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22 games left for the Phillies, but 6 will decide the NL East

Posted by Kieran Kelly On September - 8 - 2010

For the first time since May 30th, the Philadelphia Phillies woke up on top of the NL East today with a 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves.  Since holding a 7 game lead over the Phillies on July 21st, the Braves have gone 24-22. Over that same stretch, the Fightins have gone 32-15 to overtake Atlanta.

Everyone has been waiting for Atlanta to fall back to Earth at some point this season, but they do appear to be a legitimate thread to deny the Phillies a 4th straight NL East crown. With Chipper Jones out for the year, the Braves made a deal to acquire Derek Lee from the Cubs, but he hasn’t been the offensive spark that he could have been.

Of course, the biggest reason behind the Phillies’ recent surge has been the fact that the regular lineup has finally gotten a chance to play together. With everyone returning from injury, including Chase Utley & Ryan Howard, the Phillies finally resemble the team that is the 2 time defending National League Champions. With all of the injuries, it seemed as if the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were on the field at Citizens Bank Park at some points this summer.

At 80-60, the Phillies have 22 games left in the season. With 6 of those against the Braves, it’s going to be a very entertaining race down the stretch. To eclipse last year’s total of 93 wins, the Phillies would have to go 14-8 in their final 22. That’s going to be tough to do as the schedule is all NL East teams from here on out.

With a 6-2 start to September, the Phillies have continued their pace from August, where they won 18 games. They have also won at least 17 games in each of the past 4 Septembers. If they can do that again this month, with 6 against the Braves, the Phillies have a very good shot at advancing to the postseason for the 4th consecutive year.

This team has the potential to be very scary in the playoffs, with the three-headed monster of Halladay, Oswalt, & Hamels pitching in front of an offense that always turns it up a notch in the fall. Now they just have to get there.

Phillies will record 100th straight Citizens Bank Park sellout tonight

Posted by Kieran Kelly On August - 19 - 2010

Over the past few years, it’s gotten progressively harder to obtain Phillies tickets. Now, I’m not saying that they’re impossible to get, but the days of having an entire section to yourself like at the Vet are long gone.

Part of this could be attributed to the bandwagoners that have jumped in with the Phillies during their recent string of successes. However, that’s going to happen when your team starts to win games. Hell, there was talk of replacing Fenway Park a few years ago, and now the Red Sox are on a 609 game sellout streak, dating back to May 15, 2003.

The Inky has a great stat today, showing how much the Phillies fortunes have changed since moving over to Citizens Bank Park. In 33 years at the Vet, the Phillies only had 47 sellouts. Now, the Vet was a lot bigger than CBP, but there was some good teams that played at the Vet. In comparison, the Fighins already have 271 sellouts at Citizens Bank Park.

All of these sellouts have kind of come at a price though. There are lots of people coming to these games just to be seen and to socialize. College kids come to tailgate and indulge in Dollar Dog Nights. (I’ve done this myself, so I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.)  All of these new “fans” have tamed down the baseball atmosphere a tad. People are trying to start The Wave in the 9th inning of a 1-1 ballgame against a divisional opponent. Now, I’m against the Wave ever being done, but that’s just ridiculous. I sat at the home opener in 2009 and the people next to me thought Raul & Chooch were being booed when they were introduced. That’s just sad.

I’ll finish this up by congratulating the Phillies on getting to 100 straight sellouts. The atmosphere at The Bank has made the Phillies a better team. There is no doubt about that. In reality, those congratulations should be given to the fans. They are the ones that have supported this team and are now being rewarded for a long string of bad teams.

To keep up to date on The Streak, which has become one of my favorite Tweets to see, just give a follow to Mandy Housenick of The Morning Call.  With the team playing the way that they are, I expect this streak to easily continue through the end of this year and pick up next year, with the season opener of the 3 time defending National League Champions.

Series win against the Mets puts the Phillies in prime position.

