The Weekend Buzz while you were hitting the back-to-school sales (and in Los Angeles, looking for cheap Manny jerseys). ...
|Manager Charlie Manuel: 'When you're not scoring runs, and it's hard for us to score runs, you'd better get some pitching.' (Getty Images)|
Instead, in the dressing room afterward, perplexed Phillies third-base coach Davey Lopes wondered aloud: "Why did this guy come out of the game?"
"Davey," pitching coach Rich Dubee told Lopes. "He's been sick for three days. He hasn't been able to keep anything down."
Nothing except opposing batters. As the Phillies put themselves back together now that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each is back from the disabled list -- and sweeping the first-place Padres this weekend might have been the public coming-out party -- the biggest shocker remains, Halladay's ace status notwithstanding, that it's pitching that is carrying the Phillies.
"When you're not scoring runs, and it's hard for us to score runs, you'd better get some pitching," manager Charlie Manuel said after Cole Hamels' 5-0 gem Sunday.
Scoring generally has come so easy it's almost been an afterthought in the Utley/Howard/Jimmy Rollins/Jayson Werth/Shane Victorino era. But because of injuries and subpar seasons, the Phillies this year rank fifth in the NL in runs scored.
While that's not bad, consider this: At their current pace, the Phillies will score 744 runs this season -- their lowest total since 2002.
Rollins has missed 60 games because of a troublesome right calf. Utley missed 43 games with a thumb injury. Howard recently missed 16 with a left ankle sprain.
The Phillies still aren't quite sure Utley is closing in on 100 percent. He has always kept his mouth shut and played through injuries. Few knew the extent of his sore hip in '08 until he underwent surgery after the season. Howard's ankle is still sore, and the problem is that the lefty swinger still isn't able to drive off the foot and into a pitch as strongly as he would like.
The Phillies were reeling when they arrived in San Diego, having been swept in four games by the lowly Astros. But after pushing the Padres' losing streak to a season-high four games, things are looking up.
"You have to let the game come to you," Rollins said. "That's all you can do. You can't make baseball happen."
So the Phillies aren't. With Rollins hitting .248 and Victorino scuffling along at .222 against right-handers, it is Halladay, Hamels and, lately, newcomer Roy Oswalt who have played huge roles in keeping alive the Phillies' hopes of becoming the first NL team to win three consecutive pennants since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals.
With Halladay (16-9, 2.22 ERA), who next starts Monday night in Los Angeles, anything seems possible.
"There's pitchers and then there's this guy," Lopes says. "Halladay is in a league by himself."
And Hamels, who won for the first time since July 11 (and won on the road for the first time since June 13)?
"As far as I'm concerned, Hamels is better this year than the year we won the World Series," Lopes says.
2. Stephen Strasburg, we hardly knew ye: Elbow injury and impending Tommy John ligament transfer surgery expected to cancel Strasmas in D.C. until 2012. You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
3. No Manny Land: The White Sox claimed the one-time slugger and female fertility drug aficionado off waivers, and now sources tell CBSSports.com that a deal sending Ramirez to the Land of Oz(zie Guillen) should happen on Monday. Maybe when he gets to Chicago, he'll even stick around for an entire at-bat for Ozzie Guillen's playoff-hopeful club. The guy wears out his welcome more quickly than body odor.
4. Giant problems with The Freak: San Francisco's wild-card chances are looking more shaky by the day, because the Giants must pitch to get there, and it's beyond the point where anyone can reasonably think that ace Tim Lincecum is going to get it together in 2010.
He's a complete mess. His mechanics are out of whack. He's so lost he's experimenting, changing his mechanics and going back to old ones. Earlier this year, he wasn't doing much of his between-starts work. He hasn't been in touch as often with his father, Chris, who always has been his pitching guru.
"Lincecum is done," one long-time scout said the other day in a very harsh assessment. "I think he's finished. He used to sit at 92, 93 [mph with his fastball] and then hop it up to 96, 97. Now, he sits at 89, 90 and when he reaches back, it's 96, 97. And the problem is, his offspeed stuff isn't effective enough to compensate."
I think it's too early to say a two-time Cy Young winner is done, especially when it hasn't even been a year since his second Cy. But Lincecum now has lost five consecutive decisions for the first time in his career. He went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in August.
It's like he's, oh, I don't know, A.J. Burnett or something.
5. Andy Pettitte: When is a simple side session so important in August? When A.J. Burnett has surrendered 27 runs in 30 August innings, that's when. Burnett is 0-4 with a 7.80 ERA this month and is so bad he makes Javier Vazquez look like a shiny new Porsche. The Yanks' rotation rusting out, Pettitte's encouraging side session before Sunday's game in Chicago now looks more important than ever. Meantime, all the corrosion simply makes CC Sabathia look more superhuman. At 18-5, Sabathia is two wins away from an achievement he's never before conquered: 20 wins. With six starts left, his chances look pretty good. Unless Burnett starts coming out of the bullpen to relieve him.
6. Jose Bautista now has 42 home runs: Just making sure people notice what an incredible season Bautista is having. Because, you know, that would have translated to 82 homers in Steroid Era Dog Years.
7. Twins acquire Brian Fuentes: The Angels become the latest team to give up on 2010. As for the Twins, the strategy of promoting Brian Duensing to the rotation in lieu of retreads like Ted Lilly or Jake Westbrook while beefing up bullpen (Matt Capps, Fuentes) is looking inspired. And it will look even more inspired if it helps them get past the Yankees in the first round in October for once.
8. Last licks magic in Atlanta: Last licks magic in Atlanta. Sorry, that double-exposure isn't a typo. Just had to review via replay ... as the umpires did in awarding Brian McCann a game-winning homer to give the Braves a 7-6, bottom-of-the-ninth win over Florida. It was Atlanta's 23rd last-at-bat win this season, a major-league high. It was the first-ever game-deciding replay decision for baseball. And it took only 86 seconds to complete. Remember that if the Braves make the playoffs by one game over Philadelphia. A minute and 26 seconds of sheer bliss if you're Bobby Cox and the Braves.
9. Roger Clemens to be arraigned Monday: Defense attorneys are still deciding on a final strategy. Right now, it's between "If the glove does not fit, you must acquit" and "I did not have sex with that girl."
10. All hail 'The Onion': Who else consistently concocts such entertaining stuff as this from the other day under the headline "Lou Piniella immediately wins World Series after removing Cubs uniform for last time." The "details", as reported by The Onion:
CHICAGO -- Having finished saying goodbye to Cubs players and fans during his final game with the team, manager Lou Piniella won his second World Series Sunday night mere seconds after taking off his uniform.
"This is a great way to end my career, no question," a champagne-soaked Piniella told reporters, moments after winning the National League Central while removing his blue-pinstriped Cubs pants and the NLCS after tossing his Cubs hat to the team's equipment manager. "Man, it feels good to finally be on top again." The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.