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UnbeLEEvable; Phils Offense, Lee Overpower Dodgers

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sun, October 18, 2009 11:38 PM Comments: 59

In a world that sometimes lends itself to feast or famine, the Phillies certainly dug into a smorgasbord Sunday night as they crushed the Dodgers, 11-0,  to take a two games to one series lead.

After scoring just one run on Friday in a loss to the Dodgers, the Phillies bats exploded scoring four first-inning runs courtesy of a two-run triple from “the Big Piece” Ryan Howard and a two-run bomb to center from Jayson Werth.

The onslaught continued throughout the game as the Phillies managed to put up the crooked number three more times, including two runs in the second, two in the fifth, and three in the eighth.

If you’re looking for a offensive standout, take your pick as every player in the starting line-up scored at least one run.  Raul Ibanez was the only Phillies starter to not record a hit in the ball game.

Both Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino homered, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins each had doubles. Ruiz’s torrent streak has been one of the keys to the Phillies success so far this postseason. “Chooch” is now batting a ridiculous .625 in this series and  has seven R.B.I.’s throughout the playoffs.

Also of note on the offensive side of the ball, Howard set a Major League record in the first inning with an R.B.I. in his seventh consecutive postseason game, when all games came in the same season. The overall record is held by Lou Gehrig, who had ribbies in eight consecutive games, spanning three years.

Lost in the offensive beat-down was a masterful, eight inning performance from Cliff Lee. Lee was untouchable allowing  just three hits, two to Manny Ramirez, all while sitting down ten on strikeouts. Despite coming to the plate in the eighth inning(an at-bat in which he roped a single), his 114 pitches tossed were just a bit too much to allow Lee to finish the complete game shut-out.

The hostile Philly crowd set the tone early with “Beat L.A.!” chants heard from the on-set. The Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda looked startled and the cold northeastern air seemed to stiffen his hurt neck. The Phillies wasted no time jumping on Kuroda and chased him in the second inning.

Both teams resume play Monday night, another 8:07 start. The Phillies will look to extend their series lead.


Martinez’s Dominance Not Enough as Phils Fall 2-1; Series Tied

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Fri, October 16, 2009 09:07 PM Comments: 66

Through the first five games of this second season, manager Charlie Manuel has found himself in positions where his decisions weighed heavily on the outcome of the game. So far, Manuel had pushed all of the right buttons, placing his talented ball-club in a position to succeed. This afternoon, however, Manuel may have out-thought and out-managed himself.

Pedro Martinez, who was making his first postseason appearance since the World Series in 2004 for Boston, pitched a gem through seven innings. With the exception of two hits throughout, Martinez had the Dodgers line-up on their heels all afternoon. He wasn’t overpowering, as he struck out just three, but he was certainly efficient, walking none. Over the seven frames, Martinez threw just 87 pitches, forcing pop-ups and ground-outs the whole time.

Martinez’s doppelganger, former Phillie Vincente Padilla rode his floatilla straight through 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on a mistake to Ryan Howard, which the big man deposited in the left-field seats. Despite the solo shot from Howard, Padilla cruised, striking out six, walking only one. Padilla held the Phils to just four hits and the offense was completely mystified by the journeyman pitcher.

When the bottom half of the eighth arrived, Martinez’s spot in the batting order was due up third. When Carlos Ruiz walked with one out, Charlie Manuel decided to take a gamble hoping to hit the big-inning jackpot. Unfortunately, the gamble required Martinez to be removed from the game after throwing just 87 pitches. The gamble didn’t pay-off as the Phillies failed to put a run on the board. The game was then placed in the shaky hands of the bullpen. The snowball effect wasn’t pretty.

Chan Ho Park entered the game and surrendered a lead-off single to Casey Blake. The next batter, Ronnie Belliard singled on a seeing-eye bunt that put runners at first and second with no outs. A double-play ball was needed and Park got one off the bat of Russell Martin, however, two mistakes were made on the play. First, Pedro Feliz, who fielded the ball had the opportunity to tag out the lead-runner moving to third(pinch-runner Juan Pierre), but opted for the conventional double-play. After getting Belliard at second, the second mistake was made as Chase Utley, for the second straight day, air-mailed the relay to first, allowing the tying run to cross the plate.

Four Dodger batters and three Phillies relievers later and rookie J.A. Happ walked Andre Ethier on a 3-2 count, with the bases juiced to give the Dodgers the 2-1 lead. It was a good at-bat from Ethier who was able to lay off a close, but low ball four from Happ.

It was all the Dodgers would need as they sent closer Jonathan Broxton to the mound to finish off the Phillies in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, getting Chase Utley to fly-out to end the game.

Both teams will get a chance to breathe as the series moves to Philadelphia for three games, starting Sunday. The two teams stand tied at a game a piece.


Phillies Take Series Lead 2-1

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Mon, October 12, 2009 02:57 AM Comments: 71

Exhale Philadelphia. You may now take a deep breath and sleep well. At 2:14 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, your Fightin’ Phils beat the Rockies 6-5, in a game for the ages, a thriller in the Mile-High City. They now hold a two games to one lead over the Rox in the best of five series.

Chase Utley got the party started in the top half of the first with a solo-shot to right-center, to give the Phillies the early lead. But the Rockies would certainly answer back in the bottom half of the frame with two runs of Phillies starter J.A. Happ.

Happ never looked comfortable in the cold, as he went just three innings, giving up three earned runs on five Rockies hits. He walked two. Joe Blanton would enter the game in the fourth inning and gave up one run to the Rockies in 2.2 innings.

Colorado led the Phillies 3-1 in the fourth and starter Jason Hammel had shut the Phillies down with the exception of Utley’s long-ball. Shane Victorino led the inning off with a walk and Utley followed with a single to right field. Ryan Howard followed Utley’s hit with a single of his own, scoring Victorino. After Jayson Werth walked to load the bases, Raul Ibanez drew his first walk of the evening, scoring Utley to tie the game at three.

After a Pedro Feliz double-play, with no outs, Carlos Ruiz gave the Phillies the lead with a single through the hole at short.

The Rockies would fight back and tie the game off of Blanton before Ruiz played hero again with a single up the middle to score Raul Ibanez.

The Rockies would get the equalizer in the bottom half of the seventh off of Ryan Madson courtesy of a sacrifice fly. The run was charged to Scott Eyre who left the game after injuring what appeared to be his ankle while fielding a bunt from the Rockies Dexter Fowler. There has been no word on the severity of the injury, however, Eyre was able to walk off on his own.

The game remained knotted at five until the top of the ninth. Jimmy Rollins, who had been 0-4 up to that point, worked a lead-off single. After being sacrificed to second on a Victorino bunt, Utley moved him to third on a swinging bunt single up the first base line. Replays later showed that the ball hit Utley in the batters box and should have been ruled a foul ball, however, Utley reached safely.

Ryan Howard then hit a long fly ball to center-field, scoring Rollins, giving the Phillies the 6-5 lead off of Rockies closer Houston Street.

Brad Lidge entered the game in the ninth and got the lead-off batter to ground out to second. The next batter Carlos Gonzalez then walked and swiped second base, putting the tying run in scoring position. Jason Giambi followed with a pop out to third and then Todd Helton drew the walk to put the winning run on base with superstar short stop Troy Tulowitzki at the plate.

While those still awake in the Delaware Valley were chewing on copious amounts of antacids, Brad Lidge put the stomach acids at ease, forcing Tulowitzki to pop out to Ben Francisco to end the game.

The Phillies will look to clinch the series and move onto the NLCS tomorrow when they take on Colorado in game four. That game is scheduled to start a 5:30 p.m.  Eastern Standard Time.


Postponed Game Bodes Well for Phillies

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sun, October 11, 2009 09:02 AM Comments: 57

Alright, so we had to wait one more day to watch the Phillies take on the Rockies in game three. It’s not like we haven’t waited before. As matter of fact, it was our waiting that really set the precedent for the major league, when it came to moving around playoff games to better suit the weather.

Let’s face it, 29 degrees with snow on the ground is not baseball weather, it’s barely late season football weather. However, when baseball decided to expand it’s league to markets like Denver, this is what you get. The reverse of the weather quandary was seen in places like Miami in mid-July. To combat this problem, many teams in cold(or hot) weather cities, such as Milwaukee and Seattle(as well as Houston and Arizona) decided to build domes for their ballparks. The folks in the Mile-High city must have never envisioned their team in the postseason, or else the brain-trust of the Rockies also would have added a dome to their park as well.

