It’s Time….

…to spring into action, players
have had a chance to wipe away the cobwebs, meets old friends, get
introduced to new ones, have their memories jogged on which base is
which, and figure out which shoe goes on which foot.

This week is the week that interaction
between teams begins, this week is the start of old and new rivalries.
It may only be spring training games, but it will give us a hint
of what’s to come, it will let us see who’s here to play and who’s here
to wing it.

The Phillies bring a core of
players which in essence is the strongest it’s had over the last few
years, some new additions, even a re-addition to what was already a
solid base of players. This is definitely the start of what should be an
interesting year all around baseball.

For the Phillies, question marks
will surround the likes of Lidge and Hamels, not just at
the start of the season, but all season long. The media will be waiting
to pounce on the first sign of anything that may show a reduced
performance, in my opinion Hamels will do just fine, for me the
one to watch will be Lidge, even though he will have a better
year than last year, (which shouldn’t be hard to do), he will
have just a mediocre year and hopefully Charlie will have him on
a shorter leash than he did last year.

I am sure it will not take Polanco
long to get his footing at 3rd base and become a dominant 3rd base
player, he is a familiar figure to the organization as are they to him.
It’s looking as if Polanco will be the only addition to last
year’s starting line-up in the field, the rest of the infield and
outfield should be more than accustomed to each other by now. We should
get a chance to see the new additions to the bench during this month and
some of the potential prospects, even though the farm system is a little
depleted with the acquisitions over the last couple of years.

We will definitely get a chance to see
the star acquisition Roy Halladay as he is set to square off against CC
in the opener against the Yankees this week, as with all spring training
games, we shouldn’t expect too much from him, after all we’d like to see
him still throwing maximum innings come October.

Around Baseball

Not too much to say at this point, just
waiting for the St Louis Cardinals to announce Pete Rose
as the players investment coach, following the announcement of McGwire
as the hitting coach, I am sure Pujols and Holliday will
be looking to him for inspiration.

 any
sarcasm is not meant to offend, unless it does, then consider the
possibilities of more during the season.

 


September/October… the Final Countdown…

What’s in store for the Phillies
as we enter the final month of baseball, okay so the regular season runs
into October this year, but it’s only 4 days.

33 Games in 33 Days…

So the end of season
schedule is not being kind to a team trying to go back to back World
Series Champions, they have a full month and beyond. During September
they will play 30 games, in fact lets go from here to the regular season
end, 33 days to go, 33 games to play and somewhere they will get 2 days
off and play 2 double headers. Being 7 1/2 games up in the NL East is
certainly an advantage, but with this schedule it will definitely make
it a challenge to maintain. Finishing off the season is going to make
them tired even before post season play begins, at best you can hope for
a strong showing in the first half of September, so they can rest some
of the key players leading up to post season.

Offense and Defense…

 

The same guys that have
been producing the offense, (some days it may not have been much
offense
), are producing stellar defense. These guys are playing
every game like it is October baseball, they are making plays like it is
the last out, they are truly supporting every pitcher that takes the
mound.

The pitching staff seem to
be turning things around, yes your going to have the occasional game
where the opposition hit you around, those days make you more intense
the next time out. 

Starting Pitching…

 

 

Cliff Lee, took
his first loss in a Phillies uniform, which was okay, this way there are
no added strains on him to go perfect to season end. He can now pitch
his game and do what he does best.

Cole Hamels, last
2 games have been more like the Hamels we know from last year, hopefully
he has his game back and we can move forward. His confidence was such
that his game against the Giants this week saw him stealing a base, the
first of his career and he also went a solid 9 shut out innings giving
up just 2 hits in that game.

JA Happ, has
been the rookie with a veteran look, he has been excellent all year,
even when the chips are down, he stays focused and pitches his game. He
is without a doubt prime candidate for ‘Rookie of the Year‘ this
year.

Joe Blanton, the
Hulk‘, the ‘Work Horse‘, when you see him pitch it is
obvious he enjoys what he does and he stays in command and doesn’t get
phased by anything, he’s had good numbers this year and his second half
is as usual, very good.

Pedro Martinez,
the newest member of the starting rotation, who has not yet produced
what you would call a quality start. Facing 2 rain games that lasted 2
and 3 innings for him and 2 other games where he was seemed to be still
trying to find his way back in the majors. We will have to see how he
does this week against the Giants, a team the Phillies don’t produce
much offense against, will Martinez be able to keep it close, we will
see this week.

Jamie Moyer, Although
Moyer is now in the pen, I have included him here, simply because he has
taken the 2 rain delay games from Martinez and been outstanding, he has
also pitched reasonably well all year as a starter, still holding the
most wins as a Phillies starting pitcher this year. With the 2 double
headers the Phillies will be facing I think his role will be very
important, especially as one is against the Marlins, a team he has
dominated.

The Bull Pen seems
to have had some rest of late, although there are some deep issues still
to be resolved, I haven’t included a breakdown for them here, because I
think we need a little more time into September to see if the looming
post season is going to spur them on or if we will continue to see the erratic
side of the pen. I will mention thus far the only two I am comfortable
with are Eyre and Park, but we will continue to watch and see how Lidge
and Madson perform during the next week, along with some notables like
Durbin, Walker and Taschner, now he’s back up.

With the ability to load up
the team with new faces in September, the Phillies have chosen to be a
little more conservative, holding room for some of the DL players to
make an impact in the post season, assuming the Phillies maintain the
current state of play and make the post season of course.

More to come over the
weekend, with a look at bench players and the expected return of DL
players…

 


Brad Lidge…’it’s all about you’

When a team has got a lead going into the final inning of a baseball game it’s the closers job to come in and shut down the opposition so that your team gets the win. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the 9th, 10th or even more, and it doesn’t matter if your at home or on the road, it is without a doubt the primary responsibility of the closer to secure that win.

Yesterday in Atlanta the Phillies did exactly that, Cole Hamels pitched good, for him this season, through 6 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 3 hits, okay he walked 4, but still considering how he has performed this year, when it came to crunch time and the Phillies needed a good outing he gave us one.

The bullpen came in to relieve Hamels in the 7th inning and gave another good performance, shutting the Braves down in the 7th and 8th innings. So now its up to the closer, Brad Lidge, to enter the game and not give anything away. We have all seen him this year, but Charlie Manuel and his coaches still have confidence in Lidge to come out and do his job. Maybe its time to re-think Charlie, Lidge is not cutting it at the moment. Yes the error by Utley didn’t help, but then loading the bases, because your afraid of the strike zone doesn’t help either.

Trying to blow magic on your hand, like a magician, isn’t going to work Lidge, you shouldn’t have loaded the bases in the first place.

If this wasn’t a message to Charlie Manuel then I don’t know what would be, and if Lidge can’t do it, if he has some inner- self that’s giving him a hang-up, then he should be a man and tell Charlie, and save us all the continued embarrassment of sending a closer out there that nobody is afraid to face.

I could offer up some suggestions, I am sure many a blogger will, I am also sure many fans that don’t  blog here will be commenting at the ZoZone about what should be done and how to do it, but the bottom line is you get paid to make those decisions Charlie and it’s time you made one regarding Lidge. You had no trouble telling us “it’s for the best interest of the team”, when you sent Moyer to the pen, so how about that same attitude regarding the closers spot.

Today JA Happ goes to the mound, I just hope if this is a tight game and the Phillies have the lead at the end, we use an alternative to Lidge…


Cliff Lee, Pitching and Hitting to Win #3…..(updated)

Cliff Lee takes his 3rd straight win as the Ace in the Phillies rotation and
lee1-vs-cubs.jpgdrives the Phillies to a sweep of the
Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. After suffering the embarrassment of being swept at home last weekend the Phillies issued there own 3 game sweep on the road.

Lee pitched outstanding for 8 innings, like me, most thought Madson would come on in relief at the start of the 8th inning, but he didn’t, Lee came out for the 8th and got through it like an Ace. Lee ended his day after throwing 122 pitches with over 67% of them for strikes, he gave up 1 run on 6 hits and walked 3 batters. It wasn’t till the 4th inning that the Phillies offense gave Lee the lead, he managed to get himself out of a couple of jams during the first 4 innings, it wasn’t till the 5th inning that the Cubs managed tlee2-vs-cubs.jpgo drive in a run and that was the only time a Cubs player would cross the plate. He held the Cubs to a 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position, obviously the Phillies defense played a role in this too. Lee seems to like this playing in the NL where he gets to show case his bat swinging abilities, he hit his 2nd double, but was eventually stranded on 3rd at the end of the inning. With the Phillies, Lee is now 3-0 with an ERA of 1.13 through 24 innings as a pitcher, as a hitter he is 3 for 9 (.333) with 2 doubles.

Ryan Madson came on in relief of Lee to start the 9th, he pitched a scoreless inning giving up just 1 walk with 2 strike outs.

The Phillies offense came off of 10 hits and 3 walks, the big offensivehoward-vs-cubs.jpg inning was the 4th, when Ryan Howard hit a 3 run home run to the opposite field, this was Ryan’s 1st home run in August, ironic really, I had said at the end of July, that it seems when 

Raul Ibanez goes deep then Ryan goes deep and visa versa, and in Wednesday’s game Raul went deep and so Thursday Ryan went deep. In the same inning Pedro Feliz took Dempster deep too, giving the Phillies a 4 run lead. Utley picked up an RBI in the 6th and Feliz picked up another in the 7th giving the Phillies a 6-1 lead that they never relinquished.

The Phillies headed to Atlanta last night to start a 3 game series against the Braves today, before heading home for the only day off between now and the end of August. Joe Blanton is scheduled to start tonight against the Braves, Saturday is an afternoon game and although it’s Hamels rotation spot, it is currently being listed as TBA, have they not announced it yet or are they holding back to the last minute because of a possible problem? I am sure we will find out soon.(update: Hamels is now listed as the starting pitcher for Saturday). It does though, seem to be freaky days of late in Philadelphia sports, everybody has heard by now that Vick signed a 2 year deal with the Eagles, what were they thinking? I am sure they will let us know soon enough.

Still with freaky things, the ‘Idiot Cubs Fan’ turned himself in to Chicago police yesterday, probably wants another 15 minutes of fame, or a beer commercial contract.


Phillies Struggles Continue…

Game 2 against the Marlins in this 3 game series was again an eratic performance, this time they managed to give up a lead and throw the game in a 6-4 loss.

Cole Hamels pitched in manner consistant with his seasonhamelsalter-ego.jpg performance, very up and down, one minute he looks like no one could touch him, the next they are hitting everything he throws. So it turned out to be another shortened outing for him where he gave up 4 runs, then the bullpen started off with excellent command, and yet they also manged to give up 2 runs with 2 outs.

The defense and offense again was spuradic to say the least, offensivly, Howard who seamed to be the only one with anything to offer, helped by Feliz and Ibanez, but not all at the same time.

Defense, they weren’t bad, they had some good plays, but I have reviewed the games since these issues have arisen, which I believe to be during the recent west coast trip, it all started in Arizona. Victorino got injured, which wasn’t really a problem, since it came at the time Francisco joined the team, but when Victorino returned to play he didn’t quite seem right, he played more shallow than normal and that seemed to put all the outfielders in positions where they were not able to catch up to long fly balls as often as they had in the past. The infield also didn’t seem to be in the right spots either, or they were juggling balls they would normally play cleanly.

Are the coaches adjusting the fielders locations correctly, according to who is hitting, and who is pitching, and in what manner they are pitching? This does not seem to be the case, so for this I do not entirely blame the players, but will lay blame for at least 40% of the missed fly balls, or miss infield hits, squarely on the shoulders of the coaches, instead of sucking up to Charlie, or having fun in the dug out, WATCH THE GAME, and adjust the outfielders accordingly, just because were the current World Series Champions, it doesn’t mean we don’t play by the basic’s….

Today Jamie Moyer is on the mound, he has in the past dominated the Marlins, however, the defense and offense must show up to play and support his efforts, since he is a fly ball pitcher, they have to get their positioning right to prevent the extra base hits…


Baffled by the Bay, A Different View…

 Yes, they travelled through time zones, but it wasn’t that far really…
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They weren’t at a high elevation…

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There were no shadows on the field…

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It should have been money in the bank…

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Hamels pitching for 4 2/3 innings was music to my ears…

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But then, for no apparent reason, with 2 outs and nobody on base in the 5th inning, did Cole lose something…

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We started the 6th inning, had Cole found what he lost in the 5th, the answer was NO, the inevitable happened a call to the bullpen…

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The guys from the pen closed the game out, without giving up any more runs, Hamels had allowed 7 runs to score, which was too much to recover from, the Phillies lost the game 7-3 and the series by 3-1 in San Francisco, but they were heading back to what we hope are the comforts of home…

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Phillies take loss on Bark at the Park Night in San Francisco…

Last nights game at AT&T Park in San Francisco was scheduled to be a pitchers duel between Lincecum and Blanton, although both pitchers were very good the game itself was not so exciting. It was a game where the Phillies team made Lincecum look like a very ordinary pitcher, the problem for the Phillies is the offence is currently struggling with RISP. The Giants hitters were being held in check by Blanton and Blanton was actually looking like the better pitcher, the 5th inning turned the Giants luck into a run the same thing in the 7th, there were no great plays by anyone, no super hits, in fact even Sandoval tried to bunt his way on. The most exciting part of the game between the 7th and 8th inning, Blanton’s evening was done, he new he should be in place for the win, but the offence was letting him down, with a 1 for 6 with RISP and 8 LOB, he had given up just 7 hits and 2 runs had crossed the plate, almost any other game he would have the lead. I guess his temper got the better of him between inning and he took it out on some things in the dugout…..

blantonangry.jpg

…basically that was the game, nothing really stood out.

Other events were probably more interesting to some, it was Bark at the Park night, so there were a lot of dogs in the stands, no I am not talking about any diverse individuals who may or may not live in the San Francisco area…. real dogs… although going by some of the attire of the dogs the owners mentality may have to come into question….

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there’s more….

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and last but not least, what I’d call a normal dog, shame about the gay bandana round it’s neck….


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Hopefully today will be a good game, where all the players on both teams make an effort to be ball players. It’s Hamels against Zito, so it should be a good game, but we thought that yesterday too, so who knows.


Hamels ‘A’ce Game Returns…

With the trade deadline approaching, and more people are asking is Hamels the Ace we all wanted or was he a flash in the pan. Last night he showed everyone why he has been the Ace of the Phillies pitching staff. On a night more than any other this year he needed his ‘A’ game and he delivered.

The Haren vs Hamels game had been headlined as a make or harenhit.jpgbreak for Cole, days before, the Philly fans are looking to see if management delivers another Ace to the starting rotation, the fans were also looking to see if Cole could deliver them a sign that he is the Ace.

The first inning Hamels gave up, what became a complimentary homerun to Roberts, from then on he pounded the strike zone through 8 innings, he threw a total of 112 pitches, 79 of them for strikes. He gave up a hit to his counterpart, Haren, who singled in the 3rd inning. Since Cole out pitched Haren he certainly didn’t want to be out done by him at the plate, so in the 5th inning Hamels returned the favor, only instead of a single Hamels
hamelshit.jpgcrushed a double to left center, splitting the gap in the outfield, Hamels cruised into 2nd standing,eventually Hamels crossed the plate to break the tie and put the Phillies in front, and from there they never looked back.

Victorino, had tied the ball game with a solo homerun in the 3rd inning keeping his hot streak alive and well.

The D-Back errors didn’t start until the 5th inning last night, it was like boredom set in so the players just lost concentration. Rollins hit a ball hard, causing a miss play by the D-Backs, Utley’s smart base running to 1st base caused an error on a throw to home plate, mix in some other miss plays and the D-Backs had another game of errors turns into opposition runs.

You had to feel bad for Haren, he pitched very well, with almost any other defense behind him he would have probably won that game, there was more than once you could tell from the look on his face, he wished he were somewhere else. The Phillies offense really did well last night working the count and getting Haren to throw as many pitches as they could, he ended up throwing 117 pitches in 5 innings of work.

The only real shadow of doubt for the Phillies last night was the 9th inning, Lidge with a save opportunity came in to close out the game and ended up giving up 2 runs, before finally finishing off the D-Backs, I for one am glad it was NOT a 1 run game.

It all happens again tonight with Happ going against Petit, if he hasn’t been traded by then of course, if Happ is on the mound, here’s hoping Happ has recovered from his first loss and puts on another dynamic display of pitching.


Phillies Take D-Backs to School….

Philadelphia, Phillies showed the D-Backs how to play professional baseball last night in Arizona.

Yes, this may seem harsh, but the Phillies took a clear advantage of the D-Backs errors, errors which would have been hard to find in a triple ‘A’ game, and there was Jamie Moyer, who pitched himself into trouble twice in the first 3 innings,
moyer.jpgloading the bases at one point, with nobody out, his experience, his self control and excellent defence, from his infield that knows no limits and definately knows how to support their team mate in times of trouble got him through the struggles.

Moyer, moved on from his struggles and pitched with control and poise through another 3 2/3 innings, shutting the door on the D-Backs. In total Moyer pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 4 walks and striking out 5, giving him his 256th career win and closing out July with a 3.30 ERA his best month this year.

Side Bar: During this ‘will he, won’t he’ couple of weeks on Halladay, it has been noted that a number of people have been commenting on blogs, calling for Moyer to retire, last night was just another reason why he shouldn’t, right now he’s pitching very well, and he’s got 10 wins on the year, giving him 13 seasons with double digit wins, I know wins dont mean anything in a pitchers stats, but as I’ve said before, it’s wins that get you to the post season. (end side bar).

D-Backs defense for 8 innings looked like a group of guys on a Sunday morning throwing a ball around not really caring where it went, or if someone could catch what was thrown at them. With Feliz on 1st, (now you have to understand Feliz has 0 (zero) stollen bases this year), the pitcher, Garland, is acting like it’s J-Roll or Victorino over there, so he ends up throwing the ball past the 1st baseman which ultimately puts it up the right field line, Feliz, who seemed like a diferent person on the bases last night, ended up going from 1st to 3rd. Another one was, Utley on 1st a base hit fumbled in the shift off of Howards bat, allowed Utley to get to 3rd, after beating the 3rd baseman in a foot race to 3rd base, that should have been a double play or at least got Howard at 1st. There were other simple plays in the infield that should have resulted in outs that didn’t and although the Phillies played hard last night, those infield mistakes are the main reason for 4 extra runs the Phillies scored. Of course the ‘Howard Homer’, a 2 run shot in the 4th was all Howard.

So having seen all that go on imagine the surprise when in the top of the 9th a bloop hit, which had it been earlier in the game would have scored 2 runs, is caught by Roberts with a spectacular dive to end the inning.

The Phils bull pen went to work in the 7th inning Park came into the game in releif of Moyer and got the 1 guy he faced, 8th inning Madson came in, experienced some struggles, gave up a couple of runs on 3 hits, and struck out 2. Lidge was set to come in for the 9th, a non-save situation, so there was obviously a few nerves, but Madson had struggled so maybe Lidge would be okay, well he was, 3 up, 3 down, with a strike out thrown in there. Phillies end up taking the first of three from a struggling Arizona, 6-2.

Room for thought:  Why did Charlie use Bruntlett in the 9th and not Dobbs, that confused me, tonight we do it all again Hamels vs Haren, now I know Haren has a pretty good contract with the D-Backs, but could it be possible when the Phillies go to San Francisco that Haren goes with them…..


Back To Winning Ways, Phils take Padres 9-4

This was the make-up game that was PPD because of rain back on April 20th, before we get into the game itself, I think we need to give a thought to the San Diego Padres, who when this game was PPD was a winning team and playing very well, busoverloaded.jpgso the benefit with this has gone to Philadelphia, who’d have thought back then. In addition to that the Padres are in Washington this weekend, so the Padres bosses thought it would be beneficial to help their team out by flying into Washington late, then getting the bus to Philadelphia to play this game, then getting the bus back to Washington, and if anyone has ever travelled between Washington and Philly then you’ll know it’s not the best of times even in a vehicle you can kick back and relax in. We can at this point only assume that the Padres arrived at the ball park not very well relaxed and ready to play ball, however, I will say this the players played like they wanted to win, the problem was they were playing a team who is not only hot at the moment, but wanted to prove that yesterday’s afternoon game against the Cubs was an error on their part.

The Philadelphia Phillies of yesterday, literally, the team of Sloppy Joe’s (no offence to Joe)
EXPIREDsloppygiftcard.jpgwas nothing more than a day game following a night game where all the players were just sluggish and what seemed hung over.

A different story today, not just because they won, not because they won with authority, but because they played like they wanted to win and acted like they wanted to be there playing baseball. They just looked different, they had a spring in there step, even Utley who against the Cubs yesterday, looked as though he may be suffering, from some sort of injury, acted like he’d just come off a weeks rest, without any sign of an injury. The team was swinging the bat better, running the bases better, and more importantly today they were pitching better.

Cole Hamels came out throwing strikes, he had command of all his pitches and was showing all the elements he had as the 2008 ACE that we saw during the speed-bump.jpgWorld Series, he hit a minor speed bump in the top of the 4th inning where he gave up 3
runs on 3 hits. Hamels ended the day with a solid 7 innings, 3 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks with 6 strike outs. Carpenter who had just been re-introduced to the big’s today came in, in relief of Hamels to start the 8th inning managed to get a batter out on a fly ball, then gave up a couple of hits, with a run and a walk, Manuel not wanting to let this slip away, nipped this in the bud early and went to the pen again for Chan Ho Park who has been nothing but exceptional from the pen. It didn’t even seem to phase him, 1 pitch and he was out of the 8th inning, it did take a very unusual double play by Feliz and Utley, a  5-4-5 double play. I am not sure what the base runner was thinking, but it certainly put a smile on the face of Utley and Feliz as they ran to the dug out, even as late in the game as this was, it was just another sign that the Phillies were here to play, they were having fun out there. Park came out in the top of the 9th to finish the game off, he did it as calm as he started with 3 outs, he ended up pitching 1.2 shut out innings.

The Offence went to work in the bottom of the 2nd inning and never looked back, by the end of the 4th inning everybody, except Ruiz and Hamels had had a hit and there were 8 runs on the board, they continnued to threaten with more but never quite got across the plate until the 7th inning when Ruiz, not to be left out hit a solo home run to left field. Feliz and Werth each went 3 for 5 with an RBI each and Werth also scored a couple of runs, excellent work from the 6 and 7 spot of the batting order, both managed to raise there averages to respectable levels.

As I said at the begining, excellent show by the Phillies, but spare a thought for the Padres who had to endure that bus ride to Philadelphia after getting off a plane ride…. Okay thought over, I know the Padres are struggling, but I don’t feel that sorry for them.

The only damper on the game, was again the Phillies commentators, unfortunately I watch via MLBTV and since I am in BFE, OH. I can not get the radio station for the Phillies so have to put up with the TV commentary, and after reading a blog post today at How ‘Bout Them Phils  it just emphasized how they comment on the most obvious things, and seem to talk and joke about things that unless you have been with them all day would have no idea and not get the humor of it, enough of that, read the entry “Phillies Need a New TV Team” from the above blog and you’ll hopefully get it.

The weekend is on us, almost and we have the St. Louis Cardinals in town, so since I showed sign of pity for the Padres do I show signs of pity for the Cards, you see today they flew in to Washington from Texas, have a night game with the Nats, which has overloadedtrain.jpgalready had a rain delay and I think at this time they are in another rain delay and it’s only the top of the 7th inning, you know, I know you have to be fair to all but the Cards are going to catch the
train from Washington to Philly, not sure if the plan is tonight or tomorrow, well the way the game is going there now it will be tomorrow regardless, but surely it’s not going to affect the Nats and the Cards have a 4-1 lead, you’d think they’d call the game and give it to the Cards. Back to the question should I have pity on the Cards for these  unfortunate occurances that could be detrimentle to their stay in Philly, well I thought about this for all of a minute, I know to long, shouldn’t hesitate, but I don’t think so.

I am sure the Cards fans wouldn’t have any sympathy for the Phillies if the tables were turned, we even did them a favor by issuing 2 loses to the Cubs, what more could they want. Nope sorry no sympathy, enjoy your stay in Philadelphia, you know the ‘City of Brotherly Love’,

UPDATE:

Since I wrote this at around 11:30 pm last night the Cards and Nats game was called early, around 1 am this morning I think, so the ump’s did the Cards a favor, so they could get the train to Philly. We are bound to see their newly acquired Lugo in Philly this weekend, I am sure some Cards fans are thrilled with this and others not so happy, we’ll see if it makes a difference in Philly this weekend.