Hanging on For Dear Life; A Phillies Live Blog.

Phils Have Been as Helpless As a Puppy on a Clothesline in the Late Innings.

Welcome to the Phillies live blog.  Things are shaping up pretty nicely.  When I saw the pitching matchup for tonight’s game (Hamels vs. Outman), I wondered if I had chosen too soft a spot for the live blog.  Then I remembered it isn’t 2011.  Cole Hamels has been pedestrian in his last four starts and as bad as Colorado is playing, the Phillies are playing worse.  To make things even worse, injured folk hero, Freddy Galvis, has been suspended for 50 games in accordance with the MLB’s banned substance policy.  Galvis claims he’s innocent and his OPS would be a great argument he’s clean, but he’s gone for a long while.  On to the game…

*The Phils are up 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth, so this game is playing out like countless Phillies losses this year.  In fact, the Rockies just ran themselves out of a possible threat in the top of this inning that would have made things VERY interesting.  It cannot be overstated how awful the Phillies’ starters have been with a lead this season.

*Ty Wiggington and Michael Martinez both ground out as part of the Phillies’ sixth.  I can’t wait to get both these guys out of the lineup.  It’s amazing how much this team misses the little guys too.  Guys like Laynce Nix and even, wait for it…David Herndon.  Qualls has made Herndon look like Rollie Fingers.  That reference was brought to you by Tim McCarver.

*Hamels is at 92 pitches through six innings, which already has me a bit worried about the eighth.  The bridge to Papelbon has been terrible, but it’s also been much longer this year.  The starters are not working as deep into games, and haven’t been nearly as economical with their pitches.  Hamels, Lee and Halladay have 0 complete games this year.

*Hamels looks pretty sharp to start the seventh, which is a relief.  I’m not sure the Phils know what they’re going to do with Cole.  For a long time I thought there was just no way they could spend that much money, but considering how this season has gone, there could be wholesale changes in store for this team.  If it’s true that he really wants to stay in Philadelphia, perhaps he sticks around as one of the few pieces the Phils will keep to build on if they blow this thing up.

*In contrast to Hamels, there’s no other potential free agent that jumps out as someone the Phillies need to keep.  In fact, they’d probably be better off parting ways with most of these players.  Victorino, Polanco, and possibly even Pence could be elsewhere next season.  All three of those players are complimentary pieces and all three aren’t going to help the Phillies get any younger.

*Hamels leads off the bottom of the seventh with a single.  So, it’ll be his game in the 8th, despite being at 103 pitches.  It’s another great indication of the state of the bullpen.  In years past this game would have been Madson to Lidge, or Bastardo to Madson and you’d already have it in the win column.  The Phillies no longer have that luxury.

*Tom McCarthy says Rollins, “really looks into the game tonight.”  He’s 2-2 with 2 walks.  Thanks for trying tonight, Jimmy!  Rollins has actually had a hot June, which has corresponded with the Phils’ swoon.

*Placido Polanco is squaring to bunt with 1st and 2nd and no one out.  Again, the Phillies have a 2-run lead.  My head has just exploded.  The announcers have just said that Charlie has talked about busting games open late.  Do you bust games open by playing for one run?  Polanco already has an RBI double tonight, how about playing for a very big inning?  Polanco gets the bunt down, but now Pence must get Hamels in from 3rd.

*Pence luckily gets Hamels in with a 4-hopper to short.  Hamels is the only pitcher and perhaps one of only four (?) Phillies that score on that play.  It bails Charlie out a bit.  It’s 75% on the hitters in that situation, but Manuel has been pretty rough in tight games and has bunted WAY TOO MUCH this year.

*Well, Ruiz homers to make it 7-2, nullifying the point, but also you get the idea of exactly how big an inning the Phillies could actually have if they let everyone hit.  Great to Ruiz has hit four screamers tonight and could be coming out of his mild slump.  He’s had an absolutely incredible season.

*My main concern right now is that this game by 10 so I can watch Storage Wars in its entirety.  Storage Wars is no Duck Dynasty, but at 10 pm on a Tuesday, it’ll do.  I have not yet checked in on the NBA Finals, because if you remember I no longer hate LeBron.

*Hamels still starts the 8th, despite a 5-run lead and being over 100 pitches.  Makes NO sense to me.  Scutaro starts the inning with a double off the left-center field wall.  Charlie thinks maybe he should finally get someone up.  Great idea.  I don’t think there’s any way that Hamels goes the distance, so this is just further proof the Phillies have no confidence in anyone in the bullpen.

*Rollins makes a really nice play to end the eighth.  I assume it’ll be Paps for the ninth, despite it not being a save situation.  Papelbon hasn’t exactly been overworked of late.  Kudos to the modern bullpen structure for the Phillies having terrible set-up men and an underworked closer.  Worth every penny.

*John Mayberry Jr. doubles in the 8th, adding a 2nd extra base hit to his homer from earlier in the game.  He’s homered in 4 of his last 5 games, and like Rollins has been having a very good June.  Could Mayberry possibly see his way out of his terrible funk?  At least the kid keeps working at it, but I’m not sure you can trust him not to go cold.

*Chad Qualls coming in to pitch the 9th.  I shudder.

*Chad’s ERA is 4.39.  I would have guessed 11.  Qualls gets the first batter to pop to 2nd.  Two outs to go, four runs to play with for Quallsy.  Qualls strikes out the 2nd hitter, the ball gets away, but Chooch makes an incredible throw from the backstop get the man at 1st.  Nothing is going horribly wrong yet.  I’m confused.  Rosario flies to center, Phils win easily, Hamels gets his 10th.  Is there a problem with this team?

*To wrap it up, the Phillies beat a very bad team tonight, the only thing surprising was that they looked like a halfway decent team.  For a night.  There’s 9 games left on this homestand.  Two more against the Rockies, three against Tampa Bay, and then the Pirates for 4.  The Phillies have to win all of these series, or figure out another way to go 7-3 on this homestand.  We’ll see what this rag-tag bunch has left.

Live Blog Coming, Wheels on the Wind.

Mikey Mart Can Boot Balls With His Eyes Closed.

Two games into Spring Training and the only Phillie in mid-season form is Wheels.  There are certain things that Wheels loves talking about.  He’s a bit like one of those automated things you see at a museum or Zoo or something.  Every time a new person walks over and pushes the button he goes off on the same spiel.  A little known fact about Wheeler is his fondness for talking about wind.  He’s a bit of a weather buff, who catches a chill any time the mercury dips below 84 degrees, but wind is his true calling.  I’m honestly surprised he didn’t land the role opposite Matthew Modine in the movie Wind.  What does Jennifer Grey have that Wheels doesn’t?  Anyway, whether it be Wrigley Field or the blustery confines of a Grapefruit League Park, Wheels is on the edge of his seat waiting to say, “It’s going to be one of those days here…”

That’s Wheels’ speak for windy.  And, windy means WACKY.  One Hunter Pence home run on Saturday and Wheels was chuckling like a madman and all but guaranteeing a 19-18 final.  Then no one scored for about 4 innings. Wacky. Things have a way of getting a little tedious and dull during Spring Training, so to liven things up for myself, I’m going to Live Blog the first few innings  this afternoon.  It is Joe Blanton’s debut.  I think the game is on TV.  We’ll see.  So, check back at 1 pm for some WAY TO EARLY Spring Training thoughts.

Ok, getting ready to start here.  Pineda vs. Blanton.  A bit of a mismatch.  Those of you still holding onto the belief that if Blanton has a strong Spring the Phillies will be able to move him will want to pay close attention to this one.  Good news is, Mikey Mart will not be behind Blanton today.  Thanks to the MLB Network for reminding me yesterday that Martinez hit .196 last year.  One Ninety-Six.  At least he can field…

Top 1st–

Wind’s down.  This game will be slightly less cray-zee.  Also, we’ve got ourselves a Placido Polanco sighting.  The head looks as big as ever.  Another of Wheelz’ interests?  “High Sky.”  Granderson grounds out to Wigginton at 1st.  You know who looks great at 1st?  Mayberry.  Guy’s a defensive savant.  Smooth top of the 1st for Joe.  Let’s get some AL teams on the horn.  We’ll pay 3.5 million of his salary…

Bottom 1st–

Anyone else hoping the Mariners get the better of this Pineda deal?  Polanco’s tombstone “Prototypical 2-hole Hitter.”  Wheeler obsession part III–Times to the plate.  According to Wheels, “Pineda looks like a 1.3, 1.4 to the plate.”  Wheels can distinguish tenths of seconds with his naked eye.  Here comes Jim Thome.  As my 13 Twitter followers know, I’m very high on Hunter Pence this year.  Thome?  Not so much.  Thome strikes out to end the inning with Rollins on 2nd.

Top 2nd–

I’m reading the Mets owe another 83 million for their Ponzi involvement.  Where are the Mets getting 83 million?  How long until China owns the Mets?  Eric Chavez, according to Hollywood, the 8th or 9th most important guy on the Moneyball A’s leads off the 2nd with a quick 3-1 putout.  Blanton breezes through the 2nd, he’s throwing a lot of ground balls.  Odd.  I’d go ahead and get him out of there.

Bottom 2nd–

Here’s Hunter Pence who appears to be in violent, flailing mid-season form.  That’s how we like him, but Pineda gets him to pop-up to 1st.  Dom Brown lines out to 3rd.  Hopefully that’s the end of Pineda’s day.  I’ve seen enough.  Scott Elarton is coming into the game for the Phillies. Is this the same Scott Elarton that won 19 games for Houston when I was in High School?  Yep, it is.  Between Elarton, Piniero and Bush the Phillies could have a buy one 6th starter, get 2 free sale.

Top 3rd–

According to Wheels, Utley has learned to “gear himself down.”  Must be the new baby.  On cue, McCarthy mentions the kid.  Elarton is 36 and threw 0 innings anywhere last year.  Wheels is an expert on what everyone used to be.  “At one time, Elarton had a REALLY heavy sinker.”  “At one time, he could REALLY run.”  “At one time, I had my own hair.”  Three up, three down for Elarton.  All ground balls.  Perhaps that sinker still has some heft.

Bottom 3rd–

Brian Schneider leads off the 3rd.  I’d rather have a backup catcher with more stick.  McCarthy says Schneider hit a long home run today…in BP.  He pops out to left.  Kevin Fransden pops out to 1st.  Fransden is one of about a dozen guys I have on my depth chart ahead of Michael Martinez.  Rollins is also expecting a kid, well, his wife is expecting.  Wheels loves his fatherly potential.  He’s got a 4.7 WAR in Dadability.  Rollins walks and has been on base both times today.  RBI single Polanco after Rollins steals 2nd and 3rd!  Phils lead, 1-0.  SMALL BALL!!!!

Top 4th–

More Elarton.  Here’s Nick Swisher, star of How I Met Your Mother.  Another ground out to 1st.  Elarton is the new Brandon Webb.  According to Sarge, “The Phillies still aren’t squaring up enough balls.”  Sarge, go organize your hats, it’s the 3rd day.  Elarton breezes through the 4th.  Warming up in the Phillies bullpen:  Pat Rapp, Wilson Alvarez, and Carlos Perez.  Kidding.

Bottom 4th–

Thome has adopted Utley’s practice of taking ground balls on a chair.  I don’t understand how this helps.  Seeing hops?  Long double into the gap for Thome.  I should clarify my earlier statement, I don’t like Thome as a pinch-hitter.  If we had a DH in the NL, I’d be good with him.  Brown hits another ball hard the other way.  He certainly doesn’t look “lost.”  I’m ready for Mayberry at 1st and Brown in LF.  I’m underwhelmed by Nix.  Phils rip three balls in the inning, but get nothing out of it.  I think I have one more inning in me.  First sign of Hector Luna and I’m out.

Top 5th–

Austin Hyatt in for the Phillies in the 5th.  I’m losing steam.  Nick Swisher just stole 2nd.  Does he have a Spring Training steals incentive clause?  Laynce Nix has a brother.  Jason.  Or excuse me, JaYson.  Obviously.  Sac-Fly for Nix, perhaps the family felt short-changed in the last name category so they started adding arbitrary “ys” to their first names.  Sisters: MaYgen, AYmy, and ShaYron.  Hyatt escapes the 5th without further damage, we’re locked at 1-1.

Bottom 5th–

The Phillies “on-deck” series this year is April 2nd and 3rd against Pittsburgh.  Tickets still available.  Yankees going to Dan Burawa for the 5th.  You have no idea who that is.  I could have said the Yankees have gone with Dusty Pennypacker for the 5th and you would have no idea.  We’ve derailed.  Rollins rips a single off the 1st baseman’s glove.  He’s 2 for 2.  GREAT APPROACH.  Base-hit Polanco. Flare.  Right-center.  I’m worried about a “Polanco Shift” where all outfielders stand 225 feet away from home plate.  Victorino grounds into DP to end it.  DANG it Shane.  OK Phils, finish strong.  I’m out.

 

Becquette vs. Leigh (AKA, Mother Lovin’ Throws a 2-Hitter).

Lee is the Eagle on the Left. I think.

I was going to write something about the game tonight earlier in the afternoon, but I decided against that, and instead I am going to slowly melt into a live commentary of the game starting at exactly 7:05 pm.  I have to say, people are really excited about this series.  It’s dominating on the radio, and all our insecurities are shining through.  Before I pop back in a couple of hours, I encourage anyone who would like to share their thoughts, bring up a topic, whatever you’d like.

The biggest Phillies news of the day was Ryan Madson heading to the DL.  Madson will be eligible to come off on the 4th, but I guess it got to the point where they couldn’t afford to be short an arm in the bullpen especially considering Contreras went back on the DL recently as well.  The Phillies bullpen is suddenly thin, and if they got into a 3-inning situation it would likely be Herndon/Stutes/Bastardo.  Not exactly how they drew it up in March.  Hopefully Cliff won’t tax the bullpen too much.  For something to chew on, the Phillies are a very modest (-135) favorite tonight.  Nervous!  And the over/under is set at 7 runs.  Still can’t sniff 6.5.  Maybe on Thursday.

All right, back at 7pm-ish.

Quiz While You Wait: Historical Travel Posters.  Category: Stereotypes.  My Score: 19/20.  

Not our most rigorous, I gave up on guessing the last one.

***

All Right, Let’s Do This:

I’m ready to go.  I’ve made myself a roast beef sandwich.  I’ve got an American beer in front of me and some pretzels as well if the mood strikes.  This game has pitcher’s duel written all over it, but who knows.  Smart money’s on the over?

Before we get started, do you know who should be one arrogant S.O.B.?  The guy that first flavored mayonnaise.  What a simply genius move that was.  I’m rocking some Chipotle Mayo right now.  It’s a delight.  There’s a restaurant in Paoli that has horseradish mayo on their roast beast sammy.  Oh my.

If any Phillies fans out there sold their tickets to people from Boston they should be ashamed of themselves.  I know the prices were ridiculous, but have some pride.  I’m sure you could find some bandwagon, yuppie Phillies fan to take the tickets.

Lee gets Ellsbury on two pitches.  Perfect game intact.  I’ve got to get to my sandwich.  Pedroia out on one pitch.  Now, I guess I’ll wait to see what Adrian does before I gorge myself.  Slow roller to 2nd, 1-2-3 inning on five pitches.  American League lineup?  Not impressed.

Phils have some decent numbers off Beckett, but I imagine most of those were compiled years ago.  They go fairly quietly in the first.  A routine running catch from Ellsbury reminds me of how good the A’s outfield looked over the weekend.  A visual reminder of how little ground the Phillies cover in the outfield (even with Shane Victorino).  Way too many balls drop out there for how small the park is.  Dueling perfect games!  48 outs to go.

Darnell McDonald, starting leftfielder, is hitting .109.  Maybe Carl Crawford isn’t having that bad of a year.

From the obvious department, Tom McCarthy says the Marlins aren’t playing well and I’ll add that Ryan Howard is not fast. His lack of wheels cost Shane an infield single, and possibly the Phils a little rally in the 2nd.  Good news is, we broke up the no-hitter.

Dom Brown, instead of showing the crowd a new willingness to hustle, hits a 2-run homer into the bullpen and trots around the bases at his usual pace.  Phils lead 2-0, ending Beckett’s scoreless inning streak and the dream of the shutout.  Standard Phillies procedure now will be to look to Cliff and say, “Two’s enough, right?”

Josh Beckett has 2 homers and is hitting .400 at Citizen’s Bank Park.  How many, can he play left-field, jokes just echoed through the Delaware Valley?  Beckett makes the jokes less absurd with a scorching line-out to Ryan Howard.

Josh Beckett has officially become crafty, he hardly ever throws that nasty bender he used to have, and he’s nowhere near 95 mph.  It looks like he’s picking around like Halladay a bit, but without the top-shelf command.  He’s nowhere near Lee’s economy through 3 innings.

Both pitchers settling in, still 2-0 headed to the 5th.  Raul Ibanez looks…bad.  I’m not sure if he has another one of his hot streaks in him.  One of these times the guy is going to cool off and just stay cool.  The tingling most Phillies fans have in their shorts for Ryan Ludwick and Heath Bell?  Every Ibanez at-bat right now makes you a little more desperate.

Perhaps we should take a moment to say this isn’t exactly Boston’s best team we’re seeing here.  Mike Cameron (.152) the aforementioned McDonald, Jason Varitek, counting the pitcher’s spot there are about 4 outs in the lineup tonight for the Sox.  Lee just stretched his scoreless innings streak to a career high.   A couple insurance runs would be a dream, but I have to check in on this sausage disaster on Master Chef.

Cliff Lee sacrifice fly to deep left, and buoys himself to a 3-0 lead.  I think Cliff’s going to go deep this year before all is said and done.  Dom Brown, channeling Pete Rose, sets the record for fastest time from 3rd on a sacrifice fly that didn’t draw a throw.

Beckett erases Boston’s first hit with a routine double-play ball.  He carried his bat down the line like a confused t-baller. Sarge says you don’t see that too often, and I guess by not too often he means never.

Beckett inexplicably (gunslinger’s confidence?) pitches to Victorino with a base open and Raul on-deck.  Shane homers to right, running the lead to 5-0.  Things looking pretty rosy down at the Bank right now.  As expected, Raul grounds out to the right side.

Lee’s scoreless streak hits 30 innings.  Someone call Orel Hershiser and tell him to start getting nervous

It’s the rapidly increasing strike zone of Darryl (sp) Cousins.  Someone has an appointment at Cheerleaders. Victorino gets rung up on a ball that’s closer to the Red Sox dugout than the strike zone.  Up five runs there, I might just go ahead and get tossed and get first dibs on the buffet.  Headed to the 9th…

Lee finishes off the 3rd consecutive shutout with ease.  Well, I’m sure we’ll hear some grumblings about the Phillies only having six hits, no game is complaint free after all, but this is the kind of game that can ease your mind, especially if the Phils get one of the next two.  A lot of pressure off Vance Worley for tomorrow.  Like I said, not the best Red Sox team, but a real quality win for the Phils.