Last night’s NLCS Game 4 was just a little too stressful for my tastes. After jumping out to an early lead in the first inning via a Ryan Howard long ball (which I missed, by the way, while helping my young procrastinator finish a school project which was due today), the Phils’ bats went silent as Randy Wolf found his groove for the next several innings.
Joe Blanton, on the other hand, started out strong, but then began to falter the second time through the Dodgers’ lineup. The Dodgers took a 4-2 lead, and I began to resemble this:
Yep, I was giving some serious hairy eyeballs to the Dodgers, particularly when ManChild, oops I mean ManRam, was for once not “being Manny” in the outfield, as he ran in to make a shoestring catch on an Ibanez liner to end a Phillies scoring threat.
The Phils did manage to cut the margin to 4-3, but the Dodgers still held a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. But now it was payback time. Last Friday, it was the Phillies who blew the one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth to lose, 2-1, when their pitching began to unravel.
Jonathon Broxton, last night was your turn.
Broxton retired Ibanez for out number one. Matt Stairs came in to pinch hit, and worked a walk; Eric Bruntlett came in to pinch run. After Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch to put two men on base, Greg Dobbs came in to pinch hit and was retired on a humpback liner to third.
Two outs, I’m starting to imagine how bad my mood will be today.
Up to the plate comes Jimmy Rollins, who was only hitting .167 so far in the NLCS (not good, Jimmy). Miraculously, Jimmy smoked a liner to the gap in right to score both Bruntlett and Ruiz. Happiness ensued! I felt like doing this:
but unfortunately I don’t live near a beach (must change that situation!).
In the postgame interview, Rollins looked like he was doing his best Etta James impersonation:
Love the look, Jimmy – I hope we see it again this season!
The Joy of the NLCS Schedule (she says sarcastically)
So why is it that during the regular season, teams can play eight, nine, even ten games in a row, but come the postseason, they can’t seem to play more than two days in a row?? Why exactly do we need an off-day in the middle of the three games being played in Philadelphia? I’m sure it has something to do with TV and advertising revenues, but I don’t like it.
The Joy of Technology
It seems that StubHub experienced an “email glitch”, and accidentally sent messages to fans of the Mets that said,
“Be there alongside your New York Mets as they chase baseball immortality. Go to StubHub, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of tickets to every playoff game — so you experience the championship chase live and in person.”
Hee hee! I wonder if there were any dimbulb Mets fans who got confused and actually tried to order tickets?
Apparently fans of a few other non-playoff teams also got erroneous messages (see full story here), but I always take secret glee in the travails of Mets fans. Sorry, but I can’t help it :-).
They say that “hitting is timing”.
According to Warren Spahn, “pitching is upsetting timing”.
Thanks to Cole and Heidi Hamels, we now can surmise that “timing of wife going into labor is upsetting pitching”. Cole was not sharp in yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, giving up four runs in five innings.
Ah yes, timing. Cole Hamels, who seems to already have his whole career planned out, was certainly not thinking ahead when he and Heidi decided to engage in some baby-making, presumable back in January. Would it have been that hard to realize that January plus nine months equals new baby smack in the middle of playoffs? Maybe he was assuming the Phillies wouldn’t make it to the postseason?
(alright, yes that last paragraph was typed with tongue planted in cheek, but still…)
As for Baby Hamels, I haven’t been able to find any confirmation this morning that the baby actually arrived. Nonetheless, congrats to the new parents.
Which leads me to wonder why Charlie even decided to have Cole start this game, if labor was that imminent. Sure, we can say that professional athletes should be able to set their personal lives aside while on the field, but who knows how much that might have affected his concentration?
And then there’s Cole’s abysmal record in day games this season: 0-6 with a 5.44 ERA. What’s up with that? His performance in night games is markedly better, at 10-5 with a 3.95 ERA. No wonder he was whining to the press earlier this week about the ridiculous start times of Games 1 and 2.
So why not start Happ or Blanton? Okay, Happ had pitched two innings in the final regular season game on October 4th, but Blanton had last pitched on October 2nd. As it turned out, both Happ and Blanton were used out of the bullpen, so now the Phils have burned through three starters in one game.
That would seem to leave Pedro Martinez as the Game 3 starter, though Charlie has not yet made his decision, saying Blanton is still in the mix, according to phillies.com. Happ says he would be ready too, even though he took a liner off the leg yesterday from the first batter he faced.
Now the series moves to Denver, where the forecast for Game 3 includes temperatures in the 30’s and snow showers (!). That’s football weather, not baseball. At least I’ll be watching from the cozy comfort of my home.
The Phillies somehow managed to sweep the Nationals in four games over the weekend, despite more shaky starting pitching.
On Friday, Joe Blanton gave up 4 earned runs in 5 innings, and did not get a decision. However, the Phillies won, 10-6, in extra innings, thanks to a four-run top of the 12th.
