I don't profess to know the secret to being a successful major league pitcher, but there are a few common sense approaches Cole Hamels needs to follow tonight.
We've all recognized Hamels' need for a third pitch, which isn't going to happen until the offseason. The Inquirer's Jim Salisbury wrote today that Hamels will work on adding a cutter or slider, in addition to improving his rarely effective curveball. So tonight, the Yankees will know what's coming: fastball-change. There's no getting around it. So it's going to be important for Hamels to set a few goals. Throw the first pitch for strikes. That's a simple one. Pitchers who do it have success. Next, he needs to understand that he's going to give up some cheapies and he needs to get over it. Contact isn't the enemy when he's got a defense this good. Next, keep the ball down. He's given up six home runs already this postseason. Finally, toughen up. Be aggressive. Don't be too fine. Seems simple, right? Let's hope.
The Phillies are 11-1 at Citizens Bank Park over the last two Octobers and will try to keep it going tonight when they play the first of three in Philadelphia.
One of the best moments in Phillies postseason history occurred when a raucous Citizens Bank Park crowd assisted in Brett Myers' base on balls against CC in Game 2 of the 2008 Division Series. To me, it was a moment that marked a turning point in the evolution of the Phillies fan. Where there was once a rift between the silent majority, intent on tracking the finer points of the game, and the vocal minority, holdovers from the Veterans Stadium 700 level, the success of the Phillies helped form a unified front between smart and loud. The compromise between between geek, jabrone and the team itself has become a force to be reckoned with, especially in the postseason. We'll see if the partisan crowd can disrupt the Yankees as much as it did with Vicente Padilla, Jonathan Broxton and the Dodgers in the last series.Abolish the pitch tracker: I'm all for the advancement of technology, but the pitch trackers used in both the Fox and TBS broadcasts have got to go. As a viewer, I'm bothered that we're meant to treat that little graphic square as if it's gospel, yet in reality, the strikezone is a subjective thing with variable properties, influenced by everything from previous pitches, to barking managers, to the pitcher's demeanor. That's the stuff that makes baseball great. The pitch tracker tells us "where it was," and says nothing about "what it was" or "what it meant." The graphic also provides no clear indication of where the pitch actually crosses the plate. So instead of enjoying the mano a mano battle between pitcher and hitter, the umpires are even more in focus, and strikeouts are less about pitchers making good pitches and more to do with umpires allegedly missing calls by two inches. I hate it.
Using a good breaking ball, A.J. Burnett fanned nine, allowing a run over seven innings, as the Yankees pitched their way past Pedro Martinez and the Phillies en route to a 3-1 victory.
Beerleaguer: A good rule of thumb against the Phillies' offense is that if you start a pitcher possessing a good breaking ball, keep pounding them with it, which was A.J. Burnett's approach tonight. The hard-throwing right-hander walks a fine line between the type of pitcher the Phils can handle and one they struggle against, and the difference comes down to blending the right amount of wild with an out pitch. This was Burnett's formula tonight. ... The Phils had a couple of chances, but couldn't connect, starting with Ryan Howard's second strikeout of the game to end a third-inning threat with Burnett rattled and a runner in scoring position. Tough night by the NLCS MVP, punching out four times. ... Chase Utley continued to have good at bats, but rolled into a missed-call killer double play in the eighth to help Mariano Rivera out of a long inning. Utley was safe by a half step. Rivera would stay on to finish the ninth. ... Charlie Manuel made a mistake by trying to squeeze more than six innings from Pedro Martinez, who struck out eight, but was no Cliff Lee. Down one, the seventh would have been a fine time to go left/right match-ups using his well-stocked 'pen, which is a minimum of eight, fresh relievers deep.
The Phillies and Yankees head back to Philadelphia with the series even 1-1. If recent postseason history holds, the Phils have them right where they want them.
The Phillies' night can be summed up in one play: Johnny Damon's sixth-inning pop-up. [Link]
I'm sure there are several beer league softball, ex-legion players or backyard baseball dads reading this. Think about where you were, and consider your frame of mind, the last time you fielded a pop-up the way Lee did it in the sixth inning. One question: Were you holding a can of beer in the other hand?
It's a play that will stay burned in New York's craw if the Phillies can complete the task because it so perfectly summarized Game 1. Three off-balance strikeouts by Alex Rodriguez. Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada went fishing twice. Ten strikeouts, no walks, no earned runs total. Lee set the pace, changed speeds and moved the ball in and out of the zone. The Yankees had no idea what was coming. Few, if any, hits were hard hit, in sharp contrast to those hit by the Phillies. According to Baseball Tonight, it was the first World Series game since 1903 (the first World Series) in which a starting pitcher struck out 10-plus and walked none. Lee wasn't the only one putting himself in exclusive company. According to Scott Lauber of the News-Journal, Chase Utley joined Babe Ruth as the only left-handed hitter to smack two homers off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game. Just sick.
Readers: "As important as Lee's performance was tonight, it was BBs yet again tonight including JRoll's walk to start the top of the 8th and Ibanez's huge 2-out, 2 RBI hit that really sealed this game. The air just went out of the stadium after that point and the Yanks and their fans basically checked out after that point down 4-0." - MG
"The Yankee bullpen outside of Rivera is very shaky and has looked 'not ready for prime time' in this postseason. It was a Washington Nationals-type of late inning performance. I was almost expecting Girardi to bring Saul Rivera or Julian Tavarez into the game." - denny b.
Very little World Series build-up has been staked to actual baseball. It should, down to the last gritty detail.
Tonight, the Phillies and Yankees start answering the questions that have been floating around the ether these last few days, pressing concerns, like which squad fields the sexiest stars, attracts the most dignified fans and share allegiances with journalists gifted with the most supreme Photoshop skills. Ok, maybe not. If these last three Phillies postseasons have taught us anything, it’s that minutiae matters. Running. Catching. Middle relief. Managing. The questions are never as important as they seem at first. It may not matter whether the Phillies can outslug the Yankees, or if Cliff can outlast CC. The question might be whether Chase Utley can turn the double play this time after Chan Ho Park induces the grounder he wanted. Can Ben Francisco make another highlight-reel snare standing in for Raul Ibanez in left, just as he did in the Division Series clincher? Will white-hot tactician Charlie Manuel have the right personnel in place for yet another series? The postseason has featured plenty of frozen ropes, especially in the Championship Series, but once again, one of the biggest hits came when Utley ran out a blown-call squibber that changed the course of Game 3 in the NLDS. The Phils are no strangers to clutch swinging bunts in the postseason. Then again, they're also no strangers to pinch homers that sail deep into the night. Anything, and everything, can happen, and will.
Brett Myers, who last appeared in the Division Series, becomes pitcher No. 12 as the Phillies set their World Series roster this afternoon. Miguel Cairo will be omitted, a nod to Eric Bruntlett's speed and versatility. Bruntlett has had a knack for scoring big runs as a pinch runner. The news also means Antonio Bastardo will stick around the entire postseason. With four games scheduled in an American League city, a lighter bench makes sense.
Experts believe the Phillies have a better than even shot of going home from the World Series with their hearts broken. If so, a little perspective will be a fan’s best friend.
I was an avid card collector in the late '80s and early '90s. Rookie cards always received preferential treatment. If the previous season’s stat line was generated in places like Edmonton, Albuquerque or Toledo, the cards were automatically inserted into plastic sleeves. Today, I collect Phillies cards exclusively, but back then, more Phillies flopped around boxes, unprotected, than any other players. Only Ricky Jordan, Chuck McElroy, Ron Jones and Pat Combs were given VIP accommodations. And it’s a good thing. Today, their mint condition is worth a fortune in terms of placing this current group in the proper perspective. No one argues that the Phillies are tough, but more people believe the Yankees are tougher. The two sides are supplied seven games to settle it, and should the Phils fall, as many expect, fans better prepare for the punched-in-the-gut feeling they’ve avoided for two, maybe even three seasons. Better open the wallet and swap out that Capital BlueCross card for a 1990 Jeff Jackson, just in case.
In case you missed it, the Hickory Huskers have arrived in the big city to stun the team at the end of “Hoosiers.” (AP Photo)
Lost among the features you shouldn’t bother viewing is a photo gallery documenting the Phillies not-so-red-carpet arrival. It’s more of a cold, gray corridor, presumably inside the click-and-clack of a train station, somewhere below the impenetrable hustle-and-bustle. They're greeted by a throng of desperate journalists, Post writers emerging from gotham's deep recesses. The Phils are unfortunately dressed. They carry the disarming look of a group ready for sightseeing rather than a World Series. Charlie Manuel wears a herringbone tweed cap. He's headed for the post office, not Yankee Stadium. There isn’t much those eyes haven’t seen; he knows the city and knows the type. The players follow wide-eyed behind him. Their suits aren’t exactly tailored, except for Cole Hamels, as if to say “Keep this photo on file for when the Big Apple comes calling.” Jayson Werth may nearly be 30-30, but his duds are off the rack. Ryan Madson smiles a tourist’s smile, holding hands with his lady friend. Even Pedro Martinez, the greatest pitcher of our lifetime, leads a leopard-print companion by the hand. No self-respecting Yankee would surrender to public displays of affection, or wear pleated khakis.
Let ‘em bite, Phillies. Let 'em bite.
Raul Ibanez is reportedly confirmed as the Game 1 designated hitter. Aside from that, the news gathering scene surrounding the Phillies is deader than a doornail.
We’re doing our best, folks. Somehow, it’s easier to produce content in the dead of winter than it is two days from a Phillies/Yankees World Series. These pressers (the second-hand source upon which this great site is founded) have been useless for anything other than very general news gathering by out-of-town scribes nobody on Beerleaguer would bother reading. It must be difficult for our local heroes - Lauber, Zolecki, Finger, Murphy, Martino, Lawrence, and the rest - to uncover the scoops hardcore fans care about, and by that, I mean Antonio Bastardo news. By way of updates, Charlie Manuel says the Phillies will settle on their roster soon, but it seems the inclusion of Brett Myers may be the only variable. Meanwhile, J.A. Happ will stay in the bullpen; between late-season injuries and readjusting to relief, Happ’s been leaking oil for over a month. The Game 2 starter remains a mystery, although Raul Ibanez will indeed serve as the DH in Game 1. Elsewhere, the Yankees are nearly unanimous favorites on ESPN.com, but it should come as no surprise the Phillies are earning all the respect closer to home.
Besides Mariano Rivera, I just don’t understand what the Yankees have brought to the postseason that the Phillies haven’t that would make this series so one-sided in the eyes of analysts.
The Yankees will be favored for two reasons: A prevailing wisdom the American League fields a superior product, and Mariano Rivera. For the Phillies, they'll lay low as usual and focus on four more wins.
A neutral bystander watching the ALCS and NLCS, resistant to big media bias, would observe that the Phillies, by a slim margin, have played a better brand of baseball than the Yankees during the postseason. Coming off a pair of comfortable series wins, the ballyhooed tenacity and fundamental soundness of the Los Angeles squads proved unfounded. The Angels committed eight errors, not to mention the bone-headed baserunning. Meanwhile, the Phillies applied the pressure to a Dodgers’ pitching staff in over their heads with guys like Vicente Padilla, Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton.
The World Series will be billed as blue-collared grit vs. white-collar precision, which is utterly stupid. The Phillies are loaded with talent. They'll throw a pair of former Cy Young winners and reigning World Series MVP at them, backed by a run-production engine fired by red-hot Ryan Howard. Meanwhile, the Yankees have renewed toughness and have come back on teams all season. A-Rod has shuttered his staunchest critics. They’re lock-down with Rivera in the last inning.
I won’t blow smoke and tell you I know all there is to know about the Yankees, but I can say the Phillies are scoring nearly a full run more per game this postseason, they're fearless on the road, Cliff Lee gives them an even chance against CC, and as much as I hate to factor in facial ticks, the Phils have the look of a team that expects to win it again. This was the matchup I wanted, and it was the matchp the Phillies wanted. Whatever your pick, it has all the trappings of a true fall classic.
Let the Bieber Bus Series begin. Andy Pettitte earned the win and set a postseason record for victories, Mariano Rivera recorded a six-out save and Johnny Damon scratched out a big two-run hit, as the New York Yankees head back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2003 and will face your defending champion Philadelphia Phillies. It's a series that will pit brother vs. brother in places like Easton, Pa., just to name a few, and for the Phillies, offers a chance at redemption for the pennant-winning Whiz Kids, bitterly swept by the Yankees in the 1950 World Series. Cliff Lee has been announced as the Phillies' Game 1 starter Wednesday at Yankees Stadium. CC Sabathia, who took home ALCS MVP hardware, is probable for the Bombers.
Beerleaguer: Along the Bieber Bus line, Philadelphia allegiances are strongest in Kutztown. They get weaker as the bus travels east, toward the stench of New York City. Wescosville is still solidly Phillies - maybe a few NY truck drivers sitting at the Charcoal Diner, but Hellertown, the last stop before Port Authority, starts turning toward the dark side in a hurry. The City of Reading once bled Phillies red, but with the large transplanted Latino population, the fan base has been diluted over the years. The Pedro Martinez signing was a shot in the arm, however, as a record-shattering and heavily Latino crowd came out to watch Pedro rehab for the R-Phils. Still, these days Reading isn't as concentrated as Kutztown's corn-fed socioeconomic demographic. Unless you're one of those hippy-dippy professors from the university, you root for the Phillies end of discussion.
Not much happening besides a few workouts and intersquad games while the Halos and Yanks get set for Game 6, but we're overdue for refresher.
How the Phillies do it, or the beat writers for that matter. When you take into account the short offseason, the public relations appearances, spring training, a grueling 162-game schedule and these typically weather-delayed matchups in the Division and Championship series, it's no wonder few defending champs make it back. I'm spent, too, but this long break until the World Series is a welcome respite before that one last push. I'm looking forward to tonight's game. Lefties Joe Saunders and Andy Pettitte are scheduled.
While the Phillies look to stay sharp, Charlie Manuel and crew will begin to weigh their roster options. It's a good bet Ben Francisco will take the field at some point this series with Raul Ibanez serving as designated hitter. It's a way better arrangement than last year's setup. It's just another feather in the cap of Ruben Amaro Jr., as the Cliff Lee deal continues to pay outrageous dividens. Oh and by the way, Francisco has a meaty .928 lifetime OPS (.353 AVG) against the Bombers. Meantime, Brett Myers is throwing again, but I'd have to think he'd play a minor role if he makes the club. Personally, I'd bring him aboard if they decided on 12 pitchers, but if they don't, I'd stick with the unknown Antonio Bastardo, even though the Yankees and Angels aren't deep with lefty bench bats. The Phillies can't be encouraged by what they've seen, situationally, from J.A. Happ.
That said, 12 pitchers is the way to go out of respect for the Yankees' and Angels' lineups and I'd take my chances - should the Yankees close it out tonight - against some of their inexperienced relievers. Obviously, Mariano Rivera is the exception, and represents the single biggest threat on either team. Just a night-and-day difference from Huston Street and Jonathan Broxton.
Final thought. What's up with the managing this postseason? We're lucky to have Charlie.
First, a moment to express what an honor and privilege it's been to share this story through the lens of Beerleaguer. When I first started blogging in 2004, I fully expected a bottomless supply of subject matter from the Phillies' trail of tears, blazed under a long wagon train of failure. Now, they circle the wagons and rewrite the script with every game, and it's been my pleasure to document their victorious fight.Many of the similarities between 2008 and 2009 run deep; even the graphic preparations repeated themselves, getting two in the can before Game 5, with Hamels on the hill and under the spotlight, followed by a pennant-clinching package in the likely event of a win. The games themselves shared common threads, too, like getting the best of Broxton in Game 4 and the convincing fashion in which they took care of the Dodgers in Game 5. Looking back, even Milwaukee and Colorado became interchangeable first-round also-rans.
You look at this team, and the sure-handed manner in which they dispatched the Dodgers, and it's apropos that they'll have a chance to become the first National League repeat World Series champions since Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in 1975-76. Just as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, George Foster, Ken Griffey defined generations of Reds baseball, so, too, has this group established the meaning of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. We only thought we knew it, but we were wrong.
Traditionally a better pitcher at night, big mistakes and lost composure have led Cole Hamels astray this postseason. Tonight, he’ll make his first nighttime start following a pair of poor afternoon outings.
In my endless search for new ideas, a colleague observed similarities between Cole Hamels and Vicente Padilla circa 2005. That is, Cole’s been making boneheaded mistakes the way Vicente used to, and he’s getting rattled by situations beyond his control, which was Padilla's claim to fame during his time in Philadelphia. However, Hamels can draw on several key assets Padilla never had at his disposal. First, Hamels holds the blueprint for postseason success, drawn up during the 2008 postseason. Second, a pair of dogged teammates in Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez offered a perfect example of how it’s done against these Dodgers. Third, Hamels has a team he can lean on, including a superior handler in Carlos Ruiz. At home, under the lights, this should be Hamels’ night.
Speaking of Padilla, that same colleague raised another good point. In Game 2, Padilla attacked the Phils with first-pitch strikes, and although patience has been a virtue for the Phils all postseason, this may be a case where an aggressive approach early in the count could be beneficial in avoiding those tailing fastballs he’ll work in later in the count.
On a related subject, what does it say about the Dodgers to sidestep their Game 1 starter in favor of a guy who was cast aside and out of work just weeks ago? Pretty amazing. Time for the Phillies to bury this team.
Just a couple of leftovers from last night’s thriller
Joe Blanton: Relegated to a bullpen role in the division series, Kentucky Joe had the look of a reliever called on to make a spot start last night. He started strong, retiring the first 10 batters, then nibbled through the second turn. By the fifth, Los Angeles had him solved, and by the sixth, I was shocked Blanton was still in the ballgame. Blanton may have been a workhorse this season, but I was nervous about this start; Joe’s been no great shakes lately and has quietly struggled with his command. Right now, I would not start Blanton in another postseason game if the Phillies can help it.
Jimmy Rollins: Look for last night’s walk-off double to put a charge in J-Roll’s swing. Aside from Pedro Feliz, he’s been the only regular yet to put a stamp on October, racking up just four runs and three extra-base hits while going 9-for-38 at the plate. Last night's big-time hit is exactly the type of slump-buster he needed to get back into the spotlight.
Co-authored by Jason Weitzel and Michael McNesby, the book also taps insights by the Beerleaguer peanut gallery.
“Hard to Believe!” is the game-by-game story of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, from the first pitch on Opening Day to the final pitch in Game 5 of the World Series. Each game is captured in analytical detail by Philadelphia Magazine’s 2008 “Best Sportswriter” Jason Weitzel and followers of Beerleaguer.com, along with photos, behind-the-scenes access and exclusive interviews from Michael McNesby, making this 370-page compendium a must-own for all fans. All proceeds from the sale of “Hard to Believe!” will go toward the Phillies’ fight against ALS. The book is available online for $19.95 plus shipping. [Purchase]
From Brett Myers’ walk against C.C. Sabathia in Game 2 of the 2008 division series to Matt Stairs’ free pass to start last night’s rally, bases on balls have had a heightened importance for the Phillies.
As we continue to extol the virtues of patience this fine Philadelphia afternoon, we revisit last night’s ninth inning to find another example of how good things happen to Phillies who wait. Once again, the Phils can file another major postseason highlight under “B,” for “walk.” Actually, if you want to get to the bottom of why they’ve had so much success offensively through the first two rounds, start with all the free passes, with many of them (it seems like all of them) coming back to bite the opposition. Equal parts ineffective pitching and patience, the Phillies have taken a robust 38 walks this postseason, an average of 4.75 per game. Chase Utley leads with seven, contributing to a base-hogging .472 on-base percentage batting one spot ahead of dialed-in slugger Ryan Howard. Chase’s .472 actually leads Howard by a few percentage points, but is well off the pace set by Carlos Ruiz (.533). Chooch has turned the lineup over six times on walks, seven if you include getting clipped by Broxton’s heater.
With three saves and a win already this postseason, Brad Lidge could become Charlie Manuel’s managerial masterwork.
“To everything - turn, turn, turn.” Words adapted by Pete Seeger from the Book of Ecclesiastes and popularized by the Byrds. “A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.” Often used to denote life-altering, coming-of-age moments in feature films, it’s a soundtrack that’s been playing since Charlie Manuel was handed stewardship over the Philadelphia Phillies. Patience. Perseverance. Change, but not for the sake of it. It’s a song that plays over and over again in Charlie's head. It's the guiding principle behind his singular resolve. Few players experienced a sharper rise and fall than Brad Lidge in 2009. From 48-for-48 in save situations to an 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves, Lidge betrayed the trust of all but one individual. While others were singing a new tune - one that called for swift action - the same old number was serenely stuffed inside his skipper's head. “There is a season, turn, turn, turn.” A postseason, to be specific.
Jimmy Rollins' two-out, ninth-inning strike scored Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz, as the Phillies - for the second NLCS Game 4 in a row - snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Jonathan Broxton and the Dodgers.
Beerleaguer: Just another day at the park for the toughest team in baseball. This one goes out to all the national writers who needed further proof as to why the postseason should be framed around a single question: Which team will be the first to hold down the Phillies? Because so far nobody has come close during their reign, and the Dodgers are about to be dragged from the ring after falling asleep on them, just as they did at this exact same point last postseason. The toughness, the thrills: this is what Phillies baseball is about. Cherish it. Fans of 29 other teams only wish they were so lucky.
pretty cool that Stairs' historic bomb could still have such a
resounding residual effect at precisely the same point in the season a
year later." - RSB
Audio: Listen to Scott Franzke's walk-off call: [Listen]
First-year GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and his crew have steered the Phillies' ship deep into another postseason.
After watching Cliff Lee slice and dice the Dodgers during last night’s “what to do” and “what not to do” pitching demonstration, I think it’s safe to say the Phillies’ made out okay in their deal for Lee, who's been even better than NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels was at this time last postseason. Chaired by Amaro, the Phillies' war room is on an unbelievable hot streak when it comes to plucking talent from the open market, including a flier on three-time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez, whose seven shutout frames Friday should have set up a series sweep tonight.
The most amazing part of Amaro’s 2009 blueprint has been that he hasn't had to compromised the bylaws established late in Pat Gillick’s tenure, rules against big free-agent commitments and leaving nothing to chance in terms of pitching depth. It started in the 2007-08 offseason and continued with Gillick’s low-key trade for arbitration-eligible starter Joe Blanton, lined up to win his third postseason game tonight. Even Jamie Moyer, who finished 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA, falls under the shorter-term commitment category, and contrary to popular opinion, played a big role in the Phillies' success down the stretch.
Kuroda: Not to sell Lee or the big bats short, but Hiroki Kuroda’s abominable night energized a cautious crowd and changed the landscape of Game 3. A four-run deficit in the first, in a hostile environment, with Lee dealing, was going to be too much to overcome. Color me unimpressed with the Dodgers this series, while Joe Torre moves continue to blow up in his face.
More precisely, it was Chase Utley's errant throw on a taylor-made double play that greased the rails for a two-run rally when the Phils should have been four outs from heading home with the pennant locked in a vice grip.All the meetings, international flights, scouting reports, negotiations, warm-ups and maneuvering that went into bringing once and current titan Pedro Martinez to the hill this afternoon flew out the door in the time it took Chavez Ravine's shadows to swallow the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound. A game that should have produced the stuff of legends turned into a cross Philadelphia's favorite son will bear forever if the Phillies can't pull it out. A microscopic margin for error didn't help, and neither did a pair of misplays right out of the chute in the eighth, but despite Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz's best efforts, the miscues, missed pitches and maybe even a managerial misfire in removing Pedro so soon play second fiddle to Utley's late-game betrayal, and rightfully so.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one astounded that Joe Torre gave Kid Kershaw all that rope to hang himself in the fifth inning, along with several other head-scratching moves. From the Los Angeles Times this morning: "With a 21-year-old sophomore bumping and staggering through a roomful of boos, the fifth inning Thursday contained every element of a textbook youthful playoff meltdown except for one: An adult to stop it. Where was Joe Torre? How could the Dodgers' manager allow Kershaw to endure the kind of beating that haunted the Dodgers for the next two hours? Eight batters, three walks, three wild pitches, five runs, kid rocked, Dodgers floored, Phillies never trail again."
Cole Hamels: The LA writers also can't believe the Dodgers couldn't do more against some pretty lackluster pitching by the Phillies. I'd love for this to be a non-issue, because he got the win and the night belonged to the offense, but turn on Philadelphia sports radio this morning and they're all discussing how Hamels has failed to live up to expectations.
It's true he wasn't very good in Game 1, allowing eight hits. But at this stage, everyone recognizes that Cliff Lee is the pitcher the Phillies are truly leaning on for wins, and they're rolling right through the postseason getting so-so games from the reigning World Series MVP. I'm still debating whether that was a bad pitch to Manny, and for most of the game, I saw a pitcher whose focus seemed to be in some other place. But let's not lose sight of the real issue: he desperately needs a third pitch. It would go a long way in keeping the hitters guessing and preventing some of these deep at bats. While his teammates are living in the moment, I'm sure Hamels would rather turn the page and start retooling for 2010.
Nevertheless, on to Game 2. No matter how you spin it, a 8-6 score and 1-0 series lead is all that matters.
The Phillies flexed their muscle with three-run homers by Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez, along with a two-run double by Ryan Howard, in capturing the first round of the Championship Series 8-6
Here's the 10-cent version of what we just watched: Chooch is big-time, baby. Big time. What a huge moment that was, opening up and belting that high fastball to break the back of Clayton Kershaw, who had been dominant through the first four. What a clutch player Chooch has become, and what a weapon for the Phils batting out of the eight-hole. There's nowhere to hide if you're facing this lineup. Mix in a couple of superb at bats by Ryan Howard, plus, Ibanez continues to have one hell of a postseason, churning out the RBIs like a machine. What a great moment that was, too, coming against big, bad George Sherrill, who laid a giant egg this game. Pitching-wise, Cole Hamels gets the win, Brad Lidge gets the save, but Chan Ho Park delivered the single-best effort out of any Phillies' pitcher used tonight. Not to minimize the work of the pitching staff, but this one belonged to the Phillies' hitters. Now the pressure falls on Vicente Padilla and the Dodgers to salvage Game 2. You gotta love it.
As an expectant father, with a future junkball-throwing lefthander due in January, two pink lines on the home pregnancy test were enough to change my outlook forever.
At that moment it hit me in a rush: I don’t know jack about squat. I’ve done nothing in life to adequately prepare. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of life taking a detour around serious responsibilities. But in the past six months, I’ve gradually turned off Easy Street to begin my merge onto the parenthood superhighway, and to the surprise of this shell-shocked, scatter-brained, know-nothing of six months ago, the terror has actually waned, and life’s purpose is starting to take focus. That disposable income, which would have gone toward a movie, a video game or night at the bars, has been invested, in some form or another, into 25 years of future use, 30 if he decides to follow in his old man’s footsteps and pursue a life in journalism. Meanwhile, time spent on the blog, which once ranked as my favorite hobby, has been rededicated toward my new favorite: home improvements, parenting classes and getting our lives ready for what’s to come.
But I digress. It’s all all just a fancy way of saying that life’s little miracle may be exactly be what Cole Hamels needs. Perhaps becoming the best pitcher on earth is no longer his top priority. Maybe we’ll see a different pitcher tonight, one free of the enormous, uneccesary pressure he puts on himself, because the stork dropped off a 7-pound, 9-ounce bundle of joy with the doorman of his Center City condo. (Unless, of course, that bundle of joy is a light sleeper.)
Former Dodger Chan Ho Park last pitched Sept. 16 before blowing out his right hamstring. Eric Bruntlett, who had a .462 OPS in the regular season, adds speed and an extra glove to the Phillies' bench. The Phils found themselves in an awkward situation where they needed to use Miguel Cairo in left field last series and probably had some second thoughts about their late-game defensive options. So the Phils have elected to go with 11 pitchers, giving the nod to young Antonio Bastardo for a second round of the playoffs while dropping Kyle Kendrick, who pitched well as a late-season call-up but didn't appear in the division series, and Brett Myers, who was unimpressive in Game 2 against the Rockies and probably shouldn't have been on the roster in the first place. Myers is a free agent after the season, and according to Twitter reports, was miffed by the Phillies' decision.
After announcing Clayton Kershaw as his Game 1 starter, Joe Torre will follow with Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf. Meanwhile, the Phils have made Cole Hamels official for Game 1.
Last series, Beerleaguer picked Cliff Lee as his key to the division series and it turned out to be a rather good guess for the strapping young lad indeed. So here we have the Championship Series, and I gotta admit I'm at a loss. Many of the experts expect a seven-game series and Vegas anticipates a Dodgers win. The only clear vision includes plenty of goose eggs lining that scoreboard. Considering the quality of the pitching, four games slated at Dodgers Stadium, and with raw conditions setting into the Northeast, these roaring lineups could be reduced to a purr.
Also clouding the crystal ball is the fact that the Phils haven't announced their rotation beyond Hamels, much less a roster, which makes this next statement a little risky: Pedro Martinez will be the key for the Phillies.
Let's face it: Everyone wants to see what a future Hall-of-Famer can do in the 80-degree heat, returning to the place where it all started, slotted into Game 2 against Padilla. But the Phillies can't afford to get suckered into the novelty of it. Pedro hadn't even shaken off the rust before spending these last 14 days crusting up again. If Charlie Manuel makes this call, as Jayson Stark believes he will, then he must be absolutely certain. He's got a tested arm sitting there in Joe Blanton, no matter how well he showed out of the 'pen. Not to sell the Phillies' late-game heroics short, they can't afford a three-inning dud, considering how tough it will be to rally against this formidable Los Angeles bullpen.Meanwhile, here's your Dodgers X-Factor: Kuroda, who will start Game 3. There's a reason Joe Torre flew all the way to Arizona to watch his Japanese right-hander make 50 pitches in a simulated game: the Phillies can't hit him.
Colorado faced Phillies left-handers in 108 of 144 plate appearances and were limited to a .669 OPS. Meanwhile, the big bats of the Phils barely faced any lefties and figure to see plenty of them in the NLCS.
Beerleaguers have already started discussing how the Phils will need to shift gears against a Dodgers’ lineup better equipped to face left-handed pitching, going so far as to say the series key could actually boil down to how well the Phillies’ right-handers contain Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and the rest of the Dodgers’ balanced lineup. This concept is worth taking a step further. How will a Phillies’ offense that hit .296/.381/.452 with 61 total bases, facing right-handers in all but 13 of their 154 plate appearances in the division series, stack up against likely Game 1 starter Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and a bullpen that includes tough lefties Hong-Chih Kuo and deadline pickup George Sherrill, undoubtedly acquired by Ned Colletti with this probable rematch in mind?
Just like the division series, Charlie Manuel will earn his stripes based on how he leverages his available arms. Chan Ho Park, recovering from a strained hammy, traveled to Los Angeles, meaning he could be added to the 25-man roster. Teams are permitted to reset their rosters between series and finding the right mix of healthy and dependable arms figures to be no small challenge considering LA's balanced attack. Beyond Cole Hamels going in Game 1, the Phillies could go any number of directions.
Beerleauger and Maple Street Press are seeking talented writers to lend a unique perspective for the 2010 edition of the Phillies Annual, hitting newsstands this spring from Maple Street Press.
This slick, full-color, well-received 128-page annual is in its second season, edited by yours truly, and offers an array of features for die-hard fans as they get set for the start of the season, including Major and Minor League scouting reports, stats, prospect rankings, expert analysis, historic essays and more. For the first round of deadlines, I’m looking for untimely content, including off-beat Phillies history, prospect summaries, statistical analysis and other well-considered features as they would relate to the 2010 team. This is a paid gig, so if you’re serious about contributing, drop a note with a brief summary of your story idea and writing credentials to the email address posted in the right sidebar.
With baseball reaching a fever pitch in Philadelphia, it’s time to dial it down a notch with some buzz-killing minor league updates.
Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Winter League will be home to four Phillies prospects this offseason, including top prospect and 2009 Paul Owens Award winner Michael Taylor, 23. Taylor, a five-skill outfielder who hit .320/.395/.549 between Reading and Lehigh Valley, will share the corners with John Mayberry Jr., who appeared in 59 games for the Phillies this season. Obregon also welcomes noted relief prospect BJ Rosenberg, 24, and third baseman Neil Sellers, who, despite his advanced age of 27, is well-regarded by those close to the R-Phils after hitting .317/.383/.486 with 17 home runs. In addition, veteran Mike Cervenak, a September call-up the last two seasons, has laced up his cleats for the Tomateros de Culiacan. Opening day in the Mexican Winter League happened Friday.
Arizona Fall League first pitch today: The friendly folks at Phuture Phillies remind us that the Arizona Fall League is set to begin today at 6:35. This season, the Scottsdale Scorpions are home to several farmhands, including top prospect Domonic Brown. In addition, this year’s class also includes SS Troy Hanzawa, OF Steve Susdorf, starters Mike Cisco and Edgar Garcia, and relievers Scott Mathieson, Michael Schwimmer, and Mike Zagurski. Mathieson is a former Fall League MVP.
Venezuelan League reps: The Phillies have a few entries in the Venezuelan League as well, including second basemen Harold Garcia and Fidel Hernandez. Garcia, 23, is worth tracking after hitting .291/.350/.414 with 8 homers and 42 stolen bases with Lakewood. He was also named best Sally League second base prospect in Baseball America's tools issue.
Hewitt to center field? Courtesy of sources close to Phuture Phillies, 2008 first-round pick Anthony Hewitt was in center field during a recent instructional game and hasn’t been seen much, if at all, at third base.
Drawing comparisons to the classic 1980 NLCS with the Astros, the Phillies showcased their trademark resiliency, and wrote the script for one of the most exhilarating acts in club history, in taking another step toward repeating as champions.
A colleague and neutral observer noted the difference between the hardy stars of the Phillies and players from other teams. Where misplays like Chase Utley’s toss and Raul Ibanez’s drop would ice a lesser unit, as it did with the Cardinals in getting swept by the Dodgers, the Phillies bottle and leverage adversity. When the Rockies took a two-run lead in the eighth, plotting a course for a Game 5 showdown, that’s when the Phillies recognized the series had entered a new phase, one with no margin for error, one where only the strong would survive. And in that taut moment, Ryan Howard issued a challenge: “Get me to the plate, boys.” Thing is, he’s speaking for everyone in dugout when he says that. Stones like those are why the Phils are a step closer to November, while Huston Street and the Rockies will be in a perpetual state of Rocktober.
“I remember writhing on the floor and screaming from the couch throughout the unbearable tension, extraordinary twists and turns, enormous misery and ultimate joy of the 1980 NLCS, and these last two games are right up there with that experience. I've been a phan since the fifties and I am now ready to pronounce this the best Phils team ever. I got tickets for Sunday's game, so I will be driving down from Massachusetts and forced to take the day off Monday. Can't wait.” - GreysFan
"There is a reason the Phillies are defending champions though and this series, more specifically the last inning of Game 4 showed why. Solid at bats, working counts, not trying to do too much, and just making contact. Also, many argued that Lidge should be off the post-season roster. He is unreliable and will offer nothing. And you certainly don't want him saving 1- run games. Lidge had two saves, both in one-run games. One was a one out save but it was Lidge commanding his slider as well as he has all year. The other save had him jamming a guy, and using another ones over-eagerness against him. Solid job by Lidge in this series.” – TTI
There’s nothing like a 2:30 a.m. win to renew our faith in the Phillies and give Starbucks a little push. Peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jack, Gortex: despite the ridiculousness of the time and temperature, last night’s win ranks as an all-timer.
Hailed as a night of quiet heroes, the Phillies put the clamps on the Rockies while making the most their own opportunities. Played at a hypothermic pace, their systematic, heads-up and malleable approach would have been good enough to beat any team, under any circumstances. Start with series star Raul Ibanez, who understood the importance of reaching base in a game like this. (And if there was a more overrated concern than Raul’s alleged lack of speed, I’d love to hear it.) Meanwhile, so much for the notion that Chase Utley had depleted his reserves. His body may be bent, but rare is a player this driven. Speaking of driven, there’s purpose behind the swing of Carlos Ruiz these days; Chooch went 2-for-4 and knocked in a pair. The Rockies were also on the receiving end of two runs courtesy of Ryan Howard’s brisk thunderstick.
Ironically, the pitcher many preferred for Game 3, J.A. Happ, didn’t have the feel, while the guy nobody would have touched with a 10-foot pole, Brad Lidge, used a brand-new pitch to save a one-run game, on the road, against the heart of the Rockies’ order. But it’s not as if Charlie Manuel had been saving his best for last. Shattering the old protocals, Manuel reached for Ryan Madson to pitch a high-leverage jam in the seventh. Three outs and three hours later, he put out the fire. That meant Chad Durbin needed to pitch the sharpest inning of his life in the eighth. Good thing he did. Speaking of malleable, that's Joe Blanton. Hand him the ball and he’ll throw it anytime, anyplace. Joe don’t need no earflaps.