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Archive for September, 2011

Phillies Belt 3 Homers Behind Oswalt to Pound Braves

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Chase Utley   Hunter Pence   Roy Oswalt   Jimmy Rollins
Phillies starter Roy Oswalt tossed a masterful 85 pitch, 6 inning 3 hit shutout for his 9th win on Tuesday and 2nd baseman Chase Utley got the ball rolling with a first inning solo shot off of Atlanta’s Derek Lowe as the Phils scored in the first, fourth, fifth and seventh innings with shortstop Jimmy Rollins and rightfielder Hunter Pence also homering and Rollins going 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs and Pence driving in 3 runs with a sacrifice fly RBI his 2 run shot in the fifth.   Oswalt, September call-up Joe Savery, and Antonio Bastardo kept the Braves bottled up through eight innings with Savery and Bastardo going clean on the Braves in the seventh and eighth as Atlanta only averted a shutout in the ninth on leftfielder Martin Prado’s leadoff homer off of Kyle Kendrick.  The Braves had runners on in each of the 1st four innings but came up empty before Oswalt retired the final 6 hitters in a row, 4 of them on strikes as the Phillies belted 3 homers behind Oswalt to pound the Braves 7-1 in the 2nd of their regular season-ending 3 game series.

With the Atlanta Braves falling again to the Phils and St. Louis routing Houston, the Braves and Cardinals are now tied for the NL Wild Card spot with both teams playing their final regular season game today.    Boston and Tampa Bay face the same tie situation for the AL Wild Card berth.  If the Wild Card race in one and/or both leagues remains tied after Wednesday’s games, there will be a playoff game(s) on Thursday to decide the winner(s).

Like the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey 2 games ago, Lowe seemed more of what the doctor prescribed to bulk up the Phillies offense before the playoffs.   The Phils banged up Lowe for 5 runs on 6 hits through four innings and dinged 2 call-up relievers for a run each in the fifth and seventh innings.

The Phils tied their All-Time franchise record for wins in a season with their 101st win on Tuesday and Charlie Manuel tied  Gene Mauch’s mark for most wins (645) by a Phils manager…  It took Manuel a lot less time to get there.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides more highlights of Tuesday’s game.

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

The Phils hope to sweep the Braves and gain an all-time franchise record 102nd win on Wednesday as, surprisingly, Joe Blanton gets another start before the playoffs.  The Phils indicate that they plan to use lefthander Cole Hamels in relief in the tune-up for the playoffs which open on Saturday.  Blanton will oppose Tim Hudson for the Braves who hope to clinch at least a tie for the NL Wild card spot with a deciding playoff game then taking place on Thursday.

All of MLB’s playoff teams will then have at least 2 days off (Sept. 29 and 30) before the NLDS games begin on Saturday.

PLEASE NOTE:  There will be no Thursday post of Wednesday’s Phillies final regular season game due to the onset of Rosh Hashana — the Jewish New Year.    Wednesday’s game post may only appear on either Saturday night or Sunday.

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

Lee, Rollins and Ibanez Lead Phillies Past the Braves

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Placido Polanco   Jimmy Rollins   Cliff Lee   Raul Ibanez
Phillies lefthander Cliff Lee went six innings and won his 17th game in his tune-up for the playoffs despite a shaky start during which the Atlanta Braves scored single runs in the first and second inning.   Lee gave up a 2 out first inning solo homer to 3rd baseman Chipper Jones and 3 other doubles in the first two innings before settling down to dominate the Braves only allowing a sixth inning double by Jones over the rest of his outing.   The Phils scored single runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings including shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ 1 out fifth inning game tying solo shot and 2 RBI singles by leftfielder Raul Ibanez.   Four Phils relievers followed Lee by holding the Braves at bay, although Brad Lidge got into 1st and 3rd base trouble in the eighth inning before getting Chipper Jones to ground into a doubleplay to end the inning.  Closer Ryan Madson gave up a leadoff double to 2nd baseman Dan Uggla before retiring the next 3 Braves, striking out 2 of them, to earn his 32nd save as Lee, Rollins and Ibanez led the Phillies past the Braves by 4-2 in the opener of their regular season concluding 3 game series.

Although the Atlanta Braves lost to the Phils on Monday, they remained 1 game up in the NL Wild Card race on the St. Louis Cardinals who were edged by the Houston Astros in ten innings.   The Braves magic number is 2 (combination of Braves wins or Cards’ losses) as both teams have 2 games left to play.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides highlights and background on Monday’s game:

The Phillies sure didn’t go easy on the Braves, even though their trip to the playoffs was in the bag weeks ago.

“We went out there and played like we always do,” Manuel said. “I look at our guys, I think we’re ready to win right now.”

Atlanta jumped ahead against Lee, making his final tuneup before the playoffs. Jones drove his 18th homer into the left-field seats, then Matt Diaz and Alex Gonzalez had consecutive doubles in the second.

Lee looked shaky in the beginning, giving up four extra-base hits to the first eight Atlanta hitters. But he settled down after that, retiring the next 12 in a row.

The Braves had not led a game in three days, but they didn’t fare any better playing out front.

“I attribute it more to good pitching than a lack of hitting,” Jones said. “I’ll take that showing. We battled for 27 outs and all nine innings.”

Jones ended Lee’s dominance with one out in the sixth, lining one to the gap in left-center that hopped over the wall for a ground-rule double. But, showing the desperation of a struggling team, Uggla struck out on three pitches—the last one hopping in front of the plate—and Freeman hit a soft liner to shortstop Rollins.

In the fourth, Philadelphia broke through against 21-year-old rookie Randall Delgado, making just his seventh big league start.

Hunter Pence got it started with a one-out single.  Ryan Howard lined another hit to right-center and Shane Victorino walked to loaded the bases. Delgado made a bid to escape the jam, retiring Ibanez on a foul popup, but Placido Polanco followed with a sharp single up the middle to bring home Pence.

The slow-running Howard had to stop at third, and Carlos Ruiz flied out to center with the Braves still leading 2-1. It didn’t last long. Rollins tied it in the fifth, lining his 15th homer over the fence in right field.

Delgado was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half, having surrendered five hits. The Phillies pulled ahead against the Atlanta bullpen.

With one out in the sixth, Victorino yanked one down the right-field line off Cristhian Martinez (1-3) and sped all the way to third for a triple, just beating the relay throw.   Eric O’Flaherty took over for Martinez, and the Braves pulled in the infield looking to cut off the go-ahead run. But Ibanez grounded one sharply past diving first baseman [Freddie] Freeman, and Victorino trotted home to make it 3-2.

Ibanez added another run-scoring hit in the eighth off Jonny Venters.

The Braves tried to rally at the end, but they couldn’t string together any hits—a familiar theme for a team that has scored only three runs in the last three games. Brad Lidge gave up a walk and a single in the eighth, but Jones grounded one sharply to second baseman Chase Utley, who started the double play that sent many in the announced crowd of 42,597 heading for the exits.

In the ninth, Dan Uggla lined one to left off Ryan Madson that got under the glove of a diving Ibanez. Uggla pulled up at second with a double and that’s where he stayed.  Freeman and Brian McCann struck out swinging before pinch-hitter Jason Heyward grounded out to first to end it. Madson earned his 32nd save.

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

The Phils hope to tie their all-time franchise wins record of 101 with a victory on Tuesday as Roy Oswalt is opposed by Derek Lowe for the Braves.  All of MLB’s playoff teams will then have at least 2 days off (Sept. 29 and 30) before the NLDS games begin on Saturday.

PLEASE NOTE:  There will be no Thursday post of Wednesday’s Phillies final regular season game due to the onset of Rosh Hashana — the Jewish New Year.    Wednesday’s game post may only appear on either Saturday night or Sunday.

