Friday, June 25, 2010

In The Hunt

Let's get the weather references out of the way at the top of the show:

The only things hotter than the weather yesterday at the Bank were the Phillies' bats as they completed a sweep of the woeful Cleveland Indians. The opposition may not have been much the past three games but every club has a few chances to play weak teams and must capitalize. The Phils did just that.

Amazingly, after all the injuries, missing offense, erratic pitching and, yes, even erratic defense, the Phils find themselves a mere 2.5 games behind first place Atlanta and only one game back in the loss column. If they could stay in the hunt after the horrible month plus they've endured, anything is possible, especially if they get their injured players back soon.

Chase Utley is hitting again. So is Jayson Werth. Placido Polanco never stopped and has played magnificently at third base (yesterday's pop fly foulup notwithstanding). And Ryan Howard continues to deliver while making himself a better fielder and batter for average. The big signing contract on top of his already-stratospheric earlier one hasn't dimmed the fire within one spark. Howard continues to try and make himself a more complete player. One even notices that at the mound conferences, he is the one to slap the pitcher on the fanny and encourage him. He is assuming a greater role in the area of intangibles.

Joe Blanton pitched a good game yesterday under awful conditions. (Oops! Another reference slipped in.) More significantly, he pitched into the eighth inning giving the battered bullpen a day off except for Nelson Figueroa, back in town for his ninth life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

He's Baaaaacck

Case close.

Anyone who doubted how much the Phillies missed Jimmy Rollins can no longer be counted among the undecided.

In the top of the ninth Jimmy made a throwing error that led to a Cleveland run as the Indians took the lead. In the bottom of the ninth he relaunched a 96 mph fastball from Kerry Woods for the first walk-off homer of his career as the Phils prevailed 7-6.

Rollins avoided the flying leap and jump onto home plate to celebrate the shot, his two stints on the DL and the Angels' Kendry Morales no doubt fresh in his mind, but his grin, the one we've grown to love, was as wide as ever. For their part, his teammates showed no restraint, pounding him on the back and nearly ripping off his jersey. No one hugged him harder than his manger, with whom JRoll has always had great rapport despite the occasional breach. Indeed, the two have something very much in common: they love to talk. Jimmy will talk to anyone, sometimes getting himself in trouble with the media, while Charlie loves to talk to anyone as long as it isn't public speaking.

The Phillies began the night looking poorly with the other half of Kyle Kendrick, the one who leaves everything up, taking the hill. Kendrick lasted four innings surrendering two 2-run shots in the process and handing the lead back to Cleveland a half inning after his mates had finally overcome his ineptitude to go ahead for the first time all evening. The Phils kept clawing back however, capped by Jimmy's heroics.

* * * * * * * *

Condolences to anyone holding a ticket for today's Business person's Special. Should be nice a toasty at the Bank. The only give-aways anyone could use would be a beach umbrella and a gallon of water.

* * * * * * * *

My once beloved Orioles, misused and abused by their current ownership, have fallen on such hard times that only 13,000 plus showed up last night at Camden Yards to see the O's drop another game, this one to the Florida Marlins. The loss dropped their record to a major league worst. The poor attendance (who knows how many people were really there on a blistering hot night) proves two things: 1. people don't go out to watch chronic losers play, and; 2. interleague play's novelty wore off long ago.

Ironically, the Marlins probably thought the turnout was great compared to the 13 people, 100 ushers, two dogs, a cat and 10 vuvuzeulas present at every game in Miami.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mediocre Through And Through (With One Exception)

I was out of town since last Friday and missed the Twins series. My luck. No, really!

During that series the Phils managed to do most of what has ailed them this season. For a change, they did manage a lot of offense the first two games, but the pitching, especially the bullpen in game two, let them down. By the third game the offense was once again nowhere to be found. What seems clear in retrospect is that the Phils have too many holes too often to put together a long winning streak to say nothing of any series representing consistency.

By Sunday they'd stopped hitting again. By Monday night they made their punchless offense official.

Roy Halladay suffered another loss over the weekend. While he didn't receive any run support again, he also gave up enough hits and runs to lose. Brad Lidge proved beyond a reasonable doubt he is more like the closer of 2009 than 2008.

The return of Jimmy Rollins is heartening if only because his presence in the lineup might provide a spark of life where there's been precious little. Raul Ibanez continues to get the nod in left field leaving Ben Francisco to try and establish some consistency of his own without benefit of consistency from his manager. Ben must be looking somewhat longingly at the visitors dugout at the moment, remembering when he got a lot more AB's and opportunities, even as a part-time player.

Interleague play has proven again to be the bane of these Phillies. If not for taking two of three from the Yankees, in NY no less, they would be so far below sea level against the AL no life preserver would matter. Interleague play stinks. The novelty of seeing AL teams wore off years ago. The lack of balance, namely which NL East teams face which AL East teams each season, is a joke of unfairness. So, naturally, it's here to stay because if Bud Selig has shown us anything, it's that he could care less about what is fair and balanced.

The only player on this year's version of the Phils who has been consistent is Jamie Moyer. Every time out save one he has continued to astonish. He won't grow old; he won't go away. All these twenty-somethings, heck, all these thirty-somethings, keep flailing away at his variations on soft toss as they come less-than hurtling toward the plate. Once, we all thought only the young free-swinging clubs like the Marlins were too impatient to face the crafty, ageless one, but it is now clear everyone except the Boston Red Sox cannot get a handle on him. He's going to outlast everyone and present the HOF voters with a real dilemna, namely, how ya' gonna' keep a 53-year old 300 game winner out of Cooperstown? Jamie aims to make the answer to that one difficult. Go, Jamie, go!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Phils Take Series (No, Not That One!)

Break up the Phillies!

I had to dig deep into the memory bank to come up with an opener to describe a series victory by the Phillies after they took the final two of three from the Yankees in New York.

Kyle Kendrick got the win with seven strong innings of work. The kid continues to baffle teammates as much as opponents, pitching strong games then getting shelled then coming back with another fine effort. Good defense saved his bacon more than once, no play being more astonishing than Placido Polanco's dive over the rolled up tarp to snatch a foul pop up. It was number one on ESPN's top ten plays. Deservedly.

Speaking of Polanco, has there been any steadier or more valuable a player on the team thus far this season? No! He remains one of the most understated fine players in the game. He comes back to Philadelphia, a two-time Gold Glover at his natural position, second base, makes the transition to third and provides fine defense. He leads the team in batting average. He moves runners along. Man, it's great to have him back.

One of the more interesting story lines this season has been Ryan Howard. He arrived in camp slimmed down and determined to accomplish two goals: improve his defense and cut down on his whiffs. He has done both at the expense of some power but not his batting average. Nearly everyone in the blogosphere has condemned him in the past for his high strike out rate. Put the ball in play, they demanded, and better things will happen. He has and many of the same critics are all over him for the reduced power output. He is currently 8th in the NL in rbi's, seven behind the leader. I'll take the new, improved Howard, thank you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Never A Dull Moment With 47 Year Olds

Damn it, Jamie, will you cut that out!

Every time I and half of civilization write off Jamie Moyer he comes back and throws eight innings of two run ball against the defending world champions. C'mon, Jamie, how many times are you gonna' yank us doubters around?

On this particular occasion the Phils' bats woke up long enough to stake Moyer to a big lead and it's a good thing they woke up at all because after their six run outburst in the earlier innings the offense went back into hiding and held on for the win.

Brad Lidge, true to form, made the ninth inning far more interesting than it had to be. My wife says whenever I use the word "interesting" I usually have something pejorative in mind and that surely is the case whenever Lidge takes the ball. He entered the ninth with a 6-2 lead, a non-save situation, and proceeded to give up a run and a few more hits forcing him to face the tying run at the plate before inducing the final out. Lidge reminds me of Fullpack Stanhouse. He was an Orioles' reliever in the 70's and '80's who used to pull the same kind of high wire stunts that Lidge seems prone to, forcing his manager, Earl Weaver, to keep ducking into the runway for a smoke. Seems Stanhouse forced this move on Weaver so much he'd finish a full pack of cigarettes during each appearance.

The win last night was one of the few times in the last five or six weeks when the offense, defense and pitching more or less showed up at the same time. As has been the pattern in these all too infrequent gatherings, it remains to be seen if they can agree to meet again the next day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The reason the Phillies seem incapable of pulling themselves out of their tailspin can be summed up in two words: Jimmy Rollins.

Without Rollins they have no demonstrative on field, in the dugout or clubhouse leader. Chase Utley has always led by example and, frankly, the one he's been setting during this free fall has been poor in the field and at bat. Jimmy, on the other hand, can spark a team with his cheer leading, chattering and charged personality even when he is struggling at the plate.

Rollins brief return and second trip to the DL were the beginning of the end for the Phillies. If he returns shortly and stays healthy, we will see a turnaround. Guaranteed.

Look Out Below

Join the crowd, Roy.

The Phils' most reliable starter faltered badly last night in New York, yielding three home runs to match his season total prior to the game, and losing for the fifth time. With his poor outing the picture the defending NL champions present in their rematch with World Series foe New York is pathetic: they aren't pitching, hitting, catching the ball or running the bases with anything approaching authority. They've lost 15 of 21 games, almost all of them ugly.

The Phils ceased being fun to watch a month ago. It's probably worse from the players' perspective. Their manager hasn't a clue how to fix things. Their GM has even less of one and, if honest, should lay some of the blame at his own feet for trading away Cliff Lee and assembling a bench that is, charitably, no better than the one they have at AAA.

Every time the Phils score a rare win the fans and writers wonder if they are about to revert to form. The answer is a resounding NOPE! The next day they're right back out there stinking up the joint.

Where will help come from? Not from outside, that's for sure. No trade, call-up or release can solve their collective problems. Either they start pitching, hitting, catching and running or the continue to fall further behind. If I were the Phillies, I'd be worried about finishing fourth or fifth in their division. You read that correctly: or FIFTH.

Monday, June 14, 2010

King Cole

Location, location, location.

Just like real estate, if a pitcher wants to occupy prime status he's got to locate his pitches. Yesterday, Cole Hamels heeded this advice and pitched a masterful game in staving off a Boston sweep.

The only mistake Hamels made was a cutter over the plate that Andrian Beltre parked just this side of the CITGO sign. Otherwise, Hamels stuck to his fastball and changeup and kept Boston off guard all day. It didn't hurt that Cole was reaching the mid-nineties on his fastball, but the real key to his success was being able to put the ball on the corners when he needed to.

Meanwhile, the offense wasn't exactly scintillating, but it did put together a four run outburst against nemesis Tim Wakefield, tacked on another run late and held on for a 5-3 victory. It would be foolish to assert the Phutiles' slumbering bats have come alive after one inning of work, but at this juncture you take what you can get.

The only down note was the continued futility of Chase Utley, now in the most prolonged slump of his career. No one but Chase knows what might lie behind the ineptitude but one thing is clear: he isn't getting good swings and he isn't hitting the ball with authority.

Things don't get easier as the Phils move on to NY and a rematch against their World Series foes from 2009.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Barely Afloat

The good ship Phightins is listing badly. The pumps are working overtime but she keeps taking on water.

A mere two games stand between the Phillies and absolute mediocrity though truth be told they've been a lot worse than mediocre these last few weeks.

Yesterday they suffered another manhandling by the Boston Red Sox, a 10-2 pounding to go along with Friday night's 12-2 humiliation. Starting pitchers have now yielded nine runs on consecutive nights.

Joe Blanton was yesterday's hurler. Ever since signing his new deal in the off-season Kentucky Joe has been a lousier investment than BP stock. The returns have been so awful the bullpen is thinking of filing suit.

Speaking of the bullpen, they are getting themselves quite a workout. Apart from blaming the starters, perhaps they should sneer in the direction of toe-kicking Ryan Madson. The only guys who should be getting any kind of break are the closer-types but even they have to put in an occasional appearance in non-save situations to save their own corps from complete overwork and exhaustion.

The players called a team meeting prior to yesterday's game and, naturally, it was as useful as these things normally go. Management tried that route earlier this month with equal success. It's quite clear something must be done and equally clear nothing can be done. They either hit and pitch their way out of this mess or continue to sink.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sinking Like A Stone

A certain grizzled veteran showed his age last night and his teammates continued their free fall like a heavy stone in water. There is no escaping the reality that the Phillies' demise, going on three weeks, is no longer an aberration. They fall behind early, fail to hit generally, pitch erratically and have lost their mojo entirely.

Every time we glimpse a moment of daylight, Chase Utley gets two hits in a game for example, the clouds roll in the next day and he goes hitless. The problems are hardly confined to Utley, of course. Nearly everyone except Placido Polanco has gone into a protracted funk. Charlie Manuel has tried a lot of different things none of which have taken. It would be convenient to say the absence of their true leader, Jimmy Rollins, has hurt them and to some extent this is true. We should remember, however, the Phils went on quite an early season tear without JRoll.