Posted by Kieran Kelly On August - 16 - 2010

PolancoSweeney.jpg(With the Phillies on an off day, I figured it’d be a perfect time to jump back into the Phillies blogging. I’ve been a bit busy with work and dealing with a golf ball trying to replace my eyeball. I’m getting back on track. -KK)

As of today, the Phillies are tied with the San Francisco Giants for the NL Wild Card and are only 2 games back of the Braves. With the schedule backloaded with games against the rest of the NL East, the fight for the division crown is going to be a slugfest. With 6 more games against Atlanta and 3 more against San Francisco, the Phillies’ chances for a 4th straight NL East crown lie firmly in their own hands.

At 66-51, the Phillies are at a season high 15 games over .500. In 2009, the Phils were 68-49 through 117 games. It’s simply amazing that this team is only 2 games off the pace of last year.

Injuries have decimated this team, but you would never know it just by looking at the record. The scary part for the rest of the Senior Circuit is that it appears as if the Phillies will be back to full strength in a short amount of time.

Ryan Howard has started to take grounders in the field and will probably be back within the week. He’ll most likely play a rehab a few games down in the minor and then rejoin the big club for the stretch run.

Chase Utley has already started his rehab with Clearwater and has already hit a couple of triples, but has also made an error. We’ll chalk that up to him just being rusty. Uts doesn’t make errors.

With a few exceptions, the pitching staff has been phenomenal. Roy Halladay has been the Roy Halladay that everyone expected. Cole Hamels, while getting no run support, has been pitching very well. Roy Oswalt has finally gotten comfortable and has been pitching much better than his 7-13 record would suggest. Joe Blanton has been up and down, but has the experience to be able to contribute down the stretch. Kyle Kendrick has even put together some solid outings as of late.

The run to the playoffs has started and it seems as if the Phillies will be right in the thick of things, just as they have for the past 5 years. With a healthy team, the Fightins should have no problem returning to the postseason.

Undermanned Phillies finish series with Mets on a hot streak

Posted by Kieran Kelly On August - 8 - 2010

HomeRunMets.jpgOver the past few months, the Phillies have been hit hard by injuries, reminiscent of what happened to the Mets during the 2009 season. Amazingly, the team has responded much better than that Mets team.

After being 7 games behind the NL East leading Atlanta Braves a few weeks ago, the Phillies have now won 14 of 17 games to pul within 2 games of the Braves. While a 4th straight NL East title is within their reach, the Phillies can also feel better knowing that they are only a 1/2 game behind San Francisco for the Wild Card. Not bad for fielding a lineup that would be better suited for Lehigh Valley at times.

Even though the Mets are far back in the playoff race this year, a 3 game series against them is always a big event. Taking 2 of 3 from New York has put the Phillies a season-high 13 games above .500. As has been the case the past few years, the Phillies are hitting their stride in the late summer.

Over the next few weeks, this team will be even more formidable. Chase Utley has gotten his cast off and will hopefully be back before the end of the month. Shane Victorino should be back shortly, which will also have the side effect of a roster squeeze. Victorino was sent to Lehigh Valley to begin his rehab yesterday. John Mayberry, Jr. took the trip up the Northeast Extension as well, but he was sent back to LV to get some at-bats. Domonic Brown was brought up last week to take Vic’s spot, and with what he’s done so far, I don’t see Cholly and Ruben being able to send him back. That means that one of the bench players (My vote is for Dobbs) will most likely be sent down.

The biggest piece missing from the Phillies’ lineup, Ryan Howard, is eligible to come off of the DL in 7 days. If he is actually able to come back that day, he’ll add his potent bat back to what could be considered the top lineup in the majors.

For the Phillies to be in the position they are in while fielding their regular lineup for less than 10 games over the season is a testament to the talent that the organization has assembled.

With the lineup at full strength, the Phillies will finally be able to resume their run at a 3rd straight National League championship with the lineup that started off the season so hot. It will be fun to see this team down the stretch.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Roy Oswalt.

Posted by Kieran Kelly On July - 29 - 2010

OswaltGrayHouston.jpgAfter weeks of chatter, the trade that everyone in Philly has been talking about is done.

Roy Oswalt has agreed to waive his no trade clause and accept a trade to Philadelphia in exchange for J.A. Happ and two minor leaguers, Jonathon Villar and Anthony Gose.

The Phillies will also receive $11 million from the Astros in order to cover some of the $24 million Oswalt is owed for the rest of 2010 and 2011. As part of the swap, instead of picking up the option year in 2012 for $16 million, the Phillies will increase Oswalt’s buyout from $2 million to $3 million.

It’s a great trade for the Phillies. Getting Oswalt gives the Phillies a top 3 of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt & Cole Hamels. That’s a very strong rotation to take into the playoffs.

Happ is clearly the loser in this deal. He worked hard to get back to the bigs after injury, and he’ll most likely be sent back to the minors in Houston.

With Ed Wade in place, Houston has become a top target for Ruben Amaro. RAJ has shown he has the chops to pull off a big mid-season deal, but he clearly worked over Wade with this trade.

First Cliff Lee, then Roy Halladay, and now Roy Oswalt? Been a great year for the Phillies.

With the offense finally finding it’s stride and the pitching staff getting a big upgrade, the Phillies are showing that they’re out to become the first team in over 60 years to 3-peat as National League Champions.

Roy Oswalt to Philly done pending the pitcher’s approval

Posted by Dany Sloan On July - 29 - 2010

UPDATE: It appears as if Roy Oswalt has agreed to waive his no trade clause and head to Philly, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The Phillies will send J.A. Happ and two prospects, rumored to be Vance Worley and Anthony Gose, to Houston and will get Oswalt and $10 million from the Astros.

More updates and reactions as news comes in.

According to a report from Fox 26 of Houston, the Astros have a deal in place to send Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. The deal hinges on the pitcher waiving his no-trade clause. Despite the rumors that he didn’t want to play in a tough media market, getting out of Houston and playing for a contender appears to be his top concern.

Philly and Houston have agreed on the amount of money Houston will take back in the deal and the two teams have agreed on the players Philadelphia will be sending. Oswalt is owed another $5 million this season and $16 million next year. He has a 2012 option for $16 million with a $2 million buyout, but it’s not confirmed as to whether the Phils will guarantee that.

J.A. Happ will likely be one of the players headed to the Astros. The other names involved in the deal are currently unclear, but if Ed Wade sticks to script, the Phils will hold onto their best prospects.

Oswalt’s next start for Houston is slated for Friday against the Brewers. He is is 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA in 129 innings with 120 strikeouts.

If this trade is approved, it will give the Phillies one hell of a 1-2-3 punch with Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt through at least 2011. Stay tuned for more info.

BrownPolanco.jpgRoy Halladay went the distance for the 8th time as a member of the Phillies, got the win in a dominating performance in a 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks, and still got upstaged.

In the most anticipated Phillies’ debut in years, Domonic Brown showed the rest of baseball just why he has been labeled the best prospect in the minors. Brown laced an RBI double in his first major league at-bat and finished the night going 2-3 with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Not a high bar to set in your first time out, right?

Brown, replacing Shane Victorino on the roster, showed why he belongs on the big club. Even though the Phillies are streaking right now, winning 7 straight, Brown still caused a buzz at Citizens Bank Park for his debut. It’s going to be hard to pull him from the lineup any time soon.

Halladay tried, but even his dominating performance was overshadowed by D-Brown. He got his 12th win on the season and extended his home scoreless streak to 33 innings before giving up a run in the 9th. Doc even struck out 9 and walked none. Just another standard Roy Halladay performance.

If Domonic Brown can make nights like tonight the usual, we’re all in for something special in Philadelphia.

Phils promote top prospect Domonic Brown

Posted by Dany Sloan On July - 28 - 2010

According to various sources, including the Inky’s Matt Gelb, the Phillies are calling up top prospect Domonic Brown for tonight’s game at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Brown will wear #9. It’s unclear as to whether he’ll start the game or not.

This is the corresponding move to Shane Victorino being placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

Fans have been waiting for this day for a long time, and it’s absolutely thrilling to see this highly touted player make his debut. We’re hoping for the best for him. More importantly, we’re hoping to see him add to a very talented lineup that needs an injection of youth in the homestretch of the 2010 season.

More news at it comes to us.

UPDATE 3:50pm - According to Ryan Lawrence of the Delaware County Times, Brown will be starting and batting sixth.

Phillies end road trip 2-6 and minus 1 hitting coach

Posted by Kieran Kelly On July - 23 - 2010

The Phillies’ struggles finally reached a tipping point yesterday. After seeing the offense fail to put a run on the board during Cole Hamels’ gem, Ruben Amaro decided that something needed to be done.

That something turned out to be the dismissal of hitting coach Milt Thompson.  Greg Gross, who was the hitting coach from 2002-2004, was named as his replacement.  The offense wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard back then, so I’m not so sure this is an improvement.

It’s hard to understand why a hitting coach gets fired when a team is struggling, especially after the offensive numbers that the Phillies have put up over the past few years.  However, when a team has struggled for as long as the Phillies have at this point, something needs to change. A shakeup like this could be what the team needs to get out of their slump, but it’s hard to make a change like that when the person you’re talking about is Milt Thompson.

Milt was a part of the “Macho Row” 1993 National League champions and will always be a fan favorite because of that. Since coming back to the organization in 1998, as a minor league coach, eh’s climbed up the ranks. He was even held in high enough esteem to survive the firing of Terry Francona and become part of Charlie Manuel’s staff.

When it comes down to it, the Phillies have struggled mightily with putting runs on the board and the first target for those struggles would be the hitting coach. You would think that a player like Jayson Werth, on the verge of becoming a free agent and potentially signing a huge contract, would be having a career year. Instead, he got a hit with a runner in scoring position for the first time in a month last night. Ryan Howard, on the other hand, the most secure player on the team, has been turning it up in the second half, like usual.

Many never thought the struggles would continue for this long, but they have. There is no way Roy Halladay should have 8 losses while pitching for this team, but the offense has let him down on a few occasions.

The second half has been the Phillies’ strong suit over the past few years, so there is hope ( & time) for them to turn it around. With the Mets losing last night, the Phillies are back in second place, albeit 7 games back.  It’s a long climb back to the top, but if the offense starts clicking again, there is still the possibility of a third straight National League East title.

After pitching decently to start the game last night, Kyle Kendrick got lit up by the Cardinals with 3 home runs in one inning. For that performance, Kendrick was rewarded with a trip up the Northeast Extension to Lehigh Valley. The Phillies called up Andrew Carpenter to replace Kendrick on the roster. Carpenter is 7-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 18 starts this season with the IronPigs, but he may not be in Philly for long.

J.A. Happ has been rehabbing in the minors for what seems like forever at this point. He’s scheduled to pitch tonight, but he could be scratched to take Kendrick’s spot in the rotation on Saturday, while Carpenter keeps the seat warm for a few days.  A small possibility, but it could happen.

While the pitching hasn’t been lights out this season, it hasn’t been the reason for the struggles that the Phillies are going through right now. The offense has been downright terrible. If he got a little run support, Roy Halladay would easily have 15 wins right now.

There should be some help coming though. Placido Polanco being back is big, but Chase Utley is still a ways away from coming back. Those were two huge holes in the Phillies’ offense the past few weeks.

The ESPN broadcasters mentioned the fact that, including last night’s game, Charlie Manual has only been able to fill out his lineup card with the 8 regulars (Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polance, Ibanez, Victorino, & Werth) 9 times this season. The fact that the Fightins are only 3 games back in the Wild Card  race right now should be seen as a minor miracle.

While the Phillies’s struggles aren’t something we’ve seen in the past few years, we all have to remember that it’s the middle of July. Still a lot of baseball to play. The division may be out of reach, (I still think the Braves will come back to Earth in a big way) the Wild Card is right there.

The Phillies are a traditional second half team, especially with Ryan Howard starting to heat up. Getting Utley & Polanco back will be like making two huge trades for offensive help.  They could still use some help in spots, but I have a feeling that nothing major will be changed.

This team was damn good in the first few weeks of the season, and if/when everyone is back and healthy, they still have what is needed to win the NL East for the 3rd straight year.

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