Phillies Bats Smash Reds Again in Support of Cliff Lee

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

Cody Asche ha been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

Cody Asche has been swinging a hot bat for the Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA—Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has been saying all season that he wanted to see his team to score early in the game, the middle and late.

In Sunday’s 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Citizen’s Bank, the Phillies did just that and they did it with the long-ball while getting a solid pitching performance from starter Cliff Lee (4-4, 3.18). The game was a showcase of the team’s offensive potential if they can do it on a consistent basis.

“I think you just saw in the last two days what can happen when we all put together all three phases of the game— pitching, defense and our offense,” said third baseman Cody Asche, whose three-run homer in the seventh sealed the Phillies win. “We’ve been missing a piece or two here or there in a couple games and dropped a couple of tough ones. I think you saw the potential of the team not just our offense.”

Lee wasn’t his usual dominating self, but he was tough enough to keep the Reds off the board after they scored two in the first inning. For the game, he allowed just two runs on nine hits with three strikeouts with just one walk.

“Cliff Lee, with his 116 pitches, got off to a bit of a slow start in the first inning with his velocity, but picked it up and it was solved,” Sandberg said. “He competed out there and he mixed his pitches well.”

Just as important as his effort on the mound, Lee got some run support from the Phillies offense, especially in the Phillies half of the first inning when they got back-to-back home runs from lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins and catcher Wil Nieves.

“It was definitely good for our team because it put us back in the game,” Lee said. “For us to answer back that quick was definitely nice. It was nice for us to answer back right there. It’s definitely easier to pitch with the lead and it’s easier to attack the strike zone.”

Nieves said answering the Reds in their half of the first inning with home runs was a huge boost in momentum for a team that has struggle to hit at times throughout the year.

“We got the talent. It’s happy to see all of the guys getting hot at the same time,” Nieves said. “Hitting is contagious. … I know we’re a team capable of doing this day in and day. Us coming back from two runs down was just huge and Cliff Lee kept them there until we busted it open late in the game. It was huge.”

The Phillies took the lead for good in the fifth inning on an RBI ground out to first by second baseman Chase Utley that scored Lee, who singled to lead off the inning. The Phillies got a solo homer from right fielder Marlon Byrd in the sixth.

In the seventh inning, the Phillies put the game away for good on an RBI single by Byrd and Asche’s three-run homer. It was his fourth of the season. During the month of May, Asche is batting .333 with a .418 on-base percentage and has a .625 slugging percentage.

“I’m swinging at more strikes I would say,” Asche said. “The more strikes you swing at, the more chances you’re going to have to put the ball in play hard. You have to be more precise in what you’re looking and go from there.”

Notes-With his 46th career lead-off home run, Rollins has the fourth most leadoff home runs in Major League history behind Ricky Henderson (81), Alfonso Soriano (54) and Craig Biggio (53).

Asche and Brown Lead Phillies in Rout over Reds, Hamels Gets 100th Win

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

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown had a career-high five runs batted in the Phillies win over Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into the second game of their three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, the Phillies had been scoreless in their last 20 innings.

The real culprit behind the Phillies lack of run production has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Before Saturday night’s contest against the Reds, the Phillies were 0-for-16. They had been batting .193 when they’ve had men in scoring position.

“A lineup creates scoring opportunities and then it comes down to execution and it comes down to a big at bat and a swing to drive one run or maybe two or three,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “That’s the one punch that we want to see and that’s what we need to get us over the hump, to get us going.”

For the first three scoreless innings, the Phillies offense was going nowhere fast until the fourth inning when everything Sandberg talked about came to fruition.

In that fourth inning, the Phillies broke out of their slump with a vengeance. They sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs on six hits that included a two-run double by third baseman Cody Asche, a two-run homer by left fielder Domonic Brown and RBI singles from Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley.

The offensive outburst, along with a stellar outing by Cole Hamels, enabled the Phillies to come away with a 12-1 win over the Reds at Citizen’s Bank Park to end a four-game losing streak.

