Archive | June, 2012

Phillies Snap Three-Game Losing Streak Thanks to Good Pitching and Dr. Longball

20 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the CM Report

Even though their record at home was just 12-19 coming into Tuesday’s game against a lackluster Colorado Rockies squad, the Phillies were in desperate need of a win desperate need of a win so they could avoid sinking further behind in the National League East, especially after last weekend’s sweep in Toronto.

The injury-riddled Phillies snapped their three-game losing streak and gave the sell-out crowd at Citizen’s Bank a reason to smile again by roughing up the Colorado Rockies in a 7-2 win that came courtesy of the long ball and the strong left arm of starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

Carlos Ruiz made a case for his possible selection to the 2012 All-Star game with a big night against the Rockies. He went 2-for-4 with a homerun and three runs batted in. Ruiz has a career-high nine homeruns. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Ruiz has been hitting well since spring training.

“From day one, he’s been hitting and he’s kept his swing,” Manuel said. “He got a little whack last week, but he’s worked his way out of it. I’d say he hit the ball pretty good (Tuesday) night. He’s been hitting ever since he reported to camp this year.”

The Phillies also got a big night from John Mayberry Jr. who was also 2-for-4 including a two-run homer that the team up for good. It was the third straight game that Mayberry, batting in the seventh spot, has hit a homerun. He is batting .381 over his last five games and has 11 RBI in his last six games.

“He’s one of those guys that build his confidence and when he’s hitting in a good groove, I’ll see how I can move him,” Manuel said when asked about Mayberry is batting in the lineup. “He’s starting to swing very good.On the road, he started swinging good and he followed it up today.”

Hamels (10-3) had one of his better outings in quite some time after struggling in his last four starts.. He went eight innings, struck out seven and allowed just two earned runs in six hits. After walking Rockies starting pitcher in the second inning, Hamels struck out the next five batters. It was smooth sailing for the Phillies lefty for the rest of the game.

“Being a pitcher that’s the one taboo that you don’t ever want to do and that’s walking the pitcher,” Hamels said after the game. “You definitely have to step up and beardown that’s kind of what had to tell myself is just to bear down more and know that I can throw strikes and get guys out.

“I was able to get it under control and get guys when I needed to.”

After the Rockies had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Tyler Colvin, the Phillies evened the game at a run apiece when Placido Polanco double to left that scored Jimmy Rollins, who walked to open the inning.

For the game, Rollins scored three runs, had a stolen base,was 2-for-2 and reached all four times he was at the plate.

“That was big, he ran real good,” Manuel said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him run in a while and that shows that his legs are strong. When he plays like that, he gives us a lift.”

The Phils upped the margin to 3-1 in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by left fielder John Mayberry Jr. to left field. The Rockies their second run of the game on an RBI single by Chris Nelson that scored first baseman Todd Helton.

The Phillies added another run in the fifth inning on an RBI double by Ruiz that plated Rollins. A ground out by Hunter Pence scored Hamels to give the Phillies a 5-2 lead in the seventh. Later in the inning, Ruiz’s two-run blast to left center put the game away for the Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Midst of a Six-Game Losing Streak, Phillies Need to Regain Their “Swag” Before it’s Too Late

8 Jun

Hamels gives up four runs on six hits in Phillies loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

For the last couple of months, I’ve been saying to fans and fellow reporters alike that it’s too early in the season to start counting the Phillies out of the race to win their sixth straight National League East title.

And even on June 7 with the All-Star Break a little over a month a way, I still say the Phillies have a shot to straighten things out with a small caveat—that window of time for that to happen is beginning to gradually shrink and they can ill afford to fall any further behind.

“We’re a better team and I think we all need a gut check including myself,” said centerfielder Shane Victorino. “When we go out there and pick each other up. When one guy doesn’t do it, the next guy go out there and do it. … Our backs are to the wall as far as it gets.”

