Perhaps it took most of the regular season (150 games) and doubtless there have been a lot of injuries (17 players on DL) but the Philadelphia Phillies can PHInally be considered the best team in baseball. Their 89 wins place them behind the Yankees (90) and tied with Minnesota and Tampa Bay (89) but this team is PHIring on all cylinders and is clearly ready to tear though the MLB postseason. All the regulars are just about back on board and this team is likely to play as many games with their entire starting compliment (12 games remain) in September as they have the entire regular season (17). Fortunately, the postseason is around the proverbial corner and that gives the Phils time to get their sparkplug (Jimmy Rollins) back in the lineup. Hopefully there will be room for Rollins on the Phils bandwagon because a lot of latecomers have jumped aboard. Watch out NL (this means you Atlanta Braves) because momentum like this is not often stopped. Hitting, pitching, fielding, dramatic walkoff homers, timely strikeouts, they’ve got it all! 7 straight wins, 10 of 11 (hitting .325 w/17HR & 6.9 RPG in those games) and 18 of last 22.
The Phillies have enjoyed several walk-off victories this season. They also are 41-15 since a July 21 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals and 19-4 since the Houston Astros swept them in a four-game series in August. Some fans left before the ninth-inning heroics, which is a no-no. When will fans realize you never count this team out? Jayson Werth capped a game that epitomized the Phils season thus far. Out to a decent lead against the Washington Nationals, cruising along with Joe Blanton for his usual 6-1/3 innings… and all of a sudden Washington grabs the lead back, leaving the Phils a 3-run deficit to overcome in the 9th inning. Placido Polanco hit a leadoff single against Nationals closer Drew Storen to start the ninth. Chase Utley followed with a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Ryan Howard then hit a single to right-center field to score both runners to make it a one-run game. Werth followed with an eight-pitch at-bat, fouling off a 3-1 fastball that probably would have been ball four. He fouled off two more pitches — a slider and fastball — before he crushed a 94-mph fastball to center field. The ball landed over the fence, above the 409-foot marker. JACKPOT! Yahtzee! Bingo! Thanks for coming, drive home safe!
Well now the Phillies look to face the Atlanta Braves (who trail the Phillies by three games) in a series that could determine the winner of the NL East flag. If the Phils lose all three games, they will be tied again with Atlanta and the wildcard race (San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, Atlanta & Phils would basically slug it out for NL West, NL East and Wildcard playoff spots) becomes muddled further. If The Phils win this series, the pundits are prepared to call it! Oh, and the Phightin’ Phils head into this series with Atlanta PHiring their three acres at the Braves in Citizen’s Bank Park. Not PHamiliar with the Phillies three aces? H2O? The Three Amigos? Good, Better & Best? Earth, Wind & Fire? Well all that Hamels , Halladay and Oswalt have done is amass 49 victories, 598 strikeouts (avg WHIP of 1.08) AND 3 of the top dozen ERA in 2010. That’s Hamles (2.07, 3rd), Oswalt (2.19, 6th) and Halladay (2.58, 12th).
Ryan Howard is relatively healthy and has 30 HR/100 RBI for his fifth straight season. Jayson Werth has RBI in 5 straight games and seems to be regaining his stride. Chase Utley is back in the lineup and healthy while Jimmy Rollins is on the way back. Mind you Werth and Catcher Carlos Ruiz have been the consistent performers all season not just by staying in the lineup, but putting numbers on the board. “Chooch” is possibly this team’s MVP. In his fourth full big-league season after being converted from the infield, Chooch Ruiz has proven that when it comes to October there are very few catchers in baseball history as good as Carlos Joaquin Ruiz. In 11 World Series games, the .353 batting average and 1.194 OPS is nothing to sneeze at. Mix in 10 games in the NLCS and Ruiz’s average holds steady at .349 with 10 of his 22 hits going for extra bases.
Now hear this Atlanta Braves…you’ve given us a solid run all season and should be commended for your efforts… but this 2010 Phillies team has nearly returned to PHull PHorce and they are not looking to PHalter anytime soon! Hamels, Halladay & Oswalt… offense scoring 6.9 RPG, solid defense and the fans of CBP cheering behind them? Sounds like Lions licking their chops as the fodder was welcomed into the Roman Coliseum if you ask me!
WERTH PREPARES FOR FREE AGENCY IN 2011
Jayson Werth has hired superagent Scott Boras as his new agent (according to source with MLB.com). Werth, who will be a free agent after the season, recently left Jeff Borris from the Beverly Hills Sports Council. Werth should be set up for a nice payday once he reaches free agency after the season. He is hitting .292 with 44 doubles, two triples, 24 home runs and 76 RBIs in 146 games. He has hit 60 home runs since the beginning of the 2009 season, which ranks second in the Majors amongst right-handed hitting outfielders. Werth also can run, throw and play good defense. How this affects his future with the Phillies, if at all, remains to be seen. It already was believed Werth would be incredibly difficult to re-sign, with the Phillies already having committed more than $140 million in payroll in 2011, Domonic Brown waiting in the wings and Werth likely to fetch a contract at least similar to the four-year, $66 million deal Jason Bay received last winter from the Mets. The Phillies had not had any substantial negotiations with Borris for months before Werth made the switch. That is unlikely to change with Boras, who certainly will have Werth test the free-agent market after the season.
HAMELS EMPLOYS PERFORMANCE SPECIALIST GURU
Cole Hamels had been one of the best pitchers in baseball during the Phils World Series run in 2008 and then suffered a huge setback during the 2009 campaign. The Phillies organization kept faith in the relatively young lefthander. Hamels has rewarded that faith by recording a 3.01 ERA and a career-high 201 strikeouts in 30 starts. (His 11-10 won-loss record has been impacted by the ninth-worst average run support in the majors, 3.51.) Since July 1, Hamels has a 2.07 ERA in 15 starts, the third-best in the majors over that span, entering play Saturday.
There are many reasons for Hamels’ revival, and they’ve been well told. But now, Hamels is ready to tell the rest of the story, ready to talk about his work with Brogan and the impact the man has had on him. Brogan, 52, is a Philadelphia-area native who played two seasons in the NBA with the San Diego Clippers. For the last 20 years, he has worked as a “performance specialist” based near San Diego, Hamels’ hometown. He works with students, business executives, athletes, and anyone else looking for that edge that can come with focus and concentration. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees is one of Brogan’s best-known clients. He also works extensively with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In June 2009, the Phillies were in San Diego. Hamels, who was having a difficult time duplicating his success from the previous season, did not pitch in the series. After a game against the Padres, Hamels’ younger brother, Mitchell, introduced the pitcher to Brogan. Mitchell Hamels had been familiar with Brogan’s work in the San Diego area.
Brown, Mathieson Honored (Paul Owens Award)
Domonic Brown and Scott Mathieson took decidedly different routes to the Paul Owens Award.
Brown is the rising star. Mathieson is bouncing back after frustrating setbacks and three elbow surgeries. Both were honored before Sunday’s 7-6 win over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Brown is the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. Mathieson is the organization’s Pitcher of the Year.
“It’s a big honor,” Brown said. Brown, 23, hit a combined .327 with 22 doubles, four triples, 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in 93 games with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He had a .391 on-base percentage and a .589 slugging percentage. He appeared in the All-Star Futures Game in July. Baseball America named him the No. 1 prospect in baseball in its midseason rankings. He joined the Phillies in July, and could be their everyday right fielder in 2011. But before Brown gets a chance to prove he is ready for the job in Spring Training, he will try to recover from a strained right quadriceps, which has kept him on the bench since Sept. 7. He said it has improved, although some days are better than others. But because he has missed so much time, partly because of the injury and partly because he has been a bench player, he will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic to get at-bats and work on his defense, which needs improvement.
“I think I’m ready, if need be,” Brown said of being an everyday player. “I think I’m ready to step out there and do what the team needs me to do.”
Mathieson’s big league career derailed in 2006, when he tore a ligament in his right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 29, 2006. He rehabbed, but had complications and had ulnar nerve transposition surgery on Sept. 24, 2007. He rehabbed, came back again, but had another setback and had a second Tommy John surgery. He rehabbed again, and enjoyed a promising season with Lehigh Valley as a reliever. Mathieson, 26, went 3-6 with a 2.80 ERA and 26 saves in 54 appearances. In 64 1/3 innings he struck out 83 as his fastball sat in the high 90s. He has made two appearances for the Phillies this season, but is on the disabled list with a strained back muscle.
“I was happy with how the season went,” Mathieson said. “Disappointed that I spent the whole season there — I wish I was here, but I was glad with the way I played. Hopefully I proved that, [and] next year they’ll give me more of a chance.” Mathieson has worked with Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter on a splitter, which he will continue to work on. Mathieson said he does not think it is something he must throw to be successful in the big leagues, but he thinks it is something that can help. He will work with Sutter in the offseason on the splitter.
“My goal is to be part of the bullpen next year,” Mathieson said.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org