In the end, the Phillies were the team that made out best by this postponement. First off, game-time temperatures tonight is expected to be 41 degrees as opposed to 29. Still, not quite the ideal weather for a ball game, but much more comfortable. The high temperature today should allow the snow to melt, although field conditions will most likely still be wet.

The second advantage it gives to the Phillies is the Phillies get one more day to adjust to the thin-air of the city on a mountain. It may sound trivial, but there is a reason the Rockies, historically, have been so good at home. Same with the Broncos, Nuggets, and Avalanche. An extra day to adjust to the air up there will do the Phightin’s some good. It also gives them time to adjust to the stark change in temperature.

Third, and probably the most important advantage the postponing gave the Phillies, was it gave them the ability to set their rotation how they wanted to finish the series. Pedro Martinez was originally scheduled to get the ball for last nights game, now the rookie, J.A. Happ gets the ball. This allows the Phil’s to go with another lefty against a line-up who tends to struggle against them.

Martinez is still available of course, but, if the Phillies win tonight’s game, it’s likely that Joe Blanton or Cliff Lee will get the start in game four on Monday night. On Monday, Lee will be on his regular rest and is probably the best option, whether the Phillies are up a game or down a game. The only down-side to starting Lee is that he then would not be available until game three of the the NLCS if the Phillies happen to make it that far. But let’s not worry about that now, we’ve got to win this series first.

And with the game being postponed last night, the commissioner Bud Selig just gave us a better chance at doing so.


Phillies Lose, Clinch Home Field in the NLDS

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sat, October 03, 2009 07:47 PM Comments: 48

In the Phillies most recent showing of Groundhog Day, the Phillies once again surrendered two first-inning runs, this time, at the hands of starter Cole Hamels.

In yet another unimpressive showing from the once strong starting pitching, Hamels lasted just three innings, giving up three runs in the loss. Hamels was not lifted from the contest due to fatigue, as he had thrown only 47 pitches. It’s likely manager Charlie Manuel opted to give Hamels a bit more rest, heading into the postseason. Although Hamels allowed only three hits, the Marlins did hit the ball hard, and were able to push across three runs off of the lefty. Hamels record dropped to 10-11, a losing record for the young ace who is less than a year removed from two postseason MVP awards.

The bullpen, getting plenty of work in this game, allowed only one run in six innings, off of a Dan Uggla R.B.I. double off of Ryan Madson. The four runs proved to be just too much for the Phillies to handle as they dropped their third straight.

Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth provided the offensive fireworks, each finishing with a long-ball in the game. For Howard, it was his 45th of the season. Jayson Werth’s shot extended his career best 36th bomb of the year and put him within one of 100 R.B.I.’s on the year.

Chase Utley was 0-2 before being pulled for Miguel Cairo in the fourth inning as a defensive substitution. So far Utley is hitless in this current homestand and is showing major signs of wearing down. A couple more days off should do him some good.

The Phillies clinched at least a number two seed when St. Louis lost to the Brewers earlier in the day. They will face either the Dodgers or the Rockies in the first-round.


Phillies Fall to the Marlins in Series Opener

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Fri, October 02, 2009 10:59 PM Comments: 51

For the second straight night, manager Charlie Manuel decided it best to rest some key players in the lineup, despite still being in the hunt for home-field advantage. For the second straight night, the Phillies starting pitcher allowed two first inning runs. And for the second straight night, the Phillies took a loss, as they head into the final week of regular season baseball.

The Marlins came into Philadelphia, having  just helped to spoil the Braves chances at postseason glory and were looking to rain on the Phillies parade as well. The Fish set the tone early, as they scored two in the first and then two in the second, on their way to beating the Phillies by a final of 7-2.

Mustering 14 hits for the night, nine off of starter Joe Blanton, the Marlins solidly beat the Phillies in the series opener. After allowing four runs in the first two innings, Blanton, settled down, pitching six innings total and keeping it a close game. He finshed, allowing  five earned runs in his shakiest start since early in the season.  

The Marlins would score two more off of the much taxed Phillies bullpen, which received news earlier in the day that reliever J.C. Romero would be lost for the season.

The Phillies offense, meanwhile, managed just two runs off of Marlins starter Rick VandenHurk. Both runs came in the first inning off of the bat of Ryan Howard, who hit his 44th home run of the season. The two runs batted in gave Howard 140 for the season. The Phillies hit the ball hard throughout the game, but couldn’t come up with the timely hitting  needed to keep pace with the Fish.

With the loss, the Phillies dropped to a game and a half behind the Dodgers. The Phillies can maintain a one game lead over the Cardinals in the battle for the number two seed if the Brewers can hang on to win their match-up.


The Day After; Phillies Lose Ground in Race for Top Spot

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Thu, October 01, 2009 10:39 PM Comments: 104

Basking in the glow of their third straight East Division title, the Phillies couldn’t quite shake the champagne hangover as they fell to the Astros, giving them a split for the series and dropping them another half game out of the race for the top seed in the National League.

Cliff Lee looked shaky early, surrendering two first-inning runs courtesy of a Lance Berkman double. Lee settled in until the sixth inning when he surrendered a two-run home-run to Tejada. Lee finished the night giving up four earned runs, on seven hits. He struck out six on the evening in 5.2 innings of work.

Both Chase Utley and Shane Victorino received the night off, with Eric Brunlett and Ben Francisco starting in their places. Francisco was the offensive star of the night, going 3-4 with two doubles. Pedro Feliz led the team with two R.B.I.’s while going 2-5.

The team looked sluggish all evening, most likely due to the lingering effects of Bud Light and celebratory champagne, but woke up in the ninth-inning, putting together a two-out rally.

Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs led the inning off with a walk before Astros closer, Jose Valverde, retired both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. Jayson Werth followed with a single, which was backed by Feliz’s R.B.I. double, which plated two. The Phillies eventually got the winning run to the plate however Miguel Cairo flew out to end the ballgame.

After a roller-coaster month of baseball, the Phillies earned the opportunity to take a few breaths and rest. However, despite clinching the division, there is still meaningful baseball left to be played. Home-field advantage is still in play and we all know how important that can be, as the Phillies were undefeated at home in the 2008 playoffs en-route to their second World Series title in the team’s history.


Phils Fall to Brewers

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Fri, September 25, 2009 11:35 PM Comments: 43

In a game that was ripe for the taking, the Phillies fell in ugly fashion to the Brewers, 8-4.

Cliff Lee, who started his career in pinstripes 5-0, with a ridiculous three earned runs in those starts, got rattled early, surrendering four first inning runs. After Lee’s torrid start with the Phils, he has been inconsistent, losing two while watching his ERA with the Phillies balloon two over four. In tonight’s contest, Lee allowed seven runs, all earned. He has now allowed four or more runs, four times in his last six starts. An alarming trend for the Phillies as they now head toward the final week of the season with their pitching staff less than intact.

Overall Lee finished giving up nine hits, including two long balls in six innings pitched. For the season, Lee is now 14-12 with a 3.19 ERA. While it may not be time yet to panic, questions can certainly be raised about which Cliff Lee will show up to the ballpark that particular evening. Not good news for a  starting rotation that has injury concerns in its back end.

The offense for the Phillies couldn’t quite pull it together despite scoring four runs in the game. The Phillies couldn’t muster a single base-runner off of Brewers starter Manny Parra until the fourth inning when Jimmy Rollins reached base on a Milwaukee error. After a Shane Victorino walk and a Chase Utley ground-out, Ryan Howard single in two, cutting the four run Brewers lead in half.

The Brewers came back out in the bottom half of the fifth with three runs courtesy of a Prince Fielder bomb. With the three run shot, Fielder again eclipsed Howard for the R.B.I. lead in the National League.

The five run lead was just too much for the Phillies to overcome.

With a Braves win and a Marlins loss, The Braves move to within six games of the Phillies with just nine games left to play. The Marlins elimination number now falls to two.


Happ, Offense Look Strong in Win

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Thu, September 24, 2009 11:45 PM Comments: 17

Losses like the one the Phillies suffered last night against the Marlins can be demoralizing for a team and can be a catalyst for what becomes a downward spiral. Losses like that can also be a wake-up call for a ball-club and a signal to everyone in the clubhouse that the time to get serious, is now.

Thankfully, the Phillies decided to heed the wake-up call, in game one of this four-game series against the Brewers.

In what was another fine display of timely hitting, the Phillies bats exploded against Brewers starter Jeff Suppan. Suppan who had come into the game 3-6 with a plus-six ERA against the Phillies in his career, continued his futility against Philadelphia.

In 4.1 innings, the Phillies offense touched Suppan up for eight runs, seven earned on 12 hits.

The Phillies got the scoring started early when  Chase Utley came home on a Ryan Howard single in the first. After the Brewers tied the game in the bottom of the third, the Phillies regained the lead in the top half of the fourth when Ben Francisco scored on a Pedro Feliz double.

Jayson Werth started the hit-parade in the fifth when he reached base on a one-out throwing error. Following the error, the Phillies scored three runs on  four straight singles, including an R.B.I. single from pitcher J.A. Happ. Jimmy Rollins capped off the inning with a three-run shot to give the Phillies the commanding 8-1 lead.

With the six run inning, the Phillies tied the Brewers for the most innings with five or more runs scored at 23.

Starter J.A. Happ looked dominant after lasting just three innings in his last outing due to a tweak of his oblique. Although he lasted just 5.2 innings, he pitched well, allowing two earned on just six hits. He finished with seven strike-outs. With the win, Happ moves on to 11-4 on the season with a 2.79 ERA.

With the Marlins and Braves both idle tonight, the Phillies magic number now drops to four games.


A Look Ahead: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Mon, September 21, 2009 10:10 PM Comments: 37

Sometimes, during the course of 162 games, we as fans get tired, fatigued even, as our boys trudge along in search of a chance at October glory. Late July and early August are dubbed,”The dog days of summer,” for a reason. We get bored, we get angry, we see joy, we feel pain. We witness heroes emerge just as easily as we see great men fail. A pressure situation here, a tough loss there. A six month baseball season can be a long and stressful amount of time. There are great times. A walk-off home run. An extra-innings thriller. Sometimes 162 games can bring sheer exhilaration.

There are now 14 games left to play. The payoff for the gamble of investing your time, energy, and emotion is within reach. However, like most gamblers, we need not count what is not in our hands. As quickly as the reward may come, just as quick could it be snatched from us.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel that is a 162 game season. If the Phillies take care of business in their next week, there is a good possibility that the small needle of light in the tunnel will become the lights of center-stage, as they casually stroll into their third straight post-season appearance.

The Phillies start their journey in Miami for a three-game set with the second-place Marlins. The series kicks off with a double header on Tuesday and concludes Wednesday. The Fish sit eight games back of the Phils and a sweep of the Phillies put the Fish in a good position to make a run at the division. However if the Phillies sweep, the Phillies will eradicate the Marlins from a chance at the Eastern Division crown.

Series probables for the Marlins include staff ace, Josh Johnson who enters with a 15-4 record and a 3.01 ERA. He is 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts this year against the Phils. Also pitching for the Fish will be Annibal Sanchez and Rick VandenHurk. Sanchez hasn’t won a game since August 21st but hasn’t been terrible.

The Phillies counter with Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Cole Hamels. Blanton, although not impressive, still held the Nationals scoreless over six innings. Blanton has hands down been the most consistent starter this season. Moyer has been rejuvenated from the sting of his demotion to the pen and Hamels has finally found his stride.

Following the divisonal showdown, the Phillies head to the cheese and beer capital of the U.S. to take on the Brewers. Despite being far from playoff bound, the Brewers have been one of the hottest team in baseball, going 8-2 over their last ten.

The Brewers will start the series with Jeff Suppan on the hill. Yovani Gallardo, the young ace for Milwaukee was pulled from the rotation and will not make his scheduled start on Friday. Instead, the Phillies will face rookie Josh Butler. Butler will make his major league debut, but was impressive in the minors for the Brewers.

The Phillies will send J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez on Thursday and Friday, despite both pitchers leaving their last starts early with injury. Both appear to be ready and healthy, however, should the Phillies wrap up the division by then, don’t be surprised to see one or both of these starters to get a day off.

The Phillies could very well clinch the division by weeks end. Going 4-3 or better will almost assure them the Eastern title. 3-4 or worse will certainly make the last week of the season more interesting.

Time to take care of business. The prize is within reach.

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