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.”

 

Phillies Bullpen Lets Them Down In Loss to Nationals

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

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee pitched seven strong innings.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee pitched seven strong innings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When Cliff Lee and Stephen Strausburg took the mound for the Phillies and Washington Nationals, you were expecting a pitcher’s duel where a run or two was going to decide the game with plenty of strikeouts along the way.

It wasn’t the prettiest performance by either pitcher, but it wasn’t bad. In fact, there was only one earned run and 10 strikeouts between them. Lee nor Strausburg got the decision either way.

In seven innings, Lee gave up two runs (one earned) and struck out five on just four hits.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Lee’s solid start was ruined by a poor outing by the bullpen that gave up three runs on five hits in the eighth inning to propel the Nationals to a 5-3 win Friday night at Citizen’s Bank Park.

In that decisive top of the eighth, the Phillies had a 3-2 lead. But Mike Adams gave up a double to Denard Spann and an RBI single to third baseman Anthony Rendon. After another single by Jayson Werth and manager Ryne Sandberg yanked Adams, who got the loss, from the game.

“I’ve got to do a better job of holding the lead,” Adams said after the game. “I’ve been doing this long enough to know what adjustments need to be made. It’s bad that (Lee) threw way he did and gave us a chance to win. As a whole, I’m guessing we need to get better.

“We need to make sure the coaches and the starting pitchers have enough confidence in us that they’re not afraid to go to us in the eighth inning.”

Reliever Jake Diekman couldn’t stop the bleeding giving up an RBI single to first baseman Adam LaRoche and a run-scoring double to shortstop Ian Desmond. Those runs were charged to Adams. It was the sixth time this season the Phillies bullpen has blown a lead in the late innings.

You had to be wondering why Antonio Bastardo, the Phillies regular eighth-inning set-up man wasn’t on the mound that inning? He did pitch the ninth inning, allowing a single and a walk. Sandberg said went with the right hander Adams because he liked the matchup with two right-handed hitters Rendon and Werth.

The bottom of the eighth was equally troubling for Phillies fans. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins opened the inning with a walk and second baseman Chase Utley singled to put runners on first and second.

Then disaster struck.

Ryan Howard inexplicably swung at a 2-0 curve ball and popped out to short. Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard fanned Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown to end the Phillies threat and that was your ball game.

“We had two had men on and no outs, we did not come through in that situation which was one of our few chances throughout the game to add after the first inning,” Sandberg said. “That was the big thing was scoring early and not adding on.”

Byrd took the blame upon himself for not driving in the runs when his team had the chance.

“I had a chance with runners on first and second, but it was bad mechanics, bad approach,” Byrd said. “I didn’t make Clippard have to work. I feel that’s why I’m here to drive in runs. I take pride in doing it when the runners are in scoring position and I didn’t do it.”

Reliever Jerry Blevins was credited with the win in relief for the Nationals.

Strausburg went six-innings for the Nationals with five strikeouts and six hits and got a no-decision. He gave up a three-run homer to Byrd in the first inning. The runs were unearned because rightfielder Jayson Werth dropped a foul ball hit by Byrd to prolongthe inning. It would have been the final out.

After Strausburg retired the first two batters in the first inning, he gave up a pair of singles to Utley and Howard. Byrd parked a 2-2 Strausburg pitch into the right centerfield seats for a three-run homer to give a Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Nationals got a couple of runs back on a solo homerun by left fielder Tyler Moore in the third and an RBI ground out by Denard Spann that drove home Moore, who singled to begin the fifth  inning.

It was that particular at-bat between Lee and Spann that almost turned into a bench-clearing brawl. When Spann stepped out of the batter’s box a fast ball by Lee came close to hitting him in the chest. The Nationals centerfielder stared at Lee.

“Obviously, I made a pitch and he wasn’t ready,” Lee said. “I’ll do that every time if they want to stand there and not look. I’ll take a strike. I threw a ball. Maybe he was mad because it was close to him. If they’re going to stand there and not look I’m going to throw a pitch. I think it’s on the hitter to be in the box and make sure they’re ready.”

As Spann was heading toward the dugout, the two apparently exchanged words, but were separated by umpires as both benches cleared. No punches were thrown.

 

 

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

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.”

Fighting for Survival: Kyle Kendrick Looks to Cement his Spot in the Phils Starting Rotation

By Chris Murray

Kendrick had a solid outing for the Phillies in Friday’s win over the Washington Nationals

For the Chris Murray Report

With the Phillies out of contention for the playoffs at this point of the season, players will be no doubt trying to win spots on the roster for next year.

The way Kyle Kendrick is pitching in the second half of the season, there might be a spot in the Phillies starting rotation with his name on it next season. Since the All-Star break, Kendrick is 5-1 in 12 games. He has allowed 10 earned runs in 37 innings pitched for a 2.47 earned run average.

“He’s been one of those guys who’s had to fight to survive and nobody can ever say that he’s not a survivor because he finds a way,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “When he’s pitching like that, it just goes to show that he is a valuable commodity and he can do his job. He’s proven that he can pitch.”

Kendrick said that all he needs is to get out on the mound and have good outings every time he pitches and everything will take care of itself when it comes to cracking the Phillies starting rotation on a more permanent basis.

“It’s not my call, but I just go out there and give us a chance to win,” Kendrick said. “If I keep doing that, I think I can stay there.”

In Friday night’s game against the Washington Nationals, Kendrick (7-9) extended his scoreless innings streak to 21 before giving up a pair of runs in the seventh inning on a two-run home run by Nats  pinch-hitter Tyler Moore. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out three in the Phillies 4-2 win over Washington.

Earlier in the season, Kendrick had a career-high 22-inning scoreless streak that went from June 28 to Aug. 3. He started the season in the Phillies bullpen and came back to the starting rotation from April 23 to July 6. Kendrick wound up going back to the bullpen on July 13 when starting pitcher Roy Halladay came off the disabled list. Since the team traded Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kendrick has been in the starting rotation since Aug. 3.

Before the All-Star break, Kendrick started the season with a 2-8 record. His resurgence in the second half of the year has definitely been a pleasant surprise to Manuel who said he didn’t envision Kendrick turning things around the way he has in the second half of the season.

“It just goes to show you when you get focused on what you’re doing and you apply yourself and you stay at it, good things can happen to you,” Manuel said. “Kendrick has always been capable of pitching good games.”

Kendrick said there’s nothing special that he is doing on the mound other than going through his progression of pitches.

“It’s just getting ahead. My changeup has been big for me,” Kendrick said. “I’m not doing anything different. It’s about making pitching and focus on every pitch.”

Manuel said the thing that is making the difference in the second half of the season for Kendrick is that he is more relaxed and is able to dictate the pace of the game when he’s on the mound.

“When he gets in a good rhythm, he controls the tempo of the game,” Manuel said. “He takes it like a Jamie Moyer, or a Cliff Lee, (Roy) Halladay, or (Cole) Hamels, he moves the tempo of the game and he’s in control because of his pitching in the game. He mixes his pitches good. The catchers have done a good job of working with Kyle and he follows along with them when he gets in a good groove. .. He can command the ball wherever he wants to.”