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Archive for August, 2008

Myers Had Swagger During Key At Bat

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, August 27, 2008 11:51 AM Comments: 12

Brett Myers had one of the key at bats among many last night. His strikeout with no outs and the bases loaded in the 13th was, obviously, one Charlie Manuel planned.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel intentionally walked Jayson Werth and Eric Bruntlett to bring up the pitcher spot. It was the right move for Manuel, since the Phillies had already used their best hitting pitcher (Cole Hamels). But Charlie Manuel’s decision to keep the bat on Myers’ shoulders was genius.

“You can follow orders,” Manuel said to Myers when he returned from the at bat.

“They were saying, ‘Let him fake squeeze,’” Manuel said. “I added, ‘No, because Victorino might break for the plate.’”

Myers, as Todd Zolecki pointed out, looked the part in his at bat. He was fired up when he grabbed his helmet. He sauntered out to the on-deck circle, and the crowd went ballistic, as if he was a rock star (of course). That he hopped out after every pitch was hilarious, but in all, it was a surreal moment, and a defining one for this team. The character was out in spades last night.

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Follow-Up: Game Of The Year

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, August 27, 2008 09:49 AM Comments: 56




In case you slept through it, Chris Coste’s surefire fly ball beat the Mets in a 13-inning thriller, an incredible game that ended with the Phils atop the National League East again. A couple remarks from posters and bloggers:

Grrrumpy Miner: “INCREDIBLE! What a game! No matter who wins this game, they deserve it and you should tip your cap to both teams. Whether you are a Mets fan or a Phillies fan, you should embrace this game that was played tonight.”

Jason Weitzel, Beerleaguer: “This was an instant classic with improbable heroes, like Coste and Eric Bruntlett in particular, extraordinary gamesmanship, including newest third baseman Carlos Ruiz, and a bullpen that once again refused to break.”

Matt Cerrone, MetsBlog: “Despite the result, this was, without a doubt, the most entertaining baseball game of the season, and one of the best games I have seen in years.”

Consensus is Tuesday night’s 13-inning marathon was an absolute stunner. As far as thrilling games are concerned, the August 30 game last season against the Mets (coming back off Wagner in the eighth and ninth) stacks alongside, but this game had absolutely everything from both sides. Point a gun to my head and yeah, this was the most exciting Phillies game of the last three or four years.

A couple things to pick out from this game:

Jamie Moyer: As I wrote in the recap, Moyer seemed poised to blow up. He had been so money lately, but against a hot Mets offense, a patient Mets offense (at least early), he just seemed doomed. The Jose Reyes leadoff triple was confirmation to me it would be a long (or short, I suppose) night for Moyer.

Blown call: The umpires got it wrong with the grounder-that-wasn’t off Fernando Tatis’ bat in the third. David Wright should’ve been out and Tatis should’ve had been at first. Instead, Tatis (I don’t know how he does it) hit one out.

The Bullpen: With that though, what a job by the bullpen. I mean, wow. The entire bullpen let up just one run in 10 innings. Off five hits. Clay Condrey gave up the run, but boy did he pitch well. Not to mention his double to lead off the fourth. Huge kudos to Ryan Madson, who pulled it together for two fine innings deep in the game. And JC Romero did great having to face both lefties and righties. Also, how about Scott Eyre, who was fantastic with a few strikeouts and some really nasty breaking stuff?

Jimmy Rollins: Rollins was off the charts. He’s the fourth player in the last 50 years with five hits, three steals and a home run in the same game. His swagger is back. His freewheeling play is back. Boy, if he can keep this attitude up, the hits and runs will come, and this offense will be absolutely fine.

Pat Burrell: Tough break for Burrell, who had an 0-fer with the golden sombrero. Maybe he sits out Friday in Chicago (I’d start him against Johan Santana, absolutely). He’s been pressing a little lately, despite his couple hits in the three-hole.

Eric Bruntlett: When Bruntlett came up with two outs in the ninth, I thought “No way we’re winning this game here. I just have to hope for a single or walk.” But what a clutch hit for Brunt, who despite being a very light hitter, is a nice utility/25th man for this team. Then he singled in extra innings. Credit Charlie Manuel for pushing the right buttons and giving him the RBI opportunity. (Reminds me: It’s amazing how the unsung guys step up against the Mets, a la So Taguchi in the same spot a month ago).

