Your 2007 Philadelphia Phillies

Your 2007 Philadelphia Phillies

March 26th,
2007: 11:30am -- I’m
walking out of my current office building on 19th and Market,
typical case of the Mondays. The biggest
decision of my miserable first day of the week was whether to spend a blogger’s
month salary for a shitty burrito at QDobba or roll the dice and go with my boy
Bob in the cart and his chicken pita special with the delicious mystery sauce for
two bucks and change. It was a gloomy
start to the week.

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quadrel, originally uploaded by damonabnormal

But then my day miraculously improved as I awaited the
street light to turn from red to green -- it seemingly wanted to stay red all
day. In an instant, a dozen cops cruised
by and shut down
Market Street. What the shit. I’m trying to get some lunch here. But then, the great red hope that is the 2007
Philadelphia Phillies came turning around the corner on the back of an early 20th
century firetruck. The Phillie Phanatic,
painted red, came cruising down the street to an uproar of cheers from the
lunch time folk who likely don’t even know who plays the hot corner for the
Fightins. For some strange reason, the
zooming fire engine slowed down as it approached. As my sorry ass stood at the corner, waiting
for the light to change from red, the Phillie Phanatic pointed at me and
laughed. I swear he did, I heard him.

It was then I realized this is going to be a fun summer.

Phillies fans have been rather positive the past few
off-seasons, hope abounds for the baseball team in South Philly when the
temperatures are freezing. The addition
of Freddy Garcia and the subtraction of Mike Lieberthal had fans all juiced
up. After all, we’ve got The Big Guy and
Chase. How can this team not be
successful?

We all fear it: the gloomy start in April, the streaky May
and June, the tease, and inevitably, the failure. We all fear it, but want to hop on for a ride
anyway. Cause after all, the ride is all
we know as Philly fans. 

Some things I think we need to keep in mind going
into opening day on Monday:

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strikeout, originally uploaded by Boston Fan in Michigan

Give Pat a
chance.
I think we can all agree
that Pat Burrell seems to be a little sensitive. The trigger happy fans are going to need to
make an effort to give him a chance. Maybe he won’t turn into the protection for Ryan Howard we’d all love to
see, but just give the guy a few at bats. We need the Pat Burrell who earned the name “Bat” and not the guy we
have come to know more as “Looking” or “Whiffed.”  He may be in there somewhere despite the gimpy
foot and poor eyes.  Just give him a
chance, at least through May or June. If
he strikes out with bases loaded, lay off the boo for a month or two. Come June or July, if Burrell isn’t
performing, then you can lay into him. But he’s fragile; we need to support him, at least early on. Hey, it couldn’t hurt. I think the type of season Burrell has will
be very indicative of how the Phils do. If they want to play into October, they’re going to need The Bat. Come on Pat! 

Run, Run, Run. Shane Victorino’s speed will certainly
give a jump start to the Phillies line up. With it looking like Michael Bourn will make the squad, the Phils will
have a speedster to come off the bench as well. Jimmy Rollins and others working with Davey Lopes on the bases could
really improve the chances of the Phillies having guys in scoring position. I think this should be a huge area of
improvement over last season.

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Mr. Chase Utley, originally uploaded by Fen Branklin

Chase, Jimmy, The Big Guy, and Cole. I can’t remember any team I’ve ever rooted for having such a stellar
core of young talent. If these guys
don’t get you excited about watching baseball every night, you’re probably at
the wrong website. I hope people
realize, I was joking on Wednesday when I commented on Ryan Howard’s
spring. The slow start they’re off to in

Florida could be a blessing in
disguise. Granted, nobody should be
playing sloppy down there, but I think they’ve tempered expectations a
bit. I’m looking for Chase to have an
MVP caliber season and Cole Hamels to turn into one of the games elite. If that doesn’t happen, the Phillies aren’t
winning anything.

Gillick and his Pen. The
currently 6 man rotation looks like it should be quality. I’m curious to see how Garcia turns out. To me, he is one of the biggest question
marks on the squad. He could be a stud,
a bust, or something in between. Let’s
hope something closer to stud. The pen,
of course, is where most of the questions lie. The first few months should be interesting. There is virtually no chance that the bullpen
will look the same in August as it does today and how this unfolds could be a
key to Gillick’s legacy in Philly.

Don’t Suck in April. We’re
amped and ready to go. J-Roll started
the talk early, but can they deliver? They will learn real quick with the stacked schedule in April and how
they come out of the first month of the season will surely set the tone of fans
all summer. It’s a scary month, with plenty
of uncertainty. We’ll know a whole lot
more about what this team is really made of come May. 

Expect the Worst, Hope for the Best. That has pretty much become my motto as a Philly sports fan. I’m not one of those depressed fans, I don’t
hate Philly, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I don’t expect them to
win. If they lose, I’m disappointed, but
it’s only a game. All that losing will
make winning all that more fun.

I can’t recall ever being
this excited about one of our teams. These are our Phillies. I’ll take
this squad over the Mets and the Braves. 

89 wins and a wild card. A
fan must have some faith. Is it Monday
yet?

Other Phillies Previews:

>>Hardball Times: Five Questions [Beerleaguer]
>>Phillies Season Preview [Deadspin]
>>Predictions [Swing and a Miss]
>>Phillies Season Previewed [BS&S]
>>Don't Forget to Join The 700 Level Flickr Group and upload all your best opening day shots.

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- For struggling pitchers, facing the Phillies has become like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
 
Another rival pitcher searching for a cure got it Monday night when the Phillies suffered their 23rd loss in the last 29 games. This time it was Miami Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed just three hits in leading his club to a 4-1 win over the Phillies, who fell to 6-20 in May (see Instant Replay).

Volquez had gone 16 starts between wins.
 
"Every loss stings, I don’t care who's pitching," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're just in a rut. We've got to battle our way out of it. We have to show up tomorrow and get after it. We've got to get more than three or four hits in the game."
 
The Phillies had just four hits in the game. It was the fifth time in the last nine games that they've had four or fewer hits. Only one of the hits was for extra bases and one of the singles was an infield hit.
 
"Once again, we need more offense," Mackanin said.
 
Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson completed a difficult month of May by allowing six hits, including a two-run homer, and four runs over six innings.
 
Hellickson surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich with two outs in the sixth and that was basically the ball game. Dietrich hit a high changeup. Back in April, that pitch would have been at the knees. But Hellickson has misplaced the pitch command that he needs to succeed.
 
Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. In May, however, he went 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in six starts. He was tagged for 35 hits, including nine homers, in 30 2/3 innings.
 
"Command in general," said Hellickson, describing his problem this month. "The biggest thing is not getting strike one, falling behind too much. I'm not getting the quick easy outs I was getting early in the season. I'm trying to get ahead, just missing."
 
Volquez signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Marlins over the winter, but it wasn't until this game that he delivered his first win. He entered the game 0-7 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
 
The win was Volquez's first since Aug. 25, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Volquez isn't the first struggling pitcher to shine against the Phils recently. Eight days earlier, Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl took a 6.69 ERA into a start against the Phils and pitched five shutout innings. In the series against Colorado, the Phillies were dominated by a pair of rookies. In the only game they won (in a late rally), they were held to one run over six innings by Tyler Anderson, who had entered that game with an ERA of 6.00. On Friday night, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tim Adleman pitched eight shutout innings against the Phils and gave up just one hit in the best start of his life. He had come into that game with an ERA of 6.19.
 
So Volquez had to be heartened when he saw the Phillies on the schedule.
 
They are the get-well team for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up.
 
It's actually kind of sad.
 
With Odubel Herrera locked in the throes of the worst slump of his life and on the bench and Maikel Franco mired in a 2 for 21 slump and hitting .209, Mackanin is trying to push things a little. He gave Aaron Altherr the green light to steal with one out and runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Altherr was out at second on a close play and Tommy Joseph struck out to leave the runner at third.
 
The Marlins salted the game away in the bottom of the inning on Dietrich's homer.
 
"With our offense, I have to take chances," Mackanin said. "I can't sit around and wait for three hits in a row. We haven't been doing that."
 
The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 17-32.
 
They have lost eight of their last 10 and scored just 15 runs in the losses.
 
"It sucks," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's really no other way to put it. It's frustrating. But the only people that are going to help us are ourselves. Nobody's going to go out there and play for us, swing the bats, pitch, play defense. That's on us and we have to do a better job all around.
 
"We all want to be successful and get the job done. We just haven't been hitting the ball. There's no other way to put it. But the good thing about baseball is we play every day so we turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to get it done."

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.

They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.

Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.

"I think at the end of the day we're up 1-0," Bonino said. "We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don't think it's Xs and Os. We've got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998.

All the guys from "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

"The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history -- and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

"We didn't do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake."