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.



Oswalt to Philly a done deal

The Roy-to-Roy combo is about to get underway. Various media outlets are reporting that the Phillies and Astros have completed  a deal that will send Roy Oswalt to the Phillies in exchange for J.A. Happ and two prospects.

Bellow is an ESPN.com report:

Roy Oswalt has officially accepted his proposed trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, the right-hander told KRIV-TV in Houston.

A baseball source said after considering his options and speaking with friends familiar with the Phillies’ situation, the Houston Astros‘ staff ace waived his no-trade clause in order to be dealt to Philadelphia.

“It feels pretty good actually to have al of this stuff out of the way and I can concentrate on baseball,” Oswalt said, according to the report.

Oswalt, who said he will pitch for the Phillies on Friday, said he loved his time in Houston but felt it was time to do make a change.

“I love the city of Houston and the Astros fans,” Oswalt said, according to the report. “They have been great to me and the Astros are a great organization. I think it’s time for us to separate and do something different.

“Philly has a great team with a chance to go to the World Series. I wanted this deal to be good for both the Astros and me and I think it is,” he said, according to the report.

The Astros will pay $11 million of the approximately $23 million that the 32-year-old right-hander is guaranteed through 2011, sources said.

Oswalt did not demand that his 2012 mutual option for $16 million be picked up by the Phillies, a baseball source told ESPN.com’s Amy K. Nelson. Instead, if either he or the Phillies chose not to pick it up, his $1 million buyout will increase to $2 million.

If Oswalt or the Phillies decline to exercise the option, then the pitcher will make $18 million next season. But both Oswalt and the Phillies must agree on the option for 2012 for him to stay with the team that season, the source told Nelson.

In return for Oswalt, the Astros would get back left-handed starter J.A. Happ and two prospects, according to sources.

With the Phillies already riding high on a 7-game win streak, this move is certainly a game changer. If the Braves haven’t already started feeling the pressure coming from the Phillies, this move will certainly do it. I’ll take my chances with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels in a three-game series against anyone.



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.



Phillies demote Kyle Kendrick

One day after getting shelled for seven runs and three homers in five innings, Kyle Kendrick had an even worse day on Wednesday.

The Phillies optioned Kendrick to Triple A and recalled Andrew Carpenter to take his place in the rotation. Kendrick, who had several strong performances in the first half of the season has struggled as of late and is currently 5-4 with a 4.82 ERA. A month ago there was thought of Kendrick being demoted when J.A. Happ returned from injury but Happ has been getting shelled in the minors and his fastball is topping out in the mid-80s making him a non-factor for the rest of this season unless something drastically changes.

Carpenter is 7-6 with the Iron Pigs with a 3.41 ERA in 18 starts. He started one career game with the Phillies and produced a 9.45 ERA.

I highly doubt that the Phillies will be banking on Carpenter for long – at least I would hope not. He may just be a stop gap until the team acquires another starter before the July 31 trade deadline. The team had been in the market for a starter for the better part of the summer and this move makes it clearer now than ever that they need to make a move.

And then there’s Joe Blanton. But that’s a topic for another day.



Happ back soon, so who goes?

A forgotten man in the Phillies’ rotation is working his way back.

J.A. Happ, on the DL for almost the entire season, is set to make his fourth rehab start on Wednesday. After that he may be heading back to Philadelphia. Bellow is a report from philly.com:

Lefthander J.A. Happ (strained left elbow) said he will make his fourth rehab start Wednesday at double-A Reading.

Happ, who threw 71 pitches in his last start, said he is aiming for 90 to 95 pitches this time around. He said Phillies officials who charted his last outing for Reading told him he averaged 88 m.p.h. with his fastball, an improvement from before.

Happ has been on the disabled list since April 16.

In three rehab outings, Happ has allowed 10 earned runs in 101/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .304 off him.

“Just looking for a little more crispness to the arm,” Happ said.

The issue at hand when Happ does return will be which starter gets sent to the bullpen. Baring any injury, the decision will come down to Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick.

Of that group the smart money would be on Kendrick, but would that be the right move?

Kendrick has pitched moderately well, going 4-2 with a 4.48 ERA,  and is coming off his finest start of the season, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Yankees.

