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Halladay, Lee Shine as Nationals Beat Americans in 2nd Straight All Star Game

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Roy Halladay    Prince Fielder    Cliff Lee
Phillies ace Roy Halladay retired all 6 American leaguers he faced on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona and teammate lefthander Cliff Lee followed retiring the first 5 AL Stars he faced before Boston 1st baseman  Adrian Gonzalez reached him slamming a fourth inning solo shot to give the AL a short-lived 1-0 lead.   In the NL fourth, after DH Carlos Beltran and centerfielder Matt Kemp each singled to open the inning,  Milwaukee Brewers’ 1st baseman Prince Fielder slammed a long 3 run homer off of AL’s Texas Rangers’ lefthander C.J. Wilson which hit off the top stripe and bounced out to left centerfield close to bullpen and the 413 foot sign to put the NL up by 3-1.   The Nationals needed little more in making the lead stick the rest of the way.  The Nationals did pick up 2 insurance runs, 1 in the fifth as pinch hitter Andre Ethier singled in a run and in the seventh on 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval’s RBI ground-rule double as Halladay and Lee shined with the Nationals beating the Americans by 5-1 for their 2nd straight All Star Game Win.

Prince Fielder was awarded the MVP award for his rocket blast in a game which had two great plays.   After Gonzalez homered off of Lee with 2 out in the fourth, MLB homer leader rightfielder Jose Bautista and rightfielder Josh Hamilton followed with singles.  Washington’s reliever Tyler Clippard relieved Lee and was greeted by 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre’s single to leftfield.With Bautista trying to score from 2nd base on the play,  NL leftfielder Hunter Pence uncorked a strike toward home to catcher Brian McCann who, ball in hand, waited to apply the tag to the oncharging Bautista for the final out of the inning.  Clippard was credited with the win for the NL while C.J. Wilson was charged with the loss.

The other great play occurred in the sixth inning and also involved Jose Bautista.    Matt Kemp lofted a curving fly ball to rightfield which went foul, but Bautista made an incredible grab maintaining possession of the ball while sliding into the wall.

The MVP trophy awarded to Fielder was a glass bat and $40,000 from an insurance company which Fielder has designated for use in building a little league baseball field in Milwaukee.

The Nationals used 10 pitchers and 31 players all told, while the American League used 9 pitchers and 29 players total.

The AP game recap for Yahoo sports provides these additional notes: 

Boston right-hander Josh Beckett warmed up, then bowed out because of a sore knee. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera left after hurting the oblique muscle in his side while swinging.

A half-hour after the win, the Brewers announced they had acquired former All-Star closer  Francisco Rodriguez in a trade with the New York Mets.

San Diego closer Heath Bell sprinted from the bullpen with 2 outs in the eighth inning and slid across the grass, tearing up the infield turf just before the mound.   His one out, a pop out to rightfield.

For some lighter side All Star game action, check out these two YouTubes featuring Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson here and here.

According to MLB stipulations, the winning league in the All Star Game receive the home field advantage in the World Series, thus the NL will have the advantage for the 2nd year running.

The Phils don’t return to action until Friday when they oppose the Mets for 3 games over the weekend.   On Friday, young Vance Worley opposes R.A. Dickey who has given the Phils fits.  On Saturday, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Niese duel in a battle of lefthanders.

For all of Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s MLB action, click here, here and here.

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Phillies Unleash Offensive Fury to Pound Atlanta

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Raul Ibanez    Cole Hamels    Michael Martinez
The Phillies unleashed their offensive cannons on Atlanta Braves starter Derek Lowe and 2 relievers on Sunday scoring a season-high 14 runs and garnering 20 hits in the onslaught.   Lefthander Cole Hamels again looked like one of the Phillies staff aces after being staked to a 4-1 lead.   That was all Hamels really needed throwing 116 pitches while giving up 1 run on 3 hits through eight sterling innings.   But the Phils increased Hamels cushion by bombing rookie reliever Cory Gearrin for 6 seventh inning runs and pummelling  Scott Proctor for 4 more in the eighth.   Reliever Kyle Kendrick finished up shutting down the Braves on 7 pitches in the ninth inning.  Leftfielder Raul Ibanez had a huge game slamming a 2 run single and a 3 run homer driving in a total of 6 runs, while substitute 3rd baseman Michael Martinez went 4 for 5 and everyone in the lineup but catcher Carlos Ruiz (only 1 hit) had multiple hits as the Phillies unleashed their offensive fury to take the series final pounding Atlanta by 14-1.

With Sunday’s big offensive blow out win, the Phils take a 3 1/2 game lead in the Nl East over 2nd place Atlanta into All Star break.   The 3rd place Mets go into All Star break 11 back of the Phils and 1 game above .500 after losing to San Francisco.   4th place Washington is 11 1/2 back with an even .500 record after shutting out Colorado.

It hasn’t been very often over the last couple of seasons that the offense arrived at the same game as the pitching.  Usually, they post a couple/few runs and then hand it to their pitching staff of aces to carry them the rest of the way.  The formula has worked often with a staff of aces like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Hamels,  Roy Oswalt (on the DL) or Joe Blanton (on DL most of the season), rookie Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick, but not always or the Phillies’ wins total would be up in the 70s.

on July 11.  The Phillies Nation blog describes Sunday’s Phillies blowout of the Braves:

…The Phillies’ offense showed up on the same day as Cole Hamels. Hamels put together the third brilliant starting pitching performance of the weekend for the Phils, who took the rubber match from Atlanta… as a sellout crowd sent the Braves into the break with a mocking round of the Tomahawk Chop. Hamels allowed one run on only three hits and two walks in eight strong innings of work, setting down the last 13 Braves he faced. However, Hamels’ electrifying effort was somewhat unnecessary [augmented] as the Phillies tagged the Braves’… pitching staff for 14 runs and 20 hits, with every starting position player recording at least one base hit and scoring at least one run. The Braves struck first when Dan Uggla doubled and scored on a Ryan Howard error in the top of the second, but once Hamels got out of that inning, he’d only allow two baserunners for the rest of the game. Starting in the bottom of the second, the Phillies offense started battling back, throwing up 14 unanswered runs in support of their starting pitcher.  [Substitute centerfielder] John Mayberry tied it when the first of his three doubles scored Domonic Brown in the second. The Phils added two more in the third, helped by a Dan Uggla error, and another run in the fourth on a Jimmy Rollins single. The last two innings, however, saw 18 Phillies come to the plate and 10 more runs show up on the board.

The trio of shortstop Rollins, Mayberry Jr. and rightfielder Brown each had 3 hits to go along with Martinez’s 4 hits, while 2nd baseman Chase Utley, 1st baseman Howard and Ibanez each had 2 hits apiece.  Mayberry Jr. drove in 4 runs slamming 3 doubles.  Brown collected 2 RBIs.  Lowe was battered for 10 hits and 4 runs in six innings as the Braves fed 2 of their young bullpen hands to the wolves — which included 2 subs who carried hot bats in this series final.

The AP game recap for Yahoo sports provides more on the multitude of highlights from Sunday’s offensive outburst.

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

All Star break begins on Monday and the Phils don’t return to action until Friday when they oppose the Mets for 3 games over next weekend.

For all of Tuesday’s MLB  All Star game action, click here.

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Listless Phillies Offense Pounded by Giambi, Rockies

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Colorado Rockies’ veteran 1st baseman Jason Giambi clubbed 3 homers in his 1st 3 at bats on Thursday pounding 2 off of Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick in three innings, another off of Danys Baez in the fifth — his 3 dingers driving in all 7 of the Rockies’ runs.  Kendrick replaced Joe Blanton who was a last-minute scratch due to right elbow soreness.   But what stung even more was the continued impotence of the Phillies offense; this time their line was 1 fourth inning run, 5 hits off of Jhoulys Chacin as the listless Phillies offense was pounded by Giambi and the Rockies by a 7-1 score to split their mini-series.

Fortunately for the NL East-leading Phillies, both 2nd place Florida and 3rd place Atlanta lost.  The Phils thus maintained their 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 game leads over the Marlins and Braves respectively.

That Phillies boxscore is becoming all too unpleasantly familiar — 1 or 2 runs on 5 hits — all that their anemic offense seems capable of mustering game-after-game.  It’s testament to the caliber of their top 4 starters that their been able to win 26 of their 43 games to date.

Their sleepy offense deserves little credit.  The AP game recap for Yahoo sports tells the unhappy story of this one, with additional game commentary by me:

Giambi became the second-oldest player to hit three homers in a game and tied his career high with seven RBIs…

“It’s nice to contribute and get an opportunity to play,” said Giambi, who started at first base because Todd Helton had a stiff back. “It’s exciting, something you dream about.”

It was the third time in eight days that a big league player hit three homers in a game.  Carlos Beltran did it for the New York Mets last Thursday and Toronto slugger Jose Bautista accomplished the feat Sunday.

Giambi is the 12th Rockies player to homer three times in a game. Larry Walker was the last to do it on June 25, 2004, at Cleveland. Giambi has 419 career homers and 39 multihomer games.

“Giambi did most of the hitting. He did him in,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

When Giambi connected in the first to give the Rockies a 3-0 lead, the game was pretty much over. The NL East-leading Phillies have slumped terribly on offense. They have 10 runs and 28 hits in their last six games, going 1-5.

Giambi struck out against closer Ryan Madson with the tying run on second base to end Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss. But he looked like his old self in this one.

Before the game, Giambi made an adjustment with his stance and stood more upright.

“I just needed to get some at-bats,” he said.

On a night when it rained steadily early in the game, the highlight for Phillies fans came when pitcher Cliff Lee batted for Kendrick in the third. Lee got a loud ovation from the fans who remained in their seats. He was even cheered as walked back to the dugout after striking out.  Lee, off to a subpar 2-4 start, is the fan favorite… in Philadelphia.

The Phillies got their only run when Raul Ibanez hit a ground-rule double in the fourth.

Chacin retired the first 6 Phillies he faced before catcher Carlos Ruiz opened the third inning with a single to shallow leftfield.   Most of the Phils’ hits to the outfield seem to have been shallow of late as they seem to have difficulty making solid contact.   With 2 outs in the fourth inning, rightfielder Ross Gload struck out but reached on Chacin’s wild pitch.   Ibanez followed with his RBI double scoring 3rd baseman  Placido Polanco who had singled earlier.   The Phillies had the chance for more with Ibanez on 2nd and Gload on 3rd, but Ruiz popped out to left centerfield.  3 singles and a walk were all that the Phils could muster after the fourth against winning pitcher Chacin, who went seven innings, and 2 relievers.

Chacin struck out 9, as 7 of the 9 Phils in the starting lineup striking out at least once.  1st baseman Ryan Howard struck out twice and John Mayberry Jr. struck out pinch hitting for reliever Scott Mathieson in the seventh.

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

The Phils now open a 3 game Inter-league weekend series on Friday with the Texas Rangers.   In Friday’s opener, ace Roy Halladay is opposed by reliever turned starter, lefthander C.J. Wilson.   On Saturday, lefthander Cliff Lee, repeatedly victimized by lack of offensive support, is opposed by another former reliever turned starter in Colby Lewis.

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

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Dodgers Hall of Famer Duke Snider Passes Away

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Duke Snider   Duke Snider   Duke Snider

Former Brooklyn Dodgers’ centerfielder and Hall of Famer Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider died on February 27, 2011 at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif. of natural causes after an illness which lasted several months.

Snider wore the No. 4 in Dodger blue and, although a great hitter and fielder in his own right, was regarded as overshadowed in offensive and defensive prowess to the 2 other centerfielders in New York — Willie Mays of the  Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

The Duke was an integral part of the Dodgers’ lineup providing homers and RBIs with a repectable batting average from 1949 to 1957 along with his teammate 3rd baseman Gil Hodges.  With Snider and Hodges providing power and RBIs, the Brooklyn Dodgers won NL pennants and went to the World Series in 1949, 1952, 1955 and 1956 while narrowly missing out in the 1951 Pennant race on NY Giants’ 3rd baseman Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” walk-off 3 run homer in the decisive 3rd playoff game despite Brooklyn’s holding a double-digit lead in the NL standings at the beginning of September.   The Giants had gone 20-5 in September while the Dodgers struggled and were 14-13 down the September stretch to force the playoff.

Snider amassed 207 homers between 1953 and 1957 — at the peak of his career and clubbed 11 homers, drove in 26 runs, garnered 38 hits and posted a respectable .286 BA in the 6 World Series that he played in.   He pounded 4 homers each in both the 1952 and 1955 World Series.  He led the Dodgers their only Brooklyn World Championship in 1955 in defeating the Yankees by 4 games to 3.  Snider also played in the 1959 World Series with the L.A. Dodgers, getting 2 hits including a homer, as they defeated the Chicago White Sox.’s Marty Noble wrote this of The Duke:

…He was The Duke of Flatbush, the one guy with the regal nickname on a team identified as Dem Bums. And he was regarded on every street corner in the borough as superior to Mays and Mantle. Those flights to California after the Brooklyn seasons ended were a hurdle for some fans. And a few of Snider’s colleagues lived year-round in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn loved the Dodgers as Desi loved Lucy, as Ralph loved Alice … as mothers love their children. The borough didn’t always embrace Snider as much as it might have perhaps because he returned to his West Coast roots each autumn. Lord knows, he once left the team in New York and returned home in midseason for the birth of his child. Remarkably, that paternal act led to a demerit on his Brooklyn record.

Whatever his standing was in the borough, Snider said he enjoyed his time as Flatbush royalty. When the Mets staged a celebration of Snider at the Polo Grounds in 1963, he was moved to say: “The Mets are wonderful, but you can’t take the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.”

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Sniders’ hitting numbers and games played decreased markedly in the spacious L.A. Coliseum after having played his entire career to date in tiny Ebbets Field where a pop-up to rightfield could easily become a homer with the pole set 297 feet away.  He remained with the Dodgers until 1962 going to the Mets in 1963 and then to the Giants in 1964.  His BA plummeted to .243 in 129 games in 1963 and then to .210 in 91 games in 1964, his final year in MLB.  Snider finished his career with 407 homers, 1,333 RBIs, 2,116 hits and a lifetime .295 BA.

AP’s Ben Walker notes:

“Willie, Mickey, and the Duke,” goes the popular ballpark song, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

Snider wore No. 4 in Dodger blue and was often regarded as the third-best center fielder in New York—behind Mays of the Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

“Today, I feel that I have lost a dear friend,” Mays said in a statement. “He was a hero to the fans in Brooklyn and a great Dodger.”

To Snider, the rivalry with Mays and Mantle was made up.

“The newspapers compared Willie, Mickey and I, and that was their thing,” Snider said several years ago. “As a team, we competed with the Giants, and we faced the Yankees in the World Series. So we had a rivalry as a team, that was it. It was an honor to be compared to them, they were both great players.”

Mantle died in 1995 at age 63. Mays, now 79, threw out a ceremonial ball last fall before a playoff game in San Francisco.

“Willie, Duke and Mickey. They were great players in one city, one town. Duke never got the credit of being the outfielder that Mays and Mantle were,” former teammate Don Zimmer said Sunday. “But Duke was a great outfielder. He was a great player.”

Commissioner Bud Selig called Snider an “integral part of Dodger history” and part of an “unparalleled triumvirate of center fielders” in New York.

Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980 on his 11th try. He was a broadcaster for the Montreal Expos for several seasons—he played in the city as a minor leaguer in the Brooklyn farm system—and later was an announcer with the Dodgers.

“He had the grace and the abilities of [Joe] DiMaggio and Mays and, of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said. “Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant.”

During his playing career, Snider became an avocado farmer and lived many years in Fallbrook, Calif.

He is survived by his wife, Beverly, whom he married in 1947.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Zimmer lamented another Dodger gone.

“They’re all passing away,” he said. “There’s not many left.”

Duke Snider, gone at age 84.

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Utley, Ibanez Lead Phillies Over Yanks and to Game 6

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

    Cliff Lee    Chase Utley    Raul Ibanez

Phillies ace lefthander Cliff Lee pitched seven solid innings while Yankee starter A.J. Burnett was chased with none out in the third inning as the Phils piled up 6-1 and later 8-2 leads. 2nd baseman Chase Utley had another multi-homer series game driving in 4 runs and leftfielder Raul Ibanez doubled and solo homered.  The Yankees chased Lee with 3 runs in the eighth with the big blow being 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez’s 2 run double.  But Phillies relievers Chan Ho Park and Ryan Madson, despite ninth inning travails, made the deficit too much for the Yanks to overcome as Utley and Ibanez led the Phillies over Yanks by an 8-6 score bringing on a game 6 back in New York.

Lee cruised after giving up a first inning run retiring 10 of next 11 Yanks as the Phils rang 3 runs each in the first and third innings.  It seems to me that there must be some World Series records involved for a team who has had 3 instances of a player having multi-homer games as well as for a player who has multi-homered twice.  Utley did it in game 1 as well as this one and rightfielder Jayson Werth did in game 3.  At any rate, AP sports reporter Ronald Blum notes for Yahoo sports:

Utley hit a… three-run homer in the first inning off A.J. Burnett and added a solo shot in the seventh to join Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit five home runs in a single World Series.

The Phillies took control of this game early to force a trip back to the Bronx for game 6, and hopefully a game 7.

AP’s Blum recaps the game:

While the Phillies have outhomered the Yankees 10-5 in the Series, Ryan Howard is suffering a power outage. He went 0 for 2 with two walks and two strikeouts and is hitting .158 (3 for 19) with 12 strikeouts, tying the Series record set by Kansas City’s Willie Wilson in 1980.

New York scored in the first inning for the second straight game.  [Johnny] Damon singled to left-center and came home when Rodriguez doubled into the right-field corner with two outs. It was his franchise record 16th RBI of the postseason.

It took just eight pitches for Burnett to give up the lead, giving Phillies fans reason to wave those white rally towels.

Jimmy Rollins singled up the middle on the sixth pitch of his at-bat and, with Rollins running, [Shane] Victorino squared and was hit in the hand by a pitch. Utley put the next pitch into the right-field seats.

Burnett got in more trouble in the third, when he walked Utley and Ryan Howard, then gave up run-scoring singles to Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez that put Philadelphia ahead 5-1 and finished Burnett’s night. Carlos Ruiz added an RBI grounder against David Robertson.

New York made it 6-2 in the fifth, helped by a strange decision by Howard. Pinch-hitter Eric Hinskewho homered… in last year’s Series— walked with one out and took third on  [Derek] Jeter’s single. Damon hit a slow roller in front of first and Howard gloved it as Hinske held, then retreated to the bag for the putout as Hinske scored.

Utley… added a solo shot in the seventh.  Raul Ibanez set off fireworks from the Liberty Bell one last time, adding a second solo shot in the seventh off Phil Coke that made it 8-2.

Lee… settled in until A-Rod chased him with a two-run double in the eighth.  Robinson Cano drove in Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly, and New York gave Philadelphia a scare when Jorge Posada doubled and Hideki Matsui singled at the start of the ninth against Ryan Madson.

Derek Jeter hit into a run-scoring double play, Johnny Damon singled and Madson struck out slumping Mark Teixeira for the save.

For Lee, it was his 4th win in 5 post-season outings. He threw 112 pitches through the eighth inning giving up 2 runs on 4 hits through seven until being chased and charged with 3 eighth inning runs giving up a single and 2 doubles.  Madson, who was credited with his 1st save of the series to go along with his playoff win against Colorado, had a dicey ninth inning until coaxing Jeter to ground into a shortstop-to 2nd-to-1st base doubleplay on a 1-2 pitch and wasn’t yet home-free as Damon followed with a single and took 2nd base on fielders’ indifference.  But Madson fanned Teixeira on 5 pitches to end it, stranding Damon at 2nd base.

Girardi’s 3 day short-rest failed miserably in game 5 as losing pitcher Burnett was battered for 6 runs early retiring noone in the third.

The 2 teams have Tuesday as the venue shifts back to the Bronx for game 6 on Wednesday.  Pedro Martinez is slated to oppose lefthander Andy Pettitte who goes on 3 days rest, both pitching their 2nd games in this World Series.  In the event game 7 is necessary, the Yanks have slated lefthander C.C. Sabathia, again on short rest.  The Phils have yet to announce who their game 7 starting pitcher would be.

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Ice-Cold Phillies Lose Final to Pirates

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Phillies rookie-of-the-year candidate lefthander J.A. Happ provided another quality start on Thursday, although being tagged for a leadoff homer on his 3rd pitch of the game by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and for the winning 2 run homer in the eighth inning by rightfielder Garrett Jones.  1st baseman Ryan Howard plated a first inning run on a bases-loaded none-out fielder’s choice grounder and catcher Paul Bako belted a second inning 1 out solo homer but the Phils offense went into deep freeze continuing to struggle with runners on and failing to plate runners in scoring position.  They failed to capitalize 4 walks by Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton as the ice-cold Phillies lost their final to Pirates by a 3-2 score.

