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
Rainy, 66
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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


Phillies Fail to Clinch at Home, Lose to Mets, 7-3

—Citizens Bank Park

It’s not the way they wanted things to end at home, but the Phillies did get some help in the standings. Even though the Phils lost to the Mets 7-3 in the series finale, the Atlanta Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 4-2.

With a six game lead with six to play, any win by the Phillies, or any loss by the Braves, means the Phillies will clinch the National League East.

On the mound, Cole Hamels was working with very little from the early stages of the game. He allowed a second inning home run to David Wright, which put the Mets on top 1-0. Hamels was visibly frustrated with the strike zone of home plate umpire Mike Winters all afternoon, and for good reason. Winters was not consistent, but let’s not place all of the blame on the umpire. Hamels wasn’t sharp and he made several mistakes, including another long one to Carlos Beltran in the fifth inning.

Hamels would last only four innings – plus one batter in the fifth, which was Beltran – allowing five runs on nine hits to go with three walks and two strikeouts. The five earned runs allowed were the most for Hamels since —. His two K’s on the day were a season low for a game that was not rain shortened.

“It was just one of those days where I couldn’t locate and I wasn’t being consistent,” said Hamels after his second-shortest outing of the season. “I just threw…too many pitches out of the zone, then when I was throwing strikes I left them up.”

Sound like you can chalk it up to a great pitcher just having a bad day. Unfortunately, it came in a spot where a win would have sent the Phillies off on the road with another NL East crown. That will have to wait until at least Monday.

Chase Utley accounted for all of the Phillies offense with one swing of the stick in the fifth inning. He lined one into the first row in right field for a three-run home run, his 16th of the season. Other than his contribution, little was provided elsewhere. The Phillies did manage nine hits on the afternoon, however, they again struggled with runners in scoring position going 1-for-13.

“You can’t hit every day, that’s life,” quipped Charlie Manuel following his teams first series loss since the Houston Astros swept them in late August.

Jimmy Rollins made his return to the lineup a quick and rather uninspiring one. Rollins pinch hit for Wilson Valdez in the eighth inning, his first at bat since September 8. He swung at the first pitch and rolled it over to second base. Not exactly how he wanted to come back, but at least he’s been deemed healthy enough to play from here on out.

The home schedule didn’t end on a high note, but there were reasons to celebrate the season on Fan Appreciation Day. Over 3.6 million fans pushed through the turnstiles, an average attendance of 45,028 per game, both franchise records.

They’ll now head to the Nation’s Capital for a three game set with the Nats, who did their part to aid the Phillies this weekend. Rain is forecasted for both Monday and Tuesday, which sets up an interesting situation should any game be rained out.

Another extra inning affair.

What next for the Phillies ? 

Much has been made of Ryan Howard’s performance since his return from the disabled list, and now sources are saying there may still be something wrong with the big man preventing him from playing at 100%.

Last night, the first 6 innings were relatively uneventful as the teams played to a 1-1 draw.  The Phillies looked lifeless after being swept by the Astros in a 4 game series that included losses to former Phillies pitchers J A Happ and Brett Myers as well as a 16 inning heartbreaker that saw some offensive players go 0-7.   Happ, two years ago the team’s ace of the future, outlasted Halladay in the third game to really rub it in.  Of course, for the Astros, this series against last years NL champion and 2008 World Series champion was their post season.  At 12 games below 500 and 16 games out with less than a month to go, the Astros are not playoff bound. 

The Phillies probably are, which makes the 4 game sweep so confusing and upsetting.  They have more to play for but seem to be manuevering into position to win the wild card, instead of pushing the Braves to take the National League East for the third year in a row.  At least we aren’t trailing the Mets, that would be TOO much to bear !

Rollins had a good night, going 3-5 with a double, a walk and a run scored.

Ryan Howard did provide a single in the 7th, sandwiched by walks to Utley and Werth, that may have been the catalyst behind the Phillies go ahead score.   If Howard’s single was the catalyst, Raaauuul Ibanez came through with the clutch hit, a one out single to right that scored the run.  Gregerson came in in relief and got Victorino into a double play fielders choice then struck out Ruiz to end the threat.

Oswalt pitched a masterful game, with 6 strikeouts versus five hits allowed through the first 8 innings.  He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the ninth as the Phillies looked to build on that scant one run lead.  The Phillies however went down one, two, three, and Lidge came in for the bottom of the ninth with a one run lead.

He pitched a typically ugly half inning, with a single, sacrifice, groundout, intentional walk, hit batsman, than the piece de resistance, the balk to push the tying score across the plate.

Oswalt can’t win a game, no matter how well he pitches !

Maybe Charlie will consider letting him keep pitching next start if he has the same stuff.

Rollins doubled to lead off the 12th inning. Polanco singled to center to score Jimmy and put the Phillies up  3-2.  The Phillies FINALLY took advantage of an Atlanta loss and picked up a game on the NL East lead.

Houston we have a problem

For months Phillies fans trotted a sentence that went something like this: “If we can just stay in the race while our stars are out, this team will catch fire once its healthy.”

The team played well above expectations during injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz … and so on.

Now that the gangs finally all here, things were supposed to really take off. Instead, the team has gone into another funk. The Phillies lost to the Astros 3-2 last night, marking the third straight game it has dropped to the lowly Astros. Making matter worse is that two of those losses have come in games started by Brett Myers and J.A. Happ, two former Phillies.

While fans have been stunned by the way the team has played recently, they really should not be. When players are away from the game as long as Utley and Howard were, they rarely come back tearing the cover off the ball. It takes time to get back into a rhythm and unfortunately time in in short supply when you get to mid August. Utley’s swing isn’t quite back yet, while Howard is in a 2-19 funk since returning. That combination could have the Phillies reeling right now but thankfully for them the Braves have joined them in struggling this past week. Atlanta did the Phillies a huge favor yesterday, blowing a 10-1 lead in a loss to the Rockies. Meanwhile the Phillies remain in a tie with the Giants for the Wild Card lead.

I don’t expect the Phillies recent slump to last too much longer. Howard and Utley will get their timing back and the rest of the lineup will benefit from that. This team is still in great position to make another postseason run and has the arms to go up against anyone once they get into serious October baseball. The key will be riding out this storm.

It would also help if they won today. Getting swept by the Astros in a four-game series just isn’t palatable.

Trade more than just a rumour now.

It is looking more and more like the Phillies will acquire a new pitcher.

With Victorino, Rollins and Utley on the DL, and Moyer apparently done forever, the Phillies are trying to shore up a roster that looked a lot deeper and stronger at the beginning of the year then it does now.

Roy Oswalt may be the missing piece.   Oswalt has not yet waived his no trade clause but appears very unhappy with his standing as the staff ace for the Houston Astros, who, at  42-59 look to have no chance at the post season for 2010.  Oswalt, a very capable pitcher has seen his numbers drop to match the team, with a 6-12 record and a 3.42 ERA so far this season.

OswaltSince breaking into the big leagues in 2001, Roy Oswalt has 143 victories — 28 more than any other NL pitcher. And his 1,593 strikeouts are the most for any NL pitcher with 100 starts since 2001.  The combination of Oswalt and Halladay would give the Phillies their first authentic 1-2 punch in a generation.

Halladay held similar records in the AL prior to the trade to Philadelphia and despite a lack of run support in all his starts, he still is second in the league in ERA and 3rd in victories, and in both these categories he leads the Phillies.

The Astros, in turn, are looking to acquire Happ and Singleton as well as a prospect to be named later from the Phillies.   While Happ has not yet lived into his potential, Oswalt is a proven commodity.  And Singleton IS a hot prospect for the Phillies at a farm league level, but right now, if the Phillies are going to stay in it for the rest of the year and make a run at the Braves, they need pitching.

Wow.  It seems like every time we evaluate this team, it needs pitching.

Fielding is covered; the hitting; comes and goes, that is the nature of the game.   Pitching, has long been the area in which the Phillies have lacked world championship caliber players.  Consider 2008, their World Series winning season.  They had 4 pitchers with 10 or more victories. 

Moyer led the team with 16, then came Hamels with 14, Kendrick with 11 and Myers with 10.  The team ERA was 3.88 and the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher was Hamels at 3.09.   So when the possibility exists the Phillies may end up with 2 pitchers who can record 20 wins with an ERA in the 2′s, fans can sense the excitement.   If we can win the world series with the above rotation, imagine how much better we can be with a starting group including Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and Kendrick 

Missing man is Joe Blanton who had several strong years but is posting a 4-6 record with a 5.86 ERA after 16 starts this year.   If we can’t trade back for Lee, I say let Happ go and acquire the veteran that has proven he can fill the staff ace role.  Let the 2 Roys, Halladay and Oswalt fight it out to determine who will be ace #1, and who will be ace #2.

Are the Phillies on their way down?

Well we are almost at the midway point of the baseball season.  The All Star game is next week and the Phillies are in third place and six games back.  What a shocker!  At the beginning of the season there was a real sense of anticipation and excitement.  We were all waiting to see how Roy Halladay would perform.  Personally I want to see the Phillies and Yankee back to the World Series, and this time we win!

Recently though the Phillies have been on a slide.  I’m not really sure when it started .  Maybe  when we lost Jimmy Rollins In the first game of the season.   Maybe it started back when the Red Sox came to town.  The Phillies lost two of three with the Sox shutting out the Phillies in Game two.   But  the slide rapidly intensified  when the Phillies went to NY for a series against the stinky Mets.  There the Phillies were unable to score even one run over three games.

Recently, the Phillies placed Chase Utley and Placido Polanco on DL.  Utley would out for at least 8 weeks.  Do the math and Utley might be back in September.

Through out all of this there is speculation about Jason Werth.  While Werth has proven to be an out standing asset he has had his struggles recently.  There is also the question of his contract at the end of 2010.

So with all this in mind are the phillies on a slide?  If so how big?  Will they make the playoffs this year?  How about next year?  I realize one team can not always be the ones to win, but I sure how this slide does not last until 2020.

Phillies place Utley and Polanco on DL

Five keys for Phillies to survive injuries

As reported yesterday, the Phillies will be without Chase Utley and Placido Polanco for at least the next 15 days, and in all likelihood a little longer. The timing of the news is not great as the team had broken out of its hitting slump and looked poised to regain the lead in the NL East. Now with these injuries that becomes a lot more difficult. I still think the Phillies can hang right with the Braves and Mets over the next few weeks, but it will take a variety of factors coming together to do so.

Bellow are five keys for the Phillies to stay in the race despite these injuries.

1. Rollins must regain form: When a player is out for as long as Rollins was it is expected that the player will need a few weeks to find his swing. The Phillies can not afford Rollins that time, however. With their No. 2 and No. 3 hitters on the bench, the importance of Rollins setting the table becomes even more important. I’m not saying he needs to hit .350 the next month, but the team will need Rollins to at least maintain his .400 an-base percentage.

2. The Big Man must get on a tear: Over the past four seasons we have seen Ryan Howard get incredibly hot in August and September and at times single handily carry the team to victories. This time Howard can not wait until August. The team needs one of those power surges right now. Howard’s .295 average has caught everyone off guard and he is having a season that should put him back in the top five of the MVP voting. There is no reason to think he can’t catch fire over the next few weeks and lift his team once more.

3. Pitching: If you lose a little offense than the pitching must do its part to keep the opposition off the board. The Phillies staff has been hot and cold this season and needs to get hot again in a hurry. Roy Halladay is the only member of the starting staff that has an ERA under 4.00 and that simply won’t cut it over the next month. This team may need to win a couple of games by 3-2, or 2-1 scores and for that to happen the starters must show more than they have so far this season. Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick have the most room to improve and one may be pushed by a returning J.A. Happ.

4. A surprise candidate must emerge: This could come from anywhere. Maybe somehow Greg Dobbs will remember to hit again? Maybe Ibanez will go on a tear like he did the first half of last year? Maybe one of the team’s backup catchers has the best two weeks of his career? Maybe the Phillies reacquire Cliff Lee and none of this will matter? No matter where it comes from the team will need unexpected productions to keep moving forward in July.

5. The Braves and Mets slump: Most believe that the Braves and Mets have overachieved the last two months. If that is indeed the case it is fair to suggest that a downward swing is coming. The Braves (5-5) and Mets (4-6) may already be in the process of doing so as their last 10 games have not gone well. Consider that the Mets are just 15-22 on the road and have an 11-game West Coast trip coming in the second part of July and its not hard to see them falling off. As for the Braves, the Phillies can help themselves from July 5-7 when they host Atlanta for a big series.

So there you have five ways that the team can keep winning despite the recent injuries. If a few of these factors take place there is no reason that the Phillies can’t be right at the top of the pack when Utley and Polanco return.

Phillies place Utley and Polanco on DL

The mountain to climb to get back to first place in the NL East just got a little tougher for the Philadelphia Phillies.

And it has nothing to do with the schedule.

Just hours after finding out Chase Utley was being put on the DL the team announced that Placido Polanco will be joining him. That’s two All-Stars in one day.

Utley injured his thumb in last night’s loss to the Reds, while Polanco had missed the last three games with elbow soreness.

The news could be worse for Utley as CSN is reporting that he has a sprained collateral ligament in his right thumb. I’m no doctor, but is has the sound of an injury that could linger a lot longer than 15 days.

And all of this happens just after the team finally got a healthy Jimmy Rollins back.

So where will the team go to reinforce itself? Sadly, the moves have paved the way for Greg Dobbs to be called back into action — a week after it looked like we would never see him in a Phillies uniform again. Brian Bocock was also called up to fill in the hole at second.

The injury may also prevent Polanco and Utley from competing in the All-Star game which will be played July 13 in Anaheim, Calif. David Wright has closed Polanco’s lead over the last week from 130,300 votes to 23,000 and the injury may just doom him when it comes to the ballots. Even if he does hang on to the lead, this injury  may keep him from playing.

This is clearly a big blow for a team trying to hunt down the Braves and Mets in a tight NL East race. On Wednesday Phillysportsblogs will give its two cents on whether the team can make it through this stretch without falling to far back.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Guess Who’s Bizack

The Phillies….After seeing some much needed pep Thursdays night vs the Yankees.  The Phillies D ignited their O.  A couple of great plays from Jason Werth and Placido Polanco have many around town believing that it sparked the Phils offense.  After several weeks of seeming that the players were just going through the motions on both sides of the diamond, it was good to see some life.  That buzz carried over into tonight where the Phillies trounced the visit Minnesota Twins 9 – 5.  The score doesn’t show how much the Phils were beating on the Twins.  Scott Mathieson let up two runs late just for the Twins to get 5.  Which is another story in itself, the guys has come off two Tommy Johns surgery and still has a chance to throw in the bigs.  Throw is an understatement.  He was hurling at 98 and 99 mph.  On to the real story Joe Blanton.  The kid had a much needed bounce back game from his last two starts where he lasted 4 and 5 innings.  He earned just his second win of the season going 6 innings giving up 7 hits, 3 runs all earned, three walks, one two run shot off Nick, my first Hr of the year, Punto and only striking out one.  After Punto’s two run shot Blanton was relieved of his duties by skipper Charlie Manuel.  Blanton was noticeably upset, but I couldn’t tell if it was with Ruiz for pitch selection, or what.  After being in the dugout for a while, Blanton was still fired up and it took Pitching coach Rich Dubee to calm him down.  The star of the game definitely was Ryan Howard going 4-4 with two Hrs, a triple and a double, falling just a single short of the cycle.  It sucks when you fall a single short. He also scored three runs and had 3 RBI’s Chase Utley wasn’t too bad himself going 2 for 5 with a Hr, 4 RBI’s, and scoring twice.  Many players got off the slump having 11 hits in all.  So was a rematch of the World Series all the Phillies needed to get their offense jump started again.  Only time will tell. But don’t look now this time next week barring any set backs Jimmy Rollins, the catalyst and table setter for the Phils, will be back in the line up doing what Jimmy does best.  You know what it is, he is the spark plug for everything that is the Phils.  Watch out Braves, here comes the Phils……

Oh what is that I see a Sixers spotting.   I would like to Welcome back the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers.  After a brief 8 yeah hiatus, it’s good to see some life in that organization that I hold so near and dear to my heart.  After hitting the lottery and getting the second pick, and then hiring Doug Collins.  (I almost had a mental error and said Doug Mo) Could you imagine?  It appears that Ed Stefanski is the greatest Wizard in all the land.  Pulling a rabbit out of a hat and sending much maligned Sammy Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings.  In return the Sixers received scrappy Andres Nocioni. (See Dan Carcillo, Flyers) and Spencer Hawes.  So with Murphy’s law Dalembert will average 20 and 10 this year, much like Kenny Thomas and John Salmons preformed after they left.  Philly will love Nocioni instantly, he will apitamize every cliche and Philly slogan around.  Personally I think Hawes may be the gem of this deal.  If Doug Collins, who preaches D can get a hold of this kid and teach him how to play D, something Dalembert could never learn, he may be a player.  Hawes is a 7-1 viable low post presence, with a jumper from the outside.  (Which I hate.  Anyone of 6-11 should be down low busting bodies and rebounding.  But what do I know).   I wouldn’t be surprised if Andre Iguadola is gone draft night or shortly there after, having two many guys in the same position and him making too much money he should be on his way out.  Mainly because he ISN’T A MAX CONTRACT PLAYER.  After saying this Thaddeus Young will be traded and I will be upset.  So lastly I would just like to thank my 10, 9, 8, 76ers for giving me some basketball talk back in this town.

Phillies, Halladay set to face Yankees, Sabathia

There are a ton of storylines following the Phillies as they head into a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

- The Yankees are one of the hottest teams having caught the Rays in the AL East after being as far back as six games a month ago.

- The Phillies bats have gone silent for the better part of three weeks, leaving the team in third place,  3 ½ games behind the Braves.

- Is a series against the defending World Series champions just what the team needs to snap out of its funk?

- Will Chase Utley ever regain his form?

However, my favorite angle comes not in the series, but rather in tonight’s game: C.C. Sabathia vs. Roy Halladay.

It’s rare that one of the best pitchers in the AL goes against one of the best in the NL. If you are a fans of statistics then you have to like the Phillies chances in this one, even with a slumping offense.

Halladay has been masterful — and even perfect — for the Phillies this season, posting a 1.96 ERA to go with his eight wins. Things haven’t gone as well for Sabathia, who has a 4.01 ERA and has pitched 16 less innings than Halladay. Even more eye-catching is the way Halladay dominated New York in his time with Toronto. Although the Blue Jays have never had the talent of the Yankees, that hasn’t stopped Halladay from going 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA against the Bronx Bombers in his career. The two pitchers have met twice with each ace garnering a victory.

I expect a fun and entertaining game tonight, and it’s been quite some time since Phillies fans could put those two words together with their team’s play. This is also a game the Phillies need to win. The pitching matchups will favor New York the rest of the way and Philadelphia needs to make an early statement that  it is finally ready to break free from its struggles.

When will the Phillies offense return?

There are slumps and then there is what the Phillies offense is going through right now.

Things got no better yesterday when the Phillies wasted a great start by Cole Hamels in a 3-1 loss to the Padres. Hamels took a no-hitter into the seventh, but allowed a pair of solo home runs and the Phillies offense had no answer. It was a continuation of what has been a putrid three weeks that has seen the team relinquish first place.

Here are a few of the scary numbers:

The Phillies, figured to be among the top home run hitting teams this season, have belted just 53, good enough for 12th overall. That’s not terrible but not nearly good enough for a team that relies on the longball so much.

• Philadelphia has been held to two runs or less in eight of its last 15 games, including being shutout five times.

• Their .258 team batting average is 16th in baseball. Who knows where they would be without Polanco’s .320 average.

• Chase Utley average has dipped to .260, the lowest it has been since the 2004 season.

• Raul Ibanez is hitting .230 with just three home runs. Dominic Brown’s footsteps get closer every day.

• Joe Blanton has the third best average of the team. He is hitting 308. We will overlook Nelson Figueroa’s .500 average in two at-bats.

• Jayson Werth is hitting .143 so far this month with six hits in 21 at-bats. Over that time he has as many strikeouts (7) as he does hits.

It has been bad, to be sure. Yet here the team sits, still in second place just two games behind Atlanta. The hope is that the worst has already arrived and that the team will straighten itself out and get back on top in the East.

But the question is when? When does the team find the offense that made them the most exciting ticket in town the last three years?

Have you seen my baseball … bat?

There’s a giant search going on right now for a precious piece of Philadelphia. It is a piece that has brought much joy to the city’s people the last three seasons. It’s been lost before, but never for this long and to this extreme.

Has anyone seen the Phillies offense?

The Phillies were shut out for the third straight game by the Mets and the fourth time in five games overall. The last time the Mets kept a team off the scoreboard in a three game series, they did it with guys named Seaver and Ryan. This time they did it with Takahashi and Dickey. Just five games ago the Phillies were seven games up on the Mets, now that lead is two. In fact, all five teams in the NL East are within three games of each other.

So what exactly has happened here?

The Phillies offense has always relied on the long ball so periods of offensive struggles have happened , but this is of epic proportions. Every time it looked like the Phillies would finally break through last night they hit into a double play – three to be exact.

Hey, remember those first two weeks of the season when the team was scoring eight runs a game? The Phillies would kill for one right now.

All totaled, the Phillies have scored one run in their last 47 innings. You would think a blooper would have had to fall in just once during this spell. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are striking out at a rate that has Adam Dunn shaking his head. Even Jayson Werth shaving his beard didn’t change his luck.

If you are having a hard time watching this team right now, you are not alone, but keep in mind that it has to end soon. And I feel sorry for the team who faces them when it ends. There’s a lot of frustrating waiting to poor off the bats of these players.

 Hopefully it happens tonight in South Florida against the Marlins. If not we always have the Flyers on Saturday. There is no way anyone is keeping them off the board these days.

Phillies Rally Against the Giants

Despite a slow start in their series against the Giants this week, the Philadelphia Phillies would not fall easily, fighting to earn a win. In what was expected to be an exciting series between two of the National League’s best, the Phillies seemed to be overwhelmed with San Francisco in their first two games. The Phillies struggled on both side of the ball as they tallied only three runs, while they allowed San Francisco 11 runs in games 1 and 2. Read more

Phillies offense on a tear

The Phillies put an exclamation point on their quick start this season by loading up early and often on the Nationals in their fifth meeting and winning 14-7.

Amid concerns that with the loss of Jimmy Rollins and Jaysen Werth, the team may struggle on offense; the rest of the team turned in another winning performance.   Werth made a late performance as a pinch hitter so it seems obvious his absence from the starting lineup will be brief.   Rollins calf injury may be more serious then was at first thought, which is a shame given his extremely fast start.

If there is ANY early question about the Phillies this year, it would have to be their starting pitching.  Halladay is a lock, and Hamels is 2-0 but has been shaky. Happ looks as good as he did last year and Moyer just keeps throwing up W’s.  But tonight, Kendrick, subbing for the injured Joe Blanton, lasted a mere 1 and 2/3  innings after giving up 6 runs and saw his ERA shoot above 17.   We need Blanton back.  Hey, where was the last Martinez sighting anyway ?

Three middle relievers combined to hold the Nationals to 1 run from the 3rd inning on.

The bottom line, no matter the injury, the focus is on offense.  When one Phillie is out of commission, another simply steps it up a notch and fills the gap.  There are many teams that struggle to score 14 runs at all in a game, and I have the feeling we may see this another dozen or more times this year, when the team gets in sync and everyone has a couple hits and a couple RBI.

Tonight, Victorino broke out of his mild slump with a 4-5 day with a triple, homerun, and 5 RBI’s.  He was listed on ESPN’s MLB top performers of the day board.  Utley went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI.  He also appeared on the top performers board.  Polanco maintained his torrid pace going 2-4 to keep his average in the .480′s

Overall the first four in the lineup were a combined 10-18 with 12 RBI.

It seems clear to me now that the team is off to a 7-1 start that they may be substantially better than they were in 2008.  If the pitching solidifies, this offense is lethal.  And every new addition to the sluggers row has stepped up and over performed, as in Ibanez, and Francisco and now Polanco.  With six guys in the lineup that are each capable of a clutch hit, homerun or other run producing play, it is extremely difficult for a pitcher to work his way through this lineup.

Oh, and by the way, our pitchers can hit too !

Looks like it is going to be a long, enjoyable summer ahead with the Phillies setting the pace the whole way !

Phils win home opener, now 6-1.

The Phillies won their home opener 7-4 behind Cole Hamels to run thier National League leading record to 6-1.    They dealt Marquis his second loss of this young season.  Hamels and Halladay are now both 2-0 and the Phillies bats are smoking hot.

Jimmy Rollins was a late scratch due to a calf injury but his replacement, Castro, was 1-4 with a double and an RBI.   Rightfielder Jayson Werth left the game after the fifth inning due to a sore left hip.   Chase Utley ripped a two run homerun with one out in the fifth.

Ibanez and Victorino are the only two starters who have not hit their stride as yet, with the remainder of the starting lineup batting above .290.  The team as a whole continued their torrid hitting. They’re averaging 7.1 runs and 11 hits per game.

The fans showed up in force for the home opener, giving the Phillies their 43rd consecutive sellout at home dating to last season.

Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night, and the Nationals have got to be searching for answers after dropping 3 of their first 4 games against the defending NL champion Phillies.  Even the new pitcher signed for 15 million after an All Star year with Colorado last year was unable to keep the Phillies hitters in check.  Our team now leads all of baseball in hitting.

I limited myself to 2 hotdogs and four beers and had a great time rooting for my Phillies.  For some reason a Mets fan sat behind me and booed every time the Phillies had a good play, but after checking the standings, I refrained from comment, the poor guy already has enough going against him and the Mets season is only going to get worse once they starting playing Philadelphia !

I think I will have to get tickets in my normal spot on April 30th and see if he shows up again to watch the Phillies play the Mets for the first time this year.  Maybe I will buy him a beer.  Who says Philadelphia fans are horrible ?

The extra bad news for my friend in blue; it is likely Halladay will have the start on that Friday night game, in which case, the Mets, who will arrive at Citizens Bank sporting a 6-16 record or so, don’t have the faintest chance !