After a couple days of pointing out the Phillies' offensive flaws by yours truly, it appears as if the bats have awakened this afternoon. The Phillies pasted the Dodgers for nine runs and 10 hits, including a stellar 7-for-16 from The Big Four. A big 3-for-5 with five RBIs from chatty Pat Burrell.
So is the spark the Phillies were talking about? Is this when the offense reemerges?
Anyway, go to the Twitter page for the Olympic Marathon updates.
So I went into Starbucks this morning and ordered the big, big Sidamo coffee. Of course I mispronounced it which drew a bunch of blank stares from the baristas, before they realized what I wanted and corrected me.
"Oh... you mean Sis-AH-mo."
The Sidamo brew was described on the board above the urn as "delicate yet complex." OK. But when I quipped, "Delicate yet complex... sounds like me!" I got nothing.
Anyway, there is a lot going on today. To start, the struggling Phillies offense takes its road show to Arlington, Texas this evening to play the Rangers. Actually, when I write struggling offense, I really meant all-or-nothing offense. That really seems to describe the Phillies' hitters perfectly.
Need proof? Check out this stat I was e-mailed about the all-or-nothing Phillies:
The Phillies have scored 10 or more runs in eight games this season for 110 runs. In the other 72 games, the Phillies have scored 294 runs, or 4.08 runs per game.
When scoring 10 or more runs the Phillies are 8-0. In the other 72 games they are 35-37.
Feast or famine.
When was the last time a team with numbers so skewed won the World Series?
Meanwhile, the track portion of the Olympic Trials begins in earnest tonight in Eugene, Oregon at Hayward Field. For those who don't follow the sport (and you know who you are), holding the track trials at Hayward Field is staging the World Series in Wrigley Field, Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium rolled into one.
Yeah, it's a pretty big deal. It's an even bigger deal when one considers that the Olympic Trials are about as dramatic as it gets in sports. Think about it -- athletes get one chance once every four years to qualify for the Olympic team. If they don't finish in the top three in their event, they have to wait another four years for the next chance.
Needless to say, they bring it at the Trials.
Tonight at 9:20 p.m. the women's 10,000-meters team will be determined. But if Shalane Flanagan doesn't run away with this one, something is up. I'm also predicting that Katie McGregor and Elva Dryer will take the other two spots on the Olympic team.
What about Kara Goucher? Come on, you can't go with the chalk all the time.
Finally, the final appeal of the Floyd Landis case will be issued on Monday by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
There's more coming later today. I went to see Ted Leo and Pearl Jam in Washington last Sunday so I figured I might as write about that, too.
Cryptic sentence of the day:
Clips are back.
Runs are easy to understand. Actually, scoring runs are the most important thing in baseball. Get more than the other team and you win. Yes, it's so simple.
The thing about runs though is that they have a way of clouding up the memory banks. It actually might be one of those cases where one cannot see the forest save for the trees.
Or something like that.
The point is that beneath an avalanche of runs and, the nice little ancillary benefit called wins, has been some pretty decent pitching outings. In last night's 7-4 victory over the Rockies, Kyle Kendrick turned in a career-high 7 1/3 innings, which ended up being the most important performance of the game. For one thing, Kendrick kept the Rockies from inching back into the game when the Phillies' bats finished scoring for the evening.
For another, Kendrick gave the bullpen a break. After all, the relievers had to turn in five, solid innings to keep the Astros in check last Sunday when ace Cole Hamels turned in an atypical poor outing. As a result, the bats rewarded Chad Durbin and the gang with 15 runs and some not-so strenuous situations on Monday and Tuesday nights.
After the game Kendrick explained how pitching with such a big lead actually helped him last night. While the Phillies scored seven runs before they had even registered five outs, Kendrick said he could relax, settle in and go to work.
"That's big," Kendrick said about the early support. "When you take the mound, it's your job to give your team a chance to win."
More importantly to the guys behind him, Kendrick pitched quickly, threw strikes and got them back into the dugout reasonably quick. According to Jimmy Rollins, those traits are a sign of Kendrick's maturity, which is saying something considering the young right-hander had all of 12 starts above Single-A before joining the Phillies last season.
"He got up there and he pounded the zone, and got ahead of hitters," Rollins said about Kendrick. "He's keeping us in the game. That's all you ever ask of any starting pitcher. He's starting to rediscover his confidence."
Perhaps some of that comes from the tutelage of the sage-like, 45-year-old starter Jamie Moyer. Kendrick regularly chats with Moyer for advice and guidance on pitching and baseball, which makes a lot of sense. After all, Moyer was finishing up his first professional baseball season when Kendrick was born. Plus, there are very few situations that Moyer has not seen - or been directly involved in - during his 22-season Major League career.
So watching Moyer work through his seven-inning stint during the 20-5 victory over the Rockies on Monday might have been the perfect primer for Kendrick.
Though pitching with such a large lead is difficult for some pitchers because they claim they have difficulty directing their focus, Moyer kept the Rockies to just six hits and four runs with just one walk and seven whiffs while the offense piled on the runs.
But falling back to his old mantra of "Keep it simple, stupid," Moyer says his focus was on keeping the Rockies from scoring as many runs as he was given. As long as the Rockies never matched his teammates, Moyer was satisfied.
"I was just trying to stay away from the crooked numbers," Moyer said. "To me it's just about winning, not the numbers."
A good offense is certainly is a nice luxury to have. But then again, what good are scoring runs if there is no one to stop the other team?
It should be noted that there is a full Philadelphia media throng here in Denver tonight. All of the newspapers are represented in sizable numbers, including six writers from the Inquirer and a bunch from the Daily News.
And get this: The Daily News doesn’t even print an edition tomorrow and the rest of the papers are already past deadline.
Ah, but they all have web site… that’s right guys – embrace the technology.
All of a sudden the offense shows up!
With one out in the seventh Shane Victorino knifed one through the wind and into the seats atop the high, out-of-town scoreboard in right field. Just like that and the Phillies have some offense.
They might even have a little spark.
Victorino knew it was gone as soon as he hit it. He reacted with a few short fist pumps as he dashed down the first-base line and was prodding on his teammates throughout the inning. Perhaps Victorino and his home run got the Phillies going? After all, Carlos Ruiz followed it up with a single to chase rookie pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in favor of veteran Matt Herges.
After Greg Dobbs pinch hit for Abe Nunez and grounded out, Charlie Manuel pulled back Jamie Moyer for pinch hitter Tadahito Iguchi with two outs and a runner on second. We all know that things tend to happen whenever Iguchi steps onto the field.
This time, though, all that happened was an inning-ending pop out.
Moyer's line: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K - 88 pitches/56 strikes
Here comes the Phillies’ bullpen. Buckle up.
Remember that old adage about good pitching beating good hitting every time? Remember? Of course you do. Aaron Rowand even postulated on it last week after the Phillies dropped two of three to the Dodgers last week. If I remember correctly he said something like, “Good pitching beats good hitting every time… ”
Hey Aaron, guess what? Maybe really good hitting beats good pitching from time to time.
At least that seemed to be the case when the Phillies faced the Padres in pitching-friendly PETCO (or is it Petco?) Park this past weekend. After being shutdown on two hits in a 1-0 loss to Chris Young on Thursday night, Rowand, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and the gang piled on 28 runs in the final three games to take the series.
Check out some of these numbers from the 4-3 trip against the top two clubs in the NL West:
Howard hit .500 (11-for-22) with five homers and 13 RBIs; Utley hit .379 (11-for-29) with five doubles, nine runs and seven RBIs; and Rowand hit .355 (11-for-31) with five runs and eight RBIs.
Meanwhile, some dude named J.D. Durbin allowed just one run in 15 innings including a complete-game shutout in Sunday’s 9-0 victory.
J.D. Durbin? What’s the Deal?
I’m sure we’ll get into Durbin with more depth later, but for now let’s pick on something about Chase Utley. It has been examined by pundits, scribes and the statdorks that Utley is in the mix with Prince Fielder for the NL MVP Award, which is kind of cool but there’s something much more interesting going on under the “2B” for Utley.
There, it reads 41. That’s 41 doubles in 97 games which puts him on pace for 68 for the season. In 1931 a guy named Earl Webb clubbed 67 doubles, which is the best of all time. Interestingly, Webb played two more seasons after his epic ’31 season and then was gone.
Poof! Just like that.
What’s more, no player has hit 60 doubles since 1936 when Joe Medwick and Charlie Gehringer did it. In 2000 Todd Helton hit 59 doubles, which happens to be the Phillies’ record set by Chuck Klein in 1930.
So last year it was Howard taking apart the club’s home run record and this year it could be Utley adding his name atop of the doubles chart.
*** David Beckham made his U.S. soccer debut last weekend and all of the stories and all of the hype got me to thinking… how good is that guy? I know a few people who are close followers of soccer and I asked them if Beckham is going to revolutionize something and get people going crazy the way we all did for the New York Cosmos when Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia came to the U.S. in the late ‘70s.
“He might be one of the top 100 players ever, but he won’t have as much of an impact on soccer in the U.S. as Mia Hamm,Brandi Chastain and the women’s team did,” one friend wrote.
“It helps that he’s white, has a name that’s easy to pronounce, speaks English and is married to a celebrity,” another friend wrote. “He’s probably the best player in the league, but he wasn’t the best player in the European leagues.
However, Beckham joining L.A. in the MLS is kind of like an All-Star baseball player leaving MLB to go play in Japan.”
Meanwhile, U.S. columnists are opining that Beckham’s arrival on our shores won’t turn soccer into a major league sport – though it could push past the NHL. To those ideas I think the writers are missing the point. Soccer already IS a major sport in the U.S. Want proof? Drive past any suburban park on any weekend in any part of the country and look what sport the kids are playing… and no, it ain’t baseball.
Adults might not watch soccer on TV, but the shoe companies dump lots of cash into it and the kids play it. That’s what matters.
*** It’s been written that Game 3 of the NBA’s western conference finals from last May was one of the worst officiated games in the league’s history. Anyone have a guess which ref called that game?
Check it out:
*** Undoubtedly, it has been a very interesting two days in the Tour de France. Michael Rasmussen has hung onto the Yellow Jersey by riding strong in the Pyrenees after the best time trial of his life. It stands to reason that The Danish Cowboy could take it all the Paris if he rides strong in the final mountain stage on Wednesday, though I suspect he will face a challenge from the Disco boys, Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador, whose victory in Sunday’s mountain stage over Rasmussen was fantastic.
As far as Leipheimer’s Tour goes, he has one more day in which to engage. Either that or hope that one of the riders ahead of him makes a mistake, cracks, or crashes.
Meanwhile, the most memorable rider of the Tour has been Alexandre Vinokourov, who won Saturday’s time trial, reportedly fell on his stitched up knees after colliding with a fan in Sunday’s mountain stage (to lose 29 minutes), before riding away with today’s mountain stage.
Give me a choice between riding cautiously and steadily like Leipheimer or putting it all out there despite the consequences like Vino and I’ll take the blaze of glory.
As Phil Liggett said as Vino pumped his fist to cross the finish line today, “Everyone all over the world loves a fighter… ”
There is nothing inspiring about being careful to get fourth place.
Stage 15 Final 1.) Vinokourov, Astana @ 5:34:28 2.) Kim Kirchen, T- Mobile @ 51 seconds 3.) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi @ same time 4.) Juan José Cobo, Saunier Duval @ 58 seconds 5.) Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step @ 2:14 6.) David Arroyo, Caisse d'Epargne @ 3:23 7.) Bernhard Kohl, Team Gerolsteiner @ 4:25 8.) Christian Vandevelde, CSC @ same time 9.) Ludovic Turpin, AG2R Prévoyance @ 5:16 10.) Alberto Contador, The Discovery Channel @ 5:31