For every strong outing by a pitcher, these are usually followed by a succession of implosions. The relief corps isn't exempt either, especially Denys Baez who can almost be guaranteed to come on in a tight game and loosen it up.

What will shake this team up? Not much. Designating a Greg Dobbs or, perish the thought (not really) Raul Ibanez isn't going to bring back Utley's swing or Moyer's tenth life. Bringing up Dominic Brown would just be a panic move. John Mayberry looks like a possible candidate with more interleague (read: DH) games beckoning but he has amply demonstrated his limited worth. Getting Jimmy back will help but by all indications his return is not imminent.

One of the more perplexing signs of the Phils' lethargy is the almost complete absence of a running game and by the same turn their inability to stop other teams from running. Is Carlos Ruiz' shoulder bad or do the pitchers deserve the blame? Shane Victorino has never been a high percentage base stealer, relying on daring more than cunning, and Utley and Werth haven't been getting on base enough. One thing Charlie Manuel can and should do is play Ben Francisco more. In last night's game he came in only as a substitute and went 1 for 2. In his last start, two nights earlier, he went 2-4 driving in the winning run. How much more evidence do you need, Charlie, or would you rather watch Raul Ibanez pop up some more?

The Phils have now fallen into third place, the first time they've been in that position this "late" in the season in nearly three years. They've earned it.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Here we go again. Another fine pitching performance from Roy Halladay was wasted when an even finer performance by the Marlins' Josh Johnson sent the Phillies back to Flailing land. Four measly hits was all the Vaunteds could muster in getting shut out for the fifth or sixth time in recent weeks? I've lost count.

Oh, well, things could be worse. The Phillies could be heading to Boston for a weekend series. Oh, wait....

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Hits And Hype

Raul Ibanez had a great night at the plate though certainly not in the field. I'm glad for him. When Jayson Werth is ready to resume everyday play, however, I'd sit Ibanez faster than you can say "slow bat/awful glove" and play Ben Francisco in his stead. Yes, Ben didn't exactly have the greatest night either, grounding into two double plays and having an adventure or two in right field (not his natural position), but he got two hits including the game winner and showed he deserves more playing time. If he didn't have a manager who favors veterans to a fault, Ben would probably get that time. We shall see. What we don't need to see is Raul Ibanez pulling up on a ball that was clearly his, hoping and praying Shane Victorino will bail him out.

Meanwhile, on a night when the starting pitching stunk and the relief pitching and defense hardly shone, the Phils' bats came alive. Chase Utley had a fine game at bat and on the base paths. His glove was another story. Ryan Howard hit. Placido Polanco hit. The aforementioned Ibanez had four hits and thus staved off a seat on the bench for a little while longer. Shane Victorino homered. You get the picture: a lot of guys swung the bats well. Best of all, the Phils came back from deficits three different times, something they haven't done in such a long time no one could remember without booting up his computer.

Tonight should offer a fine pitching rematch, Halladay versus Johnson, but the weatherman is probably going to get the decision.

* * * * * * * * *

Rarely if ever does any athlete live up to the hype the way Stephen Strasburg did last night in his major league debut for Washington. I watched the endless replays on ESPN and was truly astonished. Strasburg arrived with a reputation for a Nolan Ryan-like fastball, but it was his curve that bent my mind and the knees of anyone wearing a Pirates' uniform. How's this for a hint at what this kid brings to the game? His change-up was clocked at 91 MPH. Yikes. I also loved his father's comment after the game in which he said [paraphrasing] this was a normal outing for his son. Heaven help teams when the kid ramps it up. Stay healthy, Stephen. We're all looking forward to years of enjoyment watching you pitch, that is against everyone but the Phillies.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Meekly Into The Night

They've long since ceased being fun to watch and now it can be said they cannot be any fun to pitch for either.

The Phils wasted another good performance by a pitcher last night, going down meekly to the San Diego Padres 3-1. Cole Hamels took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before yielding back-to-back home runs. I am not as ready to anoint his outing as "outstanding" as others have given Hamels' ongoing propensity to blow a game by serving up long balls. Sure, any time your pitcher can hold the opposition to 2 runs in eight innings he's pitched well, but Hamels always seems to lack the put-away pitch or inning. By now, no doubt, he's as fed up waiting for his mates to score as the rest of the staff, but it is also true he is always a pitch away from blowing things all by his lonesome.

