Author Archive

Hamels Back, Phillies Finally Healthy

Matt Cain,Cole Hamels rejoins the Phillies rotation tonight at Dodger Stadium.

I’m not sure if this is an interesting fact or a case of digging too deep, but yesterday I discovered that today will be just the sixth day since the final month of the 2011 season that the Phillies will not have at least one everyday position player or member of their five-man rotation on the disabled list.

The Phillies had a five-day stretch in 2012 when Roy Halladay finished his stint on the DL on July 17 before Placido Polanco went on the DL on July 23.

That’s it, other than today.

The Phillies are averaging 9,373 fewer fans per game this season than last season, which is the steepest drop of any team in baseball. One reason is because fans simply didn’t buy the team’s sales pitch that they would be good if they were healthy. Well, they’re finally healthy, so they’ve got a chance to put that theory to the test. They are 10-10 without a full roster with three blown late-inning leads, including two in the ninth inning. They have been exactly what a 10-10 team looks like. They have shown some encouraging signs, but they also have played inconsistently, which is what .500 teams and teams with losing records do.

But the Philllies have played well these past two games against the Dodgers, who some considered the best team in the National League. If the Phillies can win one of these next two games in LA, they will head to Arizona to play a terrible Diamondbacks team with a chance to finish the 10-game road trip with a winning record.

*

This is why you hustle. Carlos Ruiz keyed last night’s victory by hustling to second base on a routine pop up in shallow left field.

Phillies Cruise in LA

Cliff LeeGood morning from California.

If you missed last night’s 7-0 victory over the Dodgers because of the three-hour difference, you missed a rare night when the Phillies didn’t have to sweat out a victory. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as Cliff Lee allowed four hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings.

Lee is 2-2 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts since Opening Day. In 30 innings over those starts, he has allowed 33 hits, four earned runs, one walk and has struck out 37.

“He’s evolved over the years,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s throwing more changeups, the curveball in different ways. He’s using more pitches. He used to be simple — stuff and location. He doesn’t throw quite as hard, but it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot.”

Lee’s fastball has lost about one mph since last season, but it hasn’t affected his results.

Ryne Sandberg hit Carlos Ruiz fourth, despite hitting .204 with no home runs and two RBIs. He finished hitting .245 with one home run and four RBIs.

Ryan Howard continues to swing a hot bat. He hit his fifth home run of the season. It is just 19 games, but it is worth noting for the moment that his .905 OPS ranks 24th out of 199 qualifying hitters in baseball. Chase Utley is fourth at 1.086.

If you didn’t see Utley’s play in the bottom of the first inning you should watch it here. Lee called it “advanced” baseball.

Howard’s Big Day

Ryan HowardIf you missed yesterday’s 10-9 victory against the Rockies you missed plenty, so here are a few facts, figures, thoughts and links:

  • Ryan Howard went 4-for-5 with a triple, home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .262 with a .360 on-base percentage, .508 slugging percentage and .868 OPS. It is just 18 games so nobody knows where his season is headed, but at the moment he is on pace for 36 home runs, 90 RBIs, 90 walks and 189 strikeouts. His 90 walks would be his most since 107 walks in 2007.
  • Howard fell a double short of the cycle, although he came close. He hit a ball to right field in the seventh inning that dropped in front of Rockies right fielder Brandon Barnes. The ball got behind Barnes as Howard cruised into second. The official scorer ruled it a single and an error on Barnes. Naturally, Phillies fans and many people in the Phillies clubhouse thought it should be a double. But not everybody in the clubhouse felt that way. Some thought it was a reasonable ruling. If it is changed, great for Howard. He will have the first Phillies cycle since David Bell in 2004, and the first Phillies cycle on the road since Johnny Callison in Pittsburgh in 1963. But if it isn’t, I don’t think it’s a great injustice. My first reaction when I watched the play? Single and error.
  • John Mayberry Jr. replaced Howard at first base in the bottom of the eighth inning. It is the second time it has happened in eight days, and it’s a trend that will continue if Howard continues to struggle defensively. (Ryne Sandberg said as much after the game.) Howard has two errors this season, but he recently had a third error reversed. He also had a catchable ball get past him Saturday in a 3-1 loss. It was ruled a hit, but it probably should have been an error. The Phillies simply do not have much margin for error this season, so in close games with a lead the Phillies need to have their best defense on the field. That means more Mayberry at first base and perhaps more Freddy Galvis in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield.
  • Jonathan Papelbon picked up the save yesterday. He has struggled at Coors Field in the past. He spoke about that, but also being booed by Phillies fans. “To be honest, I enjoy it,” he said. “I kind of relish it. There is a sick side to me. … Guess I’m a sicko.”
  • Phillies catchers are trying to get used to these new catching rules on plays at the plate.

It’s Official: Hamels Back Wednesday

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsRyne Sandberg is eager to finally see everybody in the Phillies rotation next week in Los Angeles.

Cole Hamels is set to make his first start of the season Wednesday against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. He opened the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder. His recovery following a setback March 1 cost him three starts.

“I’ve been waiting for that day,” Sandberg said. “First of all, we get everybody healthy. We get the full strength of the team with (setup man Mike) Adams and Hamels. The potential and possibilities in the rotation, once we did sign (A.J.) Burnett in the spring, we’ll see it next week when Hamels is in there. We’ll see the rotation in complete strength. I’ve been waiting for that day.”

Cliff Lee will pitch Monday, Burnett will pitch Tuesday and Hamels will pitch Wednesday. If everybody is healthy and pitches like they have in the past, it could be a formidable trio.

“I’m super excited just to be with them and watch the bullpens and be on the bench with them and know that I’m actually here to participate as opposed to just being around to get my work in,” Hamels said. “I’ll actually be able to have a part.”

Hamels went 0-1 with a 2.12 ERA in three rehab starts with Class A Clearwater.

“I was able to go down there and get everything accomplished, my strength, building up pitch count and really try to execute pitches to both side of the plate,” Hamels said. “That’s what you need to be successful in the big leagues, you have to be able to hit both sides of the plate with all of your pitches. My workouts are pretty much what everybody else’s are right now. Now kick it in gear and increase the intensity and know these games actually matter. This is where I wanted to be the whole time. It’s just unfortunate I wasn’t able to break early and be with the team early.”

Hamels Will Pitch In LA

Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy HalladayCole Hamels will rejoin the Phillies rotation next week in Los Angeles.

Ryne Sandberg said this afternoon at Coors Field that Hamels is most likely to start Wednesday against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium because it would allow the Phillies to split up left-handers Cliff Lee and Hamels with right-hander A.J. Burnett.

Lee is scheduled to pitch Monday. Burnett is scheduled to pitch Tuesday.

Hamels, who opened the season on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder, allowed one run in seven innings last night in his final rehab start with Class A Clearwater. He will join the team this weekend at Coors Field.

“Good reports on him,” Sandberg said. “Command was good. He was throwing strikes and throwing all of his pitches in the zone for strikes. That’s all good.”

Hamels opened Spring Training behind schedule after feeling shoulder discomfort in November. He expected to miss only a start or two until he suffered a setback March 1. At the time the Phillies said they hoped Hamels could rejoin the rotation sometime before May 1.

Technically, he came back a little earlier than expected.

It could be a big boost for a struggling pitching staff. Lee allowed one run and struck out 13 in a complete-game loss Wednesday against the Braves. Burnett threw seven scoreless innings yesterday in a victory over the Braves. The Phillies opened Spring Training with high expectations for the top of their rotation. If Lee, Burnett and Hamels pitch like they have pitched in the past, the Phillies should have a formidable rotation.

“I think those guys set a tone of what could be to come with adding Hamels to the rotation,” Sandberg said.

Hamels will make his home debut at Citizens Bank Park against the Mets on April 29.

Revere’s Clutch Hit

Ben RevereFrom Elias: Ben Revere drove in a run yesterday in the Phillies’ 1-0 victory over the Braves with a two-out single in the eighth inning. It was only Revere’s second RBI in 119 plate appearances in the seventh inning or later during his two seasons with the Phillies. The first one also was a tiebreaking and game-winning RBI on an eighth-inning single at Citizens Bank Park. It came against the Cardinals on April 21, 2013.

Oh, Clifton

Cliff Lee, Jason HeywardCliff Lee cannot catch a break.

Take a look at some of the facts and figures to come from last night’s 1-0 loss to the Braves:

  • Lee allowed 11 hits, one run, one walk and struck out 13 in a complete game.
  • He threw a career-high 128 pitches in the 29th complete game of his career.
  • It is the ninth time since he rejoined the Phillies in 2011 that he has struck out 12 or more batters in a game. Lee is 2-5 with a 2.12 ERA in those starts, as the Phils have suffered four shutout losses and scored just 23 runs.
  • Lee is the first pitcher in 100 years to lose twice, despite allowing one run and striking out 13 or more batters in a complete game. (It has happened just 18 times since 1914.) The last time it happened in baseball? In Lee’s last start against the Braves on Sept. 27, 2013.
  • From Elias: Evan Gattis hit a 0-2 pitch from Lee for a solo home run for the game’s only run. Last year on Sept. 27, Chris Johnson hit a 0-2 pitch for a solo home run in a 1-0 victory. There has not been another game over the past three seasons (2012 to date) that ended 1-0 on an 0-2 homer.
  • Opponents are hitting .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles, one home run, three RBIs and five strikeouts against Lee this season, when they put the ball in play on a 0-2 count. To put that into perspective, hitters from 2011-13 hit a paltry .137 (55-for-401) with six doubles, eight home runs, 19 RBIs and 219 strikeouts against Lee in 0-2 counts.
  • Lee’s 3.82 run support average since he rejoined the Phillies in 2011 is the fifth-lowest out of 84 qualifying pitchers in baseball. The only ones with worse run support? Jeff Samardzija (3.38), Tim Lincecum (3.67), Justin Masterson (3.75) and Bud Norris (3.80).
  • From Elias: Lee has allowed 15 home runs on 0-2 pitches over the last 10 seasons, tying Mark Buehrle for the highest total in the major leagues in that time frame.
  • From Elias: Gattis was only the second player since 1900 to go 4-for-4 with a home run in a 1-0 win. The other was Hall-of-Famer Rogers Hornsby in a Cubs victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field in 1929.
  • From Elias: Julio Teheran and Lee each pitched complete games of nine innings. The last game in which both starters tossed complete games of at least nine innings was Aug. 27, 2012, when the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and Twins’ Liam Hendricks did it at Target Field. Seattle won, 1-0.

Cinco Ocho Goes Nature Boy In Ninth

Jonathan Papelbon recently changed his intro music from Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to Meek Mill’s “Bout That Life.”

“Like that?” he said yesterday.

The opening to the song is interesting because the first 30 seconds are a speech from professional wrestler Ric Flair. Papelbon grew up a wrestling fan.

“I think everybody did, right?” he said.

Personally, I always loved Rowdy Roddy Piper and Piper’s Pit, but nevertheless … Papelbon said he and former Red Sox teammate Dustin Pedroia met Flair in Boston. Flair gave them one of his pink robes and a championship belt.

“I’ve been a Ric Flair guy,” Papelbon said. “The belt, Pedroia stole. I tried to get the belt back from him, but he won’t, so I’m getting his WWE Big Gold champion belt. It’s coming in. The real deal one. No (fake) one. Big Gold Belt.”

And the tune?

“I heard it in Spring Training,” he said. “Once I heard it I knew it was it. I really don’t care what comes up after it, either. I just like the beginning. It gets me going. That’s all that matters.”

If you’re interested, here is the latest music list for the Phillies:

AT BAT:

  • Cody Asche: Dat New New by Kid Cudi
  • Domonic Brown: The Devil Is A Lie by Rick Ross and Sexual Eruption by Snoop Dogg
  • Marlon Byrd: Get Like Me by David Banner and Work by DJ Smoke f/Gangstarr
  • Freddy Galvis: Poquito by Tego Calderon
  • Ryan Howard: Throwback by B.o.B f/Chris Brown
  • John Mayberry Jr: 100 Black Coffins by Rick Ross
  • Ben Revere: Happy by Pharrell Williams
  • Jimmy Rollins: 23 by Mike WiLL Made It and Trophies by Young Money
  • Carlos Ruiz: Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony
  • Chase Utley: Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

PITCHING

  • Mike Adams: Intro by DMX
  • A.J. Burnett: The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
  • Cole Hamels: Thunderstruck by AC/DC
  • Kyle Kendrick: Kick It In The Sticks by Brantley Gilbert
  • Cliff Lee: Stranglehold by Ted Nugent
  • Jonathan Papelbon: Bout That Life by Meek Mill
  • Jonathan Pettibone: Get Lucky by Daft Punk

This is through April 8. If a player or pitcher isn’t listed it’s because they haven’t selected a song.

Tuesday’s Game Postponed

Nationals Phillies BaseballThe Phillies postponed tonight’s game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park because of rain.

It will be made up at a later date.

The postponement does not alter the order of the Phillies rotation. Left-hander Cliff Lee will pitch tomorrow night, while right-hander A.J. Burnett will pitch the series finale Thursday afternoon. Right-handers Jonathan Pettibone, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez would fall in line to pitch this weekend in Colorado.

But the Braves have skipped right-hander David Hale, who was scheduled to pitch tonight. Lee instead will face right-hander Julio Teheran and Burnett will face left-hander Alex Wood.

Perhaps a night off will help the Phillies starters get on track. They have pitched more than six innings just twice in 13 games, which has placed additional pressure on a bullpen with the third-highest ERA (5.53) in baseball.

Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. It is partially why Phillies games are averaging 3 hours, 17 minutes, which is the third-longest average in baseball.

“For me, the game starts with pitching and defense,” Ryne Sandberg said in his office before the postponement. “I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in the counts. I think that has a big part in why we’re playing the slowest games and longest games in baseball. Every time I look at the clock and leave (the ballpark), it’s almost midnight. I can’t believe it, but it is what it is.

“Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches, so on the starting pitching side of things they’ve been limited on the time that they can be out there and then we’ve had to use our bullpen and then with some of our bullpen guys it has been the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen.”

The Phillies planned to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tonight, but pregame festivities surrounding the Jackie Robinson Salute will take place tomorrow night, including both teams wearing No. 42 jerseys. All fans attending tomorrow night’s game will receive the commemorative Jackie Robinson print, featuring quotes from Phillies players and Sandberg on what Robinson meant to them.

Bullpen Blow Up

Jake Diekman,Dan UgglaMarlon Byrd probably summed up last night’s 9-6 loss to the Braves better than anybody:

“For a fan it’s got to be a great game to watch, entertainment-wise. It sucks for us. We came out on the losing end.”

How it happened is incredible. The Braves carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning when B.J. Rosenberg served up home runs to Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons in succession to make it 5-1. Forty-four times since 1950 a pitcher allowed home runs to the only two batters he faced in a game. But according to Retrosheet, Rosenberg is the first pitcher in 100 years (and likely ever) to allow home runs to the only three batters he faced in a game. Records only go back to 1914, but nobody hit home runs before 1914 and relievers were not what they are today so it’s highly doubtful it happened before that.

The Phillies then scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead.

But then Jake Diekman, trying to close for the first time in his career, loaded the bases in the ninth before he allowed a grand slam to Uggla.

The bullpen started the game with a 4.35 ERA following a strong performance over the weekend against Miami. It left the ballpark with a 5.53 ERA, which is the third-highest bullpen ERA in baseball. Of course, it doesn’t help that Phillies starters can’t pitch past the sixth inning. Just twice in 13 games have they pitched more than six innings. Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. In other words, they are hitting the 100-pitch mark fairly regularly in the fifth and sixth innings and can’t go any further. And that exposes the bullpen.

(A MLB-leading 14 errors hasn’t helped, extending innings, too.)

Mike Adams is back in the bullpen beginning tonight, but it remains to be seen how much he help.

*

Asked this morning about Double-A Reading closer Ken Giles, Ruben Amaro Jr. said on the 94 WIP Morning Show that, “I think we have to think about it.” But Amaro also mentioned how Giles is still learning, how he missed time last season because of injuries and how they need to make sure he can handle the ups and downs of the big leagues first.

“We’re not afraid to bring guys up to the big leagues,” Amaro said.

In six scoreless innings, Giles has allowed one hit and two walks and has struck out 14.

*

Tony Gwynn Jr. singled and reached second on a throwing error with one out in the third inning, when Jimmy Rollins bunted Gwynn to third. It was a confusing move at best with Gwynn a good runner and already in scoring position. Rollins gave up a precious out to send Chase Utley to the plate, and then Utley struck out to end the inning.

The immediate reaction: Why would Rollins bunt there? No way the Phillies called that from the bench. It made no sense.

“[Rollins] thought there were no outs,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He forgot [Roberto] Hernandez led off the inning. He thought there was no outs. He was just trying to get the guy over from second to third.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers