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Cardinals Even Series, Beat Oswalt and Phillies on Freeze’s Homer and 4 RBIs

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The Phillies ripped St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson for 2 runs in the first inning on Jackson’s first 5 pitches on Wednesday before their bats went totally flat until the eighth inning.   The Cards came back with a run against  Roy Oswalt in their first on rightfielder Lance Berkman’s 2 out RBI double and took the lead on David Freese’s 1 out, 2 run RBI double in the fourth.   Freese later broke the game open against Oswalt with a sixth inning  2 out, 2 run homer to centerfield.  Meanwhile, Jackson cruised through the sixth inning as Phillies bats retreated into a shell with but 3 hitters reaching, 2 on singles and 1 via Jackson’s only walk.  They went down in order in the seventh before threatening in the eighth against reliever Fernando Salas on singles by pinch hitter Ross Gload and 2nd baseman Chase Utley.    The Phils 3rd and final run scored on a 1 out wild pitch by Salas.  However Utley was stranded at 2nd base as rightfielder Hunter Pence grounded out and 1st baseman Ryan Howard went down on strikes swinging.   The Phils went down in order meekly in the ninth as the Cardinals evened the series, beating Oswalt and Phillies by 5-3 on Freeze’s Homer and 4 RBIs.

In Wednesday’s only the other playoff game, the Arizona Diamondbacks tied up their series at 2 games apiece with the Milwaukee Brewers battering starter Randy Wolf early and often for 7 runs, including 3rd baseman  Ryan Roberts’ 1st inning Grand Slam followed back-to-back by Chris Young’s solo dinger enroute to a 10-6 win.

The only bright spots for Phillies, once their offense ran dry, were 2 excellent one inning relief efforts; an 8 pitch seventh for Joe Blanton and a 10 pitch eighth inning, including a strikeout for Brad Lidge as the last 6 Cards went down in order.

Beyond that, there was little to cheer about as the Phils’ flatter than Israeli lafa offense couldn’t bail Oswalt out after his 2 mistakes, although the game was still reachably close, even after Freese’s dinger.  AP’s game recap provides further notes on Wednesday’s game.

For all of Wednesday’s playoff results in both leagues, click here.

In Friday’s deciding game 5, ace Roy Halladay, who won game 1, is scheduled to oppose Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.

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

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Phillies Sweep Braves in Thirteen Innings, End Braves’ Wild Card Hopes

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

The Phillies gave Joe Blanton, and pretty much the rest of their bullpen, as well as lefthander Cole Hamels, as workout in Wednesday’s regular season finale, a meaningless match-up with the Atlanta Braves.  The Phils and Braves traded single runs in the first inning as Blanton again started the game going two innings.  Hamels went three innings and gave up a 2 run homer to Braves 2nd baseman Dan Uggla who slammed a 2 out third inning homer to put the Braves up 3-1.   The Braves got 3 hits in the third, one of the singles wiped out on a steal attempt.  Hamels then settled down giving up a leadoff single in the fourth before retiring the last six hitters he faced in a row.   Meanwhile, Tim Hudson cruised through six innings with the Brave holding their 3-1 lead.

The Phils finally got to Hudson in the seventh and ninth innings as leftfielder Raul Ibanez slammed a 1 out seventh inning double and came around to score on shortstop Jack Wilson’s fielding miscue on catcher Carlos Ruiz’s grounder.    That chased Hudson and began a parade of seven Braves’ relievers over the next seven innings.   The Phils tied the game in the ninth against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel after loading the bases with1 out on a single and 2 walks.  2nd baseman Chase Utley’s sacrifice fly drove in the tying run as Kimbrel, going for his 47th save, was charged with his 8th blown save and wore goat’s ears.  7 Phil relievers followed Hamels into the game and young September call-up Justin De Fratus was credited with his 1st MLB win while David Herndon notched his 1st save in the Braves thirteenth after rightfielder Hunter Pence came up clutch with runners on 1st and 3rd base with 2 out in the thirteenth lining an RBI single to rightfield for the winning run as the Phillies swept the Braves in thirteen Innings by 4-3 to end the Braves’ wild card hopes.

For the Phils, the win was their 102 of the season, an all-time franchise record.  Charlie Manuel (646-488) passed Gene Mauch to become the Phils’ all-time winningest manager.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides notes on Wednesday’s game.

With the Atlanta Braves being swept by the Phils and folding after holding a huge NL Wild Card lead, coupled with St. Louis Cardinals’ shutout routing of Houston, the Cardinals are now the NL Wild Card team as the division playoffs begin with the Phils facing the Cards in a best of 5 game series for one of the berths to play for the NL pennant.

The Phillies, Cardinals NL divisional playoffs begin on Saturday as ace Roy Halladay is opposed by Kyle Lohse in the opener of a best of 5 series to decide one of the berths for the NLCS.

For all of Wednesday’s scores and recaps throughout Major League Baseball, click here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Phillies Split With Cardinals, Ibanez’s Slam Clinches 5th Straight NL East Title

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Shane Victorino   Raul Ibanez   Phillies 2011 NL East Champs   Roy Oswalt
After losing Friday’s series opener to the St. Louis Cardinals in extra innings by 4-2 on flat offense despite another solid effort by rookie Vance Worley, the Phillies rebounded on Saturday as Roy Oswalt pitched a seven inning 5 hit shutout gem striking out 7 and walking none as leftfielder Raul Ibanez made sure the Phils clinched the NL East title with a Grand Slam amidst a 6 run eighth inning offensive awakening.   Up 3-0, having scored single runs in the first and fourth innings against losing pitcher Jake Westbrook and a sixth inning run against Kyle McClellan on centerfielder Shane Victorino’s solo homer, the Cards made the game temporarily tight with 2 runs on 4 hits in their eighth off of reliever Michael Stutes.   But then the Phils went to work on 3 Cardinal relievers in their eighth inning for 6 runs on 4 hits, a Cardinal fielding error and a hit batsman (2nd baseman Chase Utley, who else?) with the big blows being RBI singles by Victorino and rightfielder Hunter Pence and Ibanez’s 1-1 pitch Slam to rightfield enroute to a 9-2 win in game 2.   In the series opener, neither starter, Worley nor lefthander Jaime Garcia were involved in the final decision.  The Cards used 7 pitchers in both games, thus wearing down their bullpen, while the Phils used 6 hurlers in game 1 and 4 in game 2 as the Phillies split their first 2 games with the Cardinals with Ibanez’s Slam clinching the Phils’ 5th straight NL East title.With their split in their first 2 games with the St. Louis Cardinals and a 98-52 record with 12 games to play, the Phillies’ clinched their 5th consecutive NL East title by virtue of Atlanta’s loss in a rout on Friday to the  Mets.   The Braves remained 4 1/2 game ahead of St. Louis in the NL Wild Card race.   So far, the Phils are the only NL divsion leaders to have clinched.     The AL Central division leading Detroit Tigers also clinched on Saturday.

In Friday’s opener, the Cards threatened in the second inning as Worley gave up a single and walked 3, the last walk forcing in a run.  Things could have been much worse with 1 out, but Worley settled down getting a strikeout and coaxing a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning.  The Phillies answered in their second nearly chasing Garcia on back-to-back doubles and 4 straight hits.  But Worley struck out and Jimmy Rollins popped out to end the inning with the score knotted at 1-1.   The score remained tied until the eighth as Worley settled down going six and reliever David Herndon managed to extricate himself from a bunt single, wild pitch and 2 walk jam unscathed in the seventh.   Antonio Bastardo was not so lucky in the eighth inning.

With 1 out in the eighth, the Cards took a 2-1 lead as catcher Yadier Molina reached Bastardo on a 1-2 pitch driving it out to leftfield.  Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for the Phils and managed to close out the inning after 2 Cards reached with 2 out.  With 2 out in the bottom of the ninth, and reliever Jason Motte in the game, 1st baseman Ryan Howard slammed a 2-2 pitch to rightfield for a double.   Pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz got lucky on a drive to rightfield which was totally misplayed by defensive outfielder replacement Corey Patterson.  Michael Martinez, pinch running for Howard, scored on the play tying the game and Ruiz ended up at 2nd base where he was stranded when pinch hitter Ross Gload struck out as the game went into extra innings.  Closer Ryan Madson made short work of the Cards in the tenth before 2 walks and 3 hits, 2 of them doubles off of rookie reliever Michael Schwimmer, resulted in the 2 winning runs.   Then, rookie Cardinal closer Fernando Salas finished off the Phils in the eleventh for his 24th save.  Starter Kyle McClellan notched his 12th win, this one in relief as he went clean on the Phils in the tenth.   Schwimmer was charged with his 1st MLB loss.     AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides highlights of Friday’s game.

The Phillies Nation blog provides these thoughts on Saturday’s Phillies division-clinching game:

The final game score… does not quite tell the tale of the game. Roy Oswalt gave a solid performance striking out seven while walking none and allowing five hits and no runs over seven innings. If this was a playoff audition, he certainly passed the test.

But with a shutout going through the eighth, the Cardinals made it interesting with four consecutive singles off Michael Stutes to close the Phillies lead to 3-2. Brad Lidge rescued the inning and in the bottom frame, the Phils decided to take out some insurance.

With a few singles of their own and Raul Ibanez grand slam BOMB to right-field, the Phillies took a commanding 9-2 lead heading into the ninth. Ryan Madson came in for the save and the champagne started popping.

As… mentioned, this is the Phils 5th division title in as many years – and to be honest, they are getting easier – at least on the nerves. Remember sweating through Jamie Moyer’s starts on the final days, watching Brett Myers close out the game? Today, rather, the club is twelve games from the end of the season and the win was an easy one.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides additional coverage of Saturday’s division-clinching win.

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

On Sunday, lefthander Cole Hamels tries again for his 15th win as he is opposed by Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals.

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

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