Hernandez Comes up Huge For Phillies in Win over Washington

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

Roberto Hernandez allowed no runs on four hits in the Phillies win over the Washington Nationals.

Roberto Hernandez allowed no runs on four hits in the Phillies win over the Washington Nationals.

PHILADELPHIA-Whenever a Phillies starting pitcher has a good outing with a slim lead, the question in the back of your mind nowadays is how will the bullpen blow this one?

Against the Washington Nationals, Phils right-hander Roberto Hernandez pitched seven and one-third third innings of scoreless baseball. He threw 104 pitches and allowed just four hits with three strikeouts. He left the game in the eighth inning with one out and a man on second.

This time the bullpen came through for the Phillies (15-14) and preserved a 1-0 shutout on a cool, breezy Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 37,490 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Relievers Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo got Hernandez in the last two outs in the inning.  In the ninth inning, Closer Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Nationals by striking out pinch hitter Zack Walters with a man on first. It was his ninth save of the season.

“It was situational,” Manager Ryne Sandberg said of his pitching moves in the eighth inning. “We were going with the match-ups there. Both guys were effective.”

After a shaky first inning, Hernandez settled down and kept Washington off the scoreboard even though had men reached base at various times in the contest. Throughout the game, Hernandez, who was a last minute substitute for Cole Hamels who missed his start because of illness, was in command of pitches and kept Washington hitters off- balance.

“I think (Hernandez) has gotten better as we’ve gone along as far as command and control and using his pitches and his pitch count,” Sandberg said. “He retired 12 out of his last 13 hitters, which was impressive. He got into a groove as far as establishing the strike zone and using all of his pitches.”

In the first inning, Hernandez struggled a bit. He gave up a hit and two walks while throwing 17 pitches. But he didn’t allow a run to score. For the next six and one-third innings after that, Hernandez found his mojo and kept Washington from scoring.

“I think for me it was important to keep the ball down,” Hernandez said. “I had a little bit of trouble in the first inning, but after that I kept the ball down and kept the ball in play.”

Adams and Bastardo helped Hernandez to get the win by getting the last two outs of the eighth inning. Adams had pitched in every game in the series including Friday’s eighth inning meltdown in a 5-3 loss. He said it was the kind of effort the bullpen has to do on a consistent basis.

“It all worked good. We got the ‘W’ and I think that’s what our bullpen is capable of doing there,” Adams said. “Hopefully, we can get this thing turned around and going in the right direction. Bad outings are going to happen, but at the same time you want to get out there and do it on a consistent basis.”

The Phillies jumped on the board in the first inning on Chase Utley’s run-scoring single that drove home Jimmy Rollins, who tripled. That was all they needed to win with the effort from Hernandez and the bullpen.

Winning a series from a Nationals team that’s expected to be at the top of the National League East standings gives the team a decent boost early in the season, said Phillies center fielder Ben Revere.

“The Nationals are a great team and they got great pitching bullpen and hitters,” Revere said. “Winning the first series is big because last we kinda fell behind. Winning this series is a big step up so hopefully we’ll keep at it for the rest of the season.”

 

It Ain’t Just the Bullpen: Phillies Need Improvement in All Phases of the Game

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

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says bullpen is making progress despite recent struggles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg says bullpen is making progress despite recent struggles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –If you watched the Phillies 9-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves Monday Night, the most obvious thing to look at is the collapse of the bullpen that gave up seven runs in the last two innings.

Yes, the Phillies bullpen has struggled in the losses this season, but they are not the only problem. The Phils (6-7) have struggled in just about every aspect of the game from hitting, starting pitching and defense. Some days they have gotten good starting pitching and some timely hitting, but then the bullpen collapses.

In defense of the bullpen in Monday’s game, B.J. Rosenberg had pitched in three straight games before coming into that disastrous eighth inning and giving up three straight home runs. Jake Diekman was subbing for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched in three straight games in the weekend series against the Miami Marlins.

“There’s been positive stuff out of the relievers,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “They’ve been asked to pitch a lot and they’ve had their moments. It’s early in the season. I think overall if you look at the games we’ve had a chance to win, the relievers had a part in that. They’re progressing and doing a good job.”

Sandberg said both starters and relievers have to do a better of job of getting ahead of hitters.

“I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in counts. I think it’s why we’re one of the slowest, longest games in baseball,” Sandberg said. “Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches. On the starting pitcher side of things, they’ve been limited on the time they can be out there and we have to use our bullpen.

“And then for our bullpen guys it’s the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen .We’ve preached all spring about establishing down in the zone on the plate on the plate work ahead of the hitters and keep the defense on their toes and have the defense make plays.”

In 13 games this season, the Phillies starting pitchers have gone beyond six innings twice which can take a lot out of your bullpen. Also you have to take into consideration that the Phillies have had some of their pitchers on the disabled list-including Mike Adams who was activated by the team on Wednesday.

The good news for the Phillies starting rotation is that Cole Hamels, who will pitch in a rehab assignment in Clearwater, Fla this weekend is expected to come back to the Phils next weekend in Los Angeles. If Hamels and the other starters can get an inning or two beyond six innings, it would help take some stress off the relievers.

“It makes a big difference,” Sandberg said. “You have a starter or two starters going seven innings now you’re talking about covering two instead of three (innings). It makes a difference when you’re looking at a week’s worth of bullpen usage.”

Sandberg also made it a point to say that the offense needs to score more consistently throughout the game. Oddly enough, the Phillies are leading the National League in on-base percentage (.351) and in walks. They are ninth in runs scored and eighth in runs batted in.

“In a perfect world on the offensive side would be to score early, score in the middle and score late,” Sandberg said. “Now you get a starting pitcher that has some runs up on the board early in the game and now maybe they don’t have to be so perfect. We’ve had numerous games like that where it’s very tight for five or six innings and the starting pitching has to be perfect.”

Monday’s loss to the Braves was a classic example of what Sandberg was talking about with the offense and starting pitching. Phillies starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez was shutting out the Braves for five innings, but only had one run to show for it.

In the sixth inning of that game, Hernandez gave up a two-run homer to Evan Gattis that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead. The Phillies offense did score five runs in the eighth before the bullpen gave up four in the ninth.

The Phillies have to find a way to bottle some consistency in every aspect of the game if they’re going to have a winning season and contend this season.

The Other Quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII: Don’t Sleep on Russell Wilson

Today’s  Super Bowl XLVIII Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society 

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Lost in all the back and forth trash talk about ducks between precocious Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the other quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

In the midst of all the noise of Sherman comparing Manning’s passes to ducks along with the rancor of Marshawn Lynch’s stubborn refusal to play nice with the media all week, Wilson has been as quiet and unassuming in his preparation for Sunday’s game.

“I think the thing that I’ve been able to do is go through my check list and understand what I need to look at all the third down pressures, all the red zone pressures, all the two-minute situations, four-minute situations, backed up situations and really understanding those moments and making sure I’m prepared for those things,” Wilson said.

“When it happens in the game, I’ve already visualized it, I’ve already seen and I’ve already practiced it over and over inside my head.”

Conventional wisdom coming into Sunday’s game says if you stop Lynch in the running game, then you’ll force the Seahawks passing game with their receivers to beat you. Wilson said that’s an opportunity he relishes.

“Most teams try to throw the box at us because of Marshawn and our offensive line and what they can do,” Wilson said. “I look forward to do that if that’s the case.”

Late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs, Wilson wasn’t necessarily putting up the numbers that would have stat geeks jumping for joy. In wins over the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson never panicked when he was struggling and always made that one big play to put his team over top.

“Even when the numbers weren’t there, which everybody focused on, we were still winning and he was doing his part to win the game,” said head coach Pete Carroll.  “He didn’t force things he stayed with the game plan, he stayed with the formula we wanted to win with and managed the game in great fashion in the championship game.”

Wilson is more than just a game manager if you look at the numbers. During the regular season, he completed 63 percent of his passes, threw for 3,357 yards with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

In the win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Wilson made plays to get his team going. With Seattle down 10-0 in the second quarter and the offense struggling, Wilson did a Fran Tarkenton-like scramble around the pocket for what seemed to be an eternity and found Doug Baldwin for a huge 51-yard gain that got the Seahawks offense going and eventually led to field goal.

“I think (Wilson’s running) is a great advantage for us because not only can he make plays running the ball, but when he gets forced out of the pocket, he looks down field to makes plays in the passing game and that gives us huge opportunities as receivers to make plays down the field and get open,” Baldwin said.

Early in the fourth quarter, with his team facing a fourth and seven from the 49ers 35, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the touchdown to put the Seahawks on top for good. For the game, Wilson was 16-of-25 for 215 yards and that one touchdown.

“(Wilson) is an incredible competitor in every way. In preparation, in game day, he’s the epitome of what you want in your competitor. He’s got tremendous work habits,” Carroll said.

“He’s got a general all-around savvy that allows him to make great decisions under pressure. He’s extremely confident too, so no matter what is going on, he’s not going to waver in his focus and ability to handle things.”

If fans and the sports media are underestimating what Wilson can do in the passing game, the Broncos secondary won’t because of his ability to create plays with his feet.

“He extends plays,” said Denver safety Mike Adams. “If you have his receivers locked down, he can create something that’s what makes Russell Wilson unique. One thing he does do, he keeps his eyes down field and if he has to run, he going to run. We’ve got to contain that.”

With all the focus on Manning and the Broncos offense, Wilson said he’s ready for the challenge of matching throws with a legend.

“To compete against Peyton Manning is an honor and a privilege … It should be a great game,” Wilson said. “He’s been consistent on a regular basis and that’s where I want to be.”

The Champ Is Here: Bailey Finally Gets to Enjoy Super Bowl Spotlight After 15 Years

 

 

Today’s Super Bowl XLVIII Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society 

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey fields questions from reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey fields questions from reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, NJ.—Most of the talk during the buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII has been about players and their lasting legacies in the game.

For a player like Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, it’s about solidifying an already outstanding legacy as one of the game’s great quarterbacks by taking two different teams to a Super Bowl win.

In the case of young players like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, it’s about establishing themselves and their team as one of best in the game in the here and now.

But let’s face some reality here, they’re a lot of great Hall of Famers who played in the NFL with distinction and have never come close to winning or even playing in a Super Bowl.

In the eyes of some football fans and observers in the age of sports talk radio and 24-hour cable sports networks a player not having that Super Bowl ring is that one thing that diminishes his greatness.

Considering that football is the ultimate team game, it’s a pretty silly notion.

“Championships define the greatness of teams. That’s the way it is,” said Tedy Bruschi, who won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker with the New England Patriots. “I don’t need a Cris Carter to have a championship ring to know how great he is.”

The same could be said for the 15-year career of Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who will be playing in his first Super Bowl on Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks.

Bailey has done it all as a cornerback in this league and has done it longer than some of the guys who are in the Hall of Fame now. He’s a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and a five-time All-Pro selection, making the first-team three times. His career Pro Bowl selections are the most in NFL history by a defensive back.

Not many corners have lasted as long as Bailey and not been moved to safety. He is still playing the game and his position at a high level.

Going through a plethora of interviews during Super Bowl week, Bailey isn’t measuring his ring size or even thinking about what it would be like to win a championship. He’s more focused on trying to shut down Seattle’s passing game and helping his defense contain running back Marshawn Lynch.

“All I been thinking about is the things we got to clean up from yesterday,” said Bailey, who has 52 career interceptions. “We had a good practice. It’s never perfect. That’s really all I been thinking about. … I haven’t thought about what kind of ring or anything. I’m just worried about winning.”

Some of Bailey’s teammates, especially his colleagues in the Broncos secondary, want to win this game for him because he has been a leader and mentor to them. Safety Mike Adams, himself a 10-year veteran in the league, said the joy Bailey would experience, if Denver wins,  would be indescribable.

“I cannot imagine what he would be feeling because I know I would be feeling tears of joy and everything and I was in it for 10 years. [Bailey] has been in it for 15 years,” Adams said. “For him to get to this point and if he wins, that’s the ultimate. That’s what we play for.”

This season, Bailey played in just five regular-season games while playing through a foot injury that he suffered during the preseason. Though he was on the sideline, Bailey was coaching and advising his teammates during the course of games and in practice.

“He spent many games inactive, but he was always there,” said Denver head coach John Fox. “And in that defensive room, his guidance, his leadership was always there and that never wavered.”

While Bailey, who spent his first five years with the Washington Redskins, appreciates the encouragement of teammates, he said he’s just happy to be with a solid group of players, the best team he’s played on in his long career.

“I finally got with the right group of guys,” he said.

Bailey said whether his team wins on Sunday or not, he will not leave the game with any regrets.

“It’s been a journey to get here, but I don’t regret anything that’s happened in my career,” Bailey said. “I’m not worried about winning or losing right now. I’m just worried about going out and making sure we’re prepared to play and give ourselves a chance to win.

“If I feel like on (Sunday) that we’ve done enough to prepare and we don’t win, I’m cool with that because we gave it our best.”

Special thanks to www.aviationqueen.com

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