Archive | July, 2013

Braves beat down Phillies in a 13-4 Rout

7 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Kendrick had a rough night against the Braves, giving up six runs on 12 hits including two home runs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Kyle Kendrick had a rough night against the Braves, giving up six runs on 12 hits including two home runs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—If there was a bright spot on this Saturday evening for the Phillies, it was getting the news that leftfielder Domonic Brown and pitcher Cliff Lee made the National League All-Star team.

The rest of the night went down hill from there.

First, the Phillies placed first baseman Ryan Howard on the 15-day disabled list for his sore left knee. He is expected to have an MRI by Sunday or Monday to see if the knee needs surgery or just needs a rest.

“That’s a big blow,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It’s different with him not in there. His presence means something to us. He’s still a threat he’s got (43) RBI. We need Ryan in our lineup. At the same time, we’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got guys that can definitely perform better and help us win some games.”

As for the game itself, the competitive portion of Saturday’s nationally-televised game was over by the fifth inning as the Atlanta Braves gave the Phillies a good old-fashioned butt whuppin’ in a 13-4 rout on a sweltering hot night at Citizen’s Bank Park.

It was a game in which all the Phillies shortcomings came out in a big way, whether it was pitching, lack of hitting and poor play defensively.   The Phillies were definitely guilty of it.

Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (7-6) had a terrible outing. He gave up six runs on 12 hits in five innings on the mound.  He also gave up two home runs in his first two innings—a leadoff home run to shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the first inning and a two-run blast to second baseman Dan Uggla in the second.

It definitely wasn’t Kendrick’s night on the mound. He gave up three more in the fourth and fifth before his night ended.

“They were being aggressive and I wasn’t making quality pitches,” Kendrick said. “That’s what happens. They hit some balls that were down that found some holes. It their night with the score and the hits.”

Of course, the Phillies bullpen hand another lousy night by allowing seven more runs on seven hits that turned the game into a laugher for the Braves.  Phillies relievers-Joe Savery, Phillipe Aumont, and Jake Diekman- could not contain Braves hitters.  Atlanta scored in seven of the nine innings and finished the game with 19 hits.

“They put it on us,” Manuel said. “Our bullpen, of course, got some experience and they got hit pretty good and the Braves blew the game out.”

By the time the Phillies offense woke up in the late innings, they were already down 11-1. That’s because they couldn’t solve Tim Hudson (5-7). The veteran righthander allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings. He struck out four and didn’t allow a walk.

“(Hudson) was definitely tough, man,” Brown said. “He was mixing it in and out. When you have (catcher) Brian McCann back there, he’s not going to let you sit in one spot. (Hudson) was mixing it up great.”


Sore Knee Lands Ryan Howard on 15-Day Disabled List

7 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Ryan Howard was placed on the 15-Day disabled list on Saturday and will have an MRI on Sunday or Monday.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ryan Howard was placed on the 15-Day disabled list on Saturday and will have an MRI on Sunday or Monday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore left knee that has been bothering him throughout the season.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Howard was experiencing discomfort in the knee at the end of Friday night’s game. He left the game in the eighth inning and was replaced by Laynce Nix.

“(Saturday) morning, he tried to take ground balls and tried to hit,” Amaro said. “But it wasn’t going very well for him and he wasn’t going to be able to perform. We had said before that if his knee got so delibilitated that he couldn’t perform, we go ahead and shut him down.”

Amaro said Howard would be getting an MRI on Sunday or Monday. That will probably determine whether or not he needs surgery on the knee and how long he will be out of the Phillies lineup.

“Even with the MRI as much discomfort he has today and the days leading up to today it had become less and less comfortable for him,” Amaro said.

In his last 10 games, Howard has been hitting just .147 (5-for-34) with one homerun, two runs batted in and 14 strikeouts.  Throughout the season, Howard’s left knee was swollen so bad that it resembled a grapefruit hanging off his leg.

Oddly enough, Howard has managed to play well with the pain in his knee. In one game 10-game stretch last month,  Howard was hitting over .400.  But the knee really bothered him on the Phillies last road trip and he went through a stretch where he went hitless in 15 straight at-bats.

“He’s really managed it okay and Charlie’s been trying to get him days off and working through it, but it got to the point to where we feel like it’s time for him to get off of it and make sure we take care of it.”

The Phillies will bring up Darin Ruf from the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs squad. Amaro said Ruf will be getting some time playing first base throughout Howard’s absence.

“This is a big blow to us because (Howard) is our best power hitter, but we’ll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks,” Amaro said.