Jayson Werth: I love Werth, what he brings to this team. He went 3-for-5, walked twice and stole a base. Pretty lost with Rollins’ big game, but just as important. Funny how all of a sudden the Phils can have two flat-out scary 1-2 combos at the top of the lineup (Rollins/Utley) and the bottom of the lineup (Victorino/Werth). It’s as if the top half can take care of the big hits, while the bottom half — anchored by Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste — can do situational things.

Carlos Ruiz: Not that he had a great game, but what an unselfish move to accept playing third base. Had to have been his first time ever, or close to it. When things like that happen, you know it’s a good game.

Defense: A lot of great defense — not amazing plays, but strong, sound defense that kept the Mets from scoring. Victorino had a couple nice catches in big spots; Werth made the huge throw beating Wright; Howard made a couple real heady plays on tough grounders and liners; Dobbs made a great play at third to start a double play, as well. Every play counts.

“Bandbox” I had to suffer through SNY broadcasting tonight, and Keith Hernandez wouldn’t stop with citing Citizens Bank Park as a bandbox, and the reason the Phils can always win — blah, blah, blah. Okay, so Citizens is a hitter’s park, and does influence a lot of homers, but when you can’t get yours off Phils pitching for nine innings … well, you have no room to talk.

The Fans: What an atmosphere. Listening to the 1210 AM driving home from work, the Mets were scoring and their fans were loud and proud. It grated me. But watching SNY later, as the Phils were rallying — boy, what a change. Hernandez — in his one good observation — said it was the loudest crowd he had ever heard. The Mets crew remarked how the fans were hanging on every pitch. Good to see these games bring out the best in the fans.

Again, just to reiterate, losing these two wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but oh, I’d be an idiot if I were to think these two games weren’t big games. Tuesday night was unreal. One for the ages.

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Oh, Baby! Phillies Stun Mets In 13

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, August 27, 2008 01:11 AM Comments: 63

Game of the year. And what a win.

Chris Coste deposited a Scott Schoeneweis pitch into deep center field, securing a Shane Victorino run and a wild, ridiculous 8-7 win over the Mets in 13 innings.

The build to the winning moment is first-rate material. First there’s Jamie Moyer’s collapse — coming off a four-game sweep of the Dodgers, with all the hype surrounding the series, a Moyer breakdown seemed in the cards from the onset. And the deck was stacked tenfold once Jose Reyes smoked one of his pitches for a triple to open the game. Moyer never solved the Mets, going only three innings and giving up six runs.

The Mets would score once more. As they’ve done all season, the Phillies bullpen shut down an offense, this time for nine scoreless frames. And it was the whole bullpen — Clay Condrey for 2.1, Scott Eyre for 1.2, Chad Durbin for one, Brad Lidge for one, Ryan Madson for two, JC Romero for one, Rudy Seanez for one. The full line: 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Sparkling.

The bullpen allowed a Phillies comeback. They started off Pedro Martinez, who pitched well, but is no longer reliable to win games. Pedro Feliz knocked home Shane Victorino with a sacrifice fly. An inning later, unlikely hero Clay Condrey led off with a double, and Jimmy Rollins smoked a two-run home run into right field. 7-3. Then Chase Utley walked, and two batters later, Ryan Howard launched a left-field homer. 7-5. We had a game.

Brian Stokes held the Phillies during the middle innings, but the Phils met a few of their best friends starting in the eighth. First: Duaner Sanchez. A Carlos Ruiz single and change to lefties took him out for Pedro Feliciano. Lefty Greg Dobbs was pulled for Chris Coste, who promptly singled (he went 4-for-4 after his entrance), leading to a Rollins single to make it 7-6. Rollins had five straight hits to open the game, finishing 5-for-7 with 3 RBI and a run. Welcome back, Young James.

The Phillies were erased in the eighth (thanks Pat Burrell, 0-for-7), and it was Luis Ayala’s turn to stop the Phils and end the game. It seemed certain with two quick outs, but Jayson Werth kept it alive with a single. In came Eric Bruntlett, the most unlikely candidate to bring home a run from first base. But he did — double in the gap, scoring Werth (with thanks to a bad reception by Brian Schneider). 7-7.

To recap everything else would be too time-consuming, and anyway, you all remember what happened. The Phils had multiple chances to win the game. Tenth inning: Burrell and Ryan Howard couldn’t score a leadoff double by Chris Coste. Eleventh inning: Rollins popped up with the bases loaded and two outs. Twelfth inning: The heart of the order went down easily to Aaron Heilman, who played Houdini throughout his three-inning ride.

