September 2009

1-2 Pickup Punch

Has there been a better pair of mid-season pitching acquisitions than Cliff and Pedro?  Perhaps and perhaps not.  After last night, the Phillies are 12-2 in games that pair has started. 

Cliff hurled a 9-inning shutout on the heels of 8 scoreless innings from Pedro on national TV Sunday.  The back-to-back shutouts are a first in Citizens Bank Park history, the first since 2003 (Millwood in SF, Myers at the Vet) and the first in Philly since August 15-16, 2002.

Now, a trivia question: Name the pitchers who tossed those 2002 shutouts.

National Attention
Seated in the first row of the Hall of Fame Club section, a father, wearing a red Phillies jersey,
caught a foul ball, handed it to his little daughter who promptly tossed it over the railing to fans below.  The video has caught both local and national attention: CNN, Nightly News, Early Show, Today Show and who knows how many websites. 

Lee’s shutout took a back seat to the little girl, a right-hander.

Lakewood Shutout
A couple of hours away from Citizens Bank Park, three Lakewood pitchers (Jesus Sanchez, Austin Hyatt and Santos Hernandez) combined to shut out Greenville, 6-0, and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five South Atlantic League championship playoffs.

The BlueClaws eliminated Kannapolis with two straight wins in the opening round last week.  First game was also a shutout.  RHP Trevor May, who hurled 6 shutout innings that night, starts in Game 3 tomorrow night in Greenville, SC.

Phillies Insider is on twitter as barons63.




Beyond the Season Race Continues

Three weeks from today four NL teams will be left standing, ready for baseball beyond the season.  Somewhere, someplace, the teams will work out prior to the start of the National League Division Series on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

When the sun rose this morning the NL leaders: the Phillies (82-60), East by 7 games, Cardinals (85-60), central by 9.5 and Dodgers (86-59), west by 4.  The Rockies had a 3.5 game lead on the Giants for the wildcard race. None of the teams can look ahead any farther than today.  Charlie preaches one game at a time.  Too much can happen between now the season’s Oct. 4 finish.

Division winner with the best winning percentage will face the wildcard team, unless the wildcard  is from the same division. 

NLDS is best-of-5, NLCS, best-of-7.  Home field advantage goes to the team with the highest winning percentage during the season.  In addition to trying to get there, the Phillies (20 games left), Cardinals (17) and Dodgers (17) are trying to win as many games as possible to get that home field advantage.

Once again the American League will have the home field advantage in the World Series (Games 1-2; 6-7, if necessary).

All postseason games will be televised nationally.  TBS will have the NLDS and ALDS and NLCS.  FOX will carry the ALCS and the WS.

Lakewood Takes Lead
The BlueClaws took a 1-0 lead over Greenville with a win last night at home.  Jesus Sanchez will start in game 2 of the best-of-f5 championship series tonight at FirstEnergy Field.

Greg Dobbs will begin a rehab assignment tonight, playing third base for Lakewood.  Goal is 5 innings at third base and 3 at-bats.

Clay Condrey pitched 1 rehab inning last night: 1 run, 2 hits (infield hit, walk, RBI double, two ground balls and a strikeout).  19 pitches, 12 for strikes.

Phillies Insider is on twitter as barons63.

Big Swing Day

Yesterday was swing day.  Two Phillies wins and a loss by the Marlins meant a 6.5 game lead.  If the opposite occurred, the lead would be 3.5. 

Thanks to the starters, Kyle and Pedro, the Phillies won both games.  Last time they did that at home was a year ago today (Milwaukee).  Combined, Kyle and Pedro gave up two runs in their time on the mound. 

The bullpen was shaky again but picked up a save in each game.  The offense continued to sputter.  The one run in the second game was produced by the first three batters in the first.  After that, zero.

Shane’s 10th homer in the first game made him the first player in the majors this year to reach double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases.  He fell two triples shy a year ago.

Stairs Climbing
Matt has moved into the Phillies record book.  His five pinch homers this season match the club record set by 3B Gene Freese 50 years ago.

In his brief career in pinstripes, Stairs has hit seven pinch homers (regular season).  That ties OF Ricky Ledee for second place on the club’s all-time list and leaves him two shy of the record set by OF Cy Williams. 

