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Gameday: Phillies (50-61) vs. Cubs (49-62)

Posted by Alex Lee, Tue, August 06, 2013 05:52 PM Comments: 21

39212-cubsPhiladelphia Phillies (50-61) vs. Chicago Cubs (49-62)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (9-8, 4.27 ERA) vs RHP Edwin Jackson (7-11, 4.65 ERA)

TIME: 7:05 ET, Citizens Bank Park
TV: 
Comcast SportsNet
Weather: 73, overcast
Media: Twitter and Facebook

The Phillies welcome the Cubs to town tonight, who are one of three National League teams with a record worse than the Phils 50-61.  To put it plainly, the Phillies have been in a free fall since the All-Star break.  They have lost 13 of 14 games and have been swept in three of five series since the Mid-Summer Classic.  Not only are they no longer in contention for a playoff spot, but with a run differential of minus 88 (second worst in MLB), they look like one of the worst teams in baseball.

The good news for Phillies fans is that they’ll get to see All-Star left fielder Domonic Brown again a day early, as he is back in the lineup tonight after being out since July 23 with a concussion.  Brown had three hits and a home run last night in a rehab start in Class-A Lakewood.  Brown will play left field and Darin Ruf will play right, despite never playing there previously in his professional career.  Ruf was reportedly taking fly balls in right field at around 3 o’clock today.  Laynce Nix (.486 OPS) was designated for assignment to make room for Brown, and Delmon Young, at least for now, appears to be the odd man out from a playing time standpoint (and rightfully s0).

Kyle Kendrick will be on the mound for the Phils, who had a horrendous July after a very solid first half of the season.  Kendrick gave up 21 earned runs on 38 hits in 25.2 innings in July for an ERA of 7.36.  In a season where it looked like he had turned a corner, the 28-year-old righty now has a 4.29 ERA, which is nearly identical to his career mark.  He will try to get back on track against Edwin Jackson and the Cubs, who have lost four in a row.  Nate Schierholtz, who the Phils non-tendered before the season in favor of Nix, will bat cleanup for Chicago.  He has an OPS of .827, which would rank second to Brown among Phillies with 100+ at-bats.

Lineup: Young 1B, Utley 2B, Rollins SS, Brown LF, Ruf RF, Mayberry CF, Asche 3B, Ruiz C, Kendrick P

3498868847_cdfdc0e2edGameday Beer: Smithwicks Irish Red Ale

Smithwicks has been around forever yet it never gets old. This red ale is one of the most common Irish brews and is perfect if you are in that Irish mood and want something lighter than a Guinness and a bit more than a Harp lager. It might not jump out at you, but you know that you are going to get a consistently solid beer, and a lot of times, that is enough.

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Free-Falling Phils Swept by Braves

Posted by Alex Lee, Sun, August 04, 2013 11:29 PM Comments: 21

Returning from injury, Cliff Lee had his fourth consecutive shaky start on Sunday.  (PHOTO: AP)

Returning from injury, Cliff Lee had his fourth consecutive shaky start on Sunday. (PHOTO: AP)

Behind rookie lefthander Alex Wood, the Braves completed a sweep of the Phillies on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, winning 4-1 and dropping the Phils to a season low 11 games under .500.  They now trail Atlanta by 16.5 games in the NL East.

Cliff Lee was not himself in his first start in two weeks, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered considering the lackluster state of the Phillies offense right now.  They managed only four hits, three walks and a run against the Braves, who have the second best team ERA in baseball.  John Kruk summed it up best in the ninth inning when he commented that despite only being a three-run game, it had the feel of a blowout.

The Phillies have lost 13 of their last 14 games, and have been swept in three of the five series after the All-Star break.  They are the owners of a minus-88 run differential, which is the worst in the National League and only better than the anemic Houston Astros in all of baseball.  The sweep dropped the Phils to 3-6 on the year against the first place Braves.  Atlanta has now won 10 in a row.

CLIFF LEE SHAKY IN RETURN

- In his first start since July 21, Lee lasted only five innings, surrendering four runs (three earned), eight hits and two walks.  He looked off from the start, uncharacteristically walking the first batter of the game and later that inning crossing up Carlos Ruiz on a curveball that ultimately cost him a run.

- The lefty was visibly frustrated in the fourth inning when his outing was delayed about five minutes while the umpires tried to determine via replay if a B.J. Upton home run should stand.  Upton was sent back to second with a double, but Lee gave up drives to Jason Heyward and Justin Upton that put the game out of reach at 4-1. Continue reading Free-Falling Phils Swept by Braves

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An Argument for Trading Cliff Lee

Posted by Alex Lee, Wed, July 31, 2013 12:15 PM Comments: 39

Should it take an earth-shattering package for the Phils to move Lee? (PHOTO: AP)

Should it take an earth-shattering package for the Phils to move Lee? (PHOTO: AP)

As the clock creeps towards today’s 4pm trade deadline, die-hard Phillies fans are sure to be glued to their rumors source of choice.  Last night’s report that Jake Peavy is headed to Boston put a sizable dent in the Phillies chances of moving Cliff Lee, leaving only the Tigers, Cardinals and Dodgers as plausible suitors for the prized left hander.

At this point, there is little doubt that Lee is available, and the reports that say so also indicate that the Phillies’ asking price for him is steep, as it should be.  Many saw Boston as the frontrunner to pry Lee from the Phils, but in the end it sounds like the asking price (Xander Bogaerts perhaps?) was too high, so the Sox moved on to Plan B and the Phillies were left with little hope of a monster return for their most valuable trade asset.

Bogaerts wasn’t going anywhere for many of the same reasons that Domonic Brown was never available when the Phillies were hunting for aces of their own over the past five years.  Prospects of that ilk are rarely moved, regardless of the stakes, and especially when surrendering them also requires picking up a $70 million tab in the process.  Assuming Bogaerts, or even Jackie Bradley Jr., were the sticking points in negotiations with the Sox, it is safe to say that any team hoping to acquire Lee’s services today will have to submit an offer that blows Amaro away.  Which leads to the question, has Amaro set the bar for Lee too high?

Trading established stars for prospects is risky business.  No one knows that better than Amaro, who has acquired Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in recent years for packages that have yet to yield much at the major league level.  He also traded Lee before the 2010 season for a haul bad enough that he’s since admitted it was a mistake.  But in the Phillies current situation, that shouldn’t be an argument not to move Lee.  Quite simply, that is because one could argue the risk of not trading him is greater than the risk of again moving him for a flawed return.

Continue reading An Argument for Trading Cliff Lee

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Rosenthal: Phils Talking Lee With Other Teams

Posted by Alex Lee, Mon, July 29, 2013 09:32 AM Comments: 26

It sounds like the Phillies are talking to other teams about Cliff Lee.  (PHOTO: AP)

It sounds like the Phillies are talking to other teams about Cliff Lee. (PHOTO: AP)

While we heard yesterday from ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Phillies have finally informed teams a certain number of their veteran players are on the trading block, Cliff Lee was apparently not on that list. But in his Fox Sports column today, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Phillies have discussed their All-Star lefty with other clubs. Rosenthal acknowledges that the Phils are unlikely to trade Lee, in large part due to their insistence on receiving a huge haul in return for the former Cy Young winner:

“One rival executive on Sunday night acknowledged the Phillies’ willingness to trade Lee but said the team would do it only “for a lot!!!” — meaning, a steep package of talent.”

The Phils have every right to start the bidding for Lee sky high. He is an elite pitcher and has a track record of dominance come October. He is likely the most coveted player that has any chance of changing teams before Wednesday’s 4pm trade deadline. But Rosenthal outlines several other things that may preclude a Lee trade, as paraphrased below:

- Lee’s contract includes a 20-team no-trade clause and has about $70MM left on it ($9MM left in 2013 and a $12.5MM buyout for 2016). Lee’s $120MM contract has essentially worked out for the Phils, especially when compared to some of the other nine-figure deals given to free agents in recent years. Lee is still a stud, but the no-trade clause and the money narrows down the list of teams that’d be willing to take on the money and fork over premium talent in return.

Continue reading Rosenthal: Phils Talking Lee With Other Teams

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Phils Need Epic Second Half to Make Playoffs

Posted by Alex Lee, Tue, July 16, 2013 02:46 PM Comments: 26

After the All-Star festivities end tonight, Cliff Lee, Domonic Brown and the rest of the Phils have plenty of work to do. (AP Photo)

After the All-Star festivities end tonight, Cliff Lee, Domonic Brown and the rest of the Phils have plenty of work to do.  (AP Photo)

As I opined last week, gauging where you stand on the Phillies can hinge on what day you check in on this ambivalent bunch.  Nowhere is it more visible than within the Philadelphia media, where readers are bombarded with recurring “buy” and “sell” advocacy within the same publication, sometimes on the very same day.

For Phillies fans, it really is a recipe for whiplash.

Today is one of the good days.  Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown will represent the city in tonight’s All-Star Game at CitiField.  The Phils are riding high, winners of nine of 13 and four straight series, three of which came against teams in contention.  They are at the .500 mark for the first time since June 7 – six-and-a-half games behind Atlanta in the NL East and five-and-a-half behind Cincinnati for the second wild card spot.

There is nothing wrong with fans craving the excitement of a playoff run.  That remains true even if they don’t truly believe this team has the talent to make one (count me in with that cautiously hopeful bunch).  But while this group’s recent penchant for second half improvement has me conceding that a playoff spot is a remote possibility, it still seems pretty implausible when you crunch the numbers.

Continue reading Phils Need Epic Second Half to Make Playoffs

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Don’t Let These Phillies Fool You

Posted by Alex Lee, Tue, July 09, 2013 01:30 PM Comments: 0

Cole Hamels takes the hill tonight against the Nats.  (Photo: AP)

Cole Hamels takes the hill tonight against the Nats. (Photo: AP)

It’s easy to get excited when the Phillies play like this.  They take a series from the Pirates in Pittsburgh, a series from the Braves at home, and then their No. 5 starter goes out last night and dominates the team directly above them in the standings.  To top it off, all of this comes against the backdrop of the front office laying down the gauntlet, first essentially dubbing this current homestand the Alamo and then holding a closed-door meeting to ensure the players got the message.  Even some of the Philly media are buying in.

I urge you to proceed with caution.

The Phillies have done this before.  In fact, Monday night marked the fourteenth time this season the Phillies have won consecutive games after a loss.  What they haven’t been able to do is get very far beyond that point.  The Phils have won three in a row only three times and five in a row once.  Do the math and you’ll see the problem; they’re 4-9 in games where they’ve won the last two.

That has to change if the Phillies want to jump back into contention.  Don’t believe me?  Then take it from the immortal Lou Brown:

“We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, that’s two in a row. We win one tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak… It has happened before.”

He’s right, but it hasn’t happened much in 2013 for this group.  On a serious note, if the Phillies continue to navigate through this season without reeling off some sort of hot stretch – 10 in a row, 12 of 13, 15 of 20 or something in that ballpark – they’re going to have to win every remaining series to have a shot at making the playoffs.  And let’s face it, that isn’t happening.

Continue reading Don’t Let These Phillies Fool You

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Lannan Twirls A Gem In Phils Win

Posted by Alex Lee, Mon, July 08, 2013 09:54 PM Comments: 14

John Lannan was unhittable on Monday night at CBP (Photo: AP).

John Lannan was unhittable on Monday night at CBP (Photo: AP).

Ruben Amaro publicly challenged his players when he decreed this 10-game homestand the tipping point of the 2013 season.  So far so good through four games, as the Phillies topped the Nationals on Monday night, 3-2, to climb within 2.5 games of second place Washington.

John Lannan (2-3, 4.26 ERA) threw eight innings of shutout ball and Ben Revere fueled the offense with his bat and his legs, tallying three hits, a steal and scoring two of the three Phillies runs.  Jimmy Rollins also had a good night, following two Revere hits with singles of his own in innings that led to runs.  Jonathan Papelbon navigated through a rocky ninth – two hits, a few loud outs – to capture his 19th save of the season.

The Phillies are now 4-3 against the Nationals this year and have three more against them this week at Citizens Bank Park.

LANNAN DOMINANT AGAINST FORMER MATES

- Lannan was magnificent in his second outing against his former team.  The lefthander retired the side in order in four of his eight frames, allowing only four hits and a pair of walks.  He induced 12 groundouts in eight innings.  Monday night was unequivocally Lannan’s best start as a member of the Phillies.  He needed only 109 pitches to get through eight, the first time he’s hit triple digits in 24 outings dating back to 2011.  He lowered his ERA to a respectable 4.26 on the season.

Continue reading Lannan Twirls A Gem In Phils Win

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Brown, Pettibone Lead Phils to Series Win

Posted by Alex Lee, Sun, July 07, 2013 05:02 PM Comments: 14

With a slash line of .281/.326/.560, Domonic Brown is showing any doubters he had left that his May was no fluke.

With a slash line of .281/.326/.560 well into July, Domonic Brown is showing any doubters he has left that his May outburst was no fluke.

The Phillies used a handful of clutch hits and an impressive outing from Jonathan Pettibone to beat the Atlanta Braves 7-3 on a steamy Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.  The game time temperature was a stifling 94 degrees.  Pettibone (5-3, 3.84 ERA) allowed only one run in 5.1 innings to earn his fifth win of the year.

The Phils’ offense provided the righty with two runs in the first, two more in the fourth and another in the fifth on a solo shot from Domonic Brown.  Brown went 2-for-4 on the day with a triple, a home run and two RBIs.   Ben Revere’s two-out double in the fourth proved huge when the Braves scored two runs off the Phillies bullpen after Pettibone’s exit.

After winning consecutive series against first place Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Phils will host the Nats, winners of four in a row, at Citizens Bank Park starting tomorrow night.

OFFENSE SHOWS SIGNS OF LIFE

- With Freddie Freeman holding Chase Utley on at first base, Brown ripped a two-out line drive off Freeman’s glove and into the right field corner in the first, scoring Utley and putting Brown at third base with a triple.  Two batters later, Delmon Young plated Brown with a bloop single into center field for a 2-0 Phillies lead.  In a sweltering heat, the Phils forced starter Kris Medlen to throw 23 pitches in the first. Continue reading Brown, Pettibone Lead Phils to Series Win

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Gameday: Phillies (40-44) vs. Pirates (51-31)

Posted by Alex Lee, Wed, July 03, 2013 05:30 PM Comments: 0

images (2)Philadelphia Phillies (40-44) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (51-31)

LHP John Lannan (1-2, 4.83 ERA) vs LHP Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06 ERA)

TIME: 7:05 ET, PNC Park
TV: 
Comcast SportsNet
Weather: 84, clear
Media: Twitter and Facebook

It is getting to be that time of the season for this Phillies core group… either put up or shut up.  The team has two more games on this devilish 10-game road trip to make a statement before they come home for the last 10-games before the All-Star Game.  Jimmy Rollins said last month that the veterans understand they have to contend or this team might be broken up.  A series win against the first-place Pirates followed by a successful homestand is a step in that direction.

It won’t be easy.  The Bucs had won nine straight before Jonathan Pettibone and beat them last night.  The Phils face lefty Jeff Locke on Wednesday, who hasn’t lost since his opening start and has a 1.07 ERA over his last eight.  Locke dominated the Phillies lineup in April, allowing only two hits in six shutout innings of a 2-0 Pirates win.  The Phils will counter with John Lannan who had his best start (and only win) as a Phillie last Friday in Los Angeles.

The Phillies are without Ryan Howard on Wednesday, who admitted his knee was sore after last night’s win.  Before collecting two hits and an RBI last night, Howard had been 0 for his last 20 at-bats with 11 strikeouts.  That slides Domonic Brown into the clean-up spot and the suddenly hot Delmon Young into the five-hole.  Young is hitting .462 with nine RBIs through the first eight games of this road trip.

Lineup: M. Young 3B, Utley 2B, Rollins SS, Brown LF, D. Young RF, Mayberry 1B, Revere CF, Ruiz C, Lannan P

tumblr_mdrqqhVFlG1qck1jco1_400Gameday Beer: Smithwicks Irish Red Ale

Smithwicks has been around forever yet it never gets old. This red ale is one of the most common Irish brews and is perfect if you are in that Irish mood and want something lighter than a Guinness and a bit more than a Harp lager. It might not jump out at you, but you know that you are going to get a consistently solid beer, and a lot of times, that is enough.

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Logic Says Amaro, Phillies Should Sell Big

Posted by Alex Lee, Wed, July 03, 2013 02:32 PM Comments: 1

If Amaro doesn't change his tune, his insistence that this aging core is worth clinging to that will be his downfall.

If Amaro doesn’t change his tune, his insistence that this aging core is worth holding onto will be his downfall.

Back in March, I disagreed with the notion that the Phillies roster needed detonation, as was then being advocated by Jonah Keri of Grantland.com.  I thought there were too many pieces still in place to have that outlook going into 2013… that this veteran group had a legitimate shot at contention if enough went right.

Then the season started.  To be fair to myself, the performances of Domonic Brown, Chase Utley (when healthy) and Cliff Lee have proven me partially right – there was some gas left in the tank.  But the simultaneous play of Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay and nearly the entire bullpen has made it obvious that this core group needs to be broken up.

Keri hasn’t let up on his assertion that the Phillies are running themselves into the ground, which came to a head last week in his NL East Trade Deadline Preview.  He again advocated a fire sale and hurled some vitriol-filled grenades towards the Phils front office.  From Keri:

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and his bosses are either delusional, in denial, terribly misguided, or all of the above. Sure, making drastic changes to a team that’s ascended to elite revenue-generating status thanks to big crowds and a pending TV megascore carries risk. But so too does clinging to a group of fading veterans and watching them limit the Phillies to a string of 75-win seasons.

Continue reading Logic Says Amaro, Phillies Should Sell Big

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