Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Place!

With their win tonight, the Phils have pulled one half game ahead of the Florida Marlins in the NL East, and are in first place! Florida is a nice story, and they have loads of good young players, but this is not their year. I'm not saying that the Phils are going to win the division, because that would be a little premature, but I do believe that the division will be won by either the Phils or the dreaded Mets. These two teams are stacked, and, while the Marlins' players have a lot of talent, it is still raw. The Phils and Mets seem to me to remain the marquee teams in the East, and along with the Cubs and Cardinals, the marquee teams of the league.

But, who wants to read about the Mets and Marlins. Let's get to the good stuff! The Phils had another great offensive showing tonight, scoring 10 runs against the second best team in the National League, record-wise. Unfortunately, the pitching was less than stellar, and allowed the Cards to keep it close all game. Brad Lidge allowed a HR to Albert Pujols. Since Lidge joined the Phils, Pujols is 1-2 against him with a HR and an intentional walk.

It's great news that the Phils have taken the division lead, and it would be nice to hold it with a win tommorrow, but it is almost impossibly hard to sweep a team, no matter what their record is, and the Cardinals are certainly no slouches. While I would love a Phils sweep, I'm not expecting one for this reason. Also, I know that the best way to win a division is one series at a time. As long as you can do that, you'll be a contender for a long time.

Also, it should be noted that with his second grand slam of the season last night, Ryan Howard tied Mike Schmidt for the Phils all-time lead, with 7.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to Another Year

Well, another school year is winding down, and another baseball season is in full swing. I figured its about time I start writing here again. Last year I stopped posting after a while, but I'm going to try to stay with it this year.

My final post in May of last year (read it here) was surprisingly prescient. I'm not sure if this was because I wrote about what I wanted to happen, and reality conformed, or I actually know what I am talking about (less likely). Anyhow, I wrote about the importance of winning one-run ballgames, and how doing so is a key feature of a championship ball club.

Well, the Phils were 27-23 in one-run games last year, not counting the playoffs, and they're wearing rings now. The team with the best regular season one-run game record, coincidentally, was the Tampa Bay Rays, who the Phils played in the World Series.

Anyhow, enough about last year. As numerous Phils have said, 2008 is behind us. It's time to focus on 2009.

I don't think it would be appropriate to begin the discussion of 2009 with any topic other than Harry Kalas.

I love baseball. It is hard to imagine my life without it. Since 2000, it has been a staple in my world. I discovered baseball on the radio. I learned the game from Harry Kalas and the rest of the Phils' broadcast team. However, I didn't just learn the rules of the game. The fascinating and wonderful thing about baseball is that it is more than just a game that men play. It is a patchwork quilt of history made up of names and places and stories. Baseball is a metaphor for life. You could be a student of the game for your entire life and never learn everything there is to know about it. Baseball is beautiful, and Harry Kalas showed me its beauty.

So, with sadness, I bid farewell to Harry Kalas, who, although he never had an official at bat or threw a big league pitch, left his mark on the game forever.

Tonight, the Phils played a game which Harry Kalas would have enjoyed, because he would have gotten to call two grand slams. Tonight, the Phils scored 13 runs for the second day in a row, powered by grand slams from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. It was the fourth time in Phillies history that they had two grand slams one game. Here are the others:
  1. April 28, 1921 - Ralph Miller and Lee Meadows vs. Boston
  2. Aug. 18, 1997 - Billy McMillon and Mike Lieberthal vs. San Francisco
  3. Sept. 9, 2003 - Tomas Perez and Jason Michaels vs. Atlanta
Some facts about the grand slams tonight:
  • Ryan Howard now has six career grand slams, which ties him with Bobby Abreu, Willie Jones, Chuck Klein and Cy Williams for second-most in team history, behind Mike Schmidt who hit seven.
  • It was Howard's first slam at Citizen's Bank Park, and his first since September 17, 2007.
  • Raul Ibanez now has eight grand slams, which ties him with many people for the fourteenth most in MLB history. His last slam was on Aug 4, 2008, with the Mariners.
Also, the Phillies are now 10-8, and all but one of their wins has been a come from behind win. I absolutely loved the way they refused to stop fighting back, no matter how many times the Nats took the lead due to our unacceptably shody pitching. The pitching is a bit of a cause for concern. Even the Phillies won't score thirteen runs every night, and if we want to contend, we need to get better outings from our starters, and we need a dependable bullpen. Tonight the pen allowed so many runs, I thought I was watching the Mets! Hopefully Cole Hamels can figure out how to turn it around tomorrow night in game two. If we can sweep the Marlins, we need to find a way to beat the Nats as well, and thirteen runs is not a feasible solution. We know we have a great offense. If our pitching just steps up, we'll be poised for a great run in 2009.