Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:47 pm
LOS ANGELES -- All credit to the all-world Phillies rotation. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is pitching for a place in history.
And we've all seen the damage wreaked by a highly decorated lineup led by Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
But you don't compile baseball's best record based behind just eight or nine players. And as such, the Phillies are getting plenty of help from these easily overlooked parts in their machine:
-- Reliever Antonio Bastardo: With closer Brad Lidge on the shelf for most of the season, Bastardo has played a key, late-innings role and currently is holding opponents to a .128 batting average -- second lowest among NL relievers. His 1.49 ERA is fifth-lowest among NL relievers.
-- Starter Vance Worley: With Joe Blanton done for the year, Worley is 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA and currently has won six consecutive decisions. He's fanned 66 hitters against only 28 walks in 84 1/3 innings.
-- Infielder Michael Martinez: With third baseman Placido Polanco hurt again, it is Martinez, plucked from the Nationals as a Rule V pick last winter, who is providing steady relief. Martinez's 15 RBI during the month of July ranked third among all NL rookies, behind Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (18) and the Padres' Jesus Guzman (18).
-- Outfielder John Mayberry Jr.: Acquired from Texas in a trade in November, 2008, Mayberry, 27, continues to develop into a serviceable backup outfielder with an intriguing future. Of his past 23 hits, 17 have gone for extra bases (and overall, 52.5 percent of his major league hits, 31 of 59, have been for extra bases).
-- Infielder Wilson Valdez: He's plugged in at second base, third base and shortstop at various times this season and, in an extra-innings pinch against the Reds on May 25, became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to start a game in the field and then become the winning pitcher. Though light-hitting overall, Valdez is batting .390 with runners in scoring position this season.
Shane Victorino, twice a Rule V pick himself (the Phillies took him from the Padres in 2004 after the Padres took him from the Dodgers in 2002), raves about Martinez and the "energy" he brings.
"Little pieces," Victorino says. "It always takes 25 guys. Somebody gets hurt, somebody else steps in."
Recalling when the Phillies signed pitcher Pedro Martinez for the stretch run in '09, Victorino said he was extremely wary of Martinez because of the reputation the pitcher brought as a fiery headhunter. But Martinez went 5-1 for Philadelphia in nine starts, pitched the Phillies into position to beat the Dodgers in a key NLCS game and Victorino now calls Martinez "the greatest teammate I've ever had."
"Here, it's all about winning, and winning right now," Victorino says. "If you don't care about winning, don't show up.
"We have so many superstars in here -- MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers. But Martinez is no different from me because it's all about winning."
That's the way it is throughout the Phillies' clubhouse right now, an impressive culture that is steamrolling everything in its path.
Likes: With the trade deadline having passed and at least a little more free time in August, looking forward to a big date night with my wife to see Crazy, Stupid Love sometime soon. ... Lots of TV to catch up on as well: Last couple episodes of Treme, last five episodes of Friday Night Lights (that's only with trepidation, though, because it's the last season and while I can't wait to see the last few FNLs, I don't want to get through them because then one of my favorite shows in recent memory will be done, sniff, sniff) and the first few episodes of Entourage. ... Haven't gotten all the way through it yet, but I'm liking Sky Full of Holes, the new Fountains of Wayne disc.
Dislikes: I realize there are plenty of parents out there who disagree with me, but man I hate to see summer dwindle down to its last few weeks before school starts again. Summer is never, ever long enough.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Then she wakes me with coffee
"And kisses my head
"And she starts to explain
"About something she's read
"I say, 'Darlin', you haven't heard a word that I've said'
"And I love that girl."
-- John Hiatt, I Love That Girl
Tags: Antonio Bastardo, Babe Ruth, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Fountains of Wayne, Friday Night Lights, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, John Hiatt, John Mayberry Jr., Michael Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Vance Worley, Vance Worley, WIlson Valdez
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: June 22, 2011 7:17 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 7:20 pm
LOS ANGELES -- He scoots. He scrams. He flips and darts.
See, that's because Lopes has been working with Gordon since 2006, when Gordon's father, Tom, worked in the Philadelphia bullpen and Lopes served as a Phillies' coach.
Dee Gordon was 18 then, and even skinnier.
"He used to come to the ballpark and work out, take ground balls before he signed," says Lopes of Gordon, whom the Dodgers drafted in the fourth round in 2008.
Three years later, here they are, together again on the other coast.
"It's crazy," says Gordon, getting a chance while Rafael Furcal is on the disabled list. "It's the game, I guess."
Lopes was high on Gordon back then, and remains high on him.
"Most people question him because of his build, whether he can stand up to the rigors of a major-league season," Lopes says. "But the only guy I can compare him to is, when Ozzie Smith started, he wasn't very big, either," Lopes says. "And from the left side, you could knock the bat out of his hands, literally.
"He was very thin in San Diego. Maybe not as thin as Dee. But he was no body builder. Can it happen [with Dee]? Who knows? I don't think with Ozzie, people back then said he would be a Hall of Famer."
Lopes isn't putting Gordon in the Hall, rather, his point simply is, who knows? It's tough to put limits on kids this young either way -- what they can't do, or what they can do.
Gordon punched out multi-hit games in six of his first 13 starts -- he's also got four steals -- and he impressed Tigers manager Jim Leyland this week.
"He's going to be a hell of a player," Leyland said. "He's not bigger than a half-minute right now. He's going to be a tremendous player."
In 13 games, he's hitting .273 with a .298 on-base percentage. He remembers Lopes hitting him hundreds of ground balls when he was a kid in Philadelphia, and he remembers watching intently as Lopes talked stealing and baserunning with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.
"He's very receptive to constructive criticism," Lopes says. "He wants to know when he's done something wrong. And that's the only way to get better.
"He's got a lot of energy. He has good genes, he's been around the clubhouse."
Likes: Congrats to Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper on his new five-year deal in Chicago. Good broadcaster, good guy. ... Cameron Diaz on the Late Show with David Letterman this week. ... Bad Teacher looks like it's going to be a hoot. ... The Drive-By Truckers on Letterman this week. ... Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the art of bringing people together and bridging the gaps between disagreements: Mexican food and beer.
"We said we'd walk together baby come what may
-- Bruce Springsteen, If I Should Fall Behind
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: November 4, 2009 5:12 pm
NEW YORK -- Shane Victorino, whose right index finger was badly bruised when he was hit by an A.J. Burnett pitch the other day, is starting and playing center field for Philadelphia in Game 6 of the World Series tonight.
"He's fine," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says.
Posted on: November 3, 2009 2:39 am
PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Yankees already having lost center fielder Melky Cabrera (hamstring strain) for the duration of the World Series in Game 4, the Phillies came darn close to losing their center fielder for good in Game 5.
Shane Victorino apparently will survive to play another day, but the knuckle on his right index finger was swollen and purple late Monday night.
Still, he was relieved because when he was hit with an A.J. Burnett pitch in the first inning of Philadelphia's 8-6 Game 5 loss, he feared it was broken.
"The trainer looked at it and we were like, 'Oh no'," Victorino said. "When he hit me, I thought, 'Oh my gosh.'"
The Phillies X-rayed it in the second inning and determined that there were no fractures. Victorino determined he was good enough to keep playing, though manager Charlie Manuel replaced him with Ben Francisco in center field in the eighth inning.
Victorino didn't want to leave and, though he was already on the field when Francisco came out, he said it simply was a "mix-up" and he wasn't upset with Manuel for replacing him.
As for the finger, he said it bothered him more gripping the bat than throwing, though he added "it feels fine."
He also was sure Burnett was not intentionally throwing at him. Some questioned whether the Yankees right-hander might be given that Phillies pitchers have hit Alex Rodriguez with pitches three times in this series.
"During his at-bat, when he walked up [to the plate], he asked Carlos [Ruiz, Phillies catcher] how I was doing and said, 'I wasn’t trying to hit him,'" Victorino said. "For him to do that means a lot."
Victorino also said Burnett acknowledged him on the field as if to say, "Sorry."
"He looked over at me when I was at first base and he gave me a nod like, 'My bad'," Victorino said.
The Phillies' biggest worry now, of course, is whether it will worsen overnight. But with Tuesday's travel day, they get a break and Victorino gets an extra 24 hours to heal.
"Probably [Tuesday] his finger is going to be sore," Manuel said. "It's definitely not broken or didn't have a fracture. ... A couple of days it probably is going to be OK."
Posted on: July 15, 2009 2:51 am
ST. LOUIS -- The Hawaiian Punch, as Shane Victorino became known during last fall's postseason, had a treat waiting for President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
When he singled in the second inning of the American League's eventual 4-3 win, Obama was in the broadcast booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
"By the way," Obama told them. "Since I grew up in Hawaii, this kid, while we were down in the clubhouse, he actually gave me some macadamia nuts from back home."
Victorino smiled following the game after a night which he called a "wonderful experience."
"It went well," he said of Obama's clubhouse visit. "He was very appreciative. It was nice to see a fellow Hawaiian and give him his gift of Aloha."
Victorino said Obama held the nuts aloft, showing his gift to the rest of the NL players.
Though Obama did not wear his White Sox jacket into the NL clubhouse, nobody in there seemed offended when he wore it onto the field.
"You have to honor the fact that he's true to his convictions and loyalty," Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman said.
A member of the Secret Service briefed the NL team about 20 minutes before Obama's arrival, explaining which door he would enter through and what the procedure would be. He visited the AL clubhouse, too.
"When you see the president in the room you're in, it's pretty cool," Hoffman said. "I enjoyed it."
Likes: Very cool seeing Stan Musial driven in from right field during pre-game ceremonies. Stan the Man looked pretty good. ... The pre-game ceremony, which also included Cardinal Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter and Ozzie Smith, was nicely done. ... Carl Crawford as the game's MVP. He's a good guy and he's sure put in his time for some bad Tampa Bay teams before reaching the pinnacle. Plus, he was hurt down the stretch last year and couldn't even contribute much when Tampa Bay finally turned in a winner. ... Sheryl Crow singing the national anthem. Great voice, seems like a real sweet gal. She smiled and said hello to me as we passed in a hallway under the stadium before Tuesday's game. .... Good weather, no rain. ... St. Louis was one big party this week. Very festive downtown, and the people wearing red, my goodness! Colleague Danny Knobler observed that at most All-Star Games, you see fans wearing all sorts of different team T-shirts and caps. Not here. It was one big red sea. ... The Arch and the Mississippi River never get old. ... Whatever your political persuasion, it is very cool to be in the same place where the president is throwing out a first ball. ... A few post-All-Star break days off.
Dislikes: No baseball on Wednesday.
Posted on: October 25, 2008 7:41 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- After considering splitting lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup so that the Phillies wouldn't be so susceptible to left-handed relievers in the late innings, manager Charlie Manuel decided to leave his lineup mostly intact for Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night.
Utley remains in the three hole and Howard is hitting cleanup.
"I thought about maybe switching Howard and Utley, but when I go back to it, if you look at their production against left-handed pitchers, they're as high as anyone on our team.
"Jayson Werth has 16 homers, he's got good numbers against lefties. But Utley and Howard, they've got numbers that go against lefties, and I didn't see no reason why to bust them up."
Against left-handed pitchers this year, Utley hit 13 homers and had 33 RBI. Howard had 14 homers and 49 RBI.
The one move Manuel did make -- and it's been part of his regular lineup rotation all year -- is move right fielder Jayson Werth into the second slot and drop Shane Victorino to sixth. Also, Pedro Feliz is playing third base instead of Greg Dobbs.
Manuel is hoping that this will bring the desired results to the Phillies lineup. They are 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position in this series (.036), and their overall postseason hasn't been much better. In three series so far -- against the Cubs in the divisional series, Dodgers in the NLCS and the Rays -- the Phillies are 18-for-102 (.176) with runners in scoring position.
Meantime, at 7:37 EDT here, the tarp remains on the field, a steady rain is falling and a warm wind is blowing hard. Still, the latest I'm hearing is that baseball officials think the worst of it will be past by 8 and they're hoping to get the game in after a short delay.