Looking October Worthy

lee 0915.jpg“They have a lot pros over there. Lee and Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels go deep in ballgames. That’s a good formula for winning.” — Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman.

The past few nights at Citizens Bank Park have been impressive, and perhaps a glimpse into the future.

Cliff Lee shutout the Nationals tonight at Citizens Bank Park, 5-0, two nights after Pedro Martinez threw 130 pitches in eight shutout innings Sunday in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. Two nights before that, Cole Hamels allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his previous four starts.

“Our one to five is as good as anybody’s,” Lee said of a rotation that also includes Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ. “I don’t think you necessarily have to have a 1-2 punch. I think we’ve got a 1-2-3-4-5 punch. That’s never ending.”

It is too early to say what the postseason rotation will look like, but I think the health of left-handers Scott Eyre and J.C. Romero could play a part in it. If they are not healthy, the Phillies could move Happ into the bullpen to give them a left-hander. If that happens, Martinez obviously makes the rotation.

(And, yes, I know the Mets and Nationals aren’t the Dodgers, Rockies or Cardinals, but the Philllies starters are doing what they should do against these offenses. Shut them down.)

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The last time the Phillies had shutouts in consecutive games was April 27-28, 2003, when Kevin Millwood threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory against the Giants at Veterans Stadium and Brett Myers, Dan Plesac and Jose Mesa combined for a 3-0 victory against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

I remember Millwood’s no-hitter well. I had started the Phillies beat a couple weeks earlier for The Philadelphia Inquirer, but because the Phillies opened a series the next night in Los Angeles, I flew to California that afternoon. In other words, the very first game I missed as a Phillies beat writer Kevin Freakin’ Millwood throws a no-hitter. I remember getting into my rental car at LAX, turning on the radio and hearing Vin Scully say, “And Kevin Millwood has a no-hitter through eight innings!” I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t believe it.

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The last time the Phillies had consecutive shutouts in Philadelphia was Aug. 15-16, 2002, against the Brewers and Cardinals. Joe Roa, Mike Timlin and Carlos Silva combined for the shutout against the Brewers, and Randy Wolf shutout the Cardinals.

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Carlos Ruiz is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with one homer and nine RBIs in his past 17 games.

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31 Comments

Joe Roa. I still remember when he ruined opening day in the early 2000’s by giving up a Grand Slam to Reggie Sanders of the Pirates. Those were the bad old days. Joe Roa was our opening day starter. Yikes! We’ve come a long way since then, although we still ALWAYS find a way to lose on opening day.

There is no need to qualify the import of the gem Cliff Lee pitched tonight. It was in no way diminished because it was against the Nationals. The Nationals are a formidable offense team. They are third in OBP and eighth in slugging for sixth in OPS. And their team batting average is sixth.

Exactly pherrisphain. The Nationals’ problem is pitching, top to bottom. It was just another spectacular start by Lee.

A complete game shutout is huge no matter who it’s against. Minor leagues or majors, shutting a team out through 9 innings is a big accomplishment.
It dawned on me at some point during another great night at the ballpark, that Carlos was behind the plate and not Bako. I think Carlos is the best catcher in the NL, and his play on Mock at second was as good as throwing out Murphy at third on Sunday night.
I don’t particularly care what his batting average is (within reason) to me, he saves runs with his defense, which is just as important as driving them in.

I love Chooch! I always give him a bit of slack offensively since he plays the hardest position on the field. He’s definitely one the best in league. The way he deals with each of pitchers is masterful. I like the way he’ll pat them on back at certain points in the game for what seems like encouragement then when they win he’s always ready with a congratulatory “man hug”. Class act for sure!

Best moment of the game when the little girl threw the foul ball back onto the field/stands. That was priceless!

That was the Lee we saw when he first got here last night. Working up-down, in-out. Just a masterpiece from him last night. I like the little bit of fire from him after the final out too. I know it’s been said that he is a very fiery guy but for the most part he keeps it bottled up. It’s amazing how this team’s biggest weakness in the beginning of the year is now its strength. I’m talking about the starting pitching. That’s why they call baseball a marathon and not a sprint.

karen, I echo your thoughts on Chooch. He is just another great piece to this great team. He does what he’s called on to do. His bat has been great as of late. He’s looking like October Chooch a little earlier this year. If it wasn’t for Hamels’ performance in the World Series Chooch should have been the MVP.

The most impressive thing for me is that this was the team that hit Lee around a little last week. He made the necessary adjustments and dominated them. Although he walked the bases loaded in the fourth, he didn’t give in to them and threw all his pitches. I think he walked Dukes semi-on-purpose because he knew he could get the next guy.
JRoll made some nice plays again. I’d like some more consistency with his bat, but the defense is always there.

karen: According to the midday show on WIP, the kid got the ball back from the person who caught it below. Nice. Never give a foul ball to a kid without implicit instructions. They’re going to want to throw it! :-)
joed: I remember thinking the same thing about giving Carlos the MVP during the Series last year. I also remember some rumblings during the winter about Carlos possibly losing his starting job to Marson or someone else. Sometimes baseball people over-think stuff and some players should just be left alone. Good defensive catchers are valuable parts to a team, and Ruiz has a chance to be here as long as Boone and Daulton.

muleman: I think the fact that the Phillies were willing to deal Marson showed Carlos that the Phillies believe in him and that last October was not just a fluke. He hit some very rough patches this year but right now he is getting hot at the right time. Last year he would drive me nuts with his double play balls but those are down this year.

joed: I made the same comment here (somewhere) when they made the deal for Lee. With the dearth of catching in their farm system, it was a big endorsement for Carlos. I’ve been a fan for a while, and it’s nice to see him develop into a solid major leaguer.

The DP balls were on my nerves too, but Jim Rice used to hit into a lot of DPs (led the AL ’82 to ’85 and was at least in the top 10 the rest of his career), so we’ll deal with it.

Thankfully we’re in teh posistion of not needing Cooch’s bat to score runs. Any production he gives us out of the 8 hoole is a bonus. Other teams, who don;t have the hitters we do aren’t in that posistion. We definately need to upgrade the backup C for next year though.
Lee pitched a great game. And he continued to show us he can swing a bat (he was robbed of a single last night).
It was nice to see Ruiz catching Lee. Just proves that Charlie isn’t a manager of habit.
Dave, in the DN, has started brainstorming on which pitchers makes the Playoff roster. His list is: Lee, Hammels, Blanton and Pedro as starters, Madson, Park, Happ, Myers, Lidge, Walker, Durbin and Condrey.
With Romero and Eyre hurt and Taschner not having proved he’s any better tehn he was hen sent down, there isn’t much choice. Moyer would be sent to Fla. to be ready if needed as a starter due to injury. Personally, if Eyer shows he can pitch effectively through the pain, I’d rather him over either Durbin or Condrey as we have Park and Happ to go multiple innings and an extra Lefty would be very useful. Thoughts?

Yeah they can’t have just one lefty on the roster. And I can’t imagine how miserable Moyer would be if he was left off entirely.

I can’t expect anything from Romero. He is prone to walks even when he is in the flow of a whole season. I like the guy a lot but I feel safer with Eyre at this point (should he get healthy in time). Having Happ or Pedro in the pen makes me feel good though. Should a game start to get away Charlie can immediately go to one of them.

Is anyone else worried about these last two starts from the starters though? Pedro throwing 130 pitches and Lee well over 100 as well really has me worried about an October breakdown. Lee has thrown a ton of innings and Pedro could crumble some but is benefiting from having just a half season to play. I understand why Charlie is stretching the starters. The pen has been terrible and Charlie wants to win the game before they let it slip away but a 5-0 game against the Nats when you are up 7 games is probably not a good time to push Lee to the limit again. And what kind of message does that send to an already mentally unstable pen?

If Brad Lidge wasn’t “Brad Lidge World Series Hero,” based soley on his performance this season, would he make the playoff roster? I say no.
If he keeps pitching the way he is now (known as “lousy”) what good is he going to be? He’ll be in mop-up roles or come in with a huge lead in the ninth.

I doubt that they will go into the postseason with only Happ as a lefty in the bullpen, even if it has to be Taschner. They are probably keeping their fingers crossed on Eyre and Romero, but they will definitely need another lefty. Condrey just got activated so Walker may be the odd man out in the end. That would be a shame, as he has played well when given the chance. They didn’t give him enough of a chance, IMO.

I’m betting that Eyre ends up on the roster. He threw long catch yesterday and said it didn;’ hurt. H’ll tough it out.

I agree with everyone, about the Nats offense. We’ve never played them well, for whatever reason. I was at the game last night. Lee was awesome! And besides pitching, the Nats defense was terrible! There were several times they had plays to get runners out. One at homeplate. They didn’t even try. Like they didn’t even care. No wonder they can’t build up a fan base.

muleman……Not that I don’t believe the guys at WIP, but I’m not sure how true that was. I know for a fact, that one of the Phillies VP’s saw what happened, and immediately took a ball down to the family. Wonder if that’s what WIP saw?

norma: I heard that someone from the Phillies gave the guy a ball. I don’t think they got the original ball back. I heard John Brazer (spelling?) on MGK saying that’s what happened.

The problem with Eyre, from what I understand, is that it is a foreign body floating within the elbow area. Today it may be in a place where it doesn’t hurt, and tomorrow he won’t be able to type on the computer without pain (he said in an interview that he had pain when on his PC at home). IMO this is too risky. You’d never know when he’d feel the pain and not be able to perform. As for only one lefty in pen, if that is what there is, then we’ll have to make due. In any case, I like Tyler on the roster. he’s been very very good of late

That thing with the little girl and the foul ball even made Sports Center last night. Priceless.

Eyre took a shot and is going to try to pitch through it. They’ll know where he stands within a week. Romero, not so much. He’s probably done.

It is my impression that the post season roster is fluid. The Philies have a certain number of players eligible which exceeds the 25 man roster limit. They set their roster from those eligible for the division series. They again set their roster for the league championship series. And lastly they set their roster for the world series. The point being the Phillies selections are only etched in stone for each series rather than for the entire post season. Please correct me if I am wrong.

pherris: you are correct.

joed21 …your earlier comment about leaving the starters in:
1) Who were talking about: Hamels-Pedro-Lee Hamels needed his complete game mentally, physically, as I believe did Pedro and Lee. (Happ and Blanton have had theirs earlier.) I’d take caution with Happ who’s pitched more innings than ever.
2) The pen sees that the starters can do this … perhaps sets a spark. I think it picks the whole team up including the pitcher and conditions them for doing the same, as may necessary, down the stretch or in a postseason opportunity, should one arise.
3) Assuming each starter has 4 more starts … I’d agree it’d be foolish to allow them to pitch more than 1 more CG – huge pitch count game … but I don’t agree to pull a starter @ 75-90 pitches after 7 innings if they’re in command.
4) I think giving the pen work is now extremely well set up after our starters have really wowed every with their efforts … perhaps even Lidge will benefit … we will see … lots of ball left.

I’m hoping for 8 or a CG from Blanton tonight, why not ? Perhaps even the same for Hamels, tomorrow, but again both decisions should be based on their command and count … rather than simply aiming for CGs every time, damn the pitch count.

phasers: I definitely see your side of the argument. I’m not a big pitch count fan myself but when you are pushing 130 with the lead this team has it makes me scratch my head. Maybe the high pitch counts will clear the heads of those guys in the pen. I hope it did because they need it.

Todd, you were with the Phils every game through the WSC. So don’t miss any playoff games, please……..

To limit pitch-count, or not to limit pitch-count. That is the question. These two philosophies are at odds with each other. Jaba “the Hutt” Chamberlain gets limited to 40/50/60 pitches per start. Apparently, the Yanks are building his pitch-count back up to 100. J.A. Happ is in the same boat: a young starter who has pitched the most innings of his career, coming into the post season. I’m curious whether the Jaba experiment will work for the Yankees or not. It could mess up his mechanics or location consistency.

Great story about Milwood’s no-no.

You must’ve been saying mama mia!!!

WWEd

Their season just ended on Sunday, so they’re probably still fresh and ready to play, so I’d like to assemble the single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks tonight at Citizen’s Bank Park and put them up against the Nationals. It would give the Phils a night off and provide a little confidence boost to the kids. It would be nice for them to know that they can compete with a real-live major league baseball team.

Either that or they could just swap-out Wilmington’s franchise and move the Nats to Delaware. But then, I’d have to stop going to Wilmington, since they wouldn’t have a real baseball team anymore.

Pathetic.

Muleman: Think it would be another “L” for the Nats. Blue Rocks would show them how to really play baseball.

The Nats are like watching an episode of “Benny Hill” (cue theme music). Scott Franzke at one point said it was getting hard to watch!

Not good news about Chan Ho. I hope he’s available at some point in the playoffs. Glad Condrey was activated. Maybe Park’s injury will help Walker get a playoff spot.

Can’t play the kids like that, especially since we are still in the hunt for HFA. I know the Phillies are the best road team in MLB, but I would still rather start all the NL series at home. We just caught the Cardinals, so now let’s reel in the Dodgers.
Bad news about Chan Ho Park. Can the bullpen situation get any worse?

karen: The injury to Park muddies the waters as far as the bullpen goes. I’m guessing Myers moves into his spot and it’s Madson/Lidge at closer. Last night Charlie said he was ready to go with Lidge, so I guess we’ll see him tonight if there’s a save situation.
Park said he heard “a pop” which is never a good thing. With only 2 weeks till October, they’re in a tough spot.

Park is done for the year. Hamstrings take a long time and you can’t rush it.
I saw an interview with Romero last night. He tried to be hopeful but I could tell he wasn’t happy. I think he will have to be doing live pitching by the end of the upcoming road trip in order to get a good gauge of where he is.

This is not relating to this thread, but this post on Fox was just too funny not to share with you all.
The Cubs called up veteran outfielder So Taguchi from Class AAA Iowa to help with their depleted center-field depth. It took Taguchi’s agent to reach the surprised player on his cell phone Tuesday night because Taguchi kept ignoring the calls when a Chicago area code appeared on his caller ID. ”I said, ‘Chicago? I don’t have any friends in Chicago.”’ — Chicago Sun-Times

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