Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jason Werth Returns to Philly but Cole Hamels Steals the Show

Jason Werth returned to Citizens Bank Park last night for the first time in a Nationals uniform.  He was greeted with a mixed round of applause and boos before tipping his cap to the fans and turning the crowd into a standing ovation.  The Phillies fans in attendance acted as they should have, applauding Werth his first time to the plate showing their appreciation for what he had done in 4 seasons with the Phillies.  After that he becomes just another player on an opposing team and the fans made him well aware of that fact as the game wore on, booing him every chance they got. 

Heading into last nights game Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel made a few much needed adjustments to the lineup in the hopes of getting some more run production.  The Phillies had been in a slump culminating in 1 run coming across the plate in a 14 inning loss to the Mets on Sunday night.  Charlie moved Jimmy Rollins out for the third spot and put him back into his more natural lead off position.  He dropped Shane Victorino to the second spot and placed Placido Polanco in the third.  The top of the lineup shift resulted in 12 hits for the Phillies with those top three players going a combined 4-11 with 2 runs and 2 RBI’s. 

Charlie was almost paid off even more with his lineup movement, but the Phillies couldn’t capitalize all night.  They left 22 runners on base and went 2-10 with runners in scoring position.  By resetting the lineup to more a look from past seasons, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were able to get on base and cause a little bit of havoc.  Charlie loves the home run, but when guys aren’t hitting for power you have to adjust and try and manufacture more runs.  This idea was evident in the bottom of the third inning when Rollins and Victorino were sent on a double steal, moving Rollins to third and Victorino to second.  Unfortunately the Phillies couldn’t get those runners home, but the speed and ability to produce more runs is there. 

Raul Ibanez finally broke out of his slump last night.  His last hit was a single in the bottom of the fourth inning against Milwaukee on April 18th.  He came into the game at 0-33 and went 0-2 in his first two chances.  He finished last night’s game 2-4 with 2 doubles and an RBI.  His 0-35 streak at 39 years old has to raise the question, is Ibanez done?  Can he not catch up to the fastball anymore and therefore should he be replaced?  He’s a very streaky player, but this may not have been just another down turn.  In his 0-35 stint, he had 13 strikeouts and wasn’t making contact very well when he did get his bat on the ball.  In the near future Phillies fans may see a lot more of John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown. 

Even with all of the action last night from the lineup and Jason Werth’s return, Cole Hamels stole the show.  He came into the game with a 3-1 record and a 3.13 era.  Since his first meltdown start of the season, Hamels has gone 7 innings or more in his next 5 starts, winning 4 of those and in the process he’s lowered his season era from 20.25 after his first start to 2.66.  The Phillies overall have won all 5 games Hamels has started after his first start of the season.

Hamels has never had more then two complete games in a season, last night was his first of this season and it’s only May.   He went 9.0 innings allowing 5 hits, 1 earned run and striking out 6 while only walking 1.  He also contributed to the offense, hitting his first career triple, going 2-4 on the night and scoring a run.  Hamels was the sexy pick for the CY Young this season and if he keeps up this production the “experts” may be proven right. 

The Phillies now sit at 19-9, 10 games over .500, even with sparse run production at times and some serious injuries.  Those that question or complain after a loss or two just don’t understand how good this team actually is.  Buzz in the Phillies organization is that Chase Utley will start a rehab stint in Florida by the end of the week and a player like Utley should only need about a week to 10 days to be ready to come back up to the big leagues.  When the Phillies get Utley back at the end of the month they will be an even more dangerous team.  The over of 97 wins in Vegas is looking pretty good right about now.    

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