Archive | June, 2011

Cliff Lee Strikes out 10, Phillies offense good enough to beat the Dodgers

7 Jun

By Chris Murray

Editor-in-Chief

of the Chris Murray Report

After Cliff Lee got roughed up for six runs, seven hits and two homers in his last outing against the Washington Nationals, there were more than a few fans in Phillies Nation questioning their faith in the Phils lefthander.

Lee, who came into Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 3.94 earned average, has been inconsistent so far this season. But in his latest outing against the Dodgers, Lee was back to the dominant form that Phils fans have come to expect from him.

Phillies First Baseman Ryan Howard talking to Reporters. Photo by Chris Murray

In the Phils 3-1 win over the Dodgers at Citizen’s Bank Park, Lee tossed a gem, striking out 10 and scattering over seven hits in seven innings of work. Lee, who evened his record to 5-5, mixed his pitches well and kept the Dodgers off balance. He threw 117 pitches and had just one walk.

“Honestly, I felt like I didn’t have good command early in the game. The deeper I got the better the command came around,” Lee said.

On a night when the Phillies offense was merely lukewarm at best, Lee did his job by putting the Dodgers offense on the deep freeze during his time on the mound. Though he struggled a little bit in the early going, Lee found his rhythm in the middle innings by effectively changing speeds on his pitches.

“I used the curve ball more and went to my off-speed pitches,” Lee said. “When you’re not locating your fastball, that’s the time when you need to use your off-speed pitches and that’s what I did.”

The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a pair of RBI singles by Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard. Shortstop Wilson Valdez, playing in place of an injured Jimmy Rollins, started the inning with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Lee. After a Victorino walk, Polanco singled home Valdez. After Chase Utley lined out to center, Howard brought home the second run of the game with a single to right that scored Victorino.

In the eighth inning, Phillies closed out the scoring with an RBI single by catcher Carlos Ruiz that scored Utley.

The Dodgers got on the board in their half of the ninth when Dodgers rookie infielder Dee Gordon, pinch-running for Juan Uribe, scored from third when pinchhitter Andre Ethier forced Casey Blake out at second on a fielder’s choice. Phillies closer Ryan Madson, who picked up his 13th save, struckout catcher Rod Barajas and pincher hitter Dioner Navarro to end the game.

Madson is 13-for-13 in save opportunities. The Phillies also got a good outing from Antonio Bastardo in the setup role in the eight inning.

“(Bastardo) has been doing real good and with (Jose) Contreras and Madson in the back end of our bullpen, the eighth and ninth is pretty good right now,” said manager Charlie Manuel.

Dodgers starting pitcher Ted Lilly (4-5), despite giving up the two runs, pitched well enough for his team keep them in the game. He allowed just five hits and had just one walk in his six innings on the mound. .

When Lee is on top of his game that two-run lead might as well be a five or six-run cushion because the Dodgers could not figure him out. All of their nine hits were singles and they left eight men on base. In fact, Los Angeles out hit the Phillies nine to six.

All that said, the Phillies offense didn’t resemble the juggernaut that once had the ability to score runs in bunches. But they are winning games and that’s the bottom line, Howard said afterward. With all of their problems with producing runs and getting hits, the Phillies (36-24) are still in first place in the National League East by four games over the Florida Marlins and the Atlanta Braves.

“People call it a hitting slump, I call it winning games,” Howard said. “It may not be what people are expecting us to do, but at the end of the day what matters is did we win? If we were to go out there 14 hits and lose, people will talk about they lost the game.

“We’re finding other ways to get runs across. Homeruns are going to be there, but it’s a learning process for because now we’re finding other ways to get that run across. You have to be well-rounded all the way.”

Hopkins Continuing to Whup Young fighters and Father Time

2 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun

In the last five or six years, I have been writing columns urging Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts)to retire and predicting the end of his storied boxing career.

WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Bernard Hopkins. Photo by William Z. Foster

I have been wrong… and I’m not mad about that.

The 46-year-old Hopkins, like that old Energizer Battery commercial, keeps going, going, and going. He has managed to prove his naysayers and skeptics wrong every time he steps into the ring with a much younger, stronger fighters.

Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Oscar De La Hoya, Kelly Pavlik and most recently Jean Pascal all found themselves battered and bruised by Hopkins’ fists after thinking that there is no way a guy this old was going to get the best of them.

With just one loss since 2006, Hopkins has outfought and outwitted Father Time in the way that Jean Valjean evaded Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Even in the loss to Joe Calzaghe back in 2008, Hopkins didn’t look like a beaten fighter who stayed in the ring well past his prime.

On Wednesday, Hopkins was honored by Mayor Michael Nutter in a ceremony near the Rocky statue outside the Art Museum for winning the World Boxing Council Light Heavyweight crown in a unanimous decision over Pascal on May 21. Mayor Nutter said Hopkins, who had once spent time in Graterford Prison, was an inspiration to those trying to overcome a difficult past.

He had some challenges as a teenager,” Nutter said. “He found himself on the wrong side of the law. But in prison, he found faith in himself and in boxing. This is the real reason why Bernard Hopkins is a champion. “Even more than these accomplishments, his life is a lesson to all of us. It is never too late to do something great. It is never too late to change your life.”

From a boxing standpoint, Hopkins, who has already cemented his place in boxing history as one of the great middleweight of all-time, isn’t even thinking about retirement anytime soon. In fact, Hopkins and his Golden Boy Productions are looking to set up a fight with young, upcoming fighter Chad Dawson, who won a 12-round unanimous decision over Adrian Diaconu in the undercard of the Hopkins-Pascal.

The 28-year-old Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) lost his only shot at the light-heavyweight crown when he lost to Pascal in what was a very lackluster performance in a fight he probably should have won.

Once again, Hopkins is going after another younger, seeming faster and stronger opponent. After the ceremonies, I jokingly told Hopkins to stop bullying them “young boys” around like that. His response was a small kernal of wisdom to symbolize his own triumph over the ravages of his time.

“When you’re close to 50 and you’re fighting somebody 28-years-old, just by the economics of numbers, how can a close to 50-years-old bully a 28-year-old,” Hopkins told me. “That’s not the right title, stop bullying these young boys. In society they say youth normally rules and conquers at the end, right? Young people normally bully older people. That’s why older people don’t normally get respect from younger people. In society, the young normally eat the old. They feel old are weak and they become prey.”

Hopkins, who sees himself as the modern-day successor to Archie Moore has proven that he not going to be anyone’s prey in the ring as an older fighter. With a work ethic that would make a Spartan blush.

“This is special for me because when you get a certain age 40s, 50s, or 60s, you’re sort written off in certain parts of American culture whether it’s corporate America or athletics. To be the poster boy for longevity is because of the investment I made in me,” Hopkins said. “It’s good health, good health, and good health. That’s the untold secret that was a never a secret because it’s common sense.

” I wanted longevity in a hard sport where even doing the right thing can be even dangerous. But doing the right things will give you a chance.”

As the athletic skills of some of his younger, older contemporaries in the game like Roy Jones Jr. and Shane Mosely have become a distant memory, Hopkins has come to rely on his ring savvy and his mastery of boxing as a craft.

Hopkins’ trainer, Nazzim Richardson said Hopkins may not have had the natural skills of guys like Jones or some of the younger opponents, but his knowledge as a fighter has enabled him to out fox his more youthful opponents.

Mayor Michael Nutter Honors Bernard Hopkins. Photo By William Z. Foster

“You don’t run like you did when you were a young boy because that weight and everything changes,” Richardson said. “Our reflexes slow down from those things, but when we’re taught, we can still remember the ABCs. What we’re taught stays with us longer. Bernard Hopkins learned how to fight. That’s why he wasn’t a superstar as a young amateur like Oscar (De La Hoya) because he was still learning. Once he learned, he got it.

“Roy Jones could jump from here to the state, throw three hooks and get out-of-the-way, he can’t do it now and if he didn’t learn how to escape those punches without getting hit, he’s in big trouble.”