Tag: Brian Schneider

Can the Philadelphia Phillies Use Walk-Off Weekend To Propel Second Half?

The Philadelphia Phillies’ first half struggles are well-documented. A disappointing road trip and three-game matchup against the division-leading Atlanta Braves left them with a 43-40 record and six games out of first heading into the final weekend before the All-Star break. 

To make matters worse, the Phillies were staring at a four-game series against the surging, Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds. The potential existed to be deeply buried at the figurative midseason breaking point.

But then something unlikely and uncharacteristic for the challenging 2010 season occurred—the Phillies found a way to pull off a series sweep and restore their hope for the second half. 

And, as big as it was to string together four victories, it was even more amazing considering the manner in which it was done. 

All four games could have gone either way. The first three were won on walk-off hits in extra innings—two of which landed in the outfield seats.

On Thursday night, the game seemed headed for the same recurring nightmare of the past two seasons when Brad Lidge blew a save opportunity in the ninth, allowing the Reds to knot the score at 3-3 with two outs.

But, rather than allow the game to turn into another frustrating defeat, they hung in until backup catcher Brian Schneider ended the game in the 12th with a home plate victory dance after depositing a ball well into the right field stands. 

The next night, the Reds jumped out to an early lead and appeared headed to an easy victory, sporting a 7-1 lead after adding an insurance run in the top of the ninth. What followed was something even the most optimistic Phillies fans could not conjure in their minds with late game heroics a fading memory. 

A small rally blossomed into an eruption when “below-the-Mendoza” Gregg Dobbs jacked a 434-foot, three-run bomb to cut the lead to 7-5. An out and a walk later, minor league fill-in Cody Ransom smacked another home run to stave off defeat. 

This time, after holding the Reds scoreless in the 10th, a Raul Ibanez double was followed by Ryan Howard’s big fly into the left field seats. For the second consecutive night, the hometown heroes finished the evening with a team-wide celebratory scrum at home plate. 

Fast forward to game three on Saturday night. Ace Roy Halladay demonstrated his considerable pitching skills once again, shutting out the league-leading offense through nine innings. 

Unfortunately, as has often been the case this year, the Phillies could muster very little offense themselves. In fact, rookie Travis Wood was shockingly heading towards baseball immortality by firing a perfect game, before Carlos Ruiz led off the ninth with a double. 

Wood escaped trouble, and the teams traded bagels until the bottom half of the 11th. Ruiz smacked another double and scored on Jimmy Rollins’s clutch two-out single to kick off the now familiar nightly celebration. 

The series finale on Sunday was not a walk-off, but was definitely another nail-biter. This time, the Phillies used the same Ruiz double, Rollins single combination to plate a run in the third inning and rode a brilliant Cole Hamels pitching performance to a 1-0 lead heading into the ninth. 

Of course, some drama ensued when Brad Lidge was called upon to nail down the save. This day, he was up to the task, demonstrating better command and his signature slider. 

For the weekend’s work, the Phillies crept a little closer to the Braves and are now breathing down the necks of the second place New York Mets. Just half a game out of second, the Phillies start the second half four-and-a-half games in back of the Braves. 

Besides the psychological lift of feeling that they are within striking distance, the manner in which the Phillies were able to sweep the Reds could provide the necessary boost they need to make another divisional run. 

As skipper Charlie Manuel noted, the team seemed to be missing a spark. Neither fans or players seemed to possess the confidence that this year’s team had its customary late inning heroics in its figurative DNA. 

Perhaps this past weekend’s events will restore that former feeling of invincibility and swagger that has permeated the team over the previous three seasons. 

And, make no mistake about it, that missing mojo will be instrumental to realizing the lofty goals set forth before this injury riddled season. 

The Phillies find themselves in the uncustomary position of playing catch-up, but a little mojo—and the return of the walking wounded—will go a long way towards recapturing the NL East. The Braves are good and will keep the pressure on, but perhaps players and fans will look back at “Walk-off Weekend” as this year’s turning point.

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What Jimmy Rollins Can Learn From Terry Francona


“You can do a lot with two inches.”

That’s what my son said while pondering his binder preferences at Staples.

Maybe you can.

You can also do a lot with two pitches. Cole Hamels tossed his curve into his limited repertoire but it was his fastball and change-up that ruled the game.

As a result, Ricky Botallico said Cole Hamels has “turned the corner.”

Are you kidding me?

That’s like saying my child is safe because he hides a cheap Swiss Army knife under his pillow to fight off perspective burglars. I said, “What you gonna do… file his nails to death?”

No doubt Cole had a hot night against a tough interleague rival. He threw 116 pitches—76 for strikes, sent eight batters back to the bench bitching, walked one, and allowed one earned run on three hits. But the question remains: Has he turned the corner?

Let’s just say he put on the blinker. Except for excessive home runs and walks allowed this year, it looks like he’s recovered from his 2009 hangover. But Cole is more comfortable pitching with an offensive cushion and the lineup gave him that. He’s also less flustered when his fielders aren’t flubbing and he got that too.

But showing mild displeasure as the result of a bad strike call can’t be considered a new level of maturity.

Maybe he’s outgrown the terrible twos, but all moms know when your pitcher is tired and grumpy all you can do is put him to bed.

I’m just the girl to do it.

I’m sorry, was I thinking out loud?

In this 5-1 Phillies win, the lineup was restored to its previous luster—if only for a moment. Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate first while Shane Victorino was demoted to seventh because it let him watch more guys bat in front of him.

That’s a warm, fuzzy feeling I thought you could only get by rolling naked in polar fleece.

Not that I’d know anything about that.

But then Jimmy limped to first base in the sixth and Juan Castro took his place—again. Saturday I predict Shane will bat leadoff—again. And I’ll bet Wilson Valdez, freshly outrighted to Lehigh Valley, is packing enough socks and underwear to come back for at least 15 more days—again

The injury report has also changed the life of Paul Hoover. I’m willing to bet he’s found himself a home as permanent backup pitcher. It was an untimely strain for Brian Schneider but one man’s misfortune becomes another man’s wife.

Just ask Jayson Werth. An injury to Geoff Jenkins is what gave every girl the option to drool over the bearded wonder and gave Jayson the opportunity to prove he was an everyday player.

Now he’s landed on baseball’s 50 best list at a humble 49th. He’s behind like, well, everybody, but look on the bright side: Hanley Ramirez made the top 50 best players in baseball but he won’t make the top 50 best teammates.

And I’m certain my boobs are as big as they’re gonna get but my butt isn’t.

Did you hear? Pat Burrell was released from his duties as a pinch hitter for Tampa Bay. He can now be had for a cool $350,000—that’s what a player is worth when all he has left is one tool.

He’d get picked up faster placing an ad in the personals.

Baseball’s a tough crowd. What if I was off my game? Would I be put out to pasture with the other middle-aged innuendo junkies and see people hold up signs in my honor that read, “Mom or Machine?”

And if contracts are all about ability to perform, maybe Jimmy Rollins is coming closer to being considered a trade alternative to keep Jayson Werth. Jimmy has been around longer than any of the Phil’s original draft picks on the current 25 man roster. He was chosen in 1996 and is playing his eleventh season with the team. He’s spent more time as a Phillie than Pat Burrell or even Brett Myers who found a new home because he couldn’t get his mojo back after surgery.

Now Jimmy’s injured—again.

Like Terry Francona told the struggling David Ortiz, “You don’t take for granted the time together.” With Ruben Amaro Jr. weighing options to keep his outfield intact, this might be a no-brainer.

Unless Jimmy’s calf can turn the corner.

See you at the ballpark.


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