Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:54 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino declined Monday to address his three-game suspension for his role in Friday night's brawl in San Francisco.
But he was happy to discuss the latest test the Phillies passed with phlying colors, winning three of four games over the weekend and beating the Giants at their own game, pitching.
Naw, let's not go there Victorino said. But as the weeks roll by and the Phillies blaze on toward what is shaping up to be another very special season, let's just say that leaving the Giants in ruins over the weekend just reinforced what some folks have been believing for a long time.
"Best team in baseball," one scout says.
"I don't want to use the word 'statement'," Victorino said. "But it shows we can do it. Not that we ever doubted that we can, but they're the champs. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.
"In October, it's all about 5-7-7 [the round-by-round best-of series']. We tip our caps to the Giants for beating us last year. But I think this was a test for us, and we're good.
"I think people are understanding how good we are. We won in San Francisco because of our pitching. And they didn't even face our No. 1."
Instead, Roy Halladay was slotted to pitch the series opener against the Dodgers here Monday night, and the Phillies are making Jimmy Rollins look conservative. It was Rollins who predicted in February the Phillies would win 100 games.
It made headlines at the time because, well, in February, any sort of bold statement makes headlines.
But all you can say as the Phils maintain a pace to win 103 games is, the season is playing out just as many thought it could for them.
Winners of nine of their past 10 heading into this Dodgers series, they owned the game's best record at 74-40. Last time they had played at least 113 games and suffered only 40 losses, it was 1976.
Charlie Manuel's club is an equal opportunity outfit, shredding left-handed starters (against whom they're 21-9) and right-handers (53-31) alike.
Though they're only seventh in the NL in runs scored, their pitching is so dominant that their run differential (+127) is third-best in the game, trailing only the Yankees (+167) and Boston (+144).
Phillies starters lead all major-league rotations in wins (55), ERA (2.96), strikesouts (640), complete games (14, six from Halladay), quality starts (76) and fewest runs allowed (261).
Are the Phillies reaching their potential that, as far back as spring training, was set in the stratosphere?
"It's hard for us to say because we're striving to get to the World Series and win it," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's definitely a good question for when we're in the World Series.
"We definitely like our chances. We're confident. Guys are at their peaks. In '08 when we ended up winning, we were trying to find it and we ended up finding it."
As for the San Francisco series, Hamels said, "We're playing the right type of baseball. That's what you have to do in August. It's very tough for teams. It's 100 degrees, you've been pitching for 22, 24 starts [Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 24 starts], your body's fighting it, and you have to keep pushing.
"It's the countdown."
He meant for stretch-run baseball in September, and playoff ball in October.
But for the Phillies, there's a lot of counting going on right now.
And the numbers are adding up impressively.
Likes: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland extended in Detroit. They've earned their keep by keeping the Tigers relevant. ... A few days off in early August right after the trade deadline, summer sun still warm, the days long and free. ... Sandy Point in Ferndale, Wash., quarterback Jake Locker's land, right down there on Puget Sound. Beautiful. ... The oh-so-fresh halibut and salmon at Barlean's fishery down the road. Few things finer on the grill with the sun dropping behind the ocean water. ... The burritos at Chihuahua's in town. ... Jimmy Buffett's Encores disc. ... The new disc from John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Not as good as Slow Turning or Perfectly Good Guitar, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Check out I Love That Girl, Detroit Made and Adios to California.
Dislikes: All the best to Colorado right-hander Juan Nicasio. One minute, you're pitching in the majors. The next, you've got a broken bone in your neck after being hit by a line drive, and you don't know if you'll ever pitch again. Tough summer for the Rockies. Hope we see Nicasio back soon.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Wrote a note, said 'Be back in a minute'
"Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
"Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway
"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishin' my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"Now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
"Only worry in the world
"Is the tide gonna reach my chair
"Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
"Never been so happy
"Never felt so high
"And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise"
-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep
Posted on: April 25, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 9:04 pm
Major league clubs are scoring the fewest runs per game since 1992, and the drought out west is particularly to blame.
The Angels were shut out Saturday and Sunday by Boston and take a 19-inning scoreless streak into Monday night's series opener against Oakland. No wonder Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter were among those taking early batting practice in Anaheim at 3 Monday afternoon.
The Mariners rank 12th after, in 2010, scoring the fewest runs during a season (513) of any team in the designated-hitter era (since 1972).
Over in the NL, the Padres were shut out in back-to-back games last Thursday and Friday by the Phillies and have scored the fewest runs in the league. If you want to know how feeble to Padres' sticks are, just check in with tonight's starter, Dustin Moseley: The Padres have not scored one single run during the 25 2/3 innings Moseley has been on the mound this season. He's 0-3 with a 1.40 ERA.
The Padres hitters' 186 strikeouts is the most in the majors. Already in games in 2011, the Phillies' Roy Halladay has fanned 14 Padres and the Giants' Tim Lincecum 13. Brad Hawpe has whiffed 22 times in 51 at-bats.
As for the Angels and Athletics, who are set to open a three-game series in Anaheim tonight, the Angels, having been shut out in each of their past two games, have only been blanked three times in a row once in club history. That happened in June, 1978. They've never been shut out three in a row at home.
"Right now, particularly guys we've been counting on to hit in the middle of the lineup, guys are struggling," Angels manager Mike Scioscia says. "We have a few 3 for 30s -- Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Howie Kendrick ... we've got a pretty strong grouping in the middle that has been struggling for probably the last 10 games collectively.
Dislikes: Jose Contreras to the DL. Just when he was in the process of reinventing himself yet again. What a job he's done as a closer. Though for you pitch count aficionados, there's this: Contreras was DL'd after throwing 81 pitches over a five-day span. And the Phils allowed Cole Hamels to throw 126 pitches on Friday and Roy Halladay to throw 130 on Sunday. It was, though, only against the Padres. So it wasn't like every pitch was taxing.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"To workers I'm just another drone
-- Bob Seger, Feel Like a Number
Posted on: February 14, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 3:59 pm
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maybe this doesn't register on the Albert Pujols Contract Richter Scale, but there was one small ripple of curiosity as the Phillies took their Dream Rotation onto the field for the first time Monday.
"Hopefully something happens in spring training," Manuel said after the Phillies' first workout for pitchers and catchers Monday. "My extension, the contract, I don't want it to be a distraction for my team.
"I think, once the season starts, I don't want to talk about my contract."
When someone asked whether that means Manuel doesn't want to talk about it with "us or with them" -- the media or the Phillies' brass -- the manager joked, "Call Pujols and ask him."
Manuel is entering the final season of an extension he signed back in 2008 and is believed to be earning close to $2 million in 2011.
Though he was not specific, Manuel appeared to be referring to the messy way he left Cleveland in July, 2002. Then in the final year of his contract and with the Indians evolving into a youth movement -- they had traded Roberto Alomar the previous winter and they dealt ace Bartolo Colon to Montreal in late June -- Manuel was fired on July 11 following a showdown with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro when Manuel pressed for an answer on his future.
"Every now and then, you might think about something," Manuel said Monday. "But you stay focused. You stay busy, you stay focused, and things will work out."
Asked if he was surprised that he's starting spring training with no guarantees beyond this year, Manuel said, "Not really, no."
Asked if he was disappointed, Manuel didn't hesitate.
"Not really," he said.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 5:09 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Big, bold move from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel heading for Game 6 tonight: Jimmy Rollins will return to the top of the Philadelphia lineup for the first time since Game 1 of the Division Series against Cincinnati.
The Phillies traditionally are at their best with a strong Rollins batting first. But this has not been a typical season for Rollins, whose various leg ailments have sabotaged him to the point where 2010 has been as bad a year statistically as the 2007 NL MVP has had.
Two calf strains sent him to the disabled list on two different occasions. Later in the season, he was bothered by both a strained hamstring and a strained quadriceps.
Rollins is hitting just .200 with a .272 on-base percentage in eight games this postseason. But when he attempted to steal second in Game 4, the Phillies took notice. Even though he was thrown out, Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro took that as a sign that Rollins was regaining confidence in his legs.
When Rollins stole second and third in Game 5, the shortstop confirmed the initial feeling.
"The last couple of games I've seen him play, he's got more legs underneath him," Manuel said. "His foundation at the plate has been better. The other day, when he showed me he could run ... I've always looked at him as our lead-off hitter, and he's the guy. He's very knowledgeable about how to run the bases and steal."
Shane Victorino, who has batted first in each of the first five games of the NLCS for the Phillies, moves down to sixth, the spot Rollins had been holding.
"It's not that Victorino can't do it," Manuel said. "But this guy [Rollins], he's a top-notch base-stealer and base-runner."
Among the things Manuel likes about Rollins, the skipper said, "He's kind of got a little hot dog to him, and he's got a little, what do you call it, charisma. And he gets over there and starts telling the fans to yell and all this stuff.
"And the more he talks, the more I think he's going to put into performing, if that makes sense."
Yes, it's going to be an interesting night in Philadelphia tonight.
