Just how long did it take the Philadelphia Phillies to flex its offensive muscle Sunday.
A half-inning did the trick.
Philadelphia rallied from a four-run deficit against Florida Sunday by playing home run derby in the third inning.
First, Jimmy Rollins smashed a two-run home run. Chase Utley followed two batters later with another two-run shot to tie the game. Chris Coste followed later in the inning with a tie-breaking three run home run. Just like that Philadelphia took the lead and held on for a 10-7 victory in a game that featured nine home runs including five from the Phillies.
Utley smashed two home runs on the day to keep the Phils atop the NL Wild Card race ahead of Los Angeles, which defeated Arizona 5-1 on Nomar Garciaparra’s grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
Utley had an awesome series going 10 for 14 with three home runs giving him 31 with 98 RBI.
Philly’s offense is scary right now. Rollins has provided pop at the leadoff spot with 24 home runs. Chase Utley has been strong all year batting second or third. Ryan Howard…..need we discuss. Guys like Jeff Conine and Coste have been huge to the Phils, especially Coste who is batting .324. Pat Burrell needs to hit better from the No. 5 hole although he did add two hits including his 27th home run Sunday.
From what I’ve seen, Abraham Nunez has been keeping it cool at the hot corner. His defense was sharp Sunday turned a nice
double play and making a couple other nice grabs. Any offense from Nunez is a bonus.
Credit Jamie Moyer for rebounding after such a horrible starting. Moyer gave up a 4-spot in the first behind home runs from Hanley Ramirez and Cody Ross. Josh Willingham missed a home run by inches settling for a triple. Moyer seemed to go a little more with the changeup in that innings. After the rough first inning, Moyer used his cut fastball and breaking balls a bit more and finished with six innings of work. Moyer’s outings have provided an extra bit of boost for the bullpen which seemed to have been used non-stop earlier in the season. Moyer went six innings for the seventh time in a Phillies uniform.
No disrespect to the Padres and Dodgers fans but I’m pulling for the Phillies to make the wild card. I’ve seen the Padres and Dodgers and they would be just as worthy of a playoff berth. But the Phils have come so close the past couple of years and they’ve really played their hearts out this second half to get to where they are. I don’t think their fans could handle another heartbreak. Momentum is on Philadelphia’s side as Sunday’s win was its 10th in 12 games.
Regardless of which team makes the playoffs, the final week of the season should be a fun one!
Washington’s pitching was superb in its 6-1 victory over Milwaukee in the series finale on Sunday.
The National didn’t allow a base hit after David Bell’s single with no outs in the second. Michael O’Connor’s pitch count labored in the first two innings throwing 46 pitches. In O’Connor, who was on a 75-pitch count, worked more efficiently in his last two innings totaling 23 pitches. O’Connor went four innings allowing one run on three hits on 69 pitches.
The Nationals relievers were more than up to the task of quieting the Brewers bats. Chris Schroeder came on for O’Connor in the fifth and overpowered Milwaukee striking out all six batters he faced. Saul Rivera pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the victory (3-0). Jon Rauch and Ryan Wagner added an inning each in relief for the Nationals, who are still mathematically alive in the Wild Card. With any loss or a Dodgers win, the Nationals (65-84) will be eliminated from the race.
Austin Kearns provided the sparks on offensively and defensively. His fifth inning home run tied the score at 1-1 ending Doug Davis’ game-opening run of retiring 13 straight batters. Kearns broke the deadlock in the seventh with a run-scoring to shallow right scoring Bernie Castro.
Kearns’ great day stretched over to the field. In the top of the eighth, Kearns made a fantastic shoestring catch which started an inning-ending double play. Kearns fired to first baseman Nick Johnson to double off pinch runner Tony Gwynn, who was running on the front end of a hit and run.
Castro’s spark in the lineup was a boost for the Nats. In the seventh, he beat out an infield single edging Davis barley. In the Nationals’ four-run eighth, Castro raced home from first on Felipe Lopez’ bases-loaded single. He didn’t break stride rounding third as first baseman Prince Fielder bobbled the throw allowing Castro to score. Castro helped in the field assisting in two double plays.
The Nationals’ four-run eighth was started with former Milwaukee closer Derrick Turnbow on the mound. Turnbow gave up a single to Brandon Harper. Nook Logan reached on a bunt single. After Nick Johnson struck out, Turnbow hit Alfonso Soriano in the back to load the bases. Castro followed with a groundball to shortstop Bill Hall, who threw home to get Harper. However, Harper was ruled safe as catcher Damien Miller was drawn off the plate on Hall’s throw. That was enough for Milwaukee manager Ned Yost who lifted Turnbow for Brian Shouse. In three appearances this month, Turnbow’s ERA is 16.87. In July, Turnbow had a 21.32 ERA. Turnbow has an 11.38 ERA over his last 23 appearances.
Prince Fielder didn’t record an official at-bat Sunday. He was hit by O’Conner twice and drew a walk.
I want to join everybody else in sending their thoughts and prayers to Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee and his family. Derrek announced yesterday he will miss the rest of the season to attend to his 3-year-old daughter, Jada who has lost vision in one of her eyes.
My editorial: I was shocked how quickly I could get to RFK Stadium. I showed up five minutes before first pitch via the subway (aka Metro). It didn’t take long to walkup and get a ticket. I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s approaching Fall and the Nationals are pretty much eliminated from the playoff race. Still, the announced attendance was 26,128 (insert comment here). I think the Skins playing Sunday night could’ve put resulted in a slight push in the numbers.
I feel bad for Turnbow after such a great ’05 season. I can’t help to think Turnbow is not pitching but throwing. His off-speed stuff deserted him when he hit his slump and everyone started waiting for the fastball or just a strike.
Awesome crowd reaction when Schroeder struck out Hall to end the top of the sixth. His fastball was just electric against the Brewers.
If not for his 4.00-plus ERA, Jon Garland would definitely be among the top American League Cy Young contenders.
Cy Young votes or not, Garland could crack the 4.00-ERA plateau by season’s end judging by his pitching the last three months.
Garland has been Chicago’s best pitcher since June and showed why Saturday. Backed by an offense that scored 10 runs in the first five innings, Garland improved to 17-4 on the season in the White Sox 10-8 victory over Cleveland. His 17 wins put in a tie with New York’s Chien-Ming Wang and Minnesota’s Johan Santana for the most in the majors.
Garland allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out six in six innings of work. He improved to 13-1 in his last 16 starts and is one win away from watching last year’s career-high 18 wins. His last loss was August 9 against New York when he allowed six runs on 10 hits in six innings. Since then, Garland has lowered his ERA from 5.16 to 4.28.
Paul Konerko smashed two home runs and drove in five. Konerko has 32 home runs and 103 RBI this season to go with a .314 batting average. Konerko’s three-run shot in the first put the White Sox up 3-0. His two-run dinger in the fifth gave the White Sox a 10-1 lead.
A good deal of the AL Most Valuable Player talk is pointed not at Konerko but teammate Jermaine Dye.
Dye continued to make his MVP statement by going 3 for 5 with two RBI. Dye, who scored twice, was a single shy of the cycle. Dye is the only American League player to be in the top five in batting average (.328, 5th), total bases (312, 2nd), slugging percentage (.651, 2nd), home runs (41, 3rd) and RBI (112, 4th). Dye will likely move up into 2nd and 3rd in the home and RBI category as Cleveland’s Travis Hafner will miss the rest of the season (see story below).
Dye might be the only player this season to homer off two of the American League’s top closers, Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon and Minnesota’s Joe Nathan.
Dye gave the White Sox faithful a scare in the sixth when he made a home-run saving catch at the wall. On the play, Dye crashed full speed into the fence and stayed on the ground for a couple minutes. He got back up but then went down to the ground again. Minutes later, he got up under his own power and stayed in the game amid the chants of “MVP, MVP.” In the bottom of the inning, Dye smashed a solo home run to left.
Chicago is 3 ½ back of Detroit in the AL Central and ½ game back of Minnesota in the Wild Card.
Offensively, the White Sox might be the last team anyone wants to face in the playoffs. Chicago’s 212 home runs are far and away the tops in baseball. The New York Yankees are a distant second with 176. The White Sox and Yankees have the majors’ best team batting average at .285. Chicago could also have the rare distinction of having four 30-home run and 100-RBI guys this season. Dye and Konerko have already broken that mark. Jim Thome has 39 home runs and 97 RBIs. Joe Crede, who has sat out for the third straight game Saturday with lower back pain, has 29 home runs and 91 RBI.
To say that Saturday was a bad day for the Cleveland Indians would be an understatement.
Prior to their game, the Indians announced that MVP candidate Travis Hafner would miss the rest of the season with a broken bone below the ring finger on his right hand.
Hafner’s numbers were definitely worthy of MVP votes. His .659 slugging percentage and .439 on-base percentage were tops in the American League. Hafner’s 42 home runs are second in the junior circuit and his 117 RBIs were good enough for third. Hafner also added a .308 average, 31 doubles, scored 100 runs (tied for third in the AL), collected 299 total bases (fifth) and amassed 74 extra-base hits (third).
Hafner was hit by a pitch on September 1 against Texas with the bases loaded, something worth noting because Hafner had tied Don Mattingly’s record with six grand slams in a season.
The Indians fell into a 10-1 hole against the White Sox. Starter Fausto Carmona wasn’t effective at all giving up five earned runs on seven hits in three innings of work in his fifth start of the year. All of Carmona’s runs came with two outs.
Cleveland’s night wasn’t a total wash. The Indians put together a seven-run seventh inning highlighted by Kevin Kouzmanoff’s three-run home run to close within 10-8. The Indians, though, would not get any closer as the score stood for the remainder of the game.
Cleveland skipper Eric Wedge wasn’t around to see the game’s final out as he was ejected earlier in the ninth inning by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendlestedt, who warned both sides in the third inning when Carmona brushed back Alex Cintron. Although, the pitch didn’t seem like an intentional brush back in nature as Carmona had little consistency with his pitches. In the ninth, Chicago reliever Mike MacDougal seemed to have done the exact same thing as Carmona but was not ejected. Wedge quickly argued the lack of an ejection and was tossed.
Carmona returned to the Indians after being sent down to Triple A Buffalo following a shaky role as the Indians closer.
Grady Sizemore went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts before being replaced after Chicago built a 10-1 lead. Defensively, Sizemore made a nice diving catch in deep center in the fifth to rob Brian Anderson of extra bases.
Friday, Sizemore added some nice milestones to his outstanding yet under-recognized 2006 resume. He became only the second player in major league history to do the following: hit 50 doubles and 10 triples, steal 20 bases, score 100 runs and his 20 home runs. Chuck Klein was the first to do it for the 1932 Philadelphia Phillies.
This evening’s contest features two of the 10 teams within 6 ½ games in the National League Wild Card race. I am pleased to see Mark Grace handling the color commentary portion of the broadcast. Grace is entertaining and informative in the booth. I learn something every time I watch one of his broadcasts. Every time I watch him, I think of two things instantly: a) his key single off Mariano Rivera that started Arizona’s game-winning and series-winning rally in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, and b) the term “slumpbuster.”
The pregame chat revolves around the one-sided pitching matchup. In Houston’s corner, future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens, who should have a career win total in the 350s if not for the lack of run support he’s received over the last 2 seasons. This season, Clemens is 2-4 with a 2.09 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 11 walks. In Clemens’ last 29 starts, the Astros have scored two runs or fewer 24 times. Hopefully, Houston will give Clemens a belated birthday gift and actually score some runs. Clemens turned 44 on Friday.
In Arizona’s corner is Dustin Nippert, who has won one major league game. Nippert was called up from AAA Tucson to replace the ailing Brandon Webb. The Diamondbacks starters haven’t looked good lately; giving up 19 earned runs, 13 walks in their last 18 2/3 innings. With Brandon Webb’s sore elbow keeping him out, things aren’t looking encouraging for the Diamondbacks.
Top 1: Let the Craig Biggio countdown to 3,000 begin. Biggio reaches on an infield single for hit 2900! Shouldn’t there be a countdown board at the “The Juice Box” for this? Reaching 3,000 hits is a huge deal and I hope the Astros and the Houston community does this future event right! Biggio is the 34th player to reach 2,900 hits and should be the 27th to reach the magic 3,000.
Top 2: Nippert is in trouble early loading the bases for Brad Ausmus, who went 0 for 40 during one stretch earlier this season. Ausmus is batting .228 with one home run and 22 RBI on the year. Nippert could benefit from a double play. Instead, he serves up a change-up over the middle of the plate and Ausmus’ season totals increase to 2 home runs and 26 RBI. 4-0, Houston. Arizona, we have a problem!
Graphic of the night. When Arizona scores first, they are 41-12. When they don’t score first, they are 14-42. When the Diamondbacks trail at the end of the game, they are winless (0-55). When they are ahead at the end of the game, they are undefeated (55-0).
Bottom 2: Shortstop Stephen Drew is one of many reasons why Arizona fans should be optimistic for the future. They have some promising young talent. Drew does his part by driving home Orlando Hudson with a groundout. 4-1, Houston
Top 3: I still don’t get the reason for a pool at a major league ballpark. If people want to swim, go home or go the neighborhood pool. Just as I was thinking this, Luke Scott sits on a change-up and smashes a two-run home run into the pool deck area. Don’t run around the pool and beware of home runs. Those two don’t go together. 6-1, Houston. Nippert’s change-up isn’t looking too good.
Clemens has been pitching well, not dominating but effective. Pitching with a lead relaxes anyone.
Top 5: Aubrey Huff smashes a home run to left. Huff looks like wrestler Val Venis all of the sudden. I took Huff for the second straight year in two of the leagues. Once again, I’m disappointed with the result. Still, Huff’s dinger gives the visitors a 7-1 lead. Nippert gets out of the inning. He’s due to come up first in the bottom of the inning. My guess is he’s done for the night.
Bottom 5: And I am right when pitcher Enrique Gonzalez pinch-hits for Nippert. The Arizona bench is already thin since Jeff DaVanon left in the first inning with a sprained left ankle. Nippert allowed seven runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. Gonzalez grounds out.
The Eric Byrnes blog has something to write about tonight. Their hero smashes a solo home run. 7-2, Houston.
Top 6: Berkman and Huff follow with RBI hits. 9-2, Yao Ming!
Evander Holyfield is fighting again…..sorry, I just spend 3 minutes reading (and laughing) at what I just typed!
Top 7: Luke Scott is having a monster night. He records his fourth hit of the game. Nothing else happened.
Arizona commercials rule! Some have been entertaining. The lady having to go the ATM to get a tank top was a hoot. We don’t have these commercials in DC. Apparently, am/pm and Jack in the Box are still around. I haven’t seen either of the stores since the early 80s in the DC area.
Bottom 7: Hudson gets things going for the home team with a double, his second of the game. Carlos Quentin, who has been very productive in his brief major league career, scores Hudson with a double. 9-3, Houston! Quentin is 5 for 9 with eight RBI off the bench. Clemens finishes the inning without further damage. His night is done after throwing 106 pitches. He gave up three runs on eight hits, striking out five and walking one lowering his ERA to 2.32 in the process.
Top 9: Scott’s quest for a 5-hit game falls short as he is walked.
Final score: 9-3, Houston. Clemens earns win No. 344. Houston (53-57) is four games behind Cincinnati in the NL Wild Card chase and six and a half back of first-place St. Louis in the NL Central. Arizona falls to 55-55, two games back in the Wild Card and two games behind first-place San Diego in the NL West!
Top 8: Drew and Hudson, a Gold-Glove winning second baseman with Toronto, turn a very smooth 6-4-3 double play, their second of the game. Drew and Hudson have the makings of a very good middle infield tandem.
Live from the City by the Bay, San Francisco. I’ve heard calling the city Frisco or San Fran is grounds for getting thrown in the Bay!
Tonight’s starters: Colorado’s Jeff Francis, who is 3-2 with a 1.85 ERA in his last five starts. He looks like a 20-year-old. San Francisco counters with Matt Morris, who could be a dead-ringer for the late Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Morris is 5-1 with 3.90 ERA in his last nine starts but winless in his last three. I have Morris on two of my fantasy teams. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If not for Francisco Liriano, one of my fantasy teams would already be eliminated. He should be considered for every prize out there-Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Fields Medal, and Nobel Peace Prize!
Let the game begin!
Top 1. Morris should give a part of his paycheck to Pedro Feliz, who made two great defensive plays at third to save sure hits. Morris gets a generous strike three call from Home Plate Umpire Ron (Mea) Kulpa to end the inning.
Bottom 1: I love sponsors and their tie-ins. Example. Before Ray Durham steps to the plate, I’m informed that Durham is 10 for 20 with seven RBI lifetime courtesy against Francis courtesy of the GMC Professional Grade. In the top half of the first, one of Feliz’ plays was named the Diamond Nut Defensive Play of the Game. Not even one inning of baseball and the defensive play of the game has happened. Wow, what’s the point of watching anymore? Durham grounds into an inning-ending double play. 0-0
Top 2: Three up, three down. Yawn!
Bottom 2: Hillenbrand singles and gets picked off to end the inning. That’s the second pickoff I’ve seen this week. I didn’t know the pickoff still existed. 0-0
Top 3: Morris goes to a full count of Francis before striking him out. Wheels are falling off anytime now. Morris has thrown about 50 pitches now, especially going 3 balls on almost every batter it seems. After walking Carroll, Clint Barmes flies out. Morris gets out of the third and hasn’t allowed a run! Might be his night after all!
Bottom 3: Feliz breaks the scoreless deadlock with a home run to left. He’s having a good night so far and earning his pay. 1-0, San Francisco
Not another Poker Superstars commercial. Television is making these guys famous! Imagine poker being on radio? Me, neither! It gets worse. Tim Allen is making another movie. Oh no!
Top 4: Three up, three down. Bottom hasn’t fallen out, yet!
Bottom 4: Three up, three down. Francis is looking sharp. I can’t believe he’s available in my fantasy league. Is there something I should know about him? 1-0, SF!
Top 5: My pessimism pays off. Former Giant Yorvit Torrealba doubles to left and moves to third on a ground out. Before a 1-2 delivery to Freeman, Morris’ leg twitches or spasms, not sure which it is. In baseball if you do that on the pitching rubber, it’s called a balk. Welcome back to the 1980s, the balk lives and Torrealba scores! 1-1!
Bottom 5th: Three up, three down. Seven in a row by Francis!
Top 6: Barmes singles and scores on a shot by Garrett Atkins to center, 2-1. In my keeper league last year, I kept 6 guys and the last spot was down to Zach Duke and Atkins. To say I picked wrong guy might be the understatement of the year! Bitter? You betcha. Atkins moves to third on a groundout. They decided to walk Helton, who hasn’t reached base yet. First and third, 2 outs for Torrealba! Let’s put a sponsorship on the worst move of the night because this is it! Torrealba smashes a three-run home run to left. Ugh! 5-1, Colorado
Bottom 6: 10 straight for Francis
Top 7: Vinnie Chulk, whose name sounds like someone I owe money too, replaces Morris. His line-who cares? I’m getting smoked in fantasy! Lesson-if you’re relying on Matt Morris, you’re in trouble. Next year, I’ll draft better starting pitching. I’ve said that every year since 2003. Bad habits are hard to break. My Cousin Vinnie works a perfect 7th
Bottom 7:This game is getting….Bonds takes one to deep center! 723! The home run ball is now on EBay for $100! 5-2, Rockies
Top 8: Chulk gets the job done.
Bottom of the 8: So does Francis. 8 IP, 6H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2K’s. Welcome to Devastation Inc, Francis!
Top 9: Jamey Wright comes on for the Giants. Isn’t he a starter? Nothing happened. Colorado is content with five runs on the night
Bottom 9: Vizquel doubles, moves to third on the ground out. Bonds takes a 2-1 delivery for a low strike. I mean a looooowww strike. Bonds is not happy. Kulpa takes his mask off. Pleasantries are exchanges, Bonds gets tossed. The tossing didn’t end there as Giants fans tossed their empty food and drink containers onto the warning track. I haven’t seen this much litter at an event since Hulk Hogan turned on Savage and formed the NWO with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (obscure wrestling reference-apologies to those who don’t get or don’t like wrestling). After an 11-minute delay, I actually counted; Todd Greene gets a reward of stepping to the plate with a 2-2 count. His reward, a fly out to shallow center! Moises Alou flies out to end the game.
It’s not good to litter, especially at a baseball game
This is the third time in his last four starts Morris hasn’t posted a quality start. One bad pitch to Torrealba doomed him!
Francis isn’t that bad a pitcher. He hit his spots and his two mistakes came with nobody on base. Nice job!