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Phillies: Off-Season 2010 - 2011

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

After taking a long rest over the past 2 months since the Phillies’ season ended, it’s time to start talking about off-season events.

Tim Lincecum          Giants Win 2010 World Series         After 56 Years

Everyone knows that the Texas Rangers beat out the New York Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS and that the San Francisco Giants subsequently downed the Rangers in the 2010 World Series to emerge as MLB Champions.  For the Giants, it was their 1st World Series Title in 56 years, since 1954 when they swept the Cleveland Indians in 4 games.  The Giants had gone to the World Series two other times since moving to San Francisco, in 1962 when they lost by 4 games to 3 to the Yanks, losing game 7 by a 1-0 score as Giants slugger Willie McCovey slammed a liner snagged by Yanks 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson with a 2 out runner on 3rd base to nail down the title, and in 1989 when they were swept by one of their state rivals, the Oakland Athletics.

And I’m sure that all ML Baseball fans know by now that 3 icons of the sport passed away in the off-season, 2 of them  Hall of Famers.

Sparky Anderson                Sparky Anderson

Former Phillies 2nd baseman Sparky Anderson, who went on to lead the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 70’s to four World Series appearances, winning two Titles, and later leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Series Title in 1984, defeating the  San Diego Padres in 5 games.   Anderson passed away at 76 years old in Thousand Oaks, Calif. from what was reported to be complications of dementia.

Ron Santo              Ron Santo

Early this month, former Chicago Cubs great 3rd baseman, and later 21 year broadcasting veteran Ron Santo passed away in December in Arizona.  It was reported that Santo died from complications from bladder cancer.
Bob Feller              Bob Feller
In mid-December, Hall of Fame former pitching ace for the Cleveland Indians, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller passed away from acute leukemia at a hospice in Ohio.   Durring his Hall of Fame career, he amassed six 20 plus win seasons with the Indians and led them to two World Series appearances — in 1948 when they won the Title and in 1954 when they were swept by the then New York Giants.

Cliff Lee      Cliff Lee

Jayson Werth       Jayson Werth

Finally, all Phillies fans must know by now that rightfielder Jayson Werth went via free agency signing with the Washington Nationals for a reported $126 million over 7 years and that lefthander Cliff Lee, the hero of both the 2nd half of the Phillies 2009 season, as well as the post-season, has returned to the Phils, reportedly spurning more lucrative offers from the Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies’ friendly confines.  Lee reportedly signed a 5 year, $120 million deal with the Phils.  There will be more commentary on those major signings in subsequent posts.

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Uribe’s Homer Pushes Giants Past Punchless Phillies to NL Pennant

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

                         Giants

Massive 230 pound San Francisco shortstop Juan Uribe’s eighth inning 2 out homer off of Phillies reliever Ryan Madson broke a 2-2 tie and ruined a gutty six inning effort by starter Roy Oswalt.  Oswalt worked out of tough spots in the second inning, the third when the Giants scored twice, the fifth and the sixth innings and was twice aided on defense by ground doubleplays.  But the Phils offense struck for 2 second inning runs on 3 hits to take the early lead before going silent for the rest of the game for lack of clutch hitting and scoring.  Giants starter lefthander Jonathan Sanchez was pulled after a third inning near-altercation resulting from Sanchez’s hitting 2nd baseman Chase Utley with a pitch.  The Giants used 5 relievers including an attempt to bridge ace Tim Lincecum in the eighth to get to closer Brian Wilson.   Lincecum struck out rightfielder Jason Werth but gave up shallow singles to centerfielder Shane Victorino and leftfielder  Raul Ibanez.  Wilson was rushed in and catcher Carlos Ruiz’s liner found it’s way into 1st baseman Aubrey Huff’s glove (rather than down the rightfield line for extra-bases and Phillies runs) for an inning-ending doubleplay.  Wilson then had a dicey ninth inning walking 2 Phillies while getting 2 groundouts.  But 1st baseman Ryan Howard stood looking at a knee-high 3rd strike slider as Uribe’s homer pushed the Giants past the punchless Phillies to the NL Pennant.

Outfielder Cody Ross, who terrorized the Phils early by hitting 3 solo homers, 3 doubles while collecting 7 hits and driving in 5 runs, was selected as MVP for the series.

The Phils had trouble jelling on offense throughout the playoffs.  Over all, through the season, they showed incredible, almost miraculous heart while suffering through some horrendous shutout strings.  Yet, with a regular starting lineup scarcely together for any length of time this season, they still went on to win 97 games, lead MLB in wins for the first time in franchise history and win a 4th consecutive NL East division title.

