Tag Archives: Ryne Sandberg

Phillies Start 2015 Season on the Wrong Foot in Shutout Loss to Boston

7 Apr
Cole Hamels gave up four solo runs in the Phillies 8-0 shutout loss in Monday's 2015 Season-Opener.

Cole Hamels gave up four solo runs in the Phillies 8-0 shutout loss in Monday’s 2015 Season-Opener. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The 2015 season opener for the Phillies was simply a continuation of the seasons since they last won a division title in 2011—a slow start by the starting pitcher and little run support from the offense.

Cole Hamels allowed five hits, four of them solo homeruns—Dustin Pedroia had two of them while centerfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who also hit a game-clinching grand-slam home run in the top of the ninth inning off Phillies relief pitcher Jake Diekman.

On a sunny, picture postcard day in front of a sellout crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park, the Boston Red Sox came with a 8-0 shutout of the Phillies.   Well, so much for optimism and hope on opening day. What this game did was reinforce for fans why there will be little to cheer about this season.

“It definitely didn’t go the way we all envisioned,” Hamels told reporters after the game. “I know I’m one of the big culprits of that. You put a team down 1-0 in the first inning, it’s not really setting a good tone or positive message to be able to get the momentum to your side, so that’s a lot of my fault.”

Hamels had five strikeouts and allowed three walks in five innings on the mound. Giving up those homeruns put the Phillies in an early hole and considering how the Phillies offense struggles to score, it might as well be a 40-run deficit.

“Cole didn’t get away with any high fast balls,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “His command was not sharp at all and that resulted in the home runs. …No explanation for Cole, he was throwing 94 and he had his fast ball. He seemed to have long counts, they fouled off a lot of balls, they extended at-bats, he threw a lot of pitches and really didn’t into a rhythm of getting ahead of the hitters.”

It took the Phillies offense four innings to get their first hit of the game—a double by Ryan Howard. In the seventh inning, the Phillies actually got two more hits from catcher Carlos Ruiz and right fielder Grady Sizemore.

Ruiz eventually reached third, but was stranded there when shortstop Freddy Galvis struck out to end the inning. That was as close to scoring as the Phillies would get.

Sandberg said his team has to come up with ways to manufacture runs and get timely hits moving forward. For the Phillies, putting hits together and scoring runs will be far easier said than done.

“We’re just going to have to grind out at bats and make the most out of base runners,” Sandberg said. “The games that we played well and won in spring training we would do that and do some other things to advance the runners. We need to hit more and take more walks.”

Meanwhile, Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Bucholz bedazzled Phillies to the tune of nine strikeouts and allowing just three hits—two singles and a double—in seven innings on the mound for Boston.

While Philadelphia sports fans have their usual cynical, pessimistic view of the Phillies lack of hitting prowess, Phillies leftfielder Ben Revere shrugged it off and reminded folks that there are a whole bunch of games left in the season.

“It’s only one game, so it’s 161 to go. We have an off-day and we’ll be back on Wednesday,” Revere said. “It’s a long season. We have to think about Wednesday. We’ll starting getting the groove back, especially with me and (Odubel) Herrerra creating havoc on the bases.”

 

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Howard’s Struggles Are Not From a Lack of Effort

14 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has struggled at the plate this season.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has struggled at the plate this season.
Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Last Sunday, Ryan Howard drove in the winning run with a walk-off single to cap a 7-6 come from behind victory over the New York Mets.

In a season where Howard has been struggling and getting booed by whoever shows up at Citizen’s Bank Park, it was refreshing to see No. 6 carry his team to victory the way he did during the Phillies remarkable five-year run of division titles that included a World Series championship.

The 2014 season has been the worst for Howard in a non-injury season. He is batting an anemic .219 with 18 home runs and 73 runs batted in (third in the National League). Even with Sunday’s game-winning hit, Howard is batting just .223 with runners in scoring position. He was benched for three games this by manager Ryne Sandberg.

On the Phillies last homestand, Howard had four game-winning hits while batting .266 with a pair of home runs.

There have been calls by fans and media folks for him to be traded. If it wasn’t for his hefty $25-million per year salary, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might have sent him packing.

The hard part of watching Howard go through his struggles at the plate is that it’s not for a lack of effort on his part. Leg and foot injuries, especially those to the knees and Achilles, take their toll on athletes and it takes them time to be back at 100 percent.

That was something that Howard said he was going through when I spoke to him about it back in June.

“Once you suffer a big injury, it does take a little bit of time for the normal aches and pains that you used to have before your injuries to become commonplace,” said Howard, who hasn’t played beyond 80 games since 2011. “Now as my body is starting to go through all that stuff, it’s re-learning how to work its way through.”

But fans aren’t going to buy that. When they see Howard strike-out with the bases loaded, they will point to his $25 million per year salary and say that’s not what he should be doing whether he’s hurt or not. They are going to show their displeasure through booing or calling for the team to run him out of town on sports talk radio or social media.

That’s a burden Howard has carried during his time here in Philly. It’s the monster created from 2005 to 2011 when it was his home runs and runs batted in that led the Phillies to a remarkable run that included a World Series championship.

Howard doesn’t have the luxury being the gritty, blue collar player who is gamely trying to fight through his injuries after missing most of the last two years coming into this season. The fact that he leads his team in runs batted in and is third in RBIs in the National League is of no consequence to Phillies fans.

What I find fascinating is that during those periods when fan favorite Chase Utley was fighting through his injuries and not performing at his best, he didn’t get the same kind of acrimony that Howard has gotten during his struggles.

But as much I like and respect Utley, he is able to play the blue-collar superstar role because the real burden of moving and shaking the Phillies offense over the years was on Howard who was the main reason for the Phillies success when they were on top of the division standings.

Howard’s recent complaints about fans booing him were not so much about the fans themselves, but it was more about the frustration within himself of not being able to help his team the way he once did.

I think Howard has more aches and pains that are affecting his performance than he is telling anyone including his team. If he points to it, he will be seen as a $25 million a year whiner. So Howard will do what he always does—soldier through it with his best effort while hearing the boos along the way.

 

 

 

 

Game 81: Phillies Drowning Themselves at the Halfway Point of the Season

29 Jun

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

 

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

PHILADELPHIA—At about this time last week when the Phillies went 5-2 on their last road trip, including a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

All of sudden there was some optimism for a hot minute in the City of Brotherly Love, especially since the Phillies are within striking distance of the leaders in the National League East even looking up from last place.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, this current homestand brought us back to a stark reality that they are still going nowhere fast. It reminds me of the two Japanese groundskeepers in the movie, “Major League,” who kept saying their team was “still sh—ty.”

Since winning five straight last week, the Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games including today’s double-header sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Brave at the Citizen’s Bank Park Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Phillies lost the first game 10-3 and the second game 5-1 to sink themselves further down in the National League East race. They haven’t been able to score more than three runs in the first three games of this series. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the second game of the double-header.

“It is disappointing we came with momentum, a winning streak,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We could have won another game against the Marlins, but these last three games. … It was a tough for sure. It was a lot of things a lack of offense, a big inning there on the pitching side of things and not so good play on defense.”

The Phillies are nine games below .500 at the true halfway point of the season-game No. 81. It’s the same old problems for the Phillies—lack of hitting, poor defense and pitching, though that aspect of their game has improved significantly. Uniting the three kingdoms of offense, pitching and defense on a consistent basis has been a monumental struggle for the Phillies (36-45).

“We have to do things differently,” Sandberg said. “We definitely have to have more opportunities to score runs and then we have to actually score runs. We have to be more consistent in putting the pitching and the defense together.”

In the Phillies last nine games, they are hitting just .139 with runners in scoring position. Sandberg said he still believes his team is good enough to contend, but they have to play fundamental baseball, something they don’t do on a regular basis.

“We can definitely sharpen up on just playing clean baseball and execute in situational things,” Sandberg said. “The starting pitching has to be consistent, but we have to play good defense behind that pitching.”

In the first game of the twin-bill, first baseman Ryan Howard committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs that got the Braves back into the game after the Phillies had taken a 2-0 lead. The bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth.

Centerfielder Ben Revere said despite the Phillies current run of misfortune, the team is still capable of putting together a solid run to get back in the race. At the rate they are losing and the way they are playing, it just doesn’t seem to be possible that the Phillies can turn it around.

“We can go on a roll at any time, win a couple series and sweep a couple of good teams and we’re right back in it,” Revere said. “We have to keep battling. We’re at the halfway point, but it’s a long season and we have the team to do that.”

They better to do it quick because the season is not far from being on life support, if it’s not there already.

 

Brown’s Fielding Miscue and Lack of Offense Doom Phillies in Loss to Miami

26 Jun

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

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It was one of those nights where the Phillies (35-42) could point to doing really well in couple of facets of their game, but found themselves faltering in others.

They got solid effort from their starting pitcher  and a solid effort from their bullpen. The usual suspects of not enough hitting and a bad mistake in the field sealed their doom in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in front of 23, 360 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn’t have a bad night at all. He had eight strikeouts while allowing just five hits and three runs. But he had one bad inning that wasn’t exactly his fault.

With two on and two outs in the fourth inning, Miami leftfielder Marcel Ozuna hit should have been an easy fly ball to Domonic Brown in left. But the Phils outfielder over ran it and the ball ended up going to the left field wall to score Giancarlo Stanton from second.

That led Burnett giving up a two-run double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead they had no business having in the first place.

To his credit, Brown didn’t hide from reporters in the training room or in the showers after the game, he took full responsibility for his blunder in the field.

“That’s a play I gotta make for my team,” Brown said. “That changed the whole game. I told A.J. I was sorry about it. But that play has to be made. It was a hard-hit line drive. I made a break in and that was definitely a big mistake. It was a low liner, I took a step in, but it was too late.”

Takeaway Brown’s blunder in the field, the Phillies might have come away with a 2-0 shutout, but that’s the maddening luck of a mediocre team that just can’t seem to get it together.

“If that ball’s caught right there, there’s no runs up on the board, it’s the third out,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “A .J had enough stuff to throw a shutout the rest of the game.”

Meanwhile in a solid display of backing up your teammate when stuff hits the fan, Burnett said there was no need for Brown to apologize to him. He said he should have gotten Saltalamacchia, who was 1-for-15 against him with nine strikeouts before that at-bat.

“I felt like I should have picked (Brown) up the next at bat. That’s what we do. You pick each other up,” Burnett said. “If the pitch is a little bit low to (Saltalamachhia) and you pick (Brown) up. He plays hard, he comes in everyday and prepares and goes about his business. It’s not like he’s trying to miss balls out there. Plays like that happen you gotta pick your teammates up.”

On the offensive side, the Phillies had their shots. In the second inning, they had men on second and third with just one out, but could not score. With the bases loaded and one out, the Phillies could only get a sacrifice fly from Chase Utley that scored Ben Revere.

An RBI single by Brown scoring Marlon Byrd in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Marlins lead to 3-2. That’s as close as they would come.

Miami starting right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez wasn’t necessarily the second-coming of Cy Young or Walter Johnson, but he did well enough to keep the Phillies bats at bay. He allowed just two runs (one earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

 

Phillies Inconsistent Offense Gives Them Little Chance to Win

15 Jun

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

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is 3-for-15 in his last five games. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is 3-for-15 in his last five games. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—If you look at the standings coming into Sunday’s games, you notice that the last place Phillies are five and a half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the National League East standings.

The Braves and Nationals aren’t world beaters because they’re both just three games above .500.

When you see where the Phillies are, you get the feeling that if they can start playing with more consistency, they can get right back in the pennant race and all will be right with the world.

Right? (crickets)

At 29-38, the Phillies are what their record says they are a last place team that runs hot and cold, mostly cold. In this last homestand, the Phillies swept the San Diego Padres, but then lose two out of three to the last-place Chicago Cubs.

The starting pitching and the relief pitching have improved over the last month or so. The offense has been woefully inconsistent. They’ve been shut out nine times including seven times at home.

In Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Cubs, the Phillies managed to get just three hits and three walks off Chicago starter Travis Wood, a pitcher who didn’t get past the fifth inning when the teams met in April.

“We’ve been hot and cold and inconsistent on a string of games on the offensive side of things,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “Everybody’s had a chance, everybody’s had opportunities, we just haven’t able to put numbers on the board consistently. … It’s about picking it up on the offense. ”

That was something that really bothered Sandberg who said that Wood was putting balls over the plate, but his team couldn’t get any wood on the ball. The Phillies were hitless until the sixth inning.

“He pitched up in the zone and got away with it,” Sandberg said. “We couldn’t get on top of him. Those are balls if you get on top, you can drive them. He got away with pitching up… For us not to make an adjustment and get on top of some balls when a guy pitches up, those are hittable balls.”

Over the next 35 games including their next road trip through Atlanta and St. Louis, the Phillies are going to be facing teams that can score runs and with the way they’ve haven’t scored runs this could be a stretch of games that is going to determine whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

“If we pick it up on the offensive side of things,” Sandberg said. “We have to play to a different level and we have to do things better to get through this stretch.”

That’s been the hard part for a Phillies team that can’t seem to put anything together. The maddening part about this is that they are still in the race, at least for now. I guess you can hang your hopes on that possibility.

Looking at the way this team has played this season, I don’t see it and I’m not buying it. With this team’s luck, they might go on a tear on offense only to have the starting pitching or the relief pitching go into a slump.

Let’s face it when you can’t perform well enough in every phase of the game on a consistent basis, you are grossly mediocre or just bad. The Phillies, even with all the veterans, are just a bad team right now. As much as I like the Jimmy Rollins and the Chase Utley’s of the world, they may be on contending teams by August if they don’t start winning soon.

“Every game is big from here on out,” Utley said. “I definitely believe things can get better. There are guys in this room that want to get better.”

Kendrick Solid After Rough Start in Phillies Sweep of San Diego

12 Jun

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

Kendrick had a shaky start against the Padre, but recovered with a solid outing with five strikeouts on seven hits with one earned run.

Kendrick had a shaky start against the Padre, but recovered with a solid outing with five strikeouts on seven hits with one earned run.

PHILADELPHIA—One of the things that has killed Kyle Kendrick (2-6, 4.09) in his starts this season is his penchant for struggling in the early innings.
And so what does Kendrick do in Thursday’s game against the San Diego Padres?

Kendrick gave up two runs in the first inning. It came courtesy of an RBI double by Padres third baseman Chase Headley that scored Will Venable. An error by right fielder Marlon Byrd enabled left fielder Seth Smith to score from first to give San Diego a 2-0 lead.

After the first inning, Kendrick settled down and found his groove while keeping San Diego off the scoreboard for the rest of his outing. He also got some much needed run support from the offense to get his second win of the season.

“It was about getting ahead (in the count),” Kendrick said. “After that it was strike one and making quality pitches. I was down and getting some bad contact.”

Thanks to a huge day by John Mayberry Jr. and some clutch hitting by pinch hitter Reid Brignac, the Phillies came away with a 7-3 win to complete a three-game sweep of the Padres at Citizen’s Bank Park.

It was the Phils’ second series sweep of the season since doing it to the Miami Marlins back in April (11-13).

“After the first inning, we had some good starting pitching, our bullpen was good and we had some base-runners and some clutch hitting,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “It’s something that we want continue to do.

Starting off this homestand with the sweep can go a long way for us.”

The Phillies offense broke open a 2-2 game coming into the bottom of the sixth inning by scoring the game’s next five runs—at two-run RBI double by Brignac in the sixth off Padres reliever Dale Thayer and a three-homer by Mayberry in the bottom of the seventh.

Mayberry’s long drive sealed it for the Phillies while capping a huge day for him. He was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs batted in. Over his last 16 games, Mayberry is batting .412 (14-for-34) with five doubles, four home runs and 12 runs batted in.

“I think that my rhythm and timing have been a lot better and on top of that my pitch selection has been a lot better,” Mayberry said. “I think I have to allow them the opportunity to make a mistake and when they do you have to trust yourself that you’re going to put a good swing on it and hopefully the results will be there.”

Meanwhile, Brignac, who had a walk-off homer in Wednesday night’s game, once again came through in the clutch with a two-out pinch- hit double to put the Phillies on top for good. He said he was riding the moment from Wednesday night’s heroics.

“I definitely felt more comfortable at the plate today,” Brignac said. “It feels great in different situations and scenarios that come through for this team. For my teammates, it’s really a humbling feeling.”

In six innings on the mound, Kendrick allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He threw 105 pitches.

“He put zeroes up on the board and gave the offense a chance to score someruns and swing the bat,” Sandberg said.

After San Diego jumped out to its early lead, the Phillies cut the lead in half on an RBI single by shortstop Jimmy Rollins that scored Ben Revere, who doubled off San Diego starting pitcher Eric Stults to lead-off the inning. The Phillies tied the game in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Dom Brown that scored Marlon Byrd from third.

NOTES—Fire-balling rookie righthander made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game with mixed results. Throwing pitches with speeds up to 100 miles per hour, Giles gave up a home run to Padres Yasmani Grandal, but then struck out with an 89-mile hour slider Alexi Amarista to end the game.
But while he’s enamored with his own velocity, Giles said his slider is most important pitch.

“If I get ahead in the count, it’s going to be a good wipe out pitch for me just to get it over with, shut ‘em on down and get them out early,” Giles said. “If I keep doing what I did today get ahead and throw that slider even if it’s in the dirt or for strikes, I’m going to do just fine.”

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is one hit away from tying Mike Schmidt’s career record for hits.

 

Phillies Are Not Even Close to Being Contenders

3 Jun

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

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

PHILADELPHIA—You would like to think that because it’s only June that there is plenty of time for the last-place Phillies, who are now six and one-half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, to right their ship and back into contention.

Considering that the Phillies (24-31) lost four out of five games to a New York Mets squad that is quite frankly just as bad as they are, you gotta have a lot of faith to think the Phils can turn it around. I mean a whole lot of faith to believe this team can get it together.

“We have to get better at everything. That’s the whole goal,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in a rare post-game interview with reporters. “I don’t think there’s any one thing missing. We have to hit better and we have to play better defense.”

Looking at the way they are playing at this point in the season, it might be an accomplishment if they can just get to .500. The playoffs, even in the era of two wildcard teams, are way out of the question. The July 31st trade deadline is looking more and more like a fire sale.

Monday’s 11-2 loss to the Mets was a combination of bad pitching, a lack of offense, poor defense and a horrific night by the bullpen. It was a microcosm of a bad season by a lackluster team.

“I would say that we’ve showed signs of fundamental baseball,” said manager Ryne Sandberg. “We’ve played better defense than we did in this series. It’s just putting together the pitching, the defense, executing throughout the game and having some timely hits and getting some better run support. Putting it all together or more parts of the game together.”

The starting pitching, which has had some good moments this season, fell completely apart in the series finale against the Mets. Starter pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who has pitched well in his starts throughout the season, had a bad night or more accurately one bad inning.

For the game, Hernandez (2-2) gave up five runs, four came in the sixth inning when the Mets sent 10 men to the plate a pair of RBI doubles by David Wright and Willmer Flores put the Phillies in a 5-0 hole from which they never recovered.

The Phillies had a chance to minimize the damage in that inning when Mets first baseman Lucas Duda hit a routine ground ball to Utley who mishandled a ball that should have led to an inning-ending double-play. Instead, it loaded the bases and Flores got the double to break the game open.

On offense, the Phillies scored their runs on an RBI groundout by Ryan Howard that scored Cesar Hernandez in the sixth and a wild pitch by Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia that scored centerfielder Ben Revere from third in the eighth.

In both of those innings, the Phillies had the first two men reach with nobody out and got just two runs out of it. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. If there is anything that’s been consistent about this team is its futility with runners in scoring position.

The bullpen, which came into the game with a 1.60 earned run average since May 22, gave up six runs in the ninth inning, including a grand-slam home run to Flores, who had not hit a home run all year for the Mets. That sent the fans, some of whom were doing Eagles and Flyers chants, rushing to the exits.

The Phllies finished the homestand with just four wins in 11 games. They are 12-19 at home for the season. Teams that contend don’t struggle at home. The 2014 Phillies should never be confused with a team that is contending for anything.

When you look at their starting lineup, you have guys who are capable of hitting and yet they don’t do it on a consistent basis. Ryan Howard is either feast or famine. He was 8-for-45 during the homestand, but also had four home runs and 15 runs batted in.

You also have guys like Marlon Byrd, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, who are not having bad years individually. But they haven’t come through in clutch situations with any kind of consistency. Domonic Brown, who was an All-Star last season, is only hitting .206 with just four home runs and 27 runs batted in.

Yet, Sandberg believes his squad is still capable of being a good team that can put together some wins to get back in the pennant race.

“We showed better baseball than what we’ve played overall and I believe the core group is there,” Sandberg said.