After winning just one game on this current homestand, they need to turn it back on now, starting with their nine-game road trip through Baltimore, Minnesota and Toronto.

“We had a rough homestand here and we need to win some games,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “We don’t want to get way behind stuff, but at the sametime, I’ve seen us get behind and comeback. Every team has a spell like this, but we’ve got to play much better and we’ve got to play more consistent better.”

Manuel has been visibly frustrated with his team during this homestand and is not shy about expressing it during postgame press confernces.

“I never put it up to a level, I just feel how hot my face gets,” Manuel said. “It’s pretty damn hot.”

The Phillies lost their sixth straight game and were swept in their four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thursday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers was bit of a micrcosm of the season. Inconsistent hitting and the inability of the bullpen to keep the game close, coupled with a few bad plays in the field.

When the Phillies come into the late innings and they are behind, it is almost a foregone conclusion they will not come back. They are 0-23 when trailing after the seventh inning.

Meanwhile, we still don’t know when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are coming back to the team. We don’t know if they’re going to be 100 percent when they do come back or if they’re going be effective enough to help the team.

But this team has won before in the face of some devastating injuries and they’ve managed to keep winning. Remember Utley missed the first month of last season and the Phillies found a way win.The Phillies lost starting pitcher Roy Oswalt, but Vance Worley came through. They had a ton of injuries during the 2010 season—Howard missed 16 games, Jimmy Rollins missed 74 games and Utley missed 43 games.

“If we’re using the injuries, that’s just an excuse in my mind,” said Phillies infielder Ty Wigginton. “The Dodgers don’t have Matt Kemp and that’s one of the best players in the game. Injuries are an excuse and I can’t even comment on that anymore.”

Manuel said the team has lost little bit of their “swag,” especially at home at Citizen’s Bank where the Phillies are just 12-19 at home.

“We don’t scare nobody,” Manuel said. “We used to have the swagger, we used to be kinda cocky in a reall good way and teams used to fear us. I definitely don’t see that here no more. I don’t see where we scare nobody. Nobody backs down from us.”

The only way you regain that swagger, that mystique or whatever you want to call it is to start winning more consistently.

I’ve watched enough baseball over the years to know that is not impossible for the Phillies to go on a hot streak and put themselves back into the race. They need to do it now and not let this snowball into July and August.

At this point of the season, you could say that they’re fortunate for as badly as they’ve played to be at the point where they are still hanging in there.

“We know the severity of it as we get deeper in the season,” said Phils outfielder Juan Pierre. “Before this we were three games over .500 and we’ve dropped back under. To be where we’re at with the way we’ve played, I’m not going to say it’s good, but it could be a lot worse.”

If they don’t start winning quick, it will be a lot worse.

 

Eagles Minicamp: Vick Looks to Improve Accuracy and Rapport With His Recevers

7 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

Vick is looking to improve his accuracy during the Eagles organized team activities. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The one thing that Michael Vick hasn’t had in his brief tenure as the Eagles starting quarterback is a structured offseason to work on his skills, review film and timing with the receivers during organized team activities.

With a huge influx of new personnel, the Eagles were in a state of disarray on both sides of the football, something that manifested itself during a tumultuous 8-8 season in which they were favored to be in the Super Bowl.

Lack of an offseason certainly affected Vick, who completed close to 60 percent of his passes despite having 14 interceptions. There were a variety reasons why this happened, but some said it was the new personnel on the offensive line and all the hits Vick took last year.

Vick said that he’s been working hard at being accurate from the pocket, especially when teams are throwing blitz packages at him. Last season, Vick was sacked 23 times, something that would say that teams did this quite often.

“You want to have poise during those tough situations during a blitz when you’ve got guys coming at you.” Vick said after Wednesday’s practice. “You still need to be able to be accurate to maintain your confidence and the integrity of the pocket. I’m just trying focus in on ball placement and I think it’s just a mindset to put the.ball where it needs to be.”

While watching film is important, Vick said the best way for him to work on his accuracy is through working with his backs and receivers.

“Defense is going dictate where you’re going to throw the ball,” he said “Watching film is not going to help you with your accuracy, but throwing the ball to your receivers with people around them will.”

Eagles tight end Brent Celek said Vick has been doing well during the team’s seven-on-seven drills during organized team activities. His leadership and work ethic have been unquestioned throughout mini-camp, Celek said.

“He looks real good,” Celek said. “I’m impressed by Mike. He’s the leader of our team, I think we all know about his athletic ability and his leadership is outstanding. I’m always excited for a new season, but this season? I’m really excited about it.”

Tight end Clay Harbor said having OTAs has helped Vick build a solid rapport with his receivers, something that they haven’t been able to do since Vick became the Eagles starting quarterback.

“We haven’t really had the chance to build a rapport with Mike as our starting quarterback yet,” Harbor said. “Last year, we didn’t have the offseason and the year before that, he wasn’t starting until a couple of games into the season. The No.1 quarterback gets most of the reps. All of us are really gelling. He’s putting the ball on the money. The last two seven-on-sevens we didn’t have a ball hit the ground.”

Vick said he wanted to set the tone for this year’ s round of minicamps because he believes that having a winning season starts with him and having a good work ethic.

“I feel like there’s an urgency to win and that’s good,” Vick said. “If we would have had this same feeling that we have now last year, we may have gotten off to a better start,” Vick said. “We all feed off one another. When you see me here everyday busting my butt to be the best quarterback that I can in order to fulfill my responsibilities to the team, guys start to do the same thing and want other guys to follow them.

“Our motto is work as hard as you can and get the most out of yourself, make yourself and make your family proud. That’s what we preach.”

 

Phillies Offense Comes Up Short for Cliff Lee Again

6 Jun

Lee pitched seven shut-out innings before giving up two runs in the eighth inning in Tuesday’s loss to the L.A. Dodgers.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

You have to wonder if Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee did something wrong to offend the baseball gods with all the bad luck he’s been having this season.

He has pitched well even though he is 0-3, but the team doesn’t give him any run support. In Tuesday’ s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lee had 12 strikeouts in seven and two-thirds innings. He had just one bad inning and that was the top of the eighth when Dodgers third baseman Elian Herrera hit a two-run double off the left field wall that missed Juan Pierre’s glove by inches.

Things looked promising for the Phillies. They scored the game’s first run in their half of the first on an RBI-single by Hunter Pence that scored Jimmy Rollins, who doubled to lead off the inning.

But for the rest of the night that was it. Only two Phillies runners got as far as second base after that first inning. Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley (3-4) put the Phillies bats on lockdown. He pitched seven innings and allowed the one run on six hits.

Of course, most folks would second-guess Charlie Manuel keeping Lee, who threw 122 pitches, in the game when it appeared he was tiring, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the offense would just score runs. There was a certain radio talk show host who suggested that Manuel should have put closer Jonathan Papelbon in for a four-out save.

If you want to make that argument, fine. It’s an easy one to make But don’t get mad at Manuel for this one because Lee should have had some help tonight. When you don’t score runs, you can leave yourself vulnerable to one bad inning, one mistake over the plate by your pitcher or the hitter gets lucky and crushes your best pitch to kingdom come. The offense has to got to do something at some point.

“What happens, you just sit there and it only takes one swing at the bat to beat you, especially when you have somebody on,” Manuel said. “All it takes is one swing of the bat and that’s what happened here (Tuesday) night and that can beat you when you let them stay around like that. We didn’t add on and of course, it came back and got us.”

Watching Lee tonight reminded me of something that former Temple basketball head coach John Chaney once told me about good defense and no offense: “It’s like working hard all day and not making no money. We played good defense, but we haven’t scored.”