Likes: The scene in Texas as the Rangers won the AL pennant on Friday night. A lot of good people are running that organization, and a hearty congratulations to all of them. Look forward to covering the Rangers' first-ever World Series. ... Nolan Ryan's reaction when the Rangers won. ... The dozen or so folks who immediately said, "Yep, uh-huh, Tom Hicks said the Rangers would win a pennant with Alex Rodriguez on the field." ...Cannot begin to describe the gorgeous fall weather in Philadelphia. It was 60 degrees, sunny and warm when I went for a late-morning run, again down Ben Franklin Parkway, around the Philadelphia Art Museum and then along the river on Kelly Dr. What a vibrant city Philadelphia is. The pedestrian traffic, runners, bikers, walkers, sightseers ... a kaleidoscope of people, colors and activity. And a nice yellow tint to the fall leaves. ... The filet mignon at The Capital Grille (and the Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake). ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central finishing their high school football season with a 58-0 pasting of Windsor (Canada) Assumption. On to the playoffs. Go Falcons.
Dislikes: Now, I don't mean to complain. And I say this at the risk of knowing I may sound like a spoiled child. But you get so accustomed to high-definition television these days. And at my hotel in Philadelphia, not only is there no hi-def, but there aren't even flat-screen televisions in the room. And the old-school televisions that are in the room, well, they're small. Smallest I've watched since, like, college. Now none of this would matter. But it's Saturday, college football is on the tube, and I had a couple hours in the afternoon before heading to the ballpark for this 8 p.m. start.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now Texas has gotten a bad reputation
-- Ray Wylie Hubbard, Screw You, We're from Texas
Posted on: October 18, 2010 8:43 pm
Rollins, from across the bay in Oakland, will be coming home in a sense for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the NL Championship Series here. He grew up in Oakland, went to high school there (same one attended by pitcher Dontrelle Willis) and even became pals with MC "U Can't Touch This" Hammer (the Oakland native and former Athletics' batboy). His mother was a highly skilled fast-pitch softball player in the area.
Now, Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, comes back just as he might be getting untracked in this postseason.
"That's going to be fun," Rollins said late Sunday night before the Phillies chartered West. "That's going to be fun. I've got quite a ticket list. And I love playing in front of my family, friends that I haven't got to see in awhile. And also, the fans.
"They're, like, on the fence. Do they boo me? Do they get on me? Do they cheer me? So I go over there and have conversations. They crack on me, I crack back. But it was never in a situation like this."
The Phillies and Giants are even at one game apiece in this NLCS. And while Rollins has scuffled more this season than he maybe ever has in the majors because of two different calf injuries and, in September, a strained quadriceps.
He was 1-for-15 in the postseason before Game 2, but there are indications that perhaps Rollins is snapping out of that funk. He worked a bases-loaded walk in Game 2 and belted a bases-loaded, three-run double. He also singled.
"I hope it gets real special for him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Rollins' homecoming. "Jimmy's going to enjoy it.
"I hope he plays like he can. When he gets going, he's a very consistent player, and he can carry it for quite awhile."
Though this is the third consecutive NLCS for Rollins and the Phillies, the shortstop has never played a game in the Bay Area as important as this.
"I'll probably get some treatment along the lines that Pat [Burrell] got [in Philadelphia]," Rolline predicted. "Just because I'm from there and everybody knows it. But it makes the game fun. That's what you live for.
"If they don't boo you, you're probably not a good player."
Posted on: October 17, 2010 4:40 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 5:31 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- If Sunday night's Game 2 of the NL Championship Series is not a must-win for Philadelphia, it's the next-closest thing.
More worrisome for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel than losing Game 1 is the trend toward silence from the Philadelphia bats.
Which is why he's shaking up the top of the lineup for Game 2, flip-flopping Chase Utley and Placido Polanco in the Nos. 2 and 3 spots. Against Giants lefty starter Jonathan Sanchez, Utley will bat second (out of his usual third spot) and Polanco will hit third (down from No. 2 in Game 1).
"Same reason I always do it," Manuel said Sunday when quizzed about his reasoning. "I want have right-handed hitter in between [the two lefties, Utley and Ryan Howard]. Polanco's hitting third."
Clearly, Manuel also is reacting to the presence of Javier Lopez, the Giants' situational lefty, on the other side. Lopez got two huge outs in the eighth inning of Game 1 when he was summoned to face Utley and Howard. He dispatched Utley with a ground ball, struck out Howard, and his evening was finished.
They went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position against the Giants in Game 1 and, against Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco bullpen, did not advance a runner into scoring position after the third inning.
There was some speculation that Manuel might return shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the leadoff slot for Game 2, a thought fueled in part by Manuel saying late Saturday night that he would think about it.
After sleeping on the notion, though, Manuel discarded the idea and left Rollins in the sixth slot for Game 2, same spot in which he batted Saturday.
"Because when I looked, I like him right where he's at," Manuel said. "I look at how he's been doing and how we lined up against Sanchez. Victorino's got some hits against Sanchez [6-for-15 lifetime], and Jimmy is 1-for-16 against him. Utley's got a few hits [3-for-11].
"I looked at the way we lined up, and I like Jimmy where he's at right now."
It isn't only Sanchez against whom Rollins is scuffling. In four postseason games this fall, Rollins is hitting .067 [1-for-15].
Which makes it easy to understand Manuel's reluctance to move him back atop the lineup, because that's no small part of the reason the Phillies' offense has been sluggish.
So far in the playoffs, the top two slots in the Philadelphia order are hitting .161 [5-for-31].
Posted on: July 12, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 8:32 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How long has it been since the National League has won a freakin' All-Star Game?
Let's just say this: Last time the NL won, 1996 in Philadelphia, Bob Dole was running for president.
It's weird, it's bizarre, it's ugly and it's a subject the National Leaguers get tired of answering. Current count: The AL's unbeaten streak has reached 13 years, including winning the past seven in a row (since the humiliating 2002 tie in Milwaukee).
Yet silly as this sounds, there is a very real sense that the tide might be beginning to shift away from Junior Circuit dominance in the Mid-Summer Classic.
Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Florida's Josh Johnson. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. All All-Stars this year. And, Washington's Stephen Strasburg, and San Diego's Mat Latos, who very well could debut as All-Stars next summer when the game hits Phoenix.
You know about Strasburg. And Latos was the next pitcher NL manager Charlie Manuel would have chosen in the event of one more injury scratch.
"It needs to turn for us, the way it's been going," says San Diego manager Bud Black, a coach on Manuel's NL staff this week. "There are some fine young power arms in the National League.
No question. But there is more sizzle in the NL's pitching this summer -- especially given all the incredibly talented young arms -- than there has been in quite some time.
"Just looking at our staff, I know I wouldn't want to be a hitter on the other side," says Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been in the NL clubhouse for the past four losses. "We have some power arms, really, top to bottom. Just seeing their age and the ability and the upside and what they've accomplished already is amazing.
"I know how I feel with a bat in my hands in the box against these guys. Then when you string together the depth that the NL has with their young power arms, it's pretty impressive."
Jimenez comes into the game with 15 wins, a no-hitter against Atlanta this year and a 33-inning scoreless streak compiled during one especially torrid stretch in May and June.
Johnson leads the majors with a 1.70 ERA and has allowed no more than one earned run in 10 of his past 11 starts.
Lincecum has won back-to-back Cy Young awards, Strasburg is showing signs of having Cy Young stuff ... the list goes on.
In the NL, Wright has been watching most of them from the batter's box.
"You know that it's going to be a rough day when you're battling to draw a walk," Wright says. "Or you're battling to plate one guy and you know you have to be perfect as far as situational hitting just to plate a run, that you're not going to have that big inning where you can put up some crooked numbers.
"Where you have to battle and grind and fight and almost hope that the other team makes a mistake. You know what an uncomfortable at-bat it is. You know what they're capable of doing."
Add Philadelphia's veteran ace Roy Halladay, who will pitch for the NL for the first time following six All-Star appearances for the AL, and Atlanta's cagey Tim Hudson, who is making his NL debut Tuesday following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery (and two All-Star selections when he was pitching in the AL), and it's not an easy staff to face.
As for Jimenez and Johnson, the NL's two most dominant pitchers in the first half and the ones many AL hitters will see for the first time on Tuesday night, well, Wright says his least favorite to face is. ...
"Neither. We've been fortunate in that we've missed Josh Johnson the last few times we've played the Marlins, but it's no fun having him in the division.
"When you go in for a series in Miami, you always know which day Josh is pitching. You know you'd better win the game before that or the game after that or the other games because you're likely not going to win that one."
Whether the same will hold true for the All-Star Game, well ... it's got to turn one of these years, doesn't it?
Posted on: June 28, 2010 10:42 pm
Looks like Ubaldo Jimenez, the major-league leader in wins and ERA, will be plenty rested in order to start the All-Star Game for the National League if Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel is so inclined.
And given Jimenez's sensational 13-1 record and 1.60 ERA through his first 15 starts, you would think that would be among Manuel's easier decisions come Midsummer Classic time.
New rules this year will preclude any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the break from being eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game. That could make things dicey as rosters are chosen and strategy begins to take shape.
There should be no such issues, however, with Jimenez. Following Monday night's outing in San Diego, Colorado manager Jim Tracy projects him to pitch Saturday against San Francisco and then Thursday, July 8 against St. Louis.
That would put him on his regular five days' rest for Tuesday, July 13 in Anaheim.