On the other side, the Phils came up big when the Mets threatened. In the eleventh, Werth gunned David Wright, who was trying to stretch a single into a double with two outs. In the twelfth, Howard robbed Ryan Church of a hit.

All of it set up the 13th, led off by the burgeoning leader, Victorino. His hustle triple forced the Mets to load the bases with no outs. Brett Myers, the eager pinch hitter, played dummy and almost won the game by walking in a genius call by Charlie Manuel. With one down, up stepped Coste, and the game finally ended.

This game had everything — great pitching, great offense, great defense, controversial calls, big plays, big numbers. When Cole Hamels and Myers pinch hit, you have something great on your hands. Manuel played Carlos Ruiz at third base in the ninth inning because he didn’t want to waste Bruntlett’s bat — what a call. He also kept the infield back, letting Damion Easley score in the fourth off a David Wright groundout. That worked too. While Moyer put the Phils out of the game at first, great managing, clutch pitching and timely hitting saved the day.

It was 2007 all over again at the Bank — the clear-cut game of the year, and a huge, huge win to start off this final run toward the pennant. Too much to write, and more to write later, but for now, relish this one.

Associated Press photo

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Gamenight: Mets (73-59) At Phillies (72-59)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, August 26, 2008 05:52 PM Comments: 430

Headline: Prize fight in the NL East
The Major Players: Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes
The Venue: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
The Number: 0.5 games back (Mets)

First place in the National League East is up for grabs tonight as the Phils and Mets meet in the first of a short two-game swing. The Phillies are coming off a sweep of the Dodgers; the Mets took care of business against Houston.

Vote For Pedro: Since returning to the Phillies from the DL, Pedro Feliz is hitting .357.

Vote For Pedro, Part II: Pedro Martinez gave up two runs off five hits in 5.1 innings against the Phils back in July. If you remember, the Mets broke out off Adam Eaton, but the Phils somehow clawed back before coming up short. Martinez had two strong outings against Pittsburgh, but gave up four Thursday against Atlanta.

Vote For Pedro, Part III: Left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano has given up eight hits in 4.1 innings against the Phils this year, for an ERA of 6.23. As always, the Mets bullpen will be highly dissected in this series.

Phillies: Jamie Moyer (11-7) 3.54 ERA
Mets: Pedro Martinez (4-3) 4.97 ERA

Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EST
Weather: 79, partly cloudy
Lineup: Rollins/Utley/Burrell/Howard/Victorino/Werth/Feliz/Coste/Moyer

MLB TV
MLB Gameday Audio
MLB Gameday

Your gamenight beer: Heavy one tonight. Go with Ipswich Oatmeal Stout. A delicious treat that goes well with any late-night fat-adder. Chocolate? Sure. Even a heavier meat goes good with this. Enjoy your stout slow.

Go Phillies!

  • 430 Comments
 

Mets For 2? Just Another Series

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, August 26, 2008 02:09 PM Comments: 15

For the next two nights, the Phillies will welcome the Mets to Citizens Bank Park. The in-and-out two-game swing could cause change atop the National League East. It can also put the Phils in an uncompromising situation, 2.5 games in back of the Metropolitans walking into Wrigley Field.

It’s true these are big games. Absolutely. Any time the Mets and Phils hook up, it’s big baseball. But the most important games left this season? Nah. Absolute, drop-dead must-wins? Not even.

Of course, to lose both would really hurt. At the least the Phils should win one of these two games (hopefully tonight’s, as you can’t expect the offense to go nuts off Johan Santana). But if the Phils lose both, it’s not the end of the world.

On Aug. 30 of last season the Phillies pulled to within 2 games of the Mets after a four-game sweep. It was the best, most thrilling baseball Philadelphia had seen in over a decade. Fans were on such a high, but that ended quickly with a bunch of loses, capped off by the Matt Diaz double from hell. A week after the adulation of sweeping the Mets, the Phillies were six games back.

They were seven games back on Sept. 12. They were 2.5 games back Sept. 17 and Sept. 23. If the Phils were to lose these two games, they’d be 2.5 games back on Aug. 27.

Of course, 2007 was its own little world, with the Mets collapsing and the Phils going 13-4 down the stretch. We can’t expect that kind of close again. But being 2.5 games down with a month to play is no lost cause. Not even close. Sure you can talk about momentum and bragging rights and the importance of beating the team ahead of you, but these two games are no different than the first two in Chicago, or the next two in Chicago, and so on.

So don’t get crazy if things don’t work out these next two nights. And don’t get crazy if they do, and the Phils sweep the set. A 1.5-game lead with over a month to play? No reason to go nuts.

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Report: Phils Interested In Mark Kotsay

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, August 26, 2008 12:21 PM Comments: 18

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports the Phillies are interested in Braves outfielder Mark Kotsay. Hitting .289 with six home runs and 37 RBI, he would likely net a mid-level prospect, according to Rosenthal.

The Phils and Red Sox are reportedly showing the most interest, with the Phils looking for a bat after Geoff Jenkins went to the DL. (By the way, this is Kotsay’s wife.)

  • 18 Comments
 

Commentary: ‘It’s The Attitude, Stupid’

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, August 26, 2008 11:53 AM Comments: 6

While it’s obvious the Phillies offense made it happen during the four-game sweep over the Dodgers, and it’s more obvious Phils pitching was downright dominant (five runs by the Blue), the answer to why the Phillies are suddenly rolling?

It’s the attitude, stupid.

To use a phrase during this political-heavy time, yes, it’s the attitude. Charlie Manuel, scratching his head during the worst times for the offense, said he didn’t know the source of the team’s lethargy. He pointed to guys forcing the issue, swinging for the fences and trying to be heroes. With mashers like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell in the abyss, the entire team seemed like a gelatinous blob. No movement, no momentum, no fervor.

Go back to the night the Phils last had offensive fervor, the 20-run explosion against Saint Louis. Then go to the next day — the day Eric Bruntlett plowed into Yadier Molina, taking him out of the game and evaporating the energy from Busch Stadium II. This moment has been pointed to by some fans as the moment the team switched gears completely, from high-flyin’ and chugging, to tired and bored. True or not, Bruntlett’s heavy slide represents the beginning of a long and strange trip, one where guys didn’t get pumped, blank stares came cheaply and bats were tossed nonchalantly after Ks.

Game three of the Dodgers series seemed to show the switch back. After the offense finally broke out of doldrums, the Phils found themselves in another classic zombie walk. But the ninth inning came, and who singled to lead it off? Shane Victorino. He scored the game-tying run on a clutch Pedro Feliz base hit. Vic again made it happen to start the 11th, hustling to an ad-lib double and setting up what would be the game-winning home run by Feliz. But Vic’s reaction after the double — that was the key. He applauded, jumped around, yelled “Let’s go!” (Not to mention his playoff-style facial hair, the “Victo-beard.”)

That’s the fervor missing from this team for so long. That’s the lead-by-example play that had been missing, the kind of play Jimmy Rollins ate up last season.

So what do you know — one night later, Rollins gets on base all five times, smiles, claps along and hustles. Fans respond, all is well. The Phils win 5-0 and suddenly it’s 2007 again. There’s energy, there’s fervor, there’s response. There’s attitude, and hopefully, it’s here to stay.

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Take That L.A.: Rollins, Phillies Boot Dodgers

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, August 25, 2008 11:23 PM Comments: 148

27-5.

That’s the score of the four-game series between the Phillies and Dodgers, a series almost completely owned by the Phils. They finished off the four-game sweep with a 5-0 win Monday night, setting up a giant two-game set with the Mets for first place in the National League East.

Let’s start with Jimmy Rollins, who broke out the bat and did much damage. He went 3-for-3 with a single, double and triple, and reached base all five times. He scored once and drove in two runs while busting the whole time for his hits. This is the Jimmy we’ve been waiting for, the Jimmy that we love cheering. Keep it going, Young.

The offense continued their fine play, and situational hitting was on full display. Rollins knocked his two-run single with two outs in the second inning; Jayson Werth deposited Ryan Howard on a single in the seventh. In all the Phils had 10 hits and took enough advantage of their chances. Sure they left 22 on — including eight left on by Pat Burrell — but across the board the offense resembled more of a fine-tuned machine, one capable of winning games on singles and doubles, not bombs.

And hey, at least the Phils weren’t the Dodgers, who left 32 men on base. Blue should leave Philadelphia pretty steamed with how they were unable to execute, and it’s definitely nice to see the shoe on someone else’s foot. But credit Brett Myers, who wasn’t dominant, but made huge pitches in tight situations. He induced two double plays, a few more groundouts and struck out nine, never letting up when runners reached base (12 of them). It’s truly amazing to see the Myers of May and June stacked up with the Myers of these last seven starts. He’s poised, gritty, confident in his pitches, and back to his old, bulldog self.

