No more posters.
They played tight for six innings. They couldn’t field; couldn’t run; couldn’t hit. It was a loser’s lineup card. Their starting pitcher took the crowd out of the game in a matter of minutes. I've reached an educated conclusion that Eaton's main problem is that he is, to put it gently, stupid. If you give the Nationals credit for anything, give credit to Matt Chico’s mother and father for providing the genetic combination that made him a left-hander.
On a day they could have clinched at least one October game, the Phillies took one step closer to clinching another emotional campaign ending Sept. 30, tomorrow, when the season will end like red-hot iron cauterizing a bloody stump.
Nationals – Phillies. Marlins -- Mets. Padres -- Brewers. The Rockies need wins and some help. The Diamondbacks can clinch the division tonight. It may not end cleanly tomorrow; it's possible some play will leak into Monday, and if there's a four-way tie, deeper into the week.
Considering the parks, the hitting, the pitching, the variables and every factor under the sun, there's never been a dead-heat or finish like this since the inception of the Wild Card. As for the match-up I like least? I won't mention it.
With the Mets comfortably ahead in their game at Shea, beleaguered right-hander Adam Eaton earns the start this evening as the Phillies try to maintain their one-game lead in the NL East. A win today would guarantee a one-game playoff at Citizens Bank Park.
When the first pitch is thrown, it will be Jayson Werth, Wes Helms and Carlos Ruiz getting starts behind and in front of Eaton. Felipe Lopez, Dimitri Young, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider stack the deck for left-hander Matt Chico. The combination of a tough left-handed Nationals lineup and poor starting pitcher in Eaton makes this one a real tossup.
Faced with the worst collapse in baseball history, the New York Mets, a game out of first in the National League East, send right-hander John Maine to the mound in hopes of avoiding infamy. First pitch is 1:10 p.m.
The Mets led the NL East by games on Sept. 12, but have lost 11 of 15 and find themselves on the brink of disaster. No major league team has blown such a big lead in such a short time at the end of a season. Today's game features a pitching rematch from Sunday. Rookie Chris Seddon (0-1, 6.89), who pitched a decent game against the Mets his last start, is scheduled for Florida. Maine (14-10, 4.07 ERA) will try to reverse his trend of poor starts. Lineups are set. Let's go, Marlins!
Update: 8-0 Mets in the 4th inning. Maine has a no-hitter through 4 innings. The Mets have never pitched a no-hitter.
If you're heading to the game today, or even watching the game from home, don't forget to download a handsome "We are the Team to Beat!" poster featuring MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins! Two color sizes are available: 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17 . Show your Phillies pride and support of Beerleaguer with these free exclusive collectibles!
You want the East? You've got it – now let’s keep it. Ace left-hander Cole Hamels fanned 13 batters over eight brilliant shutout frames as the never-say-die Phillies have overtaken sole possession of the NL East with two to play, made possible by the Mets 7-4 loss to the Marlins at Shea Stadium. The unreal collapse of the Mets continues. A win tomorrow or Sunday guarantees a one-game playoff. A win tomorrow or Sunday, paired with another Mets’ loss, or if the Phillies win out, the Phils will have punched their ticket to the post-season for the first time since 1993.
Beerleaguer: Tonight showcased the stuff legends are made of for Hamels, who was superb. The 24-year-old southpaw, making just his third start since returning from a strained elbow, threw first-pitch strikes and had his curveball clicking all night. As the Nationals discovered, when the left-hander fires on all cylinders, he’s in a class by himself. Jimmy Rollins, pictured above, continued his quest for National League MVP by getting the Phillies on the board in the 5th inning with a two-run single. Later on, Ryan Howard padded the Phils' lead with his 45th home run.
Game chat: The co-division leaders turn to ace left-hander Cole Hamels as the Phillies embark on their final three games of the 2007 season tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Tim Redding is scheduled for Washington. Discuss the action, including Mets/Marlins, right here. Go Phils!
In the wake of the most arousing night since the 1993 season, we digress and recognize the East is far from a foregone conclusion, as the Phillies must leave nothing to chance against the visiting Nationals.
It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I've just recovered from the emotional hangover from last evening. For someone who’s spent a great deal of energy criticizing a baseball team for playing tight in clutch situations, the finger can be pointed right back at this writer for internalizing the most amazing period in the history of Beerleaguer. Anyone can write a big headline, but where's the poetry in that?
But it’s somehow fitting, isn’t it? The spontaneity and economy of it. Allowing myself time to take it in. Read the comments. Page through the out-of-town papers and national Web sites. Download Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry,” Pat Burrell’s theme music, and keeping it on repeat. That's what an uninhibited fan would do.
“Kick ‘em when they’re up; kick ‘em when they’re down.”
And just like any true Philadelphia fan, I’ve spent a great deal of time fretting over the next 72 hours. Everyone says the Mets are one loss from breaking, yet I keep seeing two very winnable games in front of them, tonight against Byung-Hyun Kim, a pure dud they handled easily less than a week ago, and Saturday against Chris Seddon, and who the hell is he?
The Mets are playing like pure garbage, but shouldn’t the NL East deadlock provide them with something they haven’t had the entire season? True motivation and desperation – instead of the artificial, canned variety from Willie Randolph and others? Talk is cheap. A wounded animal will do anything to survive. Up until yesterday, there was always a chance the predator would lose interest and disappear.
And there’s still a chance of that. The Phillies host the bottom-feeding Nationals and must be aware they’re the favorites. Will they sink their teeth into these bunny rabbits or bat them around a little and let them hop away? They face Tim Redding tonight, and they let him off the hook just last Saturday. Redding, a right-hander, has two pitches and no velocity.
Meanwhile, they counter with Cole Hamels. If he’s on a pitch count, it must be mandated by the front office and becomes just another reason to blame Phillies brass for screwing up the season. Let the colt gallop free.
Colts are carnivores, right?
The Phillies smoked John Smoltz for six runs, five earned, en route to a 6-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Meanwhile, in Flushing, Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro threw eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball in dominating the sinking, drowning, dying Mets 3-0 at Shea Stadium. The division - gone! All of it - gone! A share of first belongs to the Phils, owners of a brand-new magic number! It's a new season with three to play!
As the 2007 season winds down to the final four, the Phillies continue their push for a postseason when they take on the Braves tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
Scheduled starters: John Smoltz (14-7, 2.95) vs. Kyle Kendrick (9-4, 3.82). Preview: Smoltz is 2-0 over his last four starts and hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of those outings. This is only Smoltz’s second start against the Phils all season, the first being on opening day. The Braves lead the season series 9-8.
Lineups are posted: Shane Victorino will start and bat second. Pat Burrell, a lifetime .080 against Smoltz, slides down and bats sixth. Greg Dobbs and Carlos Ruiz round out Charlie Manuel’s lineup card.
In other games we’re watching tonight: STL: J. Pineiro (5-4, 4.53) vs. NYM: P. Martinez (3-0, 2.57); SD: J. Cassel (1-1, 4.00) vs. MIL: Y. Gallardo (9-4, 3.59). The Cubs and Marlins are in the 6th inning as of this posting with the Fish leading 5-4. Arizona defeated the Pirates this afternoon 8-0.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled about Pat Gillick's poor decisions, but a handful of players, acquired on the cheap, have contributed to the playoff run.
Fundamentally flawed to fundamentally sound: A couple of points before we get to Value Village. Go back in the Beerleaguer archive and you’ll find three or four entries on playing poor fundamental baseball early in the season: base-running mistakes; fielding miscues; tactical errors. Watching Chipper Jones botch his throw yesterday, along with the mistakes the Mets have made all month, reminds me that those days have basically disappeared. Not only have the Phils risen to the occasion with their bats, and lately, their relief pitching, they’ve played crisp, clean innings. Captained by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, they’ve been a smart baseball team.
Value Village: Elections were held for Mayor of Value Village last night and J.C. Romero edged Greg Dobbs by a hair. Regular readers recognize “Value Village” as the term assigned to Pat Gillick’s vast stable of cheap acquisitions, most of them plucked from the waiver wire. Although Dobbs’ 55 RBIs and clutch base hit last night is nothing to sneeze at, Romero has filled the single greatest pound-for-pound void on the entire team: left-handed relief. Before Romero, they auditioned Matt Smith, Fabio Castro and Mike Zagurski. Try imagining any of those failed experiments pitching last night’s eighth inning. Kudos to Gillick for recognizing the need and pouncing on Romero. For finishing runner-up to Romero, Dobbs has been given the honorary title of Value Village Viceroy.
Weather: Checking the hour-by-hour forecast, Accu-Weather finds party sunny skies with a shower or thunderstorm lingering, a high near 88 degrees. The most likely time for showers appears to be 5 p.m. and again at 10 p.m., neither considered severe or lasting.
Wild Card scenarios: After listening to Howard Eskin and callers mangle the Wild Card scenarios yesterday on the drive home, ESPN's Jayson Stark finally sheds some light on the National League’s possible wacky finish. [Link]
Send out an APB for T.J. Bohn: As some of you may recall, the Phillies signed outfielder T.J. Bohn off waivers from Atlanta the other day, cleared room on the 40-man and assigned him to the active roster, according to the Phillies Web site. However, he’s yet to appear in the press notes and is no longer listed on the active roster. Nobody cares about this except Beerleaguers, so I thought I’d pass it along. Update: Bohn has a sprained ankle (hat tip to Crazy Jon).
Rollins makes history again: Finally, Jimmy Rollins' first-inning triple was his 19th of the season, equaling the club mark set by Juan Samuel in 1984. Rollins also became the fourth player in history to have 700 at-bats in a season during the game. The most amazing part: He shows no signs of slowing. Is it too early to talk about a second contract extension?
A recap of last night's non-Phillies action, courtesy of our news sources.
Washington 9, New York 6: The Mets wasted two homers by Carlos Beltran as Washington sliced the Mets lead to one game over the Phils. Colorado 2, Los Angeles 0: Josh Fogg allowed five hits over 6 2-3 innings, leading Colorado to its franchise-record 10th straight victory. The Rockies are now a franchise-best 14 games over .500 (86-72). San Diego 11, San Francisco 3: Jake Peavy won his NL-leading 19th game as the Padres spoiled Barry Bonds' home finale. Pittsburgh 5, Arizona 1: It what has become the most interesting playoff development of the week, the Pirates beat Arizona for the second night in a row to further tighten the NL West race. The Diamondbacks, in position when the series started to clinch the division, have dropped three in a row are are now only a game up on San Diego.
If it wasn’t Kyle Lohse’s best start as a Phillie, it was certainly his most important. Lohse allowed two runs over seven strong innings as the opportunistic Phils took the second game of their series with Atlanta.
Before an electric home crowd, the Phillies capitalized on one official, two unofficial Braves errors in the third inning, scoring on Chipper Jones’ throwing error to first, pushing home Chase Utley from third. Greg Dobbs then singled to right, scoring Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand. The Braves could have avoided the entire mess had Tim Hudson fielded a comeback to the mound cleanly, which would have set up an inning-ending double play. It was not ruled an error.
Jimmy Rollins earned Chevrolet Player of the Game accolades for a spectacular night of table-setting, including his 19th triple, which led off the ballgame. J-Roll went three-for-four with a run, pushed home by Howard’s RBI single in the first. Shane Victorino homered in the seventh to give the Phillies some insurance. It was just the 10th home run given up by Hudson all season.
Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero and Brett Myers combined for shutout frames in the 8th and 9th.
Beerleaguer: The Phillies finally got their overdue quality start, capitalized on mistakes and glided to a comfortable win against Hudson and the Braves. Good things happen when you get some innings from your starter. Excellent night for Lohse, who would have been my choice for player of the game.
The Phillies have overcome adversity all season and face the ultimate test the next five days. With the playoffs in sight, the Phils try to find the winning touch when they continue their series with the Braves.
Scheduled starters: Tim Hudson (16-9, 3.34) vs. Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.71)
Game chat: Before I get into Hudson, let’s talk about Lohse, who hasn’t been a topic of conversation much since the Phillies acquired him for left-hander Matt Maloney just before the trade deadline. For me, tonight’s start will tip the scale between satisfaction and disappointment in his acquisition. Pat Gillick did the right thing by trading for help in the rotation. No question, but it's not the issue. The issue is whether Lohse has given them enough. I’m on the fence. We all read how Lohse could be dominant, and truth be told, we haven't seen it. Actually, he has yet to last seven innings in pinstripes and has only won twice. Lohse really has no excuse not to be prepared for tonight. This is his last scheduled start before he hits free agency should the Phils miss the post-season. He's been an average pickup truthfully and hasn't done anything but hurt the bullpen lately. In five September appearances, four as a starter, he has a 6.10 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .326 BAA.
Now Hudson. To me, he’s been surprising. With his numbers dropping significantly in 2006, I thought he was at a point in his career where the innings had finally caught up with him. Wrong (again). He’s about to pitch the most innings since 2003 in Oakland, and his numbers are on par with the best of his career. Hudson, in front of a healthy starting eight for the Braves, is perhaps the best combination in the National League right now. The Phillies have indeed had a share of success against Hudson, including a three-homer outburst by Ryan Howard last season. Are the Phillies up for the challenge again?
J-Roll makes history: Last night, Jimmy Rollins slugged his 30th homer of the season, making him only the second player in franchise history to have 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in the same season (Bobby Abreu, 2001 & 2004), and the second player to do it this season (David Wright). Rollins is also just the third shortstop in MLB history to accomplish the feat, joining Barry Larkin in 1996 and Alex Rodriguez in 1998. J-Roll is also on pace to set the record for most at-bats in a season, currently held by Willie Wilson (705 in 1980 for KC).
Jamie Moyer allowed six runs, and the bullpen was shaky, as the Braves upended the Phillies 10-6. Meanwhile, San Diego and Colorado won. The only consolation is the Mets lost, but time is running out for that to matter.
Thirty minutes to game time, while preparing the game preview, I glanced at the scheduled lineups and knew they were in trouble. The Braves had already been underestimated heading into this series, and there was too much chest-pumping on our sidelines after a 8-2 road trip that included six games against inferior clubs. Seeing the live lineups made my trepidation verifiable.
There's a night-and-day difference between the Cards and Nats compared to the lineup the Phillies saw last night. Asking the pitching staff to get through Ankiel, Taguchi, Miles, Batista, Kearns, Lopez, Logan, etc. is one thing. Renteria, Chipper, Tex, Francouer, Andruw, McCann, etc. is another.
The Braves exploded precisely as feared, and the Wild Card threats took care of business later on. It’s not necessarily the frustration of losing 10-6 to the Atlanta Braves, who could easily represent the National League in the World Series if they only had the wins to get to October. It’s that we're still bummed about the missed opportunities in the previous 157, down to the very first game against the Braves in the season opener.
Maybe this rationale works hand-in-hand with the bleak attitude of Phillies fans, why every game, even the early ones, are treated like the post-season, and why there’s such a harsh feeling of betrayal that not everything was done, personnel-wise, to succeed. Because we’re never given the real one, the real October.
Maybe that's why our second or third reaction is to reason that Jamie Moyer will simply have this sort of game against the Braves because he is who he is, and Geary won’t be able to retire all the inherited runners because he doesn’t have the talent, while the first reaction is typically "Same old Phillies."
I blame the “concept” of Moyer more than Moyer himself, frankly, and that makes him immune to criticism in many ways. He's the same pitcher every start, except he's naturally worn down to the point of being only a four or five-inning pitcher. Moyer can last once, maybe twice through a lineup and needs the outside corners from the umpire, which he wasn’t getting from C.B. Bucknor. Mark Teixeira’s three-run homer in the first represents a text-book example of what happens to Moyer when he falls behind and is forced to come over the plate.
For the Phillies, who’re operating on borrowed time as some have already resolved, their version of October started yesterday, and they’re down 0-1 in the best of six.
The Phils haven't reached the post-season in 14 years, and have been in this position before. Tied for the WC lead, they try to complete the task when they open a six-game homestand against the Braves.
Scheduled starters: LHP Chuck James (11-10, 4.11) vs. LHP Jamie Moyer (13-11, 5.01)
Preview: Tonight is regarded as the must-win game of the series, or else the Phils are forced to win two-straight against Hudson and Smoltz. Due to San Diego’s catastrophic weekend, many consider the Phillies the new favorites to capture the Wild Card. A reminder that with six to go, they were the favorites last season as well, with reporters going so far as to say the Phils controlled their own destiny. A year wiser, we know better ...
... and they didn't even face the Braves, who're as good as any team in the National League. That's a fact. Occasionally, Chuck James will give the Tomahawks seven solid innings. It happened his last start, a seven-inning, two-hit shutout against the Marlins. In between, it’s mediocrity. Truth be told, it’s a similar story for Jamie Moyer, who’s been solid his previous two starts. The only numerical difference between James and Moyer, really, is age, and just a few more meltdowns for Moyer to account for the difference in ERA.
The Braves, winners of eight of their last 10, hold a slim 8-7 edge over the Phillies this season and have won four of six in Philadelphia.
Lineups are posted: Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz and Abraham Nunez round out the lineup card.
Beerleaguer: With Edgar Renteria's return, along with the deadline acquisition of Mark Teixeira, the Braves’ lineup is more powerful than at any point the Phils have seen them all season, and they're finally starting to click. They could be even more amped up than the Phils. I’m very scared of this series.
The Giants used a five-run third inning to top the visiting Padres 9-4, dropping the Pads into a dead heat with your Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, the Phils gained on the Mets, who fell to the Nationals 13-4.
The floor of the Phillies bandwagon is covered in Mapquest, remnants of distant journeys. The 4-11 start. Eskingate. Myers to the pen. Garcia to the pine. The 10,000th loss. Rescuing the Rockies' grounds crew from under a tarp. Utley’s injury. Hamels’ injury. Pat the Bat, Part I. Pat the Bat, Part II. The pitching. The hitting. MVP candidates. LVP degenerates. Tied for the Wild Card lead with six to play.
What an amazing ride. Then again, it’s amazing how much this season would parallel any other if they play .500 ball the rest of the way and finish with 88 wins, just short of the requisite 89, 90 or possibly 91. The Phillies were tied for the Wild Card with six remaining and a favorable schedule and went 3-3 last season, and finished well shy of San Diego and Los Angeles, who ran the table. The final game, a loss in Florida, didn’t even matter.
The pieces are set for the final run. The Phillies and Padres are tied, but it’s the Padres who must take to the road while the hometown nine defend Citizens Bank Park against Atlanta and Washington. Speaking of the Braves, they’ve quietly matched the Phils with an 8-2 record of their own over the last 10. It may be too little, too late for Bobby Cox’s boys. Meanwhile, the red-hot Rockies, winners of eight straight, trail the Phils by only one. Phans now try to hex the Rox in their series with the Dodgers after cheering them just this weekend. If you're the owner of a Troy Tulowitzki voodoo doll, start sharpening your needles.
Back to the task at hand. Braves, Braves, Braves. That old-codger, Clout, offers his insights: “Key to the Braves series, and probably to the Wild Card, is tonight's game against Chuck James. It doesn't get any more must-win than this. Lose tonight and you'd have to beat Hudson and Smoltz to win the series. That, my friends, ain't happenin'. Win tonight and you just have to split the next two. Quite doable. Do that, then run the table vs. the Nats and probably clinch the WC regardless of what the Padres and Rocks do. But the key the tone-setter -- is tonight with Moyer vs. James. That is a winnable matchup and it must be won.”
2008 will be Gillick’s last: Phillies GM Pat Gillick told the Philadelphia Daily News yesterday that he will finish the final season of his three-year contract. There had been speculation he would not be back after 2007, with a report that he had bought some sort of property on the West Coast. The news would at least verify what most had assumed all along – that the 70-year-old baseball veteran would have a short-term run with the Phils.
Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle serve as assistant GMs and interviewed for the job before, in addition to front office positions outside the organization. Gillick, a Phillies outsider, replaced Ed Wade, an insider, so one can only speculate the loyalist Phillies will again give serious consideration to inside candidates, after pacifying the fan base following Wade’s unpopular run.
Phillies add more former Mariner depth: Outfielder T.J. Bohn was claimed by the Phillies yesterday afternoon off waivers from the Atlanta Braves, Assistant General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced yesterday.
Originally selected by Seattle in the 30th round of the 2002 draft, Bohn has appeared in 18 major league games, all with the Mariners in 2006. In limited play, he hit .143 (2-14) with one home run and two RBI. Bohn, 27, began the season with triple-A Richmond and hit .241 with one home run and 14 RBI over 46 games. The St. Louis Park, Minn. native played in 11 games for the Gulf Coast raves where he had an 8-game run-scoring streak before finishing out the season with double-A Mississippi, batting .224 in 23 games.
To make room for Bohn on the 40-man roster, the Phillies placed RHP Yoel Hernandez on the 60-day disabled list. He has been added to the active roster. Beerleaguer: Appears to be a fairly useless, fussy addition, but don't discount the "revenge factor" against the Braves. LOL.
All eyes are focused on an overworked bullpen and flaky rotation, but if the last two games were any indication, Ryan Howard and the Phillies' offense need a break as badly as the pitching.
The Phils averaged 5.9 runs on the 10-game road trip, a misleading figure in some respects. The Phils capitalized on timely hits, a few breaks and mistakes, and also posted double-digit run totals twice, last Sunday and Monday. However, a good portion of their solid 8-2 finish can be attributed to the failures of opposing relievers, including Jorge Sosa, Mike Maroth, Jesus Colome and Guillermo Mota.
Take away some of the free gifts and we might be talking about how the offense blew it at the worst possible time. Ryan Howard went hitless five times on the trip, and that doesn’t include Saturday night’s 1-for-5, four strikeout misery. Howard avoided the collar and made the last one count, but again, it came off a mistake pitch served up by marginal reliever Chris Schroder. Last season's MVP tied the MLB mark with his 195th strikeout yesterday.
The fatigue issue is best illustrated by the last two games, where struggling right-handers Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan allowed two runs over 11 1-3 innings, including 14 strikeouts to just three walks. Redding throws two pitches with no velocity, while Hanrahan had not lasted through the fourth inning his previous three starts walks a ton. Each pitcher struck out seven and allowed one run. Only a handful of pitchers have been that successful against the Phils all season. Redding and Hanrahan don't exactly hang in the VIP lounge.
The Phils simply beat themselves yesterday. The game included a handful of quick, wasted outs, including one-pitch swings. Carlos Ruiz led off the fifth against Hanrahan with a first-pitch pop out at a time when Hanrahan was clearly unraveling, demonstrating poor understanding of the situation. He was not alone. By Sept. 23, it should be common sense.
While the offense straddled the fence between good and bad during the road trip, the bullpen came away as the team’s greatest strength, all except the 13-11 game in St. Louis and yesterday. Given a choice, I would have pitched Cole Hamels another inning: he was in a steady groove, missing bats and hitting spots. The Nationals are no threat unless you start issuing free passes, which is what Antonio Alfonseca did in so-called relief. You can’t blame Charlie Manuel for handing the ball to a fresh arm up 2-1 in the 6th against the Nats, although it was a little early to go defensive with Abraham Nunez at third, then Michael Bourn in the seventh.
Nevertheless, the fact that J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers will be given two full days of rest should be counted as a small victory; they could be set for the duration of the season.
Victorino: Shane Victorino has become the forgotten man, which is pretty amazing considering many of you would have considered Victorino the biggest contributor among corner outfielders during the first half. There’s lots of talk about how Chase Utley’s injury was unfortunate because he was having an MVP season. To a smaller degree, the same can be said of Vic, who was holding his own, certainly, as an everyday right fielder, and probably would have stolen over 50 bags this season.
Nevertheless, his nagging calf injury represents what many had feared about Victorino, physically: he can’t last a full season playing his type of game. Relegated to the bench, those fears have come to fruition.
Helms: Just a brutal season; almost hard to wrap one’s head around. Some were projecting totals as high as 20 homers, 75 RBIs. Something tells me he never got properly started. Not that I’m complaining, since Greg Dobbs has done the job of Helms and more. In the kooky world of baseball, it wouldn’t surprise me if Helms had a better season than Dobbs in 2008, although age is not on his side.
Pitching has guided the Phils to a 8-1 road trip. This afternoon, they try for a near-perfect 9-1 finish when ace left-hander Cole Hamels takes on Joel Hanrahan and the Nats at 12:05 p.m. from RFK Staduim.
Lineups are set: Greg Dobbs, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz round out Charlie Manuel’s card. The Nationals field easily their worst lineup of the series, including starting assignments for Batista, Jimenez, Maxwell and Flores. Four-game sweeps are a lot to ask, especially on the road. However, considering the pitching matchup, Phils have an open opportunity to finish the road trip with a win.
Around the NL: Seddon (FLA) vs. Maine (NYM); Francis (COL) vs. Maddux (SD); Billingsley (LAD) vs. Gonzalez (AZ); Capuano (MIL) vs. Reyes (ATL); Gorzelanny (PIT) vs. Zambrano (CHI). Phillies must take of business since New York and San Diego are favored.
Standings: With yesterday’s win, the Phils pulled to within 1/2 games behind San Diego, who lost 6-2 to Colorado. The Mets took care of the Marlins 7-2 to remain 1 1-2 up in the division.
Beerleaguer: Can a tired bullpen maintain this pace? For one, the starters must go deeper. Adam Eaton may be on the bubble, but I’d honestly take four innings from Eaton than gamble with J.D. Durbin. They can't take any more of these two-inning meltdowns. Kyle Lohse has to do it, too.
The pen has done some amazing work lately, maybe some of the best pitching of the season. Guys like Geoff Geary and Tom Gordon have been given second and third chances, and they’re making the most of it. Clay Condrey was designated for assignment four times this season and has two saves during a playoff race.
The Phillies moved a little closer to their playoff goal with a comfortable 6-3 win over Washington last night, coupled with San Diego’s 14-inning loss to Colorado. The Phils hope to build on their night of fortune tonight at RFK.
Scheduled starters: RHP Kyle Kendrick (9-4, 4.05) and RHP Tim Redding (3-5, 3.73)
Preview: The Phillies have reached the point where they must feel confident in their chances every time their 23-year-old right-hander takes the mound. Kendrick is 4-1 in his last six outings and defeated St. Louis on Monday, allowing three runs in six innings, only to watch the bullpen make it interesting. The kid can definitely pitch. What I like most is he knows exactly who he is and how to win with his abilities, plus he's a strike-thrower. He forced double-digit groundouts for what feels like the 10th time this season last game, including that key twin-killing in the 5th. He and Pat Burrell's second half are the best stories of ’07.
For Washington, Redding, one of several cheap Nationals reclamation projects who's actually worked out, has been a pleasant surprise until recently. He’s got a terrible 37/36 K/BB ratio. After getting through Shawn Hill last night, the worst is definitely over for the Phils this series.
Last night, the Phils made fairly easy work of the Nats considering how many times they’ve needed to grind out victories of late. Great nights from Ryan Howard and Pat Burrellm and more good innings from the back of the Phillies bullpen, despite the heavy workload, keyed the victory. The game was pretty much in Phillies' hands after Adam Eaton was yanked after walking five, hitting two and giving up three in five-plus. He’s a total scrub, and for the first time all season, the Phillies broadcast crew called him out.
Action packed Saturday: The Mets and Marlins get underway at 3:55 p.m. and should be on FOX for viewers on the East Coast. Penn State travels to Michigan hoping to snap an eight-game losing streak. No Big Ten Network needed for this national broadcast. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. First pitch in Washington is 7:05 p.m. The San Diego/Colorado nightcap begins at 10:05 p.m. Enjoy the action, go Phils, and go Lions.
On the heels of their Major League-leading 47th comeback win, the Phils try to gain ground in the division when they play the second of four at RFK. Adam Eaton (9-9, 6.36) and Shawn Hill (4-4, 3.01) are scheduled. Elsewhere, the Mets and Marlins meet in Miami.
Eaton by the numbers: You may want to sidle up to the trashcan. Here are the numbers on Eaton, pictured right during his winter job selling time shares. He's winless in his last eight starts. He’s pitched 6.0 or more innings in only two of his last 10. He’s 2-5 with a 7.49 ERA (61 ER, 73.1 IP) and .331 BAA since June 23. How many pitchers have been more disgraceful than Eaton this season, according to Baseball Prospectus? Twenty-three, out of 715. Putting it in perspective, Jose Mesa has him beat by 11 spots, and that’s the Detroit version.
Hill by the numbers: Another talented young Nationals pitcher completely off the radar. How does he do it? The 26-year-old throws a power sinker, leading to a 2/1 GB/FB ratio (156/78), according to STATS Inc. That would rank 7th in the NL if he hadn’t missed time with injury. The Phillies struggle with this type of pitcher, and Hill has had success against them; this will be his 5th career start against the Phils.
Romero by the numbers: Like Greg Dobbs and Jayson Werth, here’s another supporting cast member deserving special recognition. J.C. has pitched 9.2 scoreless innings over his last 13 outings. He’s only allowed 2 hits in 29 at-bats (.069) during that span. He’s holding opponents to a .054 average (2-37) over his last 17 appearances (12.2 IP).
Getting it done: Speaking of Romero, the list continues to grow among players who’re meeting or exceeding expectations. Subjectively, I’d include Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Dobbs, Werth, Carlos Ruiz, Tadahito Iguchi, Chris Coste, Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Romero on the list of players meeting or exceeding expectations. Players like J.D. Durbin aren't worth mentioning. I’d argue that at this point, nobody is truly underachieving with the exception of Eaton. Even the middle relief, including Tom Gordon, appears to be improving.
The depth of this list is a credit to the manager. Right now, Charlie Manuel has to be considered a strong candidate for manager of the year, whether you agree or not.
J-Roll’s chase for MVP: The press notes have been including a handy Jimmy Rollins/Lenny Dykstra breakdown, comparing Rollins' projected season in ’07 with Dykstra in ’93. Here’s the short version:
Mets/Marlins: In Florida, Pedro Martinez (2-0, 1.69) and Scott Olsen (9-14, 6.06) are scheduled in the second game of that series. Remember that Baseball Prospective list I referenced earlier? Olsen was one of the 23 pitchers below Eaton. Mets take this one.
Happy Chico Ruiz Day: Finally, be sure to check out Will Bunch’s detailed retelling of the most notorious event in Philadelphia sports history, 43 years to the day after Reds rookie journeyman Chico Ruiz stole home, triggering the infamous 10-game losing streak in 1964. Complete with pictures, graphs, links. The works. [Link]
Jayson Werth's pinch-hit home run helped erase a four-run deficit, and Jimmy Rollins’ eighth-inning double scored the winning run from second, as the Phillies came back to beat the Nationals 7-6. The Phils' beleaguered bullpen pitched seven innings of shutout relief.
Turning to Florida, Dan Uggla’s double in the bottom of the 10th scored Hanley Ramirez, as the Marlins won a wild one over the Mets 8-7. The Marlins scored three runs in the ninth off Jorge Sosa, not closer Billy Wagner, and also capitalized on a David Wright throwing error. Sosa stayed on and took the loss in the 10th. The Fish also scored four in the fifth off Tom Glavine, including a three-run shot by Miguel Cabrera. The Mets blew two separate three-run leads in the ballgame.
Timely hits got the Phillies back into their game, but there were plenty of unsung heroes in the bullpen who kept it close. Tonight marked eight-straight appearances Tom Gordon has not given up a run, and make it 13 for J.C. Romero. Actually, just one run in Romero's last 18. Brett Myers rebounded for his 18th save.
As a result, the Phils climbed back to 1 1-2 games behind the slumping Mets. As late as 8:30 p.m., many Phans would have been ready to raise a glass to the 2007 season. Instead, hope survives, the pennant race reignites, along with J-Roll's charge toward MVP.
Trailing the Mets and Padres by 2 1-2 games in the division and wild card races with 10 to play, the Phillies begin a four-game series against the Nationals tonight at RFK Stadium.
Preview: Landing in Washington early this morning, the Phillies draw a tough assignment right out of the chute with Jason Bergmann (5-5, 4.38), who has won his last three starts, including consecutive wins over Atlanta. The 25-year-old right-hander has made six career appearances against the Phillies, including three starts, and is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA. The Phils counter with Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.49), who lasted five innings against New York his last start, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks. Give the pitching edge to Washington in their home park. The Phils are 7-4 against Washington and 3-2 at RFK.
News & notes: The Inquirer is reporting that former Phillies GM Ed Wade has been hired by Houston to fill their GM vacancy. Wade edged Phillies Assistent GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who was on the short list for the position. The Padres continue their series with Pittsburgh this afternoon. The Mets move on for four in Florida. Follow the action here.
Usually, cooler heads prevail the morning after tough losses, but in the wake of last night’s 2-1 10th-inning loss to the Cardinals, exacerbated by New York and San Diego victories, there’s an uneasy feeling the Phils spoiled a golden opportunity, and are running out of time.
Final game of the series, not much hitting, stifling pitching, following two wild nights of action, led to a blah affair at Busch Stadium and some rather passive responses, including my own, during last night’s chat. The biggest crime was the Phillies’ inability to deliver with men on base. Chief among them was wasting Chase Utley’s churning triple with one out in the 8th, setting up their easiest opportunity to score off brilliant young right-hander Adam Wainwright. They were set up to score again in the 9th off Ryan Franklin and in the 10th facing Randy Flores. In what has become a rare occurrence this season, the offense came up short.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ bullpen, which has dropped the ball all season, took the loss yet again. This time it was closer Brett Myers, charged with a blown save and loss the last two nights. Myers has not been getting it done, and it's becoming difficult to gage whether he’s cut out for this role. Does he have a rubber arm, or not? Is he strong enough, mentally, or not? Right now, the answers appear to be ‘no’ and ‘no.’
Heading into Washington, the site of countless low-scoring, bitter games, the offense could be smothered and the late frames presume to intensify for the bullpen. That’s bad news any way you slice it. Statements like these – “The Phillies know the Nationals will not be a pushover” emerge every Nats series and suggest the Phillies are the better team. Fact is, they play each other as equals. Considering the mismatch in bullpens, park factors, and the difference between a team out of the hunt and one fighting for their lives, the Phillies are far from the favorites.
With all this talk about the Mets, lest we forget the Phillies must overcome a tough match-up tonight against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. First pitch is 8:10 p.m when the Phils try for the sweep and seventh-straight win.
Game chat: A nice, quick 5-2 win in regulation would do nicely. One without many hits, walks or pitching changes. Very few mound visits or deep counts. Just a couple quick homers, a solid seven innings from Jamie Moyer, a one-two-three inning from Tom Gordon to bridge the gap to Brett Myers for his 18th save. Game ends at the manageable hour of 11 p.m., you brush your teeth and go to bed happy. In the morning, you wake up with wood. Life would be so fine.
Lineups are posted: Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz and Abraham Nunez are in. Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols are out. Discuss all of tonight's action, including Mets/Nationals and Pirates/Padres, right here.
While most of you were sleeping, the Phillies became baseball’s top story. Pinch-hitter Rod Barajas singled home the winning run with two outs in the 14th inning as the Phils beat the Cards 7-4 early this morning.
Coupled with the Mets’ 9-8 loss in Washington, the Phillies are as close to the division lead as they’ve been since the second game of the season, moving to within 1 1-2 games of the plummeting Mets.
Left for dead, the division was just a fantasy only days ago, when the Phillies and their depleted pitching staff trailed the Mets by seven games following a 12-0 thrashing by Colorado. Since then, the Phils have rattled off six-straight unconventional wins, including the three-game sweep in New York. With 12 to play, 11 for the Phillies, the Mets are suddenly confronted with a collapse of epic proportions. No team has ever held a seven-game lead with 17 games to play and failed to make the playoffs (Elias via Inquirer).
Playing second fiddle to the abrupt division swing is the preposterous way in which the Phillies are winning these games. Last night takes the cake. Jose Mesa pitched two innings for the win. Clay Condrey picked up the save. Both pitchers nearly blew a 12-3 lead just yesterday. Rod Barajas hasn’t been talked about in months. The bottom of the lineup drove in all the runs while the main ingredients, one-through-five, produced little.
For the Mets, it was their fifth loss in a row, joining the Red Sox as another team on the brink of collapse. The Sox have lost three straight to watch their lead dwindle to 2 1-2 games over the Yankees.
As Jim Salisbury noted in today’s column, two races are better than one. The Phillies, who pushed their record to a season-best 13 games over .500 (82-69), remain 1 1-2 back of the steady Padres.
Beerleaguer: The absurd Phillies needed some luck and help, and they’re getting it. It’s funny how of all the nutty developments, the Mets’ freefall has been the most predictable. They’re beaten down and exposed, nobody more than John Maine, who squandered a big lead yesterday. Time will tell whether the one left standing in the NL East will be the better team, or the one saved by the bell.
Ace left-hander Cole Hamels makes his first start in over a month as the Phillies and Cardinals continue their series at Busch Stadium. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' starter is still listed as a game-time decision.
Hamels (14-5, 3.50 ERA) has been sidelined since August 17 with a strained left elbow. Representing the team’s first home-grown All-Star pitcher since Randy Wolf, the 23-year-old notched 156 strikeouts in 25 starts before going on the shelf. His last start came Aug. 16 at Washington, shutting out the Nats over 6 2-3 innings for the win. Hamels tossed a 55-pitch bullpen session last Saturday and indicated all systems were go.
The offense tries to continue its torrid hitting against St. Louis’ mystery pitcher. The Phils jumped all over the Cards to take 11-0 and 12-3 leads through 6.0 innings before the Cardinals came back to score 6 runs in the 7th inning and 2 more in the 8th. The sluggfest included two Ryan Howard homers, including his second grand slam of 2007. Aaron Rowand went 3-for-5 with two homers. Jimmy Rollins also belted a three-run shot.
Best of the press notes: In their last 60 games against the NL Central, the Phillies are 39-21 (.650), dating to last season ... For his career, opponents are hitting .215 (51-237) against Hamels with RISP, including .163 (13-80) in his last 18 starts (Phillies are 13-5) ... Rollins is hitting .324 (71-219), 7 HR, 29 RBI, 43 R in his last 49 road games.
The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 13-11 yesterday, but all is not hunky-dory in the bullpen, where burnouts like Jose Mesa and Clay Condrey once again turned a commanding lead into a sticky situation.
The fact that certain pitchers are allowed to exist to waste our time and the rest of the team's time should tell you all you need to know about Phillies management. How is it that junk like Jose Mesa, or any number of others, continue to have jobs? The team’s last bullpen acquisition was Julio Mateo, yet to appear, even though his career to this point indicates he’d be no worse than their third-best reliever. Before that, they signed J.C. Romero. That was months ago. In the meantime, it keeps getting worse. And nothing is done about it. Why? Winning is obviously secondary.
What else could it be? If I'm Aaron Rowand, who homered twice yesterday and made a game-saving catch in the 8th inning, or any of the other leaders on the team, players who’ve busted their humps all season and are still short, now would be the time to call general manager Pat Gillick to task. At the very least, they should start billing the front office for frequent on-the-mound couseling sessions, pictured above. Why would a guy like Rowand ever want sign back here, knowing the team doesn’t do all that it takes to win? How in the name of all that is holy can Gillick get off scott free for the bullpen? It’s the single biggest reason why they’re not on top, as everyone predicted, last October. If the middle relief manages to bridge the gap to Brett Myers, it’s by accident. The clouds open and temporarily blind the hitter, or some other deus ex machina.
Scores like 12-3 are the reason why rosters expand in September. Great chance to give young players some action. For some reason, the Phillies filled the expanded roster with quad-A rubbish. They pay the price in two ways. Not only are 12-3 leads insecure in the hands of burnout veteran middle relief, their young pitchers with talent, guys like J.A. Happ, Josh Outman and Joe Bisenius, who would do a better job than Mesa, miss out on gaining some late-season experience. Revisiting the original question: How is it that junk like Jose Mesa, or any number of others, continue to have jobs? Could it be they'd rather limit service time of young players than make the post-season? Nah.
Twelve to go. A game and a half out of the Wild Card, and 2 1-2 behind the stumbling Mets. A miracle, considering the calamities of upper management.
Tune in to Mike Faust's Feedback on 830-AM this morning at 9:00 a.m. when I discuss last night's near bullpen travesty, the Wild Card race and other Phillies news. The Phillies needed their entire 11-0 lead and then some to hold on to beat the Cardinals 13-11 last night.
The Phillies try to build on their weekend sweep when they open up a three-game series in St. Louis, beginning tonight at 8:10 p.m. from Busch Stadium. The Phillies trail the Padres by 1 1-2 games in the NL Wild Card.
Preview: Ice ages envelop the earth in the time it takes these one-time division foes to meet during the regular season. Or so it seems. The Phillies took two-of-three from the Cards June 22-24. For some reason, my most vivid recollection of these teams meeting is at the beginning of the ’05 season in St. Louis, when Gavin Floyd retired 19-straight batters and lasted seven innings for the win, then the Phils blew up Chris Carpenter in the Sunday afternoon rubber match, taking the series 2-1. Kyle Kendrick (8-4, 4.02 ERA) did his best Gavin Floyd impression the last time he faced St. Louis, allowing one run over seven innings for the win. The 23-year-old right-hander was knocked from his last start after taking a line smash off his knee. He’s been given the green light; this will be his 18th start for the Phils. He’s opposed by right-hander Brad Thompson (6-5, 5.05 ERA).
Lineups: For Tony LaRussa's Cardinals, Thompson will bat 8th ahead of shortstop Brendan Ryan. Kelly Stinnett and Scott Spiezio also round out a very, very ugly lineup card for the home team. For the Phils, Greg Dobbs, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz get the call.
Notes: According to Phillies.com, manager Charlie Manuel says Adam Eaton's spot in the rotation is secure. J.D. Durbin, however, has shifted to the bullpen with Cole Hamels’ anticipated return.
It’s been a season of extremes for the 80-win Phillies, who completed a three-game sweep of the Mets yesterday. For the Phils to reach their post-season goal, fortune must shine upon the pitching staff, and teams out of the hunt must play for pride.
There may never be another Phillies team like the 2007 version, with their evenly outrageous pitching and hitting. Part of it is the park, but most of it is something else. Collective offensive OPS: .814. That’s higher than Ryan Zimmerman, Freddy Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Andre Eithier, Carlos Delgado and Andruw Jones, just to name a few. League average is .755. The closest to average on the Phillies are Shane Victorino, with .777, and Carlos Ruiz, with .735. All that offense has led to a league-best 5.50 runs per game. League average is 4.67.
Then there’s the pitching, the opposite extreme. They’ve allowed 5.15 runs-per-game. Opponents are slugging .461. It’s like facing nine Adam LaRoches a game.
With the scheduled return of Cole Hamels Tuesday, the rotation figures to get stronger for the final 13. The bullpen is a different story. It honestly boils down to dumb luck whether the Phillies’ bullpen can bridge the gap to Brett Myers, not that it's a stone-cold lock to assume Myers can nail down saves. Geoff Geary has done a better job since his last call-up, you say? Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. J.C. Romero has been a solid situational addition and can pitch the late innings. The rest of the veterans are out of gas. Guys like Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa and reinjured set-up man Tom Gordon figure to get through innings unscathed only by accident.
We’ve reached the point when readers are discussing the Padres’ schedule as much as the Phillies. The Pads finish up with Pittsburgh and Colorado at home, followed by San Francisco and Milwaukee on the road.
Pittsburgh is a tough draw. I like them as much as any team in the weak NL Central. Since August 1, the Buccos are actually tied with the Red Sox for the most runs among all major league teams (262). Since then, the Pirates have rattled off the most victories in the division (24-21), followed by the Reds (23-19), Cubs (22-23), Cardinals (20-25), Astros (19-24) and Brewers (18-23). Tonight’s pitching matchup of John van Benschoten and Jack Cassell is anyone’s guess. The Padres then face Tom Gorzalanny, Ian Snell and Matt Morris later in the series.
Meanwhile, the Phillies draw the injury-depleted Cardinals. Coming off the sweep in New York, it’s difficult to call this one on the road. The pattern suggests the Phils will drop two-of-three. Tuesday’s starter hasn’t been announced by St. Louis, a team that probably fell out of the race for good this weekend. It’s hard to know which way a team in their situation will go: into the tank, or unburdened and inspired?
Baseball Prospectus odds: Chance of Wild Card: 29.0. Chance of Division: 5.3. The Wild Card winner is in line to finish with 88.8 wins. A 9-4 finish will give the Phillies 89, 10-3 the even 90. Both totals are asking a lot.
The Mets served up the three-game sweep on a
silver platter, walking 11 and committing six errors as the Phillies took
the final game 10-6 at Shea Stadium. The sweep makes it three on the year, and second time at Shea.
The Mets fell one shy of tying a franchise record for free passes in a game. Six of them came at the hands of starter Oliver Perez, who has now walked 12 Phillies in 8 1-2 innings this season. The walks and errors came back to bite New York in a big way in the 6th when Greg Dobbs put his 10th home run into the right-field seats with no outs and the bases loaded to make it 10-5 Phillies. For Dobbs, the grand slam gave him a league-best 18 pinch hit RBIs on the season. Walks by Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa, along with a throwing error by Luis Castillo, accounted for the juiced sacks.
Geoff Geary picked up the win in relief of Adam Eaton. The struggling right-hander couldn't make it through the fifth inning after Carlos Beltran reached out and tagged a fastball for a three-run homer to tie it 5-5. For Eaton, it was his 30th home run allowed. He has not won since July 20.
The Phillies, who've climbed to 3 1-2 back of the Mets, will wait for the result of the San Diego and Los Angeles games. They travel to St. Louis tomorrow.
Chase Utley’s two-run homer tied the game 2-2, and the bottom of the Phillies’ lineup used small ball to score the winning run in the 10th, as the Phillies held on to beat the rival Mets Friday night. The Phils remain 1 1-2 back of the Padres in the Wild Card.
The Phillies finally got some pitching help as the game featured quality efforts from starter Jamie Moyer and the back of the 'pen. The game also included some outstanding defense on both sides of the ball (multiple Web Gems issued on Baseball Tonight).
In the 10th, Greg Dobbs pinch-hit sacrifice fly scored Jayson Werth, who reached second on a throwing error by Aaron Heilman on Carlos Ruiz’s bunt, then a picturesque bunt by Abraham Nunez moved Werth to third. For Dobbs, it was his 14th pinch RBI, which leads the league. Utley’s home run was his 20th, which gives the Phils five players to hit 20 homers in a season for the first time in franchise history.
Tom Gordon picked up the win and struck out three in 1 1-3 scoreless innings. Brett Myers pitched a perfect 10th for his 16th save. Jamie Moyer lasted a full seven frames for the first time since July 27.
The Phillies sixth-straight victory over the Mets wasn’t enough to gain ground in the Wild Card race, as Khalil Greene’s walk-off homer in the 10th gave the Padres a 5-4 win over the Giants. The Phils still trail the Pads 1 1-2 games in the Wild Card.
Game chat: Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.47) against Pedro Martinez (2-0, 1.80). Pedro has looked good in winning both his starts since offseason shoulder surgery. First pitch is 1:10 p.m.
The hometown nine and their depleted pitching staff continue to fight for their playoff lives as a pair of ancient wonders open up a three-game series in New York. Game time is 7:10 p.m. ET.
Series pitching preview: Tonight: Jamie Moyer (13-11, 5.23) vs. Tom Glavine (13-6, 3.95); Saturday: Kyle Lohse (8-12, 4.47) vs. Pedro Martinez (2-0, 1.80); Sunday: Adam Eaton (9-9, 6.31) vs. Oliver Perez (14-9, 3.42).
Preview: The Phillies enter 1 1-2 games back of the Wild-Card leading Padres and trail the Mets by 6 1-2 in the division. Since sweeping the Mets Aug. 30, the Phils have gone 6-7 and lost 4 1-2 games on the division leaders, who’ve gone 10-2 in that span. Since I’ve been out of the loop for most of those games, I refer you to The Good Phight, which offers a handy preview of the weekend series. TGP scribe, dajafi, notes that the high-leverage relievers, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers and J.C. Romero, are relatively well-rested, and that it was the Phils’ bullpen that shined in the four-game sweep. He also makes a valid point that the Phillies have much more at stake than the Mets, however the pitching match-ups probably favor the home blue. Most are expecting one-out-of-three. I do not like Moyer's chances tonight.
Last night: The Phillies beat the Rockies 12-4 to split the 4-game series and finish 4-3 on their homestand. Starter J.D. Durbin lasted just 1.0 innings allowing 3 runs and 8 baserunners. Geoff Geary (W, 3.0 IP), Clay Condrey (1.0 IP), Kane Davis (1.0 IP), Antonio Alfonseca (1.0 IP), J.C. Romero (1.1 IP) and Jose Mesa (1.0 IP) combined to allow 1 run over the final 8.0 innings. Aflonseca was suspended four games for throwing at the head of Rockies first baseman Todd Helton.
Pat Burrell in New York: Pat Burrell has 41 career homers against the Mets, which is the most among all active players. All-time, he has 5th-most, trailing Hall of Famer Hank Aaron by four (45). Burrell also has 102 career RBI against the Mets, which is 2nd among all active players (18th all time), trailing only Chipper Jones (118), who has played 46 more career games against New York.
Lineups have been posted: Jeff Conine starts at first for the Mets, with Lastings Milledge in right. Carlos Ruiz, Jayson Werth and Abraham Nunez get nods for the Phillies. [Live Boxscore]
Konnichiwa. Twenty-four hours after departing our hotel in Tokyo, followed by 12 hours of sleep and some of the craziest bed head ever seen, Beerleaguer is back from his eight-day tour of the Japanese baseball league.
The trip included five stadiums in eight nights, about 30 trains, cabs, subways, trolleys, buses, whatnot and five separate hotel check-ins. We had an outstanding time and met many great people. It commands a larger cultural study, a piece worth submitting somewhere a little less bourgeois than Beerleaguer.
Since time is of the essence, I give you this official Japanball press release. I must now repack my bags for six-hour drive to Pittsburgh for a wedding. You can imagine my excitement at the prospect of more long-distance travel. I'll post a Mets thread momentarily.
Beerleaguer acquires Fernandez bobblehead figurine
SENDAI, Japan -- Jason Weitzel of Beerleaguer has acquired a Jose Fernandez Rakuten Golden Eagles bobblehead figurine in exchange for an assortment of American baseball cards, including ex-Giant Tsuyoshi Shinjo, former Mariner closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, current Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima and Yankees superstar Hideki Matsui.
“We’re excited to obtain a bobblehead of Fernandez’s caliber,” Weitzel said. “Along with Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, we’ve built a fine nucleus of novelty baseball items.”
In five seasons in Japan, Fernandez, 32, is a .296 hitter with 119 homers and 366 RBIs. His last Major League at bat happened in 2001 with Anaheim. In parts of two seasons, he is 7-for-49 (.143).
Despite his strong numbers in Japan, his bobblehead didn’t sell. Rakuten's portion of the trade was handled by "Freddy," front office assistant to former Golden Eagles GM Marty Kuehnert, now head of marketing. The deal was finalized in a hotel lobby in Sendai, pictured above.
"It was tough parting with a player of Shinjo's quality," said Weitzel, "but you have to give in order to receive." Rakuten plans on adding the cards to their stadium display case.
Weitzel declined team doctor Martin Smith's offer to remove Fernandez from his packaging and perform a full MRI. In order to make room for Fernandez in his luggage, Weitzel has designated his old underwear for assignment.
Open thread to discuss last night's Rockies game, the morning headlines and news from around the league. Beerleaguer will return from Japan tonight after crossing the International Dateline and flying 14 hours, including a three-hour layover in Detroit. Enjoy tonight's game, and I'll talk to you soon.
Open thread to discuss last night's Rockies game, the morning headlines and tonight's game from Citizens Bank Park. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
Did I read the Inquirer correctly when I read Adam Eaton said he was happy with how he pitched Tuesday? That's what we're to expect from three-years, $24 million? Five innings, four runs, three home runs? That would make the late Cory Lidle and his steady six-innings, three runs a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Ryan Howard doubled home the winning run in the 10th after scorching-hot slugger Pat Burrell's three-run homer tied it in the seventh, as the Phillies came from behind to win 6-5 over the Rockies Monday night. For Burrell, the unprecedented second-half transformation continues.
SENDAI, Japan -- First-ballot Hall-of-Fame poster MG was gracious enough to make my job easier by posting Burrell's season splits in last night's thread. Take a look at this. Burrell's turnaround, coupled with the Phils closing the gap to 1 1/2 in the National League Wild Card race, should be the city's top sports story. I don't need to be in the same continent to know it's not. Here are those numbers:
Pat the Bat: Pre-All Star Break
G AB R H HR RBI K BB
81 228 32 49 11 37 58 58
AVG OBP SLG OPS
.215 .378 .408 .786
Pat the Bat: Post-All Star Break
G AB R H HR RBI K BB
54 180 35 59 16 50 40 41
AVG OBP SLG OPS
.328 .442 .661 1.104
It's an incredible makeover. In a season filled with many offensive heroes, Burrell has climbed straight to the top. Think about where he was last year when he was lucky to break into the lineup over Jeff Conine. Look at him today: batting third; re-adored by fans. The swagger is back. He's on the attack. I'm savoring every minute of it, while gobbling down bitter crow at the same time. Back in June, I was convinced his career was hitting the tank.
But so what. So did everyone. Moving on. Reading the box score, I see a 'W' for Brett Myers' two shutout innings. Nice job I suppose. Howard obviously came through at the end. Beerleaguer senior correspondent Martin Smith and I agree: Matt Holliday is a Top 5 fantasy pick next season. What a stud. Kyle Lohse was effective. J.C. Romero was effective. I view both acquisitions as working out similarly well for Pat Gillick and the Phils. Not to nitpick, but it's high time to tell Jose Mesa to take a hike. He's a bum.
Site notes: Beerleaguer will resume live posting Thursday night upon returning from his tour of the Japanese Baseball League. Today's schedule: Rakuten Golden Eagles vs. Orix Buffaloes at Fullcast Miyagi Stadium, featuring a meet-up with Marty Kuehnert, general manager of the Golden Eagles.
Roster note: Michael Bourn has been activated from the DL.
Discuss the Marlins series and tonight's four-game opener with the Rockies in the thread below. Beerleaguer will resume live posting Thursday night upon returning from his tour of the Japanese Baseball League. Today's schedule: Travel day. Travel north to Sendai via Tokyo for tomorrow's game between Rakuten Golden Eagles and Orix Buffaloes at Fullcast Miyagi Stadium. Fine dining on the schedule.
First pitch is 1:35 p.m. ET when the Phillies and Marlins settle it this afternoon. Beerleaguer will be running automated entries until Sept. 13, but will be checking comments and posting periodically while touring Japan. Today's schedule: Board the Hikari Super Express train from Nagoya to Hiroshima for a mid-afternoon game between Yokohama BayStars and the Hiroshima Carp from Hiroshima Municipal Stadium. Afterward, we visit the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park and A-Bomb Museum, located at ground-zero of the first atomic bomb drop.
5:30 p.m. update: The Phillies defeated the Marlins 8-5 behind homers from Pat Burrell, Carlos Ruiz and the second-straight day of shutdown relief by the Phillies' bullpen. The Phils survived another scary inning where the roof caved in for Jamie Moyer, who allowed five runs in the fifth inning after allowing one hit over the first four. Familiar pattern for Moyer here in the second half. The Phils tagged Marlins' starter Dontrelle Willis for seven runs, including the homers by Ruiz and Burrell. Burrell knocked in three on a 2-for-4 afternoon. Ryan Howard got the afternoon off with Chase Utley taking over at first. The day off for Howard was a long time coming.
Checking scores, Colorado leads San Diego 4-2 in the 8th inning.
Yesterday in Japan, it was Yokohama 4, Hiroshima 3 in 10 innings. The BayStars overcame a blown save by Marc Kroon, which included an RBI base-hit by Alex Ochoa to tie it in the ninth.
It's all starting to catch up with the Phillies, who lost to the Marlins 6-3 yesterday in uninspired fashion. The Mets, who increased their lead to six games in the NL East, can now start thinking about magic numbers.
The pitching and injuries are starting to look like they will be too much for the lineup to overcome, as the Phillies continue to cling to the lingering Wild Card possibility with the Padres losing to the Rockies. The Rockies used an NL-record 10 pitchers in Friday's 10-4 win, holding the Pads to a three-game advantage over the Phils in the WC. Meanwhile, the Mets won. It may be time to forget about that possibility, although they'll meet head-to-head next week.
The good news for the Phils is that Cole Hamels has been cleared to start throwing. The ace left-hander, who's been sidelined with a strained elbow, has been given a timetable of about 10 days until his return, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Is it too little, too late? Judging by the drop in traffic, most people are ready to dive head-first into football season.
Not just yet, my friends. Today's game begins at 3:55 p.m. ET and is broadcast nationally on Fox. Discuss it here as X-factor John Ennis makes his first start for the Phillies. Catch the fever, baby. Ennis stumps the unfamiliarized Marlins and goes six-plus for the win. I know. I'm 13 hours ahead.
The Phillies try to put a horrifying road trip behind them and climb back into the playoff hunt when they open a seven-game homestand tonight against the Florida Marlins. Meanwhile, right-hander John Ennis will start tomorrow afternoon, taking Adam Eaton's turn in the rotation.
Tonight's pitching matchups: Byung-Hyun Kim (8-6, 5.54) and J.D. Durbin (6-4, 6.27). Lineups have been posted: Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs and Carlos Ruiz get starting nods. The Phils trail the Mets by five games in the NL East and San Diego by three in the Wild Card.
More on Ennis: Ennis finished the year strong at Ottawa and was called up for a second time when rosters expanded. In 37 games, including 7 starts with Ottawa, the 27-year-old was 4-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 83/38 K/BB ratio (88 IP). This will be his second Major League start, the first coming 2002 with Atlanta. [Live Boxscore]
Beerleaguer will be publishing automated entries until next week and will resume flesh-and-bone posting Thursday, Sept. 13. Don’t let that stop you from discussing the latest Phillies scoop and news from around the league as the Phillies get set to take on the Marlins tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET. Meanwhile in Japan, Tokyo sight-seeing is scheduled, followed by Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Giants from the raucous Tokyo Dome.
10:45 a.m. update
TOKYO -- The Phillies aren't the only team squandering their high-powered offense. Halfway around the world, seven home runs, including three by Korean standout Seung Yeop Lee, wasn't enough firepower for the Yomiuri Giants as the visiting Hanshin Tigers held on to win a 9-8 shootout at Tokyo Dome Friday night.
The Tigers capitalized on shaky control by the Giants' pitching staff and delivered timely hits to stay even, but the deciding blow came on the Tigers' only home run of the night: a game-winning shot by a nameless .190 hitter off Giants' star closer Koji Uehara. Uehara's Tiger counterpart, closer Kyuji Fujikawa, finished the job in the bottom of the ninth, preserving the 9-8 victory.
The loss spoiled a seven-homer Yomiuri outburst, five of them coming off Kutztown University product and former Pirate Ryan Vogelsong, who was charged with six runs over the first 4 1-3 innings. Former Devil Ray Damon Hollins was among those who homered for Yomiuri, playing before an estimated 46,000-plus. Former Expos hurler Jeremy Powell, pitching his 7th season in Japan, started for the Giants and was chased early.
Other notable contributors in Hanshin's win included first baseman Andy Sheets, Venezuelan right-hander Darwin Cubillan and Australian left-hander Jeff Williams, former Dodgers property playing his fifth season in Japan.
12 noon video update:
An usher encourages Giants fans that the game is safely in the hands of the bullpen with the game tied 8-8. [Video]
Teams have organized cheers for each player, but here's one that seemed to be a more general medley by the home fans. Unlike the first one, this one is very beautiful. (Note: These may take a while to load, and you may need Quicktime to view them.) [Video]
... instead of watching the Phillies hit rock bottom. Call it a potentially lethal season killer. They have 23 games to recover. If they can't - and it's looking more likely that they won't - yesterday would be a fitting finale. The bats bury Hudson, and the bullpen blows it. Again. A team has not lost a game they were winning by six runs in the eighth inning all season, according to ESPN. Only the Phillies could manage something like that.
I know it's taboo to discuss the mental aspects of the game here, but are the Phillies choking again? Here are a pair of winnable finales when the offense spots them a sizable lead, and they can't hold it. Is it just a coincidence these brutal losses occurred right after the Mets series, when everyone climbed back on board?
Whatever. Why am I even bothering with this? I'm in Japan! Discuss yesterday's numbing 9-8 loss, the morning headlines and news from around the league below. Beerleaguer will be running semi-automated entries until Sept. 13, but will be checking comments and posting periodically while touring Tokyo and the surrounding cities. Today: After 20 hours of travel, we arrive in our hotel at 4:45 p.m; 3:45 a.m. EST, right on schedule. My room has a heated toilet seat and complimentary sandals and kimono. Time to shower and meet the group for a nightcap if I can stay awake.
Open thread to discuss last night's Braves game, the morning headlines and today's series finale, which gets underway at 1:05 p.m. Beerleaguer will be running automated entries until Sept. 13, but will be checking comments and posting periodically while touring Japan. First up: A non-stop 14-hour flight from Newark to Tokyo.
The Braves and Phillies resume their three-game series tonight as Kyle Lohse (7-12, 4.54) takes on Buddy Carlyle (8-5, 5.02) 7:05 p.m. ET from Turner Field. Discuss it here.
Preview: It’s all starting to come a little dangerously undone for the Phillies in their quest for their first post-season berth since 1993. Yesterday in Atlanta, Lance Cormier, who entered the game with a 7.59 ERA, allowed just one run on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts over 5 2-3 innings. Cormier’s curveball was cracking, but I’d be lying if I said the Phillies’ heads were in that game. Coming off the a deflating series loss in Florida, the Phils have lost three straight and trail the Mets by five games in the NL East. Attention once again shifts toward the Wild Card, where the Phillies trail the Diamondbacks by three games. Ryan Howard, who looked as though he’d avoid breaking the all-time strikeout mark last homestand, has 16 strikeouts in his last six games and is back on pace to exceed 195 for the season. Howard went 0-for-4 yesterday with three Ks.
Roster moves: The Phillies have recalled RHP Geoff Geary from triple-A Ottawa and purchased the contract of RHP John Ennis from Ottawa.
Biiru-Leaguer: Now would be a good time to tell you I will touring the Japanese Baseball League Sept. 5 through 13. (You’ll be surprised to learn I don’t plan my vacations around the Phillies’ pennant race.) The tour is organized by Bob Bavasi, brother of Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, and includes a five-stadium tour of Japanese baseball, including stops in Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Sendai. Beerleaguer senior correspondent and foreign-league guru Martin Smith, aka my stepfather, will also be making the trip. Just the guys. This is Martin's second time taking the Bavasi JapanBall tour. Read more about it here.
The plan is to log on to Beerleaguer from the hotels, write a few entries and snap a few photos. However, the schedule is hectic, so I’ve prepared a series of automated posts for the rest of this series and the upcoming homestand. I look forward to sharing the experience with you. Enjoy your week, go Phillies and I'll talk to you soon!
The Atlanta Braves made a splash at the trade deadline hoping to capture the soft NL East. Instead, they’ve slipped from the playoff picture and have fallen to just a game above .500.
Preview: Starting pitching has been the Braves’ well-known crutch. After Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, they’re diluted. The Phillies face Hudson on Wednesday, and aside from that, the Phils will have some open opportunities to cash in. Today’s starter Lance Cormier is 1-4 with a 7.59 ERA in seven games this season. The Phillies have seen him before and know what to expect. Familiarity may be why hitters have finally caught up to Jamie Moyer. However, the veteran left-hander has pitched Atlanta tough this season, going 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts against them this season.
The Braves have dropped nine of their last 12 including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets, who lead the Bravos by 7 1/2 games and the Phillies by 4 games in the NL East.
Roster move: Left-hander Fabio Castro has been added to the roster as the September call-ups keep trickling in one at a time.