The Phillies offense broke out of their hitting with runs in scoring position slump by going 7-for-15. For Sandberg, it was a matter of time before they broke out of their inability to score runs. It was Asche’s two-run double to end the Phillies scoreless streak that opened the flood gates.

“It was big. That’s what we were looking for to build on,” Sandberg said. “We were able to build on that for the rest of the game. It was the hit that sparked everybody.”

As the Phillies offense was rising from its slumber, Hamels was mowing down Reds hitters in a way that was reminiscent of his MVP performance in the 2008 World Series. He struck out 10 while allowing just one run on three hits. He threw 90 pitches in seven innings of work. It was Hamels 100th career win.

“Cole was outstanding for his 100th career win,” Sandberg said. “It was by far the best that he’s looked this year with velocity and command, throwing strikes and using all of his pitches. He had that (third inning) where struck out the side with nine pitches.”

Hamels said he was happy to get that 100th win playing for the Phillies and for Philadelphia fans.

“They’ve seen a quite a few wins here personally (at Citizen’s Bank Park) or on Comcast,” Hamels said. “It’s nice to be able to do it for everybody to feel they’ve been a part of it from the start to where it is now.”
Doing the bulk of the damage for the Phillies were Asche and Brown who changed places in the Phillies lineup. Asche batted sixth and Brown batted seventh.

“It was great to see and maybe that sparked them,” Sandberg said.
Brown, who had been batting .113 (6-for-53) in his last 14 games coming into Saturday, drove in a career-high five runs including his second homer of the year in the fourth and a three-run double in the seventh. He had the green light to swing at a 3-0 pitch that got crushed into the seats in right field in that big fourth innin.

“I knew a fast ball was coming, especially with a guy that’s been struggling,” Brown said. “I was trying to make a good, short sweet to the baseball. I just happen to do so. … It definitely feels good, but it’s just one game, fellas. I’m trying to build forward, stay positive and keep having fun.”

Meanwhile, Asche continued his hot hitting with a double and a single while driving in three runs.

“We’ve been putting pressure on teams and getting runners in scoring position. We just haven’t been able to cash in,” Asche said. “It was good to some runs for Cole because he was out there pitching his ass off. “

After putting up those six runs in the fourth. The Phillies scored five more in the seventh and got a solo home-run from shortstop Cesar Hernandez in the eighth. It was his first career major-league homer.

Notes-With his first inning single, Jimmy Rollins moved into third place on the Phillies all-time hitting list with his 2,212 career hit that moved him past Hall-of-Famer Ed Delahanty. He is five hits shy of tying Richie Ashburn for second.

Those Phumbling Phils Can’t Get Out of the Way of their Inconsistency

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said Phillies have to better fundamentally. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said Phillies have to better fundamentally. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—I know it’s only early May, but can you wake us up when we can get a true gauge on who this team is and who they’re going to be.

So far this season, the Phillies have given you glimpses of how good they can be and you have seen how awful they can be at times. On a day-to-day basis, you really don’t know what you’re going to get. The Phillies are a team that Forrest Gump would compare to a box of chocolates.

On some nights, a brilliant starting pitching performance gets negated by poor hitting, bad defensive or a bullpen that can’t seem to get anybody out. Even in the wins, the starting pitching may struggle, but then the offense comes through.

Tuesday’s 6-5 extra-innings loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizen’s Bank Park was a microcosm of the season to this point.

The Blue Jays jumped all over Phillies starter Cole Hamels for five runs on 10 hits including a pair of home runs. Meanwhile, the Phils offense spent the first five innings stumbling over themselves with base-running mistakes and bad plays on defense.

Most notably in the second inning when Freddy Galvis hit into a fielder’s choice double play. Marlin Byrd, who doubled to begin the inning overran third base and got caught in a run-down. Galvis was tagged out at second after being run down by the Toronto infield to complete the double play.

