Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Howard’

Starting Nine: National League East

January 14, 2010

Isn’t it funny how a couple of minutes could change an entire post? As I started writing this post last night, I found out the news that New York Mets’ center fielder, Carlos Beltran will be out of commission for three to four months.

Within five minutes, the Mets went from having a very good lineup to a lineup with a lot of holes in it. So now that Beltran is out for a couple of months, where does the Mets’ lineup stack-up against the rest of the National League East?

Let’s take a look at each lineup in the National League East as presently constructed today. Since the pitcher will hit ninth, I just inserted the team’s top pitcher in the nine-hole.

Philadelphia Phillies

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS

2. Placido Polanco, 3B

3. Chase Utley, 2B

4. Ryan Howard, 1B

5. Jayson Werth, RF

6. Raul Ibanez, LF

7. Shane Victorino, CF

8. Carlos Ruiz, C

9. Roy Halladay, P

Quick Take – One through eight, this is the best lineup in the National League. This lineup has speed and power throughout. This lineup will be hard to shutdown in 2010.

Atlanta Braves

1. Nate McLouth, CF

2. Martin Prado, 2B

3. Chipper Jones, 3B

4. Brian McCann, C

5. Troy Glaus, 1B

6. Yunel Escobar, SS

7. Matt Diaz, RF

8. Melky Cabrera, LF

9. Derek Lowe, P

Quick Take – This lineup will only go as far as Glaus takes them. If he can come back healthy, then the Braves will have a very good lineup in 2010. It could be made even better when super stud prospect Jason Heyward makes his debut.

New York Mets

1. Jose Reyes, SS

2. Luis Castillo, 2B

3. David Wright, 3B

4. Jason Bay, LF

5. Jeff Francouer, RF

6. Daniel Murphy, 1B

7. Omir Santos, C

8. Angel Pagan, CF

9. Johan Santana, P

Quick Take – Not having Beltran will kill this lineup. The Mets could make up for the loss of Beltran by signing Bengie Molina and/or Carlos Delgado. The Mets have been rumored to be interested in both.

Florida Marlins

1. Cameron Maybin, CF

2. Chris Coghlan, LF

3. Hanley Ramirez, SS

4. Jorge Cantu, 3B

5. Dan Uggla, 2B

6. Cody Ross, RF

7. Gabby Sanchez, 1B

8. John Baker, C

9. Josh Johnson, P

Quick Take – If Uggla and Cantu stay, then this lineup becomes a lot better than most people think. This is a big year for Maybin. I think he really needs to show something this year.

Washington Nationals

1. Nyjer Morgan, CF

2. Christian Guzman, 2B

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam Dunn, 1B

5. Josh Willingham, LF

6. Elijah Dukes, RF

7. Ivan Rodriguez, C

8. Ian Desmond, SS

9. Jason Marquis, P

Quick Take – This lineup is certainly getting better. I like the one through five, especially Zimmerman. The Nationals are talking to Orlando Hudson, but if he doesn’t sign with them, I don’t mind Desmond as their Opening Day shortstop. I think he can be good.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the National League Central.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Albert Pujols Unanimously Wins NL MVP

November 24, 2009

My preseason NL MVP pick: Albert Pujols

NL MVP winner: Albert Pujols

I am shocked that St. Louis Cardinals 1B won the National League MVP award unanimously. The way the voting has been going, I am surprised James Loney didn’t get a first-place vote.

Pujols won his third MVP award today

Pujols received all 32 first-place votes to win his second consecutive NL MVP award. Pujols becomes the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards since Barry Bonds won four in a row from 2001-2004.

Hanley Ramirez finished second followed by Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. I am a little surprised Troy Tulowitzki didn’t finish higher, but what can you do?

2009 was another banner year for Pujols. Pujols led the majors in home runs (47), runs (124), slugging percentage (.658) and intentional walks (44), and led the NL in OBP (.443).

You know, I really thought Pujols winning the MVP award unanimously would finally make Cardinal fans stop whining and crying this offseason.

But alas, I was wrong.

Here is a classic “Tweet” from a Cardinal fan that will go nameless. “What in the definition of MVP makes Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright better than Tim Lincecum, who was good enough for BBWAA to win Cy?”

Even when one of their players win an award, they still whine about something else that happened over a week ago. It’s unbelievable.

Cardinal fans should be more concerned with whether or not Pujols is going to re-sign after the 2010 season instead of being concerned with Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright winning the CY Young.

This is Pujols’ third NL MVP award and will go into 2010 as the early favorite to win the award again.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Phillies Hold Off Yankees, Force Game Six

November 3, 2009

Like George Costanza, the Philadelphia Phillies did the opposite last night.

Instead of having tuna on toast, with coleslaw, and a cup of coffee and trying to wait out AJ Burnett, the Phillies had chicken salad, on rye, untoasted, and a cup of tea and jumped all over Burnett.

The Phillies were aggressive and ambushed Burnett in the first inning thanks to a Chase Utley three-run homerun and eventually held on for an 8-6 victory to force a Game Six back in the Bronx.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-2.

What ever respect Burnett earned in his gutsy performance in Game Five of the ALCS and his brilliant performance in Game Two of the World Series, he lost last night.

Yankees Orioles Baseball

Burnett gave the Yankees nothing last night

To go out in a World Series game and give your team absolutely nothing, is pathetic. At least battle like you did against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Here is all you need to know about where Burnett’s head was last night.

In the bottom of the third, Burnett was facing Jayson Werth with two on and nobody out. Burnett gets to 0-2 on Werth on two fastballs. The second fastball he blew by Werth.

Now one of the first things you learn when you become a pitcher is if a guy can’t catch up to your fastball, don’t throw anything offspead.

So what does Burnett do? He throws a tumbling curveball right over the middle of the plate. Werth was all over it and ripped the ball right back up the middle.

You can’t throw that pitch, if a guy just couldn’t catch up to your fastball on the pitch before. Let him prove that he can hit your fastball.

Burnett was then taken out of the game.

Just a terrible performance.

Here are some other observations from last night.

When Shane Victorino got hit on the finger squaring to bunt in the first inning, it reminded me of David Cone breaking his finger in 1987 on a bunt attempt.

In a potential clinching game in the World Series, the Yankees had Nick Swisher batting fifth.

Lee was good last night, but wasn’t great. He walked three guys last night and had only walked three guys in his previous four starts.

Lee only threw first-pitch strikes to 18 out of the 31 batters he faced. Very uncharacteristic for him.

I was very surprised to see Lee come out for the eighth inning. I thought Charlie Manuel should have gone to Chan Ho Park to start the inning and preserve Lee for a relief appearance in a potential Game Seven.

Great job by David Roberston and Alfredo Aceves to keep the Yankees in the game. Four innings, two hits, and three strike outs.

The Yankees have to be encouraged by Phil Hughes’ performance last night. 1.1 innings and looked sharp.

I guess we now know why Damaso Marte is ahead of Phil Coke on the depth chart.

With five homeruns, Chase Utley has tied Reggie Jackson for most homeruns in a World Series.

Why does Swisher look up at the scoreboard before every pitch? If this was the 1960’s, he would be accused of stealing signs.

Can someone please teach Brett Gardner how to bunt? This guy is one of the fastest players in baseball and he is hitting the ball in the air every AB.

I had no problem with Manuel going with Ryan Madson in the ninth. Lidge threw 30 pitches the night before and Madson was solid in Game Four.

Whatever praying the Phillies’ dugout did before the Derek Jeter AB–it worked. Jeter hitting into a 6-4-3 double play is more than anyone could have expected.

Say what you want about Johnny Damon–when the game and season is on the line, he shows up to play.

You can make all the great defensive plays you want, but Mark Teixeira’s postseason honeymoon is over. He has been awful in this World Series and for the most part, the entire postseason.

Hideki Matsui leads the Yankees in total bases this World Series (11) and has only started two games.

Citizens Bank Park has an X-Ray machine in the stadium. How far have we come in terms of technology? It really is amazing and we all, including myself take it for granted.

Hypothetical here: Let’s say Teixeira tied the game with a two-run HR in the ninth and Brett Gardner wins the game for the Yankees in the 15th inning. Does Utley still win the MVP award?

Ryan Howard has struck out 12 times this postseason tying Willie Wilson’s World Series record. I am confident that he will break that record in Game Six.