That’s probably the best way to describe Lee’s recent outings on the mound. Even in the eighth inning, he got some stellar defenive plays, including a throw he made to third base to throw out Dodgers catch Matt Treanor when Tony Gwynn Jr. tried to bunt him from second to third base.

Pence made another brilliant defensive play when he threw out Gwynn trying to go from first to third base on a Bobby Abreu pinch-hit single.

All that hard work and Lee has nothing to show for it. That’s just wrong.

“He’s pitched well enough to win four or five games,” Pierre said. “We haven’t hit the ball when he’s pitched, we haven’t scored any runs and we haven’t made the plays behind him. It’s always one guy on the pitching that gets it and you just feel for that guy as well as he pitched.

“(Lee) didn’t deserve to lose that game tonight. Hopefully, it will be water under a bridge in August or September and he runs off 12 straight wins or something.”

And by that time maybe Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are back or better yet the players they have will get hot and start tearing the cover off the ball before those guys come back.

Meanwhile, you have to admire Lee for at least keeping a stiff upper lip through all this.

“I’m not really frustrated, I’m not,” Lee said. “All I can do is throw pitches. I don’t set goals that I have to have this many wins or whatever. I just want to put up as many zeroes as I can and throw strikes, don’t walk guys and give the team a chance to win. That’s all I can do and continue to try to do.”

 

Phils Come Up Small in the Late Innings, Hamels Gives up Two Home Runs to Hanley Ramirez

3 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

Despite eight strikeouts Hamels could not stop Miami’s Hanley Ramirez who hit two home runs off him.

Cole Hamels was looking to become baseball’s only nine-game winner and for the first three innings when the Phillies took a 3-0 lead, it seemed like he was on his way to accomplishling that feat.

But Handley Ramirez of the Miami Marlins hit two homeruns off Cole Hamels (8-2) and the Phillies failed to take advantage of opportunities to get back in the game in the late innings and wound up on the short end of a 5-4 loss on a Saturday afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Hamels did manage to come up with eight strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings, but just could not stop Ramirez, who started the Marlins comeback with a solo shot to center that had to be reviewed the umpires because a fan reached over and caught the ball. The umpires upheld the homerun call. Hamels also gave up an RBI double Justin Ruggiano that scored first baseman Logan Morrison, who singled after Ramirez’s home run.

“I thought it was a homerun right off the bat,” Hamels said of Ramirez’s first home run. “If it wasn’t going to be a homerun, I was going to be more lucky than anything because I threw the pitch, he guessed right, he hit it and he hit it hard. When that happens, he definitely deserved the homerun. You have to comeback and get the next guy, but I wasn’t able to do that.

The Marlins third baseman put his team up for good with a two-run homer to left off Hamels to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said that Hamels seemed to lose his command in his final two inninngs on the mound.

“He was kind of off there for the final two innings,” Manuel said. “I felt like he got kind of out of whack.”

The Phillies got on the board by scoring runs in each of the first three innings. In the first Carlos Ruiz drove Juan Pierre on a RBI ground out to Morrison at first base. Jimmy Rollins got an RBI-single that scored Placido Polanco. Hunter Pence opened the third inning with a solo homer to right. But that would be all the Phillies would score until the eighth inning.

Marlins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco (6-3)got the win and a had a solid outing against the Phillies and allowed eight hits while striking out five.

The eighth inning looked promising enough for the Phillies. Rollins tripled to right. Pierre would walk and take second on a stolen. A sacrifice fly by Pence drove home Rollins and moved Pierre to third. With three chances to bring home the tying run, the Phillies came up short. First, Victorino walked, but Ruiz struck out swinging on a bad pitch that was way outside the strike zone and first baseman Ty Wigginton also struck out swinging.

The ninth inning also looked liked the Phillies were, at the very least, going to push across the game-tying run. Polanco open the inning with a single to right-center. He was replaced by pinch runner Mike Fontenot and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by second baseman Freddy Galvis, who should have been safe at first because it appeared that Morrison missed the tag.

