Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

What The -bleep- Happened Last Night?

After Saturday night’s authoritative 11-6 thumping of the Cardinals (which really should have been 11-3 but for three meaningless runs scored in the top of the 9th), I had high hopes for Game 2 of the NLDS on Sunday.

The Phils jumped on Chris Carpenter for four early runs, and I was liking the chances of going up 2 games to none on the Cards. But then the unthinkable happened – Cliff Lee blew a four run lead. Granted, he didn’t seem to be at his sharpest last night – he allowed a leadoff triple in the first, and a leadoff double in the second, but managed to wiggle out of those jams. Things would start to unravel in the fourth, when the Cards pulled to within one run, and go further downhill from there.

In the meantime, Carpenter was yanked after three innings, and the parade of relievers must have lulled the Phillies into one of their all-too-frequent offensive stupors.

The Cardinal bullpen yielded only one hit the rest of the way, a single by Jimmy Rollins, which was quickly nullified when Rollins got picked off to end the seventh.

I should have known better than to get too optimistic. After all, the Cardinals are the only NL team to have a winning record against the Phils this year, so I certainly shouldn’t expect this series to be a cakewalk. Also, I’m a Phillies fan – a member of a group of people known for their pessimistic tendencies. I’m pretty sure it must be a chemical they put in our water ;-).

Today is an off day, so let’s hope the Phillies snap out of it, and get back to hitting (and winning) tomorrow in St. Louis. Especially you, Carlos Ruiz, and you, Placido Polanco, both hitless thus far! Let’s get to work!

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!

You might think that now that my kids have been back in school for almost two weeks, that I might have found some time to finally post pictures from my latest trip to the ballpark, way back on August 26th. Sadly, you would be mistaken. Inevitably, each day managed to have something else crop up.

Except for today.

So, finally, here is my photographic coverage of that game against the Marlins. The Phillies lost, 6-5, so I won’t go into a whole game recap. That sort of thing is available elsewhere, if you’re so inclined to read it.

I'd always known that there was a marker commemorating the location of Veterans Stadium's home plate somewhere in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park, but had never actually seen it. Now I know why - it's in the middle of a traffic lane, and sort of looks like a utility cover from a distance.

Unveiled just 10 days prior, this statue of the late Harry Kalas stands on the concourse just outside Harry the K's restaurant. It is amazingly detailed, right down to the "P" on Harry's World Series ring.

"Hey Dave, does this boa make me look fat?" Even if it does, who would actually want to say so to the 6'8", 240 lb Michael Schwimer?

Chase Utley leaps for the high throw as Emilio Bonifacio promptly steals second after singling to lead off the first inning. He ended up scoring the first run of the night for the Marlins, although it was unearned due to a throwing error by Wilson Valdez.

Hope sprang up briefly, and Valdez redeemed himself slightly, when he hit a solo homer in the third to tie the score at 1-1. The Marlins scored again in the fourth, and from that point the Phillies trailed the rest of the game.

Roy Oswalt had a rough night on the mound, giving up 6 runs (5 earned) in 5.2 innings of work. Four of those runs came on a John Buck grand slam, after the Marlins loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the top of the 6th.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of tracking Chase Utley as he runs down a pop fly in foul territory, until...

...just before making the catch, he appears to be running into The Mist (or The Fog, depending on your horror movie preferences). In reality, the person seated in front of me had decided to stand up at that exact moment.

Not wanting to be left out of the action, this vendor stepped into my viewfinder just as Carlos Ruiz puts the ball in play. It was one of those kind of nights.

I'm really liking the style of newest Phillie Hunter Pence. He chokes up on the bat! He wears his socks high! He gets nice and dirty! He got two hits!

Michael Stutes displays the dreaded Inverted W. The jury is still out on whether it is truly "dreaded". Go ahead, Google it and see - some people think it is a harbinger of injuries to come, others think it makes no difference. Let's just check back on Stutes in a few years and see.

What the heck is Cliff Lee doing? I don't really know, and it appears neither does Gaby Sanchez. Lee was inserted as a pinch runner for Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the ninth.

While waiting for the hubby to make a pit-stop after the game, I noticed this little warning at the back of the right field seats. Balls? Well, maybe. But bats? I don't think so.

So the Phillies have now clinched a postseason berth, and could very well clinch the division before my next foray to South Philly on Monday night. Let’s hope I can get those photos posted in a more timely fashion. :-)

(all photos by me)

A Novel Experience

Last week, I was counting the days with anticipation until I would finally get to my first Actual Phillies game this season. We’d managed to get four tickets, so the whole family could go. The seats were really good, so I was looking forward to taking lots of amazing game action photos (well, in my mind they’re amazing; in reality, not always so much). And it was the 4 pm FOX game, so I wouldn’t have to worry about the kids getting tired and cranky.