Williams played 13 seasons with the Phillies (1918-30).  Matt’s career so far is seven months.

Owens Award
OF Michael Taylor and RHP Kyle Drabek will receive their Paul Owens Awards prior to tomorrow night’s game.

In addition to receiving the awards, they will have a media session in the dugout, sign autograph for customers in the Hall of Fame Club and appear as a guest on Jim Jackson’s pre-game radio show.

Lakewood in Finals
LHP Matt Way, selected in the 5th round in June out of Washington State U., will start tonight at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood in the first game of the best-of-five South Atlantic League championship against the Greenville Drive (Red Sox).  May won the first game Wednesday in the opening round against Kannapolis.  RHP Trevor May won the second game.  The Way-May boys.

After home games tonight and tomorrow, the series shifts to Fluor Field in Greenville, SC, for the rest of the series.  All games begin at 7:05 p.m.

You can follow the results on the Daily Minor League roundup.

Phillies Insider is also on twitter as barons63.

Hard to Believe, Harry

Sometimes this game is hard to figure out.  A round ball can take strange bounces, lady luck can play a role, or as Richie Ashburn used to say, “Hard to Believe, Harry.”

Last night was another example.  J-Roll had three errors for the entire season (86 games) and committed two in four innings.  Last time he had two errors in a game was three years ago.  Where?  Washington, DC.

Enemy hitters were batting .309 against Livan Hernandez when the game began.  Four batters into the game, the Phillies had two runs.  They didn’t get another run off him the rest of the night. 

Matt Stairs’ last hit was a pinch homer on July 11, 30 at-bats ago.  Phillies Faithful (there were a lot of them) at Nationals Park didn’t seem fazed when he came up with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth and the DC nine leading, 8-2.  “Let’s Go Phillies, Let’s Go Phillies” they chanted.  Matt broke his spell with a pinch grand slam.  He has five pinch homers this season, matching the club record set by Gene Freese 50 years ago.

J-Roll, who has scored only 2 runs in his previous 12 games, singled after the slam and scored when Shane slapped a double inside the third base bag.  Momentum and lady luck was changing.  Against the shift, Chase had a check-swing infield hit, putting runners on first and third with one out.  Lady luck?

With Ryan at bat, a wild pitch hit the stone backstop and bounded right back to the catcher.  Instead of a tie game, runners were still on first and third.  Lady luck?  Ryan then bounced into a close, game-ending double play.

During the early part of the season, we couldn’t win at home.  Instead, we piled up the league’s best road record.  Now, we’ve lost seven of our last 10 road games, against the Pirates, Astros and Nationals.

At home, we’ve won seven of our last nine. Next seven are at home, against the Mets and Nationals.

Yes, “Hard to Believe, Harry.”

Phillies Insider appears on twitter as barons63.


Not Easy

Larry Andersen said it best on the radio broadcast last night, “This team doesn’t make it easy.”

Offense did drive in some runs without hitting a homer and yet it was back-to-back solo homers that eventually provided the margin of victory.    We left seven runners in scoring position, the most of any NL team yesterday.  RISP last night: 2 hits in 13 at-bats.

A couple of RBI extremes last night: Lee drove in his first major league run, which can be largely  blamed on the DH in the AL, while Raul drove in his 21st run against the Nationals this season.

The Braves, Dodgers and Reds lost games in the ninth inning yesterday.  So, it does happen to other teams.  Madson didn’t let it happen, although it wasn’t easy.

After tonight’s game, the Phillies hop on an AMTRAK charter train for a return home. 

A Reminder
Mets begin a weekend series tomorrow night, four games in three days.

Sunday includes a 1:05 afternoon game and an 8:05 night game for ESPN TV.  The night game is a rescheduled game from earlier in the season.  Gates open at 11:05 a.m. for the first game; 6:35 for the night game.

World Cup
Minor leaguers Terry Tiffee, B. J. Rosenberg, Chris Kissock, Drew Naylor and Joel Naughton are playing in the Baseball World Cup currently going on in Europe.

Four of our scouts are there: Steve Cohen (Sweden), Gene Schall and Tim Kissner (Croatia), Brian Kohlscheen (Germany) and Chip Lawrence (Spain).

Minor League Notes
LHP Matt Way gave up a first-inning run and then pitched six scoreless innings as Lakewood won game 1 of the best-of-three at Kannapolis.  CF Anthony Gose had 3 hits; he led all minors with 76 steals.  Last night, he was caught once and got picked off another time.

Reading lost at Akron.  OF Michael Taylor, who was on the DL at Lehigh Valley since August 15, joined the Phillies but was hitless in four at-bats.  He must have been rusty as he struck out three times.

Daily Minor League Roundup provides more details.

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter as barons63.

Full Day

Yesterday was an interesting day, to say the least.  

Happ was scratched from his next start this weekend against the Mets . . .  He was one of three pitchers to see the doctor in Philly . . . Eyre came down with an ailing elbow . . . Pedro pitched great . . . Phillies had just seven hits . . . Five were solo homers, making it 10 of last 11 with the bases empty . . . Three homers came in the seventh inning and gave the Phillies a lead of more than one run (4-2) for the first time since Aug. 30 . . . Ibanez broke out with three hits, two being homers . . . Team became the 12th to have four players with 30 or more homers in a season . . . Chase stole his 20th consecutive base . . . Charlie brought in Brad for the ninth and then lifted him . . . Madson got a two-out save throwing six pitches, all strikes . . . Charlie won his 432nd game, passing Jim Fregosi for fourth place on the team’s all-time list for games won by a manager . . . The win ended a five-game losing streak on the road and kept the division lead at six with 26 more games to go.

In games started by Pedro and Cliff, the Phillies are 11-2.  That’s pretty impressive.

Today, Escalona and Tracy were added to the roster.  Sergio gives them another lefty in the pen.  J. C. got a cortisone shot in his pitching arm and will be shut down for a couple of days. In Sergio’s last four appearances at Reading, eight of his last 16 outs came on strikeouts. 

Tracy is a veteran left-handed power bat, giving Charlie another option off the bench.  Stairs hasn’t had a hit since July 11. 

Minor League Notes
Both Reading and Lakewood begin their playoffs tonight.  Results are posted on

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter as barons63.

Lost Weekend

Four weeks ago, the Marlins swept the Phillies in three games at Citizens Bank Park.  Charlie Manuel unloaded on the club post-game.

He vented to the media yesterday after being swept four games by the Astros.  Charlie was upset because the bats really labored over the Labor Day weekend.  Runners In Scoring Position turned into Runners In Stranded Position.

Except for Friday night’s washout, the other three losses were by one run.  In each case, the starting pitching did the job, the bullpen lost twice and the offense was home run or no run.  We no longer lead the NL in runs scored.  The red hot Rockies have climbed to the top.

Now, the good news: Those games are gone.  No panicking, no grousing, no jumping off the bandwagon. 

Time to focus on tonight, the first of 10 games against the bottom two teams in the NL East. 

Phillies are 10-2 against the Nationals, riding a seven-game winning streak.  Last time we saw the Nationals was at the end of May.  Their winning percentage then was .280.  Since then, .379; not great but not an easy touch anymore. 

Minor League Notes
Reading Phillies clinched a wildcard playoff spot this weekend in Connecticut (Norwich).  Following yesterday’s last-game loss, their bus headed for Ohio (Akron) for the start of the first round of playoffs.

Lakewood BlueClaws won the first half in the South Atlantic League North Division.  Their bus left Maryland (Salisbury) after last evening’s final game for North Carolina (Kannapolis) and the start of the first round.

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter at barons63.



Game Hard to Figure

Sometimes you can’t figure out this game of baseball.  Starting against the Yankees on August 21, Brad Penny gave up 8 runs on 10 hits in 4 innings.  The Red Sox lost, 20-11, and released him.

SF signed him to a minor league contract on Monday and sent him to the mound for the first time last night against the Phillies.  He hadn’t pitched in 11 days.   In 24 starts with the Red Sox, he never pitched more than 6 innings.

So, last night he pitched 8 shutout innings.  We had 5 singles. The Giants improved to 53-14 when scoring 4 or more runs and he improved to 9-4 against the Phillies. 

If we couldn’t muster any offense against Penny, what will we do tonight against Lincecum? Six times this year he has pitched 8 scoreless innings, including his last outing and his one start vs. the Phillies on August 1.  Overall, he’s allowed 2 runs in his last 20 innings.  And, we have scored just 11 runs in our last 6 games.

But, you never know.

Pedro will make this third start at Citizens Bank Park and the first without any rain in the forecast.

Road Trip
Team leaves after tonight’s game for a 7-game journey to Houston and Washington, DC.  According to the travel itinerary, the Phillies are expected to land in Houston around 3:15 a.m. (CDT).

Night games with Astros tomorrow and Saturday, day games on Sunday and Labor Day Monday.

Can’t believe the summer is coming to a close.

Minor League Notes
Yesterday was a bad day for the Phillies period.  The big leaguers lost and all five minor league teams tasted defeat . . . The Paul Owens Award winners have been announced as were the players of the week for last week.

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter as barons63.

Cole's Gem

Headline on the cack page of today’s Philadelphia Daily News: FROM COLE, A GEM.

In checking with Webster’s Online Dictionary, a gem is:

**A crystalline rock that can be cut and polished for jewelry.
**Art highly prized for its beauty or perfection.
**A person who is a brilliant and precious as a piece of jewelry.
**A precious or semiprecious stone incorporated into a piece of jewelry.

Description #2, really fits Cole’s 2-hit performance last night.  He indeed was an artist on the mound. 

How about these numbers?
 118 pitches
 80 strikes
 8 ground ball outs
 9 outs in the air
 9 strikeouts
 1 caught stealing

The Big Piece drove in the lone run, his 105th RBI for his career in September.  Ryan had 33 RBI last month, pushing his August career total to 133.  Prior to 2009, September was his best RBI month and it may well wind up that way again.

The 1-0 shutout was the fourth in Citizens Bank Park history and the second by the Phillies.  Other came against Washington, July 9, 2005 (Cory Lidle/Billy Wagner).

Phillies Insider appears on twitter as barons63.

All Games Count

The regular season is down to 34 games in 34 days for the Phillies.  Actually, there are two days off in September but doubleheaders on the 13th and 22nd account for the 34/34. 

Regular season ends October 4.  NL Division Series begins October 7.

Last time the Phillies led their division on September 1 was 1993, a 9.5 game lead.   They won the division by 3 games.

On paper, a 7.5 game lead for the Phillies seems pretty comfortable.  But, the game isn’t played on paper and anything can happen.  For you older Phillies fans, 1964 is a painful example.  We had a 6.5 game lead with 12 games left and lost 10 in a row.  We finished second.

So, every game counts.  Team with the best record gets the home field advantage for the Division Series and League Championship Series.  As today began, LA led (.591), we were second (.586) and the Cardinals, third (.583).  In losses: Phillies 53, LA 54, StL 55.  That’s why every game counts.

In the wildcard race, San Francisco and tied Colorado with Atlanta and Florida in the running.  The three-game series with the Giants that starts tonight at sold out Citizens Bank Park could be a preview of the Division Series. 

The Giants are 44-21 at home and just 28-38 on the road.  Thursday night’s game will be televised by the MLB Network, subject to local blackouts.

Phillies Final 34
Astros (8), Nationals and Marlins (6 each), Brewers and Mets (4 games each), Braves and Giants (3 apiece).   Hard to believe we have to play 131 games before we see Houston and then we have eight games against them in the last 31.

Another Lefty
Jack Taschner will be in uniform starting tonight, giving Charlie Manuel two lefties in the bullpen until J. C. Romero is ready to come of the DL later this month.

Minor League Notes
RH closer Michael Schwimer was promoted from Clearwater to Reading on Sunday.  He must have tied a record as he was the winning pitcher in both games of a doubleheader last night . . . In case you missed it, the Phillies have shut down RHP Kyle Drabek for the rest season as a precautionary measure.  Because of rehabbing from 7/25/07 Tommy John surgery, Kyle was limited to eight games last season (32.1 innings).  Between Clearwater and Reading this year: 24 games, 12-3, 3.19 ERA, 150 strikeouts in 158 innings . . . RHP Brody Colvin made his pro debut yesterday afternoon for the Gulf Coast League Phillies, 2 innings, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

Phillies Insider also appears on twitter as barons63.