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The Philadelphia Phillies are off start a rough start this season. What appears to be problems with the bullpen has lead to a 2-5 start in the AL East. Pitchers Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have not have not lived up to expectations thus far and no starter has made it passed the season. To complicate things Ryan Howard has not been looking so good at the plate. The good news? The Phillies have 174 more games to turn improve and turn things around. After two more home games against the New York Mets enter a 3 game series against Florida Marlins teams. If they can turn it around in this Mets series and gain some momentum against a struggling Marlins teams the Phillies can get back around or even above the .500 mark. Go Phillies!


Cy Young For 2K

National League Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay will grace the cover of MLB 2K11. Teammate Ryan Howard graced the cover of MLB 2K8. Halladay was announced as the cover boy before he won his second Cy Young award.


It’s Showtime

One more day until the big day. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you. In case you don’t know, I am referring to Game 1 of the NLCS matchup betweeen the Giants and the Phillies. Saturday night, for the 122nd consecutive game in a row, Citizens Bank Park will be roaring with pumped up Phillies fans wildly waving their white rally towels through the Philadelphia night. It will be the Phillies third straight trip to the NLCS and are seeking their third consecutive run to the World Series; a feat accomplished only once in the history of Major-League Baseball by the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals. For the third time in as many years, the Phillies will face a team from the NL West. I promise this is the last time I mention the number three.

Standing in the Fightins way are NL West champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants return to the NLCS for the first time since 2002. That year, Bonds and Co. represented the National League in the World Series losing in seven games to the Angels, whom at the time were simply known as the Anaheim Angels.

But Bonds is be nowhere to be found in this series. Instead, the man anchoring left field this time around is all too familiar to Phillie’s fans. Pat Burrell returns to Philadelphia, only this time he will sit in the visiting dugout. Phillies fans will never forget his bomb to deep centerfield that broke open Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, which ultimately lead to the game winning run and the Phillies second World Championship in the organization’s history.
I have to admit, a rush of chills just trickled down my spine and arms just thinking about that moment again. Burrell cemented himself that night in Phillies’ lore leading the parade down Broad Street. It’s a different fairytale this year. That beloved hero now resides with the enemy and would love nothing more than to spoil the hopes of another Broad Street parade.

Burrell leads a Giants team that played well down the stretch to win the division. The Giants were the second hottest team in baseball. Just so happens the Phillies were smokin’ hot at the same time and nobody paid too much attention to the Giants. However, the Phillies better give the Giants their undivided attention if they want to win this series.

This is a talented Giants team. Buster Posey is a leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. Posey came in mid-season and never looked back. He stepped in to be the every day catcher for the Giants and sured up the middle of the order that struggled to score runs before the young phenom arrived. Posey was responsible for commencing the Giants comeback in stealing Game 3 against Atlanta. However, these lights shine a bit brighter in this series and may cause some temporary blindness for Posey. Juan Uribe had a career year in 2009. He belted 24 homers and drove in 85 runs and was one of the Giants most consistent hitters throughout the season.

We all know of the Phillies big three. They will remain nameless. But the Giants counter with their own three of a kind. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez lead a Giants staff that led the National League in ERA and strikeouts during the regular season. Lincecum has won the NL Cy Young award the past two seasons. If it was not for Roy Halladay’s no hitter, Lincecum’s 14 K performance against the Braves would have been the top story in the NLDS. Matt Cain has come out of nowhere to emerge as a solid number two starter. The Phillies have had good success against him, but they will face him in Game 3 in San Francisco, where he was 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA in the regular season. Cain seems to have a knack of shutting down teams in his home ballpark. Finally, Jonathan Sanchez has been like a rubics cube for the Phillies. In his last start in Philadelphia, Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings in a 5-2 win for the Giants. The Phillies have had very little success against Sanchie, not only this year, but in years past as well. In two games against the Phils this season, Sanchez surrendered only two earned runs and five hits. He posted an ERA of 1.38, his lowest against any National League team he faced.

The Phillies will not roll through five games like they have the past two years against the Dodgers. However, the Phillies must be aggressive in their approach at the plate and be patient and wait for their pitches like they did in the previous series’ against the Dodgers. If they do that, coupled with their experience in the post season, the Phillies will make history and return to the World Series.

The stage is set for Saturday night in Philadelphia. Game 1. Halladay vs. Lincecum.
Open the curtains. The show is about to begin.


Polanco in the lineup for Game 2

After watching Roy Halladay pitch the first no-hitter in post-season history since 1954 on the bench, Placido Polanco returns to the lineup tonight against the Reds in Game 2 of the NLDS. Polanco missed game 1 with a sore back and watched one half of H2O pitch a masterpiece. After a workout Thursday, Polanco felt no pain in his back and was excited to step back on the field. Polanco will start at third base as Roy Oswalt, the other half of the H2O trio, takes the mound for the Phillies. Polanco is no stranger to the post-season. He was MVP of the 2006 ALCS with the Detroit Tigers, where they eventually lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games in the World Series. Wilson Valdez, as he has done all season, filled in admirably for Polanco in Game 1. But having Polanco in the lineup, with his .298 batting average, second on the team behind Carlos Ruiz during the regular season, and his ability to get on base, is something the Phillies will need if they hope to win a World Series for the second time in three years.


Fantastic Four

Every holiday has its colors. Halloween is quickly approaching and we will soon see the traditional black and orange decorated around neighboring houses. Sure, every family will pick a day during the next month dedicated to putting up the spooky characters and bright orange lights on their house. But you probably won’t be seeing too much orange and black(unless you’re a die-hard Flyers fan) just yet. Instead, the month of October will be filled red- Phillies red.

The headlines read Red October. The Phillies clinched their fourth consecutive division crown on Monday night after an 8-0 shutout against the Nationals. Roy Halladay, as he has done all season, was superb in the victory. Halladay had looked shaky in his last four starts throughout September. However, the Phillies won those games on a count of hitting. In those four games, the Phillies out-hit their opponent 48-38 and provided strong run support for Big Roy. Halladay was still effective enough to pitch himself out of some heart-pumping jams. Many wondered if pitching in his first pennant race was beginning to take its toll on his powerful arm. He had never experienced pitching meaningful baseball games in his thirteen seasons with the Blue Jays.

But Halladay buried those doubts six feet underneath Nationals Stadium soil with a complete game, two hit shutout. What a coincidence, huh? The place Halladay earned his first win as a Phillie was the same place he got his last, as well as solidifying himself as the NL Cy Young favorite. I guess it was only fitting for Halladay to be on the mound and win the division clincher. It’s one-half of the reason why you brought him here. The baseball gods sure have a funny way of doing things.

Now, Halladay can enjoy some well-deserved rest, which will be very beneficial for him heading into the playoffs. The NLDS begins a week from today. And that right arm will be feeling like a piece of fresh meat after a nine day layoff. And that’s bad news bears for whomever is dealt the hand as the Phils NLDS opponent.

As much of a whirlwind season it has been, in the end, the Phillies turned it on when they had to and took care of business. They got the job done and are playing like the team that has won the hearts of the people of Philadelphia. There’s no looking back in the rearview mirror now. It’s time to crank up the engine and step on the gas pedal until the spedometer can no longer reach speed. And that’s what the Phillies have been able to do each of the past two years.

Halladay will experience first hand the atmosphere and the pressure of the post season. I don’t think he’d want it any other way.


Blanton, Phils look to continue hot streak

I glanced at my watch and the day reads September 24th. If you recall, and I understand if you would like not to, the Phillies were in the process of a dreadful four game sweep of the cellar dweller Houston Astros. The Phillies were horrific in that series. It was like they were learning to play baseball for the first time. I think, Japan, winners of the 2010 Little League World Series, could have swept the Phillies. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but that’s how ugly it was. The Phillies scored 7 runs in that series. The offense was swinging at golf balls. The runners on base were daydreaming instead of baserunning and J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, and Michael Bourn each stuck it to the Phils in one way or another. How can we forget that Michael Bourn scored on a single from first base? Now, do you understand the ugliness? The worse movie I’ve ever seen was Boogeyman. And I would’ve much rather have watched that instead.

