Apr 30

April 30/May 1.10: Chat Room, Games #23-24 at Phillies: Niese and Pelfrey carry the load.

The last time the Mets played the Phillies they lost to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. That was last September, but the truth is the Mets were cooked long before that game. It was one of 12 games the Mets lost to their rivals at the other end of the Jersey Turnpike last season, one that went horribly wrong for them.

In the previous two seasons, the Phillies overtook the Mets on the final weekend and went on to the World Series.

The first-place Mets are back in Philly tonight for the start of a three-game series against the Phillies.
The Mets, winners of seven straight, are the majors’ hottest team, and enter the series with their three most consistent pitchers, Jon Niese tonight followed by Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana.

“If we go out there and we do what we’re capable of, I think we’re going to be fine,’’ said Pelfrey, Saturday’s starter against Roy Halladay. “I don’t think it matters who we’re playing. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing. If we do that, we can play with anybody.’’

In breaking down the series, Santana figures to have the edge Sunday and Halladay should be favored over Pelfrey, which leaves the toss-up game tonight that boils down to how well Niese does against Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The Mets’ offense is starting to heat up, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Niese, who has gotten no more than one run in any of his last four starts.

The power keys are Jason Bay and David Wright, who shook slumps in the Los Angeles series.

Still, these are the Phillies and strange things often happen in that bandbox of a park. The Mets are streaking, but an argument can be made they won nine of ten games against the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers, all teams struggling lately. The Phillies have stumbled a bit – enough to where the Mets passed them – but manager Manuel is right in that they are the class of the league.

“It will be a good barometer as far as where you stand,’’ said Bay. “They’re obviously one of the top teams in the National League for what they’ve done the last few years. You can’t deny that. And we’re playing pretty good baseball.’’

NOTE: Folks, I have to attend to a family commitment tonight and tomorrow and won’t be on the blog. I will leave the Chat Room open and hope you continue to watch the games and post. I will be back online Sunday.
Sorry I can’t be with you, but I need to take care of this responsibility.

Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.

Oct 08

What is going on in this world?

A 12-year-old girl sued the Philadelphia Phillies and won.

Jennifer Valdivia came up with Ryan Howard’s 200th career homer (the fewest games in history to reach that milestone) in a July game in Florida. The Phillies traded her an autographed ball for its return.

Not good enough.

The girl’s mother filed a lawsuit Monday to have the ball returned. Rather than go through the dog-and-pony show, the Phillies returned the ball to her.

You have to wonder about the girl’s mother. Of course, I gave up a long time ago wondering about the kind of lawyer that would file such a lawsuit.

Dec 23

Wright to play for Team USA ….

WRIGHT: To play for Team USA. PHOTO: Mets

WRIGHT: To play for Team USA. PHOTO: Mets

After Alex Rodriguez opted to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring, and with Chipper Jones expected to be the DH, third base opened up for David Wright. Team USA will have an all-New York left side of the infield with the Yankees’ Derek Jeter at shortstop.

Wright will likely be the only Met playing for Team USA, but the Mets could also send Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico), Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez (Venezuela), and Jose Reyes (Dominican Republic).

I found it interesting that Phillies Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels said they preferred getting their work in during spring training and preparing for the season to play for the team that pays them. Yankees’ CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett said the same thing.

Yes, I am well aware a player can get hurt anywhere, but I’m especially wary about pitchers throwing in game conditions that early in the spring. But, that’s just me. Does anybody have a problem with players leaving teams during spring training to prepare for the WBC and exposing themselves to injury.

Oct 27

Quote of the Day: Phillies anticipating.

Howard: Has regained stroke. Ready to drop hammer on Rays.

Howard: Has regained stroke. Ready to drop hammer on Rays.

“It will be absolute bedlam. It will be one of the craziest places on Earth. It’s kind of scary to imagine.’’ – Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard on anticipating the crowd reaction if Philadelphia wraps up the World Series tonight at home.