Having lost 2 of their 3 games with the Pirates, the Phils remained 7 games up in the NL East race as Atlanta and Florida jockey back and forth and are currently tied for 2nd place.  Atlanta nipped San Diego on Thursday while Florida was pounded by the Mets who are 16 1/2 games back in fourth place. 

While Happ gave up more than 2 runs for the first time in 6 starts, only one Buc reached 3rd and, only once in the game did the Pirates put 2 men on.  Happ was aided by good defense and 2 doubleplays.  The bottomline is, despite the AP game recap which demeaned Happ’s effort:

J.A. Happ looked like a rookie on the key pitch of the game and Garrett Jones didn’t

you cannot expect to win consistently without offensive support and the Phils’ offense has huffed and puffed but, aside from homers, has been unable to produce runs with men on throughout the series.  Even the best pitchers make an occasional mistake.  For the record, Happ has coughed up but 4 homers in his last 63 innings.

The AP recap noted further regarding Garrett Jones:

Jones has been quite a find for the Pirates after being cast off by the  Twins, hitting .291 while anchoring the middle of the order…  His 15 homers lead NL rookies and his 11 homers in July topped all major leaguers.

McCutchen’s leadoff homer was his 2nd homer of the series and Jones’ game-winning eighth inning homer was his 4th dinger against the Phils, the other 3 coming, 1 per game, in the 3 games series in Philadelphia in July just before All Star break.

Phillies Nations’ Amanda Orr describes a couple of Thusday’s Phillies’ missed scoring opportunities:

The Phillies had an excellent opportunity to knock around Charlie Morton right from the chute. The Phillies only had one run to show in a bases loaded, nobody out situation.  Ryan Howard’s RBI ground out put the Phillies on the board, but Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez each popped out to end the threat.  The Phillies added another run in the second inning on Paul Bako’s (2-2, 2 BB) homer.

With a struggling closer in Matt Capps, the Phillies had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the ninth.  Matt Stairs represented the go-ahead run, but he’d have to snap an 0-for-24 streak. The last time he had gotten a hit was on July 11, when he homered against Capps.  It wasn’t meant to be, because although he swung for the fences, he struck out.

Jimmy Rollins grounded out to end the game….  When the Phillies bats are hot, they’re on fire.  When they’re cold, they’re frozen.  The offense has been very streaky and they’ve become too reliant on the home run. 

Expecting to sweep, the Phillies learned they can not take the Pirates lightly. With the 3-2 loss, the Phillies now have a record of 9-13 at PNC Park since 2002.  The Phillies have a history of falling to bad teams, but they still have a comfortable lead in the division.’s David Murphy adds these comments on the loss:

History will hang the the Phillies’ 3-2 loss to the Pirates last night around the neck of rookie lefthander J.A. Happ, who surrendered a go-ahead two-run home run to Garrett Jones in the eighth inning.

But history – at least in the form of baseball box scores – can be misleading. For while Happ may have lost the battle of the Rookie of the Year candidates, allowing Jones and fellow first-year star Andrew McCutchen to blast home all three of the Pirates’ runs, the war might have been lost in the first inning, when the Phillies converted a bases-loaded, no-out situation against previously unimpressive righthander Charlie Morton into just one run.

“We didn’t hit,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We let him get away there in the first inning . . . We didn’t hit him.”

Happ’s line for the game; eight innings, 114 pitches, 3 runs (on the 2 homers), 7 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.  Opposing starter Charlie Morton pitched 5 innings throwing 106 pitches and didn’t figure in the final decision.  Pirates reliever Denny Bautista shut down the Phils in 2 perfect innings while striking out 2.  Clsoer Matt Capps was awarded the win for shutting down the Phillies on 1 hit in the ninth inning.

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

The Phils return home Friday for a 3 game series against the Atlanta Braves.  In Friday’s opener, Pedro Martinez opposes Tom Hanson who has won 5 of his last 7 starts.  On Saturday, ace lefthander Cliff Lee hopes to continue his undefeated string since joining the Phils.  Lee is opposed by  Derek Lowe who has been pounded in his last 2 outings.

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

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