Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trouble Brewing

Don Newcombe threw a...er...wait a minute....

Oh, that wasn't Don Newcombe last night? Hiroki Kuroda? OK, let's try that again.

Hiroki Kuroda threw no-hit ball for nearly eight innings last night before Shane Victorino spoiled his effort with the Phils' lone hit of the night as the Phightins wasted another good outing from a starting pitcher in losing to the Dodgers 3-0. Combined with Atlanta's win over the Mets, the loss dropped the Phils three games behind the Braves.

There's no use crying over lack of offense; they are what they are. But, hey, I even used my Beerleaguer mug two days in a row to no avail. I can take a weak offense, but when my magic talisman doesn't help I know the Phils are in deep trouble.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hitless Wonders

It's a good thing the Phils pulled off their improbable sweep of San Diego in California because the Braves are starting to resemble one of those miracle teams, not unlike the Phillies of the past few years.

The rule of thumb is take care of business because you can't control what the other guy does and yesterday the Phillies in general and Cole Hamels in particular did just that. Hamels has suffered the fourth worst run support in the league so he went out there yet again and threw a marvelous game. It wasn't long ago this observer was lamenting Hamels' inconsistency and immaturity, but I'm here to tell you I was dead wrong. Hamels has become the pitcher we hoped he would become.

And it's a good thing because the Phillies still aren't hitting. They managed seventeen hits in 30 innings over the weekend, hardly the stuff of legends let alone pennant winners. They got all of three hits on Saturday and only five hits yesterday. Chase Utley continues to struggle as his average has dropped another 12 points since he came off the DL. I am beginning to have that sinking feeling that Utley's intensity, for which we all justifiably admire him, is taking its toll.

Tonight the Phils move into Los Angeles, where they've had success the last few seasons. If they can take two of the next four games -- 3 against LA and one a makeup in Colorado -- they will have had an excellent road trip that will help erase some but not all of the sting of losing four straight to Houston at home. That horrible series marked the low point of the season and may yet come back to haunt the Phillies.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Go Figure

What an absolutely maddening team.

Two days after being swept at home by the Houston Astros, the Phillies took their second straight game from NL West leader San Diego at PETCO Park. What's more, they won yesterday while only managing three hits, two by Shane Victorino.

So, the Phillies continue to slump badly at the bat but have taken two of the first three games on their Western road swing. As in game one, they got excellent starting pitching and efficient relief pitching without any late inning meltdowns.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard continue to produce virtually nothing. Utley's slump following his long layoff is really something of a continuation from his decline prior to the thumb injury. He still looks uncomfortable at the plate. Howard, who was batting for average if not power prior to his injury, looks as lost at the plate these days as he ever has.

Outstanding starting pitching is clearly holding the fort. Without looking at the hard offensive numbers, it's clear the Phils' runs per game average is way down. It isn't the way anyone expected this team to play, but, then, they have confounded us since the season got underway.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Excuse

Charlie Manuel has been getting a boatload of passes here and elsewhere but not this morning. His decision to lift a dominating Roy Oswalt in favor of Brad Lidge last night nearly cost the Phillies a hard-earned win.

Lidge came into the game leading 2-1 and proceeded to give up a single, intentional walk, hit batter and then to cap off the adventure a balk to let in the tying run. Only Jimmy Rollins astonishing slide in the 13th inning on a base hit by Placido Polanco saved the night.

Whatever confidence Lidge had restored in his previous outings was erased last night with his poor performance. But the real issue is that he shouldn't have been in the game in the first place. Oswalt was in full control and unless he walked into the dugout after the eighth inning and told Charlie he was cooked there is no good reason for having lifted him.

The Phils win coupled with another Braves lost cut Atlanta's lead in the division to 2 games. The win also marked another fine outing from a Phillies starter not named Kendrick.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Et Tu, Placido?

The ignominy of the Astros' four game sweep of the Phillies won't be eased any time soon.

This was the first time the Phillies had been swept in a four game series at Citizens Bank Park since they took up residence. They chose to do it against an Astros team that could best be described as mediocre through and through.

In three of the four games the Phillies received starting pitching more than adequate to have won. In the fourth game, however, their starter threw batting practice. In none of the four games did they receive adequate offense or base running. Jayson Werth continued to make a case for worst base runner among starting position players in the National League, getting picked off second base to kill a potential rally one night and making an ill-considered dash for home in the fifth inning of yesterday's game on a short fly to right. Werth was thrown out for the third out of the inning.

Kyle Kendrick, the starter and loser in yesterday's game, might have numbers that are within the norm for fifth starters around the league but the truth is he gives his team no reason to expect he can win every time out. Yes, the last part of that sentence might fly in the face of the first part, but I'd be willing to bet if you could get an honest answer out of his teammates, they'd say to a man that every time this guy takes the hill they don't hold out much hope. He's over his head against most big league hitters.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard continue to struggle since returning to the lineup. Utley, at least, stung the ball hard yesterday and may be coming out of his funk, but one game isn't an adequate sample. He does seem to be swinging over a lot of breaking balls.