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

Halladay Wins 19th, Pence, Ruiz Lead Offense as Phillies Pound Mets

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Hunter Pence    Roy Halladay    Carlos Ruiz
Phillies ace Roy Halladay tossed a six inning, 4 hit masterpiece on Sunday to win his 19th game and halt the Phils losing skid at 8 games.  The Phils’ offense uncorked on Mets’ starter Mike Pelfrey for 9 runs in four innings with rightfielder Hunter Pence’s 2 run first inning homer and catcher Carlos Ruiz’s 4 for 4, 2 RBIs leading the way.   Leadng 9-0 after six, manager Manuel went to reliever Antonio Bastardo in the seventh and the Mets scored 3 of their 4 runs off of him.   They nicked Vance Worley for an eighth inning run and Ryan Madson finished up as the Phils avoided a sweep.   Halladay won his 19th with Pence and Ruiz leading the offense as the Phillies pounded the Mets by 9-4 in their series final.

The Atlanta Braves lost their Sunday game to Washington while the St. Louis Cardinals edged the Chicago Cubs as the Braves’ NL Wild Card lead shrunk to 1 game.   The Braves magic number remained 3 (combination of Braves wins or Cards’ losses) as both teams have 3 games left to play.

It seems that facing the hapless Mike Pelfrey (7-13) was just what the doctor ordered as manager Manuel fielded his full starting lineup.  Pelfrey was clobbered over the 1st four innings as the Phils offense returned to life.   Halladay struck out only 3 while walking 1 but collected 9 ground ball outs while just 4 others flied out in his six inning, 77 pitch gem.  Manuel again pulled his starter in the sixth, although Halladay on 77 pitches, still looked like he had plenty in the tank.   And it really didn’t matter that Bastardo was jumped on for 3 runs in the seventh, and Worley gave up another, because this time the Phils were way out in front and had the game well in tow.  But, after losing 8 straight games with gauge-flat offense and then ringing up 19 hits on Sunday, can the Phils turn their offense back on like a spigot for their final 3 regular season games to be played in Atlanta, and for the playoffs and the World Series?  Time will tell.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides the highlights and details of Sunday’s game:

Playing their regular lineup for the first time since clinching their fifth straight division title, the Phillies posted their major league-leading 99th victory. Center fielder Shane Victorino closed it out with a nifty running grab for the final out.

“It’s a matter of getting everybody out there and getting the rhythm of the lineup,” star slugger Ryan Howard said. “Everybody kind of exploded today.”

“Hopefully, we can keep it together through October,” he said.

Pence homered during a three-run first inning, each starter had a hit by the third and Carlos Ruiz’s single made it 9-0 in the fourth.

That was plenty for Halladay (19-6). He tuned up for his expected start in Game 1 of the NL playoffs Saturday by throwing six scoreless innings of four-hit ball.  Last year’s unanimous Cy Young Award winner finished this regular season with a career-best 2.35 ERA.

Halladay won his eighth straight start against the Mets and closed his outing by fanning Nick Evans with the bases loaded. It was Halladay’s third strikeout of the game—that was his 220th of the year, one more than his previous high.

“I didn’t want it to feel like a spring training start. Everything was where I wanted it to be,” Halladay said.

The Phillies’ skid was their longest since 2000, and the worst by any big league team after wrapping up first place since the World Series began in 1903, STATS LLC said.

Frustrated by all the losses, manager Charlie Manuel put all his regulars on the field and also tinkered with the lineup, moving Chase Utley into the second slot. And after scoring a total of only 16 runs during the slide, the Phillies responded with 19 hits.

Mike Pelfrey (7-13) was battered from the outset. He was done after three innings, leaving him with only one win in his last 12 starts of the season.

Ruiz went 4 for 4 with a walk. His two-run hit in the fourth drew a mixed response from the crowd, with Phillies fans cheering his “Chooch” nickname and Mets fans simply booing.

Pence also tripled, singled and walked. He made a costly error Saturday night in his first start since missing three games because of a strained knee.

Manuel quickly began pulling his All-Stars.  Ryan Howard came out for a pinch-runner in the fourth and Jimmy Rollins left following the sixth.

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

The Phils then travel to Atlanta to play the final 3 games of the regular season on Monday through Wednesday against the Braves.  The Phils’ 8 game skid set up a situation where these games will be big for both teams.

For the Phils, they will need to build on Sunday’s blow-out win over the Mets to re-establish a team-to-beat mojo before the playoffs, while these games will be crucial for the Braves in order to make the playoffs at all. Lefthander Cliff Lee tries to finish out the season with 17 wins as he faces rookie Randall Delgado for the Braves.  All of MLB’s playoff teams will then have at least 2 days off (Sept. 29 and 30) before the NLDS games begin on Saturday.

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

Mets Sweep Doubleheader From Phils on Flat Offense, Manuel Foible

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels dueled with Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for seven innings in game 1 as Dickey carried a perfect game through five inning before issuing a 1 out walk in the sixth.  He lost his no-hitter in the seventh as the Phils broke onto the scoreboard with a run, on 3 hits, and shortlived 1-0 lead.   As testimony to the fact that even aces make an occasional mistake and need offensive support, Hamels gave up a tying homer to recent call-up and pinch hitter Val Pascucci.  For Pascucci, it was his 1st MLB homer.   Manuel pinch hit for Hamels in the eighth (Hunter Pence struck out looking) as reliever Brad Lidge took over in the Mets’ eighth.   One out, a single and a stolen base later, 3rd baseman David Wright solved Lidge for an RBI double and a Mets win.   Two Met relievers then gave up a single and a walk each in both the eighth and ninth innings but the Phils left all 4 runners stranded.  In game 2, the Phils jumped on starter Dillon Gee for a 3-0 lead with 2 runs in the second and another in the third.   But then manager Manuel opted to lift starter Joe Blanton after 2 innings and 24 pitches to give other bullpen hands some work before the playoffs.  David Herndon, who has seen plenty of work over the past 10 days, gave up a hit, walked 2 as the Mets benefited by a rare Hunter Pence fielding error by scoring 5 runs in their third inning off of Herndon and Kyle Kendrick in the third and another run off of Kendrick in the fourth.   The Phillies offense went silent the rest of the way as Gee finished six innings holding the lead.  Three Met relievers held the Phils to a ninth inning walk and a base hit as the Mets swept the doubleheader from the Phils by 2-1 and  6-3 on flat offense, Manuel’s pitching change foible.

Both the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals split their Friday and Saturday games with Washington and the Chicago Cubs respectively as the Braves’ NL Wild Card lead remained at 2 games.   The Braves magic number is 3 (combination of Braves wins or Cards’ losses) as both teams have games left to play.

I shall spill no further ink decrying two more embarrassing losses.  We’ll just leave you with comments from other sources.  The AP game recap on the doubleheader for Yahoo sports notes:

With nothing left to play for in the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies are playing as if they have nothing left.

And the Phillies Nation blog adds these gems here and here:

For the first time since Terry Francona was manager, the Phillies are sitting on an eight-game losing streak as a doubleheader against the Mets that played more like a pair of split-squad spring training games went south…

The Phillies lost again…. It’s becoming a little bit of a trend, and a very frustrating one at that.

Rewind to last Saturday, the night the Phillies clinched the NL East. There was a huge celebration

Rewind a little further, and before the Phils clinched, they were so dominant that things were almost boring. They were so far ahead of everyone else that there was absolutely no doubt that they would clinch the division and home field and it was a virtual impossibility for them not to clinch both.

It got to a point where the regular season games didn’t feel all that important…

There seems to be a collective groan among Phillies fans who are worried about the team. But here’s the thing: There is nothing to worry about. The Phils’ current rut should have no effect on their performance in the NLDS.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s that Michael Schwimer, Mike Stutes, and Justin De Fratus, the three headline members of the class of young, hard-throwing righties who will make up the bulk of next year’s bullpen, combined for four perfect innings to close out the game [game 2].

“The Phils’ current rut should have no effect on their performance in the NLDS”  — Wish I could believe that!  It’s inevitable that the other playoff teams will not be intimidated by Phillies aces and will see them as eminantly beatable, unless they re-establish a team-to-beat credibility.  For the Phils, it’s gonna take reestablishment of offensive presence.

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

On Sunday, ace Roy Halladay tries to put an end to the Phillies 8 game skid, but needs offensive help.   He opposes Mike Pelfrey who is 1-2 in 5 starts against the Phils in 2011.  The Phils then travel to Atlanta to play the final 3 games of the regular season on Monday through Wednesday against the Braves.  The Phils’ skid sets up a situation where these games could be big for both teams.  For the Phils, they will need to re-establish a team-to-beat mojo before the playoffs while these games may well be crucial for the Braves making the playoffs at all.   All of MLB’s playoff teams will then have at least 2 days off (Sept. 29 and 30) before the NLDS games begin.

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

Nationals Pound Oswalt in Eighth Inning, Sweep Phillies

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Pitiful, embarrassing — there have to be a ton of adjectives to describe the NL East division winning Phillies’ stale, flat-as-Israel-lafa offense of September which just got swept before our very eyes by… duh, the Washington Nationals.   Just as rookie teammate lefthander Tommy Milone did; a 4 hit six inning shutout in game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, so too did rookie Brad Peacock but 1 better — 5 2/3 innings of 1 hit shutout ball on Thursday.   The Phils collected just 4 hits total off of Peacock and 5 Nationals relievers and left 6 men stranded, 3 of them were catcher Carlos Ruiz who went 3 for 4 driving in 1st baseman John Mayberry Jr. with the Phils’ only run in the ninth.  Mayberry Jr. had poked a 2 out double preceding Ruiz.   Starter Roy Oswalt was solid through 7 2/3 innings keeping the Phils in the game, only giving up 2 two out runs in the third on shortstop Ian Desmond’s RBI double and rightfielder Roger Bernadina’s run-scoring single and a total of 4 hits through seven innings.  Bernadina has spelled trouble for the Phils throughout this series.  Oswalt got the first 2 outs of the eighth inning before the roof caved in with the Nationals scoring 4 runs, 1 on Bernadina’s double to right centerfield and leftfielder Michael Morse’s 3 run clout which broke the game open chasing Oswalt.   Reliever Brad Lidge came on and got the side out on a 3 pitch strikeout.   Rookie reliever Joe Savery came on in the ninth and went clean on the Nationals on 11 pitches, but the Phils had too-little, too-late once again, with 2 out in the ninth as the  Nationals pounded Oswalt in eighth inning of the series final enroute to a 6-1 win and Nationals sweep of the Phillies.

The Atlanta Braves had the day off, but saw their NL Wild Card lead increase to 2 games after the Mets rallied for 6 ninth inning runs to overtake the St. Louis Cardinals in their series final .   Both the Braves and Cardinals have 6 games left to play.

There’s little positive which can be said about this game, the Nationals’ series or over the span of the 6 game losing string.  The Phils had fallen into funks during the 2009 and 2010 season but had recovered.   But it’s a good thing that they were able to clinch first because this is the ugliest end of the regular season funk I’ve seen, in my lifetime, since the 1964 Phillies lost 10 straight and lost the NL pennant to the St. Louis Cardinals in the last couple of days of that season.

And I’ve got one huge question for Charlie Manuel, symptomatic of the Phils offensive woes;  What’s John Bowker doing pinch hitting in clutch situations, or starting in the outfield, or at 1st base, let alone on the Phillies roster?   He’s bleepin’ awful, the pits, not exactly Del Unser.  You have Domonic Brown on the bench, Chollie??  What goes?   He hasn’t had a hit in 11 at bats since joining the team.  And some of those at bats have been with runners on.  Heaven help us if Chollie puts him on the post-season roster.   Suffice to say that unless Manuel shakes and rallies the offensive troops NOW, it’s liable to be one-and-done and quickly in the NLDS, despite a starting pitching staff full of aces.   Charlie, it’s not enough for you to “think that they’ll hit.”  Not much more can be said.

For more of Wednesday’s lowlights, check the AP game recap for Yahoo sports.

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

On Friday, the Phils go on the road to play their final six games of the regular season; 3 games against the Mets before finishing with 3 inconsequential games with the NL East 2nd place Atlanta Braves.   Lefthander Cole Hamels hopes for some offensive support in Friday’s series opener as he tries to halt the Phils 6 game skid as well as a 2 game skid of his own.   Hamels is opposed by sinkerballer R.A. Dickey for the Mets.   On Saturday, Kyle Kendrick puts another pitch in for possible starting duty in the post-season as he’s opposed by Dillon Gee who was bombed for 8 runs in 3 1/3 innings in his previous start against the Phils.

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

Worley Pounded as Nationals Beat Phillies Again

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Phillies rookie Vance Worley had a rare rough outing giving up 4 runs on six hits, 2 of them homers, and walking 3 in six innings of work to lose his 1st game against the Washington Nationals.  The Phils’ season-worst losing string hit 5 on Wednesday.   Lefthander John Lannan won only his 2nd career game vs the Phillies as the Nationals scored 2 runs in the second inning, on catcher Wilson Ramos’ 2 out homer and 2 more in the sixth on 2nd baseman Danny Espinoza’s 1 out shot.   The Phils tied the game in their second inning on RBI singles by rightfielder Ben Francisco and Worley, but after the Nationals went ahead in the sixth, they scored 3 more in the eighth and the Phils couldn’t catch up.   The Phils had 10 hits off of Lannan and 4 Nationals relievers and had bases loaded with 1 out after the 2 second inning runs scored but came up empty.   They had 2 men on with 2 out in third as well but again came up with nothing as offense continued to be flat in the clutch.  Nationals’ lefthanded reliever Atahualpa Severino pitched 1/3 inning in the eighth giving up a 2 run shot to subbing 1st baseman John Mayberry Jr. after issuing a leadoff walk to 2nd baseman Chase Utley, but it was too litttle, too late.  Relievers Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo gave up 3 runs in the Nationals eighth as Worley was pounded and the Nationals beat the Phillies again, by 7-5 to win their 3rd game of the 4 game series.

The Atlanta Braves saw their NL Wild Card lead shrink to 1 1/2 games after being shut out by the Florida Marlins while the St. Louis Cardinals edged the Mets.   The Braves have 6 games left to play while the Cardinals have 7.

The Phils season-ending offensive drought and losing string can be summed up in one word — EMBARRASSING, for a team about which many felt 105 wins was a lock.   Mayberry Jr. and Ben Francisco were the ONLY bright spots in the Phils offense, each getting 3 hits with Mayberry Jr. scoring 3 runs and driving in 2 with his homer, and Francisco singling in a run.

The AP recap of Wednesday’s game for Yahoo sports notes:

The Phillies scored only three runs in the doubleheader defeat and have been shut out twice over the five-game losing streak. They’ve scored three runs or less 12 times in the last 14 games.

That kind of anemic run support will shift even more pressure to produce on the Lee-Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt postseason rotation. Even the so-called “Four Aces” need more than a run or two each start if the Phillies are going to win the World Series for the first time since 2008.

Philadelphia’s top four hitters— Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco, and Chase Utley—went 0 for 16.

“I’m concerned about it,” Manuel said. “At the same time, I’ve seen them hit. I think they’ll hit.”

And just as concerning as the offensive drought itself, if not more so; check out the Manuel quote above; ” I think they’ll hit.”   That doesn’t necessary evoke either player or fan confidence.

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

In Thursday’s final, the Phillies look to show signs of offensive life for Roy Oswalt, as they hope to avoid the embarrassment of a season’s final stretch sweep by the Nationals on Fan Appreciation Day.   Oswalt is opposed by rookie Brad Peacock who won his only MLB start, going five scoreless innings as part of a Nationals 2-0 shutout of the Mets on September 14th.    On Friday, the Phils go on the road to play their final six games of the regular season; 3 games against the Mets and before finishing the regular season with 3 inconsequential games with the Atlanta Braves.

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