To say the Phillies are struggling after a terrible road trip where they went 3-10 in their last 10 games would be an understatement. After getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies will be trying to get back on the winning side Tuesday night, June 19 when they face the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Cole Hamels (9-3, 3.34 ERA), who has been the Phillies best pitcher this season, will step on the rubber. Hamels will go up against Josh Outman (0-2, 8.44 ERA) of the Rockies.
The Phillies have a 31-37 record and are firmly in last place in the National League East, nine games out of first place in the standings. They’re five games out in the race for the two NL Wild Card spots. The San Francisco Giants (37-30) and Atlanta Braves (35-31) are the top two teams in the standings for those playoff berths.
Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Fame relief pitcher and baseball analyst for TBS, feels the Phillies still have a chance to get back into the playoff race and land a spot in the postseason. Eckersley knows the Phillies are trying to tread water until they can hopefully get second baseman Chase Utley and possibly first baseman Ryan Howard back in the lineup. Utley has been suffering from chronic knee problems. Howard has a torn left Achilles. He realizes the Phillies have to climb out of a big hole with the injuries to Howard and Utley as well as pitching ace Roy Halladay (right shoulder injury).
“When you really think about it thank goodness for the extra Wild Card for a lot of people and then particular with the Phillies,” Eckersley said. “Will they overcome those injuries? I would assume I don’t know. I’m not close enough. Like Halladay, what’s going on with him and the Howard-Utley situation? But they had a hard time last year offensively with those guys and the pitching was there. They’ve been good for so long and everything went well for them. They were good, but you have to have the right things happen. This year, it seems like everything is not clicking. Right down to (Cliff) Lee hasn’t won a game yet. That’s hard to do. I mean he’s so good. Sometimes things just don’t happen and let alone have all these injuries like they’ve had.”
The NL East is one of the best divisions in baseball. The Washington Nationals (38-26) and Atlanta Braves are the two top teams respectively in the division. The Phillies would have to leap frog over them as well as the New York Mets (35-31) and Miami Marlins (33-33) who are both ahead of them. But with Major League Baseball adding the second Wild Card, that keeps the Phillies season alive.
“The problem is too many teams in that division who have gotten better,” Eckersley said. “So, it’s going to be difficult even if they’re full force. I think more than the Phillies being right this year. You have to be happy with the extra Wild Card. It gives you a chance.”
The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last year. The Cardinals got hot at the right time and got into the postseason as the Wild Card. In fact, St. Louis defeated the Phillies, who had won 102 games last year. So, anything is possible.
“When you have Halladay, Lee and Hamels, you can beat anybody,” Eckersley said. “Last year, I was shocked when St. Louis beat them. I really was. It took a 1-0 game to beat them. I’m sure that Phillies fans think that any way they can get there. They got a shot to win it. That’s a great example in St. Louis.”
The Phillies have a big home stand with Colorado, Tampa Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates this week. There’s 94 games left in the season. That’s a lot of baseball yet to be played. Nevertheless, the Phillies are going to have to start winning some series in order to turn this season around.
For the first time since Jimmy Rollins declared the Philadelphia Phillies were the team to beat in the division before they even won anything, they'll open spring training with something to prove.
The Phillies' streak of five consecutive NL East titles that began with Rollins' bold declaration in 2007 ended last year when they finished 81-81 and in third place behind Washington and Atlanta.
Since winning the franchise's second World Series championship in 2008, the Phillies have taken one step backward each season. They lost the 2009 World Series, the 2010 NLCS, and were eliminated in the NLDS in 2011.
After missing out on the postseason in 2012, the Phillies hope to make another run. The quest begins Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
Here are five top questions facing the Phillies this spring:
1. Are the injured stars healthy?
Injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay were a major reason why the Phillies slumped last year. Utley and Howard, the team's Nos. 3-4 hitters, combined to miss 160 games to start the season. Halladay, the No. 1 starter, missed a two-month stretch in the middle.
Utley hasn't played a Grapefruit League game since 2010 because of chronic knee problems. He was more active this offseason and is expected to be ready for Opening Day, barring any setbacks. But, Utley's production began to decline before the injuries. His batting average has dropped every year since he hit a career-high .332 in 2007. His power numbers also are trending downward.
Utley averaged .301 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs between 2005-09 and made five straight All-Star teams. Since 2010, he's averaged .264, 13 and 51. The 34-year-old Utley is entering the final year of his contract, so he needs a solid year to get another lucrative deal.
Howard returned to the lineup right before the All-Star break last season after recovering from surgery on a torn Achilles' tendon. He hit just .219 and struck out 99 times in 260 at-bats. But the three-time All-Star first baseman also had 14 homers and drove in 56 runs in only 71 games.
Howard is entering the second season of a $125 million, five-year extension. The Phillies need the former NL MVP to be the player who averaged 44 homers and 133 RBIs between 2006-11.
Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, was plagued by a shoulder problem last year. He'll be 36 in May and has thrown nearly 2,700 innings. So, his days as a dominant pitcher may be over.
Halladay won 40 games, and threw a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in his first two seasons with the Phillies in 2010-11. He was 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 25 starts last year.
There may be no player in the majors with a stronger work ethic and more dedication to his craft than Halladay. He's determined to regain his old form, and those who know Halladay wouldn't bet against him.
2. Who plays the outfield?
The Phillies used to be loaded in the outfield with former All-Stars Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence. They also had slugger Pat Burrell in '07 and '08. Now they'll have at least two and possibly three new starters.
Ben Revere was acquired from Minnesota to play center field. Delmon Young was signed as a free agent to play right field, though he hasn't played there regularly since 2007. Left field will be up for grabs between rookie Darin Ruf, former top prospect Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr.
Ruf, the minor-league home run champion in 2012, is making the transition to the outfield after playing first base. He hit 38 homers in Double-A and Triple-A last season, and has potential to be a legitimate slugger in the big leagues.
Revere is a singles hitter, but his speed is an asset. Young could provide much-needed balance to a left-handed heavy lineup if he stays in shape and out of trouble. He hit .267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs for Detroit last season, and was MVP of the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
3. Will Michael Young be a solution at third base?
The Phillies acquired the seven-time All-Star infielder from Texas to replace Placido Polanco at third base. Young, a former Gold Glove winner at shortstop, hasn't played third regularly since 2010. He's also coming off a down year at the plate by his standards (.277, 8, 67).
The team expects the 36-year-old Young to benefit from being able to concentrate on playing one position after filling a utility role the last two seasons. The peace of mind could not only help his defense, but his offense. From 2003-11, Young hit at least .300 seven times and averaged 17 homers and 90 RBIs.
4. Can pitching get the Phillies over the top?
The Phillies slugged their way to the postseason in 2007-09 and then relied on their aces and a strong bullpen in 2010-11. Their lineup clearly lacks the punch it once had, so the Phillies have to do it with pitching. Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, if they're all healthy, are still as formidable as any top 3 on any staff. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan round out the rotation, which has dropped off since Roy Oswalt was the No. 4 starter.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon is coming off an All-Star season in his first year in Philadelphia. Giving Papelbon leads to protect was the problem. The Phillies improved their late-inning situation by signing Mike Adams. The righty has been one of the best setup men for several years. If Antonio Bastardo pitches the way he did in 2011 and some of the young arms step up, the bullpen could be the team's biggest strength.
5. How will Charlie Manuel handle lame-duck status?
Manuel enters his ninth season as the team's manager. He's first on the franchise's all-time list in wins and is one of only two managers — Dallas Green was the other in 1980 — to lead the Phillies to a World Series title in 130 seasons. But Manuel is in the final year of his contract and his potential heir apparent — Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg — will be in the dugout this year.
The Phillies promoted Sandberg from Triple-A manager to third-base coach. Manuel's success gives him some leeway, but there certainly will be plenty of speculation about his job if the Phillies struggle early or endure a long losing streak. — (AP)
It’s been a rough week for Philadelphia fans. The St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Phillies – who were supposed to give us a parade down Broad Street — in five games in the National League Division Series.
The Phillies had the best pitching staff in baseball with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Moreover, they won a historic 102 games with just 60 losses. They finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but couldn’t even score a run in the final elimination game at Citizens Bank Park, where they played in front of a sold-out crowd all season.
The Eagles are 1-4 coming off another disastrous loss, this time to the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles “Dream Team” is turning into a nightmare, dropping its fourth straight game. Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback, threw four interceptions, but did throw for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He had five carries for 90 yards. He also broke Randall Cunningham’s all-time rushing record with 4,948 yards. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough. And now the Eagles will face divisional rival Washington on the road Sunday, October 16.
One thing is for sure: the Phillies and Eagles are in for some interesting days ahead. With the Phillies season ending so abruptly, everything comes into question. This team has to wonder what next year is going to be like with first baseman Ryan Howard on the shelf with a rupture of the left Achilles tendon. He sustained the injury on the series’ final out as he tried to run out a ground ball.
Howard cannot have surgery until the swelling resolves. Recovery time won’t be known until after the surgery is complete and there is no guarantee he will be ready for spring training. Howard is a big man in the Phillies batting lineup with his home run and RBI power. He hit .253 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI in 2011. But the Phillies slugger really struggled against the Cardinals, hitting just .105 with one home run and six RBI. If Howard isn’t ready when the season begins in April, the team will have a big hole to fill.
