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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.

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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.

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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.

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Moribund Phillies Offense Falls to Nationals in Doubleheader Sweep

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

The offensively bone-cold Phillies extended their losing string to 4, their season worst and were humbled by 2 mediocre pitchers who on Tuesday took on the appearances of Giant-killers, make that Phillies killers.  In game 1, Rookie lefthander Tommy Milone, originally slated to start in nightcap, dueled evenly with Kyle Kendrick, with both throwing up goose-eggs for six innings.   But Kendrick, at 79 pitches through six innings was replaced by Michael Schwimmer in the seventh and the Nationals went right after him with two 1 out singles putting runners at the corners.   After getting the 2nd out on a fielder’s choice grounder and a play at the plate, rightfielder Roger Bernadina picked on Schwimmer’s 2-0 pitch slamming a 3 run shot to rightfield to put the Nationals up 3-0.   The Phils showed brief signs of life in their seventh on none out back-to-back singles followed by pinch hitter Raul Ibanez’s 3 run game-tying blast to rightfield after falling behind 0-2 to reliever Tyler Clippard.    The Phils muffed game-winning opportunities in both the ninth inning, loading the bases with 1 out, and in the tenth when recently called up catcher Erik Kratz opened the inning with a double, but was left stranded along with 12 other Phillie runners for the game.   The Nationals notched the winning run in their tenth inning as pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman followed 2 Michael Stutes with an RBI single to centerfield.   In game 2,    lefthander Ross Detwiler totally befuddled the moribund Phillies offense holding them scoreless and to 3 hits over 7 1/3 innings to win his 3rd game of the season while his All Star lefthanded counterpart Cliff Lee suffered through a rare sub-par outing.  As written previously, stars like Lee or Roy Halladay, need offensive support to have the luxury of overcoming an occassional mistake.   Well Lee made a mistake — a second inning solo homer to 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa, and gave up a total of 11 hits in a 120 pitch, seven inning, 9 strikeout performance which included Detwiler’s 2 out RBI single in the sixth and former Phil Jayson Werth’s seventh inning leadoff double.   Werth scored the final run on an errant pick-off throw by catcher Carlos Ruiz.  Two Nationals relievers followed Detwiler by going clean on the Phils in the eighth and ninth with closer Drew Storen notching his 40th save as the moribund Phillies offense fell to Nationals by  4-3 and 3-0 in a doubleheader sweep.

The Atlanta Braves maintained their 2 1/2 game lead in the NL Wild Card race after shutting out the Florida Marlins while the St. Louis Cardinals kept pace in the race by rallying to beat the Mets.

Kendrick worked another gem over six innings in game 1, his 6th such performance in his last 7 outings in a starting role.   But the Phils could do nothing with rookie lefthander Milone.   How Charlie (manager Charlie Manuel) could pull Kendrick after merely 79 pitches is beyond me, particularly when he knows that the best that can be said for the Phils offense is that it is sputtering, and that recent call-up Schwimmer had bombed out in his previous such situation.

Ibanez’s homer came off of Clippard with 2 of the 3 runs being charged to reliever Doug Slaten who gave up the preceding hits.

In game 2, the score could have been much worse with the 11 hits which Lee gave up — testament to Lee’s ability to keep the Phils in the game.  But, as with Milone in game 1, Detwiler took on the look of an All Star seemingly dominating the Phils while holding them to a mere 3 hits.  He walked 1.

Young relief call-up Justin De Fratus tossed his 2nd effective inning in 2 opportunities going clean on the Nationals on 8 pitches in the eighth inning of game 2.

AP’s game recaps of both games for Yahoo sports can be found here and here for the masochists among you.

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

The Phillies look to show signs of offensive life and to get back to winning ways in Wednesday’s game 3 as rookie Vance Worley, 2-0 against the Nationals this season and 3-0 career, tries again for his 12th win opposing lefthander John Lannan was shelled by the Phils in his 2 August starts against them and is 1-3 this season and 1-12 lifetime against them.

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

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Lohse Bests Halladay as Cardinals Edge Phillies to Win Series

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Pitchers need to have the luxury of an occassional mistake, which comes with offensive support — that which the Phillies have had problems with recently, as well as at various points throughout the season.  The  Cardinals hit the scoreboard for a duce off of Roy Halladay in the first inning on a leadoff double, a passed ball and a ground out driving in the 1st run.  Then, leftfielder Lance Berkman slammed a 2 out solo shot putting the Cards up by 2-0.   The Phils came back with a second inning run on catcher Carlos Ruiz’s 2 out RBI single after 3rd baseman Placido Polanco singled and went to 2nd base on a Cardinal fielding error by 2nd baseman Nick Punto on 1st baseman Ross Gload’s grounder.  Despite getting 7 hits off of Kyle Lohse, who went seven innings while throwing 112 pitches and striking out 5 to win his 14th game, the Phils could put nothing else on the board through eight innings.   Meanwhile, Lohse helped his own cause with a third inning double and scored on Berkman’s single to make the score 3-1.  1st baseman Albert Pujols doubled in the Cards’ 4th run in the seventh.   The Phils offense finally awakened in the ninth inning with 2 outs to score 2 runs against relievers Jason Motte and Arthur Rhodes.  But it was too little, too late as Octavio Dotel came on to notch his 2nd save getting rightfielder Hunter Pence to ground out to 3rd base on a 1-2 pitch to end it as Lohse bested Halladay and the Cardinals edged the Phillies 4-3 to win their series by 3 games to 1.

The Cardinals’ win over the Phils coupled with another Atlanta loss, this time to the Florida Marlins, cut the Braves’ lead over the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card race to 2 1/2 games.    With the Milwaukee Brewers losing to the Chicago Cubs 5-2, the good news from Monday is that the Phillies clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, despite Monday’s loss.   And, if they reach the World Series, they will have home field advantage there too, by virtue of the NL’s All Star win.

How far can great pitching take you?  The Phils may have reached the limit of stretching that envelope of great pitching as their flat offense drifted off to la-la land in yet another game.   They better pump some new life into the offense that we thought would take off with the addition of what we thought was the missing piece — Hunter Pence.   But, once again, for the 3 game of this 4 game series, Cardinal pitching, this time Kyle Lohse, man-handled the Phils’ offense while ace Roy Halladay was a little off from what we’re accustomed to expect walking an uncharacteristic 4 hitters.

With Cards leading 3-1, having scored their 3rd run on Berkman’s RBI single to left centerfield, the Phils had their one real opportunity, in the third inning, to chase Lohse.   With 1 out in the third, centerfielder Shane Victorino singled to rightfield.  2nd baseman Chase Utley reached on shortstop Rafael Furcal’s fielding error, with Victorino advancing to 2nd base.  Pence then singled to leftfield to load the sacks.   But then Lohse struck out both leftfielder Raul Ibanez and Polanco to end the threat and the inning.

AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides more lowlights of Monday’s fiasco.

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

There is no rest for the weary Phillies offense as the Washington Nationals come to town for 4 games, including a Tuesday doubleheader.    In game 1, Kyle Kendrick is opposed by lefthander Ross Detwiler.   In the nightcap, 2 lefties go as Cliff Lee goes for his 17th win opposed by recent call-up Tommy Milone who notched his 1st MLB win in his last start.

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

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Carpenter, Cardinals Shut Out Phillies

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels suffered through his 2nd rough outing in a row on Sunday.   Although he seems to have substantially cut down his homer vulnerability (from 26 in 2010 to 17 in 2011), he’s given up 7 dingers over his last twenty-eight innings over 4 starts.   On Sunday, he gave up a first inning 1 out 2 run dinger to St. Louis Cardinals’ 1st baseman Albert Pujols and a sixth inning 2 run shot to 2nd year utility outfielder Allen Craig.  Craig later added insult to injury by capping the Cards scoring with an eighth inning 1 out solo shot off of Joe Blanton in his (Blanton’s) 2nd appearance since returning to the active roster after nearly 4 months on the DL.   Hamels tossed seven innings, throwing 91 pitches and giving up the 4 runs on 7 hits while striking out 9 and walking none.  But the homers killed him. as they have in his last few starts.   And with everyone on the Phils offense not named Chase Utley taking the day off after clinching the division title, Cards starter Chris Carpenter tossed an eight inning 8 hitter striking out 5 for his 10th win.  Hamel’s record is now 14-9 as Carpenter and the Cardinals shut out the Phillies by a 5-0 score in the 3rd game of their 4 game series.

With the Phils having clinched the NL East division title on Saturday, the only remaining noise is about how many games over 100 wins that the Phils will finish with, whether the San Francisco Giants will catch the  Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and whether the St. Louis Cardinals will catch the Atlanta Braves for the NL Wildcard berth.  The Cardinals win over the Phils coupled with another Braves loss to the Mets reduced Atlanta’s lead in the Wild Card race to 3 1/2 games.

Some interesting recent stats on the Phillies’ often slumbering offense.  So far in September, they are 12-7.   But in their last 10 games, they are 5-5.  Over their last 9 games, they’ve scored but 23 runs in 85 innings. an average of 2.5 runs oer game.   These are testament to great pitching, particularly Roy Halladay,Cliff Lee and rookie Vance Worley.

Blanton pitched the eighth inning giving up Craig’s second homer of the game.  Then recent call-up Justin De Fratus saw his first MLB action putting down the Cardinals on 13 pitches in the ninth inning, only walking 1.

Check out Carpenter’s ground ball/fly ball ratio — 15-6 — to get an idea of just how listless the Phils offense was on Sunday.  AP’s game recap for Yahoo sports provides more lowlights on Sunday’s game.

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

In Monday’s series final, the Phils hope to earn a split of the 4 game series and an even split of the season series with the Cardinals.   Ace Roy Halladay goes for his 19th win and is opposed by Kyle Lohse who gave up 4 runs in his only other 2011 start against the Phils, a 4-0 shutout loss to Cliff Lee on June 22.

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

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