Meanwhile Joe Blanton has continued to struggle. The Phillies most reliable pitcher last season, Blanton has yet to find a groove. He is currently 2-5 with a 6.96 ERA.

Jamie Moyer is the third choice, but I wouldn’t expect the Phillies to do the same thing to Moyer that they did last year when the team acquired Pedro Martinez.Jamie wasn’t too happy about that move the first time.

Plus Moyer’s seven wins and 4.76 ERA are well ahead of Blanton’s numbers.

I still believe Kendrick will be the one shuffled to the ‘pen as his contract is much lighter than Blanton’s, even though he deserves to stay in the rotation. Sadly money usually talks in these situations.

If you were Phillies management, what would you do?



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 !



Reasons to care about Wednesday’s exhibition game

Are you are having a tough time getting pumped up for the Phillies first Spring Training contest tomorrow?

Well, lets fix that.

Sure we might not see Ryan Howard hit any bombs or Roy Halladay throw a few flame balls, but there is still enough going on to keep the attention of hardecore baseball fans.

Philly.com Phillies beat writer Andy Martino points out several things of interest heading into Philadelphia’s clash with Florida State. Bellow are his thoughts:

Points of interest for the exhibition include J.A. Happ’s new two-seam fastball.  The lefty is playing with the sinker to augment his four-seam fastball, cutter, change-up and curveball. As with all spring training pitch additions, he will work it in for a while before deciding whether to take it north.  So that’s something to watch.

–Phillippe Aumont, the centerpiece of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle last winter, is also among the scheduled pitchers. The 21-year-old righthander said that he would focus on honing his mechanics and pitches.  Aumont is known for a power sinker; he also throws a four-seam fastball, curveball and change-up.  He considers the curveball a strength and the change-up a work-in-progress.

Aumont also said that he would try to develop those pitches without feeling pressure to succeed immediately, despite his importance to the organization and role in the controversial Lee trade.  “The know what I am capable of,” he said.  “They know what I need to work on.  Obviously, though, you could have fans or other players saying, ‘oh, look at this guy. This guy got traded for Cliff Lee, he’s not worth it.’ Whatever.  There are others who are going to understand that I’m still pretty young and trying to learn.”

–Charlie Manuel said that center fielder Shane Victorino would not play tomorrow. Victorino has mild soreness in his shoulder.  He played long-toss at 120 feet this morning and worked in the batting cage. Manuel said that he considered using Victorino as the designated hitter, but decided to grant a full day’s rest instead.

It may not be able to compete with World Series action, but it’s enough to get my blood flowing. Baseball will once again be underway.



Gearing up to go for 4 in a row

Thank God, baseball is back ! 

Pitchers and Catchers reported a day early as the Phillies get geared up to try to make it 4 in a row.  The role that used to belong to the Atlanta Braves as the perennial team to beat seems to have been handed over to our Phitens.   The Braves and Marlins both made off season moves that indicate the team in their sights is in fact the Phillies.  The Mets also signed Jason Bay for 66 million for four years to improve their chances at being competative.  They may finish 15 games out instead of 24, but will never seriously challenge.

I believe this year the race is a two team one.  The Braves and the Phillies, although unlike most of the late eighties through early this century, the Phillies are the team with the slight edge prior to the start of the season, thanks in part to their off season acquisition of Roy Holliday, the pitcher many expected them to sign when they ”settled on” Cliff Lee last year.

I LOVED Lee.

I respect the man as a pitcher and a player, and think he did amazing things for the Phillies, especially in his first 6 starts after the trade, and through the 2009 playoffs and World Series.

But seriously, as good as he was, the Phillies are markedly better with Halliday in the rotation.

The Phillies finished the season last year first in runs, and slugging, second in stolen bases and on base percentage.  They hit a team record 224 home runs as well.  They finished 6th in ERA.  So the obvious place for manager Charlie Manuel to focus on improvement was at pitcher. 

Some improvement may have occurred without management intevention, one thing in particular being right knee surgery to 33 year old closer Brad Lidge.  He may startle some with a year closer resembling his stellar 2008 after a lackluster 2009.  He contributed to both the Phillies 3rd straight National League East title as well as their World Series loss.  He has been quoted as saying he wants to end the season on Broad Street again, obviously with different results.  A repaired right knee may allow him to complete his follow through more quickly as well as hold runners on base better, two things he was unable to do at his normal level of competance at the close of last season, when it mattered most.

 So it is starting to take shape here, the 2010 pitching rotation.  Cole Hamels as the throwback Ace.  Roy Halliday as the entering Ace.  Jose Contreras as the Ace in waiting.   J A Happ as the rookie phenom.   Joe Blanton as the workhorse.   Madsen and Baez as middle relief.   Romero, Kenrick and Durbin as the bullpen crew.  Brad Lidge as THE CLOSER (Goat or hero, depending on which Lidge we get apparently)

With much of the offense returning intact, notable exception being the addition of Placido Polanco, these Phillies should once again chase the 100 win mark.  I, for one, can hardly wait for opening day.  Unlike last year when I was exiled to the deep south, this year, I will be there in person to watch my favorite sports team of all time take to the field.



Phillies pitchers and catchers report

Roy Halladay is there.So is Cole Hamels.

J.A. Happ? Check

Brad Lidge? Check.

The pitchers and catchers have arrived at Clearwater, Fla., one day earlier than tomorrow’s mandatory date.

According to philly.com every pitcher has reported except for Jamie Moyer and Jose Contreras. (There’s an old persons joke just begging to be inserted with that).

So good news baseball fans; despite the snow that appeared outside our windows today, baseball is ready to get going again.

The only real news of the day is that J.C Romero said he expects to break camp with the team, implying that he will be completely recovered from his elbow surgery and ready to pitch at full strength by Opening Day.

That’s good news for the Phillies, as Romero is the only lefthander in the bullpen that has succeeded at the Major League level.

News will be pouring in over the next few weeks about every player and the Phillies roster. Hope springs eternal for every team this time of year.

For the Phils that hope is real.

It may be snowing outside, but baseball is back.



Road to a Dynasty is going to cost $$$

If the Phillies want to become a dynasty, I offer 5 suggestions to send them on their way. They have a good balanced ball club, one that has won the National League east three times in a row, been to 2 World Series and won one. That is a good 500 or so games for the team. But to truly become a dynasty, they need to sustain this level of play for 1000 or so more games.

That is tough in an arbitration filled, salary capped, league unless they plan on spending half a billion dollars each and every off season like the Yankees seem to do. Frankly, as much support as the Phillies get, I still  don’t think they can afford to do this, and I doubt the fans will support them spending that kind of money in the city of brotherly love unless they become perennial champions first.

But short of spending billions there are a few steps they can take to ensure success for years to come, simply by adding the right pieces to the existing nucleus of this years club and securing the worthy pieces they already have in the fold to make sure they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere.   Chase Utley was ranked the 6th best player in baseball, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard should be in the top ten as well. Cliff Lee is a top five pitcher, and Cole Hamels is probably a top ten pitcher, JA Happ is the runner up rookie of the year.  Beyond that, the team is really a group of utility players, position players, run producers and role models.

In addition to this strong nucleus, now that trading season has begun, here is what I would do if I were Ruben Amaro.

1.) I would do whatever it takes to sign Placido Polanco to play third base next year.  5 years for $40 million perhaps.

2.) I would sign Omar Vizquel to replace Bruntlett as the end all-be all utility middle infielder.  4 years for $10 million.

3.) I would sign Ryan Howard up for the rest of his career, with a rich contract full of performance bonuses and incentives, this is the guy who hits 40 homeruns, drives in 140-150 runs, scores another 100 and has a strikeout total that is dropping and a fielding percentage that is rising.  This is a motivated player, 2005 rookie of the year, 2006 MVP, and in my opinion 2008 MVP as well; we CANNOT let him go.  He has three years secured right now, that leaves him a 32 year old in his prime either arbitrating or shopping himself as a free agent.  Wrong !!  He should get something in the 9 figure area now that he proved himself for the fourth straight year, remember he was asking for $18 million a year, before accepting a three year buyout deal in February for $54 million, but is entitled to  Texiera/ARod/Jeter type money and will go get it elsewhere in 2012 if he doesnt get it here.   Figure 5-6 more years at $130 million.

4.) I would sign Jimmy Rollins for another 5 years, slightly sweeter than his previous 2005 deal, to keep him in the leadoff role through 2015.  Figure $40 million here.

5.) I would sign Victorino to a long term contract as well.  Shane and Rollins are looking to be perennial run scoring gold glove machines, and having them 1-2 or 1-3 or whatever in the lineup in front of Utley, Howard and Werth means opposing pitchers dont stand a chance.  You can lock down Shane for $10 million for 4 years.  $40 more million.

Also, I would tie up Chan Ho Park with a multi year deal.  Park is by far the best deal for the money, and a known prospect who performed as well as any other bullpen hopefuls the Phillies are looking at.  $10 million ?  It seems a lot but in baseball salary terms, a drop in the bucket !

Think of it, Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Polanco, Ibanez, Werth, Ruiz, with Francisco, and Vizquel occasionally spotting the starters makes one hell of a lineup.   Everyone of those guys could score 100, drive in 100, hit 30 doubles, 20 homeruns,  steal 20 bases, and have an OPS  between .600 and .900.

Then you have Lee, Hamels, Blanton, and Happ as a four man rotation with Park, Madsen, Eyre, Durbin and probably Lidge since Charlie loves the guy in relief. Who thinks that group WON”T win 100 games next year ? And using these numbers plus those already signed onto contracts, that still places you around 8th in the league in overall payroll.

Because I can sense a dynasty in the making, I only hope Amaro and Manuel sense the same thing and are committed to spending the resources to make it happen.  It won’t be billions but it WILL be $250,000,000 +.   But think of it, $250 million is less than the largest contract in baseball for one person, and it secures a championship caliber TEAM potential through 2015 or so !!  The key is to do it now, and get it done, and then reap the rewards for the next 5-8 years to come.   The fans in Philadelphia are long suffering and certainly deserve it !



Happ denied hardware

Phillies rookie pitcher J.A, Happ was the only player named on every NL Rookie of the Year ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

It still wasn’t enough to win him the award.

Florida rookie Chris Coghlan received 17 first-place votes, to Happ’s 10 in winning the award, Major League Baseball announced today.

To his credit Coghlan did have strong credentials, batting .321 with 31 doubles and nine home runs with the Marlins. However, I’m still not sure he deserved the nod over Happ, who was a big reason why the Phillies made it to the World Series for the second-straight season.

In his first full season Happ was sensational going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts. He was certainly the best rookie pitcher leading all NL rookies in innings (166), strikeouts (119) and complete games (three).

He also appeared in 12 games as a reliever, most coming early in the season when Chan Ho Park was starting, and a few coming in the playoffs when the team needed someone reliable to give them innings.

Happ was a consistent pitcher on a staff that often lacked it. He jus didn’t get the hardware he deserved.



Historic Title Run Now Rests With Pedro

If the Phillies are to become the first National League team to win back-to-back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds Big Red Machine teams of 1975-1976 and the first team since the 1985 Kansas City Royals to overcome a 3 games to 1 deficit Pedro Martinez will play a big part of it as he takes the mound tonight at new Yankee Stadium for game 6 of the World Series against the New York Yankees.

That the Phillies are here probably isn’t that surprising to many fans.   From the beginning of the season many had the Phillies picked to at least get back to the World Series.  That Pedro Martinez is pitching to keep the Phillies title hopes alive tonight isn’t just surprising, its just simply unbelievable and nobody could’ve predicted this back in April.   The big stage always seems to find Pedro and Pedro usually responds.   He pitched great against the Dodgers in the NLCS, leaving after tossing seven shutout innings in a game the Phillies bullpen couldn’t hold.  He pitched well in Game 2 of the World Series, striking out 8 in 6 innings but A.J Burnett pitched just a little bit better that night.   Thanks to the decision that Yankees manager Joe Girardi made to ride his three horses Sabathia, Burnett and Pettite we get to see a fully rested Pedro match up against Pettite on three days rest.

Don’t expect either team to exercise a great deal of patience.  The Phillies just can’t afford it as their season, not just this game, is in Pedro’s hands.   If Pedro struggles at all expect to see J.A Happ for a few innings.  The Yankees season won’t end with a loss, but they will do everything possible to avoid a Game 7 that will certainly have all the momentum in the world going in the Phillies favor.  Saturday night Pettite started off slowly and figured it out after giving the Phillies a 3-0 lead.  If that were to happen tonight Girardi certainly would manage Pettite much differently.  I’m sure he’s got some stats in that book of his to lean on if necessary.

The Yankees were in this position in the ALCS against the Angels.  Up 3 games to 1 in Los Angeles they lost Game 5 and came back to New York and won Game 6 behind Andy Pettite.  Pettite pitched that game on normal rest, not the three days off he has going into tonight’s game.   The other big difference is that the Angels weren’t the defending World Champions, and the Phillies don’t want to let that title go just yet.   This team overtook the Mets back in 2007 and held them off in 2008.  This year, when the Marlins got close the same Phillies team won big game after big game to put the division away.   The Yankees have Jeter, Pettite, Posada and Rivera who have won championships, but haven’t won one since beating the Mets back in 2000.  This is their first pennant since 2003, and add A-Rod and Matsui to the previously mentioned four and you have six Yankees who remember losing a three games to none lead in 2004 to the Red Sox in the ALCS on their way to their first World Series title in almost a century.

The Phillies will come out tonight loose and relaxed, and that’s just how manager Charlie Manuel likes it.  Let’s  just hope we like the results as well.



Joe Blanton will start Game 4

Joe Blanton will get another chance to crack a home run in the World Series.

More importantly, he will get a chance to pitch the Phillies past the Yankees in Game 4, on Sunday. Manager Charlie Manuel announced today that Blanton will get the call, instead of using Cliff Lee on three days’ rest. Lee will pitch Game 5.

Manuel said that he did not think Lee would be ready on three days’ rest and that he did not want to push him. He also said that he will use J.A. Happ exclusively out of the bullpen the rest of the way.

Blanton started Game 4 against the Rays last year, combining a strong pitching performance with a clutch home run in what became a 10-2 Phillies win. It gave the Phillies a 3-1 series lead. Fans can only hope for some déjà vu.

Cole Hamels will start game 3 on Saturday and will be opposed by veteran Andy Pettitte.

So what do you think: Is Charlie making the right move by going with a rested Joe Blanton over Lee on short rest?



Philllies Send Lee To Close Out Rockies

Do you think that this is what the Phillies had in mind when they pulled the trigger on the trade that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia? Did they have some crystal ball somewhere that told them Jamie Moyer would get hurt, that J.A Happ would be ineffective in his first post-season start and that Cole Hamels would not show the form that won him the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008?

Nah, probably not.  What they did know about the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner was that he is a horse.  A guy who takes the ball and pitches deep into games, and that is what the Phillies really need tonight when they take on 15 game winner Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies.  They also knew that two years ago Cliff Lee, after an awful 2007 season, was relegated to cheerleader as he watched his Cleveland Indians go up 3 games to 1 on the Boston Red Sox only to eventually lose the lead and a decisive Game 7.   Boston went on to win the World Series and the Indians haven’t gotten back to the post-season since.

Tonight’s game is a rematch of Game 1 when Lee dominated, shutting out the Rockies for 8.2 innings before settling for a complete game 5-1 victory.  The Phillies certainly don’t need a complete game from Lee – but they do need a solid start from him because even though they are home for Game 5 tomorrow if necessary, anything can happen in a Game 5 and I’m sure the Phillies would just as soon close this one out and not have to worry about which Cole Hamels will show up tomorrow night.   The Phillies already got away with one last night when they overcame a bad and short outing by J.A Happ as well as two walks in the ninth by Brad Lidge after securing a one run lead on Ryan Howard’s ninth inning sac fly.   The Phillies also had to use more of their bullpen on a brutally cold night then they would’ve like to have, so a seven or eight inning outing by Lee would go a long way.  There is no travel day between Games 4 and   5 thanks to Saturdays cancellation so if the Phillies lose tonight and have to use the bullpen again that would leave the Phillies in a bad spot for tomorrow night.

Let’s hope that scenario doesn’t present itself and the Phillies close this one out on the road.