The Phillies could have a big hole at shortstop, too. Jimmy Rollins is a free agent. Rollins hit .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI during the regular season. He had great year with the glove and was the Phillies best player position player in the postseason. Although he went 0-for-4 in the last game, he did hit .450 for the series.
Rollins, the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, led the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship. He has been the team’s catalyst and is reportedly seeking a long-term contract. The Phillies need him, but will they give Rollins what he wants? This makes for a very unsettling offseason.
The Eagles situation appears to be shaky as well. There are only five teams who have started 1-4 and made the playoffs. The Eagles will have to go 9-2 the rest of the way to more than likely secure a playoff spot. With the way the way the Eagles have been playing defense, this seems very unlikely.
If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs, head coach Andy Reid should be on thin ice. He has been here for 13 years, been to a Super Bowl and has won a lot of games. But it’s time for a change. He has to take weight for this debacle. This is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. In spite of that, they have an offensive line that can’t protect the quarterback, a defense that struggles tackling and play calling that has been questionable. The coaching staff has been unable to make the right adjustments.
This was supposed to be an exciting time for the Philly fans. It’s been anything but.
HOUSTON — This is the time of year when manager Charlie Manuel would like to see his Philadelphia Phillies playing their best baseball.
Instead, they dropped their second straight game against the worst team in baseball on Tuesday night to keep them from wrapping up a playoff spot.
Clint Barmes hit a three-run homer and J.A. Happ pitched six solid innings against his former team as the Houston Astros beat Philadelphia 5-2.
The Phillies needed a win over Houston or a loss by St. Louis to clinch at least a wild-card berth. But the NL East leaders will have to wait to secure their place in the postseason after the Cardinals beat the Pirates 6-4 on Tuesday night.
"We talk all year long about where we want to go, and that's to the World Series and win it," Manuel said. "We're sitting in a (heck) of a position, and when we come out and play kind of sloppy and we don't have a lot of life and stuff like that, we have to play better than that."
It's the first time the Phillies have dropped three in a row since losing four straight from May 31 to June 4. They get their next chance to clinch Wednesday afternoon with Roy Halladay on the mound in the series finale.
Manuel was unhappy with the two errors his team committed Tuesday.
"If we come out and play right, we hustle and we make physical mistakes by hustling, you can buy into that," he said. "But when we start making mental mistakes and getting sloppy and things like that, and taking things for granted, we don't want to play that way. I feel we're much better than that."
Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels (14-8) fell to 0-3 in his last five starts against the Astros after going 3-0 in his first four career starts against them.
The Phillies were swept by the Astros in a four-game series late last season in Philadelphia.
Hamels suggested his team might not have the right mindset playing against Houston.
"Their motivation was a little bit more than I guess what we had," he said. "I guess that's where they are beating us. They are motivated and we are not taking it as serious."
The Astros won their second straight game to avoid setting a franchise record for losses. Their 97 defeats are tied for the club mark, which has been reached three other times, most recently in 1991.
J.B. Shuck singled in the fourth inning and stole second base before Happ reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Howard with one out. Jason Bourgeois drove in Shuck with a single to put Houston up 2-1 before Barmes' first-pitch homer.
Hunter Pence hit his 20th home run on a ball that bounced high on the wall in left-center to tie it at 1 in the fourth. The former Astro, traded to Philadelphia in July, received a standing ovation from a group of fans sitting near the Phillies dugout.
Happ (6-15), acquired from the Phillies last year as part of the Roy Oswalt trade, allowed four hits and one run with four strikeouts. Fernando Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings before David Carpenter took over for the ninth.
Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out solo homer off Carpenter to make it 5-2.
The Phillies had a shot to cut into the lead in the fifth inning when Jimmy Rollins singled with two outs before Happ walked Placido Polanco and Pence to load the bases. Howard took Happ to a full count on an eight-pitch at-bat before J.D. Martinez made a leaping catch at the left-field wall to end the inning.
"Obviously relieved to get out of that situation and keep the lead where it was," Happ said. "I was a little frustrated I got myself into it, but to get out of it was huge."
Houston manager Brad Mills was impressed with Happ's composure.
"J.A. did a real good job of keeping his emotions under control," Mills said. "Sometimes he put everything right on the edge, but stayed down in the zone which I thought was absolutely outstanding. He kept getting behind in the count but getting himself back in the count, which was big."
Martinez had an RBI double to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Barmes doubled to set up the score. Carlos Lee singled after the double by Martinez, before Matt Downs was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.
Hamels escaped the jam by retiring the next two Astros.
Downs looked to have been spiked in the finger when John Mayberry Jr. slid into second base on a double in the second inning. Downs was checked by trainers, but remained in the game.
Downs singled with two outs in the third and reached third on the play on an error by Mayberry when the grounder rolled between his legs in center field. Downs was left stranded when Chris Johnson grounded out to end the inning.
Right fielder Jason Michaels robbed Howard of a hit with a diving catch, which injured his left hand in the second inning. Michaels finished the inning, but was replaced by Shuck in the third. The team said Michaels broke a bone in his left hand and would have season-ending surgery Wednesday.
NOTES: Despite the loss, Philadelphia is 30-10 against lefties this season. ... The teams wrap up the three-game series Wednesday when Houston's Bud Norris faces Halladay, who allowed four hits and one run while striking out nine over eight innings in his last start, a 5-3 win over Milwaukee. Norris has won just once in his last 11 starts. ... Lee has hit safely in 21 of his last 22 games. -- (AP)
Rob Knox, a 1996 Lincoln University graduate, will be the master of ceremony for Lincoln University’s 2012 inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony. Knox, a Chester High product, currently works for ESPN in Bristol, Conn., as a statistics manager in the Statistics & Analysis department. He has been employed at ESPN since Oct. 2011.
Prior to working at ESPN, Knox distinguished himself as a sports information professional. He worked five years at his alma mater, Lincoln University, and two years at Kutztown University. Before entering into sports information, he was a full-time reporter at the Delaware County Daily Times.
Knox was named the 2011 College Sports Information Directors’ Association (CoSIDA) Rising Star Award winner. He was also a member of the CoSIDA Board of Directors as a college division representative and the president of the Black College Sports Information Directors’ Association (BC-SIDA).
The 2012 hall of fame class includes inductees Manuel Rivero, Dr. Frank “Tick” Coleman, Munford Merrill “Monte” Irvin, Ashley Parker, Clive Terronlonge, Dr. Tarron Richardson, Barrington “Barry” Fearon, Rhondale Jones, Tehma Hallie Stanton Smith, Robert Eugene Smith and Dr. Leonard L. Bethel. The class will be celebrated this weekend and the induction banquet is Friday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m., in the Student Union Multi-purpose Room.
Temple-USF homecoming game set for noon
The Temple homecoming football game against South Florida on Oct. 6 will kick off at noon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Big East Network will televise the game as its Game of the Week. The Owls (1-2, 0-0 Big East) have a bye this week before hosting the USF Bulls (2-2, 0-1 Big East) in their Big East opener.
BBWAA Philadelphia Chapter announces 2012 Phillies award winners
Cole Hamels was the unanimous choice for the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher Award and Carlos Ruiz won the Mike Schmidt Most Valuable Player Award in voting by the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Jimmy Rollins and Juan Pierre also were honored by the writers. Rollins won the Dallas Green Special Achievement Award. Pierre won the Tug McGraw True pro Award.
Hamels is a three-time winner of the Carlton Award. He leads the Phillies in wins (16), ERA among starters (3.11), strikeouts (208) and shutouts (2).
Ruiz got all but three votes for the Schmidt Award. Hamels finished second and Rollins was third. Ruiz, who made his first NL All-Star team this season, leads the Phillies with a .327 batting average to go with career-highs in homers (16) and RBIs (65).
Rollins receives the Special Achievement Award for becoming the fourth player in team history to reach 2,000 career hits and the first shortstop in MLB history to have 2,000 hits, 400 stolen bases and 100 home runs, and also for surpassing Larry Bowa for most games played at shortstop (1,731) on the club’s all-time list.
Pierre gets the True pro Award given to the player who best exemplifies the Tugger’s good-natured personality and for his professional cooperation with beat writers. Ryan Howard finished second in the voting for the second straight year.
CLEARWATER, Fla. — An older, wiser Jimmy Rollins has ditched his annual rite of spring: Trading trash talk with National League East counterparts.
But as the new-look Philadelphia Phillies prepare for the season after seeing their five-year reign atop the division end in 2012, Rollins isn't conceding anything either. The longtime shortstop remains confident in the talented nucleus assembled here.
"Everybody is in the right mind frame," Rollins said. "We're a complete team. We're not going out there with role players. We're going out there with everyday players, every game."
Rollins, 34, was drafted by the Phillies out of high school in 1996 in the midst of the organization's 13-year playoff drought. But prior to the 2007 season, Rollins famously declared a young-and-upcoming Phillies squad "the team to beat."
The Phillies made good on Rollins words. They chased down the New York Mets in September and won the division on the final day of the regular season. They then went on a tear that resulted in two World Series appearances, and one title.
Rollins, in 2007, won National League MVP, but that was six years ago. Many of the names in the clubhouse have changed since then. And those that remain — Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels — are not in the same point in their careers.
Last season offered proof. The Phillies finished 81-81, to post their first non-winning season in 10 years. But they also didn't play a single game in the first half with Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay healthy at the same time. All three missed large chunks of the season with injuries.
With all three healthy this year — and the additions the Phillies made this winter, too — Rollins thinks the team can once again be a contender.
"We did what we needed to do (in the offseason)," Rollins said. "We just needed to fill a couple of holes and get the other guys back healthy, and we've done that. (Relief pitcher Mike) Adams is going to be huge from what he's done, and being able to continue that, it's going to be great. Mikey Young, he's just a professional hitter. The little man out in center field, Tootsie Pop, Ben Revere, he's going to bring that energy. Shane (Victorino) left, and we've got a guy who can come in and steal bags, so we don't miss a beat there.
"It's different, but it's a great dynamic what we have now. It's a good feeling. As you can see, it's nice and calm. Last year, everybody was uncertain. There's a lot more certainty around here."
Rollins may have retired his panache for making bold statements. But it wasn't all that long ago that he made one worth remembering.
After the Phillies finished the 2012 season in Washington, Rollins said the Nationals, who won the division, would have been a second-place team if the Phillies were healthy. Rollins isn't reliving the past, but he's also hasn't lost faith in his team's ability to return to the top of the division.
"That was last year," Rollins said. "And this year is different. Nothing has changed in our mentality or my mentality about how I feel about where this team should be or will be. The players we have, I like it. I was talking to (manager) Charlie (Manuel), the bullpen is good. The lineup has an opportunity to be real deep.
"Play some good quality baseball on both sides, the mental side of the game, it's going to be a fun team."
NOTES: Utley, a second baseman, will play in Friday's intrasquad game and will also likely start in the Phillies' first Grapefruit League game Saturday, according to Manuel. Utley hasn't played in a spring exhibition game in each of the last two years while battling chronic knee pain. Hamels will start in the opener Saturday against the Houston Astros, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan scheduled to follow in the next week. Halladay will pitch opposite Justin Verlander in Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. If that rotational order holds up through the spring, Hamels could get the start on the regular season's opening day. ... Hall of Fame 3B Mike Schmidt arrived in Phillies camp on Wednesday for his annual work as a hitting instructor. . The Phillies' intrasquad game on Friday will begin at noon at Bright House Field and admission is free to the public. -- (AP)
When the Philadelphia Phillies host the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series (best of five) at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, the Phillies will begin their postseason journey.
The Phillies have great pitching with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and although pitching is the key to success, it’s not the only important aspect.
There are other factors like experience, talent and confidence. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies shortstop, has all those ingredients. Rollins will be one of the keys in the Phillies playoff run that could bring the city another world championship.
Rollins, 32, has been here through thick and thin. This is his 11th season with the Phillies. When he started playing with the Phillies, he was wearing braids. In fact, Rollins and former Sixers all-star guard Allen Iverson were the city’s pro athletes with that style. The Phillies were still trying to get better. The team wasn’t selling out when he started his career in Philly.
A few years ago, he was the player who labeled the Phillies as “the team to beat.” He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series title. He played a huge role in getting them back to the 2009 World Series before losing to the New York Yankees. In 2010, he carried the Phillies to the National League championship series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies were eliminated by the Yankees and Giants; both teams won the World Series.
“I’ve been around here through transition,” said Rollins, 32, who this season batted .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI. “It’s been for the better obviously.
Rollins remembers those early days when there were too many empty seats when the Phillies took the field.
“If you sell out, it’s not 13,000 … [it’s] 23,000 on the big board, and everybody likes 23,000,” Rollins said. “That’s a good thing. But it’s the attitude towards us, the Phillies and baseball … the feeling around the city is a lot different.
“I think as far as sports in general football has always had the attention. The season is 16 games as opposed to 162. You can get together once every weekend as opposed to every single day. The excitement of the newness is still there with football.
“(With baseball) Everybody realizes it’s a grind. So, if I miss 10 (home) games. I still have 71 more games. That’s changed because [at] every single home game we have 44,000 (fans). That shows the product on the field along with the marketing and advertising. The most important element is winning.”
The Phillies have certainly done that. The team finished with an amazing 102-60 record. Now, they’re in a really good position to do something special again during this historic season where manager Charlie Manuel became the Phillies’ winningest manager with 646 wins. Rollins has been the catalyst for a lot of those victories.
