Use this thread to discuss today's ballgame and the outcome of the Phillies series with the Cubs. We'll fire off a new thread closer to the start of tomorrow afternoon's contest. Live posting will resume Monday night.
Use this thread to discuss today's ballgame and the outcome of the Phillies series with the Cubs. We'll fire off a new thread closer to the start of tomorrow afternoon's contest. Live posting will resume Monday night.
Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.81) faces the team that originally drafted him back in 1984 when the Phils wrap up their series in Chicago. For the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.53) tries to prove that his August slump was more mental than physical. First pitch is 2:20 ET.
Brett Myers (7-10, 4.49) is on a roll since his return from the minor leagues. He'll match up with tough southpaw Ted Lilly (13-7, 4.23) as the Phillies and Cubs play the third of four games at Wrigley Field. First pitch is 3:55 ET. Discuss it here.
Use this thread to discuss today's ballgame and the latest from the Fightin' Phils. We'll fire off a new thread closer to the start of tomorrow afternoon's contest. Live posting will resume Monday.
Former Oakland teammates Joe Blanton (6-12, 4.75) and Rich Harden (9-2, 2.00) take the mound when the Phillies and Cubs continue their series from Wrigley Field. Game time is 2:20 ET. Because of last night’s eighth inning meltdown, the Phils enter today a full game behind the Mets in the NL East, with a nasty cuss to deal with in Harden today, then Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano looming later this series. For the first time this season, the cracks are starting to show in that Phillies bullpen.
Hours after the Toronto Blue Jays designated him for assignment, the Phillies have reportedly added the American League veteran for the stretch run, according to FoxSports. [Link]
Stairs was hitting .250/.342/.394 with 11 home runs this season. A veteran of 16 seasons, the New Brunswick, Canada native has had a solid career, hitting .266/.358/.482 with 252 home runs with 10 different clubs, most of his action coming against right-handed pitching. Stairs was designated for assignment after Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay. Playing in the American League since 2004, he’s been used primarily as a designated hitter and corner outfielder, but can also play first. He’s under contract through 2009 and is set to make $1 million next season. The Phils will reportedly send a prospect to Toronto.
Beerleaguer: Raise your hand if you knew this day would come, Matt Stairs in red pinstripes. And wouldn’t this be a fitting last move for Pat Gillick? Here’s Stairs, a 5-9, 210-pound bundle of AL obscurity, a no-frills professional hitter who’s ancient, available after the non-waiver deadline and Canadian to boot, eh?
It’s actually similar to the Jeff Conine acquisition of ’06 in many ways, another move that came after the non-waiver deadline. Like Conine, who was also 40 at the time of the trade, Stairs fills a void as an extra outfield bat, one that grew even larger when Geoff Jenkins landed on the DL. They also absorb next year’s contract, just like Conine. I’m not worried about that; they moved Conine the following spring with relative ease. It’s also similar to the Conine situation in that he’s added during the throes of a Pat Burrell slump.
With Jenkins out for an undetermined amount of time, Stairs, who's a Jenkins clone only with a worse glove, could jump into the starting lineup as early as this series against right-handed pitching. He still possesses good power against righties; all 21 of his home runs last season came off right-handed pitching. (Has there ever been a team with so many lopsided splits on one roster?)
After missing out on Mark Kotsay, I like this utilitarian addition.
According to the AP, familiar face Fabio Castro will join the Phillies for their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs.
Castro, 23, is 0-1 with a 3.30 ERA in 30 major league games, including one start. He spent most of the season bouncing between the starting rotation and bullpen for Reading and Lehigh Valley, going 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in three games for the IronPigs, while going 8-2 with a 4.40 ERA and 105/52 K/BB ratio in 27 games with Reading. Still a young player, the Phils acquired him in 2006 from Texas as a Rule 5 player and kept him in the bullpen through the end of the season by rule. This is his first appearance with the club this season.
Beerleaguer: I’m going to assume the Phils have a couple dead left-handed arms in their pen. Scott Eyre has pitched 3 2-3 innings the last two nights, well beyond his usual limit, while J.C. Romero was unavailable in last night’s game. Castro is stretched out to pitch long innings, but expect the same live arm/no control pitcher we've seen before. This will be a tough assignment. Unlike the Mets, the Cubs are loaded with right-handed thunder that annihilates left-handed pitching.
Castro is a departure from what they've had all season in bullpen, that is, guys who can get the ball over consistently for strikes. He isn't a big-league caliber pitcher.
Just a note: Players must be on a team's 25-man roster as of Aug. 31 (Sunday) to be eligible for post-season play. The only exception is that a player on the 60-day disabled list may be replaced by another player from the team's 40-man roster (as of Aug. 31) who plays the same position.
A win tonight would pull the Phillies into a first-place tie with the Mets in the National League East. Meanwhile, the Phils are in the wild card mix, trailing the Brewers by only four games.
September is just around the corner, the time when scoreboard watching sets in and baseball fans track the outcomes of several teams. The wild card race hasn’t been discussed much in our comments thread, but with time running out to make a head-to-head dent with New York, readers are getting in a wild card state of mind.
“Given the four head-to-head games against Milwaukee, I would say that the WC is clearly in play. It's certainly not the most likely route to the playoffs, but I'd feel a lot better about their chances if they could close the gap and make the WC a viable alternative. The Brewers do have a three-game series against the Mets coming up, which will be an opportunity for the Phillies to gain ground no matter what happens. I'm not holding my breath expecting to make the playoffs via the WC, but it's at least worth our energy to be watching the Brewer and Cardinal scores and rooting for both teams to lose, especially Milwaukee." -- bay_area_phan
Carlos Delgado went 3-for-4 with two home runs including a game-tying solo shot, setting the table for a four-run eighth inning in the Mets 6-3 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies finish their homestand 7-2.
Circumstances were a little different in last night’s contest because of the depleted bullpens, but make it two straight Phillies losses that occurred in the eighth inning. When asked to identify the biggest concern headed into the final month, I told Metsblog before this series that the eighth inning was a problem spot. After the game, Charlie Manuel listed the unavailable relievers and expressed concern over the number of innings guys like Chad Durbin are piling up. Tired or not, the eighth inning is definitely unsettled.
Manuel was playing with a short deck, so what you get is Rudy Seanez, probably the Phils’ weakest reliever aside from new call-up Andrew Carpenter, matched up with Carlos Delgado, the Mets’ hottest hitter. After the game, post-game analyst Mitch Williams said Manuel needed to find a way to get left-hander J.C. Romero into the game expressly for Delgado, but it seemed Manuel and Rich Dubee got together beforehand and decided he was unavailable. If I was calling the shots, lights-out closer Brad Lidge would have pitched a two-inning save. Lidge was relatively fresh, but as last night affirmed, he appears to be at his absolute best in a ninth-inning save situation. Lidge has allowed a total of 14 earned runs this season. Ten of them have been in non-save situations. Relief pitching is a strange game.
They needed Kyle Kendrick to be a tick better. Kendrick pitched into the start of the sixth, but was lifted with his pitch count at 101, dooming himself with deep counts. Scott Eyre relieved Kendrick and pitched two shutout innings. So far, Eyre’s been a heckuva good pickup.
Give credit to the Mets for bouncing back from Tuesday’s thriller. The two sides arrived at a 1-1 split afterall, which is what many of us predicted. According to Metsblog, Delgado for MVP talk is beginning to take shape. I thought Jose Reyes played a big role in getting on base and pestering Kendrick early. Johan Santana settled in after giving up the homers to Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, who did the only thing they could do against Santana: Wait for the fastball and hit it hard.
As expected, the Phillies have added a minor league pitching reinforcement for tonight’s game. The unexpected part is that it’s double-A right-hander Andrew Carpenter. Kyle Kendrick is still listed as tonight’s starter, according to the official press notes.
To make room for Carpenter, reservist Andy Tracy has been designated for assignment. The Phillies also cleared space on the 40-man roster by transferring Mike Zagurski to the 60-day DL.
Carpenter, who was a top 10 Phillies prospect before the season, has had an interesting year. The 23-year-old started off in Reading and was the recipient of a good amount of pre-season hype, but was demoted to single-A Clearwater a little more than a month into the season after showing up out of shape. Back with Reading, his last start occurred Friday, when he threw seven shutout innings while striking out eight against Trenton. Between Clearwater and Reading, the 6-3, 225-pound hurler is a combined 9-11 with a 4.68 ERA and 101/39 K/BB ratio in 24 starts. Four of his last five starts were quality, seven-inning starts. The other was an Aug. 17, eight-run shelling at the hands of Trenton. Tracy departs after making two pinch-hit at bats, drawing a walk in one of them.
Beerleaguer: It wouldn't be a Mets series without expecting the unexpected, and the Phils never come up small in that department. Without hearing more details, I have no strong opinion of the move and hopefully Kendrick has a strong night and Carpenter doesn't factor in heavily. He's no stud prospect; he's more of a mid-level prospect who took a backward step this season and is trying to regain some footing. Many were expecting Kris Benson to get the call. Benson is scheduled to pitch for Lehigh Valley tonight. Perhaps Carpenter is the better bet to jump into the mix and devour innings from the pen? Or perhaps it boils down to contractual issues or dollars and cents ...
Additional thoughts: Something I thought about in the car ride home. During spring training, there were some comparisons drawn between Carpenter and Joba Chamberlain as a big, strong guy who could be eased into the Majors with a role in the bullpen. Others thought he'd be this year's Kyle Kendrick. The Phils definitely see something in him as this move suggests. He's going to fall out of many prospect rankings this off-season because he didn't progress in Double-A, but the Phils will always see it differently, and should. They'll usually take the guy throwing the best ball, and he has showcased some consistency lately.
Here it is, the kind of game that separates the wheat from the chaffe.
What a great win and unenviable task. The beat writers had to shovel 10 pounds of s*** into a five-pound bag on deadline last night and they did a tremendous job of it. Meanwhile, I exercised my blogger rights by deferring to this morning, hoping a cup of coffee and a passable night of sleep would aid in making heads or tails of the wildest win of the season. Five hours of sleep and two cups later, making sense of it is beyond hopeless. There’s just too much.
Baseball doesn’t get any more entertaining than this. Even Metsblog seemed to agree. At 13 innings, the Phillies wrapped it up before it became a true war of attrition. Tonight’s starter, Kyle Kendrick, was warming in the pen if it went to the 14th and it's unclear whether Kendrick is a go for tonight’s 7:05 ET start. The rest of the pen is largely spent and they can ill afford another short outing. For what it’s worth, Kris Benson is tonight’s scheduled starter for the IronPigs, who are at home. They’ll need to finesse a roster move if reinforcements are needed.
To the game, we start with Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez, who took the mound ages ago. It was Moyer’s shortest outing as a Phillie, a three-inning story in-and-of itself. The Mets seemed two steps ahead of Moyer, unloading for six runs and a pair of homers. On the opposite side, Pedro was decent until hitting a wall in the fifth, when Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard tagged him for a pair of two-run blasts, a rally that started when Clay Condrey doubled to lead off the inning, the first in a series of improbable moments. Pedro finished with five ER but eight Ks, a product largely due to the Phils chasing balls up and out of the zone.
With the score 7-5, and with the Phils already into their third inning with Condrey, both teams calmed things down by settling in with their middle relief. Scott Eyre, one of many unsung heros, took the ball from Condrey midway through the sixth inning and would rattle off 1 2-3 shutout innings. (Condrey departed after 2 1-3 good innings, allowing the final run for the Mets). After Eyre, always reliable Chad Durbin finished the eighth cleanly.
The Mets' bullpen, the Crux of Queens, wasn’t as spotless. The Phillies started pecking away in the eighth when Carlos Ruiz signaled to left off Duaner Sanchez. Then, Mets manager Jerry Manuel went left-left with Pedro Feliciano matching up with Greg Dobbs. Charlie Manuel countered with his first tactical triumph of the night, pinch hitting Chris Coste for Dobbs. Coste singled, which brought Jimmy Rollins to the plate with a runner in scoring position. J-Roll singled and scored Ruiz from second. The Mets would escape without further damage, making it 7-6.
Now Manuel had a decision to make: Keep Coste in the game to replace Ruiz and stick Eric Bruntlett at third for the ninth, or preserve Bruntlett and fill third some other way. In an unexpected move, Manuel inserted Ruiz at third and replaced Durbin with Lidge. The gamble worked: Lidge worked a groundout to short, strikeout, strikeout, making Ruiz a non-factor.
The payoff happened in the 9th. With the Phils down to their final out, Jayson Werth singled to center off temporary closer Luis Ayala, bringing up the pitcher’s spot. Representing the final man off the bench, Manuel called on Bruntlett, who was preserved for such an occasion. With the game on the line, Bruntlett smacked a game-tying double to deep right, sending it to extras. For the Mets, it was their 22nd blown save of the season. You have to go back to May of 2003 to find a bigger lead blown by New York.
One by one, the relievers took their turn in extras. Ryan Madson worked two innings, escaping danger. J.C. Romero and Rudy Seanez, the eventual game-winner, followed with scoreless frames. On the other side, Madson-foil Aaron Heilman threw 60 pitches over three frames, well beyond his usual limit. The Phillies would have the best chances, but with fatigue setting in, nobody was able to rise to the occasion.
It took the highest-motor player on the field to deliver a breakthrough. In the home half of the 13th, Shane Victorino lined a triple down the right-field line against last reliever standing Scott Schoeneweis. After Jayson Werth and Bruntlett were intentionally walked, Myers hit for Seanez. Myers, who was told not to swing (and look like a goober doing it), worked the count full before striking out looking. Finally, at 12:20 a.m., Coste delivered the game winner, giving the Phillies the win and lifting them back in front of the NL East.
I’d like to list everyone who contributed to this total team effort, but there’s no way to include Pat Burrell, who went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts, stranding 10. That’s his worst game this season if not his entire career. Heroes, in no particular order, include Bruntlett, who picked a swell time to deliver his 10th extra-base hit of the season. Coste, who went 4-for-4 off the bench. Charlie Manuel, for his finest tactical hour as Phillies manager. No question about it. The unbreakable bullpen: Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Lidge, Madson, Romero and Seanez. Rollins, for a 5-for-7 night, spraying hits everywhere including the right-field seats. Werth, taking advantage of his opportunities against right-handed pitching and making a great play cutting off a ball down the line in right and gunning down David Wright at second. The defense indeed made some key plays.
Chris Coste's flyball to center scored Shane Victorino with the bases loaded and one out in the 13th to complete a wild, remarkable win at Citizens Bank Park, which put the Phillies back in front of the National League East. This was an instant classic with unlikely heroes, like Eric Bruntlett in particular, extraordinary gamesmanship, including Chooch at the hot corner, and a bullpen that once again refused to break. For the Mets, the bullpen blows another one, and this one really stings. According to Elias via the AP, it's the largest blown lead by the Mets since 2003. Beerleaguer will have a full breakdown of the Phils' unforgettable night later. - Photo courtesy of Furnstein
In the spirit of brotherly love (i.e. killing space and increasing page traffic before the start of the Mets game) we reopen the information superhighway between Metsblog and Beerleaguer.
Metsblog contributor Mike Nichols reintroduces the long-lost art of the Q&A exchange with a well-informed grilling about the state of the Phillies. Click here to read what I have to say about Brett Myers, productive outs, Pat Burrell’s struggles at home and my response to this tough one: “What do you believe the Phillies biggest issue is going into the final month of the season?”
Meanwhile, Nichols offers five keys for the Mets this series:
Mets Bullpen: Obviously the Mets bullpen is the most important factor coming into the series. With the absence of Billy Wagner and no proven closer among the group, it will be a tricky proposition to expect them to hold any lead, especially against the Phillies. Since this rivalry started to take shape in 2006, the Phillies have always had great success against the Mets bullpen. Jerry Manuel has done a good job trying to work matchups in his favor - however, I do believe he is relying too heavily on Aaron Heilman of late - but ultimately it comes down to execution and very rarely have they done that this season. If Manuel is forced to get anything more than 12 total outs from his bullpen in this series, the odds shift heavily in the Phillies favor.
Hitting late: The Mets lead the league in runs in the first inning with 111 and have scored in the first frame in 14 of their last 18 games. They've gotten off to good starts this season, but on the flip side, they are last in the league with 142 runs scored between innings 7-9. The Mets cannot afford for their bats to go silent late in these games, especially with their bullpen, which is last in the league in ERA since the All-Star break, facing a Phillies offense that does a terrific job coming back in games versus the Mets. If they get an early lead, they'll need to continue to build on it, or it could be a recipe for disaster.
The Two Starters: It's important for Pedro Martinez, who is 1-1 with a 3.16 ERA since coming of the disabled list on August 1, to set the tone in tonight's first game. I don't expect him to go more than six innings, but if he matches innings with Jaime Moyer I will be more happy. The key for Pedro is to get out of the first inning - he has allowed six homeruns and 15 first inning runs this season. It's also important for Johan Santana to continue his good August (3-0, 1.49 ERA) and provide the Mets with another dominate start against the Phillies, who are hitting just .209 against him this season.
Jose Reyes: As they say, 'as Reyes goes, so go the Mets.' And his season splits prove it. In the Mets 73 wins this season, Reyes is hitting .324 with 43 extra-bases hits, 40 RBI and 71 runs scored. In their 59 losses, Reyes is hitting only .269 with 19 extra-base hits, 13 RBI and 20 runs scored. For the Mets to be successful in this series, Reyes needs to get on base and cause havoc.
Jerry Manuel: It would rare that I would consider a manager a key to the game, however, Jerry Manuel's late-inning decision making will be key. Manuel is going to be have to very careful of how he handles his starters. If you remember, Johan Santana was lifted in the eighth inning his last two starts versus the Phillies - both dominate performances - after throwing 95 and 105 pitches, respectfully. In both cases the Mets bullpen blew the lead and eventually lost the game. I think he has learned from those mistakes, but still, Manuel's late-inning choices in the next two games could be a determining factor if the Mets are successful in this series.
Thanks to Mike Nichols for his report, and as always, check out Metsblog for all your needs from Queens.
Brett Myers bobbed and weaved through seven shutout innings, while Jimmy Rollins reached base each at bat and finished a homer away from the cycle, as the Phils got their revenge with a 5-0 win and four-game sweep of LA.
Larry Bowa goes off: "If you can't get up emotionally and mentally when you're two or three games out of first place, you need to find another job, another occupation," Bowa told the Los Angeles Times. "That's what I see. I've seen teams play like this when they're 30 games out. There's no excuse for it. It's not one person. It's all of us. It's everybody that puts on a Dodger uniform. We should all be embarrassed by the way we played the last four days."
From the opposite dugout (LA Times Dodgers Blog): “They loaded the bases in the first, had men on first and third in the second, first and second in the fourth, a man on third in the fifth, loaded them again in the seventh, got them to second and third in the eighth, and, just to round things out, had men on first and third in the ninth. You can't win if you don't score. Dodgers lose 5-0 in Philadelphia, and if you had to pick a game to serve as a microcosm of the 2008 season, Monday's game is as good a choice as any. I'm leaving out those boring innings where, like, only one guy got on, because I figure by now you've already popped an artery in your forehead.”
Readers weigh in: “LA played really poorly this series and the Phils took advantage of their opportunities for the most part. Still, people are excited about the offense, but this series was all about the new-style ‘pitching first’ Phils. LA was just stymied this series offensively. In particular, I was really impressed how the Phils completely put the clamps on Manny. He was a total non-factor this series offensively: 2 for 14 (2 singles), 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K Phils weren't going to let Manny beat them and he didn't. Phils' pitching this series against Manny reminded very much of the Cards series at the start of this month. They are content to let a guy like Ludwick try and beat them, but they weren't just going to give Pujols anything that series. Phils followed a pretty similar game plan and it worked really well.” – MG
Winning all four games would be sweet revenge for the sweep the Phils suffered two weeks ago at the hands of the Dodgers. Right-handers Brett Myers (6-10, 4.71) and Chad Billingsley (12-9, 3.10) have the ball at 7:05 ET.
Myers notes: From zero to hero in just a matter of weeks, Myers has gone 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA and .200 BAA in six starts since being recalled from the minors, and the Phils are 4-1 in those starts. The main difference has been his command; Myers has walked just five batters in his last five starts, plus, he’s only given up two home runs since his return. Going for the kill tonight will be a big-time test.
Minor notes: The Phillies have announced they will send eight players to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Mesa Solar Sox: RHP Joe Bisenius, RHP Andrew Carpenter, LHP Sergio Escalona, RHP Pat Overholt, C Lou Marson, INF Jason Donald, OF Quintin Berry and OF Jeremy Slayden. Additionally, the AFL announced earlier this week that Jimmy Rollins is one of two inductees into the league’s Hall of Fame class of 2008. Seriously, an AFL HOF? Who attends the ceremony? Scouts? Clear your mantle for that one, Jimmy.
The additions of Marson and Donald are a sign that they will not be called up in September. Note the omission of Greg Golson, who played in the AFL last fall, along with J.A. Happ. This is Marson’s second go in the AFL. Bisenius, an AFL lifer, tries to garner support for future AFL HOF consideration.
On Sunday, Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle polled local media, including yours truly, to rank the top 15 minor leaguers in the Phillies’ chain.
Here’s the current pecking order, according to Reading-based experts: 1). Lou Marson; 2). Michael Taylor; 3). Carlos Carrasco; 4). Jason Donald; 5). Joe Savery; 6). Greg Golson; 7). Dom Brown; 8). J.A. Happ; 9). Kyle Drabek; 10). Drew Naylor; 11). Quintin Berry; 12). Antonio Bastardo; 13). Andrew Carpenter; 14). Travis d’Arnaud; 15). Freddy Galvis.
Beerleaguer: I’m not the greatest at compiling prospect rankings, but here’s mine. The local writers didn’t see enough consistency from Carrasco in Double-A, but I kept the 21-year-old righty first, followed by Marson, Drabek, Taylor, Brown, Donald, Savery, Happ, Galvis, d’Arnaud, Sampson, Knapp, Bastardo, Mattair, Golson.
If Adrian Cardenas had not been traded, he would have been my first overall. I made a mistake including Mattair, who was supposed to hit for power, but has done nothing. A better choice would have been Berry. I'm not ready to move Taylor to No. 2, but he's definitely rising fast, although he's a little older at 22. I’m not sure how Naylor jumps quite so high on the local list. He was rated 29th by Baseball America this offseason and is just a little too old to be marginal at Class-A Clearwater. And Golson ... there’s a soft spot for Golson because he works hard and is eager to improve, but I’ve seen too many Golson types amount to nothing to include him any higher than 15. I passed on Carpenter. I probably rated Drabek, Brown and Galvis higher than anyone. Galvis's glove is reportedly world-class at shortstop at age 18. I'll definitely include that skill in my top eight, ahead of guys like Bastardo and Golson, who are four years older. Knapp, a big, tall right-hander who was taken in the second round of June's draft, looks great so far.
Pedro Feliz drove in Shane Victorino twice, once to tie it with two outs in the ninth and again on a two-out, walk-off homer in the 11th, to lead the Phillies past the Dodgers 5-2.
After two lopsided wins, the Phillies scratched and clawed their way to victory, and now the positives are piling up in innumerable ways in what's become a well-rounded 5-1 homestand. Credit Victorino, Feliz and the pitching staff for making Los Angeles pay for leaving this one on the table. The Dodgers squandered a number of golden opportunities, including a bases-loaded, no-out chance in the 10th. Somehow, Phillies' pitching wriggled out of jams and kept it close long enough for the offense to make something happen in the home half of the 11th. Cue Manny Ramirez, whose nonchalance in left allowed Victorino to reach second on a fairly routine base hit, putting immediate pressure on the Dodgers. Besides Victorino and Feliz, the offense couldn’t mount much of an attack, while the Dodgers seemed to be threatening all night.
Victorino, who’s been their best hitter since the All-Star break, continued to ignite the offense and pester the opposition. Here's a guy who was supposed to start only 125-135 games in center just to keep him fresh. Today, he's the one guy who absolutely must be on the field. Feliz delivered the big blows after starting the game on the bench. On a night where the heart of the order was taken out of the equation, they needed someone like Feliz to step up. The gloves were outstanding. The Phils received a workman-like start from Joe Blanton, who survived a shaky first inning to pitch six innings, allowing one run. The relievers outlasted the Dodgers pen before giving way to "Last Call" Condrey.
For the fourth time this season and third time this month, the Phillies take center stage tonight on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Preview: Lately, it’s been business as usual for the starting rotation, all except Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.50), who’s given up eight runs over 10 frames in his previous two starts. The Phillies are hoping for better results the second time around against Hiroki Kuroda (7-9, 3.97), who held the Phils to one run in seven innings on Aug. 14. Lineups are posted: Greg Dobbs starts at third, Carlos Ruiz does the catching, and for the third time in a row, Pat Burrell moves into the No. 3 hole.
Pat Burrell hit his 30th home run and matched a career high with five RBIs, while Cole Hamels (11-8), pitched seven solid innings, as the Phils turned in another lopsided win over the Dodgers.
Summary: If you missed the first inning as I did, you missed the best part. Burrell continued his solid overall season in an encouraging afternoon for the offense. Charlie Manuel lined up Chase Utley, Burrell and Howard 2-3-4 for the second time with good results. The win marked the Phillies fifth in six tries to pull to within 1 1-2 games of the Mets in the NL East. Before the game, the Phillies placed right-fielder Geoff Jenkins on the 15-day DL with a right hip flexor. To replace Jenkins, the Phillies recalled first baseman Andy Tracy, 34, from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Tracy, who bats from the left side, was having a nice season for the IronPigs, hitting .288/ .377/.516 with 21 home runs and was twice named International League player of the week. A veteran of 13 minor league seasons including a little time in Japan, he last surfaced in the Majors in a 2004 game with Colorado. Although he has very limited experience in the outfield, the move makes sense in that he’s a lefty bat with some power. His splits this season are fairly even. The Phillies have several reserves, including Eric Bruntlett and Greg Dobbs, who could man the corners in a pinch, and with ready minor-league outfield depth at its usual low, Tracy is not a surprising move. (I would have put money on it). Jayson Werth, who had taken over the lion’s share of starts in right field anyway, figures to assume a full-time role.
Rising young left-handers Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw toe the rubber when the Dodgers and Phillies continue their series this afternoon. The Phils took the first game 8-1.
Just a couple notes before heading out for an all-day bachelor party, which includes an afternoon stop at Citizens Bank Park (The groom-to-be is a Philadelphia-born-and-raised Dodgers fan. Yeah, I don’t know, either).
Kyle Kendrick: Good not great. Too many deep counts; he tallied 57 pitches through three innings, but limited the damage with his trademark sinker.
The offense: Los Angeles led 1-0 into the 4th and it looked like more of the same. That changed in hurry. The homers were nice, but I liked the fifth inning best. Greg Dobbs led off with a bunt single, Jayson Werth hit behind the runner with an opposite-field stab, Chris Coste knocked in Dobbs with a rope up the middle. When was the last time we saw three hits in a row? Werth would later win a good battle with Greg Maddux by lifting one into the outfield for a sac fly.
Geoff Jenkins: He’ll undergo an MRI for a hip flexor or quad strain today. We’ll see if they make a roster move. We could be looking at a couple of old favorites like Chris Snelling or T.J. Bohn, who aren’t hitting at LV. I'm ready for shortstop Jason Donald’s bat. Donald homered in Team USA’s bronze medal win. If not Donald, who wouldn't be immediately available since he's wrapping it up in China, maybe outfielder Brandon Watson, who’s swinging a steady bat for Lehigh Valley.
The hometown nine hosts the team that swept all four games with them last week. The four-game series starts tonight at 7:05 ET.
Summary: Greg Maddux (6.9, 3.99), who the Phillies last faced as a member of the Padres, goes for Joe Torre’s club. Kyle Kendrick (10-7, 5.01) tries to get it going following dismal starts in his last two outings. Kendrick has struggled against LA more than any other team (1-2, 9.39). Lineups are posted and Charlie Manuel shuffles the deck. Chase Utley bats second, followed by Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino. Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Chris Coste round out the order.
With 35 games remaining, the Phillies are backing themselves into a corner while the Mets keep winning. With similar schedules, some feel the division could be decided in the five remaining games between these division rivals.
“The problem is that the Phils are just like the kid who goes into the final with a failing grade and now needs to get a "A" or "A-" just to get a passing grade. Been that way almost every season since 2003 and just once (2007) did the Phils get that passing grade (making the playoffs). ... Basically Phils almost have to go 4-1 or 5-0 against the Mets in their remaining 5 games to win this thing. Otherwise, they face a pretty uphill climb to make up the difference and will also likely need some help from the Mets to falter a bit.” -- MG
“There is still a lot of baseball to be played, including 5 games with the Mets. 18 games against WSH, ATL, FL 5 against the Mets 12 against MIL, CHC, LAD. The Mets just took the lead over the Phils bc of a LAD sweep and bc they took care of business against SD, FL, WSH, PIT, and ATL. The Phils were 14-7 (besides the LAD sweep) in that time. If the Phils win at least 12 of those easy 18 and 5 or 6 of the hard 12, the division winner will be decided by the head-to-head games against the Mets.” -- Sophist
While the Mets were busy beating the Braves on a game-winning hit that got lost in the lights, an unlucky eighth inning contributed to the Phillies undoing in a 4-3 loss to Washington. But it's mostly on the offense again.
They came within six outs of nailing down a sweep, couldn't hold it, it happens, but happens less when you score more than three runs, which the Phils can't do. I’m pretty set on taking out my frustration on Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins today, who did nothing this series. Others have worked out the projected strikeouts and Howard stands to whiff 213 times, compounding problems for a team struggling to even put the ball in play. Howard’s unsightly .791 OPS tells the story of a cleanup hitter who’s been perpetually out of sorts all season, and we could say the same thing about Rollins, who’s hitting .261 and has just three hits and a run in his last eight games. J-Roll has 56 runs this season, fifth on the team, after crossing home 139 times in 2007.
Afterward, Jamie Moyer, the only player who would reportedly talk to the media, spoke of players putting too much pressure on themselves. I believe him. The tight play is reminiscent of the pre-Aaron Rowand Phils, who still scored runs, but seemed to get tight for long stretches. But never this long. The Phils have scored three or fewer runs in 52 of their 127 games, which is 41 percent, with recent futility coming at the hands of cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington. Take away unreal opening months from Pat Burrell and Chase Utley and you wouldn’t even call this an average offense. And it’s a joyless group to watch. The tension is palpable. You start to wonder whether Charlie Manuel’s alleged ability to get these guys to loosen up is overrated. I've decided that Manuel is a motivational non-factor. I can’t get around what many of the beat writers said about Rowand, that you couldn’t put a price on his presence. And I’m just a little tired of sloppy defense. Chase Utley and Howard have taken backward steps this season.
Pedro Feliz returns to the starting lineup tonight when Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.64) and the Phillies go for the kill against Tim Redding (8-8, 4.66) and the last-place Nationals. First pitch is 7:05 ET. Notes: The Nationals have lost 12 in a row. Jayson Werth earns another start in right against the right-hander. Carlos Ruiz does the catching. No, Moyer’s 3.64 ERA is not a misprint.
Catcher David Ross has accepted a minor league deal to join the defending world champs, according to FoxSports scribe Ken Rosenthal. The Phillies had been interested. Also ...
-- The New York Daily News suggests that Mets closer Billy Wagner is at least three weeks away. Rotoworld provides a summary: “The team hasn't set a timetable yet, but Wagner's arm has actually been getting worse. The plan for now is to take anti-inflammatory medicine and rest, but he'll still ‘sprinkle in’ the occasional game of catch. Once he's pain free, he'll begin a throwing program to build up strength before returning.”
-- The Sept. 7 game against the Mets at Shea Stadium has been bumped to 8 p.m. and will air on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
-- Career minor leaguer Randy Ruiz, 30, who spent parts of two seasons in the Phillies organization, has worked his way into an everyday role with the second-place Twins. Ruiz, who’s always hit a ton but has been haunted by character issues and problems staying clean of baseball’s substance abuse policy, signed a minor league deal with the Twins this off-season and replaced veteran Craig Monroe, who was released. Hitting mostly 6th and used as a DH in Ron Gardenhire’s lineup, the Bronx native is hitting .355/.412/.419 in 31 ABs. The Twins are his eighth organization.
-- Catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald have been named to the end-of-season Eastern League All-Star team, as voted on by EL managers and coaches, sportswriters, radio and television broadcasters and other members of the media.
Upcoming probables (via the official press notes)
Friday (7:05): Greg Maddux (6-9, 3.99) vs Kyle Kendrick (10-7, 5.01)
Saturday (3:55): Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 3.59) vs Cole Hamels (10-8, 3.22)
Sunday (8:05): Hiroki Kuroda (7-9, 3.97) vs Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.50)
Monday (7:05): Chad Billingsley (12-9, 3.10) vs Brett Myers (6-10, 4.71)
Tuesday (7:05): Pedro Martinez (4-3, 4.96) vs Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.64)
Wednesday (7:05): Johan Santana (11-7, 2.75) vs Kyle Kendrick (10-7, 5.01)
Brett Myers continued to make the most of his second chance, punishing the Nationals for his first complete-game shutout in four years. He’s 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA since his minor league demotion.
Credit the Phillies for making these next-day summaries easy. This one was all Myers, who threw 82 of 119 pitches for strikes, whirling a nasty deuce to the tune of nine strikeouts. This is the best Myers we’ve seen since he was closing games a year ago: good snap; spotless location; and most importantly, he’s not making dumb mistakes out over the plate. In the six starts since the All-Star break, he’s surrendered just two home runs, this after serving up 24 in his first 17.
Clearly, the demotion was the right call. Keeping him in the rotation would also appear to be the right decision. If he can sustain it, mechanically and mentally, Myers can be the Game 2 pitcher they’d hoped should the Phils return to the post-season.
Eaton hammered: On the other hand, a demotion has done nothing to fix Adam Eaton (0-3). Eaton allowed six runs on seven hits, including two home runs in a start for Reading. Beerleaguer’s senior correspondent was at that game, and from his report, the home runs were smoked. In four starts for Reading, he has a 7.24 ERA. Time to write him off as a lost cause.
Podcast: Last night, I was a guest on “On the DL with Dan Levy,” discussing my Best of Philly award, the history of Beerleaguer, blogging, J-Roll and the Phillies’ chances this season. Thanks to Dan and Nick for having me on, and for reminding me that it’s time to update my headshot. [Link]
Third baseman Pedro Feliz returns from the 15-day disabled list tonight when the two sides square off at 7:05 ET. To make room, left-hander Les Walrond was designated for assignment.
Feliz, who has been sidelined with lower back inflammation since July 29, is not in tonight’s starting lineup; Greg Dobbs gets the start instead. Feliz is hitting .256/.304/.424 with 12 home runs, his best numbers coming off left-handed pitching. Walrond departs to the tune of a 7.11 ERA in 6 1-3 innings.
On the mound, it’s Brett Myers (5-10, 5.02), who’s 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last four outings. For Washington, Collin Balester (2-5, 5.06) makes his ninth start and second against the Phils. Lineups are posted, and it appears Charlie Manuel has seen enough Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Ruiz bringing down the Phillies’ offense. Jayson Werth gets another start against a right-hander. Chris Coste does the catching. Over the last few days, Manuel has suggested that it's become difficult to justify Ruiz's presence in a lineup that isn't producing.
Among followers of the Phillies farm system, many opinions have changed in the weeks following the 2008 draft. The club managed to sign an impressive 28 of their first 31 picks and 35 overall, paying above slot for several highly regarded players. [Link]
When the Phillies beat the clock by signing 38th-round pick Jarred Cosart an hour before last Thursday’s signing deadline, they rounded out an impressive, aggressive negotiation period with the players they selected in June’s entry level draft. The Phillies forked over a reported $550,000 bonus for Cosart, a Texas fireballer who’s been clocked in the mid-90s. Cosart fell into the 38th round because he was considered unsignable. The Phillies changed his mind by paying him the equivalent of second-round money.
Money also talked with third-round supplemental choice Jon Pettibone, a talented high school right-hander and Scott Boras client who passed on pitching for USC in favor of a $500,000 bonus, plus an undisclosed amount reserved for education. They also paid above slot for sixth-rounder Colby Shreve, among others, a right-hander who was drafted by the Braves last season only to return to Southern Nevada for his sophomore year.
In fact, the Phillies lost out on just two picks from the first 24 rounds: Raw, athletic third baseman Johnny Coy, who doubles as a basketball player at Arizona State and reportedly asked for the sky, and 12th-round choice James Weber. Locking down 28 of 31 and 35 overall, including several dynamic, young talents, deserves a serious hat tip and will hopefully go a long way in restocking the farm with better talent.
Jayson Werth’s tiebreaking home run lifted the Phillies over the Nationals 5-4 on a night when half of Citizens Bank Park showed Jimmy Rollins that carrying last year’s playoff team on his back can’t buy their affection.
Werth smoked a hanging Steven Shell curveball into left-center for his 17th homer of the season, a new career-best. Werth’s shot completed a modest comeback, crawling back from a 4-1 fifth-inning deficit following another shaky start from Joe Blanton (5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER). Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge combined for four shutout innings. For Lidge, it was his 31st save in as many chances.
Beerleaguer: Another tremendous job by the pen to hold it to four runs. Madson is in one of those good grooves. Mad Dog has not allowed a run in his last eight appearances, surrendering just one hit over that span. This follows a string of nine scoreless appearances back in July. Let’s hope he can sustain it. It seems like whenever he builds up enough trust, he throws an egg when expectations are high.
Of course, the other news is the fan reaction to Jimmy Rollins, a 50-50 smattering of boos and cheers out at the old ballyard ('smattering' always used in conjunction with 'boos' for some reason). Down in our comments thread and over the last few days, the majority of readers have given J-Roll a pass for his comments about fans. Probably an 80-20 majority has expressed either support or indifference, with yours truly included in that group. Color me shallow, but J-Roll bought himself immunity from this level of harsh treatment with '07 and the fine career he's had.
It’s the dishonesty that bothers me most about all this chest thumping. “Philadelphia boos when our athletes don’t play hard!” Don't tell that to David Bell. “We boo because he wasn’t on time!” Don't tell that to Pat Burrell, always the first at the park. "He should just shut up and play!" Don't tell that to Mike Lieberthal, or Scott Rolen, or Bobby Abreu, great players who were criticized for not being more outspoken publicly.
In reality, it's somewhere in between fans cheering Sal Fasano's ironic facial hair and legit frustration over 25 years without a championship. That is to say, an equal blend of wanting attention and wanting a winner.
Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.00) goes for his second win as a Phillie when his new club returns to Citizens Bank Park to face Jason Bergmann (2-9, 4.51) and the Nationals. First pitch is 7:05 ET. The Phils trail the Mets by 1.5 games in the standings, while the 44-81 Nationals have lost 10-straight games. Lineups are posted: Jayson Werth starts in right field and bats second. Shane Victorino slides to the sixth spot, followed by Greg Dobbs and Chris Coste.
Should we boo? Cheer? Here’s what we do: Hope for a lead-off homer in the home half of the first to neuter the groundswell of displaced frustration being dumped on Jimmy Rollins.
“They're front-runners.” There it is, gusting along like a storm cloud, gaining strength by accumulating a week’s worth of hype. But tonight, baseball gets in a way of a good story. The first pitch will be thrown and it will blow all that garbage out toward the ocean, just like it always does. Blown out to sea by balls and strikes. Win the game or the next couple, and you’re living in a high-pressure system without a cloud in the sky.
An unscripted lead-off shot in the home half would certainly spice up the ambiguity. J-Roll has already served and the ball’s in our court. “When you're doing good, they're on your side. When you're doing bad, they're completely against you." A lead-off jack would play like a 155 mph ace. If you've been a wet blanket about the situation, there would be no good way to handle it without looking like bad fan or front-runner. 15-0 Rollins.
Odds are that J-Roll does something mundane with his first AB because mundane is the name of the game. No one knows this more than the players and coaches. This is where fans, bloggers and radio hosts get into trouble. There is no artificial game-day, gut-check rally cry like football. No artificial motivation necessary. They're in the hunt and can't fall out of the race. It’s a grind, and the grind is on their side. We’re looking at four below-average seasons from Rollins, Ryan Howard, Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Ruiz, and there’s a terrific chance they’ll turn it around before it's over, whether we boo, cheer or sit on our hands.
David Ross, 31, was hitting .231/.381/.366 with three homers in 173 plate appearances before he was released by the Reds. He’s played parts of seven seasons with four clubs and has been with Cincinnati for the last three.
Beerleaguer: The Phillies have a history of adding cheap catching depth after the non-waiver trade deadline. Remember they added Pete LaForest, a quad-A journeyman, at the end of last season. Although he wields a garden-variety bat for a backup, it would still be a good little move to upgrade the bench. Ross is a polished defender who could call a good game, keep base runners honest and pop the occasional home run. After Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste, Jason Jaramillo would be next in line in case of emergency, and the Phils appear in no rush to see what he can do in the majors.
Although it’s probably just a little too late to mix up the battery mates, especially with the pitching staff going this strong, they could still try to ease Ross into the fold. He’s only hitting .231, but Coste is hitting .172 in August following a .208 month of July, and Ruiz hasn’t hit consistently all season, although his numbers have improved lately. Ross could hang out in the minors until rosters expand next month. I would not anticipate a roster move to make room for him immediately should they sign him.
Ross, who’s two years removed from a 21-homer, 130 OPS+ season, signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract in the 2007 off-season that includes an option for 2009, so there’s a long-term benefit if they decide to go in a different direction behind the plate next season. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. The immediate impact is help on the bench.
Third baseman Pedro Feliz has been on the disabled list since July 29 and is hoping to be activated Wednesday.
Feliz was hitting .256/.304/.424 with 12 HR before going on the DL with lower back inflammation, an injury he had been suffering through for weeks. Feliz took the field for Single-A Clearwater yesterday and went 0-for-3 with a walk. Reading hosts Trenton beginning at 7:05 ET tonight.
Beerleaguer: In the last three seasons, the Phillies overcame a fire sale and survived injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. Pete Happy goes on the DL and you really notice it. Go figure. Eric Bruntlett has been killing them since taking over most of the third base detail.
Cole Hamels was as good as ever, picking up his first win since July 3 by holding the Padres to one run on seven hits in last night’s 2-1 victory in San Diego.
This is an easy summary. Pitching was the obvious story for the Phils this weekend, two-thirds good, the other third not so good. Hamels and Jamie Moyer, who pitched Friday night’s shutout, threw gems, but credit also goes to closer Brad Lidge, who earned a pair of saves in the truest sense of the word. The bats provided the absolute bare minimum amount of run support, and although the Pads' offense is weaker than weak, credit Hamels, Moyer and Lidge for pitching their game under tight circumstances.
On Saturday, Kyle Kendrick ruined his team’s chance at a sweep with his second disastrous start in a row. The 23-year-old walked five and fell behind hitters all night; only 40 of his 85 pitches went for strikes. Afterward, Kendrick said the issue was mechanical, while pitching coach Rich Dubee suggested he was too tentative and wouldn’t challenge San Diego with strikes. Whatever the case, his next start will be a huge test to see if he can shake out of this funk on the fly. Kendrick, like everyone else, is starting to tally some innings after pitching over 200 frames between Reading and Philadelphia in 2007. I'm concerned with that.
Besides Pat Burrell, whose two home runs provided the difference in the two wins, there’s nothin’ doin’ with the heart of the order. I’m good and tired of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hitting back-to-back. Howard’s .184/.250/.337 against left-handed pitching is platoonable, if only there was someone to platoon with. Even guys like Wil Ledezma have no fear when facing Howard, who has 84 strikeouts against lefties alone. How is it that a guy who sees so much junk has managed just 15 walks against lefties all season?
We're opening the board today to discuss last night's game and tonight's 8 p.m. showdown on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Around 10 p.m., be sure to flip on ESPN2 to see where I'll be spending the day. Tonight, Cole Hamels (9-8, 3.32) takes the mound in his home town seeking his first win since July 3 when the Phillies and Padres conclude their series in San Diego. Right-hander Cha Seung Baek (4-6, 5.12) skins it for the Padres.
Kyle Kendrick (10-6, 4.74) tries to rebound from one of the worst starts of his career when the Phillies try to mount an attack against San Diego's Chad Reineke, who's making his Major League debut. First pitch is 10:05. Meanwhile, reliever Rudy Seanez has returned from the 15-day disabled list. To make room, Mike Cervenak was optioned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Lineups have been posted: Charlie Manuel shuffles the deck against the right-hander, with a 6-7-8 that goes Shane Victorino, Greg Dobbs and Chris Coste. As of this writing, the Mets are trying to hold off a ninth-inning rally by Pittsburgh. The division leader leads it 7-4.
Jamie Moyer outdueled Greg Maddux to collect his team-leading 11th victory of the season, blanking the Padres over seven, three-hit innings in the Phillies’ 1-0 win over San Diego.
After an awful series in LA, the Phils finally gave us a chance to decompress, discuss a win and appreciate how good the starting pitching’s been. Moyer, who’s carried the team as much as anyone, ran his streak to 13 straight starts with three earned runs or less. Aside from Pat Burrell’s solo shot, Maddux matched him pitch for pitch, as the savvy vets handled these two struggling offenses. Mix in the work of Brad Lidge, 29-for-29 in save opportunities, and the rest of the pen, last night’s 1-0 win embodied how the Phils have gone about business for the last two months.
EastFallowfield’s running tally: No matter how grotesque it gets, to Beerleaguer regular EastFallowfield, it’s all about the bottom line. After 122 games, here are the totals, as reported by EFF on a nightly basis:
2008: 65-57, 1 game back
2007: 65-57, 4 games back
1980: 65-57, 3.5 games back
Minor thoughts: Speaking of the bottom line, it’s time to apply that same logic to 49-76 Reading (last in the Eastern League) and 52-74 Lehigh Valley (last in the International League). Winning is a part of development, and the high minors have been poisonous for too long. Time to blow up the Phillies’ business model of rewarding organizational soldiers with key roles in development, open the wallets and hire qualified personnel to mold the players of the Phillies’ future.
Hoping to snap a four-game skid out West, the Phillies visit the brutal 47-74 Padres for the first of three at Petco Park. Jamie Moyer (10-7, 3.81) and Greg Maddux (6-8, 4.12) have the ball at 10:05 ET.
Best of the press notes: Things have gotten so bad that even the Phillies’ pre-game press notes have taken on a somber tone by acknowledging the team’s two-month-long offensive slump. According to the notes, in their last eight games, the Phils are hitting .202 (52-258) with five homers and 26 runs scored (3.25 R/G). Since scoring 20 runs on June 13, which has become the official marker for when all this started, the Phils have hit a combined .238 (419-1760) with 216 runs scored in 52 games, an average of 4.2 runs/game, which ranks 12th in that time frame among the 16 NL clubs.
Walking wounded: Greg Dobbs is nursing a strained left quadriceps that kept him out of yesterday’s game. Shane Victorino, out with lower back stiffness, appears ready to return to the lineup tonight.
It’s hardly worth the effort to launch Typepad and bang out a blog.
The great start by Brett Myers went to waste, of course. Bad swings outnumbered base hits 25-to-1 against Hiroki Kuroda, and the only thing I can say echos what I wrote last night. The worst thing the Phils can do is sit back and do nothing. It's past the point where it's just a slump. It's a defective, desperate offense, and it’s reached the point where the front office needs to change the mix. It’s going to be tough, because the time to do it expired July 31, but with the little wiggle room they have, they must do something.
We’ll get to Charlie Manuel in a second. Primarly, his hands are tied with a badly flawed roster. Here's a good example: Mike Cervenak batting with a runner on, close game, two outs in the eighth, and he has zero chance of helping them. None. Here's the kicker: Cervenak stays in the ballgame to replace Eric Bruntlett now that they’re in serious need of runs. Have there ever been two worse players to split a game at the hot corner in baseball history? This is the team that's supposedly serious about winning the East and reaching the World Series?
The stretch-run upgrade can't just be the return of a healthy Pedro Feliz. Get another bat. Get Kevin Millar. How would 18 homers look on the bench? He's cleared waivers and would cost little. Get someone, not because you want to, because you have to.
Manuel: Here’s a fun exercise. Run down the list of players who’re meeting or exceeding expectations, then consider their contract status. Interesting, isn’t it? How many are trying to hit paydirt?
Where does the motivation come from on the Philadelphia Phillies? What happens after Ryan Howard beats the organization in a $10 million arbitration hearing? What happens after Jimmy Rollins achieves the ultimate, individual honor of MVP? Where does the motivation come from for veterans signed to long-term deals?
This is Manuel’s toughest hour. Is he getting the most out of his players? It’s a good question and a tough call. Also, consider this: the first time Manuel asserted his authority this season was the first J-Roll benching two months ago, the exact time his offense went in the toilet.
Brett Myers (5-9, 5.09) and Hiroki Kuroda (6-8, 4.02) toe the rubber when the Phillies and Dodgers finish their four-game set at Chavez Ravine. Lineups are posted. Shane Victorino is scratched for the second straight game. Following his 2-for-5 night with a two-run homer, Greg Dobbs sits against the right-hander. Eric Bruntlett, who has three hits in August, backs up Myers on the left side. Chris Coste does the catching. Kuroda is coming off two terrific starts and makes his first start against the Phils.
Jimmy Rollins will return to “the Best Damn Sports Show” tonight to address yesterday’s remarks about frontrunning fans, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Or, if you’re tired of talking about it, chew on this.
Split madness: One of the major reasons why the Phillies are having such a hard time manufacturing runs is their cavernous left/right splits. Once the favorable match-ups vanish against the starting pitcher, there’s an excellent chance that every other hitter or every third hitter will be forced into a match-up where the odds are stacked against them. With 12 pitchers and So Taguchi and Mike Cervenak taking up two spots on the bench, very little can be done to prevent bad mismatches. Looking at the players who will regularly penetrate the lineup, including guys like Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett and Gregg Dobbs, the average left/right OPS split among regular contributors is ... 211.5! It’s even higher if you factor in Pedro Feliz (.648/.894). Five hitters, Ryan Howard, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Ruiz, have an OPS under .600 in their weakest split. That's an awful lot of futility.
Leading 6-1 after two innings, the offense shut it down through the next seven frames only to watch their lead collapse, as the Dodgers edged the Phillies 7-6 on a walk-off homer by Nomar Garciaparra.
When I opened the comments this morning and saw the pitchforks and torches, I knew I would be writing a different kind of entry. In the original, I talked about how the offense lost the game because they couldn’t tack on the extra runs. At 6-1, it was clear that neither pitcher had it and the B-listers from each 'pen would shoulder the load. Knowing they needed to apply the pressure, they managed just one hit over the final six innings, squandering several golden opportunities. To me, this six-run night was just like all the rest.
I'd discuss the set-up situation and how the pre-season predictions are coming true. They have no eighth-inning fallback now that Tom Gordon’s season is officially over. Chad Durbin is learning that it’s a different ball of wax when his back's to the wall. His freelance career is finished for now; he’s been given a title, a promotion. Responsibility. The over-anxious right-hander walked the first two batters in the eighth and surrendered a game-tying double to Jeff Kent, something everyone who stayed up to watch could sense coming. Johnathan Broxton dusted aside Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Greg Dobbs in the top of the ninth, and with Clay Condrey set to enter the home half, it was bedtime for the Phillies.
Now to Jimmy Rollins, who was asked his opinion of Philadelphia sports fans on “The Best Damn Sports Show Period,” a rubbish talkshow that’s syndicated to fill space on Fox Sports and Comcast outlets. Here’s what he had to say (from Scott Lauber’s blog):
"It can be, yeah. There are times, like, it's one of those cities. I might catch some flack for saying this, but, you know, they're front-runners. When you're doing good, they're on your side. When you're doing bad, they're completely against you." When the show's co-hosts argued that many cities fit that description, Rollins said: "I hear you. But, for example, Ryan is from St. Louis, and St. Louis, it seems like they support their team, they're out there and encouraging."
The comments become the latest controversy surrounding the 2007 MVP. These issues are getting lumped together in a dangerous way, and it's a shame. J-Roll has become the new boogyman in town, the latest in a long line of great Philadelphia athletes to become vilified after setting new heights. Less than a year after sailing into third for his 20th triple of the season, capping the club's first playoff berth since 1993, there's a different portrait being painted of him now, mastered by typical Philadelphia fandom.
J-Roll's problems are threefold and should be viewed separately: There were the benchings, which are disappointing, but ultimately, forgivable.
There are the comments about fans, words spoken out of frustration, and the difference between St. Louis, where banjo-hitting reservist So Taguchi received a 20-second standing ovation in their last visit, and Philadelphia, where the cheers are muted and mixed with boos for the best shortstop in franchise history. Sometimes the truth hurts, even if the topic should be taken off the table. Sometimes it pays to have a thicker skin, on both sides of the fence.
Last, but not least, there’s his dropoff in production, and by extension, the struggles of the team, and if you want to get to the bottom of fan unrest in Philadelphia, look no further.
“When you're doing good, they're on your side. When you're doing bad, they're completely against you."
Readers weigh in: “So what do you want Rollins to do, borrow a wig from Larry Andersen? Just ridiculous. Who gives a sh*t. He isn't the first player to have issues with the way fans behave in Philadelphia. Yes, he should probably be aware of the larger context and why the city is so short on patience. But why do people get so affronted, like Philly fans are somehow above reproach - like because you've all *suffered*, that entitles you to act however you want and any player who dares say anything critical about it is a vicious heathen who must be shouted down. And what, he can't say how he feels on TV, he's just supposed to say what pleases you - because "you" pay his salary? Get real. Can you just pause for a second and question the mentality which produces such a reaction? ... No. It's more like saying, I'm a good player and I've done a lot for this team, but unless I'm having an MVP season, the fans have never been behind me. Rollins has every damn right to say that, because it's completely true.” -- RSB
Right-hander Joe Blanton (1-0, 3.27) makes his fifth start for the Phillies tonight against Brad Penny (6-9, 5.66) and the Dodgers. First pitch is 10:10 ET. Penny is making just his second start since returning from a two-month layoff due to shoulder tendinitus. Over his career, he's been very tough on the Phillies (8-4, 3.33). Blanton will try to stop red-hot Manny Ramirez, who's been sensational since his trade from Boston. Our West Coast Beerleaguers have the floor, while the rest of us back East drift off during Dodge Stump the Fans.
The tone. The traffic. The mood: All signs point toward waning expectations. My own interest in writing the same copy has also faded.
I gave myself the night off and don’t regret the decision. It’s getting hard to justify five hours of sleep to stay up and watch the same problems manifest into six hits, three runs and another Cole Hamels loss. How many times can one identify the holes? My apologies if their record, in comparison to where they were at this point last season, does nothing to soothe anxieties over two months of offensive strife and mounting injuries. By October, they may be the team left standing in the National League East. It's very possible. The Mets and Marlins, who trail the Phils by 1 and 1.5 games, have the same number of holes. The Phils need to do whatever it takes to upgrade the offense because the scale can still be tipped. In the meantime, we endure nights like this. Wouldn’t it be nice to just fast-forward to October to see which team successfully backed their rental car into the post-season?
Cole Hamels (9-8, 3.35) seeks his first win since July tonight when the Phillies play the second of four against talented lefty Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 2.71) and the Dodgers. First pitch is 10:10 ET.
Recovering right-hander Kris Benson ran his streak of quality starts to five in a row for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. For Benson, J.A. Happ, Adam Eaton and Carlos Carrasco, there’s no room at the inn, and that’s just fine.
When Brett Myers was demoted to the minors on July 1, the Phillies became the last team in baseball to break from their original starting five. That's rare. In reality, a pitching staff isn’t a quintet so much as an octet. Pitching depth has become essential in making it through a 162-game schedule, and right now, the Phils are sitting on a couple of arms that could hold their own should a situation present itself.
Benson, a career 4.34 ERA pitcher before shoulder problems derailed his career, allowed three runs over seven innings yesterday, striking out four and walking none. His command has been solid, even if the strikeouts aren’t there. Benson signed a minor league deal with the Phils this offseason, but his progress has been slowed by numerous injury setbacks (groin, biceps, shoulder). He’s finally strong enough to take his turn every fifth day and make 100 pitches ... just in time for the big-league rotation to appear deeper than at any point in the season. Still, with their blend of homegrown talent, free agents, veterans and outside help, Pat Gillick has assembled a formidable staff, with an insurance policy.
It’s possible Phillies played relief market correctly: While we’re in the mood to hand out compliments, a nod of early approval goes out to Gillick and the front office for hanging back and waiting for a situational lefty to shake loose (Scott Eyre) before trading a top prospect to get one. Now, Eyre has retired the one and only batter he faced so far, so he’s got a lot to prove. Still, I’m glad Jason Donald isn’t a Royal and optimistic Eyre has enough left in the tank to get the Phillies through to October.
Last night, the discussion centered on Kyle Kendrick, the new hot button topic among posters. Is he good, acceptable, lucky? Is his career record a sham, aided by massive run support, or does he deserve more credit?
Kendrick allowed seven runs on nine hits through 3 1-3 innings, looking strong through the first two innings before the action snowballed in a six-run third. After walking Andre Either, Kendrick hit the next batter, Jeff Kent, to load the bases for Manny Ramirez. Manny roped a double to open the flood gates. From then on, Kendrick was tentative to run the ball inside and started elevating his pitches.
When discussing Kendrick, it helps to consider what type of pitcher he is. He pitches to contact, so there will be base-runners, basically every inning. It’s a tough assignment for a young pitcher to accept that part of his game. He walks a very fine line. He and pitching coach Rich Dubee are constantly engaged in discussions, even when he’s pitching well. He can’t afford many walks and he must locate his pitches and keep his fastball down in the zone. He failed at both last night and it resulted in one of the worst nights of his career.
The Phillies fought back, but fell short in a night where the positives also included 5 2-3 mop up innings from Les Walrond and Clay Condrey, preserving the better half of the 'pen. Chase Utley went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs. Pat Burrell went hitless and is now hitless in his last 22 plate appearances. The night also featured some shaky defense.
Readers weigh in: “Last night's game was not helped by the fact that it looked like Tim Donaghy had his umpire crew working the game. The third inning alone showed several botched calls. The balk. The home plate ump making a delayed call on the walk where Ruiz threw the ball away. The strike zone was all over the place.” – MPN