Phillies-Mets: What you need to know


Phillies-Mets: What you need to know

New York Mets (16-13) at Phillies (14-16), 7:05 p.m. on PHL 17

The Phillies suffered yet another frustrating, late-inning loss on Monday night. They had runners on first and second with no outs in both the seventh and eighth innings but couldnt score, and with two outs in the ninth Jonathan Papelbon allowed a double then a three-run homer as the Mets went on to win, 5-2.

It was the Phillies sixth loss this season when they entered the eighth inning either tied or with a lead. A record two games under .500 with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out is OK, but you cant ignore a chain of deflating losses.

Starting Pitchers
Joe Blanton is charged with the task of avoiding the Phillies fifth series loss of the season and second to the Mets. Blanton, 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA, is coming off of his best start as a Phillie.

On Thursday in Atlanta, it took Blanton 88 pitches for his first complete game and shutout of his Phillies career. The start before that, Blanton allowed two runs over 7 13 innings, walking none and striking out eight.

Blanton has the lowest walk rate of any major-league pitcher. Hes issued free passes to just three batters in 35 innings this season.

He is opposed Tuesday by 41-year-old journeyman Miguel Batista, who was forced into starting duty when Mike Pelfrey went down for the season with an elbow injury. Batista has pitched for 12 different teams over 20 major league seasons. Hes also written a book of Spanish poetry and a murder novel.

Batista is almost exclusively fastball-cutter. His heater averages 90-92 miles per hour and his cutter checks in at about 86. Last season he threw one of those two pitches 97 percent of the time.

The Phillies are 52-42 (.553) against the Mets since 2007 but have lost six of the last eight meetings.

Blanton is 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA in nine starts against the Mets. Five of those nine starts were great (0.99 ERA in 36 13 innings), three were poor (9.18 ERA in 16 23 innings) and one was a brief two-inning start last September as Blanton was getting back into pitching shape.

Current Mets are batting .225 off Blanton, though Ike Davis has gotten to him a little bit, going 5 for 11 with two doubles.

Batistas career numbers against the Phillies are meaningless, because hes reinvented himself many different times for many different teams in a variety of different roles. Over the last three years, hes struggled mightily with his command against the Phils, but that was as a reliever.

Batistas last start against the Phils was in 2006. Aaron Fultz pitched two scoreless innings in relief of starter Ryan Madson.

Whos hot?
Shane Victorino had two hits Monday night and has a hit in eight straight after piecing together a 10-game hitting streak earlier in the season. His season numbers arent eye-popping at .254.305.418, but Victorino has reached base safely in 26 of 30 games.

Jimmy Rollins has looked much better as a leadoff man than he did in the three-hole over the first month. Rollins has seen 39 pitches in his last 10 plate appearances, which is almost one full pitch more per plate appearance than his career average.

- The Phillies were 21-9 through 30 games last season and didnt lose their fifth series until June 1. This team has less available talent, less bullpen depth and, simply put, less luck.

If the Phillies lose Tuesday night theyll fall to three games under .500, which was where they bottomed out in Arizona before winning three of the next four.

- The Phils have no business not getting to Batista. He is the stop-gappiest of all stop-gap solutions and likely wont head into the All-Star break as the Mets fifth starter. Batista allowed seven Astros to reach base over 2 23 innings in his first start.

Expect to see Laynce Nix and Pete Orr in the lineup Tuesday.

Sound off
Are you concerned about the Phillies 1-4 record in one-run games and 0-4 mark in extra-inning games, or confident that it will even out as the season progresses?

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.