“We played some sloppy baseball for the first six innings,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “A lot of little things that added up with some runs coming in and some runs being stranded on the bases.

“A lot of little things that in a one-run game that, if you look back, if you execute, you play good fundamental baseball, it could have been a different outcome.”

But in the sixth, the Phillies exploded to score five runs to even the game—with the big blow coming on a grand-slam homer by third baseman Cody Asche, who finished the game with career highs in hits (four) and runs batted with four. First baseman Ryan Howard had an RBI single to score the Phillie’s first run.

Just when you thought the much-maligned Phillies bullpen was going to have a perfect night, the 10th inning comes along and Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo starts the inning giving up a pair singles to Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista. Cabrera eventually scores the winning run on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Juan Francisco.

“Bullpen did a good did a job putting up three zeroes (in three innings), giving us a chance to score and take the lead, but came up short in the end, ” Sandberg said.

But that’s the kind of year it’s been the Phillies who are now 15-16. That record is the very symbol of a team’s woefully inconsistency. As former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells used to say you are what your record says you are and it reflects how the season has been up and down.

The Phillies would probably be in first place if they were a more consistent team in every phase of the game. Some of their losses have come in the form of mistakes on defense, a bullpen that couldn’t stop teams from scoring in the late innings and a team that can’t find its offensive groove when the pitching is going well.

What’s really confusing about this team is that they are a lot better than what we thought they were going to be. The issue is how good this team could be if they can be consistent with pitching hitting and defense on a regular basis.

Notes—Shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed his second straight start with a pulled right groin strain, Sandberg said. He came into pinch hit and grounded out to second.
“Jimmy needs another day. He still has some sensation in his upper leg area,” Sandberg said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. He’s going to come out and field some ground balls and do some light stuff.”

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

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.


Off the DL: Halladay Has a Solid Outing in Phillies Win over Arizona

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday

Roy Halladay pitched well since going on the disabled list in May and earned his first win since April. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Roy Halladay pitched well since going on the disabled list in May and earned his first win since April. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—If you needed any indication that Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay was back to his old self after spending most of the season the disabled list, all you needed to do was see the standing ovation he got from fans at Citizen’s Bank Park after he left the field in the sixth inning.

Halladay (3-4, 7.81 ERA) didn’t perform badly for a guy who got the call to pitch for the Phillies late Saturday night.  He was supposed to be pitching in a rehab assignment for the Phillies Double-A affiliate in Reading.

“I was half asleep. I was more than happy to come back,” said Halladay, who had shoulder surgery. “Hotel phone was going off, my cell phone was going off. Everything was ringing. I didn’t know what was going on. It took me a second to figure out what was going.”

Facing major league hitting for the first time since May, Halladay allowed just two runs on four hits in six innings of work with two strikeouts and two walks.  He said the velocity on his fastball, which was mostly in the high 80s, but got up to about 90-91 miles per hour, will eventually come, but he wants his other pitches such as his sinker or cutter to be effective as well.

“I’m going to continue to throw fast balls, but I need to show guys early in the count that I’m throw something soft and put as much in their minds as I can early,” Halladay said. “If I go out there and show them that I’m going to throw all fast balls, they’re going to be on it. I’m going to have mix and match and change speeds as much as possible.”

The Phillies offense Sunday helped Halladay by giving him a whole lot of run support and some spectacular plays in the field as the Phils came away with a 9-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Things started a little shaky for Halladay, who gave up two runs in the first two innings on an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly.  But after the second inning, Halladay settled down and didn’t allow a run for the remainder of the game.

The offense came through in a big way. They scored four runs in the first inning. Two of those came on an RBI double by third baseman Cody Asche. Left fielder Darin Ruf had a base loaded single that put the Phillies on the board.

John Mayberry Jr. added to the Phillies lead by blasting a two-run homer to left in the fourth inning. The Phillies added three more runs in the sixth to close out the scoring.

“We scored early and then in the middle and then late,” said interim manager Ryne Sandberg. “In our wins on the homestand here the guys are really coming through with clutch hits, situational hits and big hits with guys on base. I feel  like it’s getting contagious throughout the lineup now.”

Phillies newcomer Roger Bernadina had a couple spectacular plays in the field including robbing Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Davidson of a two-run homer  with a leaping catch at the wall. He also had a diving catch in the seventh inning that took away another hit from Arizona catcher Tuffy Gosewich.

“For a second I thought the ball was over my head,” Bernadina said. “I kept going when I crossed the warning track, I jumped and made a catch out of it.”

Added Halladay: “That was probably a game-changing play.”

For good measure, Bernadina was 1-for-4 with a double and two runs batted in.

Phillies Get Third Straight Walk-Off Win Over Arizona

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Chase Utley's walk-off base-on-balls gave teh Phillies a 4-3 win over Arizona. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Chase Utley’s walk-off base-on-balls gave teh Phillies a 4-3 win over Arizona. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the third straight game, the Phillies gave the fans at Citizen’s Bank Park something to smile about with their 4-3 walk-off win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Chase Utley’s walk-off base-on-balls with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning against Diamondbacks reliever Eury De La Rosa gave the Phillies their third straight walk-off win.

“Anytime you have a walk-off, it creates some excitement with the guys getting out there on the field …three straight walk-offs, you’re lucky if you get that in a month,” said Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg. “Right now, it’s carrying over into the next day. It feels good and we’ll continue to build on it.”

In the ninth inning, the Phillies got a leadoff single by pinch hitter Cody Asche. A single off the hit and run by shortstop Jimmy Rollins drove Asche to third. After an intentional walk to third baseman Michael Young that loaded the bases, Kevin Frandsen struck out.

But Utley did a good job of working the count against De La Rosa, who threw an inside breaking pitch that wasn’t even close to the strike zone. The walk scored Asche from third.

“Winning is winning, I’m just glad we’re able to battle and stay with it throughout the whole game,” said starting pitcher Cole Hamels. “It’s a good feeling just to have something going the right way for as long as we had it this week.”

Hamels had another quality start, going seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and just one walk. He allowed those runs in the fourth inning.

“Hamels threw the ball well for his seven innings,” Sandberg said. “He ran into some trouble in the fourth with a hit batsman on an 0-2 pitch and then the twilight ball Domonic didn’t see.”

That fourth inning started when Hamels hit Diamondbacks right fielder Adam Eaton with the pitch. A double to left by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt that fell between shortstop John McDonald and leftfielder Domonic Brown, who apparently lost the ball in the lights, moved Eaton to third.

Both runners scored on an RBI double by left fielder Martin Prado. An RBI single by third baseman Matt Davidson drove home Prado. Arizona was held scoreless for rest of the game.

The Phillies bullpen, which has struggled throughout the season, kept the team in the game and did not allow a run. The combination of B.J.Rosenberg and Jonathnan Papelbon allowed just one hit over the last two innings.

“They put up zeroes, seventh through ninth,” Sandberg said. “The games have been somewhat tight and it allows the offense to do something. Also the way that they’re putting zeroes up, the defense is coming off the field. It’s all about manufacturing a  run or two and puts it on the offense.”

The Phillies started the scoring in the bottom of the second with a solo home run from Darin Ruf. It was his 10th of the season and his eighth since Aug. 1.

“(Ruf) continues to swing the bat with some pop,” Sandberg said.

But Arizona bounced back to take the lead with a three-run fourth. The Phillies would come back in their half of the sixth inning with a bases loaded RBI double by catcher Carlos Ruiz that scored first baseman Kevin Frandsen and Brown.

The Phillies tied the game in the sixth inning on an RBI bases-loaded double by Carlos Ruiz, who is hitting .373 in 19 games since Aug. 1.