Tag Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

Utley Powers the Phils to New York

The 2009 World Series could have ended tonight. As the Phillies found their backs against a proverbial wall, Chase Utley hit two baseballs over a literal wall. That gives him five home runs in the series, tying Reggie Jackson’s record.

Cliff Lee pitched as a mere mortal on this night, surrendering 5 runs in 7+ innings. That being said, suspect defense behind him was responsible for allowing three of those runs.

  • After Chase Utley tied the MLB record for home runs in a World Series with a blast to rightfield, Ryan Howard stepped to the plate and tied the MLB record for strikeouts in a World Series. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Ryan also misplayed a ground ball that directly led to a Yankee run. Not the best night from the Big Piece. Hopefully he rebounds in New York.
  • Shane Victorino was hit in the right hand by a pitch in the first inning. While x-rays were negative, swelling might be a problem. Charlie pulled Shane out of the game before the 8th inning, which was a move I was not a fan of (I’m usually supportive of Charlie’s moves).
  • I am growing to really dislike Jorge Posada.
  • The strike zone got small and erratic again.
  • Little known fact: Johnny Damon is not capable of making an out in the 9th inning of a ballgame. If he happens to be retired in the 9th global warming will suddenly be reversed, leading to another ice age (sort of like a visit from the Coors Love Train). Al Gore has a group of scientists working on a strategy to harness this ice age inducing power.

I developed a headache over the final two innings of this game. The relaxing and carefree feel of the game disappeared, and I began to wonder if something really bad was going to happen (I didn’t lose hope, I thought they were going to win, but I was still nervous).

The Phillies live to play another day.

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The World Series Shifts to Philly

The game tonight was dominated by pitching once again. This time the Yankees got the better performance. After their 3-1 win the series is now tied 1-1. Pedro pitched very well, but once again he received little support from the offense.

A few thoughts:

  • I like the strike zone that home plate umpire Jeff Nelson called tonight. He gave pitchers strikes on the corners. I’d much rather see a game that features many strikeouts than a game with many walks.  A-Rod struck out 3 times, but he was upstaged by Ryan Howard’s 4 strikeout night.
  • Charlie Manuel will be second-guessed for leaving Pedro in the game in the 7th inning. I support his decision. He had thrown 99 pitches through 6 innings, and he looked sharp in the bottom of the 6th. The hits he gave up in the 7th were not on bad pitches.
  • The Phillies are a patient team at the plate. Tonight I think it cost them. Burnett threw many first pitch fastballs right down the middle and no one jumped on it. After he got ahead in the count he went to breaking balls, which were hard to handle. Next time against Burnett I expect to see some first pitch swinging.
  • We’ve now seen a strange double play turned by the Phillies in both games of this series. This time the umpires did not get the call correct, though it was an extremely tough call. I doubt Ryan Howard knew if he short-hopped the ball or caught it in the 7th.
  • Mariano Rivera looks hittable to me. I realize he is arguably the best closer in the history of the game (especially in the postseason), but he is 39. I do not abandon all hope when he takes the mound.

Now everyone makes the trek down 95 for Game 3 in Philly. I have no idea what to expect from Cole. I’m hoping he continues the good pitching trend, for I think Petitte will be solid. Truthfully I’d feel better with Happ starting.

Cole Hamels, if you’re reading this, the year is 2008. That’s right, 2008.

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Prelude to the 2009 World Series

The 2009 World Series will begin in thirty minutes. I feel like I’m 12 years old again. Last year I enjoyed the Phillies march through the postseason immensely (almost to the point of feeling guilty about it). I thought this year I would be more accustomed to it and that it would have a lesser effect on me. I was wrong. This postseason has been great; I’m savoring ever moment.

When the playoffs started I wanted a Phillies vs Yankees World Series, and now it is here.

The Yankees

In sports I am slow to hate a franchise. In fact, there are only a handful of teams I truly despise. My problem is that I love history and I respect individuals, neither of those is conducive to blind hatred.

Over the years I formed a dislike for the Yankees. That dislike was a result of George Steinbrenner, the Yankees large payroll, and the fact that the Red Sox were the biggest rival (as a young fan I enjoyed reading about the history of Boston baseball, and I hoped to see the Curse of the Bambino broken). That dislike for the Yankees is dissipating, maybe this series will renew it?

When I look at the past I love the Yankees. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Ford, Munson, and Jackson. Stories of records and historic ballgames, pictures of Yankee Stadium, and roots that can be traced back to the infancy of the American League. I love the history, the pride, the commitment to excellence.

When I look at the current roster I respect most of the players. Derek Jeter may be overrated defensively, but he is a good leader and a very good ballplayer. I’ve always been an Alex Rodriguez fan, and I must admit I am happy he has had a good postseason (though I hope he cools off now). Mark Teixeira is a player I have always liked. There isn’t anyone on the roster I really dislike (maybe that will change in a few days).

I should also state that New York is a great city. As someone who identifies with Philadelphia, I feel no animosity toward New York.

The Yankees spent a lot of money heading into this season. The free agents and new ballpark cost money that most other clubs can only dream about. And I don’t like that about baseball.

I’m proud that the Phillies have developed many of their own prospects and signed the discards of other teams. For this reason the trade for Cliff Lee caused me some duress this season. I love the deal, but it saddens me to see an acquisition fueled by economic hardship.

My Thoughts on the Series

This is the first time I remember following a Phillies team that truly convinced me that they can win any ballgame. Instead of feeling impending doom while I watch them play, I feel expectation. Something good is going to happen.

That being said my feet are anchored firmly on the ground. My heart tells me the Phillies will remain hot and win this series. I really think they can will. My head just smiles and looks at numbers and match ups, then tells me the Yankees should be favored.

Here is a quick breakdown of the team with the advantage as I see it:

Starting Pitching: Yankees. Sabathia, Burnett, and Petitte are a solid 1, 2, 3. Lee is good for the Phillies, but Martinez and Hamels are concerns. The Yankees will be more patient against Martinez than the Dodgers were, plus he got numerous long outs at Dodger Stadium that would be souvenirs at New Yankee Stadium. Hamels is an enigma. He could throw a complete game shut out or get rocked for 10 runs in the first and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Middle Relief: Push. I see this as very even, especially when Happ and Blanton are in the pen.

Closer: Yankees. Lidge blew two saves against the Yankees this season. Not comforting.

Catcher: Yankees. Posada is probably my least favorite Yankee, but he swings a better bat than Ruiz (even though Ruiz is Mr Choochtober). If the Phillies run all over Posada the balance might swing over to the Phillies favor. Ruiz is a much better defensive catcher.

Firstbase: Push. This is a tough call. Howard is very hot right now, so as a Phillies fan I would be inclined to give him the edge. Add to this the fact that Teixeira has had a poor postseason. But Tex plays better defense and is a switch hitter. Howard has bad numbers against lefties. I suspect Howard will see lefties and many bad pitches this series. In my mind it is a push.

Secondbase: Phillies. Chase Utley is the man.

Shortstop: Push. Another tough one. Jimmy is much better defensively. Jeter had better offensive numbers. If you offered me the ability to pick whichever one I wanted for this series I would go with J-Roll, but I’m biased.

Thirdbase: Yankees. No discussion here.

Leftfield: Push. Once again I am inclined to lean the Phillies direction and go with Raul, but Damon had a solid year. Both parks in this series are well-suited for Damon. Raul has been cold. The Phillies will use Ben Francisco in left for the first game and DH Raul, I suspect Raul will play the field in Game 2 with Stairs as DH.

Centerfield: Phillies. I’ll take Shane over Melky any day of the week.

Rightfield: Phillies. I’ll take Werth over Swisher any day of the week.

Designated Hitter: Yankees. The designated hitter is an abomination (how about that, I used the word abomination twice on this blog this month). I hate the DH rule. Just in case you haven’t picked up on my feelings toward the DH, I don’t like it.

Coaching: Phillies. Charlie usually makes solid decisions and Davey Lopes is the best coach in baseball. When it comes to strategy I feel Charlie will use substitutions better than Girardi.

So there you have it. 5-4-4 to the Yankees, and I think the starting pitching is a major factor.

My Heart Says: Phillies in 5 games
My Head Says: Yankees in 6 games

Right now my heart and head are not speaking to each other.

It’s time for baseball.

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2009 NLCS Game 5: It’s a Wrap

The 2009 NLCS just ended. The Philadelphia Phillies have advanced to the World Series, and I am thoroughly enjoying the moment. Game 5 was relatively comfortable from the bottom of the 1st inning on, which was a nice respite after Game 4. Here are a few thoughts about the game and the series as a whole:

  • Cole Hamels had another rough start. He struggled to locate his pitches at times. On the plus side, his curve seemed much better tonight than it has in weeks. But after being staked a nice lead he couldn’t get through five innings. That’s a problem. I’m holding out hope that he has a stellar start left for the World Series.
  • Chase Utley didn’t get a hit, but he did walk. That walk means he has safely reached base in 25 consecutive postseason games, which ties the MLB record held by Boog Powell.
  • In Game 5 the Phillies’ 3 and 4 hitters (Utley and Howard) combined for an 0 for 6 night with no runs batted in. Despite this the Phillies put up 10 runs. That makes me feel pretty good.
  • Jimmy Rollins had a huge hit that dramatically won Game 4. In Game 5 he was hit by pitches twice. Coincidence? Rollins had never been hit twice in one game before. For the record I do not think the Dodgers were throwing at Jimmy.
  • Chad Durbin pitched 1.1 innings of solid relief to get the win. He faced Manny, Kemp, Loney, and Martin at a critical time in the game and got three ground balls and a strikeout.
  • I must bring up my favorite commentator from TBS once more. In the 5th inning Ron Darling made two contradictory statements. Statement 1 = A three run lead in this ballpark is nothing. (This is a stupid comment regardless of what was said after it. A three run lead is something in any ballpark.) Statement 2: How many times do you see a pitcher with a big lead struggle in the 5th inning? (The insinuation he was making is that it is common). So a three run lead is nothing, yet it is a big lead. Riiiigggghhhhhtttt.
  • And my favorite topic of the postseason. The strike zone. Argh. Home plate umpire Tom Hallion called a conservative strikezone. I do not ever recall a series (regular season or postseason) having this many consecutive games with such a small strike zone. I think both teams were hurt by it, but the Dodgers more so than the Phillies. I also think that if Jamie Moyer had been on the Phillies’ roster for some reason he would have never had a chance. Saying the umpires were calling a conservative strike zone does not even do it justice. If the strike zone were an Anabaptist denomination it would be Old Order Amish, more conservative than the Mennonites, Brethren, or Hutterites. I prefer the Evangelical Mennonite strike zone.
  • I’ve made a very disturbing observation about Ryan Howard during the NLCS. Before Game 4 he spoke at a press conference wearing a hat cocked slightly to one side, which I consider an abomination. I had not seen him do this before. After Game 5 he did it again. This grieves me. I have always appreciated that the Phillies do not have players on their roster who wear crooked hats. A backwards hat is fine, but crooked hats are just wrong. Thankfully Howard still wears his in a respectable manner during the game.

Congratulations to the Dodgers on a fine season. They had the best record in the NL and are a good ball club. I’d love to see the Phils tangle with them again next year in the NLCS. That’s a distinct possibility considering the nucleus of young talent they have.

So now I get to look forward to the World Series for the next week. I’m hoping we get to play the Yankees.

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NLCS Game 4: A Sudden Turn of Events

On Monday I spent several hours weighing parts of dead firs in the lab. While I did this I listened to Philly sports radio (610 WIP) via the internet. The mood was joyful and optimistic (as long as the Eagles weren’t mentioned), and the consensus was that the NLCS was all but wrapped up.

I am prone to be cautious, so all this talk of the series being a walkover didn’t sit well with me. As the day progressed I began to develop a foreboding feeling. By the time I sat down in front of my television I was expecting Randy Wolf to pitch well and the Phillies to lose a close game (I’m not saying this is what I wanted; I’m saying this is what I thought was going to happen).

Here are a few thoughts on the game:

  • Ryan Howard knocked in a run in his eighth consecutive postseason game, tying the MLB record held by Lou Gehrig. When he hit the ball out in the first inning I began to feel my fears about Randy Wolf might have been ridiculous.
  • The strike zone Ted Barrett called bothered me all night. I am a strong proponent of a liberal strike zone. If a pitch so much as grazes an edge of the zone I want it to be a strike. Both teams suffered from the micro strike zone that existed. One example of this occurred in the 3rd inning, when Jimmy Rollins took three straight pitches that were called balls that should have been strikes. Three in a row!
The strike zone (yellow) that I like; the one that was called (red).

The strike zone (yellow) that I like; the one that was called (red).

  • Randy Wolf did pitch very well. After the Howard home run he  mowed through the Phillies’ line up for four innings. I was happy to see Torre pull him in the 6th.
  • Ron Darling, TBS color commentator, annoyed me again. In the bottom of the 5th Joe Blanton was up with two outs and Ruiz on first. It was a classic second-guess-the-manager moment. Should Blanton hit or not? Charlie left Blanton in. I feel this was the right move. In the top of the 6th Manny led off with a ground ball that should have been an out. Instead Pedro Feliz made an error. After two weakly hit singles the Dodgers had another run, which prompted Mr Darling to make this remark (paraphrased): Charlie Manuel decided not to hit for Blanton and it cost the Phillies a run. The Dodgers have made the better moves and they have the lead for it. What! Blanton pitched well in the inning. The run was unearned. How can you blame that run on Blanton? What if someone had come out of the bullpen and allowed three runs? Would Charlie have been criticized for pulling Blanton? Ron Darling and Buck Martinez have driven me to the point where I miss the commentary of Tim McCarver, how sad is that?
  • Going into the 9th I had hope that the Phils would win, but I felt the game was unfolding just like I feared. And then the rally happened.
  • I think Jonathan Broxton will always hate NLCS Game 4. Last year he surrendered a dramatic home run to Matt Stairs to blow the game; this year he gave up a game winning double to Jimmy Rollins to blow the game.
  • Carlos Ruiz continued to be Dodger kryptonite. This time he was hit by a pitch, then scored the winning run from firstbase on a double.
  • The Comcast SportsNet Philly Phillies Postgame Show is always very good. Michael Barkann is a wonderful anchor, and I really like hearing what Ricky Botallico has to say (as opposed to Ron Darling). I miss Mitch Williams (he’s on the MLB network now), though for the postseason Darren Daulton has been added. Dutch went through an extended period after he retired as a player when he was certifiably crazy (talking about aliens and all sorts of weird stuff). Now he seems stable. After this game he was so excited he almost dropped a few F-bombs while discussing the 9th inning highlights.

I’m thrilled the Phillies won the game, it will certainly go down as a memorable one. Right now it is 2:17am as I type this and there is no way I will be falling asleep anytime soon. I suspect I might have had nearly toxic levels of adrenalin in my system, and it is taking its time breaking down or dissipating (or doing whatever adrenalin does when the party is over).

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