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Archive for September, 2008

NLDS Preview Part I : Starting Pitching

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, September 29, 2008 02:10 PM Comments: 33

We begin our seven-part look at the NLDS.

Part I : Starting Pitching

Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA, 196 K, 53 BB)
Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55 ERA, 163 K, 65 BB)
Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71 ERA, 123 K, 62 BB)
Joe Blanton (9-12, 4.69 ERA, 111 K, 66 BB)

Jeff Suppan (10-10, 4.96 ERA, 90 K, 67 BB)
CC Sabathia (17-10, 2.70 ERA, 251 K, 59 BB)
Manny Parra (10-8, 4.39 ERA, 147 K, 75 BB)
Dave Bush (9-10, 4.18 ERA, 109 K, 48 BB)

The Phils and Brewers have very similar rotations. They feature one bona-fide ace and a few guys stirring in the mid-rotation level. All of the eight can go six innings and give up two runs. All can also go three and give up eight runs.

For the Brewers, all talk begins with Sabathia, who should beat the Phillies. He has great stuff — velocity on his fastball and good breaks on his secondary stuff. Unless the Phils can hang with him and force their bullpen, it’ll be a tough to take any game with Sabathia in there.

The Crew has just one lefty: Parra. He couldn’t get out of the second against the Phillies Sept. 13. He is a strikeout lefty, which means a pressing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could prove fatal for the Phils in that game. Still, he is ultimately beatable, even if the lefties don’t necessarily show up. Just look for the fastball.

Of the righties, Suppan and Bush could pose easy targets for the Phils bats … they could also be very difficult. In Suppan’s Sept. 14 start, the Phils torched him for six runs in 3.2 innings, but the righty has a full arsenal of pitches, and will throw anything to win (see Moyer, Jamie). Bush gave Milwaukee a quality start earlier that day, going six and giving up three runs, but he’s a fastball-curve guy who the Phils could knock around.

The Phils will open with Hamels, who has had mixed results against Milwaukee. Prince Fielder has a bunch of hits off Hamels this season — including two home runs. If he can keep Fielder at bay, he should win. Myers was brilliant against the Brewers, but his last two starts were atrocious. If he doesn’t keep his fastball down, it’ll be a long day.

The deciding factors, to me, are Moyer and Blanton. The Brewers should have trouble against a crafty Moyer. Blanton could destruct against a Milwaukee offense looking for fastballs, so Kentucky Joe has to keep the ball down and mix up his pitches.

Analysis: To be straight, I’m unsure about the Milwaukee rotation. It’s Sabathia and innings-eaters. Sure, it resembles the Phillies rotation, but the Phils have demonstrated a good amount of success against them. Suppan does have playoff experience, but he’s 5.42 away from Miller Park, has an ERA over 8.00 in September and has a 5.37 ERA in the daytime. We talk about Hamels’ day splits — this ain’t no picnic at all. Suppan is your classic league-average pitcher who parlayed his moderate success into big bucks, a la Carlos Silva.

Meanwhile, Parra scares me in that he can be dominant for stretches, but the Phils showed that he’s hittable. And he’s especially hittable the second time around. From the fourth inning on, batters are hitting over .300 consistently. He’s barely a six-inning pitcher. So while the Phils have lefties (hitting .233 against him), Pat Burrell, Pedro Feliz, Shane Victorino and the like should be successful once they see what he has in his arsenal.

It is possible the Brewers go with Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 1.88 ERA, 20 K, 8 BB) instead of Parra. Gallardo is a very good young pitcher capable of going deep into games. He carries a fastball in the low-mid 90s and a curveball that at times can be devastating. Is he beatable? Yes, with patience. Can the Phillies beat him? Maybe.

Bush doesn’t give me any willies whatsoever. Of course, Sabathia does, so that’s a wash. I do think this series will come down to Parra in game three, if that’s the matchup. And I do think the Phils will beat him.