However, the umpire ruled that Galvis ran outside the baseline. The television replay did not indicate that Galvis ran out of the base line. Manuel said he asked first base umpire Doug Edding to get help from the home plate umpire.

“I didn’t think (Galvis) was out of the base line and I asked for help, (Edding) said he made the call and he said he wasn’t going to ask for it,” Manuel said. “I don’t think Freddy went out of the baseline. He was in the three-foot line and he went to his right a little bit and he established a baseline.”

But the way things turned out, it would not have mattered because Brian Schneider, pinch-hitting for pitcher Raul Valdes, popped out to second and Rollins ended the game by flying out to short.

“We were sitting right there and we could have definitely won the game,” Manuel said. “It’s a matter of getting the big hit at the right time. Today, it didn’t happen.”

Contreras Likely Out for the Season With Elbow Tear–UPDATE Contreras speaks to Media

2 Jun

By Chris Murray

Contreras could be done for the season and possibly his career.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

Just when it looked like things were beginning to round into shape for Phillies relief pitcher Jose Contreras the bottom has fallen out from what was going to be his comeback from last year’s season-ending elbow surgery.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters today that an MRI of Contreras elbow revealed a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor pronator tear in his right elbow. He has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.  He said the initial indications say that Contreras is out for the year.

“We’re going to get a second opinion and send some of the studies to Dr. (Lewis) Yocum, who did his flexor pronator surgery just to get his thoughts,” Amaro said. “Unfortunately, we’re pretty confident that he has some very, very serious issues. We’re not sure what he’s going to do after that. We’ll know more after Yocum gives us his opinion on this.”

Contreras apparently injured his elbow during the eighth inning of Friday’s night game against the Miami Marlins. He had thrown five pitches and had a 2-2 count on Marlins second baseman Omar Infante when when he came off the mound grimacing in intense pain and favoring his elbow.

After spending the first nine games on the disabled list, Contreras compiled a 1-0 record with a 5.27 earned-run average in 17 appearances for the Phillies this season. Before this latest injury, Contreras was on a roll and pitching well for the Phillies. He had not allowed a run in his last seven appearances while allowing just one hit with six strikeouts over five and two-thirds innings.

“It’s unfortunate for him,” Amaro said. “I feel badly for him because he worked pretty hard to where he was starting to be pretty effective and it’s a tough piece of news to take.”

It was a similar situation last season for Contreras, who opened the season as the Phillies closer and was 5-for-5 in save opportunities. He did not allow a run in his first 11 appearances. He had a flexor pronator straing and was placed on the disabled list on April 25, 2011.

Contreras was reactivated in May and pitched in nine games with 9.00 ERA and was placed on the DL for what turned out to be the season with a strain in his right forearm. He had elbow surgery in September of 2011.

With surgery on the horizon again, Contreras, speaking through  Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel as an interpreter, he said  is disheartened  about injuring his elbow again.

“I’m very, very disappointed going back to last year, ” Contreras said. “My command was there in my last four and five outings and to have this happen again is very disappointing.”

Contreras said he intends to come back next year and will have the surgery and work hard  during rehabilitation to make it back to the team next year.

“Injuries are apart of  the game, we’re going to rehab it and see how we feel,” Contreras said.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Contreras’ injury is a huge blow to the Phillies bullpen.

“He’s good … When he’s right, he’s got good stuff,” Manuel said. “His fast ball and his splitter are his two out pitches.”

Meanwhile, it looks Antonio Bastardo, who gave up back-to-back homeruns against the Marlins in the eighth inning on Friday and Chad Qualls, who allowed two homeruns in last appearance on May 27 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his four appearances, Qualls has given up four home runs and five hits over his seven and one thirds innings.

Kendrick Shows Some Grit in Phillies Win over Miami

2 Jun

 

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Throughout his career as a Phillies pitcher, Kyle Kendrick has certainly had his ups and downs as a starting pitcher.

