Phillies-Braves: What you need to know


Phillies-Braves: What you need to know

Phillies (37-47) vs. Atlanta Braves (43-39)7:05 p.m. on CSN
What was in line to be one of the Phillies best wins of the season instead turned into one of the most crushing defeats in a year filled with late-inning misery.

The Phils scored five runs off Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who had allowed zero runs in his six of his previous seven starts, and carried a 5-4 lead into the ninth. But Jonathan Papelbons second blown save led to yet another walkoff loss, this one coming right before Ryan Howard makes his much-anticipated season debut.

Its a shame with the positive feelings surrounding Howards return from Achilles surgery, Thursday night and Friday afternoon could have been a rare high-point for Phillies fans. But the Phils, 10 games under .500 and trailing the Nationals by 13 games, just havent had luck on their side in 2012.

Perhaps the bats will wake up over the next few weeks to propel the Phillies back into contention in the National League. Howard is certainly a help his presence turns the Phillies lineup into one of the best in the league (see story).

Ryans return
The Phillies sorely missed Howard over the first 84 games. Phillies first basemen were 18th in baseball in home runs and OPS and 20th in on-base percentage.

The collection of Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry, Hector Luna, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome hit .258.319.414. Howard, in 2011, his worst full season in the majors, hit .253.346.488. Thats significant.

Starting pitchers
Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.35 ERA) takes on Tim Hudson (6-4, 3.87) Friday night.

Kendrick hasnt pitched well lately, but dont tell him that. The righthander allowed five runs in the first inning to Pittsburgh his last time out, his fourth time in the last five starts allowing at least five runs, but after the game said he thought he gave the Phillies a chance to win.

The Phillies are 4-8 in Kendricks starts this season and 4-13 when he appears. He has a 6.96 ERA since pitching a shutout in St. Louis on May 26.

Kendrick is 6-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 appearances (10 starts) vs. the Braves. That said, his strikeout and walk numbers against Atlanta are terrible, at 27 and 24 in 67 23 innings.

Hudson has made just 12 starts this year, as he missed much of April with a back injury. Of those 12 starts, five have been great, four were very bad and three were average.

Hudson is 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 22 starts against the Phillies. He has 83 strikeouts and 58 walks vs. the Phils for a 1.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, his worst against any NL foe.

Hudsons repertoire
A sinkerballer, Hudson has had made a great career out of keeping the ball in the infield. He has a 58.8 percent career groundball rate, which is why hes able to get away with striking so few batters out.

Hudsons sinker is between 89-91 miles per hour, and righties have struggled mightily against it in recent years, batting .232 off Hudson since 2009.

Key matchup(s)
The only three-homer game of Ryan Howards career came in Sept. 2006 against Hudson. On that day, the eventual MVP took Hudson deep for his 50th, 51st and 52nd home runs of the season.

Lifetime, Howard is a .327 hitter off Hudson with six homers, 10 walks and just eight strikeouts in 63 plate appearances. Howard has more plate appearances vs. Hudson than any other pitcher.

Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley havent fared well against Hudson, batting a combined .209 in 115 at-bats.

Current Braves are hitting .310 off Kendrick. He must be careful with two Braves in particular Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward.

Bourn is 5 for 10 off Kendrick with a homer. His contract year has gone the exact opposite of Shane Victorinos. While Victorino hasnt hit well, Bourn is experiencing a career year, hitting .307 with a career-high seven home runs, a .812 OPS and 23 steals. He also leads the majors in three-hit games, with 14.

Heyward is on fire. He hit .348 with a 1.053 OPS in June and he already has two more homers in July. Hes just 1 for 11 lifetime off Kendrick, though.

Sound off
Can a Phillies lineup with Howard, Utley, Hunter Pence and a perpetually hot Carlos Ruiz make a second half run to earn a playoff berth?

E-mail Corey Seidman at

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

If Terry Francona wins four ballgames over these next nine days, he is going to Cooperstown.

And not as a visitor.

Francona sits at the helm of a Cleveland Indians team that has so far rolled through the postseason, winning eight of nine games as it opens play Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that is filled with compelling storylines.

Of course, the biggest storyline is the “Lovable Loser” angle.

Both clubs long ago became punch lines for their failures. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and their shortcomings have been blamed on everything from the curse of a billy goat to black cats to too many day games at Wrigley Field to Steve Bartman. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. They were so notoriously synonymous with losing that Hollywood made a couple of movies about them. Well, sort of.

With four more wins, one of these teams will shed the Lovable Loser tag forever.

And if it’s Francona’s Indians, he will forever be honored with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You can bank on it. That’s where managers who win three World Series end up.

Time flies.

It was 20 years ago this week that the Phillies hired Francona for his first big-league managerial job. He was 37 at the time. He’d managed at the Double A level with the Chicago White Sox and been on the Detroit Tigers’ big-league coaching staff. Loaded with personality, smarts and the experience that came with growing up in baseball family (his dad played 15 seasons in the majors), being the best college player in the nation at the University of Arizona, and, probably most important, having been humbled by the ups and downs of 10 injury-riddled years as a big-league player, Francona was considered an excellent managerial prospect when the Phillies hired him. But he never deluded himself. He knew he got the job because the Phillies were rebuilding, because they were going to be young and bad for a while and he had the personality and youthful resilience to deal with it all. “If the Phillies were ready to win, they would have hired Jim Leyland or somebody like that,” he used to say.

Francona took over a 95-loss team in Philadelphia. He managed the club for four years, never had a winning season and was jeered out of town with slashed tires after the club lost 97 games in 2000.

Was Terry Francona a great manager in Philadelphia? Nope. Few people are great out of the gate in any line of work. But Francona had little chance to succeed in those Phillies years. There wasn’t close to enough talent on the field. The club was going through a sloooooow rebuild and the organizational focus in those years was probably more about getting a new stadium than putting a winning team on the field.

Francona was committed to becoming a successful manager when he left Philadelphia. That’s why he didn’t want to take a year off after he was fired. He wanted to stay in the game, stay in sight. He took a job in the Indians’ front office, then a year later was back in uniform, first as a coach with the Texas Rangers, then as a coach with the Oakland A’s.

In the fall of 2003, Francona interviewed for managerial jobs in Baltimore and in Boston. At the time, reporters in Baltimore asked him about the possibility of getting a second chance to manage.

“It would be like getting a mulligan,” Francona said.

The answer infuriated some in Philadelphia.

It shouldn’t have.

Francona’s use of the word ‘mulligan’ showed self-awareness, humility and accountability. It showed that he knew he had hooked his first chance into the woods, that he had made mistakes, that he’d learned from them and was ready to tee it up again. Francona’s use of the word mulligan showed how human he was and that is a priceless quality in the art of leading a group of men through the ups and downs of seven months of baseball and getting them to lay it all out for you night after night. Joe Torre had that quality. Charlie Manuel had it. Joe Maddon, the man Francona beat out for the Boston job and now squares off against in the World Series, has it. Francona has it. Just look at the way he kept the Indians believing after injuries wounded their starting pitching.

Of course, all of these aforementioned managers have or had talented players. That ultimately is how you win. Just ask Torre, who was dismissed as a loser until George Steinbrenner gave him some talent. Torre led it beautifully and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Francona got his second chance to manage in Boston in 2004 and quickly led a talented group of players to a curse-busting title, that franchise’s first World Series championship in 86 years.

He won another in 2007.

He has managed 12 seasons since leaving Philadelphia and the growth experience that it provided. He has won 90 or more games in eight of those seasons. Yeah, he has had good players. But he’s led them well. And he’s done it particularly well this month, maneuvering his bullpen pieces like a master chess champion.

The World Series is upon us and it should be a good one as baseball’s two Lovable Loser franchises vie to end decades of frustration.

And 20 years after his managerial odyssey began with many losses and much ridicule in Philadelphia, Terry Francona, already a big winner in his career, has a chance to punch his ticket to the ultimate winner’s circle, the Hall of Fame, with four more victories and another World Series title.