Howard seems to have little or no clue of the strike zone at the this point. Earlier in the season he gave every indication he did, so I am willing to grant his weeks on the Disabled List screwed up his timing and plate discipline. That said, the Phils don't have the luxury of waiting for him to find what he lost. On the other hand, they aren't about to sit him in favor of Mike Sweeney or Ross Gload. He's famous for carrying a team in September, so he'd better get his mojo back quickly!

Shane Victorino has been in quite a funk, too. For a switch hitter he's woefully overmatched from one side. He ought to consider batting one way for a while. Jimmy Rollins is on a pace to see his offensive numbers decline for a third straight year. The site of Jimmy hitting a pop fly and looking down in disgust has become all too familiar. If anything, he's regressed in his already tenuous plate discipline. It's long past the time when Jimmy resembled a prototypical lead off man and long past the time that his free swinging habits compensated for his lack of on base percentages.

Even Placido Polanco's one day atop the leader board for batting average seems a long time ago as he, too, has struggled at the plate.

Ben Francisco got picked off third base the other day, hardly encouraging his manager to give him another start.

Domonic Brown has been buried by his manager, reduced to coming off the bench, a job that even veterans have difficulty performing well. He isn't going to learn the pitchers seeing them every third day.

Speaking of all of this offensive ineptitude, the Phillies owe a public apology to Milt Thompson, the unfortunate victim when one had to be found to pay for the team's batting woes. Greg Gross hasn't proved to have any answers either, but, then, hitting coaches rarely if ever do with the possible exception of the late, great Charlie Lau.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm glad I wasn't on the flight to San Diego.

Matching Losses Step For Step

Another night, another pick off. The new symbol of the Phils' futility.

I get tired of writing about the lack of hitting, especially of the clutch variety. And I get disgusted at the number of pick offs of any variety.

The Phils have dropped three straight to the heretofore lowly Houston Astros, who came in here and out pitched, out hit and out lasted the locals.

There isn't much more to analyze. Oh, sure, we could talk about all kinds of decisions made nor not made, but when the Phillies aren't hitting nothing else, especially good pitching, is going to matter. You can't win when you can't score. Doesn't take much insight to arrive at that conclusion.

The only good news is the Braves have dropped three straight to Colorado including an epic collapse yesterday when leading by a ton of runs. All that got the Phils was a chance to stand still rather than fall further behind.

Sooner or later, one of these two teams is going to win again. The good news is that this afternoon, the Phils get the first chance to be that team. The bad news is they're putting the ball in Kyle Kendrick's hands.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not A Real Contender

For every breakout game for the Phillies' offense there are five nights like last night's woeful sixteen inning debacle. Two runs in sixteen innings after scoring two runs the night before. All of us can make a big deal over finally having the expected starting eight in the lineup, but the truth is the fill-ins hit just as well...or as poorly depending upon your perspective.

Cole Hamels was the victim of the Phils offense against last night, making one mistake to Carlos Lee. Jimmy Rollins' two out ninth inning solo home run tied the score and got Hamels off the hook for this loss, which would have been the lefty's fourth straight defeat. In three of those games he yielded a total of four runs. He's going to have to pitch shutout ball going forward just to stay even.

The evening was low-lighted by the usual failure to hit with men in scoring position and by Ryan Howard's ejection in the 14th inning for arguing vociferously over a checked-swing third strike. Howard may have been right about the call, but in every other respect he was an idiot. That was not the time to get tossed, especially when the Phils had to use Roy Oswalt as both a left-fielder and final batter of the evening. Regrettably, Howard cannot put together a consistent approach at the plate. By this point in his career one would hope he would know the strike zone. He doesn't. Unless the pitcher makes a mistake, Howard will oblige by making a few of his own.

Let's not blame this one entirely on Howard, however. Utley hasn't hit since his return. Shane Victorino has become the next best thing to an automatic out from the left side of the plate. Jayson Werth gets picked off second base to kill rallies. Jimmy Rollins, home run notwithstanding, is seeing a decline in his production for three straight seasons now.

The real shame, of course, is that the starting pitching has been terrific except every other time Kyle Kendrick takes the ball.

The awful truth is this is not a playoff team. Only the inconsistency of the other contenders allows them to stay close.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Let's get something straight, sports fans, the Phillies didn't lose last night because the umpire blew the call at first base. In fact, Howard missed the tag and from replays and recitations from the rule book, it appeared Michael Bourn was safe. No, the Phillies lost for a couple of legitimate reasons:

1. Jayson Werth is a horse's ass. The guy routinely gets picked off but last night was a classic. He gets picked off on an intentional walk. They should send his brain to the Hall of Fame for that one, but you know they won't find it. He killed yet another rally though everyone knows this team can't hit in the clutch anyway. Shane Victorino killed a few rallies last night, too. I've said it before: Werth is batting the ugliest .301 I've ever seen. For every hit he gets (almost always NOT when runners are in scoring position) he offsets the plus with his colossal stupidity on the base paths. The guy is plain dumb!

2. This team cannot bunt. Their best bunter is a pitcher they just acquired. Wilson Valdez couldn't get down a bunt in the eighth inning, but that was only the latest failure. By comparison, Houston won last night because they have multiple position players who can bunt.

Enough on last night's inexcusable loss.

* * * * * * * *

Roger Clemens was indicted for lying to the Congress of the United States not for using PED's, so in no way should he be viewed as the fall guy for the entire steroid era. Instead, he's just a dumb schmuck who got caught lying to an institution that has made an art of lying to everyone else. That alone should be sufficient reason to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

* * * * * * * *

The news out of Pittsburgh that the Pirates made money in 2007 & 2008 despite losing badly on the field should come as no surprise; nor is it reason for concern even though they have continued to stink in 2009 and 2010, at least not for everyone exept real baseball fans in the Steel City. The Pirates' ownership determined that it could make money from a variety of sources not dependent on the standings including revenue sharing, television, dumping salaries, trading players eligible for arbitration, refusing to sign players who could help even if they cost market rates, etc.. That's the American way. Free enterprise. Screw you if you don't like how we run our business. We're happy.

Oh, and when they get ready to unload the franchise on someone else, they'll make an even bigger profit. Meanwhile, though I don't have the data available to me, I'll bet the owners didn't have to put up much of their own money to build PNC Park.

* * * * * * * *

Stephen Strasburg's second arm injury in less than a month has the coddlers vs. the old-schoolers out in droves. For every pitching coach, GM and manager who says bring him along slowly, there are those who say pitchers are too coddled these days. It's hard to imagine how Strasburg's particular miseries could reinforce either side but fear not, they will.

Still Paying Dividends

Roy Oswalt continues to pay dividends as the Phils completed a weekend series with Washington by winning 6-0. The victory gave the Phils a 3-3 record vs. the Nats in their away and home series of the past few weeks. Ain't nothin' easy when it comes to playing Washington these days.

The taciturn Mississippi native must have felt in his element in steamy Citizens Bank Park yesterday as he pitched seven shutout innings before giving way to a nearly two hour rain delay and the bullpen. The win was Oswalt's third straight in a Phillies uniform after an opening loss attributed to many things other than skill. Ruben Amaro has made a lot of deals involving pitchers since taking over in Philadelphia. On balance, his record looks pretty good though the Cliff Lee deal will always be considered very ill-advised, especially when one looks at the performances on and off the field by the three "prospects" the Phils acquired.

Since Oswalt arrived, the Phillies have won 9 of the 13 games started by their top three hurlers and two of those losses were 1-0 defeats behind hard-luck Cole Hamels. With the hitters still lacking any consistency, pitching remains the key to winning a post-season spot. The Phils hold a two game lead over San Francisco and St. Louis for the Wild Card and still trail the Braves by 2.5 games.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So Much For Reunions

The Phillies celebrated the reunion of their multi-million dollar infield last night by nearly laying a goose egg. So much for reunions!

Ryan Howard was the final holdout preventing the Phils from fielding their starting infield before he came off the disabled list earlier in the day to join Chase Utley, recently un-disabled, Jimmy Rollins, previously disabled (twice) and Placido Polanco, long-ago disabled. Frankly, all of them more or less look disabled last night against Nats phenom Stephen Strasburg and the bullpen, getting two hits among the foursome.

Strasburg was the real highlight of the evening but even here their was major disappointment and alarm as he left the game after four plus innings with a strained forearm ligament. This would be the second injury Strasburg has sustained since joining the big club in mid-season and raises all sorts of alarms for Washington. The Nats are counting on Strasburg to be the cornerstone of their pitching staff for years to come and he is already headed for the sidelines for the second time in a month and possibly the Disabled List.

While he was healthy last night Strasburg lived up to all the hype. The kid throws a 91 mph changeup for god's sake and a knee-bending curve to go along with his 95 - 100 mph fastball. There oughta' be a law. Let's hope he remains healthy because he is fun to watch...as long as you aren't standing 60 feet six inches away with a stick in your hand.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kendrick showed again why he is strictly an emergency fill-in pitcher. I don't care how many good games he has thrown; they have all been neutralized by the stinkers he's also thrown including last night.

By losing their third game in their last five against the cellar-dwelling Nats, the Phils blew a chance to close to within 1.5 games of the Braves, who lost to the Cubs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Winning when you don't have your best stuff is considered the true measure of a great pitcher. Last night Roy Halladay was a great pitcher. Of course he's been a great pitcher most of this season and throughout his career, but last night's victory was one to savor because he worked out of several jams, yielded plenty of hits, balked and still departed after seven innings of shutout ball.

Good thing, too, because those Bravos are starting to pull off a lot of last at-bats wins and don't appear to be going away. They remind me of the Phillies of the last few seasons though without the same offensive fire power. The Braves have pitching, though, and enough hitting to support it.

Meanwhile, the Phils closest rivals for the Wild Card are going head-to-head in St. Louis. Let's hope they beat each other up.

The Phils finally face Stephen Strasburg tonight. One of the two known Kyle Kendricks will oppose him.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Filled To Capacity And Then Some

As the Phillies played and lost last night before their 100th consecutive sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park, it occurred to me how much had changed in the ways the fans and players perceived this team.

Those of us old enough to have endured the lean years in the '80's and '90's when the Phillies called the Vet home, and there are plenty of us and plenty of those years to choose from, will recall a cavernous, rarely full stadium patrolled by largely mediocre players. Sure, there were two World Series teams sprinkled in those two decades, but for every winner there were a half dozen losers.

The Vet was one of those multipurpose stadiums built around the country in the '70's. Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh were among the most prominent. Baseball and football fields could be fit within each so naturally, they were round monstrosities possessing absolutely no charm to say nothing of distinguishing marks. No Green Monsters or short porches. Perish the thought! And last but not least, they had artificial surfaces. At the time they must have seemed like a great idea in the way that so-called "maintenance-free" products always seem like a great idea until, lo and behold, they fall apart.

Today, of course, each of these cities has a stadium dedicated to each sport replete with natural grass. The multipurpose stadium has gone the way of the dodo...thank goodness. Their relatively short time on earth a cautionary tale about being all things to all people.

It was always easy to get a ticket to at the Vet except for a World Series or All Star game. Now, of course, a Phillies ticket is the hottest one in town. Every night, for a hundred straight games, more people than the officially listed capacity, fill the seats, aisles, walkways and standup counters.

During the '80's and '90's and into the early part of this century, players didn't want to come to Philadelphia. When Citizens Bank Park opened, pitchers in particular avoided coming here because of its bandbox reputation. Now, all of that has changed. Players want to come to Philadelphia. Look at Roy Halladay. Winning improves every outlook, of course, and the Phillies have been winning the last several years. Players want to come to be a part of winning, but when a player comes to Philadelphia these days, invariably one of the first things he mentions is the atmosphere. Playing before full houses. The electricity in the air. Yes, they say, the fans are tough but only when they want you to play up to your potential. Tough but loyal. Tough but knowledgeable. The boorish fan the national media has portrayed can be found in many other ballparks including in alleged laid-back LA, but when those rowdy types are rooting for you, that's a different story!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

As Goes Jimmy....

The Phillies have spotted San Francisco an opening inning lead on two successive nights and then stormed back to win in convincing fashion. In doing so they've opened a two game margin over the Giants in the Wild Card race. The Braves continue to win as well, maintaining a 2.5 game lead over the Phils.

For the second consecutive night the groans were audible as on Tuesday Roy Oswalt and on Wednesday Joe Blanton served up long home runs in the first frame. With Blanton the sounds were accompanied by more than a few "here we go again" ( know I said it aloud a few times), but like his new teammate, Kentucky Joe settled down and pitched well.

Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Jimmy Rollins and a rehabilitated Chase Utley, happy to be combining up the middle again, led the Phils offensively. They weren't alone. Chooch, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez also played key roles. Jimmy, however, was the star, nearly hitting for the cycle, running wild and shining in the spotlight like only Jimmy can.

After the game, several players uttered the now customary "as goes Jimmy so go the Phillies" line.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


If you think Pat Burrell had a sense of the dramatic last night he didn't have anything on the Phillies who mounted a comeback to smote the visiting Giants 9-3 and take a full game lead in the Wild Card race. There's still plenty of time, folks.

Burrell received a standing ovation from the home crowd on his first trip to the Bank as a visiting player and promptly smashed a long home run off of Roy Oswalt. Burrell, who departed two years ago when the Phillies didn't re-sign him, was never a favorite of this fan, his erratic hitting, mediocre defense and stand-offish persona unappealing. A lot of folks here remember him fondly, however, and greeted him accordingly. Two things always struck me about Burrell the batter. When he homered, he dropped the bat and took off on his home run trot without the styling common today. And when he struck out, he grabbed the bat, moved across the plate to the dugout without any show of emotion. That summed up Burrell, who according to many accounts was hardly the retiring type off the field.

The Phils looked like they were in for a long night against lefty Barry Zito, who had them lunging and flailing at his slow curve for the first four innings. In the fifth, however, they got to him and knotted the score. In the sixth they took the lead and chased him from the game. The Giants climbed to within a run in the seventh when newly acquired Jose Guillen homered off of Oswalt, but in the eighth the wheels fell off the Giants wagon as the Phils scored five runs to put the game away. Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth inning of relief and Chad Durbin came in for the ninth to finish the game. Brad Lidge had been warming in the bottom of the eighth until the Phils put the game out of reach and precluded a save situation.

The game was also marked by the return of Chase Utley, who failed to reach base in five AB's but whose presence in the lineup was otherwise incalculable. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chooch and Placido Polanco were the batting heroes with Polly going 4-5 to raise his average to .325, best in the NL by one hundredth of a percentage point over the Reds' Joey Votto.

