Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rollins Wins it For Phils

I was going to post about this game last night, but my internet went down immediately after the game for some reason. Jimmy Rollins came up big when it mattered most, when the Phillies were down a run in the 9th. With 2 runners on and 2 out, J-Roll stroked a 99 MPH fastball into the gap in right-center field. Both runs scored and the Phillies won the ballgame with one swing of the bat.

I have seen everything now. There's nothing you can't expect from this Phillies team. I mean I was packing it up! I was getting ready to go to bed! But then Jimmy Rollins stunned the city of Philadelphia (probably LA too) and got the game-winning hit. J-Roll had looked bad all night up until that point but, Boy did he ever deliver!

I'm not going to go through my usual game summary like I do when I post right after the game. Because, by now, you have seen the highlights and read other game summaries. I will be in attendance tomorrow for Game 5. Of course, they better clinch it at the Bank tomorrow.

Cole Hamels will be on the mound against the Dodgers Vicente Padilla. Padilla, a former Phillies, has been lights-out this postseason. He pitched in Game 2, the only game the Dpdgers have won in the series. Maybe the Phillies will hit him though, since they've already seen him in the series.

Cole Hamels needs to pick his game up big time. Simple as that. He has given up 4 runs in each of his 2 starts of the postseason. He has not finished the 6th inning in either of those starts, and he has a 6.97 ERA this postseason. Let's hope he can get it together tomorrow (PLEASE!)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cliff Lee Wows in Game 3

It's official: Philadelphia has gone from a football town to a baseball town in one stunning Sunday. The Phillies won their Game 3 matchup 11-0 over the hapless Los Angeles Dodgers (who looked more like the LA Mets tonight), while the Eagles lost to the previously-winless Oakland Raiders.

Let's not get into the Eagles, all Phillies today. Cliff Lee took the mound tonight with a mission, and that mission was certainly accomplished. Clifton Phifer Lee went 8 innings without allowing a run, and giving up only 3 hits (two to ManRam). Cliff Lee is definitely a guy you can rely on in the clutch.

The Phillies offense exploded in the 1rst inning against Hiroki Kuroda. They scored 4 runs, with the highlights being a Howard 2-run triple and a Werth 2-run home run. Howard is really driving in runs this postseason.

Cliff Lee won this game by himself though. He got a single in the bottom of the 8th, and Shane Victorino knocked him in with a mammoth home run.... Cliff Lee 1, Dodgers 0. By the way, Cliff Lee's postseason ERA in 3 career games, 0.74.

Carlos Ruiz has become a breakout star this postseason. He is batting .429 with a homer and 7 RBIs in 7 games. He wasn't known for his hitting in the regular season but he is averaging a RBI a game in the playoffs. He also made a great ice cream cone catch over the Phils dugout to end the game.

Just 2 more wins for another World Series berth. Joe Blanton will be pitching against former-Phillie Randy Wolf tomorrow. I really hope they win (even more than usual) because I'll be at Game 5, and I hope they have a chance to clinch a berth right there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Phillies Headed to NLCS!!!!!

The Phillies are never out of a game. That's what we learned today. Even after falling behind 4-2 in the 8th, the Phillies were not out of the game. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth and Brad Lidge were the heroes of this 5-4 win. Here we come LA!

Our ace, Cliff Lee, was on the mound and he delivered 7 1/3 innings of 1-run ball. Cliff Lee is pitching in the 2009 playoffs like Cole Hamels did in 2008 playoffs. He was hitting his spots again tonight, absolutely dominating the Rockies.

Then in the 7th, Charlie pulled Lee in favor of Madson. He pulled off a double switch, placing Ben Francisco in left, which would prove vital. With the Phillies only up by one and with runners on 1rst and second, Madson got Tulowitzki to hit a shallow fly to left field. Ben Francsico made an amazing diving catch, saving a run. Madson did give up 3 runs in the inning, however.

So things looked bleak. The Phillies down by 2 in the 9th inning. I was gearing up for a Game 5, but the Phillies proved me wrong. Jimmy Rollins lead off the inning with an infield single. Victorino got to first on a fielder's choice. Utley walked to put runners on 1rst and 2nd with 2 outs...

Ryan Howard yanked one in right field. I thought it was gone off the bat, but instead it bounced up against the wall, TYING THE GAME. So with Ryan Howard on second, Werth was do up. He fisted one into center field, putting the Phils up by one. It was up to the bullpen....

Scotty Eyre entered the game, to the shock of us fans. Eyre rolled his ankle yesterday coming off the mound to field a bunt. But that did not deter this lovable lefty. He toughed it out and walked out to the mound in the 9th.

Eyre got the first 2 outs, but gave up 2 hits in the process. So with runners on 1rst and 2nd, Uncle Charlie called on Brad Lidge. Could Lidge get 2 saves in a row? The answer was yes, as he struck out Colorado fan favorite Troy Tulowitzki. Lidge is baaaaaaaaaack!

Phillies Pull Out CRAZY Game

The Phillies just recently finished up a victory, 6-5, over the Colorado Rockies in Game 3 of their NLDS series. That's right the game ended around 2:20am here on the East Coast. Brad Lidge actually can save games? Who knew? Carlos Ruiz's middle name is Clutch. Those are just some of the things we have learned from this game.

J. A. Happ started this game, but he didn't go very long. He really struggled in the 1rst inning, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. He settled down a little bit but was never really hitting his spots. He had trouble throwing strikes, and really did not look well.

The back-end of the bullpen actually looked good today. Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, and Brad Lidge all pitched scoreless inning in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Scotty Eyre did roll his ankle while fielding a bunt. His status for the rest of the series is uncertain.

It was 5-5 heading to the 9th and the Phillies had to muster up a run. Jimmy Rollins started it all by knocking the ball to center for a single. The Flyin' Hawaiian bunted him to 2nd. Utley reached base on a "swinging bunt," Utley's hustle allowed him to beat that one out.

After replay, the ball should have been ruled a foul ball by the umpires. Instead Utley moved Rollins to 3rd and Howard hit a sac fly the next at-bat, giving the Phillies the winning run. The Phillies deserved that call. They had been cheated by the umps in the game up until that point. Matt Stairs, while pinch-hitting, had 2 balls called strikes against him when they were clearly outside. Also, Happ's strike zone was squeezed early in the game.

So the big story coming out of this game? No, it isn't the below 30° temperatures. It was Brad Lidge finally getting a save in a 1-run game, in a max-pressure situation. It wasn't easy though. Brad walked Carlos Gonzalez (aka "Philly Killer") with 1 out. Gonzalez toke second, and Lidge got Giambi to pop out.

So, with 2 outs, the Rockies best hitter, Todd Helton, had a chance to win the game. But Brad Lidge didn't give him that chance. So with 2 out and the winning run on first, Brad Lidge got Troy Tulowitzki to pop out and end the game.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Phillies-Rockies Game 3 Canceled

Tonight's Phillies-Rockies game, scheduled for tonight at Coors Field, has been canceled due to cold and snowy weather. The forecast in Denver tonight was snow and temperatures in the 20s, which would have shattered the record for the coldest playoff game (38°F) in MLB history. It would have been a messy game, and no one likes a game dictated by weather.

So here's the schedule as we know it now: Game 3- Sunday at 10:07pm ET on TBS, Game 4- Monday time TBD, Game 5 (if needed)- Tuesday. Because of this postponed game, there will not be a travel day going back to Philly for a possible Game 5.

Yesterday, Charlie Maneul announced that Pedro Martinez will pitch Game 3, and I expect that decision to stand even with the schedule change. Many people in Philadelphia are wondering if making Pedro is the right decision.

Most people thought that J. A. Happ or Joe Blanton were going to start. Many were not even considering Pedro. But Charlie was. Maybe he considered Pedro's playoff experience, or his 5-1 record with the team.

Nobody can really criticize Manuel's decision, until game time comes. Cliff Lee worked out in Game 1, maybe Pedro will work out in Game 3. Let's just hope the weather forecast changes for tomorrow night!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Phillies Take Game 1

Cliff Lee pitched all 9 innings in the Phillies 5-1 victory over the Rockies in Game 1 of the NLDS. It was Lee's postseason debut, and he made the most of it. He was on target to pitch the complete game shutout, but he gave up a run with 2 outs in the 9th. It was still a great pitching performance from the lefty.

The Phillies had a rough time early on against Ubaldo Jimenez, scoring no runs and recording very few hits in the first 4 innings. But then they broke out in the 5th and 6th innings, scoring all their 5 runs in those 2 innings alone. Raul Ibanez drove in 2 of the Phillies 5 runs, which is an encouraging sign that Raul may be heating up just at the right time.

Surprisingly, there were no home runs hit in this game. It was surprising because the Phillies and the Rockies finished first and second in the National League in home runs. Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard both hit shots that would probably be homers on a regular day. But because the winds were gusting in, both fell short of the stands.

This was a key victory for the Phillies (Hey, only 10 more wins to another championship!). Winning the first game puts the Phillies in the driver's seat. If Cole Hamels can lead the Phils to victory at the Bank tomorrow, the Phillies would only have to win one game in three to advance to the NLCS.

Tomorrow, Cole Hamels' rival on the mound will be Aaron Cook, who is 11-6 on the year. His record may look good but he's ERA does not (4.16). He is an average pitcher. I would compare him to Joe Blanton. He won't dominate but he'll do his job most of the time, and sometimes he'll be mediocre. Let's hope he's mediocre.

Game Day: Phillies-Rockies

In about an hour, the MLB will kick off the postseason with Game 1 between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies. The game is scheduled to start at 2:37pm ET at Citizens Bank Park. It will be the Phillies Cliff Lee on the the mound, against Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado.

In a 5-game series, Game 1 is very important. If the Phillies can take this game, they will have the clear edge and home-field advantage.

Cole Hamels was the first pitcher announced to start this ball game, but then Charlie announced that mid-season addition Cliff Lee would be on the hill for Game 1, with Hamels pitching Game 2. I thought the start should have gone to Cole, and not just because of last year. Hamels had been improving and improving late in the season, and I believed he should have gotten the nod.

It doesn't really matter much who starts for the Phillies, it matters who closes. The Phillies bullpen has been erratic all year. If their going to be able to repeat, they need to be able to hold the lead in tight situations. Charlie Manuel has rather foolishly kept his faith in Brad Lidge. We will see if that is the right decision.

Weather will be a factor in this game. It is really windy here in Philly, the wind gusting out towards right field. With the Phillies plethora of lefty sluggers, don't be surprised if quite a few balls fly out of the park this afternoon.

Charlie Manuel: "I look at our starting pitching as very good. I think it's as good as any team in the National League, and I think that our starting pitching will play up big in this series." The starters must pitch deep into games, so that Charlie can avoid going to the bullpen as much as possible.

So is this the start the repeat?

Ryan Madson: "The taste is still in our mouths and we want to taste it again."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Twins Win AL Central!

The Twins and Tigers were tied after 162 games. And it took 12 innings in their 163rd to finally announce the winner of the AL Central: the Minnesota Twins. They won the game in the bottom of the 12th, on a single by Alexi Castilla. Final score: 6-5.

This game was dramatic and heart-wrenching for me, and I'm not even a fan of either team. Think about how it would be for a Tiger or Twin fan.

The game was tied at 4 going into the 9th, and stayed at 9... forcing extra innings. The Tigers scored a run in the top of the 10th. The Twins answered back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning.

Let's go to the 12th: With the bases loaded with Tigers and only 1 out. Bobby Keppel, who had walked 2 men in the inning, hit Brandon Inge in the jersey. The umpire called that the ball had not hit Inge, even though replay clearly showed that the ball did graze Inge's jersey. Keppel went on to get out of the inning.

And the rest is history....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NFL Picks of the Week: Late Games

Bills at Dolphins-4:05pm ET
Vegas Line: Bills by 1
My pick: Dolphins
Projected score: 21-17 Dolphins win
Comments: I really think the Dolphins should be favored here. Even with Chad Pennington injured, I still think the Dolphins will earn the win.

Jets at Saints-4:05pm ET
Vegas Line: Saints by 8
My pick: Jets
Projected score: 35-31 Saints win
Comments: This should be a really good game, but I think the Saints firepower will win in the end.

Cowboys at Broncos-4:15pm ET
Vegas Line: Cowboys by 3
My pick: Cowboys
Projected score: 24-20 Cowboys win
Comments: The 3-0 Broncos will face a tough test against the Cowboys. I think the Cowboys will come through in the end because of their overall talent on defense and offense.

Rams at 49ers-4:15pm ET
Vegas Line: 49ers by 10
My pick: 49ers
Projected score: 28-10 49ers win
Comments: The Rams are awful. Need I say more?

Chargers at Steelers-8:20pm ET
Vegas Line: Steelers by 7
My pick: PUSH
Projected score: 28-21 Steelers win
Comments: This will be a good game, but I think Pittsburgh will win because of their defense.

Monday Night Game-8:30pm ET

Packers at Vikings
Vegas Line: Vikings by 4
My pick: Vikings
Projected score: 27-14 Vikings win
Comments: Brett Favre will be able to get his revenge against the Green Bay Packers for the first time tomorrow. I think his Vikings will win this game more because of Adrian Peterson and less about him.

NFL Picks of the Week: Early Games

Sorry I didn't post my picks of the week last week but I was sick and didn't really have time to. Here are my Week 4 picks:

Seahawks at Colts-1:oo PM ET
Vegas Line: Colts by 11
My pick: Colts
My projected score: 28-14 Colts win
Comments: Go with the Colts on this one. I know their defense is banged up but their offense will score enough points to make up for it.

Lions at Bears-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Bears by 10
My Pick: Lions
My projected score: 24-21 Bears win
Comments: Coming off their big win against the 'Skins, the Lions will give a good showing in Chicago. I still think the Bears will win , but just barely.

Bengals at Browns-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Bengals by 7
My pick: Bengals
My projected score: 31-17 Bengals win
Comments: Don't over-think this game. Go with the Bengals. They are 2-1 and the Browns are 0-3. Carson Palmer will lit up the Browns' secondary.

Giants at Chiefs-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Giants by 10
My pick: Giants
My projected score: 35-10 Giants win
Comments: Very conservative line. I thought it would be like -14 for the Giants. So, take advantage of this line and go G-Men.

Ravens at Patriots-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Patriots by 2
My pick: Ravens
Projected score: 21-17 Ravens win
Comments: This game is basically a tossup. Whoever you think will win is who you should bet on.

Buccaneers at Redskins-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Redskins by 8
My pick: Buccaneers
Projected score: 13-10 Buccs win
Comments: The Redskins lost to the Lions last week, and they will keep up it up against the Buccs. I would pick the Buccs even if the Redskins win because they won't win big.

Titans at Jaguars-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Titans by 3
My pick: Jaguars
Projected score: 21-14 Jaguars win
Comments: The Titans haven't won a game yet. When I compare the teams I just think the Jaguars have more talent. Maurice Jones-Drew will have a big game today.

Raiders at Texans-1:00 PM ET
Vegas Line: Texans by 9
My pick: Texans
Projected score: 24-10 Texans win
Comments: No comment

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Notre Dame Wins in OT

Notre Dame's defense came through in the end, 37-30 in overtime. Now the defense did have trouble with the wrecking ball that is Washington quarterback Jake Locker. But when Washington got down inside the 1-yard line of Notre Dame, the D stopped the Huskies 2 straight times (then they did it again after a phantom roughing-the-snapper call).

This Washington team is a much better team than last year's winless team. Jake Locker is a lot like Michigan's Tate Forcier. But this time, Notre Dame came through. Instead of letting Locker run wild on their defense, the ND offense kept the pressure on, forcing Washington to throw the ball.

Remember this team beat USC two weeks ago. Jimmy Clausen scorched the Huskie secondary for 422 yards and 2 TDs. Clausen looked good, bouncing back from that turf toe injury. Golden Tate had a monster day, further proving that he is one of the best receivers in college football, catching 9 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown.

Notre Dame's goaline defense surprised many (including me) today. They stopped the Washington offense inside the 1-yard line 3 times. In the 3rd quarter on 3rd and goal from inside the 1-yard line, Locker tried a QB sneak up the middle and the ND D-line held him up. Washington ran the same play on 4th down and the Notre Dame D held up again.

Then, in the 4th quarter, on 1rst and 1 from the 1-yard line, Chris Polk ran up the middle for a slight loss. On 2nd down, Locker threw an incomplete pass. On 3rd down, Locker ran yet another QB sneak and was denied yet again. The Huskies then elected for the field goal attempt. A phantom "roughing-the-snapper" call was made on the FG attempt. Washington had a automatic 1rst down, half the distance to the goal. Not surprisingly this time, Notre Dame forced a field goal.

Late in the 4th quarter with Washington up 27-22, Captain Comeback (Jimmy Clausen), led a drive down the field. He connected with Kyle Rudolph for a 12-yard TD pass with less than 2 minutes left in the game. Notre Dame went for the 2-point conversion (so they could extend their lead to 3 points). Clausen handed off to RB Robert Hughes, who carried the pile in for the conversion.

The 2-point conversion run was the offensive play of the game. If that 2-pointer was stopped. Washington would have won the game on the field goal they hit with 10 seconds left. Instead, it went to overtime.

NBC had a MAJOR malfunction during when overtime was scheduled to start. First, a NBC screen-saver came up for a few minutes. Then, Access Hollywood came on and I was obviously flipping out at those dipsticks at NBC. They finally fixed their error and the only play I saw was the Notre Dame TD run.

Bottom line: Notre Dame got another win. Every game they play, it seems like it comes down to the final drive. It is exciting but not good for the heart (and I'm sure some of those BCS geekheads like blowouts more than close games). They are now 4-1... and they welcome USC to Notre Dame Stadium next week!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Flyers Open Season Tomorrow

The Philadelphia Flyers will open the 2009-2010 NHL season tomorrow night against the Washington Capitals. We, Flyer fans, are all ready for some hockey. Make that physical hockey. This is a team that can intimidate their opponents with their size and physicality, not to mention their many goal-scorers.

The team you see on the ice tomorrow night will have a different look to it this year. First, the Flyers newest defenseman, Chris Pronger, will debut for his new team. Pronger has consistently been one of the best defensemen in the league. That is why the Flyers traded promising young players for him and then signed the 34-year old to a 7-year deal.

I think Pronger will bring a real physical presence to the ice, kind of like Derian Hatcher was a couple of years ago. The difference between Hatcher and Pronger is that Pronger is a major threat to score on the power play from the blue line. He has one of the hardest shots in the league.

The other major difference between this year's team and last year's team has to due with the goalies. The Flyers got rid of Martin Biron and Antero Nittymaki. Instead, they signed Ray Emery, who hasn't been in the NHL since the 2007-2008 season. He looked good playing in Europe, but the Flyers are still taking a major risk by making him their #1 goaltender.

I think this team will be very good. The Atlantic division is very talented, so the Flyers will many tough games. Still I believe that the Flyers will make the playoffs and finish in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference. ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated both project the Flyers to finish 4th in the Eastern Conference.

So, enough with the talk. Let's get to the games. Games aren't played on paper and the Flyers certainly know that. Our first impression of this team will come tomorrow night.