August 2007

Chase Can Swing the Bat

August 20, 2007

After taking two of three in three straight series, the Phillies stumbled yesterday when the Pirates, the highest-scoring team in the majors this month, plated seven runs after two outs in the seventh.

Today is a day off for the team.  Kyle Kendrick and Tom Gordon came in to work out briefly.  Chase Utley, given clearance to begin swinging the bat, continued his exercise program on his right hand.  Shane Victorino stopped in before heading for Lakewood and a rehab assignment tonight, weather permitting.  He was rained out yesterday.

Head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and his two youngsters stopped by after lunch.  Scott was checking in with Chase.  Joe Swanhart, whose responsibility is providing food for the players, had done is grocery shopping.  Players have various light food options pre-game and a meal after games. 

Players normally begin filing in around 1:30-2 p.m.  Today, it was pretty quiet at that time. The clubhouse crew had unpacked all the equipment bags that came in late last night. The gray road uniforms were washed in the morning and hung to dry in the laundry room.

Plenty of activity is in store tomorrow as the Phillies open a tough 10-game homestand, three with the Dodgers and Padres and then four with the Mets. 

The Phillies will face three straight right-handers from the Dodgers which gives Charlie Manuel an opportunity to have Russell Branyan’s left-handed power bat in the lineup.  We’ll find out tomorrow afternoon. 

Charlie has a pile of statistics and scouting reports on his desk.  He sifts through the information and jots the lineup on a small yellow pad.  That piece of paper is given to Jimy Williams, who posts the lineup on the eraser board at the entrance of the clubhouse.  Jimy also completes the official lineup card that is given to the umpires.

Yesterday
A lot of buzz about Charlie leaving Kyle in the game.  At that point, Kyle had given up one run to the Pirates in 25.1 innings over four career games.  Matt Kata, a .210 hitter, got the big three-run double off Lohse.  “I thought Kyle had enough left to get him.  I liked him on Kata,” Charlie was quoted by Marcus Hayes in today’s Daily News.

J. C. Romero was brought in to face a lefty (Nate McLouth).  Up until that point, lefty batters had just 2 hits off Romero in their last 25 at bats.  McLouth hit a game-tying double. Antonio Alfonseca followed and this time he couldn’t close the barn door. In Antonio’s last 30 games, the Phillies are now 23-7.  Romero and Alfonseca proved they are human yesterday.

Tom Gordon and Brett Myers were primed to handle the eighth and ninth innings but it never got to that point.  Got to give the Pirates some credit.  They came from four down two straight days.   

On to Pittsburgh

August 17, 2007

Pitching came through last night for an important win.  Now, it is on to Pittsburgh where we face the Pirates’ three best pitchers.  Vacation games don’t exist, especially at this time of the season.

Had a couple of comments to yesterday’s epic. As one reader points out, two games don’t constitute a slump.  And, yes, we were further behind the last two years than our current perch in the NL East.

Another reader felt if the pitching stays strong and the lineup refinds its groove, we’ll be OK.  A good observation.  That person also pointed out that even when Chase Utley comes back, it may take him a while to get going.

We definitely have missed Chase and Shane Victorino.  But other clubs have had injuries too.  It just seems as if we’ve had more than our share.

To me, the biggest loss from an injury stand point was Brett Myers.  Had he remained healthy, we would have more wins, I’m sure.  I’m not taking anything away from Antonio Alfonseca.  He did a great job in the closer’s role but Myers’ absence thinned the pen.

Which injury was the most damaging for the Phils?

AWOL Offense

August 16, 2007

Yes, where has the o-ffense gone?  The last two nights it is missing, or ill (low pulse), or on vacation or whatever.  AWOL is another way of putting it.

I checked the clubhouse this afternoon to make sure the bats weren’t left behind on Monday when the equipment truck headed south on I-95 for Washington, DC.   

The game of baseball can be a game of streaks.  Right now, our streak is not putting runs on the board, which is totally uncharacteristic of this club.  We don’t lead the league in runs scored by accident, especially after 119 games.  The pitching has been consistently good and that’s utterly important.

But, right now the hitters are unstreaking, if there is such a word.  Cool is the temperature of many hitters.  Yes, we are missing Chase Utley and Shane Victorino but there’s nothing that can be done until they are healthy to return. 

Despite the missing offense, a win tonight means two wins out of three and that is the formula we need to follow.  Game #120 shouldn’t be a must win game but it is.

Perhaps Charlie Manuel needs to drastically change the lineup and have Cole Hamels bat first.  What do you think?

PS: The support of Phillies fans in DC has been great.  It is noticed and appreciated.

All Aboard

August 13, 2007

The pennant-race train keeps on chugging.  For the Phillies, that train is AMTRAK’s and Washington, DC, is the destination.  The team took the train to DC this evening.

The road trip includes six games, three each with the Nationals and three in Pittsburgh.  Both teams have losing records but doesn’t mean a tiddly at this stage of the season.

The next homestand, 10 games in 10 days from August 21-30, will be a dandy as all three teams are in the hunt: Dodgers (3), Padres (3) and Mets (4).

Winning a series is key to October baseball.  The Phillies just completed a homestand in which they took two of three from both the Marlins and Braves. 

Playoff fever seemed to grip Citizens Bank Park this weekend for each of the three games.  Games this era seem to be played in the bullpen.  Both the Mets and the Braves have strong bullpens, although Octavio Dotel’s DL will weaken Atlanta’s pen. 

With Tom Gordon and Brett Myers back, the Phillies bullpen is starting to fall into place.  There’s certainly a lot of experience with Gordon, Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa, J. C. Romero and Clay Condrey.

Scott Mathieson, Freddy Garcia and Francisco Rosario, three pitchers who are on the DL, have begun throwing programs in Clearwater.  They could be September additions.

Utley Update
Chase was examined by Dr. Randall Culp today. Utley’s right hand was placed in a modified splint which will allow him to begin light tossing and exercising tomorrow. He will be re-examined by Dr. Culp next Monday, after which the Phillies will have another update.

Big Rating
Last night’s ESPN rating (9.8) was the highest TV rating for the Phillies (records date back to 1996).   It eclipsed a 9.6 on Comcast SportsNet, September 27, 2006, vs. the Washington Nationals.  The second-highest show for the 8-11 time period was Shark (NBC), a 6.2.  Proving that pre-season NFL games are meaningless is a 3.6 rating for the Seahawks/Chargers game.

Alumni Weekend
The three-day Alumni Weekend concluded with a pre-game Alumni Batting Challenge yesterday. For the details, click on:
http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070812&content_id=2145950&vkey=news_phi&fext=.jsp&c_id=phi

Moyer on Hill

August 12, 2007

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

Abraham Nunez gets the nod at third base tonigh for the 8:05 ESPN national telecast.  With Jamie Moyer specializing in off-speed pitches, Charlie Manuel went for leather at third base.  Right-handed hitters will tend to pull the change-of-speed pitches.  Nunez and Jimmy Rollins give the Phillies a strong defensive left side of the infield.

Almost
For a moment last night, it looked as if the Phillies would grab their 34th come-from-behind win.  They lead the NL while Seattle is tops in the AL with 34.

But, we felt short.

Adam Eaton is scuffling right now.  Hitters go into funks and so do pitchers.  Over a 162-game journey there will be potholes in the road.

Tonight we roll out our secret weapon: Citizens Bank Park Sunday baseball.  Since the park opened three years ago, the Phillies are 38-11 on Sundays.

Script Change
Alumni Night was to be primarily an introduction of former Phillies players on the field.  I had written the script and everything was ready to roll and then came a huge curve ball, the script was changed and I was in it.

I was somewhat surprised but not totally.  Frank Lucchesi called on Thursday to tell me he couldn’t be here for my special night on Saturday.  Clue No. 1.  When I saw Danny Ozark yesterday, it was clue No. 2.  He wasn’t on my script.  Larry Christenson told me when he arrived last night that Timmy McCarver was sorry he couldn’t be here for my special night.  Clue No. 3.  When Harry Kalas grabbed the microphone, that was the final clue.  He wasn’t part of my script either.

It was an overwhelming experience, something I will never forget.  Being out at home plate with my family was so very special. 

The whole thing seems like a distant blur today. 

Rowand in lineup

August 11, 2007

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

Aaron Rowand left the in the first inning last night because of blurred vision.  He went to Wills Eye Hospital during the game, was treated and is fine today.

Last night’s game started with a frown but ended with a smile.

Cole Hamels displayed the composure of a 10-year veteran.  How many times have you seen an experienced pitcher give up runs in the first inning and then close the door?  Cole gave up four quick runs but didn’t allow a hit over the next six innings.

There was another left-hander in the park last night who did that so many times on his way to 329 wins, Steve Carlton.

On a night when the Phillies inducted # 18 John Vukovich into their Wall of Fame, #18 Wes Helms hit a two-run homer in the first inning.  The final score was 5-4, which is Vuk’s career record as a major league manager.

Tonight is Alumni Night.  Several Alumni will greet fans at the gates again for 30 minutes.  Then, we will introduce 36 former Phillies pre-game, lining the third base foul line.  We will also have a moment of silence for 14 Phillies Alumni who have passed on in the last year.

The annual Garry Maddox Ribfest is taking place from 4 to 7 today in Citizens Bank Way.  Several Alumni are judges.

Standing room only tickets were available today and 500 for tomorrow’s game.  The SRO sale tomorrow begins at 5 o’clock for the 8:05 ESPN national telecast. 

At 7:10 tomorrow, there is an Alumni Batting Challenge featuring teams of Bobby Dernier/Tyler Green, Ricky Jordan/Mitch Williams and Rico Brogna/Tommy Greene.  Why pitchers in a hitting contest?  We’re in the National League!

BIG Weekend

August 10, 2007

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

This weekend’s series is a huge one.  Then again, every game will be that way the rest of the way. 

Huge crowds are expected for each of the three games, somewhere in the neighborhood of 128,000 total.  Don’t forget, for those Phillies fans scattered around the country, you can see Sunday’s game because it is on ESPN TV, an 8:05 national telecast.

Before the battles begin on the field, there will be Alumni events each day.  For all the details about the weekend, just check out: http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20070801&content_id=2122630&vkey=pr_phi&fext=.jsp&c_id=phi

Tonight promises to be emotional as we honor the late John Vukovich.  His Wall of Fame plaque was mounted yesterday morning.  Three of his closest Phillies friends, Jeff Cooper, the long-time athletic trainer, Frank Coppenbarger, Director of Team Travel and broadcaster Chris Wheeler, will unveil the plaque during the ceremonies. 

Vuke was so proud of his triplet granddaugters.  They’ll be here tonight, too.  Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Chase Utley will be carrying the infants to the home plate stage.  Chase’s main concern, “She won’t wet on me, will she?”

I don’t know of any other baseball team that has such a detailed Alumni Weekend.  It is very important to the organization to maintain ties with our Alumni because they will always be part of the Phillies family.

In planning such a weekend, the first thing is to select the dates once we receive the schedule for the next season.  Once that is done, we begin notifying the Alumni in early April.  We, being myself, Debbie Nocito and Leigh Tobin.   Details for such a weekend also include Kurt Funk and Chris Long of the events staff.  It is a total team effort.

Everyone wants autographs but we just can’t get into that.  If we started, I don’t know when or how we could end.  We will have Alumni greeting fans at the gates tonight and tomorrow night, a chance for fans to rub elbows with their heroes from the past.

The idea behind tonight’s ceremony is to provide fans with a Phillies moment they will remember forever. 

The ceremonies will be live on Comcast SportsNet for those fans in the Philly area.  It can also be seen on Press Room and the mlb.tv feed on mlb.com..

Gooch

August 9, 2007

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

Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, known as “Gooch” to White Sox fans, has been a great acquisition for the Phillies.  Don’t know were we would be without him.  He has reached base (hit or walk) in all of 11 of his games since coming here.

He’s becoming a fan favorite, too.  Earlier this week, there was a fan club that called itself “Tadahito’s Burritos.”  That’s a strange combination but it works.

Last night a bunch of young ladies from Rosemont College had a sign in Japanese.  Sorry, I don’t know what it said.

Fundamentals are really drilled and drilled in Japan and Iguchi is very fundamentally sound.

Branyan on Board
Ryan Branyan was acquired earlier today to give the Phillies some pop off the bench.  He also has some versatility in that he can play third, first and the outfield.  He also has some post-season experience.

Vuk Honor
The Palm Restaurant at the Park Hyatt Hotel in center city unveiled a caricature of John Vukovich on their sports wall at noon today.  Bonnie Vukovich, Vuk’s widow, and his two brothers, Rich and Bill, were there to take part in the brief ceremonies.

Vuk joins Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, John Kruk, Mike Schmidt, Darren Daulton, Larry Christenson and Harry Kalas on the wall.  The Phillies have more representatives than the other pro teams in town.

The luncheon event was a great opening act for tomorrow night’s ceremonies in which Vuk will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

Bonds Did It

I didn’t stay up to see #756.  I did catch 755 live last week on TV.  But, last night, the heat had taken the gas out of me and I packed it in before the 11 o’clock news.  So, it was left for my wife to write me a note I’d see this morning on the kitchen table, “Barry did it!”

Yes, Barry Bonds did it.  The top three all-time home run hitters are now initialed as BAR.  There are those who think that Barry should be barred from holding the record. 

I thought Bob Ford summed it up in his Philadelphia Inquirer column this a.m., “…a player who has never tested positive for anything but surliness.”

There’s been a ton of words written about Barry and the alleged steroids use.  Controversy sells newspapers and fills airways.  Until proven differently, he’s innocent. 

Yes, he is surly.  If we faced all the media scrutiny he has, we might be surly too.

One thing no one can deny, the man can hit.  Next for him is 3,000 hits.  He’s 85 away from that historic level.  His next double will be number 600.   

From watching the replays and reading the papers today, the Giants did a great job in handling the historic moment.  Bonds’ comments were perfect.  Hank Aaron’s taped comments were awesome.  Commissioner Bud Selig, who always seems to get criticized, called Bonds after the game and Barry acknowledged appreciation.

Bonds, Aaron and Babe Ruth played during different eras.  There were fewer pitchers when Aaron and Ruth played so, in theory, they faced better quality pitching.

But, Bonds played in the era of bullpen specialists.   It seems normal that a starting pitcher goes five innings and is followed by four others who work one inning each.  In theory, Bonds faced as many pitchers in one game as Ruth did in five days. 

Ruth played in an era when there were Sunday doubleheaders, days off on Monday, more day games and a road trip on a train.  The farthest west he went was St. Louis or Chicago.

Bonds’ era includes a night game in New York, a jet ride west for a night game in San Francisco the next day. 

In the end, Bonds set a record, one of the most revered records in all sports.  Heck, records in football can’t come close to baseball records.

The massive fanfare about the record once again proves that baseball is still the national pastime and not past its time like some people say. 

People will remember last night even if they slept through the historic occasion.

Same Lineup

August 8, 2007

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

Numbers
Last night’s win was the 31st come-from-behind one for the Phillies, tops in the NL . . . Since April 21, the Phillies lead the NL in wins (55) . . . Over the last 20 games (13 wins), the Phillies’ team ERA is 3.36 . . . Jamie Moyer’s double was the 40th hit by a Phillies pitcher this season, most in the NL . . . Wes Helms’ RBI was the 35th by a Phillies pinch hitter, sharing the NL high with the Diamondbacks.

Emotional Night
I’m sure some tears will flow during Friday night’s Wall of Fame ceremonies in which John Vukovich will be inducted posthumously.

Vuk’s wife, Bonnie; daughter Nikki, her husband, Brian, and their triples, Lena, Anna and Stella; and son Vince will be on hand to receive the award.

Fellow Wall of Fames Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Greg Luzinski, Dallas Green, Garry Maddox, **** Allen, Tony Taylor and Bob Boone will be on the field for the ceremonies that begin at 7 p.m.  Game time has been pushed back to 7:35 p.m.

All fans will receive a commemorative John Vukovich print, courtesy of Toyota. 

Get there early to witness pre-game festivities and bring some paper tissues.

Tonight’s Guests
The Phillies and ARAMARK tonight are hosting the 2007 Russian National Baseball Team, a group that has been on a 19-game, 32-day tour since July 15.  The team is in Philadelphia for four days, concluding with a banquet on Friday night at the Golden Gates Restaurant. 

Included in their Philadelphia itinerary are games tomorrow against the Delaware County Baseball League All-Star Team at Widener University Stadium and Friday afternoon against the Greater Philadelphia Men’s Adult Baseball League All-Stars at LaSalle University’s Field.

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