Meanwhile, Danys Baez relieved Hamels and surrendered a run to provide the Padres with all the insurance they needed. Really, they only needed the two home runs for all the insurance they needed as the Phils managed a lone run in the bottom of the ninth.

Judging from comments by Charlie Manuel after the game, he's at a total loss what to do with his meek offense. He admitted last night he is continuing to play the struggling Chase Utley among others in the hope he will "hit his way out" of his slump. It hasn't worked, Charlie, but, then apparently no one else has a better idea.

Maybe Ruben Amaro could trade for a shaman?

[Note: BTW, Cliff Lee improved to 4-2 with a complete game victory last night.]

Monday, June 07, 2010

Memo To Charlie

Charlie, I know you check in each morning so I am going to save you the trouble of a phone call and offer you some advice here.

Bench Raul Ibanez or at the very least start platooning him with Ben Francisco. Ibanez is bringing nothing but popups and foul balls to the table at this point. His bat is now as slow as his feet. Francisco may be a good hitter, but how would we know? You cannot expect production when he gets an at bat once a week if he's lucky.

Sit down with Ryan Howard and remind him, no, tell him, how precious at bats are. I've never seen such a well paid guy throw away at bats as he does. As much as I hated Pete Rose as a player and person I have to give him credit for taking every at bat seriously, as though he were batting for the last time in his life and wanted to get a hit. Howard can go up there, take a strike, swing over another pitch and then give one of those half-swing-I-didn't-mean-it swings to end the at bat and whimper back to the dugout.

Give Chase Utley another day off while he's not suffering from the flu. Just a day off to decompress. He has never looked more lost at the plate than he does right now and clearly he isn't swinging his way out of this funk.

Placido Polanco is one of my favorite ball players, a real pro who comes to play hard every day. But he could use a few continuing ed courses in base running having made not one but two bad plays yesterday either one of which could have cost the game. He needs to brush up on when to go and when not to go. While you're at it, have Sam Perlozzo sit in, next to Placido, not behind the desk.

Admit to yourself Joe Blanton's problems are not the late start he got this season due to injury. It looks to me like he's relying too much on a fastball that isn't challenging hitters. Does he recovery have something to do with it or is this a question of intelligence? Guess which one I believe!

Could Paul Hoover possibly be worse than Brian Schneider? Based on his short tenure as backup when Schneider went down I can hazard more than a guess the answer is NO! Schneider's 2-4 day on Sunday doesn't change my mind, either. He is cooked.

In case Ruben Amaro is nearby, tell him the trade of Cliff Lee looks even more pathetic with the news Phillipe Aumont has been demoted from AAA to AA. I don't care how he spins this one, Amaro made a very poor decision that will haunt this team now and in the immediate future. Not only did he get rid of a premier pitcher who loved playing here, he got a kid whose future isn't so bright.

That's all for now, Charlie. You can go back to talking about hitting.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


When it comes to death defying acts Jamie Moyer is peerless. I know, having written him off more times than I can count.

Moyer became the third pitcher in history to win 100 games after age 40, which in this case, started more than seven years ago. At an age when most players sit down with their financial planners and calculate their pension payments, Moyer is throwing complete game victories and lowering his ERA below four runs per. Hats off to you, Jamie, from a skeptic who has become a believer. Just bear in mind this isn't a reverse curse. Anything that happens from this point forward, anything, is OK with me. If you get rocked in the next ten starts that isn't going to change my mind that what you've accomplished is substantial and enduring.

Is Moyer a HOF calibre pitcher? Probably not, especially when you consider the guys like Bert Blyleven who still have been denied, but he surely is a HOF caliber survivor and just so happens to have won 264 big league games AND COUNTING!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Murphy, Galarraga, Joyce et al

David Murphy of the Daily News is the best beat writer to happen to the Phillies in a very long time. Smart and insightful, Murphy is a real student and fan of the game. On DNL last night he opined that Armando Galarraga's near perfect game was far more interesting on numerous levels for how it turned out than had the call at first base gone the other way. He is correct.

Everyone has been caught up in the human drama to a much greater extent than when the Phils' Roy Halladay pitched his perfect game a week earlier. The number of gestures made by all parties involved, particularly Jim Joyce and Galarraga, have positively and profoundly affected regular fans of the game, indeed people from all walks of life. Tigers manager Jim Leyland's fine gesture of having Galarrag take the lineup card to home plate to start the next game was also heartwarming. Galarraga was greeted there by Joyce, who was working the plate even though he'd been offered a day off by MLB. To his considerable credit, he opted to take his normal turn calling balls and strikes. Bud Selig decided not to reverse the decision, which was really the only option he had under current rules.

Long from now, people will remember what happened after the play more than the 26 outs leading up to it. Just as David Murphy pointed out.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Chase Utley is one futile at bat from seeing his batting average fall into the .260's, a zone he probably hasn't reached since...well...he became a regular. It's hard to single out Chase among the fallen, but his slump is as deep as anyone's on this club.

Meanwhile, his manager's temper is frayed to the breaking point. He doesn't see much passion or energy from his troops. He's right on that account: they are a dejected, demoralized bunch.

* * * * * * * *

Three perfect games already this season after only 18 in the history of the game. What does it mean, doctor? If the Philliles are any indication, it means hitters are falling behind pitchers.

Of course the record book will only show two of those games because last night umpire Jim Joyce ruled former Phillies farmhand Jason Donald safe at first base for what would have been Detroit hurler Armando Galarraga's 27th out. Now, cries for instant replays for critical plays can be heard from every corner along with the vicious types who want to pillory Joyce on Facebook and other social [sic] networking sites.

Joyce feels terrible, perhaps more than Galarraga. He blew the call but that doesn't necessarily make him a bad umpire. I don't know where he stands in the unofficial rankings by players and managers but it's safe to say he fell to the absolute bottom last night. Should baseball institute instant replay for critical calls? Probably. Should Bud Selig, always loathe to do the right thing in the best of times, overrule the ump's call? Unfortunately, he cannot, at least not under current rules. Surely baseball can have instant replays for game-deciding calls, but does this play fall under that category?

* * * * * * * *

Ken Griffey Jr. has retired, his skills eroded, the fun gone out of his game. Watching highlights from his career two things strike me:

1. His swing was magnificent.
2. He was a combination of supreme grace and acrobatic skills as a fielder.

Griffey's greatness was somewhat quiet because much of it came in the Pacific Northwest and, thus, we on the East Coast hardly got much chance to see him except during All Star games, and who watches those anymore? When he was traded to Cincinnati we in Philadelphia saw more of him since the Phils play the Reds, but Griffey spent much of that time on and off the Disabled List. Too bad, really, because he still had those skills when his body began to let him down.

Griffey will entre the Hall of Fame when eligible.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Couldn't Watch

I didn't watch. Truth be told, I couldn't watch. I could not bring myself to stare at the screen and watch the Phillies flail away with so little consequence. I couldn't bring myself to listen to Tom McCarthy do his Pollyanna routine one more time. I've had enough of Ricky Bo telling it like it is and then picking the Manager as his player of the game. Save me from Sarge.

Swept two out of three series...and against division rivals. Punchless. Lifeless. This should be good for a few clucks of the tongues on Baseball Tonight not to mention more than one "Who'd a thunk its?"!

The Phils will take one of the most silent charter flights out of Atlanta in airline history. Let's hope no one sits at the back of the plane and plays a harmonica.

Blah, Blah, Blah

Blah, blah, blah, blah, not hitting.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, shaky pitching (Roy excepted)

Blah, blah, blah, blah, not fielding.

* * * * * * * *

I don't want to hear how Cole Hamels is back. In his last two outings he's been far less than stellar, his ERA 6.43. Last night he served up a big 3-run shot in the first inning to Troy Glaus and just like that the Fizz Kids were in a hole. When Hamels is back, it's for every other outing more or less.

* * * * * * * *

Ryan Howard hit another of his useless home runs last night, far too late to matter. I'd love to see some stats on how many home runs he's hit to give a lead as opposed to those hit when the Phils are already winning or are hopelessly lost.

* * * * * * * *

Jayson Werth has always been a streaky hitter. He carried the Phils through mid May but now he is mired in a deep funk. Trouble is, so is everyone else. Still, if this is his Contract year buyers should beware that this guy blows very hot and very cold.

* * * * * * * *

Chase Utley isn't swinging the bat well, either, and it is sad to see when he skies out how he doesn't even look up to see where the ball is going. He just drops the bat, looks at the ground, and runs out the play. Once Chase starts looking straight ahead the Phils will be back on track.

* * * * * * * *

The Phils have entered that No Man's Land where the sporting public is expecting something dramatic, e.g., a heated argument, a blow up in the clubhouse, a trade, or something else intended to shake things up. What they need are some hits. The other stuff never works.