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Note: Seven-Part NLDS Preview Ahead

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, September 29, 2008 01:12 PM Comments: 3

Starting today and finishing late tomorrow, I’ll be writing a seven-part preview of the NLDS between the Phillies and Brewers. Here’s the schedule:

Part I : Starting Pitching
Part II : Relief Pitching
Part III : Starting Lineup
Part IV: Bench
Part V : Intangibles
Part VI : From The Other Side
Part VII : Prediction

The first five parts will be quick breakdowns of the teams’ units. In part six, I’ll bring in a Brewers blogger to talk about the series. And in part seven, obviously, I’ll have my final thoughts.

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Odds And Ends: Hamels, Victorino, Golson, Marson, Attendance

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, September 29, 2008 11:09 AM Comments: 23

A little post-regular, pre-post odds and ends:

  • You’ve all heard by now that Cole Hamels will start game one of the NLDS.

He’s the ace. I don’t care what anyone says about Jamie Moyer. Look, this kid kept his ERA below 3.50 all season. He’s one of the top-five arms in the National League. He’s the ace, and he deserves game one.

  • Shane Victorino is OK.

Another one you’ve probably heard. He took a bang to his shin in Saturday’s clincher, but will be good to go for the NLDS. We need him. Big time.

  • Greg Golson has been announced for the Florida Instructional League.

Looks like So Taguchi is on the playoff roster. The only question is JA Happ or Rudy Seanez, and I’m pretty sure Seanez wins that debate. Happ, as good as he was in his first innings as a Phillie, doesn’t match the tested experience of Rumblin’ Rudy.

  • Lou Marson hit his first big-league home run yesterday, and said this :

“It was one of the biggest moments of my life.”

There you go. Hey, I’m psyched for June 1, 2009, when Marson makes his return to Philadelphia. For now, I’m psyched about Wednesday.

  • The Phillies had their 50th sellout with Saturday’s clincher. I’d assume Sunday was already a sell-out, putting the number to 51. The fan total: 3,422,583.

I’m happy to report I comprised eight of that number. Basically, the Phils drew them in this season, and that’s what a first-place team does. The Phils finished fourth in the NL in attendance (after Shea, Dodger and Busch).

  • And speaking of attendance, yes, yours truly will be in the game two crowd.

Would’ve gone to game one, but I just can’t take that much time off. Rob Cowie, our expert marketing director, will be at both games. I’m psyched. The last Phillies playoff game I attended? Game three of the 1993 World Series. Bad loss in the rain, but it was my birthday. Great present.

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Phillies Won’t Hold Postseason Rally

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 10:23 PM Comments: 12

According to Paul Vigna of the Daily News, the Phillies have declined to throw a playoff pep rally. They did this last season before taking on the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series.

Vigna writes according to a press release, the Phils cited the funeral of city police officer Patrick McDonald as reason for not holding a rally. That may be true, but I suspect the franchise doesn’t want to celebrate a playoff berth this season, since that isn’t the goal. And frankly, I like this. No need to go crazy for a playoff berth. Go crazy for a World Series win.

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NLDS Gametimes Released

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 10:05 PM Comments: 31

Gametimes have been released for games 1-3 for the Phillies-Brewers series:

Game 1: Wednesday in Philadelphia: 3 p.m.
Game 2: Thursday in Philadelphia: 6 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday in Milwaukee: 6:30 p.m.

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Mets Falter, Brewers Rise … Bring On The Crew!

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 04:59 PM Comments: 89

It’s history repeating.

The Brewers and Mets crawled to baseball’s final day at a deadlock for the NL Wild Card. The Crew went with their MVP: CC Sabathia. The Mets hung their hopes on two-faced Oliver Perez. Both did their jobs, but late, the true colors came out. As the Mets wilted behind their terrible bullpen, the Brewers rose to the ocassion, taking the Wild Card and stamping their ticket to the postseason … and Philadelphia.

The story was actually very simple. The Brewers got a Cy Young performance from Sabathia, who completely vindicated Milwaukee’s front office in a transcendent second half. Then, in a clutch moment, its best hitter — Ryan Braun — stepped up and took down the Cubs. Meanwhile, the Mets rode the eccentric Perez as far as he could take them. Their bullpen, of course, couldn’t hold it together, while their offense — pressing down the stretch — came up short yet again. The result couldn’t have been more obvious.