In the first game of Saturday’s day-night double-header, Brett Myers turned in the only quality start of the weekend, giving up 2 earned runs in 7 innings to get the win. Incidentally, both runs were the result of solo home runs – only one other hit was recorded off Myers. The bullpen gave up 3 runs in the 8th to make the game a little closer, but Brad Lidge finally had a solid outing to nail down the 8-5 victory.
In the rain-shortened second game, Andrew Carpenter made his major-league debut and proceeded to give up 5 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, but amazingly earned the win anyway. Carpenter was the lucky beneficiary of a relatively new and little-known rule which allows the win to go to a pitcher who has pitched less than 5 innings if the game itself is shortened to 5. He was also the beneficiary of a two-run Ryan Howard homer and a three-run Raul Ibanez blast, propelling the Phillies to a 7-5 win.
And lastly, Chan Ho Park gave up 5 earned runs in a mere 1 1/3 innings on Sunday. Thanks to the bullpen, the Phillies were able to record a 8-6 victory.
So How About Those Starters?
In my last entry, I took a look at the ERAs of the starting pitchers. So how did the four-game sweep of the Nationals affect their stats? Incredibly, two of the three regular starters made their ERAs worse!
Only Brett Myers improved, lowering his ERA from 4.81 to 4.50. Joe Blanton’s went up ever so slightly, from 6.82 to 6.86. And Chan Ho Park, after two recent good outings, again stunk it up, with the resulting jump in ERA from 6.00 to 7.08.
Even Andrew Carpenter’s performance, despite getting the win, gave him a less-than-stellar 10.38.
Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer did not pitch in this series, so their ERAs remain unchanged (5.04 and 8.15, respectively).
Again, infer what you want from this information.
Jackie Robinson, Rain Maker?
The Phillies and Nationals were originally scheduled to honor Jackie Robinson on April 15, along with the rest of MLB. But that game was rained out.
So as part of the rescheduled game, the players all donned the number 42 for Saturday’s second game. Guess what happened?
At least they were able to get five innings in before the skies opened, making for an official, though rain-shortened, game.
Tomorrow, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have an unusually early day game, scheduled to start at 10:35 in the morning. The weather forecast is calling for a very pleasant day, and since the kids will be in school, my husband is playing hooky from work and the two of us will be enjoying a day at the ballpark.
Although, even though we will be without our own kids, we will likely be surrounded by other people’s kids, as it is Education Day at Lehigh Valley, hence the unusual start time. I’m guessing the park will be full of school groups, though I’m not sure how taking kids to a baseball game instead of school is educational. Maybe there will be statistics lessons between innings?
The Phillies are off today. They open a six-game road trip tomorrow night in Cincinnati, and then travel to New York for three interleague games against the Yankees.
Last night, the Phillies took on the NL Central-leading Cardinals in St. Louis, and emerged victorious. Joe Blanton held the Cards to just one run over six innings, and managed to wiggle out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth.
After getting a groundout to start the inning, Blanton walked Ryan Ludwick and hit Rick Ankiel to put runners on first and second. The next batter hit a grounder to Pedro Feliz, who proceeded to have a brain cramp, and apparently couldn’t decide whether to tag the lead runner coming towards him, or throw the ball to second.
He hesitated, and we all know what they say about he who hesitates.
“He who hesitates loads the bases.” No, wait, that’s not it. “He who hesitates incurs the wrath of the Phans.” Oh, that’s not it either. Actually it’s “He who hesitates is lost,” but that just doesn’t sound as interesting.
Anyway, the next two batters struck out and grounded into a fielders choice, respectively, to end the inning. The bullpen once again pitched three scoreless relief innings, and Blanton got the win as the Phillies came out on top, 6-1.
Ryan Howard had reason to be smiling after this game, as he hit his second grand slam of the season in the fifth inning. This was Howard’s seventh career slam, tying him with Mike Schmidt for the franchise record. I’m sure this is a record that will be broken, as Howard still has plenty of seasons ahead of him.
Scary Moment of the Game
In the top of the eighth, St. Louis centerfielder Rick Ankiel ran face-first into the outfield wall after catching a fly ball off the bat of Feliz. The ball rolled away from his hand as he fell to the ground, and it was not immediately clear if Feliz was out or not (he was).
Ankiel was taken to the hospital after being carted off the field. X-rays and scans were negative, but he was kept overnight for observation. Thankfully, it seems that he will be OK, and he has since been released from the hospital.
I will admit that I am not a fan of Ankiel, but I would never want to see an opposing player seriously hurt during a game. What’s really unbelievable to me is some of the comments that I have seen posted to coverage of the incident – derogatory comments directed to Ankiel, or people only wanting him to be OK because he is on their fantasy team. What is wrong with these people?!
Anyway, tonight is the conclusion of this quick two-game series, and then it’s on to New York for two games at Citi Field. Two more chances to kick some Met butt for me, guys! I know you can do it!
(Howard photo by me; other photo by Jeff Roberson/AP)