In 2007, he had an outstanding rookie season,but was sent back to the minors to work on his repetoire of pitches when teams around the National League figured him out. Between 2008 and 2011, Kendrick through his stints as a starter and a reliever has become a better pitcher.

Although his 2-4 record in 2012 doesn’t show it, Kendrick is pitching well for the Phillies. Since allowing seven runs in his first start of the season, he has 1.64 earned-run average over has last five starts prior to Friday’s game against the Miami Marlins. In his last start, Kendrick had a complete game shut-out against the St.Louis Cardinals.

While he wasn’t as overpowering as he was against St. Louis, Kendrick was tough enough to pitch his way out of a couple of bases-loaded jams in the Phillies 6-4 win over the Marlins in a game that took over three hours to play because of a rain delay.

Kendrick’s numbers against Miami were ordinary, but just good enough to keep his team on top. He allowed two earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and three walks in five and one-thirds innings. Not bad for a guy who experienced a 48-minute rain delay.

“He did a good job out there,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “They were hitting some balls hard off him. When they hit those balls hard off him, he settled in. When he got into a better rhythm, he got into a nice tempo, he started getting the ball and throwing it more instead of taking a lot of time. When he found his rhythm, he got in a groove and pitched pretty good.”

Things could have been much worse for Kendrick.

In the top of the third, the Marlins put Kendrick on the ropes by loading the bases with just one out. But the young Phillies right-hander got Logan Morrison into an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. In the fourth inning, Kendrick got into another bases-loaded jam with two out and managed to get the final out when a snagged a line drive off the bat of Marlins second basesman Omar Infante to end the threat.

“I’ve been into those situations where you get into jams, you just got to make your pitches, stay aggressive and try to get ahead and let them get themselves out,” Kendrick said. “The guys played some good defense. Ty (Wigginton on the double play) made a good play and it was an all-round good game for us.”

What also helped him tonight was the run support he got from the Phillies offense. After the Marlins jumped out to a 1-0 lead, the Phillies got a bases-loaded single from left-fielder Hector Luna that drove home a pair of runs to gave the Phils a 2-1 lead and never trailed after that.

Kendrick would get an even bigger cushion thanks to a two-run homer by Hunter Pence in the Phillies half of the fourth innning. Jimmy Rollins drove in another run on a safety squeeze play that scored Freddy Galvis. The Phillies got another run on an RBI-double in the seventh Luna, who finished the game with three RBI.

The Phillies bullpen didn’t necessarily makes things easy. After Jose Contreras left the game with soreness in his right elbow, Antonio Bastardo gave up back-to-back homeruns. Jake Diekman came on in relief of Bastardo, but gave up two singles that loaded the bases.

Luckily, closer Jonathan Papelbon to get the last two outs of the inning and finishing the game with a five-out save. While Manuel said it was the first time he had his closer on the mound for two innings, Papelpon said he had no problem going the extra frame to get the save.

“I look forward to every opportunity to get in the game and help the ball club win,” said Papelbon, who is 15-for-15 in save opportunities. “Anytime I can get in the ball game and we’re winning, it’s a good situation.”

Of course, Papelpon’s effort didn’t come without complication, a long flyball deep to the warning track was run down by John Mayberry, who caught the ball with his outstretched glove hand while falling to the ground.

“He made an easy catch look hard,” Papelbon said with a tongue and cheek.

Added Mayberry Jr.: “I tried to stay with it as best I could and do everything you can to make the play.”

Notes—Phillies general Ruben Amaro Jr. said Contreras, who left the game with a right elbow strain in eighth while facing his first batter, will have an MRI on either Saturday or Monday.

“We can’t speculate what is right now, but we’re likely to put him on the [disabled list] and hopefully he can be back as soon as possible,.” Amaro said. “(Contreras) said it wasn’t as bad as before. But we really know anything more until after the MRI.

Amaro said Contreras will also be seeing a team doctor on Saturday.