In 82 games with the Iron Pigs, Ruf is batting .266 with 46 runs batted and seven home runs. In 12 games with the Phillies back in September 2012, Ruf batted .333 with 10 runs batted and three home runs. Ruf came into the Phillies lineup on Saturday as a late-inning replacement for Laynce Nix.


Cliff Lee Wins Eighth Straight as Phils Hold Off Braves

6 Jul
Ryan Howard, who has been struggling, had a solo-homer in Friday's win over the Braves.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ryan Howard, who has been struggling, had a solo-homer in Friday’s win over the Braves. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—With the All-Star Break on the horizon at the end of this homestand, both Charlie Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. want to know how really good 2013 Phillies during these next 10 games.

With this first-place Atlanta Braves in town for a three-game weekend series, the Phillies will have a golden opportunity to show how good they really are while also making up some ground in the National League East.

The Phillies got off to a good start on their road to redemption with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on a hot, humid night at Citizen’s Bank Park.  With the victory, the third-place Phils moved within seven and a half games behind the Braves in the National League East.

“It tells me that we have to play like hell,” Manuel said after the game. “It tells me that we have to go out here and play even keel and stay with our philosophy.”

For Manuel, who said before the game that he isn’t sure how good his team is at this point, it has to be a start in the right direction. It was the Phillies third win in their last four games.

Of course, the hard part for the Phillies will be doing on a more consistent basis. But Friday night’s game was a good start.

“I got a good feel for our team right now,” Manuel said. “If we keep scoring some runs and our pitching holds up. Who knows what we can do? You don’t ever give up. You stay there and fight and grind it out. There’s luck in the game. But if you play good, you make a lot of luck.”

Offensively, the Phillies scored enough runs to win.  Chase Utley scored the game’s first run on a throwing error by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Utley reached on a double.

In the second inning, catcher Humberto Quintero came up big for the Phillies with three batted in.  The first two came on a two-run homer to right in the second inning that had to be reviewed by the umpire. The ball went over the railing after being touched by a fan.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard added a solo homer in the third off the Braves left-hander Paul Maholm, who gave up five runs (four earned) off nine hits.  Quintero closed out the scoring in the sixth inning with an RBI double that drove home Delmon Young, who reached on a single.

By the seventh inning, the Phillies had a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Cliff Lee had been pitching shutout ball through six innings, but apparently got worn down by the heat and humidity. The Braves touched him four runs in that inning including a three-run homer by second baseman Dan Uggla.

Lee (10-2), who won his eighth straight, said the heat was no excuse for the pitch he threw to Uggla.

“I threw five changeups in a row and had two strikes on him,” Lee said. “I tried to throw a fast ball up and in. It was up, but it wasn’t as in as much as I wanted. He got on top of it, put a good swing on it and hit a home run.

“I’m going to blame it on the heat. We all play in the same conditions. It was hot and humid, but that’s an excuse.”

After Lee gave up the four runs in the seventh, the Phillies relievers J.C. Ramirez, Antonio Bastardo shut the Braves down and allowed just one hit the rest of the way.


Phillies Say 10-Game Homestand Could Make or Break their Season

6 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he likes to think of Chase Utley as a Phillie for life. Is he? Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he likes to think of Chase Utley as a Phillie for life.  There are rumors that say he might be on trading block if the Phillies aren’t contending by the July 31st trade-deadline.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Starting with this weekend’s series against the National League-East leading Braves, the Phillies 10-game homestand leading into the All-Star Break could determine whether the Phillies are going to be buyers or sellers at the July 31s trade deadline.

The Phillies (42-45)  started their 10-game with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Citizen’s Bank to move to within 7.5 games in the National League East.

“I think we’ll know a little bit more about our team after this homestand,” said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  “I hope we’re adding to this rather than subtracting. That’s the goal. I always say the same thing the players and their play will dictate.”

Amaro said he’s fielded calls from teams from around baseball that are interested in some of the Phillies players. He didn’t mention the teams that inquired about the players in question. Amaro also said he’s been on the phone with teams during the last up

One of the players that could be on the trading block is second baseman Chase Utley. Amaro was quick to say he thinks of Utley as a “Phillie for life.”  During the course of his confab with reporters, he said didn’t like to think of things in absolutes.

When a reporter asked him wasn’t the desire to make Utley a Phillie for life an absolute, Amaro response was, “No it’s not.”  That basically means that no one is untouchable if a deal is good enough.

Throughout the season, the Phillies have been hovering around .500 and haven’t been to able to come up with a streak of wins that would put them back into contention in the division or wildcard race.

“We have to kick it in now,” said Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown, who’s hit 22 homeruns.  “We’re definitely running out of time we got to get it going. We got the team to do it. We just have to keep going out and keep battling.”

The Phillies are coming off a 10-game road trip in which they finished .500, but probably could have won more games if not for the struggling bullpen, gaffs in the field or just not hitting at the plate.

“We’re playing .500 baseball and we’re under .500, that’s really not good enough, especially with the guys we have in here.” Brown said.  “We’ve got to get it going.”

The general frustration among the players, coaches and even Charlie Manuel is that the Phillies are better than their current record. Though Manuel wants to see his team to show it on the field on a more consistent basis.

“Do I think we’re better? I don’t know, I’m trying to find out,” Manuel said. “I think we got to get better if we’re going to win. I can answer that, but there are some things I don’t want to answer right now.”

Perhaps the maddening thing about the 2013 Phillies is that they have played well enough at times to have fans thinking that they are about to explode into a hot streak that would put the team back in contention.

“When we go on a hot stretch, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” said center fielder Ben Revere.

And there are those times when the Phillies can’t get out of the way of themselves. They have followed up winning streaks with a string of games in which one or two aspects of the game is so out of whack that they will lose two or three games in a row.

“They’re a little enigmatic I think, “ Amaro said “They’re a bit of an enigma, but we’ll see we’ll find out more after this homestand. The next 10 days, we’ll see.”

One area that definitely needs improvement is the Phillies bullpen, which has blown leads this season or let leads by the other team get even larger. That’s something that doesn’t sit too well with the Phillies general manager.

Amaro said if the team is contending by the time the trade deadline rolls around at the month, shoring up a suspect bullpen would definitely be a priority.

“I think it needs to improve,” Amaro said. “They need to show progress.”

Sixers Hope Bold Moves on Draft Day Will Lead to Future Success

3 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

PHILADELPHIA—When the 76ers announced they had traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 6 pick, 6-foot-10-inch center Nerlens Noel, I thought it was the dumbest move they could have made.

Why, after all, why would you trade an All-Star for a player who’s never played a minute in the NBA? Also, especially in light of the Andrew Bynum debacle, why would you trade for a guy with a busted knee?

Noel, who looks like he needs to spend some time in the weight room, averaged 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his first (and only) year at Kentucky.  Until he injured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last March, he was projected to be the Number One pick.

Now mind you, Noel’s condition isn’t as degenerative as Bynum’s, but the idea of bringing in a guy with a bum knee does not engender much confidence from the Sixers fans that hooped and hollered at the Bynum trade, only to find that he was a dud.

Add to this, Noel isn’t expected to be back on the court before December if his rehabilitation is successful. By then, the Sixers will probably be in a familiar position: on the outside looking in as other teams compete for playoff spots.

To be fair, because the Sixers were going to be a young team whether GM Sam Hinkie had decided to build around Holiday or not, fans were going to be asked for their patience. The performance of a rookie is one of the NBA’s great unknowns.

But there are some bright spots…such as they are…

The biggest bonus of this trade is that the Sixers are approximately $15 million under the salary cap for this season. It’s expected that Hinkie will try to move other players like Evan Turner to clear even more space.

Also, to replace Holiday, the Sixers drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who at 6-6 will be bigger than the some of the people that will be competing against him on both sides of the ball.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

his final year with Syracuse, Carter-Williams averaged 11.8 points per game, 7.3 assists and nearly five rebounds per game. He was one of the big reasons the Orange was able to make a Final Four run in 2013.

Unlike Holiday, who still managed to average 17 points and seven assists with a bunch of mediocre to bad players, Carter-Williams will probably have some guys around him who can put the ball in the bucket so that he doesn’t have to score as much.

Despite starting for just one season, Carter-Williams broke the single-season school record for steals and finished his career with 292 assists, second only to Syracuse legend Sherman Douglas’s single-season number of 326 back in 1988-1989.

Looking at the numbers, the upside for Carter-Williams is pretty good. Having played in what is formerly the Big East Conference, Carter-Williams has had his share of high profile, high-pressure games.

The question is how all that will translate when it comes to the pro game. Some fans are still smarting from Turner’s lackluster play despite being the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft.

Despite my initial criticism and the praise these moves have received from some people, we have no idea of how this is all going to turn out.  If by some miracle, everything the Sixers are doing somehow translates into the team making some noise and winning a title, Hinkie will never have to buy a drink in this town again.

But if it’s the same old Sixers, a bad to mediocre team that is a sure first-round knockout if it makes the playoffs at all, folks will look back on the Holiday trade as the impetus needed to come to the Wells Fargo Center with torches and pitchforks.

Well, look at it this way…the Sixers have a couple of No. 1 draft picks next year and the experts are predicting a much deeper draftee class in 2014. Hope they have their shopping lists ready…