for 6 runs on 10 hits through 5 2/3 innings while striking out 8, walking 1 and giving up 2 of the Phils’ homers.

To read the full AP recap for Yahoo sports, click here.

For all of Wednesday’s scores and recaps, click here.

The Phils have an off-day on Thursday as a travel day returning from their 7 day road trip to entertain the Mets for 3 games from Friday through Sunday.  Joe Blanton is opposed by Mike Pelfrey for the Mets in Friday’s series opener.

For all of Thursday’s and Friday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here and here.

Phillies Offense Awakens, Too Little Too Late in Loss to D-Backs

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

The Phillies offense finally woke up on Tuesday with a string of hits, but only put 2 runs on the board in the ninth inning after the Arizona Diamondbacks pounded Roy Oswalt for 5 runs on 6 hits over three innings.  Reliever Kyle Kendrick went clean on the D-Backs retiring 6 straight.  But the D-Backs staked starter Daniel Hudson to 5-2 and 6-3 leads as relievers Mike Zagurski and David Herndon were touched for 1 run apiece.  Trailing 7-3 in the ninth, the Phillies got a 2 out, 2 run homer from rightfielder Ben Francisco, but the Phillies offensive awakening was too little, too late in another loss 7-5 to the D-Backs in game 2 of their 3 game series.

Don’t look now, but while the Phils were losing 2 to the D-Backs, the Florida Marlins were winning 3 straight and 8 of their last 10 to overtake the Phillies taking a 1/2 game lead in the NL East.

Arizona’s Hudson not only held the Phils to single runs in the first, third and sixth innings when they had chances to score more in all three innings, he helped his own cause pounding a third inning 2 out bases loaded 2 run double off of Oswalt as the D-Backs scored 3 runs in the inning.   In the second and fourth innings, Hudson went clean on the Phils.  In holding the Phils to 3 runs in his six innings of work, Hudson actually reduced his previous free-fall 5.92 ERA to a more Adam Eatonesque 5.64 in earning his 1st win of 2011 vs 4 losses.   For Oswalt, it was his 1st loss of 2011 after winning 3.

Any pitcher, even the 4 Phils aces, is due for an occasional bummer.   An offense has to be able to pick up the slack when a starter goes bust in a game as Oswalt did on Tuesday.   But, the Phillies keep on scoring 3 runs in a game continually leaving the stud starters minimal margins for error.

Check this out:

  • First Inning:  A run in, Placido Polanco on 3rd base,  Ryan Howard on 2nd with 1 out — Francisco fanned swinging and Raul Ibanez flied out to leftfield.
  • Third Inning: A run in on Howard’s single to right centerfield, runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out — Francisco pops out to 3rd base, Ibanez fouled out to 3rd.
  • Sixth Inning:  2 outs, 1 run in on pinch hitter Ross Gload’s RBI single, runners on 1st and 2nd base — Shane Victorino fans swinging.
  • Seventh Inning:  2 walks — to Polanco and Howard with a fly out sandwiched in-between.  Francisco fans swinging.  Ibanez walks to load the sacks.  Pinch hitter John Mayberry Jr. flies out to end the inning.
  • Ninth inning:  Big deal — Trailing 7-3 in garbage time, Francisco belts a 2 out, 2 run homer followed by Ibanez flying out to rightfield to end the game.

And against Arizona, in that ballpark, they should have surely had at least 3 more runs from what you see above.

Others may try to put a rap on Zagurski and Herndon for coughing single runs each to put the game “out of reach.”  But I say no — it’s the continuing “lack of offense — stupid!”   Francisco’s homer could have been the winning runs had Phils taken advantage of more of the on-base opportunities which they were handed.  They left 10 on base as a team but individual hitters flubbed on some 22 on-base scoring opportunities.

Meanwhile, the PhilliesNation blog provides this insightful post: Bumblers at the Corners.

The AP recap for Yahoo sports can be read by clicking here.

For all of Tuesday’s scores and recaps, click here.

The Phillies hope to salvage a win, and show some concerted offense, in Wednesday’s series final in a battle of lefthanders as Cole Hamels opposes Joe Saunders for the D-Backs.

The Phils have an off-day on Thursday as return from their 7 day road trip to entertain the Mets for 3 games from Friday through Sunday.

For all of Wednesday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here.

D-Backs’ Kennedy Bests Lee, Shuts Out Phillies

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Phillies starter lefthander Cliff Lee followed Roy Halladay’s 14 strikeout masterpiece against San Diego by striking out 12 Arizona Diamondbacks.  But the difference between Sunday’s win and Monday’s shutout loss was 2 D-Back homers off of Lee and a woeful, enemic Phillies offense which reached only 3 times against starter Ian Kennedy.   3rd baseman Placido Polanco slammed a first inning 1 out double and then Kennedy proceeded to retire the next 9 Phillies he faced before shortstop Jimmy Rollins singled to shallow rightfield.  Kennedy retired the next 9 Phillies in a row before Polanco’s 2nd hit and then retired the final 10 Phils consecutively while racking up 10 strikeouts in the game as D-Backs’ Kennedy bested Cliff Lee and shutout the Phillies by 3-0 in the opener of their 3 game series.

The PhilliesNation blog post before the game was entitled: D-Backs Just Dying to be Scored On:

A little over three runs per game is to be expected at Petco Park against a… young Padres pitching staff.

At 8-12, Arizona doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat… Their pitching staff has given up the second most runs in the National League while their offense has posted just one more run that the Phillies (96 to 95). It’s the perfect opportunity for the Phillies offense to finally step on the gas, open up the throttle, and score in heaps.

Arizona’s team ERA is a league-worst 5.16 and they are allowing opposing clubs to hit .281 against them, the second-worst average in the NL. Starting pitching has been the biggest issue. The rotation has only pitched 112 1/3 innings, the fewest in the National League, while compiling a 5.85 ERA. What better way to end your seven-game, scoring-challenged road trip?

But after the game, the PhilliesNation blog said it all regarding the Phils’ abysmal offensive display while bestowing their not-so-coveted Steve Jeltz award upon centerfielder Shane Victorino and 1st baseman  Ryan Howard who both took collars for the game striking out 4 times between them:

Phillies once again gave zero output offensively. Cliff Lee was good, yet the Phillies lineup made Ian Kennedy look great in the Diamonbacks 4-0 win.

Lee again was not razor sharp, giving up two home runs on the night. His final line will show dominance in the strikeout category as he fanned 12 batters. His four runs on five hits and one walk paled in comparison to the show Kennedy put on.

Ian Kennedy – yes, Ian Kennedy – struck out 10 Phillies and tossed the first complete game shutout of his career. When you say the offense is struggling, you’d be making a gross understatement. This Phillies O is a dinghy with a giant hole in it. They can’t scoop the water out fast enough.

Kennedy looked like Greg Maddux for nine innings, allowing three hits and no walks. Only one batter, Placido Polanco, made it to second base.

For Arizona, the home runs came from Chris Young in the third and Gerrado Parra in the fifth.   Xavier Nady also knocked in a run with an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Lee really only made those two mistakes on the night. They were miscues, however, that would prove costly.

Really, there are few words, if any, to describe this abominable showing from a lineup that was once the most feared in all of baseball. Working counts was not on the menu as the Phillies forced Kennedy into throwing just 114 pitches.

To check out the full AP recap on yet anothor horrendous offensive display, click here.

As if the offensive woes weren’t enough, manager Charlie Manuel is now taking a lot of heat in a controversy as to possible overuse of closer Jose Contreras recently resulting in his designation to the 15 DL and the calling up of minor leaague prospect Michael Stutes to take some heat off of Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo who have shared the role over the last few games.

Looking back at the last few games, it did seem kind of strange that Madson and Bastardo had gotten the closing calls.  That is unless one looks at Contreras’ pitch count in his last few efforts;  26, 15, 9, 22, 9 = 81 pitches over 5 games between April 15th and 21st for someone who until now was unaccustomed to a regular closer role.

Manuel is steamed over this controversy, but really should let some steam out in the clubhouse on a team with a potent offense which, since April 10th, has dwindled to near-extinction.

For all of Monday’s scores and recaps, click here.

The Phillies look to Roy Oswalt, and some substantial offense, to even up the series.  Oswalt will be opposed by Daniel Hudson whose 5.92 ERA is headed for outer space.

For all of Tuesday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here.

Halladay Strikes Out 14 as Phillies Sweep Padres

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Roy Halladay           Shane Victorino

Phillies ace Roy Halladay struck out 14 while spreading out 5 hits on Sunday and narrowly missed pitching the Phils to their 3rd shutout of the San Diego Padres in their 4 game series.  Padres starter lefthander  Wade LeBlanc exchanged zeros with Halladay for five innings before rightfielder Ben Francisco and leftfielder  John Mayberry Jr. each drove in sixth inning runs to put the Phils up 2-0.   Centerfielder Shane Victorino added an insurance run in the seventh with a leadoff inside-the-park homer.  Halladay carried a shutout through 2 outs in the ninth inning and then was replaced by Antonio Bastardo who retired pinch hitter Nate Hundley on 1 pitch to end it as Halladay struck out 14 and the Phillies swept the Padres.

The Phils now sit atop the NL East with a 15-6 mark, the best in MLB, 1 1/2 games ahead of 2nd place  Florida.

Once again, the Phils offense was light, but they didn’t need much as once they got the lead in the sixth, Halladay, with last out ninth inning help from Bastardo, made the lead stand up.   Lefthander LeBlanc, called up from the minors to pitch this game, went pitch-for-pitch with Halladay for five innings until the Phils put 2 on the board in the sixth.  The AP recap for Yahoo sports recounts the Phillies’ sixth and seventh innings and the Padres’ lone run:

The Phillies opened the sixth inning with four straight hits to score two runs before LeBlanc limited the damage.  Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard singled, Ben Francisco had an RBI single to left and John Mayberry Jr. an RBI double to left. After Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked to load the bases, Francisco was forced at home [on a fielder’s choice] and Halladay hit into an inning-ending double play.

Shane Victorino hit an inside-the-park home run leading off the seventh inning when his drive into the gap in right-center came off [Will] Venable’s glove as his arm hit the ground while trying to make a diving catch. The ball rolled into center as Victorino rounded the bases and came in with a headfirst slide. It was the first of his career.

Halladay was so dominant, mostly with his changeup and curveball, that San Diego didn’t get a baserunner past first base until the ninth. He allowed only five singles while walking one. Halladay, who struck out at least 10 for the 12th time in his career, fanned six straight at one point. He struck out everyone in the lineup except pitcher Wade LeBlanc.

Halladay retired 16 in a row until the ninth.

“He’s one of the best in all of baseball,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “He was on today. We got to him but it was a little bit too late.”

Halladay also struck out 14 on June 2, 2009, against the Angels.

Cameron Maybin singled leading off the Padres’ ninth and was erased at second on Jason Bartlett’s dribbler.  Chase Headley’s single to left-center moved Maybin to third and he scored on Venable’s hit.

Antonio Bastardo came on with runners on first and third and got pinch-hitter Nick Hundley to fly out to left on his first pitch for his first save.

For all of Sunday’s scores and recaps, click here.

The Phils next travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks where lefthander Cliff Lee opposes Ian Kennedy in Monday’s opener of their 3 game series.

For all of Monday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here.

Hamels Shuts Out Padres; Blanton, Howard Lead Phillies Past Padres in Extras

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Cole Hamels     Ryan Howard      Joe Blanton
On Friday, Phillies 1st baseman Ryan Howard provided the margin with a 2 run third inning triple off of  Padres starter Clayton Richard.  In the battle of lefthanders Cole Hamels made the lead stand up while getting 2 of the Phils’ 6 hits himself.  Reliever Ryan Madson knotched his 1st save as Hamels and the Phillies shut out the Padres by 2-0 in series game 2.

On Saturday, the Phils got another fine, but no-decision, outing from starter Joe Blanton as he went pitch-for-pitch with Tim Stauffer in the course of 2-2 stalemate through nine innings.   Ryan Howard came through again, this time with a clutch 2 out, 2 run eleventh inning game-winning double after having been fanned in his previous 4 at bats and surviving the embarrassment of seeing San Diego reliever Chad Qualls intentionally walk shortstop Jimmy Rollins to get to him.   It was the 2nd straight solid effort by Blanton as Howard led the Phillies past the Padres by 4-2 in extra innings in game 3 of their 4 game series.

The big story in these 2 games was Ryan Howard, who struck out 4 times in the series opener and again in yesterday’s game 3.  But when he wasn’t striking out, he won 2 of the 3 games thus far with big hits — the RBI triple on Friday and the eleventh inning game-winning 2 run double yesterday.   Howard was quoted in Saturday’s AP recap for for Yahoo sports as he commented on the game-winning hits in the last 2 games:

“That’s how the game is sometimes. All it takes is one time for things to kind of click, and it clicked for me at the right time,” Howard said.

But through the first 3 games of this series, he’s walked away from the plate leaving 9 men on base and struck out 23 times in 20 games.   That’s a 186 strikeout clip, equal to his strikeout total in 2009.

After Phillies starters and bullpen flubbed the first 2 games of the series with Milwaukee, the starting pitching has been excellent, as has the bullpen, in this series.

Hamels way out-pitched Richard on Friday, only suffering a second inning 1 out 2nd and 3rd base threat on a walk and a double.  But Hamels struck out rightfielder Will Venable swinging, walked 3rd baseman Alberto Gonzalez intentionally to load the sacks before  gettingand got opposing pitcher Richard to line out to Rollins for the final out.   After that, Hamels cruised the rest of the way through eight innings.  Madson came on in the ninth and went clean on the Padres to end it to notch his 1st save.

For the full recap on Friday’s game, click here.

On Saturday, Blanton was touched up in the first inning as the first 2 Padres he faced reached; centerfielder Cameron Maybin with a leadoff single followed by shortstop Jason Bartlett’s triple to deep centerfield.   it was the 1st run scored by the Padres in twenty-two innings.  Blanton settled down after walking the next hitter and got out of the inning with a fielder’s choice grounder, a shallow fly out and a strikeout.   He allowed 2 singles and walked 1 through the fourth inning, retiring the side in order in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Rollins received a 1 out walk in the Phils’ fourth.  After Howard struck out, rightfielder Ben Francisco slammed an RBI triple scoring Rollins to knot the game at 1-1.  But Maybin opened the fifth with a single to leftfield.  Blanton then got 2 ground outs as Maybin advance to 3rd base.   Catcher Nick Hundley then slammed a double to left and the Pads had a 2-1 lead.

The Phils knotted the game again in the sixth inning as 2nd baseman Pete Orr slammed a 1 out double to rightfield and scored on Rollins’ RBI single through the middle.   From there, Phillies relievers Danys Baez,Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick threw clean innings through the tenth.  Bastardo struck out the side in the ninth.

And so the score remained tied at 2-2 with neither team mounting any kind of threat from the seventh inning until the Phils came to bat in the eleventh.

The recap of Saturday’s game recounts the inning:

3rd baseman Placido Polanco hit a leadoff single off Chad Qualls (0-2) to start the rally, was sacrificed by  Shane Victorino and took third on Peter Orr’s groundout. Padres manager Bud Black chose to intentionally walk Jimmy Rollins ahead of Howard and then bring in lefty reliever Cory Luebke to face the lefty slugger.

“With the way that the game was going, no, I guess you’re not surprised they’d go to the bullpen and bring in a lefty in that situation,” Howard said.

Howard hit a ball to deep left that Ryan Ludwick couldn’t get his glove on.

Kendrick tossed a perfect tenth inning and was credited with the game 3 win.   Madson notched his 2nd save of the season, along with a win in game 1 and asave in game 2, giving up a 2 out single to Ludwick before getting 1st baseman Brian Hawpe to fly out to end it.

For all of Friday’s and Saturday’s scores and recaps, click here and here.

The Phils hope for a series sweep on Sunday as staff ace Roy Halladay faces lefthander Wade LeBlanc. The club next travels to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks where lefthander Cliff Lee opposes Ian Kennedy in the opener of their 3 game series.

For all of Sunday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here.

Francisco, Schneider Homer, Phillies Shut Out Padres

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Ben Francisco       Roy Oswalt      Brian Schneider

Rightfielder Ben Francisco and catcher Brian Schneider belted second inning solo homers off of San Diego starter Mat Latos and Francisco was credited with a a third inning RBI on an outfield error.   Phillies starter Roy Oswalt threw a six innings of 1 hit shut out ball at the Padres and 3 Phillies relievers held the Padres scoreless the rest of the way, despite each of them issuing a walk and surrendering a hit apiece as  Francisco and Schneider each homered as the Phillies shut out the Padres by 3-0 to win the opener of their 4 game series.

Oswalt, showing no signs of the back spasms that took him out of his previous start, held a no-hitter through 2 outs in the fifth inning before rightfielder Chris Denorfia’s opposite-field single to rightfield to end the no-hit bid.   Only 3 Padres reached against Oswalt, 2 of them on walks as the Other Roy racked up his 3rd win — he’s still undefeated for 2011.  It’s a good thing that Oswalt shut the Pads down because after the 2 first inning homer and third inning run, the Phils anemic offense offered little after that. Losing pitcher Latos lasted 4 1/3 innings, but 3 Padres relievers held the Phils to 3 hits while walking 2 the rest of the way.

Francisco led off the second inning getting down 0-2 to Latos before unloading to centerfield.   One hitter later, Latos went 3-1 to Schneider who went yard to rightfield.   But the Phils could have had more runs in the first, third and fourth innings .

With 1 out in the first, 3rd baseman Placido Polanco reached on an error by pitcher Latos and stole 2nd base.   Shortstop Jimmy Rollins followed with a single to leftfield sending Polanco to 3rd with Rollins advancing to 2nd with the return throw to the infield.  But 1st baseman Ryan Howard struck out swinging– his 1st of 4 strikeouts in an 0-5 collar for the game.  Leftfielder Raul Ibanez followed suit by fanning as Latos escaped big trouble.

The Phils threatened again in the third on Polanco’s leadoff single and a walk to Rollins.  But Howard fanned again — he’s been a strikeout victim 19 times in the first 18 games.  Ibanez walked to load the sacks.    Francisco lifted a fly to rightfield which Denorfia as Polanco scored the 3rd run.  Francisco was credited with a sacrifice fly in spite of the error.

With 1 out in the fourth, Latos walked both centerfielder Shane Victorino and Polanco.   But Rollins fanned for the 2nd out.   When Latos threw a ball to Howard, Victorino and Polanco pulled off a double-steal putting Phils on 2nd and 3rd with 2 out.   But on a 2-2 count, Latos got Howard again, this time looking, to end the inning and the Phillies threat.

The Phils threatened again in the eighth loading the bases on 2 singles and a walk with 1 one out.   But Polanco grounded into a shortstop to 1st base doubleplay.

Meanwhile, reliever David Herndon had his hands full in a dicey Padres seventh inning.  He managed the first 2 outs but then surrendered a single and walked the next 2 hitters to load the bases before Antonio Bastardo replaced him, managing to escape unscathed as pinch hitter Alberto Gonzales flied out to rightfield.   Bastardo shut down the Pads in the eighth and Jose Contreras came on in the ninth to record his 5th save in as many opportunities.

For Thursday’s AP game recap for Yahoo sports, click here.

For all of Thursday’s scores and recaps, click here.

Lefthanders battle in Friday’s game 2 as Cole Hamels opposes Clayton Richard for the Padres.   On Saturday, Joe Blanton opposes Tim Stauffer.

For all of Friday’s and Saturday’s scheduled games throughout MLB, click here and here.