Can anyone beat the Phillies?

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The Phillies have won ten in a row. Fourteen of their last 15. Twenty-two of 26.  It’s getting a bit difficult to find appropriate superlatives, so let’s just throw out some stuff and try to grok how great things are going for this team at the moment:

  • The Phillies used only two relievers — Madson and Lidge — in their three games against the Braves, for a total of five innings.
  • Roy Oswalt, who turned in the best performance of all of the big three in the series, has allowed one run in his last 22 innings. In 11 starts since the trade which brought him over, he is 7-1 with a 1.76 ERA. The Phillies have now
    won 10 straight Oswalt starts.
  • Cole Hamels is 5-0 with a 0.49 ERA and is holding batters to a .173 batting average over his last five starts.
  • As Todd Zolecki notes over at MLB.com, while the Phillies offense hasn’t been hanging eight or nine runs a game on guys lately, they have been knocking opposing starters out of games early lately, and getting into the bullpen.  This is less sexy than high scores, but it’s proved to be an effective means of winning via a war of attrition.

Any reason for concern? It’s hard to find one that gets you animated.

  • They bumped Roy Halladay back a day for his next start. He could very well be tired at the moment — he gave up a whopping three runs in seven innings against the Braves, the sad sack — so it makes sense that they need to rest him, what with him not having done this pitch-in-October thing before.
  • Jimmy Rollins is still hurt — he’s expected to play before the regular season is over — but they survived much of the year without him, and are thriving without him at present.
  • I also suppose the Phillies would have liked to seen the offense put up more runs on Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor, the two rookie starters the Braves thew at them on Monday and Tuesday, but hey, who needs runs when you got the Big Three?  I think they’ll sort it out.

I’m not one to make bold, confident predictions — baseball just doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing — so I won’t make one now. I will say, however, that I have a hard time seeing anyone go toe-to-toe with Philadelphia once the playoffs come.  If they get the best record in the NL — which is highly likely – they’ll be able to pick a division series schedule that allows them to use only three starters.  After that, they can just go for broke with Hamels, Halladay and Oswalt and plan on resting them up all winter.

The only thing that can derail them? The very nature of baseball itself. Strange things can happen in the playoffs. For years people said that no one could match Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz in the playoffs and — on paper anyway — that was true. With the exception of 1995, however, someone always managed to find a way.  The NFL has the “any given Sunday” reputation, but it’s in baseball where anything can truly happen.

But yeah: if you put a gun to my head right now, I say it’s the Phillies title to lose.  Does anyone really think otherwise?

Video: Jared Hoying gets shaken up after making a catch at the wall

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Rangers’ center fielder Jared Hoying put everything on the line to make a spectacular catch at the wall on Saturday, saving a run during the team’s eventual 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays. In the fifth inning, Kevin Pillar crushed a ball off of Yu Darvish, sending it 393 feet to the warning track in center field. It took Hoying 5.4 seconds to reach the ball, gloving it just before he crashed into the wall at full speed.

The center fielder was down on the field for several seconds and looked to be in considerable pain, drawing the attention of the Rangers’ training staff while he caught his breath. Postgame reports revealed that Hoying had not sustained any major or minor injuries during the crash, but simply needed time to recover after having the wind knocked out of him. He stayed in the game through the seventh inning and was able to field another two fly balls with little trouble, neither of them quite as dramatic as Pillar’s attempted hit off the wall.

With the loss, the Rangers now sit 9.5 games back of the division lead.

Former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning dies at age 85

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame right-handed pitcher and former U.S. Senator, died on Friday at age 85. He suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was in hospice care when he died, according to former Senate chief of staff Jon Deuser.

Bunning rose to prominence in Major League Baseball during his first full season with the Tigers in 1957, recording 14 complete games and a league-leading 20 wins. The following year, Bunning pitched his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox, just the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. During his first season with the Phillies in 1964, Bunning followed up his no-hitter with a perfect game against the Mets, marking the first National League perfecto in the 20th century. By the time he retired in 1971, he boasted seven All-Star nominations, 2,855 strikeouts (maintaining his second-place ranking on the all-time strikeout list from 1967-1971) and a 224-184 record over 17 seasons.

Following a storied major league career, Bunning entered politics at age 46, serving 12 years in the House and eventually getting elected to the Senate at age 67, where he served two terms. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements. He declined to run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and choosing instead to throw his weight behind fellow candidate Rand Paul.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement following news of Bunning’s death on Saturday:

Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service.  He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

“In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball.  The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate.  He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game.