Thome’s Walk-Off Homer Helps Phillies Beat Tampa Bay

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

After Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save of the season by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth, fans began walking out of Citizen’s Bank Park and the fans who stayed were in a pretty surly mood. Papelbon got booed while walking off the mound after getting the final out of that disastrous top of the ninth.

Shortly before the bottom of ninth inning, Papelbon said he offered a little reward for anyone who could win the game on a walk-off homerun.

“I came into the clubhouse and I said, ‘whoever walks this guy off, I’ll give ’em five grand,” Papelbon said.

It took just one swing of Jim Thome’s bat to send the sellout crowd with a smile as the Phillies walked away with a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Interleague play Saturday afternoon in front of 239th consecutive sellout at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“I didn’t think Jim would do it right off the bat, not that he needs the money,” Papelbon said. “I just wrote him a check for $5,000.”

Thome’s homerun, the 13th walkoff homer of his career, was the 609th tying for the seventh on the all-time Major League list with Sammy Sosa. For the veteran slugger hitting game-winning homeruns never gets old.  If you can read lips on the TV replay, Thome appears to be telling Papelbon, ‘I want that check.’

“Walkoff homers are great because your  teammates  are there waiting for you,” Thome said. “Pinch hitting is a challenge. It’s a challenge. You have an at-bat you have a day to sit on it. The goal is to work to be positive to try to accomplish it.”

Meanwhile, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got his 900th career victory as a manager that also includes his time as the Cleveland Indians skipper.

For the Phillies, it was a day where the team found itself in and out of predicaments. Most notably the top of the ninth. The Phillies came into the inning with a 6-4 lead, but the Rays got RBI singles from Brooks Conrad and Jeff Keppinger to even the score.

At the end of the day, Thome’s home run was just reflective of how the Phillies kept fighting their way out of tough situations.

“It was a collective all-round victory today, especially offensively,” said Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre. “That what’s team is about. We’re picking each other up. Papelbon has been lights out all year and you can’t say enough about (Thome). He keeps doing it, picking Paps up. That’s what we did throughout the day, we picked each other up.”

Pierre did his share as well. The speedy outfielder usually scares opposing pitchers with his ability to steal bases. But today, Pierre put a jolt into Rays starting pitcher James Shield by going yard himself.

With his team trailing 3-2 in the fourth inning,t was Pierre’s bat that turned tide of the game when he crushed a three-run homer to right field and put the Phillies on top for good in a 6-5 win over the Tampa Rays at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“It just shocked me coming off the bat because I was just trying to get a base hit up the middle like I normally do,” Pierre said with a smile while talking to reporters. “(Shields) left it up and that’s one of the few times you’ll see me smiling and stuff coming around the bases with the guys giving me flak. I said now I’ve only hit 17 of them at least let me enjoy it for a half inning.”

. It was all part of a huge day for Pierre, who was 3-for-3 with three runs batted in, two stolen bases and two runs scored. It was just his 17th career homerun.

Kyle Kcndrick, who pitched four innings, but allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits. Phils manager Charlie Manuel took him out of the game after he threw 93 pitches.

“He definitely had a lot of runners on base, he was in trouble and he accumulated a lot of pitches,” Manuel said.

Kendrick had his bad moments and good moments in this game.

The bad moments came first. Rays jumped on Kendrick in the top of the second inning with an RBI double that scored Ben Zobrist, who reached on a single and Jose Lobaton, who walked. Keppinger went to third on an errant throw to the plate by Michael Martinez.

Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson was walked by Kendrick, pitcher James Shields drove home Keppinger on a ground out to short to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.

The good came when Kendrick showed some mental toughness by pitching his way out of some difficult jams.

In the third, Kendrick gave up singles to Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton and then retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning. In the fourth, Kendrick gave up two hits and a walk, but didn’t allow a run.

After the Phillies fell behind 3-0 in the second inning, Rollins started the Phillies comeback with a two-run homer to cut the margin to 3-2.

The bugaboo for the Phillies this season has been the inability of the bullpen to hang onto leads. In the top of the eighth inning, the Rays got three consecutive singles off Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo to load the bases with no outs and it looked it was going to be another bullpen collapse.

But Bastardo also showed some grit. He struck out Brooks Conrad swinging, but then allowed a single to Sean Rodriguez that drove home Zobrist.   Bastardo struck out Desmond Jennings and got Pena to flyout to right to end the Rays’ threat.

“Our bullpen did real good until the last couple of innings when we gave up three runs,” Manuel said. “Pap gave up two. Thome hit the homer to win it.”

Phillies Still Searching for Answers on Offense in Loss to Miami

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report and the Sunday Sun

Cole Hamels struggled in the Phillies opener giving up four runs on eight hits while getting no run support.

With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the shelf with injuries, the Phillies (1-3) are still in search of offense and can’t seem to find it anywhere four games into the season.

The Phillies 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Miami Marlins in front of a sell-out crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park in the home opener is yet another example of what happens when one of their best starting pitchers has a bad day and the offense is not clicking.

“We’re four games in and the bottomline is we haven’t been hitting the ball hard enough to score runs,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in his postgame press conference. “In the last four days, we’ve been putting the ball in play, but not too hard. We definitely have to move the ball a little better than that.”

The Marlins roughed up Phils starting pitcher Cole Hamels for four runs (three earned) on eight hits in during his five and two-thirds of inning of work. Oddly enough, he struck out nine with no walks, but Miami got just enough runs off Hamels to put the Phillies in a deep hole early.

“I thought I made some really great pitches at times,” Hamels said. “I felt like all four pitches were working. I had two or three that I didn’t really throw effectively and gave up a homer.”

Marlins second baseman Omar Infante led the charge with a pair of home runs and two runs batted in by first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Miami also got run-scoring single from Hanley Ramirez and a solo homerun from Austin Kearns off closer Jonathan Papelbon.

As good as Hamels and the rest of the pitching staff are, Manuel said if the Phillies don’t start hitting on a consistent basis, it’s going to eventually take its toll on the team.

“If we don’t score runs, it’s definitely going to add pressure to our pitching,” Manuel said. “But we have a lot of good veteran pitchers, but at the same time, it could take its wear and tear on them if we don’t score runs. We gotta find away to better and we’re going to work at it.”

Meanwhile, the Phillies offense was shut down by the pitching of  Miami’s Anibal Sanchez, who allowed just two runs on six hits in six and one-third of an inning—three of those hits came when the Phillies scored two runs off him in the seventh. Up until that point, he had allowed just three hits and did not allow a lead-off batter to reach base until that inning.

The Phils got their only runs of the game  on  a two-run double by rookie second baseman Freddy Galvis that scored Shane Victorino, who led off the seventh  inning with a single and Carlos Ruiz, who reached on a fielder’s choice. It was Galvis’s first major-league hit after going hitless in his first 12 at bats.

But despite of the slow start offensively, the Phillies aren’t stressing  about their offensive struggles just first four games of the season.  Even without, Howard and Utley in their lineup, Victorino said the offense is capable producing enough runs to win games even in come-from-behind situations like they have in previous years.

“Just because we haven’t done it in four games, don’t worry about it,” Victorino said. “Absolutely, we’re a good enough team that we can come back. I don’t see why we can’t.  It’s just that we haven’t done it  and so of course that question is going to be asked. Yes, we’re a good enough team that we can come back.”

For all the talk about the Phillies offense without Howard and Utley, the team has always found a way to win games when they’ve had players on the disabled list. Manuel said his team will figure it out at some point during the season.

“We’ve got guys that’s supposed to be able to hit,” Manuel said. “When you take those guys (Howard and Utley) out of the lineup it has an effect on you, but at the same time, we’ve always been able to work through that and that’s what we’ve gotta do.”