When Ryan Howard returns the Phils will sport an unusual look: all of their projected opening day starters back in the lineup for the same time in nearly two months. If I recall correctly, Tom McCarthy said last night the opening day lineup was only together for something like seven or eight games thus far this season.

That is drama!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's common to hear players speak of the importance of every game at this time of year. We'll ignore for the moment the notion that previous games counted less and indulge this notion.

To be sure, the next three games do count a lot since they involve head-to-head meetings between the two teams currently tied for the Wild Card lead. The last time the Phillies met the Giants was in San Francisco, where they were lucky to escape with one victory in three tries. Many believe they owed that lone win to Giants' skipper Bruce Bochy's ill-advised lifting of starter Tim Lincecum. Ironically, it was the last time Lincecum was the his old dominant self. Since then, he's struggled, so naturally the Phils won't see him in this series.

These next three days will come down to which team blinks first. The Phils will be sending two of their top three pitchers against the Giants whose offense is currently led by former Phil Pat Burrell. The Phillies had hoped to have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back for the series. Only Utley has a chance to play and there are still some questions whether or not he will be available. Howard, on the other hand, is definitely out for the series.

If Roy Oswalt can get the Phils off to a good start this evening, the momentum will clearly belong to the home team. They're going to need it because the Atlanta Braves keep pulling off late inning heroics and don't look like they are going away.

Players are also fond of saying this kind of pennant race is what they dream of. For veterans Oswalt and Mike Sweeney in particular, they can make their dreams come true.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Odd Season

The good Kyle Kendrick showed up last night albeit against a Mets team that looks as though it has thrown in the towel. Kendrick pitched very effectively and Ryan Madson, back in his more comfortable set up role, and Brad Lidge, who has rediscovered his slider, completed the effort as the Phils took 2 of 3 in New York to keep pace with division-leading Atlanta and move into a virtual tie for the Wild Card lead with San Francisco. With the Giants coming to town for a three game set beginning Tuesday things should get very interesting.

The Mets loaded their lineup with left-handed bats, the standard practice against Kendrick, and got virtually no production out of all of them. Meanwhile, the Phils manufactured enough runs for the win with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino providing most of the punch on the base paths and at the plate. We haven't seen that duo do enough table-setting this season so their performances last night were welcome.

It's interesting to note at this juncture of the season that the Phils are scoring far fewer runs via the long ball than in previous years. Between Ryan Howard's lower home run totals and current absence and Chase Utley's extended absence, two of the biggest guns are not hitting the ball out of the park as in previous seasons. On top of that, Raul Ibanez had a horrible first half compared to his torrid first half in 2009 (replete with huge power numbers) and after a potent streak since the All Star Game, his production has fallen off dramatically. Jayson Werth's power numbers are also down as are Jimmy Rollins'. That's a lot of long balls off the books. Still, the Phils are among the league leaders in overall runs produced.

It has been such an odd season for many reasons The injuries, of course, have had the biggest impact, but several other areas are also affecting outcomes. The running game, for instance, is not up to recent standards either. Rollins and Utley contributed substantially to those totals and have missed a lot of time. Victorino has missed some time and is erratic on the base paths. Werth is an unreliable base runner, especially when he's simply taking a lead.

The bullpen has been variously awful and adequate but rarely dependable. The middle innings have been especially troubling the second half of the season.

Through it all, the Phils have managed to stay in the hunt, a tribute in part to their resilience and experience and to...well...what exactly? Overall balance in the league? General mediocrity? Hard to say, but here we are at the middle of August and the Phillies are well positioned to make a run for the post-season if they get their regulars back and if those returning regulars can jump right in and contribute.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

All Hail The ROI

Roy Halladay put an end to the Phillies' frustrations at Citi Field last night, pitching and batting them to a 4-0 victory.

Halladay threw eight shutout innings during which he was rarely in trouble and stroked a single en route to scoring what turned out to be the first and winning run. Prior to last night's win the Phils had been shut out in all four games they'd played in Queens. It's worth noting that during the current series Phils' pitching has only allowed one run in eighteen innings. More feast or famine.

Halladay has met or exceeded all the expectations that accompanied him to Philadelphia last off season. His 15-8 record could easily include a few more wins given the poor run support he's received on occasion. He's thrown a perfect game. He leads the league in innings pitched, has the third best ERA among starters, and is among the leaders in shutouts and strikeouts. Oh, and he's a stopper, perhaps the most important contribution to a team that is struggling to remain in the pennant race despite all the injuries to starting players.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Feast Or Famine

One measly night after pounding a succession of good Dodger hurlers in a dramatic comeback win, the Phils wasted another outstanding performance from Cole Hamels in succumbing to the Mets 1-0. It was the Phils' second straight 1-0 loss with Hamels on the mound. Clearly, Cole, you are going to have to pitch no-hit ball if you want to win again this season.

Facing knuckle baller R.A. Dickey for the third time this season and second time in a week, the Phils showed all the patience and plate discipline of an Arizona Fall League team. The only hit of the game? By Cole Hamels, naturally. The message was, you had to pitch no-hit ball, Cole, not get the only hit!!

Dickey has been pretty successful this year but the Phils made him out to be Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield all rolled into one.

While everyone including yours truly are focused on the back end of the rotation and the entire relief corps, it is the offense that has consistently failed to perform consistently. In the Spring I and nearly everyone else on the planet predicted the Phils' juggernaut offense would overcome some obvious shortcomings on the mound. Naturally, all of us assumed the juggernaut would have the services of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino throughout the season. Still, the truth of it is most of these guys have been together sufficient time and they still deliver get shut out or shut down frequently. This was the fourth straight time the Phils were shutout by the Mets in New York over the last few months.

Four games without scoring a run against a struggling team with one bonafide ace, who, incidentally, they never faced in any of these outings.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crushing Victory

Somewhere in Los Angeles this morning, a 62 year old man is sitting at the breakfast table with his wife reading the sports section and muttering over and over again, "crushing defeat". I know. I've been there.

Being the East Coast equivalent of our blubbering fan in La La Land, I was already asleep when the Phils mounted their miracle comeback. I awoke to headlines that said, "Phils Stun Dodgers". Well, they stunned me, too!

Is this to be the proverbial game on which the season turned? Could be. One thing is certain, the Phils were dead in the water going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Joe Blanton produced his usual awful outing. Opportunities were wasted. Middle relief poured can after can of flammable liquid on the burning fire. By the middle of the eighth inning the Phils trailed 9-2 and most sensible people in the stadium, of all ages, were heading for the exits.

Before this series began I worried about Kendrick and Blanton, with good reason it turned out. The Phils are not yet at the point of Spahn and Sain and pray for rain, but they are at the stage where only three of their starters can be counted on. I guess we should be grateful.

The last but not only hero of the evening was Carlos Ruiz who delivered the game-winning hit. Could not happen to a nicer guy. Everyone in the Delaware Valley has been falling all over himself praising Chooch, and every few nights he shows us just why we love the guy. Accounts of his touching second base as the winning run scored and then heading straight for the outfield, not the dugout, as he saw a thundering herd of some sort of two-legged, red pinstriped species coming his way, made me laugh out loud. If anything, Chooch ain't that fast and the herd ran him down in short order.

What a night!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oswalt Talks

Roy Oswalt paid his first dividend as a Phillie last night and just in the nick of time. Many observers urged we forget the pasting of the night before and, sure enough, they were right! The Dodgers went from world beaters to egg beaters in 24 hours.

Oswalt was in command from the get go. After the game, the taciturn Mississippi native allowed that pitching in front of a sell out Phillies crowd, 21st century variety, beats pitching in front of a paltry Houston crowd. That's as loquacious as Roy is going to get. Come to think of it, guys named Roy aren't exactly going to replace Shane Victorino or Jimmy Rollins on the Phillies talk circuit, but who cares if they pitch well?

The victory wasn't without its latest injury. Ross Gload, who has filled in at first base admirably, came up limping on a double and had to leave the game. It doesn't matter what Charlie Manuel's initial report was ("doesn't look too serious") because when it comes to health matters, Charlie doesn't know best.

The rubber game comes tonight.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I was afraid of this.

Everything seemed ripe for an old-fashioned whipping and the Los Angeles Dodgers obliged last night, crushing the Phils 15-9. To those who say "it was only one game" I reply, "yeah, but it exposed nearly all of the Phillies' weaknesses">

Kyle Kendrick was dreadful. Antonio Bastardo was ineffective. David Herndon was terrible. Danys Baez probably pitched himself off the roster. J.C. Romero appears to be cooked. It's hard to find much consolation in any of those performances.

The Dodgers have come to town before and smoked the Phils. Fortunately, the hometown boys get their bad games against LA out of their system before the post-season, but if yesterday indicated anything, and it did, it was that the Phillies bullpen isn't effective and the back of the rotation is always an accident waiting to happen.

The return of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino might overcome some of those deficiencies, but probably not enough. If the Phils cannot overtake the Braves, and there is still time, their chances of making the post season are poor because the Wild Card seems to be even further out of reach with at least two good teams, St. Louis or Cincinnati and San Francisco, standing in the way.

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Domonic Brown made the looming decision for the Phillies alleged brain trust more difficult by going 2-4 and stroking his first major league home run. If it comes down to keeping him over the 13th pitcher, there seems to be little argument for the pitching. I can think of at least two candidates sitting on the bubble. See above for clues.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Be On Your Toes

If I had my druthers, the Phils 3-game matchups with the visiting LA Dodgers wouldn't find Kendrick, Oswalt and Blanton slated to go, but if they're going to overcome the Braves these three guys are going to have to carry their weight.

Of the three, Oswalt is something of the greater unknown since he announced last week he is suffering from a "dead arm". The term sounds pretty awful but most baseball people liken it more to late season blahs than the imminent danger a hurler's arm is about to fall off. Kendrick has been surprisingly reliable of late and Blanton shows some signs of coming around. You have to figure Charlie Manuel is happier knowing he goes into New York this weekend with Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay leading off.

The Dodgers haven't been playing well lately and currently reside in fourth place in the NL West, seven games behind division leading San Diego. Having taken on the Phils in two straight post-season series, the Dodgers have something of a rivalry going with the locals. Old friend, El Enigma, gets the ball for LA. The advance word on Padilla sounds very familiar: great stuff. Just a reminder to the guys in red pinstripes: Be on your toes; Padilla's been gone long enough that the few remaining old ties won't prevent him from coming inside.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Blogging isn't a license to be irresponsible, but there's nothing in the unwritten code that prohibits prejudice.

Jayson Werth, Saturday night's goat, was one of Sunday's hero. He's now batting .301 with 16 home runs and 58 rbi's for the season. His OBP is .392.

So much for statistics. Werth is the most awkward swinging, least clutch .301 hitter I've ever seen. Ah, but statistics don't lie. He'll make a lot of money when he becomes a free agent. His good streaks will appear to have outweighed the bad ones in the end. Phillies fans will shed a collective tear when he departs. I will not.

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Domonic Brown has fallen back to earth but hardly with a thud. He's getting fooled mostly by big league breaking balls but he looks like a kid who will adjust. He stung at least one ball hard today going the other way with it but right at David Wright, who was pulled way over toward short in a shift. Brown has looked sharp in the outfield with a strong, mostly accurate arm. He doesn't appear to get too high or low. Naturally, we'd all like to see him hit .400 with two home runs in his first two major league at bats, but how often do those flashes pan out? He looks like a real solid kid with a bright future. The trouble for him will come when Victorino returns; then, the outfield will be crowded. Look for the Phils to give Greg Dobbs his second demotion or release of the season. I'd rather have Brown on the bench.

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The best sign of Cole Hamels' maturity is that he is taking the Phils pitiful run support in stride. As my wife is forever telling me about young people, they do grow up!

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Raul Ibanez deserves the comeback of the second half award at this juncture. Carlos Ruiz is a close second. What most impresses me about Ibanez is that he remained the same person throughout his struggles. No one was harden on him in electrons than I was. My apologies, Raul.

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Four different innings. That's how many times the Phillies scored the entire weekend. They were shut out in 23 innings against the Mets but still took two of three. That shows either one of three things: 1) Good teams find a way to win; 2) The Mets are lousy. 3) The Phillies are still scuffling offensively.

Since those three categories are not absolute, I guess there is at least one other possibility: 4) The Phillies are just good enough given their injury problems. The three game sweep in Florida suggests such is the case.

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Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will never have been as fresh as they will be in September. Of course in Howard's case he usually comes on strong in September, so the layoff may not be that beneficial. Utley, on the other hand, is usually dragging by September. If history is any guide, he should come out of the gate in great shape.

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Ross Gload and Wilson Valdez never could have imagined how much playing time they'd get on this team. The best part about their good fortune is they have capitalized on it and played well. They may have turned out to be among Ruben Amaro's best signings.

Stupid & Carless

While everyone is marveling how gritty this depleted Phillies team has been it's worth noting they had been lucky two straight nights, against Florida Thursday and versus New York Friday, before their luck ran out Saturday night. The ugly truth is they are getting very good starting pitching for the most part, erratic relief pitching and precious little offensive consistency. Oh, yes, and they still have to watch Jayson Werth, the worst base runner I've ever seen, making one bonehead mistake after another. Last night's latest adventure on the bases may have cost them the game. I say "may have" only because their general ineptitude at the plate was the real culprit.

In losing to the Mets 1-0, the Phils wasted another fine outing from Cole Hamels, whose record has now fallen below .500. He deserves better...a lot better. The notion that Johann Santana out-pitched Hamels is ridiculous. The Phils had as many chances to go ahead in their last three at bats as the Mets had all evening. As has often been the case, they couldn't capitalize. Ross Gload should have been taking all the way when he faced K-Rod with the bases loaded. In that situation, a walk was all the Phils needed to knot the score. Gload was ahead 2-0 in the count. The bat should have stayed on his shoulder.

Lousy situational hitting and Werth's flat out stupidity put an end to any rallies. I wish Manuel would yank that idiot from the lineup the next time, and there will be a next time, he makes such a stupid move.

While many observers feel the Phils will be all right once they get the heart of their lineup back, I am less sanguine as long as they play such careless baseball.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Too Dumb To Be Left On His Own

Few people outside the Phillies clubhouse would have given them much of a chance to sweep the Florida Marlins in Miami, but fortunately the only ones who count were in the clubhouse.

The Phils concluded a dramatic sweep of the Fish with a 5-4 win last night winning in extra innings for the second time in three days. The Phils owed their victory as much to umpire Bob Davidson as to the heroics of Carlos Ruiz. Davidson clearly missed the call on a ground ball that would have meant victory for Florida in the bottom of the ninth. That set up Chooch's home run in the top of the tenth. Brad Lidge as is his wont made things interesting in the bottom of the tenth but finished things off for the save.