General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s late season acquisition of Roy Oswalt, to go along with ace Roy Halladay and fine lefthander Cole Hamels, sealed the regular season for a Phillies team which won the NL East going away.

The bats of Chase Utley went totally cold in the off-season, while Ryan Howard hit for average against the Giants yet struck out a ton and was totally absent in the clutch as epitomized by the embarrassment of staring at that game 6 ninth inning 3rd strike slider to end the game and the series.

Well, I guess I’ll jsut have to suffer and hang my head in shame before all of those local Yankee fan kids who have been saying that “the Phillies are goin’ down”?  But yes, there is some solace here.  The Yankees went down in 6 games too.

Wonder what World Series game 1 will be like with Lincecum facing the  Texas Rangers ace lefthander Cliff Lee…

It is the proverbial day-after and I am trying to put game 6 and the lost 2010 NL pennant into perspective.  There are a couple of comprehensive AP recaps and analysis for Yahoo here and here as well as a fine day-after piece on the Phillies Nation blog which begin to do just that. There will be more to say about the 2010 season after the dust settles.

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Phillies Beat Giants in Nail-Biter, NLCS Returns to Philly

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

    Shane Victorino  Roy Halladay  Ryan Madson

                      Brad Lidge       Jayson Werth

Phillies ace Roy Halladay labored through a 108 pitch, 2 run, 6 hit six inning outing after suffering a pulled groin in the second inning, but still bested San Francisco’s ace Tim Lincecum in the rematch of their game 1 pairing.  The Giants scored single runs in the first and fourth innings but the Phils plated a 3 spot off of Lincecum in the third, with 2 of the runs scoring on a fielding error as centerfielder Shane Victorino’s hard grounder hit off the bottom of 1st baseman Aubrey Huff’s glove and bounded into centerfield.  Halladay fought his way out of tight spots in the fifth and sixth innings clinging to the narrow 3-2 lead.  Then the Phils bullpen took over in the seventh inning locking down the Giants allowing them but 1 hit over the final three innings.  Ryan Madson impressed striking out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth inning while closer Brad LIdge took 10 pitches to go clean on the Giants in the ninth.  Rightfielder Jayson Werth added an insurance run leading off the Phillies ninth by slamming a homer on a 2-1 pitch from Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez as the Phillies beat the Giants in a nail-biter sending the NLCS back to Philly with the Giants still up by 3 games to 2.

The Giants opened in the first inning against Halladay with a walk and a single which put runners at the corners.  Number 3 hitter Huff lined out to 1st base but rookie catcher Buster Posey grounded into a fielder’s choice with the 1st run scoring.  Halladay ended the inning by striking out former Phil leftfielder Pat Burrell looking on a pitch which Pat ‘the bat’ took issue with.

Meanwhile, Lincecum retired the first 6 Phils’ hitters in a row before leftfielder Raul Ibanez singled to right centerfield to lead off the third.  Then Lincecum hit catcher Carlos Ruiz to put 2 runners on.  Halladay sacrifice bunted moving both runners up a base.  Victorino then reached on Huff’s fielding error with both Ibanez and Ruiz scoring and the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” taking 2nd base.  3rd baseman Placido Polanco followed with an RBI single plating Victorino with the 3rd run.  The Phils could have had more as 2nd baseman Chase Utley singled to center moving Polanco to 3rd base.  But Lincecum struck out 1st baseman Ryan Howard for the 1st of 3 times Howard struck out in an 0-4 collar for the game.  For Howard, it was the 9th time he’s been struck out in the NLCS.  Werth ended the inning by flying out to leftfield.

With the Phils up 3-1 after three innings, Burrell and troublesome hot-hitting rightfielder Cody Ross slammed back-to-back doubles in the fourth as the Giants narrowed the lead to 3-2.  From there, Halladay worked out of fifth and sixth inning jams enroute to walking 2, striking out 5 and clinging to that 1 run lead for dear life, as did Phillies’ relievers.

With the series returning to Philadelphia for game 6, and hopefully a game 7, the AP recap for Yahoo sports provides background on another pitching rematch:

[Lefthander] Jonathan Sanchez starts for the Giants against  Roy Oswalt, who is 10-0 in 12 starts in Philly this year. Oswalt was the loser in relief in Game 4.

Philadelphia will try to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Red Sox were the last to do it, in the 2007 ALCS against Cleveland.