“The team has evolved tremendously,” Rollins said. “Prior to the season in 2007, I made a firestorm out of a barnstorm (when he said the Phillies were the team to beat). I said it very casually in my response. The point I wanted to make was portrayed. I wanted people to recognize us for who we are. You’re our media covering us. We’re going to be that team. For years, they’ve always talked about the (Atlanta) Braves in spring training or the (New York) Mets. I’m not here to talk about them. I did that for five or six years now. I’m good.”
Rollins has been good throughout his career. He has been selected to three all-star games. He has won three Gold Glove Awards. In 2007, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League.
Rollins grew up in Oakland, Calif., where he was an All-American baseball player at Encinal High School, which happens to be the same high school where Dontrelle Willis attended who pitches for the Cincinnati Reds this season. Rickey Henderson was his favorite baseball player. He watched him play during his career with the Oakland Athletics. Rollins was recruited by Arizona State before he decided to play professional baseball.
Rollins hails from a sports family. His brother, Antwon, played minor league baseball with the Texas Rangers and the Montreal Expos. His sister, Shay, played college basketball at the University of San Francisco. Baseball wasn’t the only sport he played as a youngster. He played football and basketball, too.
“I played Pop Warner football,” Rollins said. “I played all the way up to high school. I played from 9 to 14. I was playing football, basketball and baseball year round. I never had a break. I said to my mother (Gigi) that if we win the championship I wouldn’t play high school football. I was tired. So, low and behold we win the championship.
“I go to practice one day with my dad (James Sr.) at Encinal High School. We were on the baseball field. The football coach, who was the baseball coach, asked me if I was going to play football. I started smelling the grass. I went and got my permission slip. I went to my mother and asked her if I could play football. Then, she sent me to my dad. He sent me back to her. My mother said, ‘Remember, you told me that you would not play football if you won the championship.’ So, that was the end of my football career.
“I was a big (San Francisco) 49ers fan. They had Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young. I played quarterback. I played running back, too, but mostly quarterback.
“I was a two guard in basketball. I was a slasher. Some people thought I would stay outside and shoot the jumper all the time. I hit the jump shot. I shot some threes. But I was quicker than a lot of guys. I liked to take it to the basket. I remember watching Run TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin) with the (Golden State) Warriors. I enjoyed playing football and basketball, but baseball is my best sport.”
Rollins has been playing baseball for a long time. He will be a free agent after the season. According to SI.com, he would like to have a five-year contract with the Phillies. Rollins has been a crucial part of the Phillies’ success. His focus right now is on bringing another championship to Philly, and this could be the year.
“This team is solid,” Rollins said. “It’s definitely the best pitching staff we’ve had. Other than that, everybody is a year older and a year more seasoned.”
That could be enough to be a factor in the postseason.
When the Phillies face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, they will have their hands full on the road. The Phillies will be trying to take the lead in the best of five series this afternoon (5:07 p.m. TBS) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Phillies will send lefthander Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79 ERA, 195 strikeouts) to the mound against the Cardinals’ lefthanded ace Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA, 156 strikeouts.) The Phillies need a big performance from Hamels as they attempt to take the lead in the series.
Ryan Howard, Phillies’ first baseman, could be a key player in the next two games. Howard is from St. Louis. He was a big star at Lafayette High School and Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). He usually has some big games in his hometown. He was certainly a catalyst in the first game, hitting a home run and driving in four runs, leading the Phillies to a huge win. In the series, Howard (.286, two hits, one home run, six RBI) has been a big factor. He’s a player to watch in these two contests.
The Cardinals defeated the Phillies, 5-4 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1. Cliff Lee, Phillies lefthander who has pitched sensationally this season, let a four-run lead slip away, giving up five runs on 12 hits.
Pitching has been the hallmark of the Phillies’ success this season. In the first two playoff games, the Cardinals have really challenged the Phillies’ pitching staff, battling Roy Halladay in the first game by scoring three early runs and defeating Lee in the second contest. To Halladay’s credit, after giving up a three-run homer to Cardinals rightfielder Lance Berkman, he settled down and pitched a terrific game.
St. Louis is a dangerous team. Their pitching staff isn’t as ballyhooed and talented as the Phillies’. Nevertheless, the Cardinals are able to compete and keep the games close. Moreover, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has plenty of experience in using his starting pitchers as well as his bullpen. La Russa made several adjustments in the second game after starter Chris Carpenter struggled early and had to be replaced. He waited for his bats to get hot. Then he utilized his bullpen, putting his relief pitchers in the right situations as Octavio Dotel got the win.
The Phillies’ bats had been booming. They scored 16 runs in the first two games. The team has several players swinging the bat really well — shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.625, five hits), second baseman Chase Utley (.500, three hits), rightfielder Hunter Pence (.375, three hits, three RBI), leftfielder Raul Ibanez (. 375, three hits, one home run and four RBI) centerfielder Shane Victorino (.375, three hits, two RBI).
The Cardinals have picked up some timely hitting from second baseman Skip Schumaker (.600, three hits, two RBI), first baseman Albert Pujols (.375, three hits, one RBI), shortstop Rafael Furcal (.333, three hits, one RBI) centerfielder Jon Jay (.286, two hits, two RBI) and Berkman, (.250, two hits, one home run, three RBI).
The Cardinals accomplished their goal by getting a split at Citizens Bank Park. They now have homefield advantage. Pujols is their best player. He provides them with experience and leadership, not to mention some good all-around play.
ST. LOUIS — Pinch-hitter Ben Francisco and closer Ryan Madson made manager Charlie Manuel's moves look smart, and the Philadelphia Phillies held off the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in their NL playoff series.
Francisco batted for pitcher Cole Hamels and broke open a scoreless game with a two-out, three-run homer in the seventh inning.
Madson earned his first multi-inning save of the year. He came in and got Allen Craig to sharply ground into a double play with the bases loaded to escape in the eighth, then worked around Yadier Molina's RBI single in the ninth.
The Phillies, favored to win it all after a franchise-record 102-win season, can finish off the wild-card Cardinals in Game 4 Wednesday, with Roy Oswalt opposing Edwin Jackson.
Francisco's shot off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was only his second hit in 19 at-bats in the postseason.
"I knew the way the game was going I was probably going to be in there to pinch-hit off a lefty," Francisco said. "Got up there with a runner in scoring position, I was just trying to get a hit up the middle and he left one up and luckily it got out of here."
Hamels struck out eight in six scoreless innings. He's a franchise-best 7-4 in the postseason with a 3.09 ERA.
The Cardinals frustrated a season-high crowd of 46,914, stranding 14 runners. They set a National League record with 169 double play balls.
Albert Pujols and Ryan Theriot had four hits apiece for St. Louis, the heavy underdog wild-card winners who had runners in scoring position in six innings. They came up empty despite three hits in the eighth, including a pinch-hit single by Matt Holliday in only his second appearance of the series.
The Cardinals' decision to let Garcia bat with two on and two out in the sixth backfired in a big way. Garcia struck out on Hamels' 117th pitch and wasn't the same in the seventh.
The Phillies, held to three hits to that point, doubled that total in the seventh. Shane Victorino led off with a single and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked with two outs. Francisco, who had been 1 for 9 against Garcia, deposited a 1-0 fastball in the visitor's bullpen in left-center field.
Francisco was clutch at the end of the year, getting seven hits in his last 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Lefty vs. lefty percentages, even against Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, allowed Garcia to elude trouble until the seventh.
Chase Utley singled with two outs in the sixth, breaking a string of nine straight batters retired by Garcia, and went to second on a wild pitch on an 0-1 delivery to Hunter Pence.
The Cardinals elected for an intentional walk at that point, and the move paid off when Howard, who is 2 for 15 with a homer and an RBI against Garcia counting the playoffs, tapped out weakly to first.
Garcia was at only 74 pitches through six, but needed 26 more in the seventh.
Hamels was up to the task as well, striking out David Freese with two runners on to end the first. The 2008 World Series MVP got Garcia on a groundout with two on to end the fourth, and fanned the pitcher for his biggest out to end the sixth.
NOTES: Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins had two hits and is 7 for 11 in the series. ... Tuesday was Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's 67th birthday. It was also St. Louis pitcher Kyle Lohse's 32nd birthday. ... Garcia threw first-pitch strikes to the first 10 hitters. ... The Cardinals stole three bases in the first four innings. They totaled 57 in the regular season, second-lowest in the majors. ... Placido Polanco singled in the ninth, ending a 0 for 29 slump against St. Louis in the postseason. He was 0 for 17 with Detroit in the 2006 World Series. ... Counting the postseason, Theriot is 10 for 24 against Hamels. -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — Cliff Lee has lost his October touch.
Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead single in the seventh inning after Lee blew a four-run lead, and the St. Louis Cardinals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 Sunday night to even their NL playoff matchup at one game each.
The best-of-five series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Tuesday. Cole Hamels will be the third straight All-Star pitcher to face the Cardinals, who'll send Jaime Garcia to the mound.
The wild-card Cardinals, who got into the postseason only after the Phillies beat Atlanta in Game 162, got the split they were looking for on the road against the team that had the best record in the majors.
Lee hardly looked like the guy who used to be so dominant in the postseason. He gave up five runs and 12 hits, striking out nine in six-plus innings, to lose his third straight playoff start.
"I wasn't able to make my pitches, so I take full responsibility," Lee said.
The most sought-after free agent last winter, Lee stunned the baseball world when he spurned the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies, who traded him away after he helped them win the 2009 NL pennant.
Lee's arrival raised Philadelphia's expectations to all-or-nothing proportions. Anything less than a World Series title won't be considered a success by fans, players and management.
For a while, it seemed the Phillies had this one under control as they took a 4-0 edge.
After all, Lee is one of the best postseason pitchers in history, and he was 17-9 with a 2.40 ERA and a major league-best six shutouts this season.
Lee was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his first eight playoff starts — 4-0 with the Phillies in 2009 — before losing Games 1 and 5 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants as a member of the Texas Rangers last year.
He's 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA in the last three outings.
"Anytime I got a 4-0 lead in the first or second, I feel I have the game well in hand," Lee said.
Now the Phillies head to St. Louis with no guarantees of any more home games. If they lose two at Busch Stadium, their season is over.
"Nobody is going to hand us anything. We have to earn it," Lee said.
Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Chris Carpenter struggled for the Cardinals.
But one reliever after another did the job for manager Tony La Russa.
Six Cardinals relievers combined to toss six shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Jason Motte finished for a four-out save.
After chipping away for a few innings, the Cardinals took the lead in the seventh. Allen Craig led off with a triple off center fielder Shane Victorino's glove. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Victorino misplayed the ball. He had to go a long way to make the catch, but overran it and the ball bounced off his glove.
Pujols, who struck out in his previous two at-bats, lined a single over drawn-in shortstop Jimmy Rollins to give St. Louis a 5-4 lead.
Cardinals players jumped up and cheered wildly in the dugout, while Phillies fans sat silently in disbelief. The red-clad faithful had their hearts broken already once Sunday.
Just a few hours earlier, the Eagles blew a 20-point lead and lost 24-23 to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL game across the street.
Many fans walked over to watch the two-sport doubleheader, and the crowd of 46,575 was the largest in the eight-year history of Citizens Bank Park.
On a chilly night when the gametime temperature was 50 degrees, Lee was the only starter in short sleeves.
Maybe he got cold.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Lee got the first two outs in the sixth. Then Ryan Theriot lined a two-out double to left and Jon Jay followed with an opposite-field single to left. Theriot slid home safely ahead of Raul Ibanez's high throw to tie it at 4.
Down 4-0, the Cardinals started their rally in the fourth. Lance Berkman walked and Yadier Molina hit a one-out infield single. Theriot sliced an RBI double down the right-field line and Jay followed with an RBI single to get St. Louis within 4-2.
Jay advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and Carpenter was pulled for pinch-hitter Nick Punto. Lee fired a 92 mph fastball by Punto for the second out.
But Rafael Furcal followed with a line-drive single to left. Theriot scored and Jay came rumbling around the bases. Ibanez made a perfect one-hop throw and the ball arrived along with Jay. He slammed into catcher Carlos Ruiz, his left forearm knocking the stocky catcher backward. But Ruiz held to temporarily prevent the tying run from scoring. Lee, backing up the plate, pumped his fist while Ruiz calmly picked up his mask and jogged to the dugout.
Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, allowed four runs and five hits in three innings. It was the shortest outing of the season for Carpenter, who led the NL with 237 1-3 innings pitched this year.
The bullpen bailed him out.
"We felt real good about ourselves," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We got Carpenter out of the game early, and we were trying to get into their bullpen. The big problem was that their bullpen held us."
Fernando Salas retired all six batters he faced, and Octavio Dotel set down five in a row to earn the win. Marc Rzepczynski gave up a two-out single to Rollins in the seventh, ending a streak of 15 straight batters retired. Rzepczynski left after hitting Chase Utley to start Philadelphia's eighth.
Mitchell Boggs came in and got Hunter Pence to ground into a forceout. Arthur Rhodes replaced him and struck out Ryan Howard. Then it was Motte's turn.
The Phillies, who overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit in Game 1, took a 3-0 lead in the first in this one.
Rollins lined a double off the right-field fence and Utley and Pence walked to load the bases. Howard, who hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning Saturday, then hit a sharp single up the middle to score two runs. His grounder appeared to hit the rubber and took an odd bounce on its way to center field.
Carpenter retired Victorino on a shallow fly, but Ibanez hit an RBI single to left to make it 3-0.
Rollins got things started again in the second with a two-out double off the top of the right-field fence. After Utley walked, Pence lined an RBI single to right for a 4-0 lead.
NOTES: Garcia is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in six games, four starts, vs. the Phillies. The lefty has held Philadelphia to a .178 batting average. .... Hamels is 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine career starts vs. St. Louis. ... Miss America Teresa Scanlan sang the national anthem. ... This was the 219th straight sellout in Philadelphia, including postseason play. -- (AP)