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Emery and the Flyers Come up Short in Game 3 Loss to Rangers

23 Apr It was tough night for Flyer goalie Ray Emery.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

It was tough night for Flyer goalie Ray Emery.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

It was tough night for Flyer goalie Ray Emery. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It wasn’t a difficult decision for Flyers head coach Craig Berube to start Ray Emery in place of an injured Steve Mason.

After all, Emery had a strong effort in the Flyers Game-2 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden—the team’s first win at the world’s most famous arena since 2011.

“Ray’s played well and he’s coming off a big win,” Berube said before Tuesday’s Eastern Conference playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was too bad that Emery couldn’t stop the Rangers in Game 3 as New York dominated every phase of the game in a 4-1 win over the Flyers in front of a packed house of fans clad in orange.

New York now has a 2-1 lead in the best- of-seven NHL Eastern Conference First Round series and it also means the Flyers are in a must-win situation for Friday’s Game 4 at home.

Despite outshooting the Rangers 32-23, the Flyers couldn’t get anything past goalie Henrik Lundqvist (31 saves) except for a goal late in the first period by Mark Streit. That was also because the Rangers defense stuffed the Flyers offense for most of the game. New York blocked 28 shots and smothered them at every opportunity.

“I think you got to move the puck quicker than we are. I think it’s too predictable in what we’re doing with (Claude) Giroux and Timonen,” Berube said. “We had a lot of zone time with the puck. They did a good job with the puck, but we gotta get it to the net. If you don’t get it to the net, you’re not going to score. We gotta build deception here and there and get them through.”

Not getting enough scoring opportunities on the offensive end really manifested itself in the Flyers power play. The Flyers were 0-for-5 with the man advantage.

“We try to get the pucks through the net, especially on the power play,” said Flyers defenseman Kiimmo Timonen. “We gotta do it better. They blocked way too many shots and we gotta find away to do it better and do it quicker.”

Within the game’s first four minutes, Rangers center Derek Stepan scored the game’s first goal when he rebounded a shot by teammate Rick Nash that caromed off the left glove of Emery and into the net. About seven minutes later, Martin St. Louis put the puck past Emery to give New York a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.

Berube said Emery didn’t play a bad game and could have used more help from his defense. He also said falling into an early 2-0 hole hurt his team. Emery had 16 saves against 20 shots on goal before being pulled for Steve Mason in the third period. Berube did not say who was going to start in Game 4.

“I’m sure (Emery) wants a couple back, but he’s battled,” Berube said. “He gave us an opportunity going into the third period. … You can’t get down 2-0 in games like this. We gave ourselves an opportunity, but we need the better start.

The Flyers finally got on the board late in the opening stanza on a goal by a streaking Mark Streit, who took a pass from Jakub Voracek who was skating at the circle to the left of Lundqvist.

Despite outshooting the Rangers in the second period, the Flyers found themselves in a two-goal deficit thanks to a goal by New York defenseman Dan Girardi. The Rangers final goal of the game came on a score by former Flyers left winger Daniel Carcillo, who banged his stick on the glass near the Flyers goal and then stared at a fan.

Revere’s RBI Single Lifts Phillies to Win over the Braves

17 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Ben Revere's RBI single was the difference in the Phillies win over the Braves.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ben Revere’s RBI single was the difference in the Phillies win over the Braves. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The walk-up song for Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere is the catchy Pharell Williams hit song, “Happy.”

And that’s the feeling the Phillies will take with them on a 10-game road trip through Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona starting Friday.

Revere’s two-out RBI single driving home Domonic Brown in the bottom of the eighth was difference for the Phillies in a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves in front of 25,750 fans on a crisp Thursday afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Though hitting for power is not Revere strong suit, hitting it where they ain’t and getting the ball into the outfield is and he was effective when he needed to be. For the game, he was 3-for-4.

“Sometimes, I try to hit homeruns,” Revere said jokingly. “I was waiting for it; I was just kind of patiently waiting to see something happen. I wasn’t trying nothing too big, I was just to put the bat on the ball and find a good pitch. Luckily, it found some outfield grass to score Dom.”

It was the kind of day that things were going well for the Phillies. They even won the replay challenge. In the fifth inning, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons tried to steal second and slid off the bag and was tagged by shortstop Jimmy Rollins. But second-base umpire Bill Welke’s safe called was overturned by the replay officials.

Revere’s game-winning single was the exclamation point for a brilliant pitching performance turned in by A.J. Burnett, who was coming off a small inguinal hernia injury. Though he did not get the win, Burnett was the reason why the Phillies walked away with a victory.

In seven innings, Burnett allowed no runs on just three hits with five strikeouts and just two walks. He threw 101 pitches. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Burnett made things look easy with his approach on the mound.

“I thought Burnett was much better with his 101 pitches with just two walks. He had better command and he talked about having a shorter stride since his hernia. He looked a little more effortless out there and he didn’t fight himself,” Sandberg said. “He was a little bit more in the strike zone and he did a nice job.”

Burnett said the hernia injury did not bother him. He didn’t feel any pain and wasn’t uncomfortable on the mound. He will have surgery at the end of the season, but will live with the pain which comes off the push off (left) foot.

“It’s there, but the pain level is not there,” said the 37-year-old Burnett. “It’s something that I know is going to be there. I’m going to have to manage it the best way I can. Hopefully, I can do that every time I come out.”

It was the second straight game a Phillies starting pitcher when beyond the sixth inning. Burnett said that’s something the starters are expected to do to take the pressure off the relievers, especially early in the season.

“Your starters need to do it in the first couple of months,” Burnett said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to go deep into games, so those guys are fresh at the end of the year. You want to go deep in those games. The first couple of months we’re supposed to take the haul.”

Meanwhile, a well-rested back end of the Phillies bullpen kept the Braves scoreless for the final two innings. Set-up man Antonio Bastardo got the win in relief, allowing no runs on just one hit.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon got his fourth save of the season. He’s 4-for-4 in save opportunities since blowing his first save opportunity in the Phillies road loss to the Texas Rangers.

“I’ve been able to make adjustments and that’s what this game’s about,” Papelbon said. “Hopefully, I will continue to do that. Texas was one of those things that happen with a closer. You have to put it behind you and keep going.”

 

 

 

Lee Pitches Well, but Phillies Can’t Score in Loss to Braves

17 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee strikes out 13 Atlanta Braves, but is on the short end of a 1-0 shut out. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee strikes out 13 Atlanta Braves, but is on the short end of a 1-0 shut out. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—On a night when Cliff Lee was mowing down Atlanta Braves hitters, the Phillies offense was about as cold as the night time temperature.

That’s because the Phils couldn’t figure out the riddle that was Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran (2-1). In nine innings, the Phillies could only manage just three hits—all singles by Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins.

In what was an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, the Braves came away with a 1-0 win over the Phillies in front of 23, 382 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park who saw Lee come up with 13 strikeouts while his offense struggled.

The only mistake Lee made in 128 pitches was giving up a home run on an 0-2 pitch to Braves catcher Evan Gattis, who was ripping up Phillies pitching the way his predecessor Brian McCann used to when he was the Atlanta catcher. It was Gattis’s third home run of the series. He had four hits in the game.

“On the pitch to Gattis, I tried to elevate a fast ball, it wasn’t a bad spot, but it wasn’t the spot I was trying to hit. It was down and in,” Lee said. “The pitch I made today was a bad pitch. I missed the spot I was going for and it ended up in a decent spot, he just put a decent swing on it. You gotta give him credit. I’ve got to be better than that. I should have thrown a different pitch or a different location.”

Pitching all nine innings, Lee definitely did his part to help the Phillies win this game. He scattered 11 hits and did a masterful job of pitching himself out of jams when the Braves had men on base. The effort Lee put out tonight was nothing short of amazing.

Meanwhile, Teheran wasn’t necessarily coming up with strikeouts, but he was getting the Phillies out and thanks to the wind blowing in from center field a few hard hit balls that might have gone out of the park on a hot summer day, stayed inside the stadium.

Atlanta's Julio Teheran allowed just four hits in a complete game shutout of Philadelphia. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Atlanta’s Julio Teheran allowed just four hits in a complete game shutout of Philadelphia. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Teheran had four strikeouts and no walks in 115 pitches. He kept the Phillies offense off balance by mixing his pitches effectively. Centerfielder Ben Revere said it was frustrating for his team to not be able to put runs on the board back up

“(Teheran) was hitting his spots and everything, but that’s the way baseball goes,” said Philliescenterfielder Ben Revere. “The guys hit the ball on the money, but it was right at their guys. It’s frustrating but we just got to keep our heads and come back out (Thursday).

“(Lee) pitched one heckuva game. It was phenomenal. Everybody in here is frustrating because your pitcher does so well and gets the loss.”

Teheran was perfect through his four innings before giving up an infield single to Howard. He gave up a pair of two-out singles, but the Phillies could not push across.

This loss to the Braves is just the kind of stuff that happens to average teams. They get a solid outing from their starting pitcher, but they can’t hit. Sometimes, the reverse happens. The Phillies score a lot of runs and then the bullpen or the starting pitching breaks down.
The Phillies have to figure out away to play every aspect of their game well—whether it’s getting clutch hitting, good starting and relief pitching. Phils manager Ryne Sandberg said the Phillies have do a better job of providing Lee with run support.

“That’s a trend that we don’t want to have because we know that he gives us a chance to win,” Sandberg said. “Things didn’t go our way on the offensive side with some hard-hit balls tonight.”

 

It Ain’t Just the Bullpen: Phillies Need Improvement in All Phases of the Game

16 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says bullpen is making progress despite recent struggles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says bullpen is making progress despite recent struggles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –If you watched the Phillies 9-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves Monday Night, the most obvious thing to look at is the collapse of the bullpen that gave up seven runs in the last two innings.

Yes, the Phillies bullpen has struggled in the losses this season, but they are not the only problem. The Phils (6-7) have struggled in just about every aspect of the game from hitting, starting pitching and defense. Some days they have gotten good starting pitching and some timely hitting, but then the bullpen collapses.

In defense of the bullpen in Monday’s game, B.J. Rosenberg had pitched in three straight games before coming into that disastrous eighth inning and giving up three straight home runs. Jake Diekman was subbing for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched in three straight games in the weekend series against the Miami Marlins.

“There’s been positive stuff out of the relievers,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “They’ve been asked to pitch a lot and they’ve had their moments. It’s early in the season. I think overall if you look at the games we’ve had a chance to win, the relievers had a part in that. They’re progressing and doing a good job.”

Sandberg said both starters and relievers have to do a better of job of getting ahead of hitters.

“I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in counts. I think it’s why we’re one of the slowest, longest games in baseball,” Sandberg said. “Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches. On the starting pitcher side of things, they’ve been limited on the time they can be out there and we have to use our bullpen.

“And then for our bullpen guys it’s the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen .We’ve preached all spring about establishing down in the zone on the plate on the plate work ahead of the hitters and keep the defense on their toes and have the defense make plays.”

In 13 games this season, the Phillies starting pitchers have gone beyond six innings twice which can take a lot out of your bullpen. Also you have to take into consideration that the Phillies have had some of their pitchers on the disabled list-including Mike Adams who was activated by the team on Wednesday.

The good news for the Phillies starting rotation is that Cole Hamels, who will pitch in a rehab assignment in Clearwater, Fla this weekend is expected to come back to the Phils next weekend in Los Angeles. If Hamels and the other starters can get an inning or two beyond six innings, it would help take some stress off the relievers.

“It makes a big difference,” Sandberg said. “You have a starter or two starters going seven innings now you’re talking about covering two instead of three (innings). It makes a difference when you’re looking at a week’s worth of bullpen usage.”

Sandberg also made it a point to say that the offense needs to score more consistently throughout the game. Oddly enough, the Phillies are leading the National League in on-base percentage (.351) and in walks. They are ninth in runs scored and eighth in runs batted in.

“In a perfect world on the offensive side would be to score early, score in the middle and score late,” Sandberg said. “Now you get a starting pitcher that has some runs up on the board early in the game and now maybe they don’t have to be so perfect. We’ve had numerous games like that where it’s very tight for five or six innings and the starting pitching has to be perfect.”

Monday’s loss to the Braves was a classic example of what Sandberg was talking about with the offense and starting pitching. Phillies starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez was shutting out the Braves for five innings, but only had one run to show for it.

In the sixth inning of that game, Hernandez gave up a two-run homer to Evan Gattis that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead. The Phillies offense did score five runs in the eighth before the bullpen gave up four in the ninth.

The Phillies have to find a way to bottle some consistency in every aspect of the game if they’re going to have a winning season and contend this season.

Bad Bullpen Theatre: Phils Relievers Stink up the Joint in Loss to Atlanta

15 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jake Diekman gave up a grand-slam home-run in the Phillies heartbreaking loss to the Braves Monday night.

Jake Diekman gave up a grand-slam home-run in the Phillies heartbreaking loss to the Braves Monday night.

PHILADELPHIA—Maybe it’s too early in the season for the Phillies (6-7) to start measuring themselves by a four-game series in April. After sweeping the Florida Marlins over the weekend and bringing their record up to .500, there’s certainly a reason to feel good about themselves.

But for a Phillies team that hasn’t come anywhere near the playoffs since 2011, it is the first of many tests to see how they stack up like teams like the first-place Atlanta Braves (9-4), the defending National League East champions.

“It’s a series in our division and it’s against a team that’s had success,” said Phils manager Ryne Sandberg. “Play well in this series and to do well early on in the season there’s some importance to that as with every game. We need to play well against teams in our division. It’s a measuring stick within our division to see where we’re at.”

Where the Phillies are right now is that they have a bullpen that is simply awful and if they don’t do something to fix the problem, they won’t be able to hang with the Braves or anybody else in the division.

Phils relievers gave up seven runs in the final two innings-including a grand-slam in the top of the ninth as the Braves came away with a 9-6 victory over the Phillies in front of 25, 516 fans, most of whom were already the parking lot by the bottom of the ninth.

Dan Uggla’s ninth-inning grand-slam home run off Jake Diekman was the big blow after the Phillies scoredfive in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead. With regular closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable after appearing in three straight games over the weekend, Diekman walked B.J. Upton, who moved to two second after first baseman Freddie Freeman reached on a fielder’s choice.

A walk to Justin Upton loaded the bases. After Diekman struck out catcher Evan Gattis, Uggla took an 0-1 pitch and parked it into the left field stands for a home run that put the Braves ahead for good.

“I wasn’t throwing strikes and attacking the zone. You can’t walk people like that,” Diekman said after the game. “You can’t start hitters 2-0 every time.”

Diekman wasn’t the only Phillies reliever to have a bad night. B.J. Rosenberg came into the Atlanta half of the eighth inning with the Phillies trailing 2-1 and then promptly gave up three straight solo home runs to Gattis, who also homered in the sixth, Uggla, and shortstop Andrelton Simmonds.
“Rosenburg struggled. He pitched behind in the count and was up with his breaking pitch,” Sandberg said. “He was throwing the ball, 94, 95 (miles per hour). He was behind in the count with the fast balls and his breaking ball seemed to be up in the zone.”

The Phillies offense came to life in the bottom of the eighth inning and scored five runs to take the lead. The Phils got a two-run, bases loaded single from right fielder Marlon Byrd and a three-run home run by Domonic Brown. It was his first since Aug. 14 2013.

“It’s tough for us to come up on the losing end,” Byrd said. “That was a helluva game. That’s what fans come for to see that excitement of going back and forth like that with nobody giving in. You gotta tip your cap. Uggla had an amazing night and did an amazing job tonight.”

The bullpen’s woes overshadowed another good outing by young Phillies righthander Roberto Hernandez., who allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and one walk while throwing 118 pitches in six innings on the mound. He kept the Braves scoreless for five innings and had a 1-0 lead thanks to a solo homerun by Ryan Howard. In the sixth, he gave up a two-run homer Gattis to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.

“I thought Hernandez battled with men on base with his 118 pitches,” Sandberg said. “He had some long counts, but hung in there and did a nice job with men on base.”

Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana allowed just one  run on four hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

 

Revere Off to a Good Start After Season-Ending Injury in 2013

11 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Ben Revere has batted .344 in his last 73 games coming into Thursday’s game against Milwaukee. Photo by Webster
Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—If you want to get an indication of how far Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere has bounced back from a broken ankle, just watch him fly around the outfield, running down fly-balls and making the spectacular catch.

As fast on his feet as he is, Revere doesn’t get to every ball in the field and is prone to take some bad routes to the ball at times. But his speed and hustle certainly gives him a chance to get there and take away an extra-base hit.

“That’s something he’s working on a daily basis—whether it’s routes or getting good jumps,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “I remember last year for about a month, he just had to adapt to see the ball off the bat in the different stadiums and I saw a lot of improvement as the season went on. He’s working at it. His throwing has gotten better.”

In Wednesday’s night game against the Brewers, Revere made a spectacular diving grab of ball hit by Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett. In the eighth inning, Revere came within inches of diving and catching up to what turned out to be Ryan Braun’s three-run triple that broke open a tie game.

“I’m always going to go 110 percent after a ball and so I’m going to make the best catch I can,” Revere said before Thursday’s series-finale against Milwaukee Brewers. “The two balls I missed (Wednesday’s game) I was probably about an inch from catching the damn thing.

“Sometimes when I get close to it and dive it tips out of my glove and I miss it. Sometimes as an outfielder you want to be smart about it. It’s a mental aspect, should I go after this or do I make sure it’s not an extra-base hit?”

After missing the second half of last season, Revere has bounced back well this season on offense as well. He came into Thursday’s night’s game batting .324 and has a .359 on-base percentage. He has scored seven runs and has five stolen bases. Since May 1, 2013, Revere has batted .344 in his last 73 games.

While rehabilitating his foot, Revere said he spent a lot of time of working on his hitting, watching video and working on his swing. He stayed in Philadelphia and spent the offseason fine-tuning his hitting. He also spent some time working out at the Phillies spring training home in Clearwater, Fla.

“I’m reading the ball well. When I broke my ankle last year, I had a lot of time off to re-learn my swing and putting everything into perspective,” Revere said. “I was looking at film and looking at my swings and that helped me out.”

During spring training, Revere batted .294 and had a .338 on-base percentage with six runs batted and six stolen bases. Sandberg said his good spring has continued into the first nine games of the regular season.
“He’s a sparkplug at the top of the order with the way he’s staying on top of the ball and utilizing his speed,” Sandberg said. “He’s stealing bases and he’s a threat to score runs once he gets on. He’s got the ability to be a sparkplug type of player. He gives the team a spark offensively and defensively.”

If there’s a knock on the 5-foot-9 Revere during his short tenure with the Phillies is that he is not going to knock the ball out of the park on a regular basis. In his three seasons at the major league level, Revere doesnot have a homerun. He has five career homers at the minor league level.

In Tuesday’s home opener, Revere did hit a ball to the warning track in left center, but that’s as far as it got as the wind kept it in the park. In any event, Revere said he is comfortable with the idea that no one’s going to confuse him with Hank Aaron or even his slugging teammate Ryan Howard.

“For me to stay up here, I’m just trying to hit that sucker, line drives,” said Revere, whose walk-up to theplate music is Pharell Williams’ hit song, “Happy.”

“I’m not trying to go for it all and trying to hit a homerun. If I hit out, hey, praise the Lord. But if not, I’ll go the rest of the year or my career and not hit a home run.”

 

 

 

 

Errors, Bullpen and Braun Kill Phillies Again

10 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd had two runs batted in, but it wasn't as the Phils lose their third straight. Webster Riddick.

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd had two runs batted in, but it wasn’t as the Phils lose their third straight. Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—There are four formulas that the Phillies (3-5) have suffered in losing their first two home games—poor fielding, lack of clutch hitting, poor relief pitching and Milwaukee’s Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun.
After hitting three homeruns on Tuesday, Braun’s two-run triple helped to break open a tie game and propelled the Brewers (6-2) to a 9-4 win over a Phillies team that is mired a three-game losing streak.

That decisive eighth inning was a microcosm of the Phillies early-season troubles. The inning started with reliever Antonio Bastardo issuing a walk to first baseman Mark Reynolds, who stole second and wound up on third on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Scooter Gennett.

“(Bastardo) had him in a 0-2 hole,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “Lead-off walks are tough and lot of times they circle the bases.”

With the infield in, pinch-hitter Logan Schafer hit a slow line drive down the first-base line that caromed off Ryan Howard’s glove and into right field to bring home Reynolds with the go-ahead run. Howard was charged with an error and the Brewers took a 5-4 lead. It got even worse when Braun tripled home two more runs.
In the Brewers ninth inning, Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus gave up a two-run homer Reynolds to wrap the game up for a hot-hitting Milwaukee squad.
The Phillies committed two errors. A fielding error in the first inning by veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins eventually led to two runs and Howard’s eighth inning miscue led to the go ahead run.
For the last three games, the Phillies have committed six errors that have resulted in 15 runs. Throughout spring training, Sandberg had been emphasizing fundamentals on defense. So far, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
“We definitely have to tighten that up. I don’t what to say about it,” Sandberg said. “We work at it, we talk about it. Some of the plays are routine and we haven’t made routine plays. … It’s also early season stuff, but we’re in the process of working all that out and then stress it. That’s for sure.”
Late inning has not been a strong suit for the Phillies team so far in 2014. In the last two games, from the seventh inning to the end of the game, Phils relief pitchers have given up nine runs. Close games have inevitably become blowouts when Phillies relievers have come into game. Bastardo was credited with the loss.
Meanwhile, the Phillies offense got off to a good, scoring three runs on a balk and RBI fielder’s choices by Marlon Bryd and Domonic Brown to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. The Brewers tied the game on an RBI double by shortstop Jean Segura in the second inning. A solo homer by centerfielder Carlos Gomez gave Milwaukee a 4-3 lead.
The Phillies tied it in the fifth on an RBI single by Byrd that scored catcher Carlos Ruiz, but that’s as close as the Phillies would get.
Phillies pitcher Roberto Hernandez had a decent outing for the Phillies after a rough first two innings. In the first inning, he allowed two runs on two hits and threw 28 pitches in the inning. For the game, he allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits with nine strikeouts and one walk in five innings. He threw 104 pitches.
“In the first inning, there was a little bit of trouble with my command ,” Hernandez said. “I kept the ball down and kept on pitching. I threw a lot of changeups and I kept the ball down.”

Braun’s Three Homers, Errors Spoil Phillies Home Opener

9 Apr

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere has had his struggles in the outfield. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere has had his struggles in the outfield. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—What the Phillies will take today’s 10-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in their 2014 home-opener is a series of things you just can’t do if you expect to be a winning team.
One- You can’t let a team’s best hitter have his way with your starting pitching. Ryan Braun, amid the loud boos and cries of “cheater” by Phillies fans, smacked three home runs-including a pair of three-run homers. Braun, who was suspended for 65 games in 2013 for using performance-enhancing drugs, was 3-for-5 with seven runs batted in after struggling in his first six games.
“We didn’t have an answer for Ryan Braun offensively,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
After a solid outing last week against the Texas Rangers, starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick just could not find any rhythm and struggled with command of his pitches. In five innings, he allowed six runs (four earned) and nine hits including two of Braun’s home runs.
“My command was off,” Kendrick said. “I was up in the zone and when you’re up in the zone a lot, you gotta better chance of getting hit. I was up in the zone today. I was behind in some counts. My command was off.”
Braun also made an outstanding play in outfield when he robbed catcher Carlos Ruiz of a base hit when the Phillies had two on and two out in the second inning.
“I thought the play he made in the second inning was a freak play. We had a chance to a take a 3-1 lead, maybe more,” Sandberg said. “But they bounced back with our sloppy defense. They put four up (in the third inning). It was a huge momentum change all within two sides of an inning.”
Two-You can’t give teams extra outs by making errors in the field. The Phillies committed three and all three led to runs for the Brewers, who upped their record to 5-2. When the starting pitcher is struggling, the margin error is very thin.
“(Kendrick) wasn’t quite as sharp with the nine hits and he had two errors behind him. Overall, the story of the game was we didn’t execute in a lot of ways,” Sandberg said. “We didn’t get a sacrifice down, we didn’t turn a double-play. It was a not a good way to have an opening game. It was sloppy, but we’ll continue to work.”
Brewers starting pitcher Kyle Losch had a decent outing against the Phillies, going five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts. The Phillies just could not get the big inning, scoring single runs in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

In spite of their struggles on offense, the Phillies (3-4)  trailed 6-4 going in the top of the seventh and were within striking distance of the Brewers.
But that’s when things started falling apart for the Phillies. With two out in the seventh, relief pitcher B.J. Rosenberg gave up a single to Milwaukee leftfielder Khris Davis. First baseman Mark Reynolds hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center field that popped out of Ben Revere’s glove which scored Davis from first to make score 7-4.
“I felt the fence coming and I took my eyes off the ball before I hit the fence trying to see where it was,” Revere said. “It went in and out of my glove right before I crashed into the fence.”

In the eighth, Braun hit his second three-run of the game that sellout crowd of 45, 061 at Citizen’s Bank Park to the exits and into the parking lot.

 

 

Jackson Signs with Washington, Eagles Have to Find his Replacement

3 Apr

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Former Eagles and now Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson apparently did not get along with Birds head coach Chip Kelly. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Former Eagles and now Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson apparently did not get along with Birds head coach Chip Kelly. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The Philadelphia Eagles and the City of Brotherly Love have not seen the last of wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Five days after the Birds kicked Jackson to the curb, he signed a three-year, $24 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) with NFC East rival the Washington Redskins, making him part of an offense that already includes quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide receiver Pierre Garcon.

In a phone conference with the Washington media, Jackson avoided the subject of his departure from the Eagles and his relationship with head coach Chip Kelly.

But he disputed reports saying that his attitude was what got him released from the Eagles.

“People that know me, know what type of player I am, they respect me and know that I am a team guy,” Jackson said. “(Attitude) has never been a problem.”

The 5-foot-10 Jackson is coming off a career year with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. With his ability to stretch the field in the deep passing game, Jackson’s deep speed kept opposing safeties from closing the box, something that helped running back LeSean McCoy lead the NFL in rushing in 2013.

Getting released by the Eagles was the best thing for him after having the best year of his career, Jackson said.
“It was a humbling experience and me being at the peak of my career and doing some great thing …I’m very humbled to be released like that,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s ability to stretch defenses also enabled players like Riley Cooper, who recently signed a five-year deal, to have career years. Since 2008, Jackson has been one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats and 35 receptions of 40 yards or more. In six years with the Eagles, Jackson caught 356 passes for 6,117 yards and 32 touchdowns.

On his Instagram page, Jackson posted a picture of the ESPN report announcing the deal with Washington. The caption, in all capital letters, read: “ITS GOIN DOWN!!BURGUNDY AND GOLD.”

The Eagles parted ways with Jackson last Friday, but have yet to come up with an explanation for why they let him go. It has been widely speculated that Jackson’s relationships with alleged members of the Los Angeles street gang, “the Crips” played a part in his dismissal.

About an hour before the Eagles cut Jackson, NJ.com released a story that focused on the ties that Jackson reportedly has with L.A. gangs. Oddly enough, the Los Angeles Police Department said Jackson has never been involved in gang activity or connected to a crime.

Neither General manager Howie Roseman nor Kelly spoke to reporters after word got out that Jackson was cut, a move that has drawn criticism from fans. Much of the team’s African-Americans fan base and members of the local and national media felt the team leaked the story in an effort to justify releasing the wide receiver, who had been trying to get his contract restructured at the time.

The bottom-line here was that Kelly did not feel that Jackson was a part of the culture he wanted to create for the team and didn’t get along with the former Cal-Berkeley star. Perhaps if the team would have said as much it might have minimized some of the public acrimony.

Another thing bothering fans is that not only did the team not get anything for the speedy Jackson, he signed with NFC East rival Washington. If Griffin III is healthy, the combination of Jackson and Garcon will be a formidable challenge to the Eagles secondary.

Now that Jackson is gone, Eagles fans are focusing on next month’s draft and wondering if the team is going to pick up a wide receiver in the draft to replace Jackson’s contribution to the offense. The Birds have the 22nd pick in the draft. Because the draft features a deep class of wide receivers according to draft experts, the Eagles could find someone to pick up the slack left by Jackson’s departure.

But what if they don’t?

As much as I like Jeremy Maclin, I’m not convinced that he’s fully recovered from his knee injury and I’m not sure if Riley Cooper will find the open spots he found last season because there’s no one to fear now that Jackson’s gone. Quarterback Nick Foles needs to have a game-breaker at the receiver spot.

If the Eagles think they can get by with the wideouts they have on the roster now, they’re deluding themselves.

Unless they get someone in the draft that can equal Jackson’s production, it’s going to be a long year for Gang Green.

 

Eagles Badly Mishandled Release of DeSean Jackson

30 Mar

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been contacted by several teams since he was cut by the team on Friday.

Former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been contacted by several teams since he was cut by the team on Friday.

PHILADELPHIA—In the previous column on DeSean Jackson’s unceremonious release from the Eagles, I refrained from outright criticizing the team’s handling of this situation because I wanted to hear it from them rather than rely on second-hand information or the speculation from other publications.

Instead of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly addressing the issue head-on and honestly, they chose not talk to the media that covers the team. Their silence allowed a NJ.com story to portray Jackson as a thug with ties to a Los Angeles street gang so they could come up with a convenient justification to cut him and not have to pay him.

The Los Angeles Police Department told the Philadelphia Daily News that they have never accused Jackson of being in a gang nor has he been tied to a crime committed by someone in a gang.

In aftermath of his release from the Eagles and the criminal implications that came with it, Jackson released a statement denying any involvement in gang activity:

“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”

By not addressing the media, the Eagles not only put themselves in a position to be possibly sued by Jackson for defamation of character, they have created a public relations nightmare with their fans in the African-American community who see this as the team appealing to an ugly stereotype of Black men so they can justify releasing him.

On Facebook and Twitter, some African-American sports fans are wondering how is it that Riley Cooper can get away with making a racist remark while Jackson can get cut from the team for merely being suspected of having ties to a gang.

To be clear, I don’t believe Jeffrey Lurie or the Eagles organization is racist given their years of community involvement in a city that is mostly Black and Latino. Over the years, Lurie has been an owner who has more than shown that he is sensitive on issues pertaining to race.

How they’ve handled the “divorce” from their former star receiver was petty and underhanded. I can understand that Kelly and Roseman may not have liked Jackson’s attitude and felt that the former Cal star probably didn’t fit into the kind of the team that they wanted. If you don’t want a guy on your team, then cut him and be honest about why you did it.

Trying to tie Jackson to a gang, vilifying him as a person and possibly tainting his character is not a way to do business. It makes the team looks like they’re trying to run him out of the league for daring to act like a diva and wanting more money. That’s the only “crime” that Jackson committed here.

You can argue that Jackson shouldn’t have been tripping over his contract and moaning about it a day after your team was eliminated from the playoffs. It’s not like he was coming off like Terrell Owens in 2005 who divided the team in his efforts to get management to renegotiate his contract.

Outside of a being a bit of a diva, Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. His ability to stretch the defense made it possible for guys like Cooper, tight end Zach Ertz and running back LeSean McCoy to have career years.

With teams now clamoring for his services, Jackson’s release from Eagles is like the old African-American trickster tale of Brer Fox throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. In other words, Jackson might have gotten the better end of the deal.

Now, the Birds have to find a receiver in the draft that better be as good as Jackson or they are going to struggle offensively and the fan base will not be happy. If the starting wide receiver becomes a weakness in this offense in 2014, Eagles fans will blame management for this debacle for years to come.

In street parlance the way the Eagles dealt with Jackson’s release was just downright “ratchet” and classless. Yes, the NFL is a cold-hearted business and players get cut all the time. But you don’t have to disparage a person’s character and rub their nose in it in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

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