Another hypothetical here: Game Six, the Phillies are up 4-3, and heading into the ninth inning–who close’s for the Phillies?

If there ever was a “good loss” last night was it for the Yankees. They took the Phillies best punch last night and managed to get back up and make a fight out of it.

The Yankee teams from 2001-2008 would have taken that punch and not gotten back up.

Hero for Game Five – Chase Utley

Goat for Game Five – AJ Burnett

Series MVP – Chase Utley

Game Six is Wednesday at 7:57 ET.

Brad Lidge Implodes, Yankees On Cusp Of World Series Title

November 2, 2009

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies rode Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge to a World Series title. In this year’s World Series, Hamels and Lidge have imploded in back to back games and now the Phillies are on the brink of elimination.

In a crucial Game Four, Alex Rodriguez broke a 4-4 tie with a double in the ninth inning off of Lidge and Jorge Posada singled home two more runs to give the Yankees a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-1 and are on the cusp of their 27th World Series title.

While Rodriguez might have broken the tie in the ninth, it was the great AB and then some heads up baserunning by Johnny Damon that was the story of the inning.

With two outs and nobody on, Lidge was cruising. He looked like the Lidge of 2008. He was throwing wicked sliders and more importantly–he was throwing with confidence.

Johnny-Damon_2

Damon's play last night was heads up

Then Damon came to the plate.

Lidge got Damon in a 1-2 hole, but couldn’t put him away. Damon worked the count to 3-2 and then served a single to leftfield.

What happened next was stuff of legend.

With Mark Teixeira at the plate, Damon stole second. But because the infield was in a shift, third baseman Pedro Feliz took the throw to second.

With Feliz taking the throw at second, nobody was covering third base. Damon realized that and immediately took off for third base. It was one of the most heads up plays you will ever see on a baseball diamond.

Now with Damon on third, Lidge was scared to throw his devastating slider because he didn’t want to bounce it in the dirt and he had to rely on his fastball.

Lidge then plunked Teixeira and the rest was history.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I don’t know why Lidge didn’t try to put Damon away with a slider in the ninth? He kept going to his fastball when his slider was unhittable at that point.

I don’t understand the theory of “If a guy is on third, you can’t throw your slider.” When did Carlos Ruiz become swiss cheese behind the plate?

If Derek Jeter makes that Damon baserunning play, Jeter’s cleats, socks, uniform, and the base are sent to the Hall of Fame.

I have no problem with bringing Lidge into the game at that point. If he can’t pitch in that situation when can he pitch?

Now Lidge knows what Mark Wohlers feels like when you don’t get beat on your best pitch.

All seven other closers have imploded at some point this postseason. The only one that hasn’t? Mariano Rivera. There is a reason why the Yankees are one game away from winning the World Series.

There was only one pitch that Feliz could have hit a homerun on and Joba Chamberlain threw it.

The Yankees got a glimpse of their future when Rivera retires on that Chamberlain gopher ball.

Chamberlain’s “win” last night is the perfect example of why wins for a relief pitcher is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

It’s taken Rivera only 13 pitches to retire five batters the last two nights. Amazing.

Joe Buck talked more about the NFL than he did the baseball game he was announcing through the first three innings.

Somebody should tell Robinson Cano that the World Series started.

Ryan Howard still hasn’t touched home plate.

Very good, but not great performance from CC Sabathia last night. 6.2 innings, three runs, three walks, and six K’s.

I thought Blanton was good as well last night. And yes, it was the right decision to start him instead of Cliff Lee. Someone other than Lidge needs to a win a game for the Phillies. What’s the difference if it is Game Four of Game Five?

The biggest mistake Blanton made last night was walking Nick Swisher to lead off the fifth. That just can’t happen. It was no surprise that Swisher eventually scored.

Great baserunning by Melky Cabrera scoring on that Damon blooper in that inning. Great read on the ball.

Chase Utley just hit another homerun off of Sabathia.

The last team to come back from a 3-1 World Series deficit was the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Sadly, this was the last time any Royals fan felt any joy.

I wonder if the air has come out of the balloon for the Phillies? As Bob Boone said to Don Sutton on the play ride from California to Boston after the California Angels lost an epic Game Five (the Dave Henderson game) to the Boston Red Sox in 1986–“When the air comes out of the balloon, it’s hard to get it back up.”

That being said, I would be shocked if the Phillies didn’t win tonight. Lee on full rest and AJ Burnett on short rest should get them to Game Six.

Hero for Game Four – Johnny Damon

Goat for Game Four – Brad Lidge

Series MVP – Johnny Damon

Game Five is tonight at 7:57

Yankees Rock Cole Hamels, Take Game Three

November 1, 2009

There are some things in life I just don’t understand.

Like why my mom continues to buy single-ply toilet paper, or why Heidi Klum is married to Seal, or why a hitter would swing at the first pitch after a pitcher just walked two out of the last three batters he faced.

The New York Yankees overcame a three run deficit thanks to a gutsy performance from Andy Pettitte and some timely hitting to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-5 last night in Game Three of the World Series.

The Yankees now lead the World Series 2-1.

For me, the turning point of this game was in the bottom of the second inning. I might be in the minority here, but I really thought the Shane Victorino AB with the bases loaded and one out in the second changed the course of the game.

Andy Pettitte

Pettitte came through again for the Yankees

Pettitte had already served up a homerun to Jayson Werth and a wall scraping double to Pedro Feliz. Then he walked Carlos Ruiz, misplayed a Cole Hamels bunt, and walked Jimmy Rollins which forced in a run.

Victorino came up with Pettitte on the ropes. Pettitte was done and Victorino let him off the hook.

Instead of taking a strike, Victorino, trying to be the hero–swung at a pitch in the dirt. Then Victorino swung at another pitch in the dirt to make the count 0-2.

Victorino managed to hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0, but I really thought that AB was the turning point of the game. That AB allowed Pettitte to settle down, gather himself, and from there–he was vintage Pettitte.

Why Victorino didn’t take a strike in that situation is beyond. Pettitte wasn’t close to throwing a strike to Ruiz and was even further off to Rollins. You have to let Pettitte prove to you at that point that he can throw a strike.

The Phillies could have possibly had five or six runs that inning, but settled for three. From there the Yankees bats came alive against a yet again mediocre Hamels and now are just two games away from winning the World Series.

Here are some other observations from last night’s game.

No matter what the situation is, Pettitte always manages to keep the same demeanor on the mound. He really is one of the great clutch performers of all-time.

Hamels didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning. He only last 4.1 innings last night. Amazing.

Remarkably, there are still some people out there who will argue that Hamels is the same pitcher as last year. I wonder if they still feel that way after last night’s performance.

If this series goes seven games, there is no way Charlie Manuel can start Hamels in Game Seven.

I would go with Happ in Game Six and then Pedro Martinez in Game Seven. Give Martinez the extra day if you can.

I still can’t believe Hamels would throw a curveball–Hamels third best pitch to Pettitte. Pettitte’s single was another turning point of the game. That was the single worst pitch of the postseason.

Apparently Joe Girardi’s benching did Nick Swisher well. Swisher hit a double and a homerun last night.

Swisher played Feliz’s double in the second terribly. A good rightfielder catches that ball against the wall.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

I thought the umpires had a very good game last night. Home plate umpire Brian Gorman was consistent all night and good job getting together on the Alex Rodriguez homerun.

The 2009 postseason is officially Jayson Werth’s coming out party. Two more homeruns last night now give him seven for this postseason.

Believe it or not, outside of Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte has been the Yankees most reliable reliever.

Despite the one hour and 20 minute rain delay, this game didn’t end as late as I thought it would. I thought this game would end at two in the morning.

Yankees’ bullpen–three innings, one hit, and one run. Phillies’ bullpen–4.2 innings, three hits, and three runs.

100 percent agreed with Girardi with sending out Phil Hughes to start the ninth with a four run lead. With three games in a row, the Yankees need to save Rivera as much as possible.

Terrible job by Hughes in not being able to finish the ninth. The Yankees didn’t want to use Rivera and they had to.

Howard just struck out.

Chase Utley and Howard went 0-8 with five K’s. If they Phillies are going to win this series, then those two need to carry the offense.

The team that wins Game Four wins the World Series.

Game Four is tonight at 8:20 ET

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Just as a reminder, I will be on the Frankie the Sports Guy show tonight on AM 1240 WGBB at 10:20 ET. I’ll be talking about the World Series and some other baseball topics.

Former Yankee third baseman Charlie Hayes will be on the show as well.

AJ Burnett Outduels Pedro Martinez, Yankees Even Series

October 30, 2009

So much for this being an offensive World Series.

For the second night in a row we saw a pitcher’s duel in the Bronx. Last night AJ Burnett outdueled Pedro Martinez as the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 to even their best-of-seven series at one game a piece.

AJ Burnett

Burnett pitched the game of his life last night

What you saw last night was two pitchers going about getting hitters out in two completely different ways, but getting the same result.

Burnett, overpowered the Phillies lineup with a mid-90’s fastball and a power curve all night. Martinez, used an array of offspead pitches to keep the Yankee hitters off balance all night.

But last night proved that no matter how hard you throw, whether you throw 95 mph or 85 mph, pitching is all about first-pitch strikes and location. A well spotted 85 mph fastball is just as effective, if not more effective than a 99 mph fastball right down the middle.

Burnett threw 22 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced and Martinez threw 16 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think Burnett had a performance like that in him.

In the third inning, after walking Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, every Yankee fan thought “Here we go again” with Burnett.

I am very surprised the Phillies didn’t change their approach during the game. If you see a guy throwing strikes, there is no point in being patient.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

Have Yankee fans not realized that chanting “Who’s your daddy?” only motivates Martinez?

I am still trying to debate who is the smarter pitcher–Martinez or Greg Maddux?

The ball Matt Stairs hit to drive in Raul Ibanez in the second was an error by Alex Rodriguez–not a hit.

I would love to see a throwing contest between Johnny Damon and Jason Bay. That would be high comedy.

If the Yankees don’t resign Damon, some dumb team is going to give him a three-year deal and regret it from the first day. Damon at this stage of his career is a product of the Yankee lineup and the new Yankee Stadium.

Did anyone else think Ibanez’s diving catch in the second inning was happening in slow motion? It seemed Ibanez was running forever and the ball hung up in the air forever.

It was good to see Mark Teixeira finally show up with the bat. That homerun was a bomb to rightcenter.

How did Hideki Matsui hit that homerun in the sixth? That pitch was at his shoe tops.

Did Charlie Manuel get coaching advice from Grady Little before the game? There is no way Martinez should have come back out for the seventh.

Howard just struck out again on another curve four feet out of the strike zone.

Manuel said he didn’t start Rollins and Shane Victorino in the eighth because Utley doesn’t hit into many double plays. Manuel thought it might have been five or less throughout the season.

Manuel was right. Utley hit into five double plays during the regular season.

If you are a Yankee fan, you can say Damon’s linedrive hit the ground in the seventh. As a Philly fan, you can say Utley was safe on that double play.

Both plays were bang-bang. I have no problem with either call.

I don’t care how great Mariano Rivera is, you can’t keep asking a 40-year-old to throw 40 pitches a night.

The Yankees are really going to need to find somebody to pitch the eighth inning in Philadelphia. With three games in a row, Rivera can’t pitch two innings every night. His arm will fall off.

I wonder if Jerry Hairston will get the start in Game Three against the lefty Cole Hamels? Hairston was 1-3 last night replacing Nick Swisher.

How much weight has Mark Grace gained? He has seriously ballooned up. I think we will be seeing him in a Nutrisystem commercial pretty soon.

Hero for Game Two – AJ Burnett

Goat for Game Two – Ryan Howard

Series MVP – Cliff Lee

Game Three is Saturday night at 7:57 ET.

Phillies Destroy Dodgers 10-4, Head Back To World Series

October 22, 2009

Like I said last week, if Chase Utley doesn’t beat you, then Ryan Howard will. If Howard doesn’t beat you, then Raul Ibanez will. And if none of those guys beat you, Jayson Werth will.

Werth hit two HR's last night

Werth hit two HR's last night

Last night, Jayson Werth smacked two HR’s and drove in four runs as the Philadelphia Phillies destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-4 to advance to their second straight World Series.

At some point I am going to realize that I shouldn’t keep betting against the Phillies. I picked the Colorado Rockies to beat them in the NLDS and I picked the Dodgers to beat them in the NLCS. Maybe if I pick the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim to win the World Series, the Phillies would win?

What I have realized is that what happens in the regular season doesn’t matter for the Phillies. Not only are they a unique bunch because their superstars are their grinders, but they are unique because no matter what happens in the regular season, their players rise up in October.

That my friends, is a winning combination.

Did Jimmy Rollins have the best regular season? No, he didn’t. But he will always get the big hit in October. You can bank on it.

Carlos Ruiz is a nice regular season catcher. In the postseason, he takes his game to another level. Was there a Phillies’ rally in this series he wasn’t a part of?

How about Shane Victorino? In the regular season he had a .358 OBP. In the postseason he is getting on base almost 44 percent of the time. He is having great AB’s.

And of course, how about Brad Lidge? This guy couldn’t save his way out of a paper bag from April to September. Now in five postseason games, he has three saves and a Blutarsky-esque ERA of 0.00.

All these guys just know how to win in October. Did you know the Phillies are 18-5 in their last 23 postseason games? 18-5!!! That is incredible.

As for the Dodgers, this series was over when Jonathan Broxton blew the save in Game 4. And the series was officially over when Vicente Padilla gave up the three-run HR to Werth in the bottom of the first inning.

That HR was game, set, and match.

I think the Dodgers found out what their fatal flaw is in this series. They really need an ace.

They have a nice regular season pitching staff. It’s a staff that could win 85-95 games in the NL West. However, they don’t have that guy who can go out there and give you seven dominant innings on a consistent basis in the postseason.

Chad Billingsley was supposed to be that guy, but he is clearly not at this point. They need to get themselves a Roy Halladay or a John Lackey.

Teams like the Phillies crush mediocre pitching and the Dodgers have mediocre pitchers.

Here are some of my other observations from last night’s game:

I don’t want to hear about Cole Hamels peripherals anymore. The guy is not the same pitcher as he was last year. I was shocked that he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning last night.

James Loney was the only Dodgers’ player to show up for all five games in this series.

Someone should tell George Sherrill that pitching in October in Philadelphia is a lot different from pitching in Baltimore in July.

What was the point of bringing Clayton Kershaw into the game last night?

Chan Ho Park should have never started the eighth inning. He should only be a one inning pitcher. Ryan Madson should have started that inning.

How good was Chad Durbin in this series? He didn’t allow a hit in three innings pitched. Again, another guy who steps up his game in October.

Hero of Game 5 – Jayson Werth

Goat of Game 5 – Vicente Padilla

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans on making the 2009 World Series

Jimmy Rollins Gives Phillies 3-1 Series Lead

October 20, 2009

Closer Jonathan Broxton was called upon to get four outs last night for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Broxton was only able to record three outs.

Rollins' walk-off double off Broxton

Rollins' walk-off double off Broxton

Jimmy Rollins’ double off of Broxton with two-on and two-out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Philadelphia Phillies a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Dodgers last night and sent the 46, 157 fans who packed Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy.

The Phillies now lead their best-of-seven series with the Dodgers 3-1.

The Phillies are a unique bunch because their superstars are their gamers. Their superstars are their girtty, dirtdogs, who not only do the little things to win, but get the big hits when the moment is presented.

That is very rare in baseball. The New York Yankees had that in the mid-90’s, the Boston Red Sox have it now with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedrioia, and the Phillies certainly have it now with Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley.

As soon as Rollins stepped into the batter’s box in the ninth inning, you just had that feeling that he was going to come through. But the reality is–Rollins should have never had that chance to begin with.

With one out and nobody on, Charlie Manuel called on Matt Stairs to pinch-hit for Pedro Feliz. It’s amazing how one moment can scar a franchise for life.

Stairs is clearly in the Dodgers’ heads. He is the reason the Dodgers went out and got Jim Thome and his HR off of Broxton in Game 5 of last year’s NLCS has turned him into Ted Williams in the Dodgers’ eyes.

Why Broxton, one of the best closers in the game is pitching around Stairs with nobody on base is beyond me. I understand Stairs can tie the game with one swing of the bat and he beat you last year with a HR. But last year is last year and if you are supposed to be a top-five closer, you shouldn’t fear anyone–period.

Stairs was a .194 hitter during the season for a reason.

Worst case scenario for the Dodgers is that Stairs hits a HR and the game is tied. Now you have a runner on base and with one swing of the bat, you can lose the game.

Then things start to unravel for Broxton and the Dodgers.

Broxton then plunks Carlos Ruiz and then the crowd really got into it. The fans at Citizens Bank Park really make it hard for an opposing pitcher. They are right on top of him.

Broxton got Greg Dobbs to pop out to third and that is when Rollins came to the plate. Like I said earlier, as soon as Rollins came to the plate you just had a feeling he was going to do something.

On a 1-1 pitch, Rollins took a 99 mph fastball and ripped it into the right-center field gap. The ball rolled to the wall, Eric Bruntlet, who was running for Stairs and Ruiz scored, and just like that the Dodgers had their hearts ripped out from their chests.

This was just a crushing loss for the Dodgers. They had done everything to win this game.

Randy Wolf pitched very well for 5 1/3 innings, they got some good clutch hitting from James Loney and Casey Blake, and Hong-Chih Kuo pitched really well in relief.

But at the end of the day, Broxton couldn’t get the job done. Now the Dodgers’ season is on life support.

I think today’s day off actually helps the Dodgers. I think if they would have come back and played today, they would have been crushed in Game 5.

The day off will allow the Dodgers to catch their breath a little bit and give them a chance to regroup.

I expect the Dodgers to play well in Game 5, but I don’t see them coming out of Philadelphia with a win.

Hero for Game 4 – Jimmy Rollins

Goat for Game 4 – Jonathan Broxton

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

Game 5 is Wednesday at 8:07

Phillies’ Offense, Cliff Lee Dismantle Dodgers

October 19, 2009

Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda was suffering from a herniated disk in his neck.

After last night’s performance in Philadelphia, he might be suffering from whiplash as well.

Kuroda was torched last night for six runs in one-and-a-third innings as the Phillies beat the Dodgers going away 11-0 to take a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-seven series.

If you are a mediocre pitcher and make mediocre pitches–the Phillies will crush you. It’s as simple as that. The Phillies’ offense is too good to be shut down by a guy who was throwing Double A stuff.

Kuroda had nothing last night as the Phillies smacked him around all over the field. Ryan Howard got theĀ  scoring started early with a two-run triple in the first. Believe it or not, Howard actually had four triples during the regular season, so this wasn’t that big of a shock.

If Howard’s triple didn’t shock Kuroda, then the next batter did. Jayson Werth, who is having his national coming out party, blasted a two-run HR over the centerfield fence to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead.

Things didn’t get better for Kuroda in the second as Carlos Ruiz started off the inning with a double and he came around to score on a Jimmy Rollins double of his own. Kuroda was lifted and the game was essentially over.

Why was this game over at that point? The game was over because Cliff Lee just dominated the Dodgers’ lineup.

Lee allowed just three hits, struckout 10, and didn’t allow a run in eight incredible innings of work. In three postseason season starts, Lee has allowed two earned runs and has struckout 20 in 24.1 innings of work.

Lee dominated the Dodgers last night

Lee dominated the Dodgers last night

So much for not having “postseason experience.”

Having “postseason experience” is one of the most overrated things in sports. Having post season experience or no postseason experience has no bearing on the outcome of the game that is played that day.

I can give you a countless number of players who have had years upon years of experience in the postseason, who have failed and I can give you a countless number of players who have had zero postseason experience, who have dominated.

It’s all about the performance of today–not five years ago.

And today, Lee is performing at a very high level. How dominant was Lee yesterday against the Dodgers? Lee faced 26 batters and only three times did batters have a 2-0 or 3-1 count.

As a batter, you can’t be aggressive if you are constantly behind in the count.

Now, if you are the Dodgers you really have to ask yourself if you want to bring back Kuroda if there is a Game Six? Joe Torre’s other option would be Chad Billingsley.

Billingsley allowed two runs on two hits in three-and-a-third innings of work last night. He only threw 57 pitches, so if Torre wants to bring him back for Game Six, he should be plenty rested.

The Dodgers will have Randy Wolf going tonight. I actually think Wolf will pitch well tonight.Very rarely does a team get blown out two games in a row in the postseason.

If he doesn’t, the Dodgers might not make it back to play in L.A.

Hero for Game Three – Cliff Lee

Goat for Game Three – Hiroki Kuroda

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

Game Four is tonight at 8:07 ET.

Dodgers Rally In The Eighth, Even Series At One

October 17, 2009

31 pitches

Five pitchers

Three hits

Two walks

Two runs

One blown save

That was the bottom of the eighth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for two runs and eventually held on for a 2-1 victory to even their best-of-seven series with the Phillies at one game apiece.

As my friend Mike always says “How do you beat Ric Flair? A small package in the center of the ring.” I say “How do you beat the Phillies? Get to their bullpen.”

The Phillies’ bullpen stinks. I know it’s harsh, but there is no other way around it. Yesterday, they ruined what was a brilliant pitching performance by Pedro Martinez.

Pedro was classic Pedro yesterday

Pedro was classic Pedro yesterday

Martinez was vintage Pedro. He had the Dodger batters off-balance all game. His performance yesterday was very similar to his performance in Game Five of the 1999 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians.

He didn’t have a 95 mph fastball that night either. But what he had that night and what he had yesterday, was his brain. And Martinez is one of the smartest pitchers in the game–if not the smartest.

Nobody is better when they don’t have their best stuff than Martinez is. He had everything working yesterday. The Dodgers had no chance against him in the hot California sun.

Of course, the classic second guess is why did Charlie Manuel take Martinez out after seven innings? Martinez allowed just two hits, struckout three, and didn’t walk a batter in those seven innings of work.

Most importantly, Martinez had only thrown 87 pitches. If Manuel would allow Martinez to throw 130 pitches against the New York Mets in a meaningless game in September, why wouldn’t he allow him to go further into the game?

“To me, Pedro was done,” Manuel said. “He did a tremendous job and took it actually farther than I anticipated. . . . He was gone. I think he was spent.”

If the manager of the Phillies says that Martinez was done, then I have to believe him. One would think he would know his players better than anyone.

Manuel took Martinez out after the seventh and that’s when the fun started.

Manuel brought Chan Ho Park into the game to face Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, and Russell Martin. Park, who was so good Thursday night, was the complete opposite yesterday.

Park allowed a leadoff single to Blake and then misplayed a bunt by Belliard. Park really should have fielded that bunt. It wasn’t a good bunt at all by Belliard.

Now with runners on first and second with nobody out, Martin was attempting to sacrifice bunt. However, Park wouldn’t let him because he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate.

If a guy is giving himself up and giving you an automatic out–let him. Just throw the ball over the plate. It shouldn’t be that hard to throw the ball over the middle if you are a major league pitcher.

On a 3-0 count, Park got a gift call from the home plate umpire. The pitch was about three inches inside, but was called a strike. Completely changed the AB and the inning.

With the count now 3-2 and the bunt off, Martin hit a routine groundball to third. Pedro Feliz threw the ball to Chase Utley covering second for one out and then Utley decided to throw the ball off the fence on the Dodgers’ dugout.

I know some people will say Utley’s bad throw was caused by the hard slide by Belliard who was on first. That wasn’t the case. Utley just made an awful throw.

Juan Pierre, who was running for Blake scored on the play to tie the game at one. Instead of having two outs and a runner on third, the Dodgers had one out with a runner on first.

Then came the parade of Phillies’ relievers out of the bullpen. I am surprised I didn’t see Don Carmen or Mitch Williams come into the game.

Scott Eyre gave up a single to Jim Thome. Ryan Madson walked Rafael Furcal. And with the bases loaded, JA Happ walked Andre Ethier to force in a run.

Just like that it was 2-1 Dodgers and when Jonathan Broxton set the Phillies down 1-2-3 in the ninth, the series was tied at one.

And not to be overshadowed in this win for the Dodgers was the effort by Vicente Padilla. He was matching Martinez pitch for pitch and only made one mistake (a HR to Ryan Howard in the fourth) in seven-and-a-third innings of work.

He has pitched brilliantly for the Dodgers in two starts in the postseason.

Game Three is Sunday at 8:07 ET

Hero for Game Two – Vicente Padilla

Goat for Game Two – Chase Utley

Series MVP – Ryan Howard

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg