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Apr
15
2010
Posted by at 9:25 am ET 32 Comments

Think back to April of 2008 for a moment. The Phillies dropped two of three to the Washington Nationals in an awfully poor display of pitching and offense. Their new closer was on the disabled list, their former closer was starting (rather unsuccessfully, I might add), and they were about to embark on a typical April in Philadelphia, where expectations far exceed the the results.

To make things worse, Jimmy Rollins, the reigning MVP, team leader and mouth piece for all of Philadelphia, landed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after he awkwardly slid into second base on an attempted pickoff play in a game against the New York Mets.

Rollins would try to play through the injury, and ended up on the disabled list over a week later. All told, he went on to miss about a month’s worth of games.

Flash forward to today, and he finds himself in a similar situation: An injury to his calf that requires a trip to the disabled list; one that could possibly take up to a month to completely heal.

To debate about which injury is worse would be inane and an act of futility. Point is, this type of injury significantly impedes Jimmy’s game: beating out infield singles, first-to-third on a bleeder, scoring from second on a bloop to right, and perhaps most importantly, the range on the field that is the backbone of one of the best defensive units in the National League.

So the health of Jimmy Rollins, even if it means missing a month, is tantamount to the success of this team in the long run.

Which brings me to my point: The Phillies are not going to miss Jimmy. Well, not too much.

And here’s why.

In 2008, the Phillies went 16-12 from the time that Jimmy hurt his ankle on April 8th to the time he came back on May 9th.

Over that span, the Phillies went 16-12.

They averaged 4.8 runs per game, just a hair less than the 4.9 runs per game when Rollins wasn’t on the DL.

They did that with a pitching staff that consisted of Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick.

They did that with Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi receiving significant playing time.

In other words, the Phillies did a lot with a little. They battled and clawed their way to a winning record in the 28 games without the services of Young James, with a team that is considerably weaker than the current roster.

And as good as Rollins has been to start the season, his absence on the offensive side of things is going to be less traumatic than that of what he brings to the defense. With the way the that the 2-6 hitters are going, losing Rollins for an extended period of time shouldn’t impact things too much. We’ve seen what the team can do without him, and there is no reason to think that it won’t continue, at least for a little while.

It also gives Shane Victorino a chance to get himself back on track, as the seventh spot in the lineup is less conducive to hitting success than the lead off spot. At the top of the lineup, he is going to get better pitches to hit with the likes of Placido Polanco and Chase Utley hitting behind him. In his first action as the lead off hitter last night, he went 4-for-5 with a triple, a homer, and five RBIs. Say what you want about the strength of the Nationals pitching staff, but it could be just what Shane needs to get going.

That isn’t to say that the team isn’t going to miss Rollins over the next month. It’s more about managing in his absence and how they can react to the adversity of being behind the eight-ball. But thanks be to a 7-1 start, the best since the 1993 squad accomplished the same, this team has built up some competitive equity, such that they can almost afford to lose a player for a limited amount of time.

And we’ve all heard the adage of “as jimmy goes, so do the phillies.” That statement basically won him the MVP.

But for now, the Phillies are going to go. With or without him.

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Apr
14
2010
Posted by at 11:45 pm ET 34 Comments

When writing these recaps, I like to get an early idea as to what my focus will be, and then go from there. In the first inning of tonight’s game, the focus was on Kyle Kendrick’s inability to escape the first inning without putting the Phillies in an early hole and how the kid is afraid to attack hitters like he did during the spring.

Three outs later, it was about the Phillies offense, now devoid of Jimmy Rollins for a month and Jayson Werth for a night, and its ability to score at will against opposing pitchers.

Then the second inning happened, and I went back to Kendrick’s struggles, and then back to the offensive prowess of the Phils.

So then I decided to write about both Kyle Kendrick AND the offense, and why not? It’s not like the internet has a word count or anything.

First, the bad: Kyle Kendrick.

Making his second start of the season, he did very little to convince anyone that his first rough start was merely an aberration, as he allowed six earned runs in an inning and two thirds. He allowed six hits, walked three, and struck out one.

Early on, and I mean very early, things were looking up for Kyle. Despite hitting Nyjer Morgan to lead off the game, he induced a tidy double play ball off the bat of Willie Harris, and found himself one out away from a scoreless first inning. Cristian Guzman then hit a chopper to Juan Castro, who was a tad lackadaisical in fielding it, and failed to throw out the hustling Guzman at first.

Then, it all went down hill.

Kendrick walked Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to load the bases, which were promptly unloaded courtesy a double from Adam Kennedy. He escaped without any further damage, but allowed three more runs to cross in the second, before getting pulled with two outs for Nelson Figueroa.

In 5.2 innings this season, he’s allowed 10 earned runs on 12 hits. That about sums it up. Whatever he was doing in March that caused him to be the best pitcher of the spring, he sure isn’t doing it now. He is trying to avoid the strike zone, as opposed to pitching to contact, which is his strength. When he tries to be too fine, he walks too many hitters, and then he is forced to throw strikes, which are usually pounded because he has zero room for error.

Either way, there is still a serviceable pitcher hiding behind that beard. Kendrick has two or three more turns in the rotation to prove that before Blanton returns and a decision has to be made about his role with the Phillies in 2010.

Now, the good: The offense.

My, oh my, the offense.

They say there are two guaranteed things in life: Death, and taxes. But after eight games of the 2010 season, you can add one more to that list, that is “the Phillies are going to score a lot of runs.”

Despite the absence of their leadoff and five-hole hitter, the Phillies roared back in the bottom of the first to even the score without recording an out behind the strength of a two-run single from Ryan Howard and an RBI double from Greg Dobbs. Howard would later score on a sacrifice fly from Raul Ibanez, giving the Phillies a temporary lead.

When they came to bat in the second inning, they found themselves trailing by two runs, and once again, the offense went to work, with the big blow coming on a three-run homer from Chase Utley to give them the 7-6 lead.

After that, it wasn’t a matter of if, but of how many.

They added two more runs in the fifth on the back of a two-run shot from Shane Victorino, another in the sixth on Utley’s second homer of the game, and four more in the seventh on a bases-clearing triple from Victorino, followed by a sacrifice fly from Placido Polanco.

When it was all over, the Phillies won it by a score of 14-7.

Not to be outdone was the Phillies bullpen, who once again pitched masterfully in long relief. Nelson Figueroa (W, 1-1), Chad Durbin, Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon combined for 7.1 innings of relief, allowing only one run on four hits, while striking out four.

There isn’t much more to say about this team right now than “Wow.” That’s it.

You can run the “But it’s the Nationals and Astros” reasoning into the ground, but there is still something to be said about an offense that can score like this, even while missing the bat of Jimmy Rollins.

The big star of the night was Shane Victorino, who was making his first appearance in the lead off spot. He went 4-for-5 with a triple, a homer, and five RBIs.

Placido Polanco went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs.

Chase Utley went 2 for 4 with two homers (4) and four RBIs.

Ryan Howard went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Craig Stammen pitched 1.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and one walk.

Jason Bergmann (L, 0-1) allowed two runs on one hit in an inning of work.

Nyjer Morgan went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a stolen base (3).

Cristian Guzman went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Adam Kennedy went 1 for 3 with a double (2) and three RBIs.

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Apr
14
2010
Posted by at 2:41 pm ET 33 Comments

According to David Murphy

Jimmy Rollins has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Phillies announced today. Infielder Wilson Valdez had his contract selected from Triple A Lehigh Valley. Rollins’ DL stint is retroactive to April 13.

An MRI exam yesterday revealed that Rollins has a Grade 1/Grade 2 strain of the right calf.

It’s one of the worst things that can happen to a team that is rolling offensively, and is particularly heinous news for Rollins, who is off to one of the best starts of his career. The 31-year-old shortstop is hitting .391 with one homer and three RBIs int he first week. He’s also scored eight runs and walked eight times, which is worth mentioning due to his lack of patience at the plate over his career.

Juan Castro, who started Sunday’s game, is slated to get most of the starts at shortstop.

Check back later tonight for more…

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Apr
14
2010
Posted by at 9:10 am ET 47 Comments

So you probably noticed the lack of a recap over the past 36 or so hours. Reason being is because I was at the home opener on Monday, and upon the conclusion of said baseball contest, I had a two hour drive ahead of me, and combined with the traffic that one encounters when leaving the Sports Complex, it does not a good situation make. Long story short: Dash arrived home at 10 PM and had work the next morning. Such as it is, the recap took a backseat.

Anyhow, for those of you who crave one, here is the abridged version: Cole Hamels pitched better than his line indicates to earn his second win of the season, with the bad break of the day coming in the fourth inning, when Nationals pitcher Jason Marquis lifted one over the head of Placido Polanco for a two-RBI double. Luckily for Cole, the offense came through and bailed him out.

Speaking of the offense, the boys put together a five run rally in the bottom half of the fifth, with the biggest blows coming on the go-ahead, two-run single from Polanco, followed by a just-fair homer from Chase Utley to give the Phils a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

And that round of scoring was started by none other than Juan Castro, the last-minute replacement for Jimmy Rollins, who left the game due to a strained calf. Rollins is likely headed for the DL, but we’ll know more later today. That’s too bad, because not only is Rollins a leader, but he was off to a blistering start this season. It will be interesting to see how the Phillies play this, and how his performance will be affected.

While Castro got the fifth inning rally started, he also booted an easy out in the top of the sixth, costing Cole a chance to finish with six innings under his belt. As it happened, Chad Durbin came in to close out the inning, followed by three shutout innings from the bullpen, who have been pretty darn good this season, adding more intrigue to the question of who goes and who stays when Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge return. If you ask me, Bastardo, Kendrick, and Figueroa get the heave-ho. Bastardo has been solid, but there isn’t much room in the bullpen for him and David Herndon, who has been as good as anyone in the later innings and can’t be optioned to the minors lest he gets taken back by the Los Angeles Angels of California, USA. As far as Kendrick is concerned, he likely has three more starts to prove his mettle.

So that’s pretty much it. The Phils won, 7-4, to move to 6-1 on the season. It probably helps that they’ve played only the Nats and Astros, but hey, wins are wins, right?

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Apr
13
2010
Posted by at 6:57 pm ET 62 Comments

Rest in peace, Harry. You are missed.

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Apr
11
2010
Posted by at 4:59 pm ET 60 Comments

Roy Halladay needed all of 111 pitches to record 27 outs today, earning his second win in as many starts this season, while racking up the 50th complete game of his career.

Halladay went the distance, allowing one unearned run to cross the plate on nine hits, while not walking a batter and striking out nine to push the Phillies to 5-1 on the season and keeping the Houston Astros out of the win column.

It was the 150th win career victory for Halladay, who needed very little run support from the Phillies, who were yet again looking like they were primed for another big offensive outburst. Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homer, his first of the season. The Phillies added another run in the second, when Raul Ibanez, who led off the inning with a double, scored on an RBI groundout from Carlos Ruiz.

The Phillies, who yesterday matched a franchise record of double-digit hits in five straight games to open the season, had four hits through the first two innings against Astros starter Roy Oswalt, who took the loss. They would manage to get only five baserunners over the next seven innings, while never threatening to break things open.

But when Roy Halladay is on the mound, that doesn’t really matter. Despite having thrown a lot of pitches in the first two innings, Halladay settled in and didn’t run into trouble until the sixth inning, when the Astros loaded the bases with no outs. Halladay escaped the jam by inducing a run scoring double play, followed by a pop out from Carlos Lee.

The Astros threatened again in the eighth, this time trailing only by a run, when Geoff Blum and Pedro Feliz led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Kaz Matsui then sacrificed both runners over to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Catcher J.R. Towles then grounded out without scoring a run, and pinch hitter Jason Michaels struck out to end the last Astros threat of the afternoon, as Halladay would retire the next six batters in order to finish off the game, and the sweep.

Tomorrow, the Phils head home for the first action of the season at Citizens Bank Park, with Cole Hamels (1-0, 3.6) taking on Jason Marquis (0-1, 13.50).

Roy Halladay (W, 1-0) pitched the complete game, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and no walks. He struck out nine.

Jimmy Rollins went 2 for 4 with a leadoff homer (1) and an RBI.

Raul Ibanez went 1 for 4 with a double (3) and a run.

Carlos Ruiz went 0 for 3 with an RBI.

Roy Oswalt (L, 0-2) allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out eight.

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Apr
11
2010
Posted by at 3:24 pm ET 7 Comments

For Jamie Moyer, it was a tale of two pitchers.

One let a four-run lead escape in the third inning by allowing five runs to cross the plate on seven hits, all with two outs. The other retired the first eight batters he faced, and with the exception of the third inning, allowed two two hits, no runs, and no walks.

Fortunately for Moyer and the Phillies, the offense came through yet again, coming from behind and putting up nine runs en route to their fourth win of the season on the strength of three RBI days from Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino.

The Phils began the scoring in the second with a sacrifice fly from Werth, and then added three more in the third, when Astros starter Felipe Paulino walked Ryan Howard to force in a run, before serving up a two-out, two run double to Werth.

The Astros rallied in the bottom half of the third, when eight straight hitters reach with two outs in the inning. Paulino helped out his own cause by doubling to right, foolowed by a homer from Jason Micheals. Jeff Keppinger walked, and was brought home on a homer from Hunter Pence. After three straight singles loaded the bases, shortstop Tyler Manzella hit a hard grounder off third baseman Placido Polanco to bring home another run, giving the Astros a 5-4 lead.

It would be the first lead the Astros have held this season, and it lasted all of three innings.

The Phils regained the lead in the top of the seventh, when Chase Utley worked a two-out walk, and was followed by a mammoth two-run homer from Ryan Howard to make it a 6-5 Phillies lead. Shane Victorino followed three batters later with an RBI single, and in the ninth inning, added a two-run shot of his own to finish the Phillies scoring at nine.

Chad Durbin and Danys Baez both tossed an inning of hitless relief, with each striking out one, whole Ryan Madson allowed one run on two hits in the ninth to nail down the win.

Once again, the focus is back on the starting pitching. While Moyer pitched well in spring training, it matters very little when the red light is on during the regular season. For most of his start, Moyer pitched well. He set down the first eight Astros in order, but ran into two-out trouble in the third inning. It’s hard to judge, considering the bipolarity of the third inning compared to the rest of his start.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, as the Phils are 4-1 and are showing no signs of slowing down early in the season. But it’s worth asking: Which Moyer is the real Moyer?

Jamie Moyer (W, 1-0) allowed five runs over six innings on nine hits and one walk.

Placido Polanco went 2 for 5 with two runs.

Ryan Howard went 2 for 4 with a triple (1) a homer (3) and three RBIs.

Jayson Werth went 3 for 4 with a double (4) and three RBIs.

Shane Victorino went 2 for 5 with a homer (1) and three RBIs.

Felipe Paulino (ND) allowed four runs on four hits in five innings. He walked and struck out four.

Brandon Lyon (L, 0-1) allowed three runs in one inning.

Jason Michaels went 2 for 5 with a homer (1) and three RBIs.

Hunter Pence went 1 for 5 with a homer (1) and two RBIs.

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Apr
09
2010
Posted by at 11:57 pm ET 37 Comments

One night after getting dealt their first loss of the season, mostly due to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position, the Phillies’ offense hit on all cylinders to pummel the Houston Astros in the first game of the series, 8-0, to move to 3-1 on the season.

They did so on the strength of a three run first inning, as Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez both contributed with RBI doubles to give the Phils the early lead. They would leave the bases loaded in both the second and third innings, before striking again in the fourth, when Chase Utley hit his first homer of the season, followed three batters later by Ibanez’s second RBI double of the game.

The Phils added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI double from Placido Polanco and followed by an RBI single from Utley. Polanco would knock in another run in the seventh to finish the scoring for the Phillies.

The best part of the offense for the Phillies was Raul Ibanez, who after an 1 for 11 start, went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs. It was an encouraging sign for the left-fielder, whose struggles have been magnified so greatly over the first series of the season. His lone out of the game, a double play ball to shortstop, was even hit hard.

J.A. Happ made the most of his first start of the new campaign and didn’t allow a run in five plus innings of work. He ran into trouble in the third inning, when the Astros put the first two batters on base with the middle of the order looming. Happ, like he did so often in 2009, didn’t allow the big hit, and escaped the inning without incident.

He allowed one hit in both the fourth and fifth innings, and with a pitch count approaching 100, was on a short leash in the bottom half of the sixth. An error by Placido Polanco followed by a walk, and Happ’s day was done.

For the second straight night, the Phillies’ bullpen was solid. David Herndon came on in the sixth inning and induced a double play on the first batter he faced, and didn’t allow a run over his two innings. Danys Baez and Jose Contreras both pitched hitless frames to round out the night for the Phillie arms.

In game two of the series, Jamie Moyer and Felipe Paulino will face off.

J.A. Happ (1-0) didn’t allow a run in five-plus innings. He allowed six hits and walked two, while striking out five.

Jimmy Rollins went 2 for 4 with a double (3) and two runs and two walks.

Placido Polanco went 4 for 5 with a double (3) and two RBIs.

Chase Utley went 2 for 4 with a homer (1) and two RBIs.

Ryan Howard went 2 for 5 with two doubles (3) and an RBI.

Raul Ibanez went 3 for 4 with two doubles (2) and three RBIs.

David Herndon pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out two.

Bud Norris (L, 0-1) allowed three earned runs on six hits in 2.2 innings. He walked four and struck out three.

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Apr
09
2010
Posted by at 12:08 pm ET 20 Comments

Last year, the boys over at Walkoff Walk orchestrated the single most exciting gathering of some of the Internet’s greatest bloggers in an extravaganza that went on to be known as the Citizens Bank Heist. This meeting of the minds, which consisted of bloggers, fans, and gadabouts took place on July 11th of aught-nine, when the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town to face off against our beloved Philadelphia Phillies.

Along for the ride was Rob and Kris of WOW, Enrico and Matt of The 700 Level, Meech, Tug Haines and myself of your hometown Fightins Dot Com, and various other luminaries that you’ve must assuredly seen creeping around Twitter or the comment section of your favorite blogs.

While we saw neither hide nor hair of Dinesh or Rinku, we did get an eyeful of Pirates hurler Ross Ohlendorf, whose name is more befitting of an impish comedian than Major League pitcher. Squaring off against the Buck-ohs was Cole Hamels, who was smack-dab in the middle of a season that we’d all like to forget.

After retiring the first two Pirates with relative ease, Cole was stung by the long ball, as was his wont last season, giving up two homers in a third run first inning, followed by a two-run tater (Walkoff Walk’d) by future N.L. Rookie of the Year Andrew McCutchen in the second. And while young Colbert would settle down, the Phillies found themselves in a not-unfamiliar place when Hamels was pitching: Trailing.

The Phils pulled within two with a three-run outburst in the fifth, but the ‘pen gave two of ‘em back in the top of the sixth, leaving the Phils in a four-run hole with nine outs to go. After an uneventful seventh and eighth inning, the Phils had themselves a rally like only the Phils can.

See the non-shrimpy ending (Much to the chagrin of Kris and Rob) after the jump…

Read more »

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Apr
08
2010
Posted by at 9:59 pm ET 51 Comments

It took three games, a four inning outing by the starting pitcher, and 1-14 with runners in scoring position, but the Philadelphia Phillies (2-1) finally lost. Barely.

After using solid starting pitching and timely hitting to pummel the Washington Nationals (1-2) in the first two games of the series, the Phils fell prey to the lethal combination of a bad outing from starter Kyle Kendrick and 11 men left on base, dropping the third game of the season by a score of 6-5.

Kendrick, making his first start of the season, allowed five runs over four inning on six hits, while striking out two and walking none. The Nationals jumped on him early, as Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a triple, followed by an RBI single from Cristian Guzman and an RBI double from Ryan Zimmerman. All told, the Nats scored three runs in the first inning to take the early lead.

He worked effectively through the second and third innings, setting down six in a row on four ground outs and two strikeouts, but three hits in the fourth inning, including a two-run homer from Willie Harris, ended his day.

The Phillies were relegated to playing catchup from the get-go, but managed to keep things close the entire game on RBI groundouts and singles. They tied the game in the sixth inning without managing to get a hit, as back-to-back walks and a HBP loaded the bases with one out for Jimmy Rollins, who hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at five.

Newest Phillie Nelson Figueroa worked a scoreless sixth inning before allowing a two-out, RBI double from Ryan Zimmerman to give the Nationals a one run lead heading into the eighth. Despite putting two runners in scoring position in their half of the frame, they came away empty handed and headed to the ninth inning.

Chase Utley led off the top of the ninth with a double and then advanced to third on a sacrifice fly from Jayson Werth with one out. Raul Ibanez hit a shallow fly to left, followed by an infield popup from Shane Victorino to end the Phillies threat, and the game.

In all, it was an ugly day from the Phillies in nearly every conceivable fashion. Despite settling down in the second and third, Kyle Kendrick failed to keep the Phillies in the game and only lasted through the fourth. It’s too early to judge, as he proved his worth in the second and third innings by recording four groundouts, but he was hit very hard in the first and fourth inning.

And the offense, despite scoring five runs, which would have been enough for victories in the first two games, came up short when it mattered. They were 1-14 with runners in scoring position, and the 6-7-8 hitters were 0-11 on the day. It’s a frustrating statistic for an offense that is this dynamic, but one or two hits from the tail end of the lineup would’ve gone a long way in putting the Phils at 3-0 on the season.

The most pressing concern for the offense is the slow start of Raul Ibanez, who is 1-for-11 on the season. Granted, it’s a young season, but struggles from the six-hole hitter have to be corrected sooner rather than later.

The silver lining from this game was the bullpen, who allowed one run in five innings, despite taking the loss. Nelson Figeueroa pitched well over two innings, and Antonio Bastardo was very sharp in his appearance against two lefties, and David Herndon induced two ground balls in his one-third of an inning pitched.

The Phillies will shake off the dust from this loss, pick themselves up by the bootstraps, and head over to Houston for a three game set with the Astros. In game one, Jay Happ faces off against Bud Norris.

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R.I.P Harry Kalas