We’re supposed to hate the Mets, but somewhere in a small part of the heart, we feel bad for them. The team had glaringly obvious concerns, and they weren’t addressed enough. And its best players — however talented — just weren’t clutch. They made a giant acquisition (which paid off in spades), but it wasn’t enough. They moved past the choke of 2007, but it wasn’t enough. And all this on the final day of their home’s existence. You have to feel a little bad. Right?

On the other side is our NLDS opponent. The Brewers went through hell after the Phils swept them at Citizens Bank Park. With a managerial change, it seemed Milwaukee was all but dead. No sir. They rode their horse (another acquisition that paid off), got clutch hits down the stretch, and all but earned their postseason spot. Unfair that Lou Piniella played his B- and C-team toward the end? Maybe. But the Brewers won the games.

Now the Phils meet Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Sabathia and the Crew starting Wednesday. It’s very possible Sabathia will get the game-two call, meaning he would also go in a possible game five. That’s the Phils’ only worry. They can take care of business against a winded team that matches up poorly with our boys. Sure we have to beware the Colorado effect, but there’s no way the Phils are letting that happen again. No way.

Bring ‘em on, baby.

  • 89 Comments
 

C-Team Sweeps Nationals For 92-Win Finish

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 04:32 PM Comments: 13

How cool did it feel out there today?

The Phillies defeated the Nationals, 8-3, behind some clutch hits by unsung players. The bullpen — even the filler — shut down the Nats after starter Kyle Kendrick put in four innings of work. It was business as usual for the division champs, as the Phils finished the season with a fantastic 92-70 record.

The highlight of the day came late: Lou Marson, in his first major league start, on a 1-for-3 day so far, took a pitch deep into the left field seats. A fine career got off to a great start as Marson knocked his first career round-tripper. And the silent-treatment reception in the dugout? Priceless.

It was one of those days — in the most meaningless baseball game in Philadelphia since probably the Brandon Duckworth days, the good guys put on a nice show. The oft-maligned So Taguchi went 3-for-5 with a triple, three RBI and a run. Tadahito Iguchi, getting his first start since he was the emergency second baseman last season, went 2-for-5. Eric Bruntlett went 2-for-5. Matt Stairs killed a pitch for his second Phillie homer.

And a few regulars got in. Ryan Howard padded his numbers with a single and a run. His average, now at .251, isn’t so bad now. Jayson Werth also singled and scored.

And the pitching. Kendrick was mediocre, showing he will need that instructional time. The bullpen did their job, with Les Walrond, JA Happ and Rudy Seanez cleaning up for Clay Condrey. A great gesture — Condrey, sticking it out all season without a demotion, proved himself worthy of a 25-man roster spot and an increased role in the ‘pen. He deserved to be on the mound, getting those final outs to close the season.

But the bright spot has to be Marson. Your whistles have been whetted. Marson will be on this club at some point, making real contributions in important contests. But on this day he handled the pitching staff very well, played a solid backstop and looked like a bonafide hitting threat. Your future on display. And now that that one is over … bring on the … !

Associated Press photo

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The Day After: Story Hasn’t Reached Its Climax

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 03:03 PM Comments: 9

Last season, when the Phillies clinched the National League East on the last day of the season, it seemed a slew of storylines were wrapped up. Jimmy Rollins hit his 20th triple to secure his place in history and his MVP status. Ryan Howard crushed his last home run of the season. Jamie Moyer brought his childhood favorite team to the postseason with a gutsy performance. And Brett Myers came full circle, ending the season with a strikeout after starting the season as the ace.

In his blog, Daily News writer David Murphy said a lot of storylines were neatly tied up this time, too. He refered to Rollins redeeming himself to the fans he once cast aside by making one of the most important defensive plays in Phillies history. He refered to guys such as Geoff Jenkins finally reaching the postseason for the first time in his long career. Yes, in some ways a few stories were neatly closed with the second-straight division title. But to me, the story is just beginning.

Suddenly we have a team that has won two consecutive division crowns. In this day of baseball parity, that feat doesn’t happen much. In the last three years, only the Cardinals (2005-06), Cubs (2007-08) and Angels (2007-08) have won back-to-back division titles. The foundation of Howard-Utley-Hamels-Myers-Rollins now has a good bit of experience dealing with the postseason. Focus on yesterday’s celebration seemed to be on the greater goal: Winning the World Series. It was a little more subdued, a little more workmanlike.

This team has been very workmanlike. Whereas last season’s Phillies were a thrill a minute, a bout of nerves, a test of wills, this 2008 team gets the job done. They get leads, they hold leads, they close the deal. If they get down early, they might come back in the middle of the game off worse pitching. Then they hold leads, they close the deal. Compare this season to last, and you won’t see as many incredible comebacks and jaw-dropping sequences. It’s just not how this team rolls.

Yesterday’s game illustrated that workmanlike mantra. The offense took the lead with sac flies and smart baserunning. When Jayson Werth muffed a fly ball for a run, he took it back with a quick home run. Jamie Moyer had a gritty, strong, veteran’s start and gave the ball to the bullpen after six. They held it, despite all the nailbiting moments. And an insurance run quelled our fears, but was absolutely necessary. Brad Lidge, though close to losing it, secured the save. Another workmanlike game.

This team got it done because they needed to, because they said they would. When Jimmy Rollins spilled out the “F” word, he backed it up by saying the Phils would turn on the burners late to capture the crown. Shoot, he was right. While we criticized Ryan Howard, he made us shut up with a legendary September. When we cursed Brett Myers for failing, he turned it around to become a top-shelf starter. When we chastised Chase Utley and accused him of injury, he put together a very good season (his average climbed to .292 in a year where it was hard for anyone to eclipse .300). Looking back, they did their jobs, they were true to their word.

We liked to hate this team. For sure, this was a love-hate relationship, not the love-love relationship that we had with the 2007 brand. That team provided thrills and exhilarating highs. This team made us tear our hair out. “Why aren’t they better?” “Why do they look so lethargic?” Ha. Now we have a 91-win team, a team that undoubtedly is one of the best in baseball, and absolutely championship-caliber. We needed that love-hate relationship. Love-love relationships result in first-round exits, memories of the climaxes that came too soon. Yes, Sept. 30, 2007 will always be the highest of that season’s highs. Rollins’ triple to etch his name in the history books; Howard’s home run (and halting before 200 K) to complete another amazing season; Moyer bringing home the bacon for his favorite childhood team; Myers recording the first and last outs of the season — all those moments wrapped up the ’07 campaign nicely.

But while some stories came to a nice close yesterday, there are still a few stories yet to hit their climaxes. There’s Howard cementing an MVP campaign, Utley proving his clutch, Hamels climbing to the next level, Rollins becoming the franchise’s greatest leader. Those are the stories that were made for an October epic.

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Video: The Double Play

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 01:53 PM Comments: 1

Here’s a YouTube video of the double play that clinched the NL East title, with Harry Kalas’ radio call as the audio:

  • 1 Comments
 

Gameday: Nationals (59-101) At Phillies (91-70)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, September 28, 2008 12:50 PM Comments: 80

Headline: Time to relax
The Major Players: Kyle Kendrick, Greg Golson, Lou Marson, Mike Cervenak
The Venue: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pa.

Kyle Kendrick gets a chance to redeem himself after a horrendous second half. He’ll face much of the Washington AAA squad. Meanwhile, the Phils will tote out a collection of AAAA-quality talent. Greg Golson and Lou Marson get their first starts, while Chris Coste will play first base. So Taguchi will lead off. Tadahito Iguchi gets the start at second. Mike Cervenak will man third base. Ahhh, I love it.

It’s Fan Appreciation Day at Citizens Bank Park, but it ain’t the last game. No, the Phils will be back home Wednesday to open the five-game National League Division Series.

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday as champs once again.

Phillies: Kyle Kendrick (11-9) 5.46 ERA
Nationals: Odalis Perez (7-11) 4.27 ERA
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EST
Weather: 73, showers
Lineup: Taguchi/Bruntlett/Iguchi/Jenkins/Coste/Cervenak/Golson/Marson/Kendrick

Beer!MLB TV
MLB Gameday Audio
MLB Gameday

Your gameday beer: Yuengling Lager. First beer of the season, last beer of the season.

Go Phillies!

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