Monday, June 30, 2008

Elton Brand opts out but intends to stay in L.A.

Elton Brand has officially opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, but Sixers fans shouldn't get too excited. While it has been rumored for weeks that Brand would opt out of his contract and that the Sixers would pursue him, Brand made it clear that he plans to continue playing for the Clippers:

"We're opting out...... it definitely doesn't mean I'm leaving the Clippers. We're trying to work it out. My intention is to stay."

It appears that Brand and the Clippers are trying to work out a deal that won't handicap the franchise from signing more players. Sounds like the Sixers might need to look for other options to spend their free agent money on.

So long, Janne. Flyers trade newly acquired d-man to Tampa

Guess Paul Holmgren finally got his fill of defenseman. Nearly a week after acquiring Janne Niskala from the Nashville Predators for Tristan Grant and a 7th round pick, the Flyers shipped Niskala to Tampa Bay for a 6th round pick. Essentially, the Flyers have turned Tristan Grant and a 7th round pick into a 6th round pick.

This move comes hours after the Flyers acquired defenseman Tim Ramholt from the Calgary Flames, so perhaps the Phantoms had too many defensemen. All of these smaller moves could be leading to something bigger down the road, or it could simply be moves to create more depth and build assets.

Stay tuned for more moves, there is no telling what else Holmgren is going to do.

Flyers make a trio of moves leading up to free agency

The NHL free agent frenzy begins tomorrow, but that hasn't kept the Flyers from being busy. After officially signing Jeff Carter on Friday, the Flyers made three more moves to help shore up their roster.

First, the Flyers signed defenseman Steve Eminger, who they acquired from the Washington Capitals at the draft, to a one year deal worth a little over a million dollars. The Flyers view Eminger as a possible top six defenseman next year, considering his salary and how much they gave up to get him.

Next, the Flyers waived defenseman Denis Gauthier, who spent his entire year last season with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Gauthier played parts of two seasons with the Flyers and was a strong presence on the blue line, unfortunately injuries and declining play have derailed his career. Waiving Gauthier and his 2.1 million dollar contract will lead to a buyout of his contract, which will cause only a 700,000 dollar cap hit.

The Flyers also made a trade today, acquiring defenseman Tim Ramholt from the Flames for Phantoms forward Kyle Greentree. Ramholt spent last season in the AHL and tallied 24 points in 77 games. He appears to be more minor league depth for now, although he is only 23 and could develop into an NHLer with more experience. He was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the Flames system according to Hockeysfuture.com. Greentree was big and a little slow and his future is probably exclusively as an AHL player.

After all of these moves, the Flyers have continued to add depth to their blueline and appear to be maneuvering themselves under the cap to make at least one free agent signing. While they won't be able to afford the big names like Brian Campbell, they should be able to get a solid d-man with their available cap space.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's (finally) official: Jeff Carter signs with the Flyers

We knew that Jeff Carter was going to sign with the Flyers, we just didn't know when they would finally make it official. Well, it appears that Carter has finally signed the 3 year, 15 million dollar deal just a few days before he would have become a restricted free agent.

My thoughts on the signing are the same as before: I am happy to have Carter back in the fold, but the price is awfully high for a guy who has never scored 30 goals and will be a third line center. If he lives up to the flashes of potential that he showed in the playoffs, then he will be worth 5 million a year. If he continues his inconsistent play where he disappears for long stretches at a time, then the Flyers badly overpaid.

Sixers drafted a "poor man's Elton Brand"

Just thought I would pass this along. According to Chad Ford of ESPN, Marreese Speights, who the Sixers drafted with the 16th pick in the draft, is going to be a great fit for the Sixers:

I like this pick for Philly. Speights has a lot of talent and he fits a need for Philly. He's an excellent offensive player who can score in the post and facing the basket, and he can rebound. He is kind of a poor man's Elton Brand.

Thought this was interesting considering all of the talk we have been hearing about Elton Brand possibly coming to Philly as a free agent. Who better to teach Speights than the guy he plays most like? Good pick by the Sixers either way, Speights should develop into the inside presence they lack on the offensive end.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sixers select Marreese Speights of Florida

There have been very few surprises so far with the NBA Draft, with most players being selected about where everyone thought they would be taken. Of course, there were the two big trades of the day, with Jermaine O'Neal going to Toronto and Richard Jefferson going to Milwaukee, but other than that everything has gone according to plan.

The Sixers also stuck to the script, drafting a big man with the 16th pick of the first round, Marreese Speights from Florida. Several Mock Drafts had been predicting the Sixers would take the 6-10 forward since about May, so there's no surprise here. ESPN's Jay Bilas thought that Speights was the 15th best player in the draft, so the Sixers got pretty much the exact value with their pick. Speights has tremendous athleticism and appears to be NBA ready, although he probably won't make much of an impact next year.

Here is Speight's profile from NBA.com and his profile from RealGM.com.

Barring an unlikely trade, the Sixers are likely done for the day. Now all we can do is wait to see what they do in free agency to further improve their front court.

Charlie, change it back! New line-up fails to deliver

As I wrote about last night's win, I mentioned the "funky" line-up that Charlie Manuel used that managed 11 hits and 4 walks but only scored 4 runs and stranded 26 runners. That got me curious as to how the "normal" Phillies line-up would have fared. Turns out that if Manuel had kept things the same, the Phillies would have scored twice as many runs and won the game 8-0.

Here is the line-up from last night that scored 4 runs:
1. Werth, RF
2. Utley, 2B
3. Rollins, SS
4. Burrell, LF
5. Howard, DH
6. Feliz, 3B
7. Victorino, CF
8. Coste, C
9. Bruntlett, 1B

Here is the "normal" line-up:
1. Rollins, SS
2. Victorino, CF
3. Utley, 2B
4. Howard, DH
5. Burrell, LF
6. Werth, RF
7. Feliz, 3B
8. Coste, C
9. Bruntlett, 1B

It turns out that with that configuration, Utley would have knocked Victorino in three times, helping the Phillies to score more runs. The Phillies also would have strung together several hits in the 7th inning that would have led to three runs.

The lesson here for Manuel is that this line-up isn't more effective, at least for one night. It's important to keep the table setters like Rollins and Victorino at the top of the line-up so Utley can drive them in.

Here is what last night's game would have looked like:


1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Rollins Out | Single Out |
Victorino Out | Walk | Single
Utley Single | Double (2 RBI) | Triple (1 RBI)
Howard Out | Out | Out
Burrell | Out Single (1 RBI) | Out
Werth | Walk Out | Out
Feliz | Out | Triple |
Coste | Out | Sac-Out |
Bruntlett | | Out Out |






Score: 0-0 0-0 3-0 4-0 5-0


6th 7th 8th 9th
Rollins Out | Walk |
Victorino | Single, Steal Unk (OUT?) |
Utley | Single (1 RBI) Out |
Howard | Out Out |
Burrell | Out | (Jenkins, Out)
Werth | Single | Out
Feliz Out Single (1 RBI) | Out
Coste Single Single (1 RBI) | |
Bruntlett Out Out | |





Score: 5-0 8-0 8-0 8-0

Kendrick snaps Phils losing streak despite funky line-up

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
It seemed like forever ago that Cole Hamels masterfully pitched the Phillies to a victory over the Red Sox. After losing six straight games, the Phils needed another masterful pitching performance, this time by Kyle Kendrick, to finally get another one in the win column, a 4-0 victory over the A's.

Kendrick wasn't dominant, but he was effective, throwing strikes and allowing the A's to hit the ball right at the defense. Kendrick went 8 innings in all, giving up only 4 hits and striking out 4 batters. He needed 113 pitches to earn his 7th victory of the season.

The Phillies also sported a new look to their line-up:

1. Werth, RF
2. Utley, 2B
3. Rollins, SS
4. Burrell, LF
5. Howard, DH
6. Feliz, 3B
7. Victorino, CF
8. Coste, C
9. Bruntlett, 1B

The new lineup got on base a lot, collecting 11 hits and walking 4 times, but it also stranded a ton of runners, 26 in all. With that many stranded runners, it's clear that the hitters were in the wrong order. Chase Utley finally broke out of his slump, collecting four hits, including a triple. Unfortunately, since he was batting 2nd in the lineup, Utley was stranded every time he got on base, and he was never able to drive anyone in.

The Phillies wrap up their series in Oakland tomorrow afternoon. Adam Eaton takes the mound against Rich Harden, Oakland's best pitcher when healthy. The Phils better fix their line-up or it could be a long day against Harden.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

NBA Mock Draft Round-up: Who will the Sixers draft?

Thursday's NBA Draft is an important first opportunity for Ed Stefanski to make his mark on the Sixers this offseason. It is clear that the team needs help inside and they will look to get a big man with their only pick in the draft, the 16th overall selection. Stefanski has made it well known that he won't be trading up or down, he will simply take the best available big man with the pick. Here is a roundup of some various mock drafts from around the internet to get a good idea of who the Sixers might select:

*Chad Ford, ESPN.com:
Anthony Randolph, PF, LSU
Their take: He hasn't been great in workouts, needs to add a lot of strength and appears to be a few years away from making an impact. But he has length, athleticism and tremendous upside, and the Sixers, a team on the rise, can afford to wait.

*Ian Thomson, SI.com:
DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A & M
Their take: When in doubt, go big. Jordan has lots of upside, though he played limited minutes in his one college season.

*HoopsHype.com:
DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A & M
Their take: 7-footer with a great frame, incredible wingspan, and unbelievable athleticism. Has great hands and finishes well around the basket. A very good rebounder with the potential to develop into an excellent defender down the road. An extremely raw player who is 2-3 years away from contributing at a high level in the NBA. Lacks a great deal of strength and polish on both ends of the floor. Not very productive at the collegiate level. Shies away from contact, shows poor awareness, and is not always as active as you might hope. A high-risk, high-reward player who has too much upside not to be drafted early.

*Sam Smith, SportingNews.com:
DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A & M
Their take: Some believe they'll take the best big left. That's likely Jordan, projected as a sure top 10 pick a few months back. Pro scouts have questioned his maturity, and J.J. Hickson and Marreese Speights also have been mentioned.

*Draft Express:
DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A & M

*Ray Glier, NBCSports.com:
Marreese Speights, PF, Florida
Their take: In one clip you can watch him drain a 3-pointer. In another clip he is in the lane snatching a pass and finishing with a dunk. Batum gets up and down the floor and plays loose and plays with the ball. He looks a little thin, but the game has a place for tall wings, especially ones like this moving toward a peak.

*Jeff Goodman, FoxSports.com:
Marreese Speights, PF, Florida
Their take: He doesn't have the greatest work ethic or IQ for the game, but Speights has been blessed with a terrific body, great hands and the ability to score in the post. That's exactly what the 76ers need — a low-post scorer.

*CollegeHoops.net:
Marreese Speights, PF, Florida

*RealGM.com
:
Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas
Their take: Like Julian Wright last year, another KU player is being unfairly undervalued. Arthur is a rebounding power forward who should develop a nice game from 15 feet in. He has a remarkable court awareness as he is almost always in an ideal position on both ends of the floor. He posts with purpose; constantly trying to seal his man and can finish well with either hand. Arthur is also a good passer out of the post and pretty much anywhere else on the floor. His ball-handling does need a great deal of more work.

My thoughts: From all of this speculation, it's pretty clear the Sixers will take a big man. The only thing we know at this point is that whoever the Sixers take, they won't have a huge impact right away. None of the players projected to them with the 16th overall pick will be starters or can be expected to do much in their rookie seasons. That means that Stefanski will also have to go out and get a big man through a trade or free agency if he wants the Sixers to be better next season. Elton Brand, anyone?

Flyers continue to bolster defense, acquire Niskala

Paul Holmgren is really going to great lengths to improve the Flyers' defense. After acquiring Danny Syvret and Steve Eminger and drafting a pair of defenseman with their top two picks, the Flyers have added even more organizational depth on defense, picking up Janne Niskala from the Nashville Predators for Phantoms forward Triston Grant and a seventh-round pick in next years draft.

This trade basically boils down to one AHL player traded for another, although Niskala does have some upside. He is a powerplay specialist who has had some struggles on the defensive side of the ice, but he is an excellent puck carrying defenseman, something the Flyers have been looking for. Niskala spent last season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL and put up solid numbers: 44 points in 80 games. Niskala is already 26, though, so it is unlikely that he has much upside. He will need to improve his play in his own end if he wants to make an impact with the big club.

Losing Grant is a non-factor, considering he has only played in 8 career NHL games and is basically just an AHL level enforcer. At 24, he has likely developed into what he is going to be, a career AHLer.

Another solid move to build up the Flyers biggest weakness last season. Holmgren seems to be stockpiling talented defenseman that are NHL tweeners, hoping that one of them will pan out and develop into something more. Hopefully all of these minor defensive moves is a precursor to one big free agent pickup along the blueline because the Flyers could still use another top 4 d-man.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bad Rumor Alert: Phillies want Fuentes, but Fabio Castro isn't enough

The Phillies have long coveted another left hander for their bullpen, and it has been no secret that Brian Fuentes of the Colorado Rockies is on their radar. As I talked about back in March, the Phillies would love to get their hands on the former closer. Rumors are starting to pick up around Colorado that the Rockies are serious about trading him, and the Phillies have been labeled the front runners. Unfortunately, the rumor making the rounds right now has very little merit, considering it says the Phillies "would include 22-year-old righty Fabio Castro", and that somehow makes them the leading candidates for Fuentes.

There are three problems with that statement. First of all, Castro is left handed, and second, he's 23 years old, so someone out there has their facts wrong. Finally, and most importantly, there is no way the Rockies would give up a perfectly useful pitcher like Fuentes for Fabio Castro, someone who has problems pitching in Double A this year, posting an ERA of 4.91 and walking 31 batters in 58 innings pitched. Castro is not a piece that would make the Phillies the front runners for anyone, so this rumor is way off base.

The Phillies still might get Brian Fuentes, but it is going to take something much more enticing than Fabio Castro.

Floundering Phils fail against AL's best

(AP Photo/H. Rumph, Jr.)
One week ago, I wrote a post about how difficult the coming week was going to be for the Phillies. I figured it would be quite an accomplishment if the Phils could win half their games against the two best teams in the American League, the Red Sox and Angels. Well, as we all know by now, the Phillies didn't even come close to splitting the week, instead, after a promising win in the first game against the Sox, they finished the week with five straight losses. The Phils fell flat on their face, and this has allowed the NL East to tighten back up again, with the Marlins 1 game out, the crappy Mets 3.5 games out and even the Braves 4 games out of first.

The reasons for the slide are plentiful. Many would site the starting pitching as the biggest problem, but the bats also fell silent when they went up against good pitching. In the last five games, the Phils have scored 9 total runs. This is unacceptable from a team that has racked up 20 runs in a game twice this year. The Angels pitching especially did a number on the Phils, with Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver making an otherwise potent offense look weak, including former Superman Chase Utley, who has seen his batting average drop 30 points since June 2nd.

On the flip side, even Cole Hamels couldn't save this team from a string of bad pitching outings. The starters continually give up runs in the early innings of the game, putting all of the pressure on the offense to come from behind. When the offense isn't hitting, this pitching staff simply isn't good enough to pick up the slack. Hamels is the only pitcher you can trust when the playoffs roll around and every game is tight and low scoring.

This next week gets a little easier for the Phils as they will be facing a pair of teams that are a notch or two below the Angels and Red Sox. The A's are first up starting tomorrow, and Oakland is another team with great pitching that could cause problems. Luckily, next weekend the Phillies will take on the terrible Texas Rangers pitching, including former Phillie Vincente Padilla, so that should be a cure for all that ails this offense.

Of course, everything begins and ends with pitching. It is looking more and more likely that the Phillies will be pursuing another pitcher at the trade deadline this year, and with names flying about like C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, there seems to be plenty available. The Phillies are going to need to pull the trigger on some kind of deal because what they are currently sending to the mound could pitch them right out of playoff contention.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flyers Draft Recap

Here is a rundown of the players the Flyers took in the 2008 NHL Draft, held this past weekend. Click on the player's name to see their profile from NHL.com:

Round 1, Pick 19: Luca Sbisa, D
Round 3, Pick 67: Marc-Andre Bourdon, D
Round 3, Pick 84: Jacob DeSerres, Goalie
Round 6, Pick 178: Zac Rinaldo, C
Round 7, Pick 196: Joacim Eriksson, Goalie

My thoughts: I am not going to pretend like I know all these players and their strengths and weaknesses, but I like what the Flyers did in the draft, addressing their organizational need for more defenseman. The Flyers are loaded with young forwards both in the NHL and still in the minors but they have very few top defenseman that are coming through the system, besides Ryan Parent. Sbisa and Bourdon appear to be players that can fill that void, although nothing is guaranteed. Sbisa looks especially promising, considering he has decent size and will continue to get bigger and he can move the puck. Bourdon also was the QMJHL's best defenseman and looks to be offensive-minded, picking up 59 points in 69 games.

The Flyers also lack a true goalie of the future, so they took a flier on a pair of goalies in the draft. No goalie drafted by the Flyers would help for several years, so everyone calling for someone to replace Martin Biron needs to relax. The Flyers will need to look elsewhere for their next goalie, getting one via free agency or a trade.

The NHL Draft does not hold the same prestige and instant gratification as the NBA and NFL drafts, but the Flyers have done pretty well in the last few years, and I see no reason for this year to be any different. If we are lucky, we might see the fruits of the 2006 draft this season if Claude Giroux makes the team this year. As for this current crop of rookies, I expect Sbisa to make his impact sometime next decade.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Flyers continue dealing, acquire defenseman Eminger from Washington

The Flyers continue to make moves to shore up their defense on Draft Day. First, the Flyers traded R.J. Umberger to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a pair of draft picks. Then, with the 19th pick in the draft the Flyers picked up defenseman Luca Sbisa. Finally, the Flyers traded their original first round pick, 27th overall, to the Washington Captials for defenseman Steve Eminger and the 84th pick in the draft.

Sbisa has decent size (6'1'', 190) and described as a good puck mover, much in the mold of Mark Streit of the Montreal Canadiens. He's from Switzerland and was believed to be amongst the top 12 North American players in the draft. For more on Sbisa, click here for his profile from Hockeysfuture.com.

For more immediate help, the Flyers acquired Steve Eminger. Eminger, 24, is a restricted free agent who was the 12th overall selection by the Washington Capitals back in 2002. He has spent parts of the last 5 seasons in the NHL, accumulating 6 goals and 37 assists to go with a plus/minus of -44. He is coming off a season where he dealt with an ankle injury that limited his playing time and he was a healthy scratch for a number of games, but he did see solid ice time when the Capitals played the Flyers in the first round, even scoring a goal in the fourth game of the series. Eminger is a puck-moving defensman, something the Flyers desperately need. He often played on the power play in Washington, and can lead the rush out of the zone. Eminger clearly is a talented player who needed a fresh start and the Flyers are prepared to give him one.

So, to sum up the day, the Flyers lost R.J. Umberger and a 4th round pick but added Steve Eminger, Luca Sbisa and two 3rd rounders. The Flyers dealt away from a position of strength to pick up their biggest need: defense. Eminger still has to be signed, but he will likely sign for a little over a million bucks, his salary last season, so the Flyers should still have room to maneuver under the cap to add more pieces.

The Flyers continue to shift and mold their team, adding players that fill in the holes from last years squad. Eminger isn't the top flight defenseman we hoped the Flyers would add, but he will certainly be a 4th or 5th d-man. GM Paul Holmgren clearly has some more moves up his sleeve, it will be interesting to see what else he can pull off to improve the team.

Flyers ship R.J. Umberger to Columbus

The NHL Draft is under way and several teams have made big moves, including the Flyers. The Flyers, unable to afford the recently signed Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger and a top defenseman in Free Agency, have created cap space for themselves by trading Umberger and the 119th pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for two 2008 draft picks, the 19th pick of the first round and the 67th pick in the third round.

While I hate to see Umberger go, the Flyers were smart to deal him now after his hot playoff run. Umberger scored 10 goals in the playoffs, so his value was never going to be any higher. Plus, the Flyers are dealing from a strength, since Umberger is really a center and the Flyers are loaded down the middle. Of course, this deal makes sense only if the Flyers do go out and bring in one of the top free agent defensemen, like a Brian Campbell, with the extra money they now have. The 19 pick in the draft will also be used for someone who will help down the road.

Another nice move by Paul Holmgren. Umberger was a great player, but the extra cap space and the high draft pick are too good to pass up.

Flyers sign Jeff Carter: 3 years, 15 million

It hasn't been officially announced yet, but several reports have surfaced that the Flyers have signed restricted free agent Jeff Carter to a 3 year, 15 million dollar deal. While this removes the possibility of losing Carter to another team this off-season, 5 million a year for a player who has never scored 30 goals is a little steep. It also may price them out of signing any decent free agent defenseman, or even from bringing back R.J. Umberger, who continues to be the subject of trade talks.

I do like that Jeff Carter is coming back next year, and he did show flashes of brilliance in the playoffs, but I worry that the Flyers might have overpaid here. Carter has had a problem with consistency in his career, something that no player making 5 million a year should have. With Mike Richards and Danny Briere in the mix, Carter will also never be anything more than a third line center. Let's hope the Flyers don't end up regretting paying him like a first liner.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Phillies, put in their place by Red Sox, seek pitching help

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
After leading the Phillies to an impressive victory over the Red Sox in the first game of the series, Cole Hamels suggested that a Red Sox/Phillies World Series is destined to happen. Hamels said that the Phillies could compete with the Red Sox "any day of the week". He should have rephrased that to "any day of the week I am pitching" because the Red Sox won the next two games of the series by getting to Phillie starters Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick early. The Red Sox helped to expose the Phillies biggest weakness, their starting rotation.

After Cole Hamels, there isn't another pitcher that the Phillies can count on with their season on the line. If/when the Phillies make the playoffs this year, can you imagine if they have to turn to Brett Myers or Kyle Kendrick in a Game 7? Yes, the Phillie offense is explosive, but when you get to the playoffs, you will be facing the best pitchers in baseball so those 20 run outbursts won't be happening. The Phillies need a solid number two option or they could be looking at another brisk first round ending to their season.

The Phillies basically have two options: hope Brett Myers turns it around or go out an acquire a number two. Waiting for Myers might be a risky option, but giving up the farm for short-term help would be even riskier. Jayson Stark of ESPN says that the Phillies have looked into the following starting pitching options: C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard. Stark believes that the price for any of these top pitchers (besides Arroyo) would cost the Phillies their two stud pitching prospects, Carlos Carrasco and Antonio Bastardo. As Stark points out, a deal like that would severely hinder the Phillies' future, so they had better win the World Series this year.

It's a risk that the Phillies may have to take. There is no telling if the team will ever be this healthy and this explosive offensively again, but as the Red Sox have proven, the Phils are clearly short in the starting pitching department. With the possibility of Brad Lidge and Pat Burrell leaving the team after the season, and the rest of the teams in the NL East playing poorly, this could already be the last great chance this team has to bring home a championship. We know that soon-to-be-retiring GM Pat Gillick will do something to try to go out a winner, let's just hope he keeps one eye towards the future when he makes his moves or this could be the last run for the Phillies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flyers trade Prospal back to the Lightning

Paul Holmgren did it again, this time getting something for nothing. Vaclav Prospal, who the Flyers acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in February, was sent back to the Lightning for two draft picks: a 7th round pick this year and a conditional pick next year. Prospal had no interest in coming back to the Flyers and it was unlikely that the Flyers could afford him, so Holmgren essentially picked up some late draft picks for nothing.

Prospal had a good run as a Flyer last year, but he was wildly inconsistent. Prospal and Danny Briere clicked at times to make for a dominant top line but they also would go silent for long stretches of games. Prospal will be replaced on the top line by Simon Gagne who hopes to return following a series of concussions.

Nice move, Holmgren. Can't wait to see what else he has up his sleeve.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Howard powers Phillies over Red Sox

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Ryan Howard was the story in tonight's win, hitting a pair of homers and a triple to lead the Phillies over the Red Sox, 8-2.

3 Up
1. Howard's big night
Ryan Howard went 3 for 5, driving in 4 runs and scoring twice. He hit two homers, which was enough to make it a special night, but he also added a rare triple:

It was Howard's second triple of the season. He also struck out twice in the game, but I doubt anyone is going to complain.

2. Hamels goes 7 strong Cole Hamels looked dominant at times in going 7 innings and giving up only two runs on a pair of back to back homers. Hamels changed speeds effectively and seemed to frustrate the Boston hitters who couldn't figure out what pitch was coming next. Chad Durbin also pitched in two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

3. Burrell's triple Not to be outdone by Ryan Howard's triple, Pat Burrell added a triple of his own:

It was Burrell's first triple of the season and his first since August of 2006. I can honestly say I have never seen Burrell run that fast, I am surprised he didn't get hurt rounding second. So the Phillies ended up with two triples in the game, one by Howard and the other by Burrell. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino should be ashamed that the two big guys got three baggers and they didn't!

3 More Ups, because they weren't any Downs tonight for the Phillies!

1. The Phillie Phaithful For continuing to boo J.D. Drew whenever he comes to town. Unfortunately he did connect for a homer, but he deserves everything we Phillie fans can give him for spurning the team more than ten years ago.

2. J-Roll's power surge Jimmy Rollins might finally be finding his power stroke again. He hit a homer tonight to lead off the game, just his sixth home run of the season but his third in his last nine games.

3. Hamels' quote In the write-up on ESPN.com about the game, Cole Hamels gave the quote of the night when asked about the Red Sox:

"I believe we're destined to play each other in the World Series," Hamels said. "We can compete with them any day of the week."

Phillies vs. Red Sox in the World Series would make for a great match-up. While Cole would be ready for it, I just hope the rest of the Phillies starting pitchers are, too. I'm looking at you, Myers.

Phillies face tough week ahead

After starting off with a sweep of the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies finished off their long road trip with a whimper, losing 4 of their last 6 despite out-scoring their opponents 37-23. Three of those losses were by one run, including yesterday's 7-6 loss to the Cardinals in the 10th inning where this happened:

Eric Bruntlett's collision with Yadier Molina not only cost Molina some brain cells, it also cost the Phillies the game. Had Bruntlett slid properly, the Phillies would have taken the lead heading into the bottom of the 9th.

Things don't get any easier for the Phillies this week as they face off against the two best teams in the American League, the Red Sox and Angels. Both teams are playing well right now, so this will be a real measuring stick for how far the Phillies have come this season. Checking out the pitching match-ups (posted to the right), the Phillies have an advantage against Boston since they won't face Josh Beckett. The Red Sox are also banged up, with Manny Ramirez missing the last few games and David Ortiz still on the DL.

If the Phillies can split this week, I would consider it a success. The Red Sox and Angels are both complete teams that can hit and have great pitching, so the Phillies will have to be at their best. Boston has had the upper hand against the Phils the last few years so let's see if they can bounce back.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Here we go again: Phillies put up 20 spot on Cardinals

(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
In late May, the Phillies scored 20 runs against the Colorado Rockies. Tonight, the Phillies repeated that effort, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 20-2.

3 Up
1. Phillies go back to back to back
The Phillies offense starting early and didn't quit. In the first inning, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell combined for back to back to back homers off Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer:


2. Phils put up 9 runs in the 4th
The offense erupted again in the 4th inning where the Phillies sent 15 batters to the plate and got 7 hits, walked 5 times and scored 9 runs. Here is the play by play from the inning:
Philadelphia - Top of 4thSCORE
Todd Wellemeyer pitching for St. LouisPHISTL
C Ruiz grounded out to second.41
K Kendrick hit a ground rule double to deep left.41
J Rollins walked.41
S Victorino singled to right, K Kendrick to third, J Rollins to second.41
C Utley singled to center, K Kendrick and J Rollins scored, S Victorino to second.61
R Villone relieved T Wellemeyer.61
R Howard singled to center, S Victorino scored, C Utley to second.71
P Burrell walked, C Utley to third, R Howard to second.71
G Jenkins hit sacrifice fly to left, C Utley scored.81
P Feliz walked, R Howard to third, P Burrell to second.81
C Ruiz hit a ground rule double to deep right center, R Howard and P Burrell scored, P Feliz to third.101
K Kendrick singled to center, P Feliz scored, C Ruiz scored, K Kendrick to second on throwing error by center fielder R Ankiel.121
J Rollins walked.121
S Victorino doubled to deep left, K Kendrick scored, J Rollins to third.131
C Utley walked.131
R Howard struck out swinging.131
9 Runs, 7 Hits, 1 Errors

3. Howard homers twice After hitting the second of the back to back to back home runs in the first inning, Ryan Howard connected again for a 3-run shot in the 6th:

It was a good homecoming for Howard, considering he finished the night 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs and 4 runs scored. He also struck out twice.

3 Down
1. J-Roll hitless
Jimmy Rollins was the only Phillie starter to not get a hit. He still drew three walks and scored a run.

2. Cardinals issue 8 walks The Cardinals pitching was terrible all night. It got so bad that they were forced to use second baseman Aaron Miles in the 9th inning. Miles did manage to pitch a one-two-three inning to finish off the game.

3. Cardinals ejections Three Cardinals were ejected in tonight's game, including pitcher Russ Springer, Manager Tony La Russa and Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo. La Russa was particularly heated after Springer was tossed for "throwing at" Ryan Howard in the 8th inning. The pitch looked like it just slipped out of Springer's hand so La Russa was justified in getting upset.

Phillies go back to back to back against Cardinals

The Phillies offense is exploding again tonight (13 runs through 4 innings), including back to back to back home runs by Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell in the first inning against the Cardinals:

Add in a 9 run 4th inning where 15 players stepped up to the plate and you have the makings of a huge night. More on the game later.

Eagles make a number of roster moves

Following OTA's, the Eagles roster is finally starting to take shape. The Eagles cut nine players and signed one, trimming their roster from 88 players to 80. The one player signed was defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen, who has played 15 years in the NFL, including last season with the Birds. von Oelhoffen is really old, but he will be a serviceable part and a veteran presence who will help. Hopefully he doesn't play too much because if the team is forced to use him a lot they likely are in a dire situation.

Here are the nine players cut:
LB Gary Butler
DT Jeremy Clark
CB Tanard Davis
WR Terrell Golden
QB Casey Hansen
DE Xzavie Jackson
DT LaJuan Ramsey
DE A.J. Schable
LB Markell Staffieri

Clark, Davis, Jackson and Ramsey all were either on the roster or the practice squad last season while the rest of the cuts were rookie free agents. Ramsey is the most surprising of the group, but with the re-signing of von Oelhoffen and the drafting of Trevor Laws there is no room for him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moyer's gem salvages a win over Marlins

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Tonight's game was all about Jamie Moyer. There is no need for my usual article that includes the 3 Up and 3 Down from the game, Moyer was the game. He pitched 5 and 1/3rds no-hit innings to help lead the Phillies to a 3-0 win over Florida. Moyer ended up giving up only 2 hits in his 8 total innings. The veteran lefty was at his craftiest, confusing the young Marlins hitters with his vast array of slow pitches. Brad Lidge also earned his 18th save of the season.

The win tonight was big because it means the 1st place Phillies avoided being swept by the 2nd place Marlins. The Phils now have a 3 game lead over the Marlins, a gap that seems huge compared to the meager one game lead the would have had if they lost. Even more impressive is the 7.5 game lead they have over the fading Braves and Mets.

The Phils have a tough stretch coming up. This weekend they go to St Louis to take on the surprising Cardinals, then they head home next week for interleague play against two first place teams: the Red Sox and Angels. This will be a tough stretch for the Phils, finishing it with a .500 or better record would have to be considered an accomplishment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fish Fry Flash: Uggla's Slam beats Phillies

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The second best second baseman in baseball, Dan Uggla, won Wednesday's game for the Marlins by hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th inning off Tom Gordon. The game was a pitchers duel up until that point, and the Marlins won their second straight against the Phillies by a score of 6-2.

3 Up
1. King Cole (again)
Cole Hamels pitched his second straight masterful game, striking out 13 batters in 8 innings. He did give up two solo homers on the night, but he certainly pitched better than the last time he faced the Marlins and gave up 7 runs. The lack of a Phillie offense killed his chances of earning a much-deserved win.

2. Miller also shines Andrew Miller's performance was overshadowed by Hamels' dominance, but he also pitched a gem, giving up only 4 hits and 1 run across 7 innings. Miller shut down one of the top offenses in baseball despite carrying a 5.65 ERA into the game. If the Marlins can get performances like that they are going to be a tough team down the stretch.

3. Cantu can-do Cheesy title here, but Jorge Cantu continues to own the Phillies this season. He hit two homers today off Cole Hamels after hitting one yesterday off Brett Myers. He also hit one off Hamels when they played back in May, giving him 4 homers in 5 games against the Phillies.

3 Down
1. Fish fry Flash
Could it be anyone else but Tom Gordon? With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Dan Uggla connected on a game-winning home run off Gordon:

Just a terrible outing by Gordon tonight. He walked two batters and gave up a hit to load the bases and then couldn't pitch himself out of the mess he created. Perhaps Brad Lidge should have been brought in to shut things down? Gordon now has an ERA of 5.19 on the season.

2. Phillies offense MIA I know I praised Andrew Miller for shutting down the Phillies, but the Phillies can't get anything going off Andrew Miller? They managed to squeak one run out in the 9th when Kevin Gregg came in but how do they only score 2 runs all game?

3. Kline released The Phillies announced today that they released left hander Steve Kline. Kline had been pitching for the Iron Pigs and was thought to be a possible candidate as a second lefty in the bullpen for the Phils. Unfortunately, a 5.16 ERA in Triple A and a suspension for bumping an ump won't get you to the big leagues any time soon. Guess he isn't the answer I thought he would be back in April when he signed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Marlins take the first one over Philllies

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The Phillies started an important three game stretch tonight with the second place Marlins and they came up short in the first game of the series, losing 5-4 in Florida.

3 Up
1. Fightin' Fish I am one of probably many who doubted that the Marlins were for real but as they continue to win, we have to start looking at them as a serious contender. With the Braves and Mets already fading in the Phillies rear view, the Marlins are the only team that has managed to keep up. With tonight's win, the Marlins are within 3 games of first place and have a record of six games over .500. Watching the game today I got a good idea why they have been successful. They have a bunch of guys who can hit for power (5 players with 10 or more homers), several quality starters and an above average closer. The scariest part of the team is their bats, with superstar Hanley Ramirez and the 2nd best 2nd baseman in the game, Dan Uggla anchoring the line-up. These Marlins appear to be for real, and with New York and Atlanta disappointing, the Fish might be the only competition the Phils will have in their quest to repeat as NL East Champs.

2. Nolasco owns Phils Ricky Nolasco has proven to be a thorn in the Phillies side. Back on May 31st, Nolasco beat the Phillies by giving up only 2 runs in 6 and 2/3rds innings. Tonight, Nolasco did even better, giving up no earned runs across 6 innings of work. Nolasco did end up allowing 3 unearned runs across the plate, but those were due to bad fielding plays. Nolasco is just another in the long line of no-name pitchers who seem to have the Phillies' number

3. Rollins, Burrell homer The Phils did manage two homers on the night, including this one by Rollins in the 5th inning:

Rollins hasn't really lit the world on fire this season but he now has two homers in his last three games after only hitting 3 through the first two months of the season.

3 Down
1. Myers' W-L record
Brett Myers continues to have an up and down season and tonight's effort was another one on the down side. In 5 and 1/3rds innings, Myers gave up 7 hits and walked 4 batters and gave up 3 homers. Myers' record now moves to 3-8, an ugly number for an Opening Day starter. He still has plenty of time to bounce back, but he may never re-gain the form he once had before he was a closer.

2. Victorino's 0-fer After being the hero in the series against the Atlanta Braves, Shane Victorino didn't start off this series with the same effort, going 0 for 5 and making the last out of the game with a runner standing at second base. He ended up stranding 4 runners in all in the game.

3. Howard's K's Just thought I would point out that Howard struck out two more times tonight and is currently on pace for 218 strikeouts on the season. I know his hitting has improved lately, but that's just an astounding amount of K's.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Howard leads Phillies to sweep over Braves

(AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
Ryan Howard has been the most criticized Phillie this season. His average has hovered around .200 and he has been racking up strikeouts at a record pace. Fortunately, he has still has monster games from time to time, including one on Sunday that led the Phillies to a 6-3 win over the Braves, completing a three game sweep in Atlanta.

3 Up
1. Howard's double-day
Heading into Sunday's game, Ryan Howard had 8 total doubles on the season. He ended up hitting three two-baggers today which helped him to drive in 4 runs. Howard's average soared to .214, the highest it has been since April 5th, the 5th game of the season. With all the talk on how poorly he is hitting, Howard has still managed to do the thing the Phillies pay him to do: drive in runs. He has 49 RBIs on the year which puts him in the top 5 in the NL. His average will probably never go above .250 this year, but you can bet it will end up around .240 which means he will continue to put up good numbers in the next few months to raise it up. Howard will also likely hit 40 homers and drive in 120 runs, numbers that are all we can ask for from a someone in the middle of the order.

2. Victorino still Flyin' Shane Victorino nearly single-handedly beat the Braves on Friday, and after being held hitless on Saturday, he busted out again today. Victorino had 3 hits and scored 3 runs, and drove in the game winning run in the 9th. He also stole a base. Victorino may finally be proving that he can be an every day player. Let's just hope he can stay healthy.

3. Economical Lidge After striking out the side yesterday to earn his 16th save, Brad Lidge decided he wanted to get things over with quickly today. Lidge entered the 9th inning of Sunday's game and needed only 7 pitches to finish off the Braves and earn his 17th save. Lidge's numbers continue to be out of this world: 17 saves on 17 attempts, a 0.96 ERA and a WHIP of exactly 1.00. Mariano Rivera is the only other closer putting up numbers like that.

3 Down
1. Eaton's back!
The real Adam Eaton came back today. After putting together two straight good starts, Eaton looked more like his old self in giving up 3 runs in 6 innings. Eaton was shelled for 8 hits and walked two more so he was lucky to only allow 3 runs across the plate. His performance was still good enough to earn a win, but he hardly deserved it.

2. The awful Braves bullpen Atlanta has some serious problems with their team, none more so than their terrible bullpen. Over the last three days, Braves starters did well to slow down the Phillies offense but once the bullpen came in the Phils feasted, scoring 10 runs from the 8th inning on during this series. With Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez injured and John Smoltz likely to retire, this bullpen is a mess and it could drive Atlanta right out of contention.

3. Bruntlett's bad base-running With one out and the game tied 3-3 in the 9th inning and Jimmy Rollins at the plate, Eric Bruntlett, who was on first base, took off for second on a hit-and-run play. Rollins singled to right field so Bruntlett should have ended up on third base where he could have been driven home on a sacrifice fly. Instead, for some reason, Bruntlett didn't realize Rollins actually hit the ball so he slid into second and stayed there. Luckily that base running mistake didn't matter because Shane Victorino drove Bruntlett home in the next at-bat. It's nit-picky, but it could have cost the Phils the win.

Here are the highlights from Sunday's win:


The Phillies have a day off tomorrow and then they go to Florida where they hope to stretch out their lead against the second place Marlins.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Victorino leads Phillies past Braves with arm, bat

(AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)
Shane Victorino nearly single-handedly beat the Braves as the Phils squeaked by Atlanta 4-3 in 10 innings on Friday night.

3 Up
1. The Flyin' Hawaiian
Victorino did it all tonight, going 2 for 3 with 2 triples, 2 runs scored, 2 walks and he drove home the run that gave the Phillies a lead in the 10th inning. Oh, and he ended the Braves rally in the bottom of the 10th by throwing out the possible tying run at the plate:

Victorino getting going has been a real plus for the line-up, especially when you factor in Jimmy Rollins' slump. Since Rollins has been unable to get on base with any consistency lately, it has been crucial for Victorino to get on to set the table for the middle of the order. The only negative about his game tonight was getting thrown out trying to steal second.

2. More Bullpen Dominance Jamie Moyer pitched well but was only able to go 5 2/3rds innings. Enter the bullpen. Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Rudy Seanez, Ryan Madson and Tom Gordon combined for 3 2/3rds innings of shutout ball, giving up only 2 hits in those innings. The shutout innings enabled the Phillies offense to get past Braves starter Tim Hudson and into the Braves weak bullpen where they subsequently were able to fight back into the game.

3. Chipper is ridiculously good I hate to give an Up to a Brave, but Chipper Jones had two hits on the night and pushed his batting average up to .421 for the season. It's still fairly early in the season, but that's an incredible number. Chipper is going to make it impossible for Chase Utley to even challenge for the Triple Crown.

3 Down
1. Lidge bailed out
You'll notice I did not mention Brad Lidge when praising the Phillies bullpen. Lidge was spared from blowing his first save of the season by the rocket arm of Shane Victorino. Lidge looked shaky in giving up three hits, and while he did strike out 2 batters, he really didn't deserve the save that he is credited with tonight. He better be taking Victorino out to dinner.

2. The disappearing Phillie offense It's not time to sound the alarm because they are still winning games, but the Phils offense has really come back to Earth. After averaging 12 runs a game over a five game stretch last week, the Phillies are averaging 3.4 runs per game over their most recent five games. Much of this is likely due to Chase Utley coming down a bit from his recent hot streak, but they have been fortunate that the pitching staff has come through lately. On a positive note, this team is showing it can win ballgames in a variety of ways and we all know it's only a matter of time before the offense explodes again.

3. Feliz nailed at home I am not sure if we blame third base coach Steve Smith or Pedro Feliz on this one, but this play was just embarrassing, especially with two outs in the 9th:

The Phillies were pretty fortunate considering Eric Bruntlett scored on the play to send the game into extra innings but I have no idea what Feliz is thinking there.

Flyers trade Ryan Potulny for young defenseman

The Flyers made their first off-season move today, trading center Ryan Potulny, who played 7 games with the Flyers last season, to the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Danny Syvret.

Syvret is a puck-moving defenseman who spent all of last season in the AHL where he played a total of 63 games for two different teams, the Springfield Falcons and the Hershey Bears. He scored 2 goals and picked up 18 assists while registering a plus/minus of -4. Syvret has played 26 career games in the NHL and picked up one assist. He is 22 and isn't considered a great prospect, but he could he a 5th or 6th defenseman in the future. He is a strong skater but at only 5'11'' and 195 pounds, he lacks size.

Potulny spent most of last season with the Phantoms, netting 21 goals and 26 assists in 58 games. He managed only 1 assist in limited action in the NHL this year, but in 06/07 he played 35 games with the Flyers and picked up 12 points. Potulny, 23, suffered a couple of injuries that slowed down his progress, but he was still seen as a quality prospect who could have eventually developed into a third line center. Unfortunately for Potulny, the Flyers are extremely deep at center, with Danny Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter expected to be locked into center positions on the top three lines for the foreseeable future.

This deal likely came down to the Flyers trading away depth at a position of strength for something of need. Syvret is a long shot at best to play for the Flyers next year, but at the very least they have another young talent that they can groom for the future.

Click here for Syvret's profile page at Hockeysfuture.com

Thursday, June 5, 2008

King Cole dominates while J-Roll gets benched

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The Phillies finished off their series with the Reds by winning 5-0 behind a stellar performance by Cole Hamels. Hamels threw his second shut-out of the season, clearly bouncing back from getting shelled by the Marlins last week.

3 Up
1. King Cole dominates Cole Hamels was the story of the game as he completely shut down the Reds offense. Hamels needed 103 pitches to get through all 9 innings, motoring through the game in just over 2 hours. He gave up only 3 hits and walked 3 batters and managed to strike out 4. Hamels spent most of his time pitching to contact instead of going for strikeouts and that helped him economize his pitch total and remain fresh throughout the game. This was the third straight quality start from a pitching rotation that was widely thought of as the biggest weakness on the team. With the offense coming back to Earth, the rotation has picked up the slack and kept the Phils on a winning track.

2. Jenkins homers On a night where the Phillies got most their runs off mistakes by the Reds defense, Geoff Jenkins continued his recent hot streak by hitting a homer in the 6th:

Jenkins has quietly bounced back after a sluggish start to the season. Since May 14th, Jenkins has seen his batting average rise 30 points as he has belted 4 homers and driven in 10 runs. When he's hot, the Phillie line-up can be nearly unstoppable.

3. No K's for Howard! Ryan Howard finally gets off the Down list! I will not only give him credit for not striking out but he also singled in a run in the game.

3 Down
1. MVP benched Jimmy Rollins was benched today by Charlie Manuel for not running out a pop-up that ended up being dropped in the third inning:

Manuel felt that if Rollins was hustling on the play he would have easily ended up at second base. Here is another video showing Rollins not running out the pop-up:

Eric Bruntlett entered the game to play shortstop and after the game Rollins owned up to his mistake, saying Manuel "has two rules: Be on time and hustle. I broke one today. It's my fault. I can't be mad at him." Manuel did the right thing. Whether it's the reigning MVP or the 25th guy on the roster, everyone should be hustling, and if they don't, then they should take a seat for someone who will. This isn't an issue that will linger, in fact it could light a fire under J-Roll that could get him going offensively. He has really lost his power this season with only 3 homers so far.

2. Griffey stuck at 599 After four games in Philadelphia, Ken Griffey Jr leaves the city having failed to hit his 600th home run. Of course, when he only gets 6 plate appearances in those 4 games we shouldn't expect much from him. The Reds will likely continue to keep him on the bench until they return back home next Tuesday so he can make history in front of the home crowd.

3. Reds fielders Just an ugly game by the Reds in the field today. They made three errors that each lead to the Phillies putting runs on the board and ruined an otherwise good start by Homer Bailey. Can't say I really mind!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Duel! Volquez outpitches Myers to lead Reds over Phillies

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The Phillies wasted an amazing outing by Brett Myers, who held the Reds hitless through 6 and 2/3rds innings, and fell to Cincinnati 2-0. Reds starting pitcher Edinson Volquez was the story of Wednesday night's game.

3 UP:
1. Volquez dominates When an opposing pitcher is this good, he gets top billing. Edinson Volquez has taken the league by storm this season and the Phillies never had a chance tonight. Volquez pitched 7 innings and gave up only 2 hits and 2 walks and struck out 8 batters. For the 4th time this season, Volquez didn't give up an earned run and lowered his major league low ERA to 1.32, a number that dwarfs the next lowest ERA in the NL, Tim Lincecum's 2.23. Volquez also leads the majors in strikeouts with 91. With all the talk about how good Brandon Webb was at the beginning of the year, Volquez has to be the NL Cy Young with numbers like that. The Phillies offense never stood a chance.

2. Myers takes no-hitter into 7th You can't blame tonight's loss on Brett Myers. Despite some wildness (6 walks), Myers held up his end of the pitchers duel by not allowing a hit until the 7th inning. Of course, that hit came after Myers walked a batter, so his first hit allowed turned into his first run allowed:

Myers pitched 7 1/3rd innings in all and gave up only the one hit and struck out 8 batters. In his last two outings, Myers has now struck out 19 batters in 15 1/3rd innings. It's safe to say the Phillies have their ace back, at least for now.

3. Burrell walks twice On a night where very few Phillies managed to reach base (2 hits, 3 walks as a team), Pat Burrell walked twice. Yep, that's the best I can do.

3 Down
1. Howard....again! For the third day in a row, Ryan Howard finds his way onto the Down list. Yes, Howard managed a hit, one of only two on the night for the Phillies, but he also struck out twice and stranded 4 runners on base in a game where getting a single run could have made a huge difference. That's 6 strikeouts in his last three games.

2. Utley hitless I thought about giving Chase Utley a pass, but if he's the MVP, he should still manage to fare better than an 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Of course, Utley, being The Man that he is, still managed to get on base via a hit by pitch in the 5th inning, but one of his patented homers would have been nice.

3. Phillips kills a rally The Phillies had one of their few rallies going in the second inning when Pedro Feliz was robbed by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips:

You'll definitely see that catch on SportsCenter's Top Plays.

Gulp..... Samuel and Jackson suffer injuries

I know it's early and these aren't major injuries, but it has to be a bad omen when your two biggest off-season acquisitions go down with minor injuries on the same day. Both Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson limped away from practice today with mild hamstring pulls. These aren't the type of injuries to get worried about as the Eagles will likely shut them both down for the rest of the week and they will be plenty healed by the time training camp rolls around in late summer.

It's always scary when a 57 million dollar free agent and a second round pick get hurt, luckily the season is still a long way off.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ace Adam Eaton pitches Phillies past Reds

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
And the Phillies just keep winning. The Phils beat the Reds 3-2 Tuesday night for their 3rd straight win and their 8th win in their last 9 games. The game was a good display of how the Phillies can still win a game even if their offense doesn't explode. Just like I did after yesterday's game, here is the good and the bad from Tuesday night's win:

3 Up:
1. Eaton's on a roll! Meet your new ace of the Phillies, Adam Eaton. Coming off his first win of the season last week against the Rockies, Eaton put forth his second straight dominating effort. Eaton went 6 and 2/3rds innings, gave up only 3 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 batters to earn his second straight victory. Eaton was in total control all night, making very few bad pitches, except for the one Edwin Encarnacion planted in the left field seats. Eaton has fared remarkably well lately and has done enough to tighten his grip on his spot in the rotation. It's a good thing, too, since there isn't really anyone else the Phillies could turn to right now, given how far Kris Benson seems to be from being ready.

2. Burrell supplies the offense The Phils offense was held off the scoreboard for most of the night despite getting 9 hits off Reds ace Aaron Harang. Pat Burrell had the big hit on the night, a two-run blast in the 6th inning that proved to be the game winner:


With 6 hits in his last 4 games, Burrell appears to be heating up again after going through a rough stretch for most of May. It seems like only one of Burrell or Ryan Howard can be hot at once, imagine what this line-up would look like if both were able to get going at the same time.

3. The bullpen holds another lead If Chase Utley is the team MVP then the bullpen has to be a close second. Even though they gave up a run in tonight's game, the trio of J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brad Lidge continue to hold leads and shut down the opposition. Throw Chad Durbin into the mix and I have never been as confident with a 1 run lead in the late innings as I am right now. Most of the credit has to go to Pat Gillick for assembling this group; it appears that he has finally found the right mix for the late innings.

3 Down:

1. Utley goes homerless Chase Utley failed in his attempt to break the Phillie record of consecutive games with a homer when all he did was go 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI and 1 run scored. Utley should be ashamed that he didn't hit a homer and was only able to muster a broken bat RBI single:


Obviously, Utley is still the man. He doesn't even need his bats to stay together to get hits.

2. Howard keeps missing and missing Like I said before, this team will really take off (as if it hasn't already) when Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard get hot at the same time. Howard went 0 for 4 tonight, striking out 2 more times. He also left 7 runners stranded on base. His average has now dipped down to .205. Howard has gone back into a mini-funk after two weeks of solid hitting. He'll bounce back.

3. Manuel benches Coste One day after Chris Coste hits his 6th homer of the season, Carlos Ruiz gets the start behind the plate tonight and goes 0 for 4. Hey, Charlie, play the hot bat! Keep Coste in the line-up! Manuel is known for riding the hot bat so why wasn't Coste in there tonight? Count on him to be penciled in tomorrow.