Entering the series, Florida had been hot and the Phils had dropped two of three to Washington. On the night of the first telecast from steamy Miami, Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler discussed the history of the Phillies-Marlins as a graphic pointed out that since 2004 these two clubs have played each other so evenly only one game separated them. Earlier this season the Marlins took 2 of 3 from the Phils at Citizens Bank Park in April while the Phils returned the favor in Miami in May by the same count. In June the teams split a series in Philadelphia (the middle game of the series was rained out).

Last night's game was filled with dramatics including the Phils ninth inning rally to knot the score a four apiece. The Phils should have won in regulation time but they produced the single worst inning of base running this blogger has ever seen to kill any chance of taking the lead.

Placido Polanco reached on an error to open the ninth. Ross Gload singled and Raul Ibanez followed with a double to score Polanco and bring the Phils within a run. Jayson Werth singled, scoring Gload and tying the game. That left runners at second and third with no outs and set the stage for the misadventures and stupidity that followed.

Domonic Brown hit a bouncer to first and Gabby Sanchez threw home to get Ibanez in a run down. Werth was then picked off second base. Of all the bad plays this was the most egregious and least unexpected. Werth is too dumb to run the bases by himself. He should always be sent with an escort.

Domonic Brown ended the farce when he was caught stealing for the final out. The whole mess was pathetic and nearly cost them the game. In fact, had it not been for Bob Davidson it would have!

Thursday, August 05, 2010


You have to admire the Phils' resilience. In the wake of Ryan Howard's injury the players left standing collectively sucked it up and went out and took two straight from Florida in steamy Miami.

No one is walking around moaning about bad luck. Fielding a mixture of veterans, rookies, reclamations and hangers on, the Phils have played with more fire and grit than at any time this season.

Kyle Kendrick typifies this attitude. Knocked around earlier this season, chided publicly by a manager who is loath to criticize his players outside the locker room, demoted to AAA, called back only because of injuries to others, Kendrick has hung in there, taken his lumps with nary a complaint and made himself a serviceable back of the rotation kind of hurler. You have to admire his stoicism and determination. Right now, who would you rather send out to the mound, Kendrick or Joe Blanton?

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It appears the group including Nolan Ryan has won the auction for the Texas Rangers, who are coming out of bankruptcy. Ryan's group submitted the winning bid over another group led by Mark Cuban. This is a good thing for baseball and for the Rangers. Ryan is a baseball lifer who has helped oversee the development of the Rangers into a pennant contending club. Cuban is a megalomaniac who always managers to make himself the story.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

No Joy Here

Hard to remember less joy at a baseball milestone than Alex Rodriguez' 600th home run. Hard, but not impossible: Barry Bonds 756th.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Boils & A Plague Of Locusts Next?

The Phils managed to escape the nation's capital with a single win in three games but they didn't manage to escape unscathed.

Ryan Howard twisted his ankle early in Sunday's game and became the fourth starting infielder to go down this season. It remains to be seen whether Howard will also be the fourth starting infielder to spend time on the Disabled List.

Raul Ibanez, reborn since the All Star game, also sat out Sunday's game with a sore wrist courtesy of an heroic but failed attempt to make a diving catch in Saturday's game. By my calculations, only Jayson Werth among the opening day starters has avoided the injury bug. That isn't meant to be a reverse curse, Jayson, in case you are reading this post today.

Cole Hamels pitched a decent game yesterday but as is too often the case, he made a couple of mistakes and the Nationals made him pay. The Phils rallied twice to win in extra innings with Brad Lidge getting the save. Charlie Manuel isn't giving up on Lidge, particularly since he really doesn't have any other options unless he goes for situational and committee closing. There are some who advocate taking just such an approach, but it tends to wear out the committee too soon if they warm up every day and appear often.

First place Atlanta has given the Phils plenty of opportunity to make up ground and the finally the Phils did take advantage. Now it's on to Miami where the Marlins always play the Phillies tough. The good news is they miss Josh Johnson. The bad news is Howard, Victorino, Utley and perhaps Ibanez may all probably be missing from Tuesday's lineup. With Roy Halladay pitching the opener it might not matter as much since the Phils rarely give him run support anyway, but it would be nice to have all of your starters available just in case they do decide to hit.

Let's hope nothing else debilitating is in store for the Phils.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

He's Yours Not Ours

Let's make one thing clear, Charlie, Lidge is not our closer, he's your closer. Manuel's well-documented loyalty to veterans, especially ones with multi-year contracts, is officially killing the Phillies in the Dallas Green sense of the word!

Lidge blew another save and the game in the bottom of the ninth inning yesterday, ruining the Phils comeback and negating a chance to move within 2.5 games of division leader Atlanta.

Poor Roy Oswalt must be wondering why he waived his no-trade clause to come to this. In his first game the Phillies offense did its best imitation of Houston's anemic attack. In his second game he must have recalled his former teammate Lidge giving up a career-altering home run to Albert Pujols.

The Phils have one more chance to beat the Nationals this afternoon. Cole Hamels gets the ball. Hopefully, Brad Lidge will not.