JC Romero (despite not being a good spot for him) pulled another Romero-esque outing, polishing off three hitters after letting the first two reach base. Clay Condrey had the same sort of inning in the ninth, and struck out Manny Ramirez in the process. By the way: Ramirez went 2-for-17 without an extra-base hit in the series, a far cry from the happy-go-lucky, new-haircut Manny of two weeks back. LA can have its Manny-do, we got the Victo-beard.

Associated Press photo

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Gamenight: Dodgers (65-65) At Phillies (71-59)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, August 25, 2008 06:36 PM Comments: 78

Tonight is a big night. The Phillies can sweep the Dodgers, delicious revenge of a four-gamer two weeks ago. They can also land back in first place if the Mets lose tonight. The Phils are 3-0 since putting Pat Burrell in the No. 3 hole. He is 5-for-13 with a homer and five RBI in those games (though the homer and RBI all came in one game). Brett Myers toes the rubber for the Phils. He has pitched very well since returning from the minor leagues. His last start was a complete game-shutout, his first since 2004.

Night Moves: The Phillies lead the National League in night game victories. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are No. 1 and 2 in the majors in home runs during darkness.

Sweep Stuff: The Phils’ other four-game sweep this year was in Atlanta.

This Day In History: Great stuff. Thirteen years ago the Phils and Dodgers met at the Vet — the first time the Phils would face Hideo Nomo, who had been reeling off the wins at that point. The Phils crushed Nomo for six runs in three innings, en route to a 17-4 victory. Gregg Jeffries hit for the cycle, Jeff Juden hit a grand slam and it was Darren Daulton’s last game as a catcher, injuring his knee during the game.

Phillies: Brett Myers (6-10) 4.71 ERA
Dodgers: Chad Billinglsey (12-9) 3.10 ERA

Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EST
Weather: 84, mostly cloudy
TV: ESPN2
Lineup: Rollins/Utley/Burrell/Howard/Victorino/Werth/Feliz/Coste/Myers

MLB TV
MLB Gameday Audio
MLB Gameday

Your gamenight beer: The Phillies can completely execute revenge from the four-game sweep in Los Angeles with a win tonight against the Dodgers. Time to reel ‘em in. So, reel ‘em in with a Harpoon Ale. This Massachusetts beer is clean and pale. Great stuff. I love it. Eat some Thai-style noodles with this.
Go Phillies!

  • 78 Comments
 

Oh Happy Night! Feliz Leads Phils To Win

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, August 25, 2008 01:06 AM Comments: 94

Pedro Feliz singled in the ninth inning to tie it. Then he stepped up in the 11th with two men on. One swing later, and all three were home. The Phillies won off Feliz’s home run, taking game three of the four-game set with the Dodgers 5-2.

Feliz came into the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, yet scored four RBI and proved to be the team’s big clutch hitter. Just as important as Feliz’s execution was the setup by Shane Victorino. He singled to lead off the ninth, scoring the tying run on Feliz’s single. Then he singled to left field to open the eleventh, but turned it up while watching Manny Ramirez lazily toss the ball back in, sliding into second with a huge double. He would score the winning run.

Watching Victorino brings up two crucial points.

One: The difference between Vic and Ramirez. The Dodgers obviously will benefit from Ramirez’s offensive prowess, but his ho-hum throw and lazy effort getting thrown out in a clutch double play show he’s still a pretty annoying ballplayer that won’t do everything to win. Meanwhile, Vic hustles to second because he knows he can.

Two: The difference between Vic and Jimmy Rollins. Is Vic becoming the team leader? He hustles, yells and hollers, makes huge plays all the time, sets up big innings. Meanwhile, Rollins is doing more with his mouth than his legs, can’t come up big anytime, and is now hitting a horrendous .255. A far cry from MVP.

Back to the game — Feliz also made a huge play in the 10th. Chad Durbin loaded the bases with nobody out, but induced a chopper that Feliz immediately turned into a textbook 5-2 double play. A fly out ended the threat and inning. Credit Feliz for the big play, but also credit Durbin for seeing his way out of the mess.

A Chase Utley single scored the Phils’ first run, but they had trouble again against Hiroki Kuroda, scoring just two hits off him. Joe Blanton pitched just as well, going six and striking out four while giving up six hits. The Phils bullpen gave up the Dodgers’ go-ahead run, with JC Romero and Ryan Madson combining to do the deed. Brad Lidge kept the Dodgers at bay in the ninth.

Associated Press photo

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