Having won three straight NL East titles and appearing in the World Series the last two years, few questions surround the Phillies as they embark on the 2010 season next month.
And the questions that do exist — bounce back seasons from Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels — don’t pertain to the first week of the season so much as they do the season as a whole.
The team’s starting eight are assured. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley don’t exactly have their jobs on the line.
But there is one bit of competition that has the interest of the team’s followers.
The old soft throwing lefty vs. The promising, yet inconsistent young buck.
Jamie Moyer vs. Kyle Kendrick.
On one end you have a 47-year old who’s fastball is looks like a changup, but has always found a way to get the job done. Since being acquired by the Phillies in a deal with Seattle, Moyer has been a great presence in the locker room. His work on the mound has been equally as impressive. He is 47-31 in three seasons and has given his team a chance to win the vast majority of the time. With the Phillies offense, they usually have.
He tied for the team lead with 12 wins last year, though his ERA bloomed to 4.94.
On the other hand you have Kendrick who pitched well in 2007 — surprising the organization with a 10-4 record and a 3.87 ERA — but struggled in 2008, finishing with a 5.49 ERA. Kendrick doesn’t overpower hitters and doesn’t have amazing stuff, but he is a Major League pitcher and does appear ready.
This Spring, Kendrick has put forth a strong audition, posting a 1.29 ERA. In 14 innings he has allowed just seven hits and two runs, while striking out 6. Moyer made his first official start of the Spring on Sunday and he to had success, allowing one run on five hits in five innings against the Blue Jays. Moyer previously made three starts in “B” games, and currently has a 3.86 ERA.
This will not be an easy decision by any means.
Although he pitched in relief at the end of last season Moyer does not want to be a reliever. Kendrick could be used in relief but may be better served getting starting experience in the minors if he isn’t chosen as the fifth starter. The team already has Jose Contreras in the bullpen so the need for a long-man is not there.
The Phillies could also try to trade Moyer, but as Philly.com writer Paul Hagen points out, the team would be best served to keep both as there is a lack of starting depth in the minors and injuries are inevitable during a season.
I think that Kendrick’s time has arrived and he should get the nod. I also think he won’t.
If we have learned anything about Charlie Manuel in his time in Philadelphia it’s that he is loyal to his guys. Sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes to a fault.
The Phillies can survive with Moyer in the No. 5 spot and they know it. Kendrick will get his chance, just not during the early part of the season.
And if your rooting for one guy or the other and it doesn’t work out in your favor don’t let it bother you. When a team’s only dilemma is at the No. 5 spot in the rotation, your team is in really good shape.
I believe it is foolish to get wrapped up in Spring Training statistics, particularly when they come from players who have already secured roster spots.
When a player goes through an 0-for 10 stretch at the plate, it’s not something that gets me worked up, and likewise if a young player goes through a 7-for-10 stretch I don’t jump to the conclusion that the Phillies have the next great thing on their hands.
But once in awhile I see something in Spring Training that holds my attention. Today Cole Hamels did exactly that.
The notion that the Phillies chances of winning a second World Series in three years hinges on Hamels being the pitcher of 2008 and not the sub-.500 one of 2009 has been exhausted to death. so I am not going to go into it. Phillies fans know Hamels has to pitch better and become a strong No. 2 behind Roy Halladay. What they want is to see it.
Today we got a taste.
Hamels retired the first nine batters he faced and struck out four in a 3 2/3 innings appearance in the Phillies 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It wasn’t all good news for the young left-hander, as he did give up a solo home run and walked a pair, but the fact that he was able to find a groove is a good sign for the team. Hamels is experimenting with a couple pitches so he could be excused for some troubles, but they have yet to show themselves this Spring.
It was only 3.2 innings and it’s only Spring Training, but Hamels took a step forward in what will be a long quest to prove that an ugly 2009 is behind him.
It should be noted that while Hamels was showing he was ready to be a top of the rotation pitcher, former Phillies prized prospect Kyle Drabek was giving the Blue Jays a taste of why they traded Halladay. Drabek started the game and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and a walk. Not much was hit hard against Drabek as five of the six outs came on ground balls.
Like with Hamels, it is much to soon to predict what this season will hold for Drabek.
But for today, the results were very positive.
It wasn’t a blown save, it was something much worse.
Bard Lidge allowed three runs in the ninth inning and the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series, Sunday night.
Pedro Feliz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 8th off Joba Chamberlain to tie the game at 4-4 and give the Phillies the momentum heading in to the ninth. Lidge came in and got the first two hitters out, as it appeared his postseason reconciliation was going to continue.
Then it all fell to pieces.
Johnny Damon hit the blooper of all bloopers to keep the inning alive. Damon, not the fastest runner these days, stole second and third on the same play as the Phillies were playing a shift against Mark Teixeira, as no one was covering third.
This was Lidge’s first big mistake. With Feliz accepting the throw down to second, there was no one to cover third except for Lidge who never even attempted to get over there. From there he hit Texeiria, let up a double to Alex-Rodriguez, a single to Jorge Posada and it was all over.
While Lidge will take most of the heat for this loss, there is plenty to go around.
- The Phillies hit two home runs, again solo shots, as the team had trouble getting men on base.
- In the fifth inning Chase Utley tried to toss the ball to Rollins with his glove in an attempt to start a double play instead of taking his time to transfer the ball and just get one out. As a result he got no outs and the Yankees would score two runs that innings.
- Joe Blanton pitches OK, but took the crowd out of the game early by allowing two runs in the first inning.
- What is going on with Raul Ibanez?
- Ryan Howard had a broken-bat single, but again looked helpless against the breaking ball.
It is now desperation time in Philadelphia as the Phils must win three straight to defend their World Series title. It can be done, certainly, but the Phils will need to play a lot better than they have through four games. Cliff Lee takes the ball tonight against A.J. Burnett.
The Phillies have been a team that plays well when their backs are against the wall, but this is bigger than any test they have had this season.
We will see if there is any magic left, or if it is “lights out” for the Phils.
Pivotal Game 3 has arrived.
To say that Cole Hamels has been a disappointment this season would be an understatement. Coming off of a postseason where he was the NLCS and World Series MVP, big things were expected of the young left-hander. Those expectations were never met as Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. He consistently gave up big home runs and never quite found a rhythm. Even upon the Phillies’ return to the postseason, Hamels could not find his 2008 magic.
If he can find it tonight, all of those aforementioned stats will be forgotten.
Hamels takes the hill tonight as the Phillies host the Yankees in Game 3 of the World Series.
Opposing Hamels will be postseason veteran Andy Pettitte. With the series tied at 1-1, there are big impactions on tonight’s contest. If the Yankees win they will have the series lead with their ace C.C. Sabathia set to face Joe Blanton in Game 4, a matchup the Yanks undoubtedly feel good about. Meanwhile, if the Phillies win they will go into Game 4 with a load of confidence knowing that Cliff Lee will be waiting in Game 5 to close things out if they can find away past Sabathia.
Playing a part in the atmosphere will be the weather as showers are expected throughout the evening. The rain will certainly not quiet the Phils’ faithful who have helped the team to the point of dropping just one home postseason game in two years.
Pitching matchup: Andy Pettitte is 2-0 this postseason with a 2.37 ERA. In 11 lifetime World Series appearances, he is 3-4 with a 3.82 ERA. You know Pettitte will be relaxed as this is nothing new for him. As is the case with most veteran pitchers, the Phillies would be wise to get to them early as he has the capability to shut teams down if he gets a lead and a favorable strike zone.
Hamels has been ineffective so far in the playoffs, going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA. Giving up the long-ball has been a problem and could be again tonight against a dangerous lineup. Charlie Manuel said they talked about using the curveball more, so we will see if that factors in his outing.
Game Time: 8:07
Pedro Martinez gave the Phillies a valiant effort Thursday night but the Philadelphia bats went silent against A.J. Burnett, as the New York Yankees took Game 2, 3-1, to tie the World Series, 1-1.
A couple of solo home runs proved to be enough for New York thanks to seven strong innings from Burnett, who had his curveball going, and a two-inning save from Mariano Rivera.
Now the series shifts to Philadelphia where Cole Hamels will get the ball for Game 3 against postseason veteran Andy Pettitte, on Saturday night.
While taking both games in New York would have been a huge boost for the Phillies, a spilt is more-than acceptable. The Phillies have proven that they are a great home team in the postseason, dropping just one home game the last two years. While taking all three games at home will be tough, the Phillies showed against the Dodgers in the NLCS and the Rays in the 2008 World Series that it can be done.
Rest assured that the Philly faithful will be pumped up and bring much more energy than the New York crowd could muter up in two games.
I have never been a Joe Buck fan, but I had to chuckle last night when he said after a Mark Teixeira home run, “At 9:04 the Yankees fans have shown up.”
You can bet that won’t be the case in Philadelphia.
The bigger question will be if Hamels shows up. The Phils need Hamels to find last season’s form and deliver them a big victory. We know he has it in him and now we need to see it.
The wait is finally over, Game 1 of the World Series have arrived.
While many analysts have predicted this to be a long and close series, history tells us that the winner may just be decided tonight.
In the last 12 years, teams which won Game 1, won the series 11 times, including the last six. That means there is a lot of pressure on Cliff Lee and the rest of the Phillies tonight at Yankee Stadium.
Weather update: The rain stopped in New York around 3:30 and it looks like it should be clearing out for good, minus a few small showers, according to weather reports.
Pitching matchup: Cliff Lee vs. C.C. Sabathia. This is a battle of the last two AL Cy Young award winners.
Sabathia, who signed a $160 million deal, won 19 games in the regular season. He has been even better in the postseason, going 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA with 20 strikeouts in three games. Cliff Lee has been equally as dominant in the playoffs, going 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three starts.
Game Time: 7:57, on FOX.
It’s time Phillies fans!
Bring on the Evil Empire.
Or for that matter, Los Angeles second team.
The Phillies are going back to the World Series.
Jayson Werth hit two home runs including a three-run bomb in the second inning and the Phillies defeated the Dodgers 10-4 to advance to their second-straight World Series.
On a night where Cole Hamels gave up three home runs and didn’t make it through the fifth, the Dodgers still never had a chance. It wasn’t quite Game 3’s 11-0 white-washing, but it was a blowout from the middle innings on.
What a moment for the team and the city. Faced with several questions entering the postseason, the Phillies have ran through their competition, going 8-2 against their National League opponents.
With the way the Phillies bats have produced this postseason, I don’t know if anyone can stop them from winning their second straight World Series.
Enjoy the moment, Phillies fans — The Phillies are four wins away from once again being the best team in baseball!
It is almost not fair.
Opposing closers just have no chance.
Jimmy Rollins crushed a two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning off closer Jonathan Broxton leading the Phillies past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4, Monday night, giving them a commanding 3-1 lead in the NL championship series.
With Eric Bruntlett on second and Carlos Ruiz on first, Rollins lined a gapper to right-center that rolled all the way to the wall. It was clear from the second the ball hit the outfield grass that Ruiz was going to score without issue.
What a remarkable win for a team that has had a dozen of them over the last two seasons.
The Phils can advance to the World Series for the second-straight year with a win in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Cole Hamels, last year’s NLCS and World Series MVP, will take the mound and will be opposed by either Clayton Kershaw or Vicente Padilla — likely Padilla.
I don’t know what more a fan can ask for than what the Phillies have given. Even when the team is down there is no worry from the fan base anymore because of the way the team has battled back in the past.
The Dodgers had no chance in that ninth inning, even if they didn’t know it. Groove a fast ball to any of the Phillies’ hitters and they will make you pay. It was Rollins Monday night. It will be someone else on Wednesday.
At this point, I don’t know if Mariano Rivera and his vaunted cutter could stop the Phils. Then again I am not sure the Yankees will be in the World Series.
As for the Phils?
They are a sure thing. This series is over!
In Game One of the NLCS it was Chan Ho Park that got the big outs, not George Sherrill.
And as a result, the Phillies have a 1-0 series lead.
Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez each hit a three-run bomb to help lead the Phillies past the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-6, in a slugfest, Thursday night.
The much-maligned Phillies bullpen was good enough as it allowed two runs over four innings to hold the win for an OK Cole Hamels.
The biggest performance was turned in by Park, who entered the game with Adam Either on second an no outs in the seventh and the Phillies protecting a 5-4 lead.
Park proceeded to get Manny Ramirez to ground out, struck out Matt Kemp and finished the inning by getting a groundout off the bat of Casey Blake.
It was clutch in every sense of the word – something fans never would have called Park in the early stages of the season when he struggled as a starter.
Insert Sherrill in the top of the eighth. The star lefthander who had a 0.56 ERA in his 20 appearances with the Dodgers was expected to be a major key in this series. His ability to get lefties out is well documented, as is the Phils reliance on their left-handed hitters.
Sherrill struggled with his control, walking Howard and Jayson Werth to bring up Ibanez. Like he has so many times this season, Ibanez came up with a big hit, a home run to right field that gave the Phillies some much-needed insurance.
Ryan Madson made the game interesting in the eighth, allowing two runs on four hits, but with runners on the corners, he got Ramirez to ground out and end the threat.
Brad Lidge got around a hit and a walk to record his third postseason save in as many chances.
Games like Thursday night’s are why we love sports so much. It was as unpredictable as can be. Who would have thought that given Cole Hamels dominance over the Dodgers (4-0 in six starts) that he would be nearly squander a 5-1 lead and would be lifted in the sixth?
Who knew that while Manny came up with a two-run home run in the fifth, he would fail to come through in big spots in the late innings?
And who knew Park would be the game’s biggest reliever?
If the umpires continue to call the game the way they did Thursday, fans will be treated to some more high scoring games in this series. The strike zone was small giving the hitters an advantage. The hitters on the Phillies and Dodgers are too good to not take advantage of that.
There is little rest for the teams and fans as Game 2 is set for 4 p.m. today. This is likely the game that will determine if the Phils will waltz to the World Series or be in for a dogfight. Look for the Dodgers to come out firing as they can not afford to go in a 0-2 hole. If Pedro Martinez can weather the early storm the Phils have a great chance to come home up 2-0, with three games to be played in The Bank.
The question is who will be today’s hero?
Tonight begins the next step in the Philadelphia Phillies quest to repeat as World Series champions. The Phils take on the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at 8:07 p.m. in the first game of a best-of-seven NLCS series. Last year the Phillies beat the Dodgers in five games in the NLCS, but how will they fair this year?
He is a breakdown of how the match up:
Game 1: Cole Hamels: The lefty has had his ups and downs this season and was less than stellar in his outing against the Rockies. Against the Dodgers, however, he has been dominant. In his two starts against them this season, Hamels posted a 1-0 mark with a 0.56 ERA. He also struck out 14 while walking just one. And who can forget last year’s NLCS where Hamels went 2-0, including winning the series clincher in Game 5 and being honored as the series MVP.
Game 2: While it has yet to be confirmed by Charlie Manuel, Phillies.com is reporting that veteran Pedro Martinez will get the nod. It is hard to predict hat Pedro will do in his first playoff outing since he was in a Red Sox uniform.
Game 3: Cliff Lee will return to the mound on his regular day of rest and look to continue what has been a marvelous postseason. Lee has allowed just two earned runs in 16-plus innings of work this postseason and is making it clear that he is indeed an ace.
Game 4: The Phillies will trot either J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton out to the mound. Manuel’s decision may come down to which of the two he needs to use out of the bullpen in the first three games of the series. Blanton has the experience of pitching against the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS, but my guess is that Happ will get the nod here.
Game 1: Clayton Kershaw: One of the top young pitchers in the game, Kershaw has the kind of stuff that can cause nightmares for hitters. Against the Phillies, that has yet to be seen though. He has a 5.23 ERA in two starts against the Phils this year.
Game 2: Vicente Padilla: The first of the two former Phillies pitchers to take the mound in the series, Padilla has done surprisingly well with the West Coast squad. Acquired in a midseason trade with Texas, Padilla has pitched eight games for L.A., going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA.
Game 3: Hirokia Kuroda: Kuroda was the only Dodgers pitcher to record a win against the Phillies in last year’s NLCS. He was mediocre this season going just 8-7.
Game 4: Randy Wolf: It is hard to believe that Wolf has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Dodgers, going 12-7 with a 3.23 ERA. A left-hander, Wolf could be a dangerous pitcher in this series.
There are no surprises when Charlie Manuel brings out the lineup card during the postseason. Just as was the case in four NLDS games, the Phillies will go with Jimmie Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz. It is a lineup that as worked for the Phils for the majority of the year.
While Rollins has had a down year by his standards, the career years from Ibanez ad Werth have easily offset that. Werth has joined Utley and Howard to become one of the most feared middle-of-the-order trios in all of baseball.
Philadelphia’s lineup showed in Game 4 against the Rockies, that trailing in the ninth inning on the road is not anything its lineup can not overcome. Despite the team’s strikeout tendencies, one would be hard-pressed to find a better lineup in the National League.
Dodgers lineup: Joe Tore likes to play with the lineup from time to time, but for Game 1 the Phillies will see Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Casey Blake and Russell Martin.
Like Werth, Ethier had a breakout season, posting 31 homers and 106 RBIs. He has been the type of hitter that when paired with Ramirez can bring flashbacks to the Many-Big Pappy years. You don’t want to face that part of the order with the game on the line. Kemp has also been solid, providing great defense in centerfield, while hitting .297 with 26 home runs.
The big letdown for the Dodgers has been the downfall of Martin, who even until last year was one of the top hitting catchers in baseball. This season, Martin’s power disappeared and he hit just seven home runs and limped to a .250 average.
The rest of the Dodgers lineup is solid, although the Phillies should certainly be happy not have to see Jeff Kent anymore.
The Phillies: This has been a sore spot for most of the season and has been predicted to be the reason the Phillies don’t repeat as World Champions. The good news is that closer Brad Lidge showed signs of finding his old form, picking up two saves in the NLDS (even if one of them was of the one-out variety). Also promising is that left-hander Scott Eyre appears to be fie after his stumble in Game 4. The bullpen still leaves much to be desired, though, as Ran Madson continues to be hit and miss and it is still impossible to know what can be expected of Brett Myers.
The Dodgers: A team strength all season, the Dodgers’ bullpen really became solidified when the team acquired left-hander George Sherrill from the Orioles at the trade deadline. Sherrill has been remarkable since the trade, posting a 0.65 ERA in 20 appearances. He has also yet to allow a home run to a left-handed batter. Expect to see him in each game this season. The Dodgers have several other quality arms to go to in late innings as they look to get the ball to hard-throwing Jonathan Broxton. The Los Angeles closer had 114 strikeouts in 72 innings, but the Phillies have had success of him in the past, including last postseason.
The Phillies: While there has been little to celebrate about the Phils bench this year, it is impossible not to think of Matt Stairs’ eighth inning, two-out, two-run home run that beat the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2008 postseason. The Phillies know what they get when they send Stairs up to the plate and they will deal with his well-below par .194 average. The rest of the bench doesn’t offer much as Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo and Paul Bako leave a lot to be desired. Ben Francisco is a wildcard, as he has pop in his bat and his late-inning defense is valuable, as evidenced by his diving catch late in Game 4 of the NLDS.
The Dodgers: Like the Phillies with Stairs, the Dodgers have a long ball threat in Jim Thome. Though he is not the player he once was, the Thome can still hit the ball out of the park. Orlando Hudson may also come off the bench from in a couple games as Torre has been giving more starting time to Ronnie Belliard at second than expected. The Dodges also have veterans Juan Pierre Mark Loretta and Brad Ausmus.
Prediction: While the Dodgers have the better bullpen and better depth, the Phillies have a better rotation and a more dangerous lineup. A lot of people see this series going all seven games. The two big factors for the Phillies in this series will be the performances of Hamels and Pedro. Can Cole continue his dominance over the Dodgers and can Pedro muster up one more gem? If they can this series could be short. My guess is that one of them slips up but the Phillies have more-than enough to close out the Dodgers in six games.
It was everything that October baseball is supposed to be.
The Philadelphia Phillies showed once again why they are “Must See TV” pulling out a dramatic victory that sent them back to the NLCS and put them one step closer to repeating as World Champions.
After giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and facing the prospect of coming home for a Game 5, the Phillies staged one of the greatest ninth innings in team history, coming back to defeat the Colorado Rockies, 5-4 at a chilly Coors Field. With two outs and two on Ryan Howard sent a Houston Street offering to the right field wall, scoring Shane Victorino and Chase Utley with the tying runs. Jayson Werth followed with a bloop single to right center, which plated Howard and gave the Phillies a lead that seemed so improbable just minutes earlier.
All that was left was the save, and as is always the case, it wasn’t easy. Scott Eyre record two outs, but allowed two base runners, prompting Charlie Manuel to go to Brad Lidge for the 27th out.
Lidge got the dangerous Troy Tulowitzki swinging and yet another celebration was on.
Monday’s contest was a game that showed everything that is great about baseball and great about the Phillies. Even after Ryan Madson wasted a great performance by starter Cliff Lee by allowing three runs to score in the eighth, the Phils refused to go down.
Ryan Howard told his teammates to get him a chance to hit in the ninth because he would deliver. Then he came out and did it.
Lee again showed that h is capable of delivering in the postseason, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, though just one scored while he was on the mound. His stuff kept Rockies hitters off-balanced all game. If Lee continues to pitch this well and the Phils continue to win, Ruben Amaro Jr. may bring home an Executive of the Year award for landing Lee instead of giving up the farm for Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halladay.
Of course the job is not finished yet. As great as Monday night’s win was, its historical impact will only be great if the Phillies can get back to the World Series and compete for another ring.
That brings us to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies opponent starting on Thursday. The Dodgers thought they were destined to win a title last year, but the Phillies got in the way. Now they will be looking for revenge.
They won’t have to look far, though. The Phillies are a team that will not be intimidated. They provided evidence of that last night by winning on the road when trailing in the ninth inning.
This series has all the makings of a classic and Phillysportsblogs will be here to break it down for you over the next few days.
Monday marked the second time this month the Phillies got to celebrate in grand fashion.
Let’s hope for two more.
If the Philadelphia Phillies want to repeat as World Series champions, they will have to prove their worth on the road.
Starting pitcher Cole Hamels had a rough outing, allowing four runs in five innings, and the Phillies could not battle all the way back in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Yovit Torrealba provided the big blow, hitting a two-run home run in the third inning . From there, Aaron Cook corralled the Phillies hitters until the sixth when the Phillies battled back with three runs.
Trailing by one in the ninth, the Phils threatened, putting runners on first and second with two outs, but Colorado closer Huston Street got Shane Victorino to hit a soft line drive to second to end the game.
Just as concerning as the home loss was the potential loss of J.A. Happ, who entered the game in the sixth and faced only one batter. Happ was hit in the lower left leg with a line drive off the bat of Seth Smith on his fourth pitch of the game. Happ, who went 12-4 in the regular season, suffered a leg contusion, but reports are that the x-rays were negative.
With Happ unable to continue, Charlie Manuel went to Joe Blanton out of the pen for an inning-plus, putting further into question who will start Game 3 on Saturday. Blanton threw just 19 pitches, so could be able to come back on Saturday or the Phillies could go with Pedro Martinez.
Whoever gets the ball needs to come up big, because the Phillies don’t want to go down 2-1 and face an elimination game in Denver.
There is still plenty of reason to believe in the Phillies moving forward. Although Hamels struggled, the bullpen was strong, with Blanton’s one run allowed the only blemish. It is never easy this time year.
I expect the Phillies offense to come to life in Game 3 and give whoever takes the mound plenty of run support.
When I got in my car this evening following Brad Lidge’s 11th blown save of the season I knew I would hear some pretty upset Phillies fans when I flipped on 610 WIP.
The first thing I heard surprised me. It was suggestion that J.A. Happ should be the Phillies closer going forward.
With just two weeks left in the season this move seemed ridiculous. Happ has never closed and wouldn’t have much time to settle into the role.
It just didn’t seem like a reasonable option.
Forty minutes later when I got out of my car I was convinced: Happ taking over the closers role is the right move to make.
At this point it seems all but certain that the Phillies will go with a rotation of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez in the playoffs. That means Happ will be in the bullpen. If he is going to be in there anyway the Phillies might as well use him where they need help the most.
Brad Lidge simply can’t close moving forward. Charlie Manuel has given him every chance to show he can turn the clock back to 2008, but it hasn’t happened. Lidge threw a few good sliders Wednesday night but when it counted the most his pitches were flat. Even after Lidge blew the save he had a chance to get his team into extra innings. With two outs Lidge had pinch hitter Brett Carroll in a 0-2 hole. He then put the ball on a tee and Carroll hit a line drive u the middle that scored the game-winning run and dropped Lidge to 0-8 this season.
We don’t know if Happ can close, but we don’t know he can’t either.
We do know that this season Lidge can’t. We also know that Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre and Can Ho Park have all blow saves when given the opportunity.
Happ has shown an ability to get left-handers (.208 against) and right-handers (.245 against him) out and has shown the ability to handle pressure (beat the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium in his 2009 debut).
The Phillies have the luxury of having six quality starters and this is a time to make that pay off. Let Moyer slide in to Happ’s rotation spot for the final two weeks and see if Happ can handle closing. Happ will need to get used to coming out of the pen anyway if he is out in the playoff rotation, so why not give it a try?
Others have suggested the Phils give Pedro a try, but I don’t see that as a realistic option. Pedro has a history of struggling in the first inning and likely wouldn’t be able to pitch in back-to-back games with his age.
That brings us back to Happ.
At this point, why not?
Joe Blanton again made a case to be in the Phillies’ rotation, pitching six scoreless innings in the Phillies 6-1 win over the Nationals.
Of course that comes after Pedro strengthened his case and Cliff Lee assured his. Then there is J.A. Happ who has made a season-long case to pitch come time for the postseason.
Never before has a Phillies team had such a great problem.
At this point there are only two things assured: First, Cole Hamels will be in or near the front of that rotation. Second, Lee will be right there with him.
From there, things get cloudy. For how well he has pitched this season and the fact that he is right-handed points to the notion that Blanton will take the No. 3 or No. 4 spot, but that is not a given. The emergence of the old Pedro Martinez has given manager Charlie Manuel a new option. Pedro threw over 130 pitches on Sunday for the first time since he was a member of the Red Sox. How well he responds to it may determine his fate. If he continues to pitch the way he has (5-0 with an ERA under 4.00) Pedro will be in the postseason rotation.
That would give the Phillies two lefties, two righties and an unhappy Happ. Happ has pitched extremely well this season, to the point he may win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Happ has a 10-4 record with a team-low 2.77 ERA (Lee’s is 2.67, but that is not including his time in Cleveland). Managers like experience in the playoffs though, and Happ is likely the odd man out.
Another reason Happ may be relegated to the bullpen is the uncertainty surrounding left-handers J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre. Each has health concerns and their status for the playoffs is not certain. Jamie Moyer (who by the way has a team-high 12 wins) is not a realistic option as a left-handed specialist, so Happ may be the guy they turn to. Left-handers are hitting jus .206 against Happ making him a good choice for the spot is Eyre or Romero can’t go.
Personally, this would be my postseason rotation:
With home field advantage: Hamels, Martinez, Lee, Blanton
Without home field advantage: Hamels, Lee, Martinez, Blanton
My reasoning is simple: Pedro needs to pitch at home. He feeds off the crowd and they feed off him. Adrenalin is what fuels Pedro these days and pitching in front of a sold-out and raucous Citizens Bank Park will give him his best chance for success. Also, in case of a seven game series, Lee would be set for Game Seven. The Phillies rotation without home field advantage has the plus of having aces Hamels and Lee go back-to-back, but does not have the right-left, right-left flow that managers love to send out.
The job of figuring out the rotation over the next couple of weeks belongs to Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. In the meantime, it sure is fun to guess.
How would you set up a Phillies rotation with so many options?
Jamie Moyer was back in a familiar role for the Phillies today. He stepped back on the mound as a starting pitcher for the first time since his demotion to the bullpen. It definitely showed that he was a little rusty, but the oldest player in baseball shook off the cobwebs after allowing hits to the first five batters he faced and got back in the starting rhythm. After falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, Moyer promptly dispatched the next 14 takers with line out, ground out, foul out, pop up, over and over. While Moyer was getting his groove back, the Phitens began earning their nickname by getting the veteran those runs back.
They did it in their usual manner. Howard singled in the second, and Feliz homered him in for the first two runs. The Phillies scored on the home run again in the third with both Ibanez and Utley hitting their 31st of the year, marking the third time in the past week the Phillies have had 2 or more home runs in the same inning. All of the sudden, Moyer was pitching for the win. In the fourth they scored an insurance run the old fashioned way, with a walk, sacrifice and single to drive home the run. Yes, these Phils score a lot of the time on the home run, but they know the fundamentals of the game, and can score in any fashion they want to for the most part.
Home runs however are so much more fun ! This may be why the Phillies have sold out 165 games in a row. The average attendance at Phillies games jumped to 40,000+, good for second best in the National League, when they opened their new stadium in 2004. Last year’s World Series team averaged over 42,000 fans per home game, and this year’s club is averaging over 44,000 fans per game. Other than the drop off after year one when the new stadium novelty had worn off, they have increased their fan attendance and support for the last five years running. Incidentally, for the last three years they have also led MLB in home run production.
Moyer did not allow another hit until the top of the sixth, when Tatis legged out an infield single. The Phillies immediately returned to the offensive in their half the inning and added an additional 2 runs with a single, double, triple, and, talk about getting back to the basics, a sacrifice by none other than wily veteran Jamie Moyer ! Moyer did allow a run in the 7th on a double and some good basic baseball by the Mets, but at this point he appeared to be tiring and had a 4 run lead on the Mets.
Brett Myers came in the 8th and promptly gave up a 2 run home run to the Mets, the Phillies still can’t seem to figure out late relief or closing pitching. Manuel pulled Myers and got Chan Ho Park on the mound in time to preserve the lead at 9-8 and Park closed the 8th. Manuel continued to rely on Madsen, this time bringing him in for a 9th inning that found the Phillies clinging to a 1 run lead. Madsen got two quick outs, then surrendered a run to the pesky Tatis, who seems to always hit Phillies pitching no matter who is on the mound. Wright then came in and gave the Phillies a taste of their own medicine, belting a 2 run home run to give his Mets the lead and end any hopes Moyer had of securing a win. I mentioned yesterday that Madsen is unproven in the close game, and it appears the Phillies closing pitchers woes are far from over.
The revolving door that leads to the 8th and 9th inning pitchers mound for this team has got to be secured, and soon. This team can NOT enter the post season with this position still unresolved. Charlie Manuel has got to get busy and do what he is paid to do, figure out who on his staff is capable of coming in late under pressure and preserving a win. It is not fair to the rest of this ball club that they are unable, so far, to do this consistently. If they don’t resolve this issue and find “the guy” in the next few weeks, winning the National League East and hitting 1,000 home runs during the regular season will not help them to their ultimate objective, which is, and should be, repeating as World Series champions.