There was just one problem.

Mother Nature did not cooperate.

On our way to the game, the skies were looking very threatening, so I decided not to take the camera after all. Rain and expensive photo equipment don’t really get along with each other very well. As a result, I have precious little visual proof of being there to share with you, other than a few shots from my cell phone.

On the other hand, this would afford me the opportunity to actually see the whole field with both eyes! I can’t remember the last time I actually did that. Usually I end up missing at least a few great plays, because I’m looking through the camera and happen to be focused on the wrong player – unfortunately, an unavoidable aspect of sports photography. If you wait to see where the play develops, you will inevitably miss the play by the time you aim your camera at it. So, many times it is pure luck that you happen to be aimed at the right player.

We settled into our seats to await the start of the game. There were quite a few rather overdressed people on the field in front of us, wielding a variety of stringed instruments. It’s not every day that you see people in formal wear on the ball field, so I took a quick picture with the aforementioned cell phone:

It turned out to be the Council Rock South high school orchestra, who were preparing to perform the national anthem.

Note the gray skies, and the tarp still visible in the background.

Said tarp was rolled up just a few minutes before the scheduled 4:10 pm starting time. The players took the field, the leadoff batter for the Cubs (Starlin Castro) was announced, and…

the clouds opened up and it started to rain. Not just rain – it poured. Big, fat, cold raindrops. We attempted to make our way as quickly as possible to the covered concourse, along with hundreds of other people who were between us and the shelter. This would have to be the only possible negative to sitting close to the field – it takes a lot longer to get out of the rain! Nonetheless, I’ll put up with getting a little wetter in order to be better able to see the action.

Once under cover, my daughter announced that she wanted to go home right now. You know that wasn’t happening. My son, the voice of doom, wanted to know why we should wait around when the game would end up getting cancelled. Hah!  Thankfully, the delay ended up being relatively short, only about half an hour.

The rest of the afternoon was dry (though my clothes were not), and I actually got to see (with both eyes!) some great defensive plays by both first basemen (Ryan Howard and Carlos Pena), a not-so-great defensive play by Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney (who dropped a soft liner off the bat of Jimmy Rollins for an error), a dominating performance from Cliff Lee, and Chase Utley’s two-run double AND two-run homer! The Phils won 7-1, in relatively stress-free fashion.

Afterwards, we browsed in the Clubhouse Store. I was slightly amused to see this DVD still on display:

After all, the Phillies fired Milt Thompson as hitting coach in the middle of last season, replacing him with Greg Gross. Presumably, he was not doing a good enough job of making hitting easy for the Phils’ offense.

I’ll get a second crack at shooting the Phillies (photographically speaking) in less than two weeks, when the hubby and I go sans kids to see the Phillies host the A’s in an interleague matchup. No rain, please!

Hey Joe

Yes, I’m talking to you, Joe Blanton.

I was kind of hoping that in your second start of the season, against the Nationals, you might bounce back a bit from that less than stellar game against the Mets last week.

Silly me.

Instead, you gave up 5 earned runs in 6 innings, and after two starts, your ERA is an unattractive 10.45. Yes, I know it’s still early in the season, so there’s plenty of time to turn it around. I suggest you start rectifying this situation during your next start, on Sunday afternoon.

I’ll be watching.

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In what is becoming a curious trend, the Phillies dropped the first game of their series against Washington, and then came back to win the next two.

This time, it was Joe Blanton who was not sharp in game one (see above). Additionally, he gave up a home run to ex-Phillie Jayson Werth, resulting in my breakfast the next morning being disturbed by the sight of Werth on the front page of the newspaper. Echh.

Roy Halladay took the mound for game two, and had the Nationals shut out through eight innings (yay!). He flirted with disaster in the ninth, giving up two runs, but managed to escape intact for the complete game victory, as the Phils prevailed 3-2.

Also in this game, Washington starter John Lannan faced Ryan Howard with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, and proceeded to hit Howard on the wrist, driving in a run. Lannan, if you recall, was the pitcher who hit Chase Utley a few years ago, giving him a broken hand.

Yo, John Lannan, stop hitting my Phillies!

For his career, Lannan has faced the Phillies 12 times, going 0-9 with a 5.80 ERA. The Nationals have lost 11 of those 12 games. So bring him on some more! Just let me wrap the players in bubble wrap first. :-)

Not to be outdone, Cliff Lee finished off a complete game of his own the next night, as the Phils won 4-0.

I think I could get used to this whole “Four Aces” thing. :-)

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I often find myself wondering about some of the photos MLB chooses to use in the slideshows for each game. For example, why use this one?

my wallet is this big.jpgThe caption states that “The Nationals’ Jayson Werth gestures to teammates on the field during the ninth inning.”

Gesturing about what? Trying to cue the musical accompaniment for a dramatic ninth inning rally? The size of the proverbial “one that got away”? Or maybe the size of his wallet now that the Nationals have grossly overpaid for his services?

I’m sure you readers can come up with something good! Leave a comment if you have an inspired caption to share.

Two Out of Three (x 2) Ain’t Bad

No, taking two out of three from both the Mets and the Braves ain’t bad at all; in fact, I’d say it’s very good.

(and darn it, now there’s another song stuck in my head! Last week, it was AC/DC, now it’s Meat Loaf)

In both series, the Phillies dropped the first game when one of the four aces wasn’t very ace-like. Cole Hamels stunk it up against the Mets last Tuesday (Note to Cole: Giving up two hits to the opposing pitcher in the same inning is never a good idea) as the Phillies lost 7-1. Cliff Lee obviously did not have his best stuff in a 6-3 loss to the Braves.

Cole was able to redeem himself yesterday, going seven strong innings against the Braves as the Phillies won, 3-0.

In the second game against the Mets, Joe Blanton very nearly managed to lose the game after blowing a seven-run lead (Note to Joe: Please don’t do that again. Ever.). Joe was saved from a loss by four scoreless innings from the bullpen, and some timely hitting from the offense for a 10-7 win.

Both series also featured the stress-relieving blowout, courtesy of the Roys. Well, stress-relieving for me, not fans of the opposition. Roy Halladay pitched the Phils to a 11-0 rout of the Mets, and Roy Oswalt got his first-ever regular season win over Atlanta in a 10-2 butt-whuppin’.

Let’s hope the Phils can maintain that momentum, as they head to Washington following today’s off-day.

Funny Photo of the Week

Brad Emaus looks like he’s trying to do a little dance last Thursday (Note to Brad: don’t try out for Riverdance anytime soon).

do a little dance copy.jpg

(photo credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Don’t know if he made a little love and got down that night.

Aack! More 70’s music is getting stuck in my head! Must…make it…stop!

Opening Weekend – Home Sweep Home

OK, so I borrowed that little cliche from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who informed us this morning that the Phils’ sweep of the Astros marked the first time since 1970 that the team has begun a season with three home wins.

What a great way to start off a highly anticipated season of Phillies baseball!

Last Friday, though, I was feeling more apprehension than anticipation. First, it was April Fool’s Day, which just doesn’t strike me as a good day to begin the baseball season. Second, upon awakening that morning, I was greeted not with warmth and sunshine, but with the sight of snowflakes falling outside. Not just any snowflakes – giant, mutant snowflakes that began sticking to things. Third, the Phillies were facing the Astros, who are – get this! – the only NL team with a winning record against the Phils since 2004, and owners of a gaudy 16-7 record at Citizens Bank Park during that span (!). OK, so now it’s 16-10, but still…

But we had Roy Halladay on the mound, while they countered with Brett Myers. This seemed like a good thing. Roy is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Brett Myers is, well, Brett Myers.

Halladay breezed through the first eight Astros batters, but then Brett Myers – Brett Myers! – singled for the first Astros hit of the game. Myers would get another hit in the fifth, so of the five hits Halladay surrendered, two of them were to the opposing pitcher.

As if that weren’t painful enough for me to stomach, Myers was the one who looked more ace-like, needing only 85 pitches though 7 innings, while Halladay threw 101 in 6. Still, Halladay had given up only one run.

Then the bullpen got into the game, and promptly gave up three more runs. With the Astros up 4-0 in the seventh, some of those watching at home may have given in to the urge to turn off the TV, thus saving themselves from further distress.

upset_stomach.jpg
O ye of little faith.

Make that me. Yes, it pains me to admit that I turned it off. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore! I later found out that the Phillies cut the lead in half in the bottom of the seventh, and then staged a ninth inning comeback with a barrage of singles to end up winning 5-4.

Thankfully, the next two games of the series were much less stressful to watch. :-)  Cliff Lee struck out 11 as the Phils won, 9-4; Roy Oswalt was victorious over his old team in a 7-3 win for the Phils.

Today is an off day, and tomorrow the Mets come to town, facing fourth ace Cole Hamels to start off a three-game set. C’mon, Cole, let’s keep that momentum going!!

Spring (Training) Has Sprung

The Phils kicked off Spring Training 2011 today with a news conference to show off their much-ballyhooed-before-they’ve-even-thrown-a-pitch-together rotation. I’m not sure what the whole point was, really, as no new ground was covered. The questions were predictable, as were the responses.

All five starters were present.

Yes, five. Of course, the way the media have been hyping the “Four Aces”, one could be forgiven for forgetting that there is, in fact, a fifth starter. You know, the Other Guy, Joe Blanton.

At one point, one of the media members led off a question to Cole Hamels by stating that he was the “only one with a ring”. Uh, hellooo? Joe Blanton was on the ’08 staff too. Said reporter quickly corrected himself. I guess he’s been listening to all that hype a bit too much.

The pitchers themselves seem to be trying to downplay the whole “Four Aces” thing. When asked which of the nicknames for the rotation they liked best, Cliff Lee asked what they were. Someone out of range of the microphone rattled off a few. Kudos to Cliff for pointing out that all he heard in those nicknames were references to four guys, but there were five guys up on the podium.

Even after the conference had ended, Comcast’s Michael Barkann referred to the “Mount Rushmore” of rotations in his wrap-up.

Mount_Rushmore.jpgYo, Michael! Mount Rushmore only has four heads!

Mount_Rushmore copy.jpgHmm, not a bad image. But look! There’s a bit of space there to squeeze in a fifth head.

Mount_Rushmore_5.jpgOK, so it’s a wee bit smaller than the others. Let’s just hope that the starting five can live up to the “monumental” expectations already being thrown their way.

Well, THAT Took Me By Surprise!

Call it a Christmas miracle.

As I was reading a column in today’s paper that the Phillies were “showing interest” in signing Cliff Lee, hubby came in the door and said that the Phils had actually signed him. “Yeah, right”, I thought. So I checked the news on my handy cell phone (what did we ever do without them?), and saw that it was so. And for fewer years and less money than either the Yankees or Rangers were offering! With Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and now Lee, the Phillies’ starting rotation will be a force to be reckoned with next season. :-)

It was only last year around this time that I was lamenting Cliff’s departure to Seattle via trade, and wishing there was a way to clone him.

cliff clones copy.jpgWell, I don’t need to wish any more! Happy Ho-Lee-days, everyone! 

Topps? How About T-oops!

Ever wonder how the makers of baseball cards have shots of players with their new teams all ready before the season has even started (and spring training has barely started)?

Well, in the dark ages they used to take head shots of players with their heads tilted up, obscuring the logo on the cap, specifically to simplify the process of airbrushing out the offending team colors and adding the new ones.

Now, with the wonders of Photoshop, Cliff Lee can appear on a Topps Opening Day card, in game action, wearing a Seattle Mariners uniform.

topps oops.jpg

One little problem, though.

The black HK patch that the Phillies wore last season to honor the late Harry Kalas is still visible on Lee’s left side, just above the Mariners logo.

Wow, I didn’t realize Harry was so beloved that even Seattle wanted to honor him! ;-)

Is Joe Blanton Really The $10 Million Man?

OK, actually $10.25 million. This is the amount that Blanton is apparently seeking for 2010. The Phillies have offered $7.5 million. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the case will go to arbitration next month.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that Blanton and/or his agent are highly delusional in believing that he is worth over $10 million for the coming season?

blanton.jpgLet’s take a look at 2009, shall we? Blanton went 12-8, with a 4.05 ERA. He averaged 6.3 innings pitched in his 31 starts. In his career so far, Joe is 63-54, 4.21 ERA.

Not great, not horrible. What my husband would call “serviceable”. Maybe not so bad as “mediocre”, but somewhere between “OK” and “good”. Since when is this kind of performance worth that kind of money?

***UPDATE***
This just in, the Phillies have signed Blanton to a three-year, $24 million contract extension. No specifics on the yearly breakdown, so it averages out to $8 million per year. Still not sure if I think this is what Blanton is worth, but at least it’s closer to what the Phillies were offering, instead of what Blanton was asking.

Cliff Lee, on the other hand, would have been making $9 million this season, had the Phillies not traded him. Yeah, I’m still perturbed about that. Cliff’s career numbers are 90-52, with a 3.97 ERA, and a Cy Young award to his name. And let’s not forget his postseason performance!

lee.jpgSo suffice it to say that I think Lee is the superior pitcher, yet we traded him and kept Blanton.

And now I know why.

Over the holidays, my brother-in-law revealed that my nephew has some pretty crappy karma when it comes to getting jerseys of popular Phillies and Eagles players. Quite often, said player ends up leaving the team, via trade or free agency. This happens more frequently than mere chance would seem to suggest.

So what did they get him this year? A Cliff Lee jersey!! And we all know what happened next.

*sigh* If only they’d gotten him a Blanton jersey instead.

(photos by me)

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