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Weekly Wrap: Staying Hot

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sun, August 23, 2009 09:01 AM Comments: 10

It was another productive week in the books for your Philadelphia Fightin’ Phillies.

After the off day on Monday, the Phillies hosted the D-Backs for a three game set. Arizona came into the series seemingly out of playoff contention and they sure did play like it.

Tuesday, The Phillies goat a combined one-run effort from both Pedro Martinez and Jaime Moyer. Martinez allowed a D-Backs lead-off homer but settled in, pitching three strong innings. Then the rains came, forcing the teams into a delay too lengthy for Martinez to return. Moyer entered the game after the delay and pitched six scoreless and the Phils took the opener, 5-1.

On Wednesday, the Phillies faced Arizona’s ace Dan Haren for the second time this season. Just like their previous meeting, the Phillies forced Haren to throw pitches early and tagged the Cy Young candidate up for six runs in five innings of work. Cliff Lee notched his second complete game win as a Phillie, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning, giving up just one unearned run via a Pedro Feliz error and a couple of sacrifices.

The line-up busted out the whooping sticks against Haren, totaling four bombs in the game, including two from Jayson Werth.

Thursday, Joe Blanton got the nod for the Phils and had been red-hot over the last seven weeks. Over that span however, run support had been hard to come by for Blanton.  That is, until the series finale.

Although Blanton didn’t put forth his best outing, the Phillies bats carried Blanton to a 12-3 victory, completing the sweep of the Diamondbacks.

Blanton ate his innings, going eight strong, allowing three earned. It was a strong effort by Blanton, but the ten hits he surrendered showed that he looked shaky at times. The offense was the antithesis of shaky as they once again erupted at the dish scoring 12 runs on 12 hits. Even more amazing is despite the 12 runs the Phils scored, they still left seven men on base. Werth again provided the power, going deep again and was joined by Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard.

Friday the Phillies went north to embark on a seven-game road trip that kicked off in New York.

It was obvious from the start that despite the Mets free-fall into obscurity there was absolutely no love lost between the two clubs. Pitchers were throwing heat inside all-night, and Cole Hamels even managed to plunk counterpart Mike Pelfry, forcing Pelfry to weave a  fine tapestry of obscenities en-route to his free bag.

Unfortunately for Hamels, that was the only productive thing he managed Friday as he surrendered four earned on his way to his eighth loss of the season.

Hamels looked frustrated early and never really found his rhythm as the Mets tagged him for ten hits including a Jeff Francoeur moon-shot deep to left field. His location was off all night, and when the umpires weren’t giving Hamels the strike calls, it appeared to affect him. The offense never really showed up either and the Mets clawed out the win against their division foes.

Saturday, the Phillies turned the table on the Mets, beating them 4-1. Although Mets starter Tim Redding befuddled the Phils through the first five innings, he was pulled to start the sixth and the Phillies instantly got to the Mets dreadful middle-relief. Chase Utley homered to give the Phillies a 2-1 advantage in the sixth and the Phillies never looked back.

Phillies starter J.A. Happ looked solid again, giving up just one earned run in seven innings of work. More impressive was that Happ walked just two batters, a welcome change from his previous two starts where he combined to walk ten.

He earned his 10th win of season and is looking every bit the part of a Rookie of the Year. The real unfortunate thing for Happ is that if he had a few more starts to begin the season, we may also be mentioning him in the Cy Young conversation. His ERA lowered to a ridiculous 2.59 in the win.

The Phillies will face the Mets on Sunday and Monday before heading to Pittsburgh for three.

Despite their 4-1 record this week and 8-2 record in their last ten, there is cause for slight concern.

Raul Ibanez is still struggling mightily at the plate. He had a double last night, but as of Saturday had just seven hits in his last 45 at bats. He is hitting just .228 in his last 30 days.

Also, Matt Stairs has been as cold as Saskatchewan in January, having taken the doughnut in his last 21 at-bats. He hasn’t registered a hit in the last month. Couple that with a slight calf strain from Greg Dobbs and that spells troubles for your left-handed bats off of the bench. Dobbs’ injury appears to be minor, but a claf injury can be tricky so stay tuned for more information on that.