However, since that time, something finally clicked with this team. The Phillies went 6-1 on the West Coast road trip following the Astros series. The three game sweep of the Padres turned the season around. It was exactly what this team needed. To get away from Citizens Bank Park and focus on nothing but baseball. In that series, the Phils played situational baseball, the exact opposite of what they did against Houston. They had timely hitting coupled with great defense and great pitching, which has consistently carried this team throughout this wacky season. Ironic, isn’t it?

Thanks to the Phillies, the Padres endured a 10 game losing streak beginning with that set at Petco. But that’s for the people in San Diego to discuss. The Phillies are 22-4 since Aug. 27th and have won 10 straight. During that span, the Phils overtook Atlanta for the division lead for the first since May 31st. The offense rose from the dead and the foursome of Utley, Howard, Werth and Ibanez are producing the way every Phillies fan expected. The “RRRRAAAAUUUULLLL” chants that roared throughout the stadium last season have erupted again. And that’s something to get excited about.

The magic number to clinch is four and coming to town tonight is the New York Mets. A team that would want nothing more then to cool off the Phillies. But if the Phillies continue to play the way they have been, the Mets don’t stand a chance. And I don’t see that happening. C’mon people, it’s the Mets. What a great way to greet them then another shelacking of R.A. Dickey at the bank this evening.

Despite this hot streak, there’s still much work to be done. Uncle Charlie said it best “You’re not in until you’re in. First, we got to get in.”


His name is Oswalt

It’s hard to believe that Roy Oswalt, at first, had concerns about coming to Philadelphia. The main reason being he did not want to pitch in a stadium that boos their players. Other factors weighed in too, such as receiving his 23 million dollars owed to him for the remaining 2 years of his contract with Houston. Thanks again for that, Ed. Don’t think we truly told you that yet. Another concern being that he’d have to pitch in yet another hitter’s park. But the fact of matter was, he desperately wanted out of Houston and Philly was the best offer on the table. So, Ed Wade, former Phillies manager, pulled the trigger on the deal, and, not only sent Roy Oswalt, but 11 million dollars in cash on the side. If Philly can reach the World Series for a third consecutive year, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1942-1944, this trade will solidify itself as one of the best in the history of Phillies baseball. And if they win, Ed Wade deserves the Executive of the Year award.

Those thoughts quickly vanished for Oswalt once he arrived in Philadelphia. Now, he is on a team first in the division and looking like a championship team once again. He got off to a shaky start in his first outing with the Phillies. Ironically, against the team he’ll face tonight- the Washington Nationals. Oswalt gave up 5 runs, 4 of them earned in the loss. However, since then, Oswalt has been downright dominant. He has pitched at least 6 innings in all nine of his starts with the Phillies. He has won all 3 of his decisions in the month of September, his last one in convincing fashion- a complete game shutout of the Mets. He carries a league-best 1.61 ERA in September heading into tonight’s game.

He has proven he can pitch in a playoff race and is proving it once again. If you don’t think so, just ask Brad Lidge. He was teammates with Oswalt in Houston during their run to the World Series in ‘05 and the NLCS in ‘06, watching him pitch his way to the NLCS MVP in ‘05 against the Cardinals. Lidge saw first-hand just how dominant Oswalt can be and knew he would like it in Philadelphia. And he was right. Oswalt recently mentioned how excited he is to pitch in a playoff race again. It has been a long time coming for him and it’s the reason why Ruben Amaro brought him here. There’s no reason to think Oswalt will stop this string of dominance. He has quickly become a fan favorite in Philadelphia. We’ve even seen that southern-style smile a few times on the mound. Tell me the last time Roy Oswalt smiled in a game.

Oswalt brings that same kind of Cliff Lee, horse-work like style that Phillies fans became enamored with last year. Oswalt is an intimidating presence and opposing hitters know that. He has that edge about him that you love to see from a pitcher. By having that, it allows him to just go out and do what he has does best- pitch. Everything else is just an added bonus. Think of the possiblities in this year’s playoffs. Just put in perspective how much better this rotation is with a guy like Oswalt. Maybe it would have been a different outcome last year having him pitch Game 2 and Game 6 instead of an aged Pedro Martinez. But what the Phillies have done now is put themselves in prime position to win it all again this year by adding this dimension.

So, if you haven’t been watching, or haven’t given your undivided attention to Mr. Oswalt, I suggest tonight, you stay in, crack open a bottle of wine, beer, soda, whatever is your preferred beverage of choice, kick back that recliner chair and watch Oswalt pitch. You’ll begin to understand what I’m talking about.


Filet MignFish

I think it’s safe to say that Cole Hamels is back. If you still had your doubts about Hamels, he laid them all to rest with last night’s performance against the Marlins. To say Hamels was dominant is an understatement- he was god-like. For those of you that have an imagination, picture Zeus, the most powerful god in Greek mythology, the god of sky and lightning, on the mound last night in Sun Life Stadium striking the Marlins one by one with his almighty thunderbolt. That’s the kind of performance Hamels displayed to the world last night.

His 13 K’s was a season high. Despite once again not receiving run support, he kept the Phillies in the game with a stellar 6 2/3 innings of brilliant pitching. He did not let up a run after the Uggla single in the bottom half of the first inning. The Phils offense was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base. The big four(if you want to count Ibanez) was 0-for-12 last night combining for 3 strikeouts. Its been a recurring theme for this team when Hamels takes the mound. The offense, for one reason or another, becomes anemic when Hamels pitches. It’s a testament to Hamels for keeping quiet and doing what he has done so well this year- just pitch, baby!

Through the month of September, Hamels has held opposing hitters to a .180 average. and posted an astounding 0.44 ERA. Since the all-star break, Hamels has allowed 18 runs over his last 82 2/3 innings with an ERA of 1.96. He has held opposing hitters to .200 during this stretch. Oh, and one more thing, he’s now second in the NL in strikeouts with 201 behind some guy named Halladay. There’s a reason why this man was the NLCS and World Series MVP in the Phillies championship season in 2008. He has established himself as one of the better pitchers in the National League. He’s pitching his best baseball when it matters. And that’s all you can ask for if you’re Charlie Manuel.

It wasn’t long ago when fans in Philadelphia had given up on Hamels and wanted him traded. The one question I have to ask is, What do you think about that idea now? If you’re like me, and think that’s one of the most boneheaded ideas you’ve ever heard, then you’re right. Guess Ruben knew what he was doing on this one.


Phillies Look to Extend Wild Card Lead

The streaking Phillies will go for the series sweep of the Giants tonight at Citizens Bank Park as Cole Hamels takes the mound against Jonathon Sanchez. Coming into the series, the two teams were tied for the Wild Card. With a win tonight, the Phils will find themselves a full 3 games up over the Giants in the Wild Card.

Hamels has pitched extremely well of late but has been victimized by terrible run support, loosing two straight 1-0 decisions. Most recently, he pitched 7 innings of one run ball against the Mets and also had the Phillies lone hit in the ballgame. Despite the poor run support for Hamels, the Phillies’ bats have been a major reason they are the hottest team in baseball since July. They have won 20 of 25 and improved their home record to 40-20.

Unfortunately for the Phils, the Braves have also caught fire recently, and still hold a 2.5 game lead in the division. But the Phillies offense is starting to show signs of life, and with the return of slugger Ryan Howard on Monday, the sky is the limit for this lineup. If they continue to get even close to the starting pitching they’ve gotten all year, they will have re-taken the division lead by the first week in September. Mark my words.

It’s really incredible the Phils are in such a favorable position heading into the final month of the season. When you think about everything they’ve been through this year–from major injuries, to bullpen woes, to having virtually no offense for a large portion of the year–they’re lucky to still be in it. It’s a true testament not only to the heart and character of this team, but also to how much starting pitching dominates the game today. Even when all else was failing, the strength of their starting five kept the season alive for the Fightins.


Oswalt Arrives

The Phillies have acquired Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros for J.A. Happ and a few prospects. The move came just a few days before the MLB trade deadline. Oswalt, 32, decided to waive his no-trade clause to allow the deal to go through. Seeing as how Happ is a young arm, and Oswalt’s best days are behind him, this is clearly a win-now move.

However, many question why the Phillies got rid of Cliff Lee. At the time, they got some prospects for him. However, those prospects are not at the level of what they gave up for Oswalt. So essentially, they downgraded in prospects, as well as pitching. Regardless, this was a pretty necessary move and it really moves the Phillies back into Wild Card contention. It was a good move now, but the Phillies may regret not keeping Lee.


 
     
     
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