August 2007

Focus Now On Today

August 31, 2007

What can you say about yesterday’s thriller that hasn’t already been written or said?

The homestand started out pretty bleak but ended with as much excitement as been seen at Citizens Bank Park since the place opened.  The place was really rocking yesterday.  It was noticed by the players.  The fans can be the tenth man on the field the rest of the way.

MVP
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will be in the mix when the writers vote for the Most Valuable Player.  Votes will be sent in at the end of the season.  Post-season play won’t have an impact.

The return of Utley on Monday was followed by four straight wins.  That says a lot for his value to the team. 

Rollins is getting some national attention as Sports Illustrated has sent a reporter to Miami this weekend.

Barring injury, these three will go down in Phillies history as the greatest players at their positions.

Rookies
Kyle Kendrick and J. D. Durbin have certainly given the pitching staff a shot in the arm.

Kendrick is one of four NL rookies with seven wins.  His 3.89 ERA ranks second among first-year pitchers.  Durbin has a five-game winning streak, which matches the season high for rookies.

There are five NL rookies with saves.  Durbin and John Ennis (one each) are among the five.

Rookie pitchers are 15-9 for the Phillies this season.  In 1980, two rookie pitches played key roles for the Phillies, Bob Walk and Marty Bystrom.

New Day
As much as we enjoy the four-game sweep, today is a new day.  The Phillies are in Miami for the Marlins.  Focus needs to be on today and not yesterday..

Looking back at four straight wins shouldn’t be on the radar as were the four straight losses last week.

Philly vs. New York Day

August 30, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Lohse, p.

Today is Philadelphia vs. New York Day.  The Phillies go for a four-game sweep of the Mets this afternoon and then tonight, the Eagles host the Jets in a pre-season game across the street tonight.

Kyle Lohse, who has a 3.15 ERA in three straight no decisions, gets the call to face the Mets.  Lifetime, he is 0-1 against New York

Nunez’ Gold Glove
Jamie Moyer picked up the win, the bullpen did its job, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell delivered the long ball, Pat drove in the winning run and an interference call at second base gave the Phillies a 3-2 win last night.  The Phillies are now 3-34 in games in which they score three or fewer runs.  Not a good track record but a good time to start winning these type games.

The unsung hero was Abraham Nunez.  His defense at third base was of Gold Glove caliber.  Twice he took extra bases away from Luis Castillo with back-handed grabs of balls that were headed down the left field line.  One was a play in which Nunez dove to his right, gloved the hard hit ball, got up and nailed Castillo at first base.  For the night, Nunez had seven assists at the hot corner.

Fans Behind Pat
When Pat Burrell came up with the bases loaded in the fifth, he got a standing ovation.  His second swing just missed being a grand slam, hooking at the last minute and just missing the left field foul pole.  The standing-o returned when the count got to 3-2.  He then hit a sacrifice fly that produced the eventual winning run.

Heading South
The Phillies will leave after the game taking a 6 p.m. charter flight to Ft. Lauderdale.  They begin a three-game weekend series against the Marlins tomorrow night. 

Monday-Tuesday and Wednesday finds them in Atlanta for the last time this season, day, night and day games.

Iguchi vs. Lefty

August 29, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Iguchi, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Moyer, p.

Chase Utley is out of the lineup, something Charlie Manuel mentioned this past weekend, resting him on occasion, especially with a lefty on the mound.  Tenderness and strength of Chase’s right hand is something that will be monitored the rest of the season.

Yesterday
378 feet . . . 45 feet . . . 396 feet.

That’s how the Phillies took game two of this huge four-game series with the Mets last night. Once nemesis Tom Glavine left the game (seven shutout innings) Jimmy Rollins got the Phillies on the scoreboard with a solo home run into the left field stands in the eighth.

Shane Victorino ran for Pat Burrell, stole second, advanced to third on the catcher’s throwing error and scored when Aaron Rowand’s swinging bunt stayed fair, a 45-foot grounder that looks like a line drive in the box score.  When a team is going good, lady luck is there.

Then, the big man, Ryan Howard, went the opposite way, an estimated 396-foot walk-off home run in the last of the tenth.  Ryan looks like a different hitter these two games, more patient, seeing the ball better and getting good cuts that have resulted in a lot of hard-hit balls, some base hits and some outs.  We’ll certainly take a hot Howard bat.

Also encouraging was Adam Eaton’s outing.  If he pitches that way the rest of the season, the Phillies will be in good shape.  Eaton got the staff’s 44th hit with a single to left.  The Phillies pitchers, who were pitiful a year ago, now have the most hits in the NL.  Great work by the coaching staff.

Tonight, we need to get Jamie Moyer back on track again.  Having lost two in a row, is this a must game for the Mets?  Every game from here out is a must game for a lot of teams.

It was great hearing the fans chant, “Let’s go Phillies”, rather than “Let’s Go Mets.”

Tickets are available for tonight and tomorrow afternoon but they are going quickly.  There’s a real buzz in the air.

Written Words
“In many ways, it is stunning that Philadelphia even remains in the hunt for October.  Only the players’ resilience and the manager’s composure have given the Phillies a chance to reach the playoffs for the first since 1993 despite often resembling a MASH unit instead of a baseball team,” Jere Longman, New York Times.

Curious?
In case your are curious, the four pitchers with the most career wins against the Phillies (since 1957), courtesy of STATS, Inc.
Bob Gibson 30-12
Greg Maddux 29-17
Tom Glavine 28-17
Tom Seaver 27-14

Standing-Os

August 28, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Werth, rf; Helms, 3b; Coste, c; Eaton, p.

Don’t know if Hollywood could have made a better script for Chase Utley’s return.  I guess he could have hit a dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Fans were pumped.  When Chase was introduced, he got a standing-o.  When he homered (419 feet), another standing-o plus a curtain call.  When he doubled in a run in his next at-bat, another standing-o.

Then when he came to bat for the last time, the fans began to chant, “MVP, MVP, MVP”.

A couple of fans had a sign “The race is on with Chase.”

Utley’s double tied the Phillies record (42) for most by a second-baseman.  John Albert (Bert) Niehoff set the record in 1916 when he hit .243 for the Phillies.

Werthwhile
Jason Werth is swinging some kind of hot bat, 700 (14-20) during this seven-game homestand.   He tied a modern Phillies record with nine hits in his lat nine at-bats.  One more and he ties the team’s all-time record set July 13-14, 1897 by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty.

The modern holders are Dave Philley (1958-59), **** Sisler (1950) and Eddie Waitkus (1950). 

Philley was a switch-hitter who played some first base and right field for the Phillies during those seasons.  As a pinch-hitter, his nine hits came in nine consecutive at-bats, a National League record.  He also had nine RBI in those nine games, including a three-run homer.  Sprinkled in over the end of the 1958 season and the start of the 1959 season, were three starts.   

Burrell Also Hot
Since July 2, Pat is hitting .366, second among National League hitters.  He also leads in on-base percentage and slugging percentage during that time frame.

His homer last night was his 38th against the Mets, matching Barry Bonds and Chipper Jones for the most against the New York nine.  His RBI total against the Mets is 97.

Perfecto
RHP Chris Carpenter of the Clearwater Threshers pitched a seven-inning perfect game, 2-0, in the second game of a double-header at Ft. Myers last night.  He threw 66 pitches, 48 strikes.

Pitching coach Steve Shrenk: “He was in control of this game from the start to end.  He had great command and worked ahead down in the zone with all his pitches.  His slider was very effective not throwing a ball with it at all.  We made a couple of good plays for him but they really never hit a ball hard.  Just a great game to watch and be a part of.”

The 22-year-old struck out seven in improving his overall record to 16-6, one of five pitchers in the minor leagues to have that many wins.  Since the Florida State League All-Star break, he is 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was a second-round selection a year ago out of Long Beach State.  His major? Criminal justice.  His hobby? Restoring cars.

Utley Back in Lineup

August 27, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Coste, c; Durbin, p.

Yes, Chase is back.  He’s in the two hole tonight.  Getting his strength back in his right hand and his timing are the key issues from the offensive end.  Defensively, he shouldn’t have any problems.

To make room for Chase, Russell Branyan has been designated for assignment. 

Three-run home runs.  They are beautiful when we hit them and not so pretty when the enemy does.  Both yesterday came with two out, another key element to winning baseball….scoring two-out runs.

Yesterday’s explosive win was badly needed to stop the bleeding.  Now, we go nose-to-nose, toe-to-toe, belly-to-belly with the Mets.  It should be an electric series.

