For #5 What A Difference A Bye Makes

Wow, just two weeks after being benched and essentially being called out of shape and stupid by his head coach, Donovan McNabb received a 5 year $78 million dollar contract extension today.  $40 million of the contract is guaranteed.

McNabb will turn 34 soon and will be 39 during the final year of his contract.   Is this another case of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder spending money foolishly, or will McNabb still be a viable starting Quarterback for the next five years? Only time will tell, but the odds are in favor of this deal going down as another foolish decision by the Redskins owner.   McNabb has said over the past week or so that he spoke with both Head Coach Mike Shannahan and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan and was happy with what he was told regarding the benching two weeks ago against Detroit with 2:00 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.  Rex Grossman replaced McNabb and was sacked immediately and fumbled the ball which was recovered and returned for a Detroit touchdown to seal the Redskins 4th loss of the season.

So, McNabb enters the game against the Eagles tonight with security knowing that he will be a Redskin until at least the age of 39.  Let’s see what he does with that security.



Mariners Left Without Their Voice

I still remember the day it happened, when Harry Kalas passed away.  I was at work and received an e-mail from a friend.  I really thought it was a joke until I pulled up MLB.com and found out that indeed, Harry Kalas was gone.  The voice I had grown up listening to as a young baseball fan in the mid-1970′s calling the games of some really great Phillies teams that would eventually win it all in 1980, a team with two Hall Of Famers (should be three, but we won’t get into that now) was now just a memory. 

For Phillies fans, that wasn’t the first time it had happened.  12 years earlier Richie Ashburn, the other voice fans my age remember growing up with, had passed away in his hotel room in New York after a Mets/Phillies game at Shea.  It was at that point you knew that even with sports, people don’t last forever.

Now imagine being a fan of a team and never knowing any other voice calling those games.  That’s what Seattle Mariners fans now have to come to grips with after the death of 2008 Hall Of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus who died Wednesday evening of a heart attack at the age of 75.   Niehaus called the first pitch of Mariner baseball at the old Kingdome on April 6, 1977 against former employers , the California Angels as Diego Segui fired a strike on the first pitch.  That’s about the only thing that went right for the M’s that season as the only thing that kept their 64-98 record out of the AL West basement was the refusal of A’s owner Charlie Finley to pay his veteran Free Agents after the 1976 season what they were worth on the open market, and without them, the A’s were terrible.

Unlike our Phillies, the M’s have never really known success.  From 1977-1995 they were pretty bad, and Niehaus was there for just about every game, every loss, every homerun, but he made it exciting.  Calls like “It will fly away”, and “get out the rye bread and the mustard grandma, its grand salami time” made radio broadcasts of a dreadful team playing in a dreadful ballpark bearable.    He was there for Gaylord Perry’s 300th win in 1982, Griffey Jr’s debut in 1989, Randy Johnson’s no-hitter in 1990.  He was there when the M’s took a magical journey in 1995, much of it without Griffey who had broken his hand making yet another highlight reel catch of a Kevin Bass drive, as the M’s hunted down the California Angels and their 12 game lead in August to eventually force a one game playoff.  The M’s won the playoff and the Western Division before coming back in the ALDS against the Yankees down 2 games to none in the best of five series, culminating in Griffey’s scamper home from first base on an Edgar Martinez double down the leftfield line to win the series and go on to the ALCS, which they lost to the Cleveland Indians.  “They’re going Bonzo at the Kingdome” was what Niehaus said on that evening.   It was shortly thereafter that the approval came for Seattle to build their beautiful new ballpark, Safeco Field.

Although Kalas certainly will be identified with Phillies baseball, older generations can identify with By Saam and Bill Campbell, guys who Kalas either worked with or replace.  All generations of Mariner fans, Grandfathers, Fathers and Sons only knew Niehaus.   Sports are a nice diversion, but there are those times unfortunately when real life and sports intersect, and in this case the voice of Seattle Baseball was taken away.



Maybe There Is Justice In The World Afterall

As I watched Cliff Lee’s press conference the other day I did a double take when I heard him say that although it would’ve been fun to face his former Phillies teammates, there was some gratification in watching a team that “gets rid of you lose”.  Really, Cliff? Tell us how you really feel.   Then last night as I watched the Giants rag-tag offense put up a 6 spot on the previously unbeaten king of the post-season a smile came over my face.  Sometimes when you wish bad things on others, those bad things come back to bite you right in the ass.   Nice job, Cliff.  Using Cliff as my template, let me say that it would’ve been cool to have Cliff Lee pitching for the Phillies this year, but I like Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt better.  I know some fans don’t share my opinion, or maybe now they do after seeing the real Cliff Lee open his mouth the other day.

The other reason I feel that there is some justice this morning was watching the NBA scoreboard.  The much hyped Miami/Boston matchup on Tuesday night found the self proclaimed “King James” on the wrong end of the score against the Celtics.  While that same Heat team beat the Sixers last night, James’ former team, the Cavs, beat the Celtics 95-87.  Good for them.  I hope the Cavs go 82-0 this year if nothing else but to prove a point – -  Basketball is a team sport, and you need more than one superstar who dogs it in big games when he’s losing.  Anyone see James’ new Nike ad yet? I’m surprised that ESPN didn’t have an hour long special dedicated to that commercial.  You know, the making of it, interviews with everyone involved, and then at the 59th minute they play the ad.   It would’ve been entertaining, that’s for sure, but not as entertaining as watching the Cavs win without their former star.

Now if the Phillies had just scored another run on Saturday……………..



Phils Get Break, Bring Series Back To Philly

For two innings, the Phillies offense went quietly into the San Francisco night as Tim Lincecum appeared to be unhittable staked to a first inning 1-0 lead.  And then came the third inning.

Raul Ibanez, so deeply mired in a slump that he was benched the night before against lefty Madison Bumgarner, singled to open the frame.   After Lincecum hit Ruiz on an inside changeup, the Phillies got their first break when a bunt by Roy Halladay went over the plate and Buster Posey picked up what should’ve been called a foul ball and tossed it to third base where Pablo Sandoval tried in vain to find the bag with his foot.   Halladay, sure that the ball was foul, didn’t run on the play and he was thrown out at first.   Victorino followed with a bullet that careemed off of first baseman Aubrey Huff’s mitt and into center field for a two run, two base error and the Phils second break of the inning.  Polanco followed with a single to score Victorino and give the Phils a 3-1 lead.

With one out in the fourth, former Phillie Pat Burrell doubled to left and would score on a Ross single.   Pablo Sandoval followed with a flyball to right that Werth caught and then fired to third to nail Ross to end the inning with the Phils up 3-2.   Lincecum shut down the Phillies, retiring 10 in a row before Rollins opened the 7th with a single.   After Ibanez struck out, Rollins stole second, then stole third as Ruiz walked.  Halladay’s night was done as Ross Gload stepped up to hit.  Gload hit a smash that Huff speared and turned into a double play, saving at least a run as Gload’s shot was headed for the right field line.

The Phillies bullpen, led by Jose Contreras, was as good as gold when it needed to be.  Contreras gave up a one out single to new Phillie killer Andres Torres before getting Sanchez to line out to Polanco at third.   JC Romero was called on to get Huff,  and Utley speared a liner that appeared headed into short right field to end the threat.  Ryan Madson struck out the side in the 8th and after Jayson Werth hit a solo homer to right in the 9th to give the Phillies some breathing room at 4-2, Lidge came on and retired the side in order culminating with a Travis Ishikawa strike out to end the game and bring the series back to Philly.

The Phillies got, and took advantage of, two huge breaks in the third inning and on a night when Roy Halladay looked human the bullpen held the slimmest of leads when the Phillies, on the brink of elimination, needed it most.  Now it will by up to Roy Oswalt on Saturday to keep the Phillies season alive one more day.



2010 Phillies Show Just How Hard It Is To Repeat

The “best team” doesn’t always win, not in a one game playoff as the Eagles found out against the Cardinals in the 2008 NFC Championship Game, and not even in a best of five or best of seven series.

Look at the history of the game.   The 1960 Yankees, 1973 Reds, 1977 Phillies, 1988 Mets and A’s, the 2006 Mets.   All these teams were the better team, the favorite – and they all lost either in the World Series or their respective League Championship Series.   The ’77 Phillies in game 3 got hosed on a bad call at home (Steve Garvey still hasn’t touched the plate) and a terrible call at first base (Davey Lopes still smiles when asked if he was safe or out).  Kirk Gibson’s one lucky swing in Game 1 took the air out of the A’s balloon, and show me a Mets fan that has forgiven Yadier Molina for that decisive homer in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS after the Mets Endy Chavez made a catch for the ages to keep the game within reach.   You won’t find one.  The Phillies will wake up this morning down 3-1 to a rag tag offensive team in the Giants, an offense nothing like the powerful Phillies.  The difference, however, is that the Giants get big, heck call it what it is, huge, two out hits to score runs.  By my count before Sandoval’s double last night the Giants previous six runs had all come with two outs, some with two outs and nobody on base.   My biggest fear going into the series has been realized.   Big hitting teams like the Phillies are prone to big-time slumps.  The funny part is that its not Ryan Howard, who is hitting well over .300 but hasn’t hit a homer or driven in a run.   Not his fault – - the Victorino, Utley, Polanco combo at the top of the order is hitting under .200 combined, so Howard might as well bat leadoff.

The Phillies were prohibitive favorites going into this series.  They were hot to finish the season, maybe too hot.  You also cannot discount how tough it is to repeat, let alone do it three years in a row.  There is a reason why the 1942-1944 Cardinals are the last NL team to win three straight pennants.  The 75-76 Reds came up short as the Dodgers won the West in 1977  long before the Wild Card was invented.  The Oakland A’s followed up three World Championships in 1975 by losing in the ALCS to the Red Sox.   The Dodgers of 1977-78 fell on hard times in 1979 after winning two straight NL Pennants.  Even the Braves, for all their success never won three straight as they came up short in 1997 against the eventual World Champion Marlins after reaching the World Series in 1995 (beat the Indians) and 1996 (lost to the Yankees). 

The Phillies have overcome alot of odds these past four seasons.  Given up for dead in September 2007 they overtook the Mets to win their first of what would become 4 straight NL East titles.  They overtook the Mets again in 2008 and thanks to a mighty swing by Matt Stairs against the Dodgers turned the NLCS around on their way to a World Championship.  Even last year they were down looking at a tied series when Jimmy Rollins smoked Jonathan Broxton to right field to give the Phillies a walk off win in the NLCS after Ryan Howard rescued them against the Rockies in the NLDS.    Even this season the Phillies were looking square in the face of the Wild Card to start September before hunting down the Braves and erasing a 7 game deficit to win the division.    Perhaps their luck has just run out, or perhaps they are setting us up for another 1980-like finish when, down 2 games to 1 in a best of five, won the final two games, both in extra innings and the final one coming back against the games most dominant pitcher of the time – -Nolan Ryan.   I’m sure Bruce Bochy, the Giants manager, remembers that series.  He was the catcher Pete Rose ran through to score a decisvie run late in that series.



Welcome Back J-Roll, Now Stick Around For A While

I know, Jimmy Rollins has been in the Phillies lineup the entire post season.  That was one of the problems with the Phillies offense.  Dropped to the 6th spot (I’d have hit him 8th), J-Roll was nothing more than a shell of himself in Game 1 of the NLCS, just as he had been during the NLDS, going 1 for the Post season thus far.

Well, that ended last night in the 7th inning as after Giants Manager Bruce Bochy decided to put Jayson Werth on intentionally after Ryan Howard struck out for the 2nd out to load the bases with the Giants down 3-1.  No sooner could you say Jonathan Broxton did Rollins mash a Casilla pitch off the right field wall (I thought it was a Grand Slam when it first left the bat) and the Phillies suddenly had put away an inferior opponent, 6-1, en route to tying the NLCS as the scene shifts to the left coast and San Francisco.  Game three tomorrow afternoon will put Cole Hamels against Matt Cain.  Should be another fantastic matchup.

Asked if he had considered pinch hitting for Rollins in that spot, Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel quipped “Nope, never entered my mind”.   Although the move didn’t work that time, Bochy did what any smart manager would’ve done.  Werth had taken Lincecum deep the night before and let’s face it – - Rollins has not looked either sharp or comfortable – - take your pick – - at the plate during the post season.  Thankfully he hasn’t let his offensive struggles affect his always sharp defensive skills.   Whether he hits leadoff, sixth, eigth, etc. the Phillies need Rollins to join the offensive hit parade if they are to not only win the NL Pennant for the third consecutive year, but also to help them do what matters most – win the World Series for the 2nd time in three years. 

Here’s hoping the 7th inning last night is the kick start the Phillies needed to roll the Giants righ on out of the Playoffs.



Dazed and Confused

             Will the real Tim Lincecum please stand up.  Well he did, and stand up to Phils ace Roy Halladay.  While neither pitcher looked as dominant as their previous performances, Lincecum proved to be a little better.  Both pitchers cruised through the first inning.  Lincecum throwing 7 pitches and Halladaythrowing 8, and the second inning bothpasses through without a blemish.  Then in the bottom of the third, former Marlins OF Cody Ross, hits a shot to left center making it a one nothing score.  That would be all for the Giants in that inning.  Then in the bottom of the third, in the battle of the 8 hole hitters, Carlos Ruiz turns on a fast ball to right field and evens the score with a solo shot.  The Phils would threaten again but Howard would strike out to end the inning stranding Polanco and Utley on second and third.  In the fourth, Aubrey Huff singled to right but nothing more came of it.  In the bottom half of the inning Werth led the inning off with a walk and after Rollins struck out Ibanez hit into a fielder’s choice getting,  Werth out at second.  Then Ruiz grounded out to short.  In the bottom of the fifth it was that guy Cody Ross with his second home run of the night.  Halladay was growing more and more irritant with the umpires calls.  This is something were not used to seeing from Roy.  He is usuallyeven kilter with that scowl like he wants to rip your head off.  Not as much tonight though.  The Phils went down in order in the 5th. 

         Now here is where things get interesting, in the top of the 6th with two outs Buster Posey singled to right center.  Pat Burrell is up to bat and Halladay thinks he has Burrell rung up on a called strike three.  Again the umpire was not giving that low call to either pitcher tonight.  On the next pitch Halladay leaves one hang a little and the Babe makes him pay doubling off the wall and Posey scores from first.  Now had this ball been hit to center or right it would have been the third out.  Ibanez should have caught the ball.  He isn’t the caliber of fielder as Victorino or Werth, but he still should have made the catch.  Burrell is pulled for a pinch runner, and Juan Uribe singles to center scoring the pinch runner Schierholtz.  The next batter Fontenot flies out to center but the damage was done.  Chase Utley leads off the bottom of the 6thwith a single.  Meanwhile Ryan Howard strikes out again, looking completely over matched this time by Lincecum.  Then Jason Werth steps up to the plate and hits a shot to right.  That home run fired up a somewhat subdued Philly crowd, which is unusual for them, even in a trailing effort by the home team.  Ibanez would walk later in the inning but Jimmy and Ruiz struck out to send it to the 7th.   The Giants got a single in the top of the inning but nothing else.  The  Phils go down in order starting with Domonic Brown who pinch hit for Halladay.  4 to 3 top of the 8thwith Ryan Madson in and the Giants go down in order.  Javier Lopez enters the game for Lincecum getting Utley to ground out and Howard to strike out.  In comes Black Beard for the 4 out save.    Werth starts off witha single but then Jimmy Rollins who has been putrid this post season strikes out swinging to end the inning.  On to the top of the ninth, where Brad Lidge enters the game.  He get Uribe to strike out swinging.  Then Fontenot singles to center and steals second.  Cody Ross walks and  Travis Ishikawa is hit by a pitch to load the bases.  But Lidge get Andress Torres to strike out and Freddy Sanchez to fly out to center.  Was there enough magic left in this Phils team to head for a come from behind win in the bottom of the ninth.  Well Ibanez struck out looking, and Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch.  Ross Gload who pinch hit for Brad Lidge struck out swinging.  Charlie decided with two out Wilson Valdez should pinch run for Ruiz on first but it was all for naught because Shane Victorino struck out swinging to end the game.

        All in all it was a fun roller coaster of a game for both teams, unfortunately the Phils did not come out on top.  There is just one other gripe I have.   All week I listened to Mike Missanelli talk about how dominate Halladay would be and that Lincecum had no chance at winning this first game.  Furthermore I heard him say how Cody Ross was terrible and didnt scare him, basically saying he shouldn’t be in the major leagues.  How there was no way the Giants would score runs on the Phillies, well hopefully this isn’t a trend for the rest of the series.  While I do like it when Missanelli puts his foot in his mouth, I dont want to see the Phillies lose.  (Anyone else notice how much Mikey Miss is starting to sound like his old partner Howard Eskin).  Just saying!!!!!    To anger people even more I love Halladay but Cliff Lee never lost a post season start for the Phillies.



Halladay no-hits Reds in postseason debut

Roy Halladay was happy to get to the postseason.

The Phillies go to guy on the mound this year should receive serious consideration in the Cy Young balloting.   He didn’t hurt his cause with a masterful performance tonight, including a 2nd inning run scoring two out single.

But time to talk about his pitching folks.

Halladay was near perfect with a no hitter, only one walk, 104 pitches.

The Phillies main offensive weapons didn’t have much impact after Volquez got chased after allowing 4 runs and 4 hits in 1 and 2/3 innings to start the game.  Utley started 0-2, Howard 0-3 and Werth 0-3 with 1 RBI and no runs between them.

The Phillies offense didn’t need to do a whole lot as Halladay made his postseason debut with an exclamation point by throwing a no hitter.

The Reds hardly looked like the majors best offensive ball club.   The Phillies DID look like the team to beat.  They began their 4th straight postseason with the win.  Over the last 4 years, they have now won 5 of 7 postseason series, and lead this one 1-0.

They have improved the last 5 years, going from 85 to 89 to 92 to 92 to 97 wins, winning the NL twice and the World Series once.  Halladay became the fifth pitcher in history to record 2 no hitters in the same season, and the only one to do it with such flair, recording his second one in the opening game of the post season.  Tonight was only the second no hitter in postseason history.



PSB Phillies-Reds prediction

Everyone loves the Phillies right now and to be honest it’s quite a strange feeling.

Philadelphia is the city symbolized by Rocky, the ultimate underdog, yet this team is no underdog. Far from it. On espn.com 18 of the 27 baseball analysts picked the Phillies to not only go to the World Series, but win it. All 27 have them beating the Reds, and most by sweep. Sports Illustrated also likes the Phillies in a sweep.

Not even Obama was favored by those kinds of odds two years ago.

There’s nothing wrong with being the favorite, it is just an unusual spot for this team, and this city. And to be honest it has some fans feeling a little uncomfortable. We in the position Yankees fans have been in for the last decade: If the Phillies don’t win the World Series the season will be viewed as a disappointment. That’s the pressure that comes with having a staff of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Division title are nice, but championships are now the standard.

It’s an exciting, yet eerie position to be in.

Everyone knows the reasons why the Phillies should win this series against the Reds so I won’t waste time repeating them. As far as the Reds go, I see three great reasons to fear this team:

No. 1: The Reds are being given no chance. They are clearly in the “us against the World mentality” and certain teams thrive in that situation. A team that believes in itslef when knowone else will is a dangerous team.

No. 2: Entering the 2009 playoffs all the talk was about the Cardinals pitching. There was no way that rotation of Chris  Carpenter (17-4, 2.24) , Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63 ERA)  and Joel Pinero (15-12, 3.49 ERA) could be beat in a playoff series, let alone one that only had five games. Yet the Cardinals were swept in three games by the Dodgers.

No. 3: Jay Bruce: All of the media attention in September was placed on the red-hot hitting of Troy Tulowitski, who seemed to hit a home run every night. However Bruce was just a good dating back to August 13. As cnnsi.com points out Bruce hit .371 with 15 home runs in his final 34 games. He does have injury concerns, but he is flat out raking right now. Anyone who brings that kind of bat into the playoffs has to be considered a serious threat.

PREDICTION: With my ramblings now out of the way, it’s time lay out my pick. The Phillies are playing better baseball than any team in the playoffs and deserve their place as the favorites. Though Roy Halladay will be new to the postseason, he doesn’t strike me as a guy who will falter under ultimate pressure. I’m not sure the Phillies bats will explode right from Game 1, but I don’t think they will need to given the pitching. The Phillies are just too god right now. With that in mind I will play into my own fears:

Phillies in 3



Gameday: Phillies (94-64) at Nationals (68-90)

Philadelphia Phillies (94-64) at Washington Nationals (68-90)

NationalsJoe Blanton (8-6, 4.94 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (1-2, 2.52)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Park
Weather:
Rainy, 66
TV: CSN
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Nationals Park is where it all began this season, where the division was won, and, tonight, the Phillies will say goodbye to Washington until next spring. That is, if the rain holds off.

With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs sewn up, the Phillies can afford to take their ease a little bit, as Charlie Manuel proved last night. Last night, Adam Dunn’s walk-off homer helped the Nats to a 2-1 victory over the Phillies’ reserve squad. Tonight is no different, as the Phillies make seven changes from their Opening Day lineup. John Mayberry gets his first start of the year, and Hero of the People Wilson Valdez returns to the lineup in relief of Chase Utley.

That patchwork squad will face lefthander Ross Detwiler, a 24-year-old making his 19th career major league start. Detwiler was picked 6th overall in 2007. In recent years, the Nats have done well drafting pitchers in the high rounds, netting Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Chad Cordero, and Jordan Zimmermann in recent years. Detwiler has not been so fortunate, struggling with his control this year. At his best, he’s a finesse lefty in the Cole Hamels mold, mixing in a decent fastball with a change-up for an out pitch, but so far, despite a nearly-even K/BB ratio, Detwiler’s gotten away with it, posting a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings. Pay attention to this guy, because when the Nationals finally put it together in a couple years, Detwiler could be one of their good young arms, along with Zimmermann and Strasburg.

There’s not a whole lot else to say about tonight’s game. Hardly anything is on the line, so sit back, relax, and be glad you’re not out there in that rain.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Valdez 2B, Victorino CF, Sweeney 1B, Francisco LF, Mayberry RF, Dobbs 3B, Hoover C, Blanton P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest

Today is the 60th birthday of Milwaukee Brewers owner Ken Macha, and in his honor, we’ll give you a seasonal beer from the best of the Milwaukee brewers, Jacob Leinenkugel. Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest is not as highly-touted as, say Sam Adams, but it’s a malty beer that makes you think of football, terrible weather, and pumpkin pie. Enjoy. -Michael Baumann

GO PHILLIES!



Rotation is Set; Who’s Excited?

A week or so ago, Dave Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News mapped out the Phillies possibilities for the NLDS. Open door #1 and you’ll start the divisional series on Wednesday October 6 with two off days during a five game series. Door #2 gave you a later start, but with less off days in between. The choice was clear.

We now know that Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee, among others, have chosen to go with the early Wednesday start. It’s was really the only call because it allows the Phillies to use Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt throughout the five games without using a fourth starter. Manuel has said all along that his strength is pitching, so he’ll ride with what got him here.

Here is a look at the schedule from here until the postseason. How can that not get you excited? Three pitchers who combined to go 20-7 in 33 starts since Roy Oswalt’s acquisition in July get to pitch over and over and over again.

NLDS

Oct. 6 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 7 – Off
Oct. 8 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 9 – Off
Oct. 10 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 11 – Game 4 – Halladay (Normal Rest)
Oct. 12 – Off
Oct. 13 – Game 5 – Hamels (Normal Rest)

NLCS

Oct. 16 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 17 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 18 – Off
Oct. 19 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 20 – Game 4 – Blanton
Oct. 21 – Game 5 – Halladay
Oct. 22 – Off
Oct. 23 – Game 6 – Hamels
Oct. 24 – Game 7 – Oswalt

World Series

Oct. 27 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 28 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 29 – Off
Oct. 30 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 31 – Game 4 – Blanton
Nov. 1 – Game 5 – Halladay
Nov. 2 – Off
Nov. 3 – Game 6 – Hamels
Nov. 4 – Game 7 – Oswalt

It also appears that we’ve seen the last of the Big 3 in the regular season. Halladay last pitched on Monday in the clincher meaning he’ll get eight days to rest. You have to wonder, and this is not a push of the panic button by any means, but will that throw Halladay off kilter? He’s a creature of habit, perhaps more than any other Phillies player. Will an eight-day layoff hurt him or help him? Just playing devils advocate.

If you watched any baseball last night, you’ll know that the Cincinnati Reds are now in after their division-clinching victory. San Francisco also won to take a two-game lead in the NL West over the Padres. In the race for second place, the Giants are a half game up on wild-card leader Atlanta. Cincinnati is a game back.

So, if the playoffs ended right now, the Reds would be the Phillies first round opponent. During the regular season, the Phils went 5-2 over Cincy, including a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park in July.

Cincinnati or San Francisco? Who would you rather see? The Reds have a potent offense with a middle-of-the-road rotation. The Giants have great arms at the top – one of the only teams that can rival the Phillies – but lack offense.

UPDATE, 9:25 am: A comment from a Phillies Nation fan on twitter sparked this. If Hamels were to pitch Game 2 of the NLCS, he would be doing so on short rest. If Oswalt were to stay in the Game 3 NLCS slot, He’d be pitching on eight days rest. The solution: flip Hamels to a possible Game 3 start in the NLCS and Oswalt to Game 2. However, that point would be moot should the Phillies wrap up the opening series in less than five games. This layout is simply to say that each pitcher could get a maximum number of starts throughout the postseason.



Phils Lose to Nats on Hangover Day

There was a game played today? How dare they. After the champagne was cleaned up (although Matt Gelb of the Inquirer said there was a candle lit in the clubhouse and it still smelled of bubbly and stogies) the Phillies and Nationals got together for game two of a now-meaningless series. The Nats won 2-1 tonight on an Adam Dunn walkoff blast in the ninth, causing a celebration of sorts for the cellar dwelling neighbors to the south.

Roy Oswalt got the start and didn’t last very long before Charlie Manuel pulled the plug on his outing. He was stopped at just 66 pitches in an effort to keep him fresh for either Game 1 or Game 2 of the National League Division Series which begins next Wednesday. The over/under set by myself was at 70, so whoever had the under won nothing. For the playoffs, Slot #1 is reserved for Mr. Halladay, but beyond that, the order is not known.

Anywho, Oswalt was nice again tonight, throwing five innings and allowing no earned runs. Washington scored in the first inning after a Jimmy Rollins error on an attempted run-down play. Rollins threw the ball past Greg Dobbs as they tried to get Nyjer Morgan between second and third. Morgan would score a batter later on a ground out by Dunn.

Dunn would strike early and then again late with his 38th home run off Jose Contreras, an absolute missile well into the second deck.

Now on to more important things, such as the health of their shortstop Jimmy Rollins. J-Roll made his return to the starting lineup for the first time since September 8, going 1-for-3 with a few weak ground outs to first base. He said later that he probably wouldn’t be healthy until February, noting that legging out infield singles will have to wait until then. But as long as Rollins can maneuver in the field and give the Phils some clutchness in the postseason, it’s all you can ask for.

Few other notes: Dom Brown stole two bases tonight, flashing some speed that we hope to see next year. Placido Polanco got the night off and likely will have every night off until next Wednesday. He’s expected to have another cortisone shot in his bad elbow, which should help him get through October. Greg Dobbs went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts – he did not make a case for a spot on the postseason roster with another ugly performance. If it comes down to Brown and Dobbs, who do you take?



Gameday: Phillies (94-63) at Nationals (67-90)

Philadelphia Phillies (94-63) at Washington Nationals (67-90)

NationalsRoy Oswalt (13-13, 2.80 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (2-9, 7.18)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Weather:
Cloudy, 68
TV: CSN
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They call it “The Hangover.” Not the movie, the lineup. No Zach Galifinakis making funnies, but a lineup short the normal starters. Utley and Howard are still in there, with nothing really to play for. It’s obvious Charlie Manuel wants to keep his guys fresh.

Plaicdo Polanco is out, and you may not see him for the rest of the season as he’ll rest that bum elbow. So the good news is he’ll get more than a week to heal. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and Jayson Werth are the other regulars to get a blow tonight.

It’s also official: The Phillies will begin their playoff schedule on Wednesday, October 6 at Citizens Bank Park. Going with that start date (the Phils had the choice between Wednesday the 6th or Thursday the 7th), they’ll be assured normal rest for Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt until Game 4 of the NLCS (not getting too far ahead of ourselves). That means Joe Blanton is your long man in the pen and we’ll get to see plenty of the Big 3. Nothing wrong with that.

Tonight is a fine opportunity to take a look at the bench the Phillies will have in the postseason. Greg Dobbs, Dom Brown, Brian Schneider, and Ben Francisco will all get some hacks as they get prepared for the playoff run. More importantly, Jimmy Rollins is back in the order. He’ll get some at bats before the regular season ends. He hasn’t started a game since September 8.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Ibanez LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Francisco CF, Brown RF, Dobbs 3B, Schneider C, Oswalt P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Rouge Dead Guy Ale
It was named one of the five best beers in America by Food and Wine Magazine. This is a darker, more intense style of ale (technically, it’s a German style called a Maibock). It’s a bit higher in alcohol — 6.5 percent — with a toasty, malty character and real texture to it. This is my go-to for big, spicy foods: sausages on the grill, barbecued ribs, that kind of thing. -Pat Gallen

GO PHILLIES!



Videos from Last Night’s NL East Clincher

The Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East crown in Washington, DC before a crowd of die-hard Phillies fans.



Division: Clinched. Business: Unfinished.

Carlos Ruiz after the Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East titleI’ve always been awed by the ability of major league ballplayers to keep things in perspective. Consider Roy Halladay. Halladay signed what was then the richest contract in Phillies history in terms of annual salary, replaced a fan favorite, and, like Atlas, lifted the hopes and expectations of a city of 1.6 million on his shoulders. Tonight was his 33rd appearance of the year, and he was perhaps as stunning this evening as at any other point in his six months in red pinstripes (his perfect game in May notwithstanding). 97 pitches, 65 strikes, no walks, two hits, six strikeouts, no runs allowed. Methodical is the word that comes to mind.

Pitch no. 97 was a fading 84-mph split-fingered what-the-hell-was-that?-ball low and on the outside corner to a befuddled 23-year-old Nationals infielder named Danny Espinosa. I was sitting in Mac’s Tavern on Second and Market when that ball hit Carlos Ruiz’s glove. Mac’s is not really a sports bar, and it was only half full, but its patrons celebrated pitch no. 97 with appropriate pomp and circumstance: the Rocky theme was played, strangers were hugged, fists pumped, and high-fives exchanged. This fourth straight division title is an unprecedented occurrence for this team, so we were pretty jazzed. Imagine how Roy Halladay, a veteran of 13 major league seasons with nary a playoff appearance, must have reacted!

Methodically. Halladay, veteran of 13 major league seasons, none of them ending in playoff runs, pumped his fist, walked off the mound, and gave his catcher a peremptory hug. The eight position players on the field, seven of whom has played in a World Series in the past five years, were similarly nonplussed. Jayson Werth, whose two extra base hits and four RBIs paced a Phillies attack that methodically hung eight runs on five Washington pitchers, jogged in from right field to join the party. The ordinarily effervescent Shane Victorino couldn’t be bothered even to do that–he walked.

The fracas on the mound (if you could call it that) seemed staged, a display no one really wanted to bother with and only put on for the benefit of the TV cameras. The Phillies looked, for lack of a better word, bored with the division title. They expect to have another shot at this pitching-mound-orgy-and-champagne-shower business in a couple weeks. Considering recent events, that might be a reasonable expectation.

Here are some photos from tonight’s game courtesy of Brian: