Hopefully your weekend was better than the Phillies. Friday night the Phils returned home flying high as they flew across the continent after a 9-1 West Coast (and Rockies) road trip. Spirits were high as Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz were on fire while the pitching staff celebrated the return of Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt. Adding icing to the proverbial cake Jayson Werth and the Washington Nothin-als were waiting to greet them at Citizen’s Bank Park. Not enough? Alumni Weekend was scheduled to commemorate the new statue in tribute to Harry Kalas and adding to the Phillies Wall of Fame.
It wasn’t all good news. Placido Polanco has been holding out hope that he will be able to avoid another trip to the disabled list this season as he battles his way through a sports hernia. The All-Star third baseman received a cortisone shot on Tuesday. While surgery remains a possibility — along with a three-to-six week rehab — a positive sign came Saturday when Polanco fielded ground balls during batting practice in the rain at Citizens Bank Park.
“He said he’s starting to feel a little better,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He said he’ll know more about it today. [He won't take batting practice] today as far as I know of. He was going to field some balls.”
Friday night kicked off with Cole Hamels taking the mound against the woeful Nationals. Hamels lasted 5 IP, surrendering 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 BB and notched 5 K before running out of gas after throwing just 88 pitches. Later Hamels was diagnosed with having a dead arm, a pejorative misnomer within the baseball universe as it refers to simple overwork and muscle exhaustion. More aptly it should be called “tired arm” or perhaps “muscle strain.”
Hamels waved off any notion of injury but in his sixth Major League campaign, the 27-year-old veteran understands what “dead arm” means in a long season. In 2007, there was a belief that the then 23-year-old phenom was overly cautious with his most prized possession. That caution led to a 32-day span out of the rotation in late August and into September. Hamels returned in time for the Phillies’ historic run into the playoffs, and followed that a year later with a World Series MVP trophy. Granted, only Hamels really knows what he experienced in 2007, but one thing is for sure: Hamels is a different player and person now, and much more at ease with the rigors of a long season and its effect upon his health.
“Right now [a dead arm is] what we think it is, yeah,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “The funny thing is, he warmed up in San Francisco and noticed that his arm was heavy. So we talked about angling the ball and he goes out and he pitches a gem. Then his side session between then and now was fabulous. His arm rebounded, felt great. So it’s a combination of workload or whatever you want to call it. Just everything building up. He’ll be fine. Just give him time.”
Roy Oswalt just returned from his second stint on the DL a week ago. In his second start since coming off that second bout with the DL, Oswalt gave the Phillies an encouraging performance in Saturday’s 11-3 win over Washington at Citizens Bank Park. He went seven workmanlike innings, gave up 3 R, and struck out five while walking only one. His fastball was consistently in the 91- to 93 MPH range, and he had only one shaky inning. Most important, his back was not an issue. It certainly was in late June, when Oswalt wondered aloud whether he’d ever again pitch before spending six weeks on the DL.
While it may have been easy to let Oswalt become the forgotten man, despite finishing in the top five in Cy Young Award voting 5 times in 10 seasons. Among the Four Aces, the righthander became the one standing in the background, bouncing up and down on his toes as if he were making an attempt to remind everyone his creaky back has yet to fully get the best of him.
Oswalt and Hamels are now vying among the more interesting story lines for the remainder of the season. The Phillies hope to keep everything in long term perspective trying to put every piece in place for their single-minded pursuit of returning to the World Series and taking their second title in four seasons.
If the bulging disks in Oswalt’s back (that kept him on the disabled list for six weeks) leave him be, Oswalt could give the Phillies a fresh arm for the stretch run. Hamels will likely benefit from missing a start or two which the Phillies can easily fill with a stopgap option. Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley have each proven they can and will take the ball whenever and wherever it is offered. Whatever is best for the team.
“This is a lot better than telling you guys I don’t know if I’m going to play or not,” Oswalt said. “Getting strength and durability is the biggest thing now.”
Oswalt threw 96 pitches to get his first win since June 12. He said he could have gone another inning, but there was no real point in pushing the envelope. By then, Ryan Howard had knocked in four runs, Washington had self-destructed with three errors to help lead to the Phillies’ scoring seven unearned runs. Most of the starters in the lineup took the last couple of innings off so Oswalt joined them.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Oswalt appeared sharper than in his previous start – a 3-1 loss at San Francisco in which Oswalt allowed 12 hits over six innings.
“I felt like in San Francisco he was still working on his command,” Manuel said after the Phillies raised their lead in the NL East to 8-1/2 games over Atlanta. “I think it’s just a matter of time until he’s real sharp. You can tell he’s moving much better.”
On a night when the Nationals were all thumbs, Howard hit his 26th homer and raised his RBI total to 95, most in the majors. His homer off Nats starter John Lannan was his second of the season off a lefthander. The win also offered this oddity: Jimmy Rollins reached base in each of his five plate appearances, yet had only one hit.
With a starting rotation and lineup laden with all-stars, near flawless fielding is probably the most overlooked facet of the Phillies’ game. It can best be appreciated when measured against their lesser opponents, such as the Nationals. The Phillies did most of their damage in the third inning, when they scored five runs, four with the help of Washington’s faulty gloves.
The inning began with Shane Victorino’s reaching base on an error by shortstop Ian Desmond. Howard picked up his third RBI of the game with a single to make it 3-2. With two out, the Phillies made certain the Nats would pay for Desmond’s blunder by adding four runs on one hit and three walks by Lannan, one intentional. Lannan lasted three innings and walked five. Six of the seven runs the Phillies scored off him were unearned, and his career record against the Phillies dropped to 1-11 in 15 starts.
The Phillies are in an interesting (and enviable) situation, as they currently hold a 7 1/2-game lead in the National League East and appear to be the favorite to return to the World Series for the first time since 2009. Despite their position they still have much work to do – tempered with the fact that Polanco is debating season-ending surgery, the Four Aces are still not a lock and the bullpen could use another southpaw. Roy Halladay (175 IP), Hamels, and Cliff Lee (172 IP each) occupy the top three spots in innings thrown in the National League. Worley and Kendrick wait in the wings to fill the other spots in case Oswalt can’t pull it back together for two months. Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins have proven more streaky hitters than ever in their already streaky careers and third base could be a black hole if Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez fail to beat out Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels for the number 8 spot in the batting order.
“We have 44 games left and we want them [Four Aces] as sharp as we can get them and as well rested as possible,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “But at the same time, if we don’t get to October, what good is rest for them? You have to get there.
“We have guys that are used to throwing 200 to 220 innings so that’s what we expect. If you get over 240, that’s a high territory.” Manuel has been around long enough to believe in a “dead arm” period, but he’s also a veteran of enough campaigns to understand that every pitcher gets through it in his own unique way.
“As long as I’ve been managing, yeah, I buy into it,” Manuel said. “You can come out of it, too. Rest will not hurt you if you monitor days, but at the same time, you can work out of it, too.”
Friday’s Wall of Fame Induction Ceremonies for John Kruk occurred before the opening game of the series. Three-time National League All-Star OF/1B John Kruk was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame during a special pre-game ceremony. Wall of Famers return to honor their fellow Phillie including: Hall of Famers Jim Bunning (1984 inductee), Steve Carlton (1989) and Mike Schmidt (1990), as well as Dick Allen (1994), Greg Luzinski (1998), Garry Maddox (2001), Tony Taylor (2002), Bob Boone (2005), Dallas Green (2006), Juan Samuel (2008) and Darren Daulton (2010). A 14″x 20″ cast bronze plaque of Kruk will be added to the Toyota Wall of Fame display located in the Memory Lane section of Ashburn Alley.
Sunday afternoon’s Harry Kalas Statue Presented to Phillies was rescheduled for Tuesday night. Both the game and dedication ceremony were washed out by torrential rains all morning and afternoon. So now Tuesday night a statue dedicated to the memory of Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas will be unveiled during this special pre-game ceremony. Participants include: Lawrence J. Nowlan, the statue’s sculptor and Todd Palmer and Suzanne Norris from Dear Harry, Inc., the fan-based group organized solely to fund the statue. Accepting on the team’s behalf will be Phillies President David Montgomery. Special guests will include members of the Kalas family and more than two dozen Phillies alumni – featuring God Bless America sung by Kane Kalas, son of Harry Kalas.
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