As much as enjoying the big win, it is time to move on to the next game.  Same story after a loss.

By winning three of the last four games with the Phillies, the Mets have a 6-5 advantage this season.  Prior to that series, the Phillies swept the Mets in New York.

Only thing we know, this is the last time these two clubs meet during the regular season in Philly, with three left in September in New York.

Stuck in Quicksand

August 26, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Iguchi, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Coste, c; Kendrick, p.

Losing streaks stink.  When you get in a streak such as this one, it seems like we are stuck in quicksand. 

One game, the starting pitching doesn’t do the job, another game it’s the bullpen, there are tight losses and blow outs, games in which you score runs and lose and games in which the offense struggles with runners on base.  Last night, we were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Brett Myers had gone 15 appearances without giving up a home run.  Last night, two were hit off him.  Don’t know what it is but closers often struggle when they come in tie games or games in which there isn’t a save opportunity (more than a three-run lead).  Terrmel Sledge’s pitch homer was the decisive run in a 4-3 loss.  It was his first pinch-hit home run in 677 big league at-bats. 

During winning streaks, every thing clicks and lady luck occasionally joins the fun.

Today’s another day, another game.  Time to pull out the Citizens Bank Park lucky charm, Sunday games.  Since the park opened, the Phillies are 39-11, 5-2 this season, on Sundays.

Utley Update
Chase played second and was hitless in four at-bats last night at Reading.  He’ll be in uniform in Philly today and have his weekly check-up with Dr. Randall Culp tomorrow.  Hopefully, he can be activated this week. 

Chase Utley, #27

August 25, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Iguchi, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Lohse, p.

Pitching shuffle continues as Brian Sanchez was designated for assignment and John Ennis, a 28-year-old right-hander who has been pitching as a reliever and starter at Ottawa, was added to the roster.  He has 13 big league games in his career path, 12 with the Tigers and the other with the 2002 Braves.

Just haven’t seen such a pitching funk as we are currently experiencing.  But, you play today and put yesterday in the waste basket.

Eaton Rehab
Adam returned to the mound last night, starting the first game of a Reading Phillies twi-nighter against the Akron Aeros.

He gave up two runs on two hits and a hit batter in the first inning and threw much better in the second.  He was on a 40-pitch maximum and the two-inning stint got him to 38.  Radar had him at 88-92.

He’s 5-0 in his career against the Mets and could be on the Citizens Bank Park mound next week when they are here for a four-game series.

Utley Rehab
A packed house showed up for the twin-bill which included Chase Utley’s first game action since breaking his right hand.   Fans came equipped with cameras and photographed him during each at-bat.  When his name was mentioned by the PA announcer, the crowd roared the loudest.

Utley had skipped Reading and AA ball in his ladder to the majors so this was his first appearance at FirstEnergy Stadium.  In six at-bats, he had a ground ball single to right.  His first five at-bats came against lefties.  The very first pitch he saw from Shawn Nottingham was up and in.  Chase didn’t flinch.

It was strange seeing Utley in the Reading uniform, which for the night was a red jersey and pinstripe pants.  He wore 27 (Chris Coste’s Reading number earlier this season). He couldn’t wear his normal #26 as that has been retired by the Reading Phillies for Ryne Sandberg.  One other Reading number has been retired, #24, worn by Mike Schmidt when he broke in pro ball in 1971.

Chase’s single came in his second at-bat in the first game, a hard ground ball between first and second.  First base coach Greg Gross kidded Chase, “Your first hit in double-A.  Do you want the ball?”

 

You Gotta Believe

August 24, 2007

(The Phillies lineup won’t be posted today as I left Philly early this afternoon for Reading where Adam Eaton and Chase Utley are rehabbing in a 5:30 p.m. double-header against Akron).

The gray clouds that have followed the Phillies since Sunday in Pittsburgh finally parted for some sunshine yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately, the sun didn’t shine on the Phillies bats as they were held to two runs and five hits by three LA pitchers.

Going into the game, the Phillies had scored 216 runs in day games, the most of any team except the Cubs who play a lot more games in the sunshine. 

In losing four of their last five games, the Phillies’ .239 team batting average has produced just 20 runs.  The pitching has struggled during that time too, 6.35 ERA for the starters and 12.27 for the relievers.  Obviously, things need to change and soon.  Streaks follow streaks in this game and hopefully it is time to get both the offense and pitching going. As Tug McGraw used to say, “You gotta believe.”

Veteran vs. Veteran
The Padres weekend starts tonight with a pair of veterans who were originally drafted and signed by the Cubs, 41-year-old Greg Maddux against 44-year-old Jamie Moyer.

The Cubs drafted 30 players in the summer of 1984 and only two ever made it to the big leagues.  Maddux was a second-rounder and Moyer, sixth-rounder.  Since Maddux has 342 wins and Moyer 227, I supposed you could say the two draftees who did make it, made it big time.
I wonder if any other club has had a draft which produced 569 wins.

Dominican Dandies
The Guanuma Phillies of the Dominican Summer League won their 22nd consecutive game yesterday to clinch the Northern Division title.  The first round of the playoffs starts on Sunday.

The Phillies, managed by Domingo Brito, started the season 3-6.  Going into the last two games of the regular season, the Phillies are 45-17.  They last lost on July 23.

Kenny Fernandez, a 20-year-old right-hander, is the leading winner.  A reliever who has appeared in 12 games, Fernandez is 7-0 plus a save.

Minor League Review
For the latest report on the Phillies minor league system, check out
http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/phi/downloads/y2007/ml_reports/0806_1207.pdf

Forget Last Night

August 23, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Iguchi, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Castro, p.

Last night is over.  Four losses in the last five are over.  Got to focus on today and then tomorrow.  One day at a time.

A reader, admitting he was ranting, said nothing is more frustrating that losing guys to stupid injuries.  He also responded that he is a firm believer that injuries can be prevented.

Taking the first point, I don’t know that any of the injuries this year have been stupid.  Throwing a baseball is an unnatural physical act and that’s why so many pitchers get hurt.  Hardly a pitcher goes through an entire career without having some sort of elbow or shoulder injury.  If there was a “freak” injury, it happened to Jon Lieber, who was simply running to back up a play at home plate.  He ruptured a tendon is in his right foot.

Prevention?  The Phillies, and every other baseball team, have athletic trainers at every level of the organization.  They also have strength and flexibility instructors.  Players have access to more training facilities than ever.

But, it is a subject that will be reviewed by Pat Gillick, his staff and the medical staff.  At some point at the end of the season, be it regular season or post-season, the Phillies will have an organization meeting involving all the instructional personnel, medical people and scouts.   I’m sure it will be a topic heavily discussed.

To be fair to the reader, he also wrote that all the character in the world can’t make up for pitching.  Yes, pitching does set the tone.  Always has and always will.

Other teams are having pitching issues, too.  The Phillies won’t see Chris Young on Sunday.  The Padres right-hander went back to San Diego because of a back problem.  The Braves put LHP Chuck James (#3 starter) on the DL.  Their fifth starter is 0-4.  The Mets staff has basically been healthy all season.

Phillies History
In 1979, the Phillies lost three starting pitchers on July 4: RH Larry Christenson (groin pull), LH Randy Lerch (fractured left wrist) and RH **** Ruthven (ailing right elbow).

In 1976, the Phillies used 11 pitchers the entire season, 10 up until September 1.  That wasn’t normal.  So isn’t 2007.

Quotable
I remember asking Johnny Podres one time, “How come there weren’t that many injuries to pitchers during his career (1950s)?”  He responded, “We drank more beer.”

Shane Returns

August 22, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Iguchi, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Victorino, rf; Dobbs, 3b; Cost, c; Durbin, p.

This is one of those good news, bad news bits.

Shane Victorino is back in right field tonight.  Finally, one coming back from the wounded.  But, Cole Hamels is headed for the DL. 

Hard to believe but 44-year-old Jamie Moyer and 35-year-old Antonio Alfonseca are the only pitchers from the opening day staff that have not spent time on the DL.  We should take a team picture in the trainer’s room.  The way things are going, the photographer would probably get injured.

Back in spring training, Pat Gillick said he liked the character of this team.  In his mind, character helps a team get through the tough times.  He couldn’t be more accurate.

On the field, the club just keeps on battling.  I know you’ve heard this before right here, but credit must go to Charlie Manuel and his coaching staff.  Charlie is always positive and that caries over to the clubhouse.

No one knows where the Phillies will finish this year.  But, we do know this team is full of heart and character.

Philly fans like athletes who bust a gut.  They should love this bunch.

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