Archive for May, 2009

At Memorial Day Marker, Phils Looking Good

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, May 25, 2009 12:03 PM Comments: 59

PhilshatMemorial Day: Not only is it the unofficial start to summer, but it’s the perfect time to take stock in a baseball season. We’ve reached the quarter pole, and as June and the Dog Days creep into the picture, teams are beginning to shape into either contenders or pretenders. Yes, the Nationals probably won’t win anything again.

And in the rest of the National League, the Dodgers are running away with the West and it might be a three- to four-team race in the Central. The East? While Florida should hang around, it’s the Phillies, Mets and Braves lunging for first. And on stock day, the Phils are in good shape.

The 24-18 defending champs are high off a thrilling weekend set at the Boogie Down. The offense has carried the torch while pitching has scuffled, but there’s hope for the arms: Cole Hamels is healthy and dealing, Brett Myers has composed a string of solid starts, JA Happ has entered the rotation with gusto. Meanwhile, the bullpen is in great shape, save for the mysterious reeling of Brad Lidge.

Let’s look at what’s good and bad for our boys through 42:

The Good

Contributions on offense: There will be slumps and hot streaks. Ryan Howard was hot early. Then Chase Utley. Then Jimmy Rollins. Pedro Feliz is struggling now, but Carlos Ruiz has picked up his game. Shane Victorino is starting to see his way out of a cold swing. Yet the Phils continue to bash the ball to the tune of 5.69 runs per game. A season is filled with bulk contributions — so far guys are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Ribbie: I saved a special space for Raul Ibanez, who hasn’t let up 25 percent through the season. He’s a special player. He hits to all fields, hits for power, hits in the clutch, fields well enough, can throw out runners, possesses workable speed for a 37-year-old man. Again, he’s 37. Where did this come from? Could he have been doing this for years in Philadelphia? He’s seventh in the majors in hitting (.352), third in runs batted in (43) and first in home runs (17). He’s threatening the Triple Crown. Ibanez has fueled this offense consistently since game one.

Top-line pitching: Finally, Brett Myers is settling into a pitcher’s role. His 4.34 ERA is still decreasing, while his 43/19 K/BB ratio is pretty solid. His bend-not-break start in Yankee Stadium shows his capability against good teams. If he can remain at that high level all season, Myers would suffice in the No. 2 role behind Cole Hamels, who has solidified himself this season as one of baseball’s best arms.

Middle relief: Thank Clay Condrey — this man’s been doubling down all season with success. In 24.2 innings he’s held a 2.19 ERA, taking the Chad Durbin 2008 torch as most underrated valuable player on the team. Not to be outdone is Ryan Madson, the all-world setup man with a 2.95 ERA and sick 23/6 K/BB ratio. Chad Durbin (4.32) has taken some tough licks but remains a crucial workhorse. JC Romero’s return should help organize the bullpen into the machine it represented last season.

The Bad

Back-end starting pitching: Answers are necessary concerning Joe Blanton (2-3, 7.11 ERA) and Jamie Moyer (3-4, 7.62 ERA). Two poor pitchers can’t exist in one rotation, and a change might come before the All-Star break. The need for an acquired pitcher is high with doubts concerning prospect Carlos Carrasco and carbon copies Kyle Kendrick and Andrew Carpenter.

Brad Lidge: His ERA (9.15) is a poor indicator, but what’s worse is his 2.08 WHIP. The results are simple: He allows two baserunners and one run per inning. A closer cannot do this. His knee is likely still bothering him, affecting his slider, which isn’t hitting enough for batters to be fooled. Lidge needs time away from the big leagues; maybe a return at the halfway mark would show better results.

Poor bench: John Mayberry Jr. adds necessary pop to a bench that hasn’t pulled its weight so far. The main culprit, surprisingly, is Greg Dobbs (.143 AVG, .229 SLG), who might be victim of not getting enough time. That might change as Feliz dips toward career norms. So there is hope the bench improves; if Dobbs gets better, the bench looks great.


The bad aspects of the Phillies 2009 season seem like small hurdles. The bench can improve with some tweaking of playing time. Lidge is a great concern, but bullpen depth is strong and there’s time to figure out the reason for failure. And a trade-deadline move might secure the rotation. Despite these problems, the good are outweighing, showing completely in New York. Big pitchers are pitching big. The offense is developing into a clutch machine again. The 24-18 record is justified. The Phillies are on pace to finish about 92-70, which is dead on with the 2008 team. That should win the tight and competitive East again.


What’s Wrong With Brad Lidge?

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, May 25, 2009 11:00 AM Comments: 21

The word “struggling” is an understatement for closer Brad Lidge. He has blown four saves in twelve opportunities, including two in a row. He is 0-2 and his earned run average soared over nine.

He has allowed 2.08 walks and hits per innings pitched and opponents are batting .337 against the right hander. Runners have already stole five bases off him. Last year they stole a total of eight.

His fastball velocity reaches 94-95 mph. He says he is healthy. He is not tipping his pitches. So, what is wrong with Brad Lidge?

His location hasn’t been off by much, but he isn’t throwing as many pitches for strikes,  indicated in his walk totals. Batters are taking pitches.  When he is behind in the count and throws a slider, a chase pitch, batters  lay off since he isn’t throwing it for strikes.

Or, is it a confidence factor? After blowing one save, “perfection” is gone. Maybe all he needs is one 1-2-3 save to get back to a confident mindset.

Despite his hard-to-watch struggles, after last season, he deserves fan support.


Opinion: Send Mayberry Down, For Now

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sun, May 24, 2009 11:00 PM Comments: 20

In need of an extra right handed bat for for interleague play, John Mayberry Jr. was called up from Triple-A.

Mayberry’s eight home runs and 25 runs batted in led the Lehigh Valley IronPigs coming into Sunday. Called up to the majors, Mayberry impacted the Philadelphia Phillies lineup right away by showing his power to the nation.

His first major league home run, a three run shot, gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead on Saturday. He also doubled.

In his second game, he was 0-for-5 with a strikeout.

Charlie Manuel said Mayberry will stick around for awhile, but the Phillies do not need a designated hitter until June 23 when they play the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. After their series in Tampa, they head to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays.

Mayberry won’t recieve much playing time with a starting outfield that consists of Jasyon Werth, Shane Victorino and the red hot Raul Ibanez.

Despite their need for a right handed bat off the bench, the Phillies would benefit if Mayberry is sent back down to Triple-A. Being able to play on a daily basis, he’ll get extra at-bats so he won’t be rusty if he gets playing time in the majors at the end of June.

He does not have enough experience, and strikes out too much to serve as a temporary pinch hitter. Just 25 years old, his future is an everyday player, not a utility man.

While Mayberry is a much needed right handed power bat, the Phillies should look elsewhere for the sake of benefiting the team in the future.


Chooch Points The Way In 11-Inning Thriller

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, May 24, 2009 07:47 PM Comments: 46

Chooch!In a classic thriller, Carlos Ruiz busted a full-count, two-out double to hand the Phillies the 4-3 lead and eventual win in 11 innings over the Yankees.

The win capped a spectacular 8-2 road trip by the Fightins’, which ranks among some of the best road swings in franchise history. The game featured some clutch hitting — not just Ruiz, who went 3-for-4 to end up at .302 on the season (and blocked the plate despite Johnny Damon trying to will the ball free in a great out call), but also by Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino in a two-run third. And of course, by Raul Ibanez, who struck an RBI double in the sixth.

Cole Hamels had a solid start, battling with patient Yankee hitters all day for a line of 6 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 5 K. Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson were masterful once again, with Scott Eyre grabbing an out from Johnny Damon. But once again, Brad Lidge blew the save in the ninth, allowing a tough infield single score form stolen bases and a Melky Cabrera RBI single.

Clay Condrey battled through a potentially harrowing 10th, inducing a double play, intentionally walking Alex Rodriguez and making Ramiro Pena fly out. His 11th? Much easier.

Face it: This was a classic game, ending a classic series between two eerily even teams. This was October baseball, in May.


Gameday: Phillies (23-18) At Yankees (25-18)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, May 24, 2009 11:43 AM Comments: 441

yankeeslogoPhiladelphia Phillies (23-18) at New York Yankees (25-18)
Cole Hamels (2-2, 4.95 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.45 ERA)
Time: 1:05 p.m. at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Weather: Possible thunderstorms, 76
TV: MyPhl 17
Twitter: Phillies Nation

For 17 innings, the Phillies have played the Yankees pretty darn well. Game one was about Brett Myers and the longball. Game two was about contributions from young players. Then Brad Lidge threw some bad pitches.

But today is a new day, and Cole Hamels faces CC Sabathia in the rubber match to end all rubber matches. Yankee Stadium is ready. The Phillies are ready. Phillies Nation is there.

Remember last time Sabathia faced the Phillies? We sure do.

Your gameday beer: In the spirit of the Yankees’ biggest rivals, here’s Harpoon Celtic Ale from the Harpoon Brewery. And in the spirit of the Irish, this beer is a dry but complex drink — hints of toffee and various spices make this a good catch. And if you’re gonna eat Irish with it, go with bangers and mash. It’s St. Paddy’s Day … in May!

Go Phillies!


With 1 Pitch, Happ Dominated Yankees

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, May 23, 2009 11:00 PM Comments: 16

HapprulesIn six innings, JA Happ threw 75 pitches. Fifty of them were strikes. Against the Yankees.

Of the 75 pitches, 11 were sliders and three were changeups. He threw 61 four-seam fastballs.

Despite throwing 81.33 percent fastballs, Happ surrendered only two runs on four hits while walking none.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the mark of a talented pitcher.

When Happ pitched for the Phillies last July 4 against the Mets, we saw him throw four pitches — the fastball, changeup, slider and a curveball. He used the former three pitches evenly; Saturday, however, Happ kept pounding with the fastball, unafraid to move inside on hitters, all the while keeping the pitch low in the zone early in counts. He kept Yankee hitters off balance and had them forcing swings to the deep infield.

When a man can utilize his fastball as his only weapon, he has a heck of a fastball. Happ can tailor it to the hitter’s weakness, jamming Alex Rodriguez inside or going up top against a free swinger. It’s the kind of pitching Brett Myers masters when he’s on his game. It’s the kind of pitching that makes Ryan Madson so unhittable. When the fastball is hitting its spots, the pitcher is practically invincible.

What Happ’s start shows us is he’s a born starter — he can dictate the pace of a game and transform his game during the course of six, or seven, or more innings. Throughout his career Happ has been aggressive, and his outing Saturday was the most aggressive pitching a Phillie starter had exhibited all season.


Rosenthal: Phillies Looking For Starters

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, May 23, 2009 09:55 PM Comments: 28

On Saturday’s FOX broadcast between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees, insider Ken Rosenthal talked about options the Phillies could be looking at.

“There is no question the Phillies want another starter, maybe even two starters the way this thing might evolve. In a perfect world, they would get a number 2 to fit behind Cole Hamels, someone better than Joe Blanton, the pitcher they acquired last season. Obviously, we’ve heard about Jake Peavy this week. He probably would not want to come to Philly. But you’ll be hearing about guys like Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn, who both pitch for the Mariners, maybe even Roy Oswalt. The Phillies are going to inquire and be in on every one of those pitchers.”


Lidge Blows It For Happ, Mayberry, Phils

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, May 23, 2009 08:06 PM Comments: 61

YankeeswinThis should’ve been a win.

Instead, the Phillies lost, 5-4, to the Yankees on a game-winning hit by Melky Cabrera. This came after a game-tying, two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez. All off Brad Lidge. His second blown save of the year, and unquestionably, the worst loss the Phils have suffered in a long time.

The Phils climbed out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Raul Ibanez’ major-league-leading 17th home run. Tied at 1-1, John Mayberry Jr. hit his first major league homer in his second major league at bat. Mayberry added a double in the game.

JA Happ was brilliant, throwing mostly fastballs and stupifying Yankee hitters for six innings. Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson made short work of New York.

But then Brad came in. Suddenly our confidence is waning with old Lidge.


Gameday: Phillies (23-17) At Yankees (24-18)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, May 23, 2009 02:45 PM Comments: 394

yankeeslogoPhiladelphia Phillies (23-17) at New York Yankees (24-18)
JA Happ (2-0, 2.49 ERA) vs. Andy Pettite (4-1, 4.18 ERA)
Time: 4:10 p.m. at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Weather: Partly sunny, 70
Twitter: Phillies Nation

Congratulations, JA Happ, you made the rotation!

Now pitch against the New York Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium on a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game on Memorial Day weekend.

Really, this is nothing new for Happ, whose first career start was a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Mets. In fact, it’s the third consecutive season Happ will make his first start against a New York team. As a starter, Happ is 1-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 27.2 innings, or five starts. He has never faced any of these Yankees in the major leagues.

The Yankees will counter with Andy Pettite, who I’ll always remember as the man the Phillies almost traded for during the 2001 season. The trade deadline deal broke down last minute, which was a shame, because Pettite has turned in a few more sparkling seasons since that night. Since 2006 he’s kept his ERA over 4.00, but he continues to win games and strike out batters. Phillie hitters have limited experience against the lefty, and mostly, it’s not that great.

John Mayberry Jr., called up last night, will start today.

Your gameday beer: For this Happ vs. Pettite matchup, we go with Whipper Snapper beer from Portsmouth Brewery. This bitter English-style beer will stay on your tongue for a little while, and sometimes, bite is a good thing. For a gameday meal, go with some roast beef and cole slaw.

Go Phillies!


Myers’ Swagger In Full Bloom Friday

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, May 23, 2009 10:09 AM Comments: 43

MyersYanksQuietly, Brett Myers has solidified himself as the Phillies’ most reliable starter. Specifically in his last three starts, Myers has allowed six earned runs in 21 innings, walking just four. And each of the last five runs he’s allowed have been solo home runs. Not too shabby, really.

Early in last night’s win, AJ Burnett plunked Chase Utley, likely not an intentional pitch. Myers still responded, throwing behind Derek Jeter to lead off the Yankees’ first. It set a tone for the rest of the game — Myers won’t back down, especially against the mighty Yankees. And the Phillies weren’t scared of the spotlight.

“I think that’s what we need to do as team,” Myers said. “I think everybody protects each other on a team and, you know, I mean it’s part of the game. I mean it’s kind of like eye for an eye.”

It was reminiscent of Myers’ performance late last season. During that brilliant stretch, Myers took authority in his starts, dictating the pace of the game and showing his swagger through pitching. Solo homers be damned, Myers’ character was strong last night — painting the zone, dropping in the electric curve, moving about the infield collecting ground balls. That’s the Myers that can win 20 games.

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