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Phillies’ Offense Left Behind for Second Straight Night

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Wed, May 19, 2010 10:07 PM Comments: 24

As I watched the Phillies’ offense do next to nothing for the second straight night in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, all I could think of was Domonic Brown.

No, not because I think they should call him up in order to light a spark under a flagging lineup (c’mon, people, that’s a terrible idea). No, I thought of Brown because of what the two starting pitchers who have iced the Phillies the past two nights have in common: they’re both left-handers (OK, mediocre left-handers, to be specific).

If the Phillies can’t afford to give Jayson Werth the massive payday that surely is coming his way, his logical replacement in right field would be Brown, who was hitting .327 with seven homers and 23 RBIs heading into Wednesday night. Problem is, Brown bats left-handed. So if you assume that Raul Ibanez will be back next season – he is due $11.5 million in the final year of the three-year, $30 million deal he signed in December 2008 – (and while he’s off to a slow start, that’s a pretty safe assumption at this point) the Phillies’ lineup goes from lefty-heavy to lefty-morbidly obese.

As it is, the lineup’s orientation sets it up to be tamed by southpaws such as Tom Gorzelanny and Zach Duke – pitchers who don’t have dominant stuff but who can move the ball around and change speeds. And that’s what happened the past two nights. In 12 2/3 innings against Duke and Gorzelanny, the Phillies mustered one run on nine hits – amazingly, all singles.

In addition to their weakness against lefties, the Phillies’ bats often go quiet right after a game in which they score double-digit runs. Call it a statistical correction, the law of averages or whatever you want, but it’s been an undeniable pattern for the past few seasons – and evident once again, following the Phils’ 12-run outburst against the Pirates on Monday.


Gameday: Phillies (19-12) at Rockies (15-16)

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Mon, May 10, 2010 06:29 PM Comments: 178

Philadelphia Phillies (19-12) at Colorado Rockies (15-16)

Kyle Kendrick, RHP (1-1, 5.87 ERA) vs. Greg Smith, LHP (1-2, 6.35 ERA)

Time: 8:40 p.m at Coors Field

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 53

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Twitter: @philliesnation

What a difference a homestand makes. After April closed with plenty of questions about the Phillies’ starting rotation and bullpen, May has provided some welcome answers. Since losing the first game of a 10-game stay at Citizens Bank Park on April 30, the Phillies have won seven of their past nine games, a charge led by steady arms in the bullpen and consistent performances from the entire rotation.

Perhaps the best result from the homestand was that every pitcher had at least some success – including today’s starter, Kyle Kendrick, who shut out the potent Cardinals for seven innings on Wednesday after a shaky five innings in a loss to the Mets that started the 10-game stretch. With J.A. Happ still a ways off from returning, Joe Blanton needing a few starts to get up to speed after coming off the disabled list and Cole Hamels a toss-up from one start to the next, Kendrick’s importance to the rotation cannot be underestimated.

As for the lineup, what happened to Ryan Howard’s power? After homering in the first two games of the season, the Big Piece or Big N’ Tasty or whatever they’re calling him these days has only three blasts in the 29 games since. No matter how you look at it, Howard’s power is lagging, as is his run production overall, with only three RBIs this month. If there’s one thing that could help it’s a trip into the thin air of Coors Field – though Howard (and the lineup as a whole) historically hits better in hotter weather, and the game-time temperature for today’s and tomorrow’s games will be in the 50s, with Wednesday’s in the 40s and snow in the forecast. Certainly not what Charlie Manuel calls “hittin’ weather.”

Tonight’s Lineup: Victorino (CF), Polanco (3B), Utley (2B), Howard (1B), Werth (RF), Ibanez (LF), Ruiz (C), Valdez (SS), Kendrick (P)

Coors OriginalYour Gameday Beer – Coors Original

In the spirit of this chilly, mile-high series, sip on a can of original Coors as you witness the Phillies hit the road. The “Banquet Beer,” as it’s known, is 5 percent ABV and is the oldest of the Coors beers. Buy a six-pack, eat some steak and potatoes with it, and be sure to dispose of the cans by stepping on them, just as the Phils will do to the Rockies tonight. – By Pat



Gameday: Cardinals (18-10) at Phillies (16-11)

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Thu, May 06, 2010 10:12 AM Comments: 89

St. Louis Cardinals (18-10) at Philadelphia Phillies (16-11)

Kyle Lohse (0-1, 5.28 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (5-1, 1.47 ERA)

Time: 1:05 p.m at Citizens Bank Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80
Twitter: @philliesnation

UPDATE: 12:00pm, Sad news today that former Phillies great Robin Roberts passed away today at the age of 83.  Our thoughts and condolences go out to his and the entire Phillies family.

In his first six starts wearing red and white, Roy Halladay has been everything Phillies fans could have hoped for, with three complete games, two shutouts and a 1.47 ERA. But as spine-tingling as those performances were, they were just a prelude of things to come.

Not to diminish what Halladay has done this season, but he hasn’t faced the kind of lineup that inspires fear – until today. The three most talented teams he has faced so far have been the Mets, Giants and Braves – teams that have their share of hitters but that aren’t loaded the way the Cardinals are from one to eight (or one to seven and nine, in Tony La Russa’s wacky mind).

Today, Halladay receives his most intriguing test of the season so far. It’s too early to call it an October preview or anything along those lines, but the result will give fans to consider as the early season unfurls itself.

After Juan Castro tweaked his hamstring Wednesday night, Wilson Valdez starts at shortstop today. Injuries have hit the Phils hard this season, whether through bad luck (Jimmy Rollins) or stupidity (Ryan Madson). While it still is in first place, if this team is really going to take off, it is going to have to get its best talent on the field at the same time. The bad news is that is certainly not going to happen for a while, at the very least.

Your gameday beer:
It’s the King of Beers, Budweiser.
Beechwood-aged, it’s your all-American lager, a little bitter and a lot of simple. We’ll drink a few on this beautiful afternoon in honor of our guest from St. Louis.
Enjoy the beer with a hamburger.

Go Phillies!


Phillies Put It All Together in 4-0 Win Over Cardinals

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Wed, May 05, 2010 10:26 PM Comments: 36

On Wednesday against the Cardinals, the Phillies received something they haven’t gotten much of this season. No, not a night without a fan getting Tasered (though it was nice that the fans ended their two-game streak of cavorting on the Citizens Bank Park turf).

The rarity responsible for the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Cardinals was a stellar performance from both the starting pitcher and the bullpen on the same night, in the same stadium. Kyle Kendrick knows exactly how uncommon these two elements have come together this season for the Phils. In his only quality start of the season entering Wednesday, Kendrick baffled the Braves for eight innings April 20, only to see Ryan Madson blow a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning.

Entering the game, the matchup of starting pitchers seemed tilted in St. Louis’ favor. Kendrick, with an ERA north of seven, was coming off a pair of choppy outings. His counterpart, Brad Penny, had put together five straight quality starts to begin the season and had looked a lot like the Penny who went 16-4 with the Dodgers in 2007.

The first three innings were a wash, with the bend-but-don’t-break Kendrick mixing his sinkerball in well and keeping the ball down. Penny, working with primarily just two pitches – a four-seamer and a split-fingered fastball – buzzed through the Phillies’ lineup without allowing a runner to reach base.

Now, it’s important to point out here that the Phillies have eight steals all season, the lowest total in the National League and second-lowest in the majors (only the Orioles have fewer); it’s a perplexingly low figure given their success on the basepaths the past few years and the relative speed of their lineup.

So, back to the game. When Shane Victorino led off the fourth inning with a single to center, he immediately made plans for taking up residency at second base. On the first pitch to Placido Polanco, Victorino took off. He might have had the base stolen, but we’ll never know, because Polanco golfed the low fastball just over the fence in right-center. It’s been that kind of year for the Phils’ offense.

Here’s how untouchable Penny – and the rest of the Cardinals’ starting rotation – have been this season: Polanco’s blast was the first home run allowed this year by Penny and the first given up by a Cardinals starting pitcher in the past 21 games – a truly brain-melting streak in any era. So, for good measure, Victorino ripped his own home run to right on a low inside fastball in the sixth inning for a 3-0 lead.

On a night in which the Phillies’ performance was as spotless as the early-May weather, there was one blemish. Shortstop Juan Castro, who has been dealing with hamstring issues constantly this season, came up lame after busting it down the first-base line for an infield single in the seventh. Castro was immediately removed from the game, and his injury was diagnosed as a left hamstring strain. Wilson Valdez will play short as long as Castro is sidelined (which, best-case scenario, will be a few games).

Danys Baez and Jose Contreras picked up right where Kendrick left off, holding the Cardinals hitless in the eighth and ninth. Baez’s outing was especially encouraging, not only because the hard-throwing righty entered the night with an 8.10 ERA, but also because he has generally been inconsistent from one pitch to the next. But on this night, Baez looked the best he has all season – a promising sign for a beleaguered bullpen.


Phillies Escape the Bay with a Win on Wacky Afternoon

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Wed, April 28, 2010 08:04 PM Comments: 76

The Phillies’ 7-6, 11-inning win over the Giants today is a perfect example of why you can’t ever write off the Phillies – and why you can’t draw any solid conclusions from early-season results.

What do you learn from a game like this? Very little that you didn’t know already. The Phillies’ bullpen is still riddled with questions, and Ryan Madson still can’t consistently close out games. The offense has yet to shake its recent hiccups (though maybe the adrenaline-igniting ninth-inning rally against Giants ace Tim Lincecum and closer Brian Wilson will be the catalyst).

In the end, it’s just too early in the season to etch anything in stone based on a few April series. If there is one thing clear, it’s that the Phillies need to see if Brad Lidge can reassume the closer role, because Madson has proved time and again that he can’t handle it.

Though it ended up as a struggle of endurance, the game began as a matchup of Lincecum and Cole Hamels. Using primarily two pitches – a four-seam fastball and a split-fingered fastball – Lincecum buzzed through the Phillies’ lineup without much difficulty, just as teammates Jonathan Sanchez and Todd Wellemeyer had done the previous two days.

Even though Lincecum allowed a fifth-inning opposite-field home run to Ryan Howard, for 8 1/3 innings he avoided putting multiple runners on base – something his counterpart, Cole Hamels, couldn’t do. Hamels, who to his credit had 10 strikeouts and at times showed faint signs of being a dominant pitcher, loaded the bases in the sixth inning with score tied at 1. Then he did something dominant pitchers don’t do: He walked in the go-ahead run. After Phils manager Charlie Manuel left a clearly struggling Hamels out on the mound, Edgar Renteria followed with a two-run single.

The Phillies were quiet until the ninth, when Giants manager Bruce Bochy removed Lincecum after a one-out walk to Shane Victorino. After Chase Utley singled and Ryan Howard walked, Jayson Werth fouled off several pitches before dropping a bloop millimeters inside the right-field line, clearing the bases and tying the score. A fan dressed in Phillies garb nearly committed a monstrous mental error by reaching out to grab the ball (which would have turned the hit into a two-run ground-rule double), but luckily for the Phillies – and for him – the ball eluded his grasp.

In the 10th, the Phils took the lead when backup catcher Brian Schneider motored home on a wild pitch, but Madson allowed a leadoff double and promptly blew the save, No. 2 of the season.

But the Phils, as they have done so many times under Manuel, punched right back. Wilson Valdez ripped a ball into the left-field corner that barely cleared the glove of Eugenio Velez, scoring Raul Ibanez. Velez had an easier play seconds later on a fly ball by Victorino, but the ball hit the heel of Velez’s glove and bounded away as Valdez raced home for a 7-5 lead.

On a wild afternoon, the Phils wouldn’t walk away with a win that easily. The clouds opened, and showers started to fall at AT&T Park. Then Nelson Figueroa took the mound, and hits – and more weird bounces – began to drop as well. Only Schneider’s whirling catch-and-tag after an errant throw by Howard saved Figueroa from the Phillies’ second blown save of the afternoon – and helped Figueroa secure his first career save.

If one certainty emerged from the wild afternoon by the bay, it was this: Heading home for a challenging 10-game stretch against the Mets, Cardinals and Braves, the Phillies needed a win – any kind of win – and they got it.


Phils Go Quietly Out of First Place in NL East

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Wed, April 28, 2010 02:03 AM Comments: 22

You can chalk it up to the law of averages if you want. Or you can say they’re just not hitting early in the season, like just about every other season the past decade. Maybe you’d rather blame the absence of Jimmy Rollins. There are a multitude of excuses for the way the Phillies have played the past 10 games, but they certainly don’t look like the dominant team fans expected would go wire to wire to the NL East title.

In fact, after they struggled to do much of anything against the previously scuffling Todd Wellemeyer in a 6-2 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night at AT&T Park, the Phillies fell out of first place for the first time since May 29, 2009.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Jayson Werth double and a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly, but the inning could have been more productive if not for Ryan Howard getting thrown out at second in a combination of embarrassingly bad baserunning by Howard and a laser throw by right fielder Nate Schierholtz. Because the Phils obviously weren’t paying attention, Schierholtz (who had 10 outfield assists last season) would later throw out Chase Utley on a bullet throw from right-field that never touched the turf – making the night a microcosm of how the 2010 Phillies have not been the same team on the basepaths as in recent seasons.

The Giants quickly took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a pair of solo homers off Jamie Moyer, who allowed four runs on 10 hits. His counterpart, however, didn’t give up much of anything after the second. Ryan Howard got the only hit off Wellemeyer after that inning, a single. And to top it off, the bullpen added to its recent struggles as Chad Durbin gave up a pair of runs in the seventh. But with the Phillies not being able to consistently hit any pitcher wearing a Giants jersey (a trend likely to continue Wednesday afternoon against Tim Lincecum), it was moot.

About the only positive to take from the night was that J.C. Romero – who is returning from left elbow surgery – pitched a scoreless eighth. The outing went much better than his first appearance of the season Friday at Arizona, when he allowed a home run and a walk without retiring a batter.


Gameday: Phillies (11-8) at Giants (11-8)

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Tue, April 27, 2010 07:13 PM Comments: 109

Philadelphia Phillies (11-8) at San Francisco Giants (11-8)

Jamie Moyer (2-1, 5.00 ERA) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (0-3, 8.16 ERA)

Time: 10:10 p.m at AT&T Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Weather: Cloudy with showers possible, 53
Twitter: @philliesnation

Yes, I know it’s April.

Yes, I know the Phillies are still in first place in first place in the NL East despite injuries, shaky pitching and an offense as fickle as the Dow Jones industrial average.

But for several reasons, this is a must-win game for the Phillies. You don’t have to be Keith Law to figure that out. Just take a look at who pitched for the Giants last night: up-and-coming left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who held the Phillies to one run. Then take a peek at who the Giants are handing the ball to tomorrow: two-time defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

Teams want to avoid sweeps in any series, whether it’s April or September. And tonight the Phillies get a chance to pick up a win against Todd Wellemeyer, whose ERA is even higher than Ryan Madson’s 6.75 – which also happens to be Wellemeyer’s career ERA against the Phils. And if that’s not enough, here are the rest of Wellemeyer’s career splits vs. the Phillies: 0-2., 1.63 WHIP, .290 BAA, seven home runs allowed in 22 2/3 innings pitched.

As troubling as Monday’s loss was (after all, Roy Halladay has to settle for 32-1 instead of 33-0), there was one major bright spot. Shane Victorino went 3-for-5, including his first two doubles of the season, for only his second game of the season with more than two hits. No matter where he hits in the order, Victorino is an essential gear in the high-octane engine that is the Phillies’ offense; when he sheds his early-season slump, it will give the lineup a nitro boost.

One troubling thing that has emerged in the first month is the Phillies’ steep decline in steals. They rank second-to-last in the National League with a meager seven; the Nationals and Padres are tied for the most with 20. From 2007 to 2009, the Phillies stole 393 bases, behind only the Mets’ 460 in the NL.

LINEUP: CF Victorino, 3B Polanco, 2B Utley, 1B Howard, RF Werth, LF Ibanez, SS Castro, C Ruiz, P Moyer

Your gamenight beer: The very malty strong ale, Old Chub, is a Scottish ale that goes down very nicely. The can – it’s served in a can – has a nice kilt pattern on it.  Couldn’t you imagine Jamie Moyer in a kilt? Go get ‘em, old chub! Have this with some beef barley.

Go Phillies!


Kendrick Struggles as Phils Snakebitten Again

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Sun, April 25, 2010 08:44 PM Comments: 21

No matter where you looked on Sunday, you couldn’t have liked what you saw. Even before the game started, something didn’t seem right. Ross Gload and Wilson Valdez in the starting lineup? Clearly, this was not the same group that has piled up runs the past four years.

And after the game began, there were more troubling sights. Kyle Kendrick reverted back to the shaky pitcher who struggled in his first two starts of the season, and the bullpen again revealed itself to be short on the shutdown arms needed in tight games.

The result was an 8-6 loss to the Diamondbacks emblematic of most of the Phillies’ problems this season.

After Greg Dobbs – another component of a lineup that many Phillies fans never want to see again – put the Phils on top with a two-run homer in the first, Kendrick managed to scrape by through four innings despite loading the bases in the second and putting two on in the fourth. But in the fifth it all caught up with him. Kelly Johnson launched a two-run homer – his fourth of the series – before Mark Reynolds slugged a bomb to one of the deepest parts of the park to give the Diamondbacks a 5-3 lead.

The lineup still did have enough juice to muster a rally, with Carlos Ruiz’s two-out, two-run single off starter Rodrigo Lopez putting the Phillies up 6-5 in the sixth. But the bullpen – which also bears little resemblance to the one that helped carry the Phillies to the last three NL East titles – simply couldn’t hold the lead. Danys Baez (6.43 ERA) allowed a leadoff double to Chris Young in the seventh, and he scored on a bad-hop single over first base by John Hester.

In the eighth, David Herndon (7.04 ERA) was momentarily saved by a stellar relay throw from Valdez to Ruiz to get Stephen Drew at home. But Herndon allowed an RBI double to Reynolds, the next batter. Then Young singled in a run to pad the lead, and the Phillies went quietly in the ninth.

The Phillies had a chance to grab some wins in this series against the D’backs, but thanks to struggles both on the mound and at the plate, they barely managed to steal one win, falling to 3-3 on a road trip where their record could easily be 5-1 or 6-0. Too bad, too, because the Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez and Tim Lincecum are waiting in the next series.


Phillies (11-6) at Diamondbacks (7-10)

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Sun, April 25, 2010 03:26 PM Comments: 51

dbacksPhiladelphia Phillies (11-6) at Arizona Diamondbacks (7-10)

Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 7.24) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 3.50)

Time: 4:10, Chase Field

Weather: Sunny, 87 (Retractable Roof Stadium)


Twitter: @philliesnation

An outbreak of injuries hampering Phillies both old and new. An ace winning over the hearts of fans, as well as every game he pitches, and looking nearly unhittable in the process. Sounds a lot like last year, doesn’t it?

The plot from last August is again playing out in the early 2010 season. Of course, some things are different. Some of the cast (Juan Castro, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez) has changed. Oh, and the leading man is Roy Halladay. (Am I ever going to get used to writing that? I don’t think so.)

But Halladay and his 0.88 WHIP can go only every five days, meaning other players have to step up, especially when the core of the lineup falls into a slump, as it has for the past week. One of those guys is Kyle Kendrick, who in his last start pitched brilliantly against the Atlanta Braves, allowing only four runs in eight scoreless innings. Kendrick’s performance was especially encouraging because the Nationals had scored 11 runs on him in two starts that totaled only 5 2/3 innings.

Against the Braves, Kendrick looked like a completely different pitcher. He mixed his pitches effectively and—most important—kept the ball down in the zone. Unfortunately for him, Ryan Madson allowed a pair of two-out home runs in the ninth inning and Contreras gave up another in the 10th in a historic, are-you-bleeping-me loss. But the game was encouraging if only because it gave Kendrick a foundation to build on.

One thing to watch for in the coming games is when the Phillies lineup comes out of its recent doldrums. In the past few years, cold spells have almost invariably followed explosive stretches like the one to start the season, and then the hits start coming again and the wins start piling up. But considering that today’s bizarre starting lineup features three members of the 2005 Seattle Mariners (who finished 69-93), don’t count on the offensive tide to change this afternoon.

LINEUP: Gload, Dobbs, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Valdez, Ruiz, Kendrick

Artois BockYour Gameday Beer- Artois Bock

Tonight we’ll try another bock, this time from Stella Artois. This strong Belgium lager is 6.2% alcohol by volume. The bock has all the components of a good dark beer, sweet flavors of molasses, caramel and toffee. Some might think there is too much sweetness. It goes well with bbq shrimp. – By Brian



Moyer, Offense Flounder Against Fish

Posted by Jonathan Fogg, Sun, April 18, 2010 01:00 AM Comments: 60

After the searing start the Phillies’ offense got off to in their first 10 games, it was bound to get shut down eventually. Saturday, that day finally arrived. Ricky Nolasco pitched a five-hitter, allowing only a late home run to Jayson Werth in a 5-1 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The real troubling thing about the game was that Jamie Moyer allowed his second five-run inning of the season – in the first inning, no less – putting the Phillies in an immediate hole. After back-to-back, carbon-copy RBI singles by Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla, Ronny Paulino lofted a three-run homer just over the wall in left-center.

(Don’t forget – Paulino is the guy the Phils traded to the Giants for Jack Taschner a couple of months after the 2008 World Series. And is it me, or do former Phillies catchers always come back to hurt the Phils? I’m thinking of Rod Barajas here.)

Moyer righted himself to go six innings without allowing any further damage. And you could argue that the five-run first was irrelevant because one run won’t win many games, even with Roy Halladay on the mound. Speaking of struggling starters, Cole Hamels will take the mound Sunday for the series victory. You can say it’s only April, but beating division opponents is vital no matter the month.

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