If the Phils are able to beat the Giants in game 6, it would bring about a 3rd rematch for game 7 with lefthander Cole Hamels opposed by Matt Cain at Citizen’s Bank Park.  Hamels was narrowly defeated in game 3 in San Francisco as the Giants shut out the Phils by 3-0.

To view the Championship series games in both leagues on Friday and Saturday, click here and here.

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Phillies Lose Games 3, 4 to Giants on Shutout, 9th Inning Sacrifice RBI

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Phillies starter Joe Blanton did his job in Wednesday’s game 4 holding the  San Francisco Giants’ to 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings as the Phils offense finally got to 22 year old Madison Bumgarner for 4 fifth inning runs.  The Phils had been shut out for thirteen straight innings.  Blanton left with a 4-3 lead as centerfielder Shane Victorino, 3rd baseman Placido Polanco drilled RBI hits with Polanco scoring on a wild pitch by reliever Santiago Casilla.

However, reliever Chad Durbin choked in the sixth inning giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks with the big blow being a none out 2 run double by 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval to give the Giants a 5-4 lead.  The Phils tied the game in the eighth inning as 1st baseman Ryan Howard and rightfielder Jayson Werth slammed none out back doubles against Giant relievers Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo with Howard scoring the tying run.  

But with the score knotted at 5-5, Phils manager Charlie Manuel may have made the flub of the series.  Manuel inserted starter Roy Oswalt to pitch the ninth inning when he had Brad Lidge, Kyle Kendrick and J.C. Romero all waiting in bullpen.  

Oswalt got the 1st out when 2nd baseman Freddie Sanchez lined out to rightfield on a 2-2 pitch.   1st baseman Aubrey Huff lined Oswalt’s next offering for a single to rightfield.  Catcher Buster Posey, who went 4 for 5 for the game with 2 RBIs, followed by lining a 1-2 pitch (including 4 foul balls) for a single to rightfield with Huff taking 3rd base as Werth slid to stop the ball to prevent Huff from scoring on what could have been an extra-base hit.  Massive 230 pound shortstop Juan Uribe followed by driving Oswalt’s 1-2 pitch to leftfield for a sacrifice fly RBI as the the Giants nipped the Phillies by a 6-5 score when Ben Francisco apparently had no chance to throw out the sliding Huff.

Manager Manuel may have flubbed the game in a few ways by inserting Oswalt to pitch the ninth inning.  Firstly, one must wonder if Lidge or Kendrick could have been more effective in the situation.  If, as several outlets, including the AP recap for Yahoo, have cited Manuel;

this was his club’s biggest game yet this year

why didn’t he go with his closer??  Secondly, by throwing Oswalt into a game which he lost in the ninth, did he retrospectively burn Oswalt as a starter in a possible game when he has ace Roy Halladay going in game 5 Did the move betray a lack of faith in the team? 

The entire Phils starting lineup each got a hit with Polanco collecting a single and a double and both Howard and Werth both doubling.  But the offense continues to perform abysmally, particularly Chase Utley who has gone 2 for 17 and is hitting .183 for the NLCS vs a career .278 average in the 2008 and 2009 NLCS. 

******************

On Tuesday, Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels and Giants’ starter Matt Cain dueled over six innings with Cain gaining the edge when the Phils offense failed to show up for game 3 of the NLCS as the series changed venue to San Francisco. 

The 2 starters traded zeros across the board for two inings until catcher  Carlos Ruiz’s 1 out single in the third.  Cain followed by hitting centerfielder Shane Victorino putting runners on 1st and 2nd base but the Phils failed to score.  The Phils had other scoring opportunites in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings but failed to push anything home.  The put 2 runners on in the fourth and seventh innings and Victorino walked and stole 2nd base in the fifth.  Meanwhile, San Francisco notched 2 runs in the fourth and another in the fifth as outfielder Cody Ross continued hitting and driving in runs against the Phils, this time with a fourth inning RBI single to break the 0-0 deadlock and sending leftfielder Pat Burrell, who had walked, to 3rd base.  Another single drove in Burrell, and the 3rd Giants run scored on a 2 out fifth inning fielding error by 2nd baseman Chase Utley following a leadoff double by former Phils centerfielder Aaron Rowand.  Cain gave up 2 hits while walking 3, hitting a batter and striking out 5 in seven innings as the Giants shut out the Phils by a 3-0 score to take a 2 games to 1 lead in the NLCS.

Hamels pitched well giving up 3 runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8 on 101 pitches through six innings before being lifted with 2 outs in the seventh inning for pinch hitter Ross Gload who walked with a runner on.  But Victorino grounded out to end the inning.

The bottomline was that Hamels pitched well enough to win but got no support from the on-again, off-again Phillies lineup.  2 Giant relievers followed Cain to shut down the punchless Phils offense over the final two innings.  The big bats in the Phils lineup: Utley, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and rightfielder Jayson Werth went a collective 1 for 11 — Howard’s fourth inning single, walking once and striking out 3 times.   Leftfielder Raul Ibanez also struck out twice while taking an 0 for 4 collar.

To read more about the loss and the Phillies moribund offense in game 3,  click here for the AP game recap for Yahoo.

And so, the Phils, who were once again way short on offense and falling by strikeout 11 times to Giant pitching for the game, fall to a 3 game to 1 deficit setting up what is THE GAME of the Phillies season in game 5 on Thursday with ace Roy Halladay rematched against Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum.  Will the Phils offense come to life in the BIG GAME to force a game 6 and hopefully a game 7, or will I have to hang my head in shame before all of the local Yankee fan kids who have been saying that “the Phillies are goin’ down”?

To view the scores of Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s league championship playoff games, click here, here and here.

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The Phillies and Giants Split First 2 NLCS Games

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Roy Oswalt Cody Ross Jimmy Rollins

Phillies ace Roy Halladay fell a bit from the lofty heights of his post-season no-hitter in his duel with Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum. Halladay gave up 4 runs on Saturday, 2 of them on solo homers while Lincecum, who also was masterful in his first post-season start, didn’t fare much better giving up 3 Phillies runs on a solo shot and a 2 run homer. The Giants bullpen held off the Phils in the final two innings striking out 5 as the Giants nipped the Phillies by a 4-3 score in game 1 of the NLCS.

Pesky San Francisco outfielder Cody Ross, who burned the Phils in the past while with the Florida Marlins, solved Halladay with a 1 out solo shot in the third inning after “Doc” had retired the 1st seven Giants he faced in order. After catcher Carlos Ruiz returned favor leading off the Phils third inning with a solo shot, Ross returned with a 1 out fifth inning encore solo shot off of Halladay to put the Giants up by 2-1.

With 2 outs and a runner on 1st base in the sixth inning, Halladay thought that he was out of the inning having struck out former Phil leftfielder Pat Burrell. But the home-plate umpire called the pitch a ball. Burrell nailed Halladay’s next offering to leftfield for an RBI double. Burrell left for a pinch-runner and shortstop Juan Uribe followed with an RBI single and the Giants were up by 4-1.

But in the bottom of the sixth, the Phils drew close as 2nd baseman Chase Utley singled and rightfielder Jayson Werth went park on Lincecum with a 2 run shot.

The Phils flubbed additional scoring chances against Lincecum in the second and third innings. 1st baseman Ryan HowardShane VictorinoPlacido Polanco led off the second inning with a leftfield double. But Lincecum recorded a strikeout, pop-out and a fly out to end the inning. After Ruiz homered to tie the score at 1-1 leading off the third, Halladay followed with a single to leftfield before being wiped out as Lincecum coaxed centerfielder into a doubleplay grounder. 3rd baseman followed with a double to leftfield and Utley was walked. Both Polanco and Utley moved up a base on a passed ball but Lincecum struck out Howard to end the threat.

Both Halladay and Lincecum went seven full innings with Lincecum getting slightly the better of things in earning his 2nd post-season win. Halladay threw 105 pitches giving up 8 hits, including the 2 homers, walking none and striking out 7 while taking the loss. Lincecum threw 114 pitches giving up 6 hits, including the 2 homers, while walking 3 and striking out 8.

Giant relievers retired 6 of the final 7 Phillies hitters, 5 by way of strikeouts to end the game. Meanwhile, reliever Ryan Madson went clean on Frisco tossing a 9 pitch eighth inning before closer Brad Lidge did his best Mitch Williams impression loading the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batsman before recording a strikeout and a fly out to end a dicey ninth inning.

*************

In Sunday’s NLCS game 2, San Francisco lefthander Jonathan Sanchez beat himself early issuing 3 first inning walks and falling victim to a fielding error which loaded the bases. The last of the walks, to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, forced in the first Phils run.

Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt retired 13 of the first 14 Giants hitters he faced, only issuing a walk, until outfielder Cody Ross slammed his 3rd solo homer in 2 games, with 1 out in the fifth inning, to tie the score at 1-1.

Shane Victorino doubled in the 2nd run in the Phils’ fifth and Oswalt helped his own cause with a leadoff single in the seventh to kick off a 4 run rally as the Phillies rebounded to take NLCS game 2 by a 6-1 score over the Giants to knot the series at 1 game apiece.

After Ross’s game-tying homer in the Giants’ fifth inning, the Phils came back in their half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead as Shane Victorino led off with a leftfield double. He advanced to 3rd base on Chase Utley’s fly out and scored on Placido Polanco sacrifice fly. Oswalt made the lead stand up although the Phils added 4 more insurance runs in the seventh inning. The other Roy helped his own cause with a leadoff single to centerfield chasing losing pitcher Sanchez. Reliever Ramon Ramirez and 2 other Giants relievers melted down as the Phils went up by 6-1.

After Victorino sacrificed bunted Oswalt to 2nd base and Utley was intentionally walked, he (Oswalt) scored on Polanco’s single to centerfield. With Ryan Howard up, Utley and Polanco worked a double-steal putting runners at 2nd and 3rd. Werth was intentionally walked bring up Jimmy Rollins. Rollins cleared the bases with a 3 run double giving him 4 RBIs for the game. Leftfielder Raul Ibanez lined out to end the inning.

Oswalt completed eight full innings throwing 111 pitches while walking 3 and striking out 9 to earn his first post-season win. Reliever Ryan Madson took over in the ninth and gave up a single and a walk while getting Cody Ross on a 3rd strike looking and getting shortstop Edgar Renteria to ground out to end the game.

The two teams have Monday off as the series changes venue to San Francisco for the next 3 games. In Tuesday’s game 3, Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels is opposed by Matt Cain for the Giants.

To view the scores of Friday’s and Saturday’s and Sunday’s league championship playoff games, click here, here and here.

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Hamels Shuts Out Reds as Phillies Sweep NLDS

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

          Cole Hamels      Cole Hamels      Chase Utley

Lefthander Cole Hamels pitched a masterful 5 hit shutout complete game on Sunday striking out 9 as a 2 on, 2 out first inning throwing error by  Cincinnati shortstop Orlando Cabrera resulted in a Phillies run.  That was all the margin that Hamels needed.  2nd baseman Chase Utley belted a 2 out fifth inning solo homer off of Reds’ starter Edinson Volquez to provide an insurance run as Hamels shut out the Reds by a 2-0 score as Phillies swept their NLDS.

Hamels was dominant never allowing more than 1 Red to reach base in an inning while throwing a 119 pitch complete game and will now sit until a week from Tuesday as the NLCS opens in Philadelphia on Saturday.  At one stretch between the fourth and eighth innings, Hamels retired 14 of 15 hitters.

Utley’s fifth inning homer resulted in a dispute with the umpiring call which was resolved by instant replay.  The AP game recap for Yahoo describes:

Utley… connected against Johnny Cueto in the fifth, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his 10th career postseason homer, moving him past teammate Jayson Werth and into first place on the club’s career list.

Umpires reviewed Utley’s drive to right-center to see if a fan interfered with the ball, but the replays were conclusive and the call was quickly upheld.

“I knew I hit it OK,” Utley said. “I hit a ball in the first inning I thought I hit better than that one, but lucky for us, the weather is still warm and it’s a good hitters’ ballpark.”

The recap also describes Hamels’ ninth inning:

Hamels got Joey Votto to ground into a double play after  Brandon Phillips’ leadoff single in the ninth, then struck out  Scott Rolen to end the game. The lanky left-hander threw 119 pitches in his first postseason complete game, 82 for strikes.

The Phillies will play the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS as the Giants nipped the Atlanta Braves on Monday to win the NLDS by 3 games to 1.  This now sets up what promises to be an epic matchup between Phils ace and 21 game winner Roy Halladay and Giants ace and 16 game winner  Tim Lincecum.  If Charlie Manuel sticks to the 3 man rotation, then the likely Phils starter on Sunday will be Roy Oswalt, with Hamels going next Tuesday as Monday is a travel day.

In the American League, the Yankees clinched their ALCS spot and we are waiting to see whether they face Tampa Bay or the Texas Rangers.  That series is deadlocked at 2 games apiece with the deciding game on Tuesday.

To view the scores of Sunday’s, Monday’s and Tuesday’s playoff games,  click here, here and here.

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