Just as things were starting to look down for the Phils, I took a look at the team calender and I saw four games against the Nats on deck. Now, of course, initially I said we need to sweep the Nats and then realized that four game sweeps are rare, even against the worst team in Major League Baseball.
After the Phils lost a heartbreaker to the Dodgers last Thursday (the game I happened to be at), they found themselves back at .500 and finishing up the homestand at 2-6. Ouch. That’s awful. They needed a rebound and the Nationals couldn’t have come at a better point. They are the type of team that the Phils need to take care of. They did.
But break out the brooms. Four games in three days were no problem for the Fightins who took care of business this weekend against Washington. Apparently the heavy load was no problem for Raul Ibanez either.
Here’s Raul’s series:
Friday: 4-6, 2 RBI, 3 R
Saturday (Game 1): 3-5, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 HR
Saturday (Game 2): 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 HR
Sunday: Okay, lets not include today’s game (0-4)
But through the first three games of the series Ibanez was 9-for-14 with nine RBIs, seven runs scored, and three homers. He can flat out hit and he’s an instant hit here in Philly.
I want to touch on two other things.
1) New look lineup?
2) Rotation changes
First, the lineup. With a struggling Shane Victorino, Charlie’s slid him down to the six spot and has put Raul in the three spot. Here’s how the lineup has looked over the past couple of games:
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
CF Shane Victorino
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz
The bolded players are the ones who have been moved around. With the doubleheader and certain players getting some breaks, I have to wonder if this lineup is here to stay for now. Raul is undoubtedly our best hitter right now, which merits the three spot (although I do like Utley in the three spot). Victorino never seems like he’s a two hitter but he certainly has the speed for the top of the lineup. I’m fine with him at six as well though. I like the change, for now.
Pertaining to the rotation, I thought Chan Ho Park really showed us that he’s supposed to be in this rotation in his last two starts (I think 12 IP with 2 ER). But today he gave me another reason to want him out of the rotation. He went an inning and a third surrendering five earned runs while walking four Nats.
Enough of this, I want JA Happ in this rotation. I think that Park will fit our bullpen nicely as he did in LA’s ‘pen last season. A good long relief man not named Jack Taschner (no offense Trashner, the ERA under four is nice, but I’m a nervous wreck everytime you’re in). Here’s how I think the rotation should shape up:
Tuesday at Cincinnati — Jamie Moyer
Wednesday at Cincinnati — Joe Blanton
Thursday at Cincinnati — Cole Hamels
Friday at the Yanks — Brett Myers
Saturday at the Yanks — JA Happ
This is a tough situation because this has Cole Hamels pitching a week after he last pitched but nothings perfect.
After a 11-9 loss last night to the Nationals, the Dodgers now have 49 more games to go without Manny in the lineup. You all know the Manny story by now. He tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Steroid users take it when they want to end their steroid cycle. And so on…
Here’s Manny’s response:
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
Well, I don’t know how much to believe in there. But I would like to give Manny the benefit of the doubt. Wait, what am I saying, Manny over anyone doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to avoid the facts concerning the women’s drug, so unless he was trying to advance fertility, he’s in trouble.
If he would just come out and say it like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite did, then he could possibly get away from all of this. No one ever really talks about them anymore, other than the positive example they set for getting out of the steroid hole. So in the midsts of Manny, A-Rod, Selena, and PEDs, there’s baseball to be played, so lets focus on that.
So the Dodgers lost to the Nationals last night, that’s an awful way to start 50 games without your offensive leader. But will the Dodgers be in trouble? Well anytime a team loses a hitter like Manny, it’s never a good thing, but this team has got some great young hitters and they play in such a weak division. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Dodgers are still in first by July 3rd when Manny returns.
Here was the Dodgers lineup last night.
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Loney
C Russel Martin
CF Matt Kemp
3B Casey Blake
P Randy Wolf
LF Juan Pierre
Ethier, who is hitting .312 with six homeruns and 27 RBIs, will be asked to pick up the slack, and I think he can. He had those numbers with Manny in front of him, so I don’t think that anything will be a problem.
Another note about the lineup: Having Juan Pierre as the “second leadoff man” down at the bottom is a nice touch by Joe Torre. This provides legitimate speed three batters in a row and will give the middle of the Dodgers lineup a chance to drive home runs.
The only problem I can see here is that the young hitters knew Manny could pick them up if they went down and got out, so their approach at the plate was a little more relaxed with Manny in the lineup. One of two things will happen, they’ll go back to bad approaches at the plate or they’ll rally around not having Manny and win ballgames (assuming the pitching keeps up).
What notable teams will the Dodgers be seeing until July 3rd?
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.
The Month in Review: April
Every April, year after year, there are the big suprises (teams or players) that get off to hot starts and there are also the disappointments of the month. One thing for sure is that, the MLB season is a lengthy one. Teams are given 162 chances and then the playoffs to prove that they are the best and the best teams will win the divisions and the worst teams will finish last. That’s what makes the game so great, the fact that there are so many chances to prove that you are the best. According to descriptive statistics, Major League Baseball is the sport that gives the best chances at seeing the true best team in the league (descriptive statistics involve the collection of data).
April provides the suprises by underdogs and by the unexpected players. It involves dissapoint from the supposive “good” teams and slow starts by perennial all stars. Here are my thoughts on the month that was.
American League: Mike Lowell
The power behind the big Boston win streak, Lowell is third in the league with 23 RBIs. He is also hitting .310 and has four homeruns in the first month. He seems to have recovered from his injury just fine and do the Red Sox ever need him to be hitting like this or what.
National League: Adrian Gonzalez
He has nine homeruns and twenty RBIs for the 11-11 Padres. A great hitter with a great approach at the plate leads the National League in homers. He’s also slugging .704 with an OBP of .438.
April Cy Youngs
American League: Zack Greinke
Well, I talk about him later here but he is 5-0 with 44 strikeouts and leads the league with a 0.50 ERA.
National League: Johan Santana
Maybe if the Mets bullpen could hold together for him, he would have another win. He is 3-1 with the best ERA in the National League (1.10) and is tied with Greinke for the most strikeouts in the league.
Team that suprised: Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are the one team in the AL East that I did not expect. I thought their offense was too unproductive (although I do think Adam Lind and Travis Snider are going to be great) and I thought the loss of Burnett killed them. Well, they have had different ideas throught the first month of the season as the offense is the best in the American League thus far and the pitching has certianly stepped up as pitchers with injuries have gone down.
Team that disappointed: New York Mets
This offense was supposed to produce runs and keep them in games as the back end of their rotation is shaky. But they are less than average and have a 9-12 record so far. The Mets with their revamped ‘pen are also 4-5 in one-run affairs which doesn’t give me much confidence that they’ll win close ballgames.
Best story: Zack Greinke
Right now, he poses a threat for the pitching triple crown. The first MLB pitcher to reach the five win mark also leads the league in ERA and is tied for the lead league in strikeouts with Johan Santana. His 0.50 ERA was all zeros going into his fifth start as well. He’s the leader of a great rotation in Kansas City that consists of Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, Sidney Ponson, and Horacio Ramirez. Okay, so maybe Ponson and Ramirez need to work on a few things, but if Davies can keep up what he’s done thus far, those Royals lead by Greinke, will be in the October hunt because pitching wins. Perhaps the best part of this story is that Greinke overcame depression and anxiety disorder to get to where he’s been today.
Best moment: Ellsbury steals home
In the final game of a heck of a series last weekend, Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a straight steal of home against veteran Andy Pettite. In a rivalry series, on primetime television, in a tie game, only making it a walkoff steal would have made it better, but hey, you can’t have everything. As I said in my most recent Monday Ten post, I didn’t even see it live but I had to watch the steal over and over online once I heard about it. The steal of home just capped off a great series for the Sox against the Bombers as they swept them right out of Boston.
Questions to Consider:
Feel free to answer these questions as comments as well, I want to know what you all think.
1. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lead the entire league in ERA?
No, the ERA has risen over the past week as the Buccos are on a three-game skid. Expect some more of those.
2. Will Wandy Rodriguez keep up his performance thus far?
Well a 1.69 ERA is good, but the 2-2 record basically explains how good the team is. I’ll answer this by saying the Astros need him to keep it up.
3. Over/Under Nats wins: 50
4. Over/Under Mariners ERA after May: 3.50
5. Who will be leading the AL Central at the All Star break?
Still too early to tell, but I’ll say the White Sox.
6. When will the Rays start to turn it around?
Right now, did you see Matt Garza last night.
7. Who/what will give up more homeruns, the Phillies at home or Yankee Stadium?
8. When will the Cubbies listen to Alfonso Soriano and get back to 2008 form?
Mid-May. They’re too good for this.
It is said that April showers bring May flowers. If you consider this past April showers, then these flowers are going to be some good ones.
The slug-it-out festival was held last night at The Park and the Phillies, somehow, came out victorious over the Nats.
They caught me. I admit I gave up on last night’s game on three seperate occasions. In the second inning, the third inning, and once again in the eighth. But that offense never ceases to amaze me. Grandslams by Ryan Howard in the fifth to tie the game up at six and Raul Ibanez in the eighth to take the lead brought amazement to my mind.
When I saw Ibanez was coming to the plate last night in the eighth with the bases loaded, I found myself unconcerned and comfortable with the situation. Well what do you know, he took a first pitch right around the right field foul pole for the grandslam.
He’s just a ballplayer. That’s the best way to describe him. That’s how I heard him described as prior to him coming to the Phillies, and that’s how I hear of him now. That’s how I see him now. He has a great approach at the plate, makes plays in the field (Sunday against Fla.), and overall, he plays to win the game.
This is certainly is a team. They pick eachother up. Right now the pitching is struggling, but the offense picks them up and has carried them. This offensive attack, who leads the National League in runs scored per game, has been lead so far by Ibanez. I heard that a Philly paper this morning read, Raul the Bat. Playing off of Pat Burrell’s former nickname, Pat the Bat. Well we aren’t missing him when we have Raul.
Don’t get me wrong though, Pat Burrell will forever be a hero in this town and what he did for us was amazing and he will always be welcome here.
But Ibanez has been tearing apart the ball thus far, here’s the comparisons:
Ibanez .342 AVG 18 R 5 2B 6 HR 16 RBI 8 BB 3 SB .402 OBP .685 SLG
Burrell .238 AVG 6 R 2 2B 1 HR 8 RBI 13 BB 0 SB .364 OBP .317 SLG
It’s not even close. I’ll trade five more walks for ten more hits. It does sadden me a bit to see Burrell off to a slow start in Tampa Bay because I do want to see him succeed there. But at the same time, bringing in Raul makes Ruben Amaro Jr. look genius.
Hopefully Ibanez, not Burrell, will continue to make Amaro look that way. I want to see Pat start to pick it up.
In each of the last two games against the Brewers, the Phils have mustered a hefty one run in each game off solo shots. Two days ago, Jayson Werth took a ninth inning pitch long for a homerun to keep the Brewcrew from shutting out the Phillies. Then yesterday, Matt Stairs kept the Phils from getting shutout AND getting no hit, all in one swing, with a shot that went off the foul pole.
The offense has struggled the past two games to manufacture runs and last game, they struggled to even get on base via base hits. Over the past two games the Phils are hitting .164 (10-for-61).
Well, don’t expect much better tonight in Florida as the Phils face up against righthander Josh Johnson. Johnson (2-0) goes for his third win in his fourth start after starting the season dominating his first two starts against Washington and the Mets. His third start, however, wasn’t too impressive when the Nats got a second look at the 2009 Johnson, roughing him up for six runs in six innings.
I’m hoping the Phils can take advantage of a Johnson off a bad start and Johnson, being a righty, may be hit by the lefty-heavy filled Phils lineup. But Johnson, who can strikeout hitters, may take advantage of a free swinging Phils team.
When Cole Hamels went down yesterday off the linedrive back at him from Prince Fielder, I was initially worried. My panic level rose rapidly. Especially when Fielder was the one who hit the ball, one of the hardest hitting hitters in the league. When he swings, he really swings. But last night, I heard that the ball went off the meaty part of his back shoulder and that he may not even miss his next start. I was scared of a DL stint, and apparently, that isn’t going to be happening.
This Marlins series is the Phillies first real test of the season. The Fish, coming off the wrong side of a sweep against the Pirates, are hungry for their first win of the workweek. The Phils, with a struggling offense, look to cut down the Marlins division lead even further.
Here’s my Keys to the Series
-No easy pitches to Phillies hitters
-Take the extra bases
-Look to hit the longball
-Find a way on base
-Continue to play good defense
-Avoid giving up the longball
Tonight Brett Myers takes the ball against Johnson. Tomorrow night, Chan Ho Park starts against young stud righthander Chris Volstad. Then on Sunday, Jamie Moyer will toe the rubber against what was supposed to be Andrew Miller, but now that he’s on the DL, maybe Anibal Sanchez will start.
PHREAKIN’ PHUN WEEKEND
Not only do we have the Phils/Marlins series this weekend, but all four Philadelphia teams are in action this weekend. The Flyers played great last night and Marty Biron had a heck of a game. The Sixers play two at home this weekend against the Magic, coming into the Philly with the series tied–and a nervous Magic team. The Eagles got the draft Saturday, and at pick twenty-one I’m really hoping the Birds get Knowshon Moreno. We got Yanks/Sox this weekend on TV Saturday and Sunday. Tons of playoff basketball and hockey. Not to mention a sick weather weekend, and I’ll be going golfing Saturday morning. Here’s the schedule, not that anyone cares, but I’ll post it anyways:
7pm — Phils at Marlins
8pm — Magic at Sixers
Teeing it up
3pm — Pens at Flyers
4pm — NFL Draft
7pm — Phils at Marlins
12pm — Phils at Marlins
6pm — Magic at Sixers
The MLB scene changes a lot in a week during its beginnings and with it, changes my “Monday Ten.” Here’s this week’s power rankings.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3) (last week: 4)
Only team with an average over .300, they’ve won eight straight, and now Manny’s hit a few out.
2. Florida Marlins (11-1) (2)
They just win ballgames and the bullpen’s been unreal thus far. But, six of those wins have come against the Nats, who have won just once. That’s the only thing kept them from the one spot.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (10-4) (5)
The starting pitching is doing a great job so far this year, something unexpected. The Jays are also scoring runs too, something else unexpected. They also boast the highest batting average in the AL.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (8-5) (1)
Carpenter going down for a while will certainly hurt this squad. But the offense is doing a great job manufacturing runs.
5. Seattle Mariners (8-5) (3)
Lead the entire league in team ERA. King Felix and Bedard are a nasty combo.
6. San Diego Padres (8-5) (NR)
I didn’t include them last week because I still thought they were terrible but after watching them play hard against the Phillies all weekend, this team can play small ball and win close games. Once teams figure out their young guys, things may start to go downhill. But for now, Heath Bell is a monster.
7. Kansas City Royals (7-5) (Pushing)
Kyle Davies is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts with 21 strikeouts in about 18 innings. He’s the x-factor here.
8. Chicago Cubs (7-4) (6)
As a team, they’re striking out more than a batter per inning.
9. Detroit Tigers (7-5) (NR)
Miguel Cabrera is a monster and if Armando Galarraga can pick up this staff and lead it this season, they could turn out alright.
10. Boston Red Sox (6-6) (NR)
A four game winning streak and a dominating start by Jon Lester only leads me to believe that the best is yet to come. This team is on the up.
Pushing the Ten: Cincinnati Reds (6-5)
Colorado Rockies (4-7)
Los Angeles Angels (4-8)
Atlanta Braves (6-6)
New York Yankees (7-6)
Still to early (hence all the teams that dropped out), but I’ll continue to do this.
The Yankees debut of the New Yankee Stadium was filled everything you can imagine a $1.5 billion stadium could provide, but apparently you cant buy the tally in the “W” column. Grady Sizemore and the Tribe had a different idea for the christening of New Yankee.
FIRST PITCH: Fastball misses outside from CC Sabathia to Grady Sizemore
*May have set a tone for the rest of Sabathia’s 5.2 innings–he walked five before he was lifted
FIRST STRIKEOUT: CC Sabathia gets Victor Martinez on a 2-2 fastball in the top of the first
FIRST HIT: Johnny Damon on a Cliff Lee slider in the bottom of the first
FIRST EXTRA BASEHIT: Ben Francisco double in the top second
FIRST RUN: Ben Francisco crosses the plate on a Kelly Shoppach double in the top fourth
FIRST HOMER: Jorge Posada launches one over the centerfield wall in the bottom fifth
FIRST GRANDSLAM: Grady Sizemore in the heart of a nine-run seventh
FIRST WIN: Cliff Lee has returned
Wow, does Alex Rodriguez need to return to this lineup or what? Cody Ransom is now hitting .100 on the young season and left nine men on base today. Not saying that A-Rod is Mr. Clutch but he wouldn’t be posting those numbers.
NATIONALS WIN ONE
The Nationals got their first win of the season this year. Jack Taschner got tagged for four earned runs in eighth to take any thoughts of a ninth inning rally and forget about it. I don’t want to talk about that game. Except for…
He singled and doubled today to start off his 2009 season. Going 2-for-3 with a run scored hitting in the eight spot. He had Shairon Martis previously in the minors though, and hit him pretty well down there, so good move by Charlie placing Marson into the starting lineup today.