Friday, May 23, 2008

Phillies-Astros: Howard Back to MVP Form

Thursday night opened a four game set between two National League contenders as the Philadelphia Phillies headed to Houston to take on the Astros. The story of both of these two teams has pretty much been the same all year. Good offense, shaky starting pitching, solid bullpen that has managed to keep them in games this year. Both teams fighting to regain the top spot in their division. Luckily for the Phillies, their starting pitching has been on a bit of a run as late and would look to Kyle Kendrick to continue their bid for first.

Kendrick's start was a bit rocky for the Phils as he allowed a run in each of the first two innings. The first off of a Lance Berkman double to bring home Miguel Tejada, and the second off a sac-fly from Brad Ausmus to plate Hunter Pence.

Thankfully the Phils did expend all their offense in the 12-2 route of the Nationals the night before and managed to put of 4 runs in the first three innings against Roy Oswalt who was on the mound for the 'Stros.

Carlos Ruiz singled in the second inning to bring home Ryan Howard to get the game started for the offense. In the third the Phils posted a 3 spot win RBIs from Howard, Pedro Feliz, and Geoff Jenkins to take a 4-2 lead after the third.

Neither team managed a run in the fourth and in the fifth, Ryan Howard led off the inning with his 13th home run of the season, his third in two games and this third hit of the night for the Phils.

Kendrick though ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth inning. After plunking Carlos Lee, he allowed Hunter Pence to single, who was followed by a Ty Wiggington double to bring home the two base runners. Kendrick was yanked from the game with a 5-4 lead, but that would be quickly erased as Geoff Blum would single to left allowing Wiggington to score to even up the game.

Both teams turned the game over to the bullpen and it would be up to the relievers to determine the outcome of this game.

Fortunately for the Phils, the Astros pen was a little more off then they were. In the top of the eighth, Pat Burrell led off the inning with a pinch hit home run to take the lead and supply the eventual game winning run. The Phils would tack on one more in the eighth on an RBI single from Chase Utley, and Brad Lidge came on to secure his 12th save of the season.

Friday night, the Phils send Adam Eaton to the mound against Brandon Backe. Ryan Howard is 6-10 in his last two games with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs, and is finally looking to be back in MVP form.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Phillies-Nationals: Hamels In Top Form

Cole Hamels entered Tuesday nights game against the Washington Nationals having come off a complete game shut out last week against the Atlanta Braves. His first shut out of his career and third complete game.

The Phillies entered the game as a whole looking for a spark, as they struggled to find offense against the Nationals on Monday night and were looking to put an end to their three game losing streak that found them dropping to third in the division. Coming off the 4-0 loss on Monday gave the Phils a record of 1-3 against the Nat's this season, and they needed to find a way to win against their division rival.

Hamels appeared to have the answer. For the second straight game, the Phils ace pitched 7 shutout innings striking out 11 and only allowing four hits. Hamels was taken out in the eighth inning though after throwing 110 pitches. He tossed 130 in his complete game last week and was likely on a count this week so as to not wear out his arm.

In true competitive form, Jason Bergmann for the Nationals also managed to pitch 7 scoreless innings keeping the Phils off the board for 16 consecutive innings in this series. As both teams turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth it would be a battle of relievers. Luckily for the Phils, they won the battle.

In the top of the ninth, after a lead off double from Pedro Feliz, Gregg Dobbs singled on a line drive to center and brought home the eventual winning run. Brad Lidge entered in the bottom of the ninth and collected his 11 save of the season for the Phils.

Wednesday they send Jamie Moyer to the mound to try to win the series against the Nats and climb back to the top of the division.

Monday, May 19, 2008

To Boo Or Not To Boo, That Is The Question

Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word fanatic as "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion". In the City of Brotherly Love, uncritical is not in our nature.

I live in Philadelphia and have been a sports fan for as long as I can remember. A die hard Eagles and Phillies fan, I have been through thick and thin with these teams. Becoming a true sports fan off the bat of Joe Carter in 1993 and with the legs of Rhonde Barber in 2003.

I believe in Booing, it's in my nature. I have booed on opening day, I have booed in the midst of a Super Bowl run. It's what we do.

As a sports fan I usually attempt to be as objective as possible when it comes to Philadelphia sports. Looking at all the angles to determine the right opinion is a difficult thing in a town like this one. With the loss of the Flyers this week, Philadelphia sports are about to incur 100 combined years without a championship. It has created a bitter group of hateful fans towards anything remotely negative and unfortunately for this town right now that negative is Ryan Howard.

In 2004, Philadelphia was graced with a new ball park and the hopes of a new future for its Phillies as they looked to rebuild and become a contender. They brought in names like Millwood, Wagner, and Thome. Brought up prospects like Floyd, Madson and Geary. None of which gave the fans the answer they were looking for.

Four years later, things are a bit different. Now Utley, Rollins and Howard have the spotlight. Hamels, Lidge and Romero bring us hope and yet Philadelphia has found something to boo. But are they directing their attention in the right spot.

Sure Ryan Howard is in the biggest slump of his short career, looking to break his own personal and major league record of strikeouts in a season which currently stands at 199. He is currently on pace to achieve 228 strikeouts this season as he sits with 64 Ks in 45 games. His average has not been over .200 since the first week of the season. Yet he has amount 10 home runs in the span which puts him on pace for 35 for the year. Not bad for a slumping season. But is it worth the $10 millions Howard is being paid this year?

How quickly fans forget the fact that Howard is the quickest player ever to reach 100 home runs and has amounted more homers in the previous two seasons than any other player. All while making the rookiee maximum of $300,000 a year. He has accomplished a feat which only two other players have in baseball history in becoming the Rookiee of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. In 2006 he single handily carried the Phillies to their 86 wins and brought life back to the ball park with his all time Phillies home run record.

Yet does all that give him a free pass? Unfortunately for Howard, fans in this town have a short memory. "What have you done for me lately?" seems to be the motto of this town.

How quickly we forget that Pat Burrell practically stole $60 million from this franchise, only really starting to play now that his contract is up. Burrell has consistently been booed on opening day for the past four seasons. Yet for the first time I can remember talk of All-Star ballots run through the stadium every time he steps up to the plate. How does he all of the sudden get a free pass? He has the same number of home runs as Howard and just 7 more RBIs. Does that wipe away 4 years of sub-par play?

And yet we have players like Aaron Rowand who literally bled for this town for two seasons. A hard working attitude and no concern for his body made him a fan favorite throughout the Phillies push to the playoffs in 2007. What did he get in return? A standing ovation when coming back to town as an opponent a year later.

This town is a difficult place to play any sport. A town with a short memory for some and a good memory for others. We still boo J.D. Drew when he visits town and cheer Jim Thome. Either perform or suffer the consequences, no matter what your past record has been. Booing is a choice, in this town it's a tradition.

How fanatical this all seems...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Phils Drop Soggy Game To Blue Jays

The Philadelphia Phillies entered Sundays' game with the Toronto Blue Jays hoping to win their first inter-league series of the season. Unfortunately, the weather didn't agree with their plan and caused a few rain delays and alot of soggy baseball.

The Phils sent Kyle Kendrick to the mound on Sunday who has struggled in this early season and was looking for some semblance of stability entering the summer months. Kendrick though only pitched one inning of Sunday's rubber match due to a rain delay in the top of the second. The Phils offense managed to strike before the delay as Ryan Howard lifted a ball over the center field wall for two early runs. After the delay, Carlos Ruiz managed to add another run in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single.

The Phils Chad Durbin had shut down the Jays after the delay, but they managed to break through in the top of the fifth. Lyle Overbay single handily tied the game with a three run home run to right to bring the game to 3-3.

The bullpen woes continued for the Phils as Rudy Seanez allowed three more runs in the sixth off a two RBI double by Shannon Stewart after an intentional walk to Matt Stairs, and Rod Barajas continued his stellar weekend with an RBI single to give the Jays a 3 run lead.

The Phils tried to work their way back scoring a run in the sixth off a Chase Utley RBI double and one again in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run from Pat Burrell. The Phils would come up short though and dropped the game 6-5 to the Blue Jays.

The Phillies currently sit in second place of the NL East and head on the road to visit divisional rival Washington Nationals.