Archive for April, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: Recapping the New York Mets Series

I’ll just ignore the 11-0 shellacking today.  Halladay pitched extremely well.

I have to show the Mets some love, though. 

They’ve been in the doldrums the past couple of years and, who knows, they may end up being in the doldrums once again when the season concludes.

But, for the first time in a while, the Mets played with passion. 

Let’s look at game two of the series.  In years past, a 7-0 deficit was impossible to overcome; they would’ve waved the white flag.

Although the Phillies won the game 10-7, I came away impressed.

Whether it was the managerial change or cutting Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, something is fueling the fire.

Making the playoffs is still going to be a tough task, but at least there’s some life being shown.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 05: Starting pitcher Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies walks from the mound after being pulled from the game by manager Charlie Manuel in the third inning during the game against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park

 

Four Aces Doesn’t Win Every Hand

During yesterday’s edition of Philadelphia’s Daily News Live, there was a poll on Cole Hamels.

On Tuesday night, Hamels struggled and was booed heavily for his efforts.  He went just two and two-thirds innings, allowed six runs on seven hits, and walked two.

He didn’t really get hit hard, but six runs are still six runs.

Back to the poll; there were two choices.  Essentially, choice A was that the fans shouldn’t have booed, and choice B was that he should’ve been booed.

Forty-seven percent of Philadelphians voted for choice B. 

Are you kidding me, Philadelphia? Really?!?!  You can’t expect perfect starts from the four aces every single game. 

Hamels is a pitcher who improves as the season goes along.  I noticed that he didn’t have his 95-96 MPH velocity that he had by the end of last year.  He was in the low-90’s.   

He struggled with his location, but, to conclude, it’s just one start.

Patience, Philly, patience.   

Blanton Hot and Cold

For the first three innings during game two of the series, Blanton looked solid. 

He nipped the corners with his two-seam sinking fastball.  His curveball had solid tilt, and he fooled Mets hitters with his changeup.

Then things started to unravel quickly in the fifth inning. 

With the Phillies up 7-2 entering the frame, Blanton started getting rocked.  A single here, a double there—when the inning concluded, the Mets had tied the score at seven. 

He didn’t locate his fastball, and his velocity dipped from 90 MPH in the first inning to 87 MPH in the fifth.  His curveball started to hang.

It was a bad start, but the Phillies’ offense eventually took the lead back and won the game 10-7.

Like Hamels, Blanton is another pitcher who pitches better as the season progresses.

 

Antonio Bastardo Looks Solid

As the season goes along, I’m curious as to how the Phillies are going to handle Antonio Bastardo out of the pen.

Back to game two.  Blanton left the game in the fifth with one out and the bases loaded.

Bastardo came in and allowed just one run—throwing a scoreless sixth inning as well. 

He located his fastball, and threw his signature slider well.  Bastardo doesn’t exactly have the greatest statistics during his career. 

Walks have been his downfall, but he threw 17 of his 20 pitches for strikes.

J.C. Romero hasn’t exactly been stellar the last couple of years, so if Bastardo can continue to pitch well, it gives the Phillies another lefty option to consider.

 

The Big Bear Continues to Roar

Howard’s been known to be hot for long stretches of time, but it also works the other way around.

The Big Bear has never gotten off to a start like this. 

There have been 294 total cycles in MLB history. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 8,830 instances since the expansion era in 1961 in which a batter has fallen a triple shy of the cycle.  This occurs approximately once in every 12 games played. 

Howard fell a triple shy of the cycle twice this week.

Francisco Continues to Rake

Besides Ryan Howard, no one is hitting the ball harder than Ben Francisco.

If it was summertime, Francisco would already have four home runs instead of two.

In game one of the series, Francisco hit two stingers to deep left.  The wind knocked down both balls, and Jerry Hairston Jr. made both plays at the warning track.

Francisco finally got some justice by drilling a no-doubt bomb to left in game two.

All in all, he’s off to a fantastic start.

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Things to Take Away from the Houston Astros Series

After a convincing 7-3 victory yesterday afternoon against Houston, the Phillies solidified a three game sweep of the Astros.

The Phillies are currently one of four teams who took all three games in their opening series; Texas, Baltimore and Cincinnati being the others.

They outscored Houston 21-11 in the series.

Although we can all agree that the Astros are an inferior opponent, there were a lot of positives to take away from the sweep.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 01:  John Mayberry Jr. #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies smiles after getting hit with a cream pie after driving in the game winning run to defeat the Houston Astros 5-4 on opening day at Citizens Bank Park on April 1, 2011 in Phil

 

Game One Resiliency

Roy Halladay pitched an impressive six innings, but once again got no run support as he left the game down 1-0.  J.C. Romero and David Herndon then came on in the seventh and allowed three more runs as the Astros took a 4-0 advantage.

The Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth down 4-2 while accumulating just four hits in the first eight innings. 

Then, in typical Phillies fashion, the bats woke up when they were needed the most. 

Six hits, six singles, and the Phillies walked off with a 5-4 victory when John Mayberry Jr. singled on a sharp line drive over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, Wilson Valdez and John Mayberry Jr. all recorded hits.  Raul Ibanez was the only batter to record an out in the ninth.

 

Rollins and Howard Leading the Way

With Chase Utley still out for an unspecified amount of time, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have showed outstanding leadership in his absence.

Rollins has filled in the vacated three hole very well thus far.  He’s hitting .500, with all of his hits being singles.  He’s reached base on 8-of-14 plate appearances so far.  It was Rollins who lead the charge in the Phillies Opening Day 5-4 win.  He lead off with a single, stole third, and was the first out of the dugout to celebrate with his teammates at home plate.

Ryan Howard is known for being a notoriously slow starter.  In the last three years, Howard accumulated just a .241 average in April. 

In three games thus far, he’s hitting the cover off the ball at a .538 clip (7-for-13).  He has six RBI’s, including four yesterday. 

He’s standing closer to the plate, and while he’s still striking out, it seems like he’s seeing the ball much better.  He’s laid off a couple of pitches off the outside part of the plate that he used to flail at.

 

Francisco’s Spring Transitioning to the Start of the Season

While it’s unrealistic to expect Jayson Werth type production from Francisco, it’s not unrealistic to expect a big season from him.

He sprayed the ball around and hit .482 in the series.  He’s pulling line drives, going the opposite field and went yard yesterday.

In another tidbit, the Phillies scored 21 runs in the series against Houston, and hit just two home runs in the three games.

 

Victorino’s Calf Just Fine

Shane Victorino exited Game Two of the series with a calf injury, and was replaced by Michael Martinez in the lineup yesterday.

Victorino did pinch hit, hit a RBI single, and took Martinez’ place in center.

He made an amazing play on a sure Michael Bourn gapper in left-center field.  With the ball tailing away from him, Victorino took a perfect route, turned on the burners, and somehow made the catch. 

His calf is fine!

 

Starting Pitching Dominates, Middle Relief OK so Far

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt combined to pitch 19 innings, striking out 23 batters.

Halladay and Oswalt each fanned six in six innings, while Lee struck out 11 in seven innings.

All three showed great command with their fastballs and secondary pitches.  Lee and Oswalt each picked up a win.

The relief pitching was a question mark heading into the year, but besides David Herndon and J.C. Romero’s shaky outings in Game One, the relief has been fine. 

Herndon and Romero allowed three earned runs in the seventh inning.  Since then, the relief combined to pitch seven innings with Kyle Kendrick the only reliever to allow an earned run.

On Paper Series Links Page

To those unfamiliar with my “On Paper” series, I have provided links to all the previews below.

2011 MLB Picks and Predictions

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