It was a good week for the Phillies, don’t get me wrong, however, there were some alarming trends that continued over the week, including Hamels poor performance, that if the Phillies don’t find a remedy for, it will be a short lived October. Timely hitting is key and the Phillies are still having problems in that department.

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A Look Ahead: Phillies Return to the Great Northeast

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Tue, August 18, 2009 08:00 AM Comments: 39

After a successful road-trip that took the Phillies into Chicago and Atlanta, the Phillies return back to Philadelphia to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Following the three-game set, they then pack up and head up I-95 to take on their despised, yet insignificant division rivals, the New York Mets.

The Phillies, despite a 5-1 record last week, exposed a bugs in the system and will try this week to work them out, all while continuing to stay hot and push the Marlins and Braves further out of contention.

The Diamondbacks enter town having lost six of their last ten and are 16.5 games out of first in the N.L. West. Seemingly out of the playoff race, pride is all that’s left, so don’t expect them to go easily into the night.

Tuesday, the D-Backs will send righty Jon Garland to the mound. Despite his 6-10 record, Garland has been half decent this season posting a 4.28 ERA. Garland’s ability to go deep into games has been his biggest asset, pitching 149 innings so far this season. Garland face the Phil’s earlier this season, giving up only three over six innings in the loss.

The Phillies will counter with Pedro Martinez. Martinez makes his Citizens Bank Park debut and will likely receive a warm welcome from the Phillies Phaithful. In his last start Martinez gave up three runs over five innings and looked understandably rusty.

Wednesday staff ace and Cy Young award candidate Dan Haren toes the rubber for the D-Backs. In his last start against the Phillies, Haren took the loss, lasting only five innings. The Phillies worked the right-hander, running his pitch count up early in the game. He allowed only two earned.

The Phillies will send out an ace of their own as Cliff Lee will make his fourth start for the Phils. Lee has been nothing short of spectacular and continues to make his boss look like a certified genius. In Lee’s last outing, an eight inning effort, he allowed six hits, but struck out eight en route to his third victory in pinstripes.

Thursday the series wraps up with Joe Blanton going for the Phils. He will be opposed by Arizona’s Doug Davis. Davis has been great this season and brings a 3.59 ERA into the contest. Davis is tough against lefties and may give the Phillies some trouble.

Blanton also brings his sub-four ERA into the game and has been excellent as of late. He has allowed only three runs or less in his last nine starts and has failed to reach the seventh inning just twice in that span. Interesting to note, in Blanton’s only start against Arizona, he allowed eight earned runs and lasted only three innings. That start came last season.

Thursday night following the game, the Phillies will hop a tricked out Greyhound Bus and head north up I-95 to take on the Mets.

The weekend series kicks off Friday night and the Mets D-Squad will be taking the field. David Wright is the latest casualty of war for the Metropolitans. He was placed on the 15-day DL after receiving a nasty concussion courtesy of a 94 m.p.h. Matt Cain fastball, which he took on the ear flap of his helmet. Wright likely will miss the remainder of the season.

The series starts with Phillies named ace Cole Hamels taking the mound. In Hamels last start, he allowed just two runs and left the game with the lead before Brad Lidge surrendered it in the ninth inning.

The Mets Mike Pelfry takes the hill having pitched well in his last two starts. He has been inconsistent this season, but who on the Mets hasn’t been? At the very least, Pelfry has escaped the injury bug and currently holds a below average 4.75 ERA.

The Mets currently sit 12 games back of the Phillies and playoff hopes remain only for their minor league clubs. Although the Phillies likely will face Johan Santana this weekend, they should handle the Mets with relative ease.

The fact that the Phillies went 5-1 last week was amazing considering they lacked any kind of timely hitting and their closer blew two saves.

That being said, they are playing two vastly inferior teams and should come out of the week having gone no less than 5-1 or 4-2.

To do so, Raul Ibanez, chase Utley, and Jayson Werth all need to come through with runners on base.  Ryan Howard seems to be entering his late season “zone” and had a great week. However he cannot win every game for the Phils and they are in desperate need of more contributions.

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Phillies Take Series Finale

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Mon, August 17, 2009 12:44 AM Comments: 69

When your starting pitcher has a ball strike ratio of nearly 50-50 while walking six batters, one would think that the starter would have had a rough night.

Thankfully for the Phillies, J.A. Happ has nerves of steel.

Happ went 7.2 innings, allowing just three hits and struck out three en route to his ninth win of the season as the Phillies defeated the Braves 4-1.

Happ looked shaky at times, but refused to get rattled. In the sixth inning, with two down, Happ looked as if the big inning was right around the bend. Instead, he got Ryan Church to fly out to center, escaping the inning unscathed. Happ also induced two inning-ending double-plays, which allowed him to wiggle out of other jams.

Overall the Braves stranded nine and Happ allowed just one run on a good pitch taken deep by Matt Diaz.

Ryan Howard had a night for the ages as he went 3 for 3 with two bombs, one a three-run shot, with a single and a walk. Howard accounted for all four Phillies runs.

 Howard was good in the field as well, snagging a hot line-drive early in the contest and starting and finishing a double play in the seventh.  

Other than Shane Victorino’s 2-4 night, the Phillies offense still looked a bit sleepy although they only left four on base. The team still continues to struggle with runners in scoring position, going just two for their last 20.

The bullpen was able to nail down the win as Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and Brad Lidge combined to work 1.1 innings allowing just one hit and walk.

After blowing two saves during the week, Brad Lidge notched his 23rd save of the season, after facing just one batter.

The Phillies will enjoy an off day on Monday before opening a three game set with Arizona at home.

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Weekly Wrap: Lights Out Lidge?

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sun, August 16, 2009 04:00 PM Comments: 2

The week started out promising enough. After getting swept by the Marlins last weekend, the Phillies took the show on the road, first stopping in Chicago to take on the Cubs.

Tuesday, behind the a solid outing by starter J.A. Happ, the Phillies escaped the series opener with an extra-inning win off of newly acquired Ben Francisco’s 12th inning home-run. The Phillieshad the lead heading into the ninth, but closer Brad Lidge failed to nail down the save, but settled in just enough to allow the game to go into extra frames. Happ went six allowing just two runs.

Wednesday, The Pedro Martinez Show debuted in Philadelphia as former Cy Young winner Martinez notched his first win in pinstripes. Although Martinez wasn’t razor sharp, he pitched well enough to earn the win as the Phillies offense exploded for 12 runs. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez all homered in the cause and the Phillies coasted to a 12-5 victory. Martinez allowed three runs in five innings of work and the bullpen allowed the extra two runs during mop-up duty.

In the series finale, Cliff Lee got the ball for his third start as a Phillie. Lee ran into early trouble, but settled in and later dazzled, allowing just one earned in eight innings of work. Lee notched his third striaght victory with the Phil’s as the team completed it’s first series sweep at Wrigley Field since 1984.

Prior to the series starting, The Phillies announced that starter Jamie Moyer would be demoted to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez. Moyer, understandably, was not happy about the move, but for the betterment of the team, it was a necessity. Moyer hasn’t been pulling his weight and one has to laud the Phillies front office for making the tough decision.

After sweeping through Chicago, the Phillies hopped a plane headed for southern lands as they took on their division rival Braves in a three-game, weekend series.

Although the offense seemed anemic and befuddled by Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, they pulled out their fourthstraight win behind the late-inning heroics of Ryan Howard. Howard homered in the ninth to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead and despite looking shaky, Brad Lidge was able to get the save. Starter Joe Blanton was effective and allowed just two runs, one earned, through seven innings. He didn’t have his best stuff, but the Braves couldn’t put together the big inning.

The Braves had jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before Chase Utley’s two-run bomb gave the Phillies the lead in the fourth. In the bottom half of the inning the Braves tied the game, setting the stage for Howard’s game winner.

Saturday, in an afternoon special, dubbed ace Cole Hamels went to work and appeared to return to his olden days form. Hamelsdidn’t overwhelm the Braves line-up, but he did keep them at arms length, holding them to just two runs through six innings of work. The Phillies offense struggled against another Braves righty, but managed to score three off triples by Victorino and Pedro Feliz and a bomb from Jayson Werth for the lead in the seventh inning.

In what seems to be baseball’s version of Groundhog Day, Brad Lidge again blew the lead in the bottom of the ninth, finding a new way to do so, by throwing wildly to first-base as opposed to home plate. For those keeping score at home, that was Lidge’s eighth blown save of the season.

Lidge’s eighth blown save soon became Lidge’s fifth loss as he walked two batters to load the bases and surrendered a walk-off RBI single to Atlanta’s Omar Infante to give the Braves the series split.

The Phillies will go for the series win this evening on a nationally televised game at 8 p.m.

The Phillies are still 6-4 in their last ten. Although the obvious chinks in the armor were exposed, they still maintain a four game lead over the Marlins and a five game lead over the Braves. Of course that could all change by games end tonight, the Phillies are still leading.

The Starting pitching has not been the problem. Over their last 28 games, the starters have combined for a 2.94 ERA and two complete games. Most importantly, they have recorded 19 quality starts in that span and despite a few hiccups from Hamels and Moyer, they have been among the best in baseball over that span.

This past week was no different. They received fine performances from all starters this week and with the exception of Martinez’s debut Wednesday, they recieved a quality start from the rotation each of the other nights.

The bullpen as a whole last week were also good, and despite being banged up with injuries, have held their own. Lidge’s struggles have continued to be a concern and the Phillies and Lidge need to rectify the problem if they intend on winning this division and possibly repeating as champions.

The Phillies bats were hit or miss. Overall as a line-up they weren’t terrible. In fact they were pretty average. It was their lack of clutch hitting that was most worrisome and trends are telling me that they are once again relying on the almighty long-ball. If history serves as a good indicator for the future, this reliance on the home-run is a recipe for failure.

As the saying goes, “Those who live by the long-ball, die by the long-ball.”

The Phillies are in dire need of some small-ball CPR.

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Lidge Loses Control; Phillies Streak Snapped at Four

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sat, August 15, 2009 08:14 PM Comments: 83

When the Phillies started their title defense, the more reasonable fan predicted that although Brad Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, the perfection would likely end, and we as fans could look forward to a blown save throughout the season. Or two. Maybe three. At most four, but absolutely no more than four, right?

Starting pitcher Cole Hamels finally had put the pieces together to pitch a decent game. Despite a third inning mistake to the Braves catcher Brian McCann, Hamels soared through six innings, allowing just two runs. McCann’s two-run shot was the only damage allowed by Hamels who allowed just three hits.

Hamels wasn’t dominant, but he was effective. He struck out only two and walked four, but his ability to work out of jams was refreshing. The Hamels we have become accustomed to would have folded under the pressure of frustration. This game was different.

Hamels pitched well enough to win, and despite his season long infection of lack-of-run-support-itis, when he exited the game, he had a 3-2 lead.

The Phillies offense had plenty of wasted opportunities. Overall, they were 1-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position but only left six on base. The Phillies twice left runners stranded at third base that reached third with no outs.

Despite their woes at the plate, they managed seven hits off of Braves starter, Kenshin Kawakami, including triples from Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz.

In the seventh, Jayson Werth gave the Phillies the advantage when he belted his 24th long ball of the season to left-center.  The Phillies looked as if they may be on the way to winning their second consecutive series.

The Braves bullpen came in with one-out in the seventh and proceeded to shut the Phillies line-up down, allowing  just two walks in 2.2 innings of work. The Phillies middle-relief wasn’t bad either, allowing just two base-runners in the seventh and eighth innings.

Into the ninth the Phillies went clutching a 3-2 lead. Fans watching across the Delaware Valley were clutching their chests as Brad Lidge entered the game and promptly surrendered a lead-off single. To be fair Chase Utley should have been able to make a play on the ball, but watched the ball scoot under his glove as he was playing deep in the over-shift position.

What happened next caused fans to clutch their stomachs.

With Garret Anderson on first-base, Atlanta’s Matt Diaz layed down what was a routine sacrifice bunt. Overly anxious to make the play, Lidge failed to field the ball cleanly and then proceeded to air-mail a throw to first in which he had no play on. Anderson scored and Diaz went to third as Lidge earned himself not only the blown save, but two errors as well.

With no one out and a runner at third base, Lidge walked the next two batters, one intentionally. He then got Ryan Church to strikeout swinging, leaving him just a double-play away from reaching extra-innings.

With one out and the infield playing up to prevent the run from scoring, Omar Infante singled through the hole at short, past a diving Jimmy Rollins and the Braves completed the come back.

It was Lidge’s eighth blown save and his fifth loss of the season, wasting what was a quality outing from starter Cole Hamels and the opportunity to bury the Braves a little deeper in the division race.

The Phillies will try to get the series win tomorrow in the rubber match.

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Phillies Extend Winning Streak to Four

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Fri, August 14, 2009 10:49 PM Comments: 24

This season has been a tough one for the Phillies when it comes to beating the Braves. The last time the Fightin’s traveled south to take on their division foes, they were swept by Atlanta with relative ease.

Looking to extend their current winning streak to four games, Joe Blanton took the hill, determined to continue his two and a half month roll.

The Braves, looking to extend their own five-game winning streak, jumped out to an early one run lead in the first inning when Braves resident thorn-in-Phillies-side, Chipper Jones singled to score mid-season acquisition Nate McLouth.

In the fourth the Phils got on the board, taking the lead on Chase Utley’s 24th homer of the year. The two-run shot scored Victorino, who had singled in the previous at-bat.

The Braves countered in the bottom half of the frame, tying the game on Ryan Church’s double, scoring Yunel Escobar.

Escobar may have never reached base, if not for yet another error from third-baseman Pedro Feliz. Feliz so far this season has ten errors, two more than all of last season.

Despite giving up seven hits, Joe Blanton came to play, allowing only one run, and walking only one Braves batter. He worked out of minor jams all evening and finished strong, pitching into the seventh inning for the 11th time this season.

Blanton also watched his once ridiculous 7.11 ERA drop to a mere 3.88 thanks largely in part to the spectacular defense of Shane Victorino whom robbed two Braves of extra base hits, including Victorino’s eighth inning grab to end the inning.

Pitcher Jair Jurrjens was equally tough on hitters, also going seven strong while allowing only two runs on five hits. He fanned six Phils throughout the evening.

Ryan Howard broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth with a center-field bomb to put the Phillies on top 3-2. That was all they would need for Brad Lidge who collected his 22nd save of the season.

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Offensive Outburst on Pedro’s Debut

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Wed, August 12, 2009 11:43 PM Comments: 114

Welcome to Philadelphia Pedro Martinez.

Martinez, although he didn’t exactly dazzle, got all the support he needed to earn his first win of the season and his first in Phillies red, as the Phils throttled the Cubs.

In a much anticipated arrival, Martinez went five innings, striking out five, but allowed three earned runs on seven hits. Martinez was never really sharp, but pitched well enough to get the win.

The offense meanwhile was finally resuscitated after a brief slump.

The Phillies first five hits were for extra bases, including two first-inning triples by Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard which helped the Phils gain an early 2-0 edge.

The Cubbies came back with a run in the second inning, but Victorino’s bomb in the third helped to blow the game wide-open.

Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez each smacked three-run shots in an eight-run fourth-inning which was capped off by a few Cub fans waving white flags behind the Cubs dugout.

Both Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz collected two hits in that inning.

Not only were Cub fans throwing up their arms in surrender, they also decided to throw their beer in frustration as a fan in the left-center bleachers rained the liquid gold onto Victorino’s head as he made a routine catch in the bottom half of the fourth.

All in all solid victory from the Fightin’s who extended their lead in the division to 4.5 games over the second-place Marlins.

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A Look Ahead: Gotta Get Away

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Tue, August 11, 2009 08:00 AM Comments: 156

Now that was ugly. A series sweep from the Marlins and all of the sudden, a road trip looks pretty refreshing for the Fightin’s.

The entire Delaware Valley was suffering from heat related irritability and the Phillies were no exception. After getting embarrassed by the second place Fish on Sunday, the Phillies limp in to the week having watched their division lead slip to four games.

The Phillies spent Monday continuing to sleep off the hangover produced by Saturday night’s UFC event at the Wachovia Center and boarded a plane destined for Chicago to take on the Cubs in a three game set.

Tuesday will premier Phillies rookie J.A. Happ and Cubs righthander Rich Harden. Happ is coming off a beauty of a game against the Rockies in which he shut Colorado down in a complete game gem. Harden meanwhile has been tough as of late and even tougher against the Phils, allowing just two earned runs against the Phillies in his last 20 innings of work.

Wednesday the Pedro Martinez era begins in Philadelphia, as the three-time Cy Young award winner and old man wrestling veteran makes his Phillies debut. Martinez has not thrown a big league pitch since September 25th of last season. He is looking to prove he still has some left in the tank and help the Phillies in their run to October.

The Cubs will counter with Jeff Samardzija. The young right-hander will be making his first ever big league start and carries a 6.29 ERA into the contest. In his only appearance against the Phillies, he gave up the game winning, 13th inning, three-run bomb to Jayson Werth.

Thursday, the rotation’s newest ace Cliff Lee takes the hill for the Phils. Since being acquired, Lee has only allowed two earned runs and 10 hits in 16 innings. He is 2-0 withthe Phillies and looks to extend his unbeaten streak in the series finale. Against the Cubs in his lifetime, Lee is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

The Cubs will send right- hander Ryan Dempster to the mound. Dempster is 6-5 this season with a 4.04 ERA.

The Phillies have had success against the Cubs recently, however are in a bit of a funk. The Cubs enter the series just two games back in the Central Division and are 58-51 overall. Their 33-19 home record shows that they are a formidable opponent in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

The Phillies cap off their week with a division showdown in Atlanta. The Braves have been playing good ball as of late and are making noise in the N.L. East. Although they’ve been pretty quiet this season, they are a mere 4.5 games back in the division and will look to close some ground. Oh, and the last time the Phillies traveled to the dirty south they found themselves bewildered by the Braves pitching staff as they were swept handedly.

Joe Blanton starts the party as the series kicks off Friday. The Braves have yet to announce Blanton’s counterpart.

Blanton has been one of the Phillies more reliable pitchers lately. Last week against the Marlins, Blanton allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings, his most since June 30th. In his last six starts he owns a 1.87 ERA.

Starters for Saturday and Sunday have yet to be determined, although expect to see Cole Hamels make an appearance. Jaime Moyer’s status remains a mystery, but could be determined by the weeks end. With Monday’s day off, Moyer would normally get the start Saturday.

Let’s be honest, the Phillies looked uninterested last weekend against the Marlins. They were playing an inferior team, but were beaten soundly. They had a chance to extend their division lead but failed to answer opportunity’s knock at their door. In doing so they have given a glimmer of hope to the Braves and the Marlins and the season remains interesting.

They will be playing two teams who will undoubtedly be playing inspired baseball. Whatever it was that the Phillies trotted out on the field last weekend, it certainly was not inspired.

Should the Phillies continue to play uninspired baseball it is not far-fetched to think they could slip into second place, even third by weeks end.

The Braves and the Cubs will both be playing for playoff spots and will present problems for the Phillies all week long. They are beatable and the Phillies are better than both top to bottom. However if the Phillies recent swoon doesn’t lift, they will find themselves chasing a new division leader.

A five game lead in the division was comfortable. A four game lead and a slump to boot tightens the collar just a bit.

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Happ Gets Blessing From Amaro, Team

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sat, August 08, 2009 08:08 AM Comments: 18

When Rookie of the Year candidate J.A. Happ recorded the final out of his complete game, one could almost see the weight of the world lifted off of the kids shoulders.

Happ had just pitched a complete game gem that saw the youngster shut down a formidable opponent. The kid was sharp and only ran into trouble a few times and worked with precision to extract himself from those situations.

Following Happ’s game ending fist pump, the real story unfolded.

When Carlos Ruiz met Happ at the mound, he was greeted with a hug from the veteran catcher. And then another hug. Then another.

Before general manager Ruben Amaro had the chance to proclaim that Happ would remain in the rotation, the decision was made by his teammates. Happ stays.

How many times have you seen Cole Hamels embraced by his  teammates following a complete game?

The players made a statement that night and it was clear that the veterans were pulling for the rookie. Even closer Brad Lidge admitted  following the game that the team was rooting for the kid.

So what does this do for Happ’s confidence?

Happ is no longer pitching for a rotation spot. He is now a main stay. Couple that with faith from his teammates and we may have yet to see the best out of the young lefty.

The Phillies love to hit when Happ is on the mound as evidenced by the fact that they have produced five or more runs, six times in Happ’s last ten starts. The line-up’s seven run outburst during Happ’s start against the Rockies was their highest total by far this week when the bats have been otherwise silent.

It’s clear the starters have faith in this kid and believe he has the mental toughness to get through what is hopefully a lengthy postseason. Happ has already battled through adversity this season. He pitched through the trade deadline and while his head was on the starting rotation chopping block.

Not only did he pitch well, he made an emphatic statement that he does indeed belong.

Equally emphatic was the show of support from his teammates. That statement screamed that yes, Happ does belong.

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A Look Ahead: The Dog Days

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Tue, August 04, 2009 08:00 AM Comments: 35

August is here and the Phillies are sitting comfortably in first place in the N.L. East.

The Phillies come back home to the friendly bounds of Citizens Bank Park after embarking on a seven game road trip that saw the pinstripes win only three. Despite the 3-4 record, the Phillies still maintain a commanding lead in the division, up five games over the Marlins.

A day off Monday and it’s back to business.

Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies come back to Philly, leaders in the race for the Wild Card over the Giants by a half a game. The Rockies have been streaking as of late, winning their last four games. They are 6-4 in their last ten and are making the rest of the league take notice.

The series kicks off with Jamie Moyer taking the hill against Rockies right-hander, Jason Hammel. Hammel is 5-6 overall and sports a 4.66 ERA. He is coming off his worst start of the season, a five running shellacking against the Mets. He failed to finish the second inning.

Moyer on the other hand is coming off a hot July, going 4-1 for the month with a 3.30 ERA. The old veteran looks to spin some of his magic against the Rockies, an upstart team that Moyer tends to feast on.

Wednesday night Rookie of the Year candidate, J.A. Happ gets the nod against Rockie lefty, Jorge De La Rosa. Happ has lost his last two starts, but now that the trade deadline has passed, the Phils hope he can focus again on pitching  and not moving to Canada. Uncertainty still looms for Happ as he may find himself back in the bullpen when newly acquired Pedro Martinez is back to fighting shape.

De La Rosa is 9-7 overall with a 4.68 ERA. The Phillies will probably have a tough time with De La Rosa as he has been tough to hit in his last few games and pitches lefties extremely well. He is also much better on the road than in Denver.

The series wraps up on Thursday and Cliff Lee make his first appearance in Philadelphia as a good guy. Lee gets the ball coming off a spectacular debut for the Phil’s, pitching a one run complete game. Lee isn’t quite as sharp in the day as he is at night but has posted a 2.11 ERA in the last month.

Aaron Cook toes the rubber for Colorado in the finale. Cook is 10-3 with a 3.88 ERA. He is a ground ball pitcher which will be a good strategy at Citizens Bank.

The weekend series will showcase a showdown between the N.L. Easts two top teams as the Marlins come to town for a weekend thriller.

The Marlins are making noise, having gone 7-3 in their last ten. Despite being five games back on the Phillies, they haven’t given up the fight and still have both the wild card and the division in their sight. A good weekend against Philadelphia and they could start to make things interesting again. A good series or possibly a sweep for the Phillies and the Marlins could be buried.

Joe Blanton starts for the Phils on Friday and will face the Marlins Ricky Nolasco. Blanton has been the most consistent starter for the Phillies and brings a very respectable 4.02 ERA to the match.

Nolasco is one of Florida’s hottest pitchers. Don’t let his 5.00 ERA fool you, he has been real  good as of late, retiring the last 14 batters he faced against Chicago. In his last three starts he has only surrendered three earned but has only gotten one decision, a win over San Diego.

Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer finish the series, with Moyer having great success against the Fish, who can never seem to figure him out.

The Phillies have been decent at the plate, but as stated earlier, have lacked timely hitting. The long ball was absent but should return for role call once the Phils get back home.

This week a little bit of run support will go a long way. The Phillies could very well put another amazing streak together and win five of six. They play the Marlins really well and the Rockies, although good, just don’t match up well against the Phillies.

A good week and the Phillies faithful may start to practice counting down from 50, which is where the Phillies magic number should stand.

A bad week and the divisional noose will start to tighten and the Marlins will inch ever so closer to over taking the front-runners.

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