Archive | September, 2013

Phillies Can’t Overcome Youth and Inexperience in Loss to Nationals

4 Sep

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says Ethan Martin needed to use his fastball more in loss to Washington, Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says Ethan Martin needed to use his fastball more in loss to Washington, Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re playing a bunch of young players from your Triple-A farm club, you’re going to see some flashes of brilliance and how far they have to go to play at the major league level on a consistent basis.

With the exception of catcher Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Kevin Frandsen and right fielder John Mayberry Jr., the Phillies lineup consisted of players that have spent the summer with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

The Phillies youth and inexperience definitely showed in their 9-6 loss to the Washington Nationals Tuesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park in front of a small crowd of 28, 826 fans.

Starting pitcher Ethan Martin struggled with his control, walking five batters and allowing five runs on five hits. He also hit a batter.

“It was a frustrating game on the pitching side of it,” said Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg. “There were a lot of pitches thrown, base on balls. He gave them baserunners and then they answered with hits. “

The first bad inning for Martin was the second inning came when hit Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. After retiring Nats shortstop Ian Desmond on a pop fly to shortstop Freddy Galvis, Martin walked Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and then gave up a three-run homer to catcher Wilson Ramos.

“Martin right from the get-go didn’t really establish his fast ball,” Sandberg said. “Pitched a little careful, a little bit backwards early and he had some success in his middle innings with his fastball, which is a good one. He got some outs.”

In the fourth inning, the Phillies cut the margin to 3-2 on two-run single by third baseman Cody Asche (3-for-4) that scored Frandsen, who reached on a single and Ruiz, who got on base on a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

After getting through the next two innings, Martin ran into trouble again in the fifth innings when he gave up a leadoff double to Denard Span. After getting Zimmerman to bounce out on a grounder to second,  Martin walked left fielder Bryce Harper.

Martin managed to get the second out of the inning by getting Werth to pop out to first. But just when it looked like Martin was going to work his way out of the inning, he walked Desmond to load the bases and then walked LaRoche to score Spann from third.

“I didn’t make that final pitch to get out of that inning,” Martin said. “It’s kind been that way for the majority of the starts that I’ve had up here. It’s just that one pitch that I haven’t been able to get. It’s one thing we’ve been talking and I just have to bear down and get that pitch.”

That spelled the end for Martin. The Nationals got another run that was charged to Martin when relief pitcher Justin De Fratus walked Ramos to bring home Harper.

The Nationals added two more runs in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Werth that scored Zimmerman and a run-scoring hit from Desmond that brought home Harper to make the score 7-2.

“The bullpen came and struggled with base on balls and with the base runners,” Sandberg.

But the Phillies made things interesting in the sixth by scoring three runs in the inning by taking advantage of Nationals fielding errors.  Darin Ruf scored from second on a throwing error by Desmond who was trying to throw out Mayberry at first. The Phillies cut the deficit to 7-5 on RBI singles by Mike Martinez and pinch hitter Chase Utley.

The Nationals added another run on a solo homer to right by pinch-hitter Corey Brown in top of the seventh.

The Phillies got that run back in the eighth on a home run by Asche to right center.

The Nationals added a run in the ninth on wild pitch strikeout by B.J. Rosenberg that scored Span.


After a Rough Start, Cole Hamels is Back to His Old Self

3 Sep

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Cole Hamels's 6-13 record is not reflective of how well he has pitched in the second half of the season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels’s 6-13 record is not reflective of how well he has pitched in the second half of the season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—After winning 17 games last season, Cole Hamels struggled in the first half of the season with bad outings and not getting run support. The Phillies are just 11-18 in his 29 starts.

With the Phillies out of the pennant race, Hamels has pitched well in the second half of the season. In his last 12 starts including Monday’s game against the Nationals, Hamels is 4-2 with a 2.25 earned run average, allowing just two runs or less in nine of those 12 starts.

This season, Hamels is 6-13 with a 3.50 ERA including Monday night’s no decision against the Washington Nationals.  Last year, he was 17-6 and was the beneficiary of a few good breaks here and there. That hasn’t been the case this season.

Monday night’s game against the Nationals was typical of the futility in terms of wins that Hamels has experienced this season.  He allowed just one run on just two hits and he had eight strikeouts in seven innings, but didn’t get the win.

Hamels did a good job of mixing his pitches, especially his change up and was ahead in the count against most of the batters he faced. When he left the game, the score was 1-1.  He threw 87 pitches.

“He was nasty tonight,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who drove in the game-tying run in the eighth inning. “His changeup probably the best it’s been all season long. He hit his spots. He threw every pitch where he wanted to. … Unfortunately, he didn’t come up for that next inning, he did everything he needed to do to give us a chance.”

The Phillies eventually won the game 3-2, but scored their two runs an inning after Hamels left the game.  Carlos Ruiz’s RBI single that scored Rollins in the bottom of the eighth won the game for the Phillies.

What made Hamels performance Monday night even more remarkable was that he came into the game feeling a little stiff after warm ups, something he attributed to pitching in day games and road trips.

“Sometimes, later in the year, it’s a little hard to get loose sometimes,” Hamels said.

Even with his record as lopsided as it is, Hamels said all he wants to do is to pitch well enough to give his team a chance to win.

“It’s been a long of year of that,” Hamels said. “If it’s a case of me giving the team a chance to win. That’s all I can ask for.  …When you go out there every five days, try to finish a game or if you can’t, your team is going to try to come away with the win.”

Hamels’ recent run of success begs the question: What went wrong earlier this year? After a season in which he signed a six-year, $144 million contract, Hamels just could not find his groove earlier in the season.

“Overall, I would say that in the first half of the season, his command off just enough so that he was behind in the count and the hitters would be in more hitting counts and had better chances to hit,” said Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg.

“(Hamels) stuff was still the same, it was just a sliver of command issues. The second half he’s been as far as that. He works ahead of the hitters and then he goes to off-speed stuff which works to his advantage.”

Hamels said the thing that’s made a difference for him in the second half of the season is having the confidence to throw all four of his pitches, doing his homework on the opposition and not being afraid to be aggressive.

“Just preparing a lot more about and really knowing who I’ve got up, their tendencies and then going out there and executing the pitch,” Hamels said. “Not being afraid to start a guy off with a certain pitch, not being afraid to throw strikes and not being afraid to throw balls down the middle.”

Sandberg also said Hamels teammates haven’t helped him much on the offensive end as well. Injuries to players like Ryan Howard and the team’s poor hitting have made things difficult for Hamels.

“As far as everything else, I think it’s been one of those years where a lot of things haven’t gone his way,” Sandberg said.  “Run support being one of those things.  A lot of times he did not have the lead. He did not pitch with the lead.”

After watching his performance Monday night, Sandberg seeing Hamels pitch as well as he did against Washington was a welcome sight considering his struggles early in the season.

“This late in the year for that kind of an outing from him is every encouraging,” Sandberg said. “He’s been on a roll and having outing like this is great to see.”