Tag: Raul Valdes

Maybe we should try asking him to play both corner outfield positions

The most recent post suggested that there are two positions where the total number of walks the Phillies drew in 2012, when they were terrible at drawing walks overall, was better than it was in 2007, when the Phillies were very good at drawing walks. One was center field and the other was shortstop.

Shortstop for the Phils is all about Jimmy Rollins and has been for years. He got about 95% of the team’s plate appearances as a shortstop in 2012 and just over 99% in 2007. For years we had been pleading with Jimmy Rollins to improve his walk rate. Not sure everybody noticed, but he did.

Through the end of the 2009 season, J-Roll had one year in his career in which he walked in 8% or more of his plate appearances (9.3% in 2008). Over the last three years his lowest walk rate is 8.9%. Here are his career numbers through 2009 and for 2010-2012:

2000-2009 6512 7.2
2010-2012 1724 9.3

From 2003 to 2007, the Phillies were either first or second in the NL in walk rate in every season. Rollins was the everyday guy at shortstop, walking in the same 7.2% of his plate appearances as his career mark for walk rate going into 2010.

So even when the Phillies were an elite walking team, they didn’t draw a ton of walks at the position. They’re no longer an elite group of walkers, but they are getting more walks from short because Rollins has improved his rate.

Center field is the other position where the Phils drew more walks in 2012 than they did in 2007. Again, the issue there is that their walk rate in center was pretty low in 2007. Rowand was miserable at drawing walks in 2006, walking in just about 4.1% of his plate appearances in center. He got better in ’07, getting the vast majority of the PA at the position and walking in about 6.9% of his chances to help get the team’s rate up to 7.0%. Led by Victorino, the team has been in the 8% range over the past four years and were at 8.5% in 2012. Victorino walked in just 8.1% of his PA with the Phils in ’12, his worst mark since 2008, but the Phils got up to 8.5% at the position with some unexpected help from Mayberry. You probably don’t think of Mayberry as a walk machine, but he walked in about 9.7% of his 227 plate appearances as a center fielder in 2012.

Delmon Young is coming off of surgery on his right ankle. Amaro suggests that he might not be able to play in games competitively until the middle of March in this article. The same article suggests that Valdes and Stutes could both be near 100%.

Irregular season

Freeze frame, November, 2012. The Phillies shock the baseball world by naming you their new GM. Your job — add a starting center fielder, a starting third baseman, a starting corner outfielder, a top setup man and a fifth starter. Trade Vance Worley, Trevor May, Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla if you want, but make sure you take on less than $20 million in 2013 payroll.

Good luck.

If that’s your charge and you come back with Ben Revere, Michael Young, Delmon Young, John Lannan and Mike Adams, you’ve done your job.

Obviously Amaro had more flexibility than that, especially around who he traded. Keeping Worley would have made adding a fifth starter unnecessary. And some of the positions he filled from outside of the organization could have been filled from within. If the Phillies fail to play Domonic Brown just about every day to start 2013, they’re making a mistake. But they haven’t done that yet and, no matter what they say in January, I don’t think they will. And I don’t think that the off-season has been a disaster for the Phillies.

If there’s a disaster here, and despite how ugly 2012 was, I don’t think this is a disaster yet, it didn’t start this off-season. It started a couple of years ago and moves slow.

Success or failure for the 2013 Phillies is going to have a whole lot more to do with what Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee combine to produce for the $137ish million the Phils have committed to pay them than it will with what Delmon Young produces for the $750,000 they’ve committed to pay him. And a lot of what we saw in 2012 should make you worry about that group’s ability to produce $137 million worth of value in 2013.

You can pay all five of the new guys mentioned above this season with the $20 million the Phils have committed to Howard. With a couple of million left over. You can get most of the way there with the $13 million they’re going to pay Papelbon.

It’s a lotta eggs in a small number of baskets. There is no solution if those eggs can’t play anymore or simply have bad contracts — but it’s not Delmon Young’s fault, either. The choices are declare it’s over and rebuild or declare it’s not and do what you can with the limited flexibility that you have left. I’m glad they chose the later. This is what do what you can with the limited flexibility you have looks like.

Bottom line for me is that the Phillies may have made mistakes. Some of them are big mistakes. Maybe too big for the team to overcome in next few seasons. I’m a lot less sure they came this off-season, though.

Yesterday I updated my guess on who the hitters on the team are at this point. Earlier this month I made a guess on the pitching side. Here’s what I came up with then:

Other candidates
1 Halladay (R) P Aumont (R)
2 Lee (L) T Cloyd (R)
3 Hamels (L) J De Fratus (R)
4 Kendrick (R) M Schwimer (R)
5 Lannan (L) M Stutes (R)
6 Papelbon (R) BJ Rosenberg (R)
7 Adams (R) E Martin (R)
8 Bastardo (L) J Pettibone (R)
9 JC Ramirez (R)
10 Z Miner (R)
11 J Horst (L)
12 R Valdes (L)
J Diekman (L)
J Savery (L)
M Robles (L)
C Jimenez (L)

Assuming 12 pitching spots to start the season, I gave the four open slots to Horst, Aumont, Valdes and De Fratus.

Not a whole lot has changed since January 9. The Phillies signed free agent righties Rodrigo Lopez, Aaron Cook and Juan Cruz and announced that righties Justin Friend and Kyle Simon would be invited to camp as NRIs, along with lefty Adam Morgan.

The list looks pretty much the same in my mind these days, with the exception of the addition of a few candidates:

Other candidates
1 Halladay (R) P Aumont (R)
2 Lee (L) T Cloyd (R)
3 Hamels (L) J De Fratus (R)
4 Kendrick (R) M Schwimer (R)
5 Lannan (L) M Stutes (R)
6 Papelbon (R) BJ Rosenberg (R)
7 Adams (R) E Martin (R)
8 Bastardo (L) J Pettibone (R)
9 JC Ramirez (R)
10 Z Miner (R)
11 J Cruz (R)
12 A Cook (R)
R Lopez (R)
J Friend (R)
K Simon (R)
J Horst (L)
R Valdes (L)
J Diekman (L)
J Savery (L)
M Robles (L)
C Jimenez (L)
A Morgan (L)

I still feel pretty good about the Horst and Aumont picks. That gets the Phillies to ten pitchers — five starters and five relievers, including two lefties in Bastardo and Horst.

I feel like there’s a chance that Cook can challenge Lannan for the fifth starter job. But I still think Lannan is the guy. Kendrick ended the season pitching really well out of the rotation, but I shake the feeling that the Phillies would be better off using him as a long reliever. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though, at least not to start the season.

Assuming Kendrick is in the rotation, there’s still an issue about long relief. The Phillies don’t have a long man in the ten guys I mentioned. Juan Cruz seems like he might get some consideration for that role. I’d guess the Phils think Rosenberg could give them more than one inning.

I still think the last two spots are pretty wide open. Valdes and De Fratus were the two relievers I picked last time. Valdes was fantastic for the Phillies in 2012 and De Fratus has put up outstanding numbers in the minors over the last few years.

Valdes would be the third lefty in the pen, though. And they still wouldn’t have a long man. Stutes is the other guy who seems like a legit candidate if he shows he’s healthy early in camp. He was solid for the Phillies in 2011 and got four or more outs in 14 of his 57 appearances.

Anyway, I’ll stick with Horst, Aumont, Valdes and De Fratus for the last four spots. That leaves the Phils with 12 pitchers — Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick, Lannan, Papelbon, Adams, Bastardo, Horst, Aumont, De Fratus and Valdes. Still three lefties and still no long reliever. My top candidates among the guys not on that list would be Cruz, Rosenberg and Stutes.

This article suggests the Phillies have had the third-best off-season in the NL East.

Their better half

In the most recent post, I took a guess at the hitters who might start the year with the Phillies as well as the guys contending for the other spots. Here’s today’s guess about the pitchers:

Other candidates
1 Halladay (R) P Aumont (R)
2 Lee (L) T Cloyd (R)
3 Hamels (L) J De Fratus (R)
4 Kendrick (R) M Schwimer (R)
5 Lannan (L) M Stutes (R)
6 Papelbon (R) BJ Rosenberg (R)
7 Adams (R) E Martin (R)
8 Bastardo (L) J Pettibone (R)
9 JC Ramirez (R)
10 Z Miner (R)
11 J Horst (L)
12 R Valdes (L)
J Diekman (L)
J Savery (L)
M Robles (L)
C Jimenez (L)

Lannan and Bastardo are the guys I feel least sure of among the eight pitchers I have on the team. But I think they both start the year on the staff with Lannan serving as the fifth starter. Halladay, Hamels, Lee, Kendrick, Papelbon and Adams seem like locks if they are healthy, although I think it’s possible, but unlikely, that Kendrick could be pitching out of the pen at the start of the year.

If those eight guys did make the opening day roster for the Phils, it would leave the pitching staff with four open slots (assuming the team starts the year with 12 pitchers).

Of those four spots, one should go to a long man, or at least someone who could pitch more than one inning, and at least one other would go to a lefty.

The Phillies have a lot of options when it comes to the second lefty in the pen. Horst and Valdes were both very good in 2012 and I think it’s possible they both make the team to start the year. If it’s just one of them, I’d give Horst an advantage over Valdes. I think Horst is pretty close to a lock to start the year with the team.

I think the issue of who will be the long man out of the pen is more complicated. Kendrick is the guy best-suited for that role, but the Phillies would likely prefer to have him pitch out of the rotation, coming off of a 2012 in which he threw to a 2.43 ERA over his last ten starts. Cloyd, Ethan Martin or Jonathan Pettibone seem like the candidates to make the team that are mostly likely to be able to give the Phillies more than one inning, but I have a little trouble seeing the Phillies carrying one of them to pitch out of the pen to start the year. My guess at this point would be that the Phillies don’t have a true long man out of the pen to start the year.

So if Horst takes one of the four open spots, that leaves the Phils with three.

The guy I feel next strongest about is Aumont, given the combination of his upside and some promising results in 2012. I’ll slot him into the tenth spot.

I think it’s really wide open after that. At this point I’ll take Valdes, based on his impressive 2012, for the eleventh slot. Beyond that I see it as close to a toss-up between Stutes and De Fratus as front-runners for the final spot. Stutes is coming off of a significant injury that sidelined him for much of 2012 and both should contribute to the team this year. Stutes helped the Phils a lot in 2011 and De Fratus has had several very impressive years in the minors in a row.

I’ll pick De Fratus for the twelfth spot.

So that gives the Phils 12 pitchers — Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick, Lannan, Papelbon, Adams, Bastardo, Horst, Aumont, Valdes and De Fratus. Five starters, seven relievers. Three lefties out of the pen and no long man in relief.

If that’s the staff heading into 2013, I expect we’ll all feel a whole lot more comfortable with the pitching than we do with the hitting to start the year.

This article from the Phillies web site adds Michael Cuddyer to the list of players the Phils might be pursuing that includes Hairston, Wells and Soriano.

This article suggests that if the outfield situation stays the same, we may see Brown getting a chance to be the everyday guy in right field to start the year with a platoon in left that includes some combination of the lefty Nix and righties Ruf and Mayberry. Mayberry seems like he should be a candidate to get some at-bats at first base against left-handed pitching as well.

There are a bunch of problems in left if that proves to be the case. One is that it’s hugely unlikely that Laynce Nix is going to be able to take all or maybe even most of the at-bats against righties in left field in 2013. Nix is 32 and has never gotten more than 400 plate appearances in a season. Phillie left fielders are going to get around 480 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2013. Nix has never had more than 321 plate appearances against righties in a season. So it seems likely that some parts of that platoon would be hitting a lot against righties. I don’t think you want to see a whole lot more of Mayberry hitting against righties given his 229/291/335 line against them in 2012. We’ll see on Ruf. He was 5-for-17 against righties last year with a home run.

The other important problem with Nix as the left-handed part of a platoon in left is that Nix, despite his left-handedness, isn’t exactly a fabulous hitter against right-handed pitching anyway. His career line against righties is 253/297/447. Last year he got just 117 plate appearances against righties, but put up a 248/316/390 line. So Nix probably couldn’t completely man a left-handed platoon in left anyway and if he could, you might not want him to.

Who are you and what have you done with our bullpen?

After dropping two straight one-run games to the Reds, the Phillies won one last night, plating a run in the bottom of the eleventh to win 4-3 and earn a split in the four-game set.

The game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel between Hamels and Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto. Both pitched okay on a soggy, rain-soaked night, but both saw their pitch count climb early and both were gone by the time the seventh inning rolled around. The Phillies did get outstanding pitching in the game, but it came from their bullpen. Hamels left after six and after he left, five Phillie relievers combined to throw five shutout innings without allowing a hit.

Three of the first four Cincinnati batters reached in the top of the first as the Reds jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. In the fifth, a ball hit hard to short went for a single as Martinez couldn’t handle it and Todd Frazier followed that with a two-run double that extended the Cincinnati lead to 3-0. The Phils got two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of sac flies, then tied things up at 3-3 in the eighth when singles by Brown, Mayberry and Kratz loaded the bases for a sac fly by Rollins. Mayberry chopped a single into left with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eleventh.

The Phillies are 58-67 on the year after beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 in 11 innings last night. The teams split the four-game set. The Phillies have pulled ahead of the Mets and into third place in the NL East. They’re 19 1/2 games out of first in the division.

Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks. One of the hits went for extra-bases, a double. He struck out four.

The Phillies have won four games in a row that Hamels has started and scored 15 runs in those games (3.75 per game).

Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs singled back-to-back to start the top of the first. It brought Jay Bruce to the plate and Hamels struck him out swinging 1-2 for the first out. Hamels walked Ryan Ludwick on four pitches, loading the bases for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a ground ball to third, taken by a charging Frandsen. He might have had Cozart at the plate with a good throw, but went to first for the second out instead. Cozart scored and it was 1-0 with men on first and second for Miguel Cairo. Cairo lined a ball towards short. Martinez made a very nice play, diving to his left to field it and then throwing to first in time to get Cairo.

Hamels threw 34 pitches in the inning.

Hamels got Wilson Valdez, Ryan Hanigan and pitcher Johnny Cueto in order in the second.

He set them down in order again in the third. He was at just 53 pitches after needing just 19 to set down six in a row in innings two and three.

Cairo singled with two outs in the fourth. Hamels struck Valdez out swinging to leave him at first.

Hanigan walked to start the fourth. Cueto tried to bunt him to second, but popped it up to Kratz in foul territory for the first out. Cozart struck out and Stubbs flew to left to end the frame.

Bruce and Ludwick singled back-to-back to start the sixth, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. Frazier was next and pounded a ball to center, over the head of Nix and off the base of the wall. Both runners scored, putting the Reds up 2-0. Nix didn’t handle the ball as it came off the wall for an error that allowed Frazier to move up to third with nobody out. Hamels got Cairo on a ball he handled himself for the first out. He struck Valdez out for the second before walking Hanigan intentionally to pitch to the pitcher. Cueto grounded to Hamels as well to leave Frazier at third.

Two misplays in the inning behind Hamels and Hamels does well to limit the damage to two runs after the Reds put a runner on third with nobody out.

Nix’s error allows Frazier to take third with nobody out. Ludwick’s ball was hit hard, but Martinez had a chance to make the play. He didn’t get in front of the ball, swiping at instead and deflecting it as it went passed. It would have been a good play to field the ball, but if he had it likely would have been a double-play that changed the inning.

Rosenberg threw a 1-2-3 seventh with the game tied at 2-2.

Great outing for Rosenberg, who was pitching on one day of rest but has thrown three of the last four days. He’s gone 1 2/3 scoreless innings over his last three outings after throwing to a 12.91 ERA over his first eight.

Phillippe Aumont made his debut in the eighth with the score still tied. Ludwick was the first hitter he faced and Aumont got ahead of him 0-2 on two straight swinging strikes before throwing three balls in a row. Ludwick grounded to short 3-2 on a diving play by Rollins for the first out. Frazier flew to center for the second before Cairo walked, but Aumont got Valdez on a ground ball Aumont handled himself to end the frame.

I would be absolutely thrilled if Aumont can help the Phillies. That said, I’m pretty worried about how likely that is. He’s had an enormous problem with walks in the minors, walking 4.99 batters per nine over his minor league career. At Triple-A this year he has walked 34 in 44 1/3 innings (6.9 per nine). There’s close to no chance he can be successful without cutting that number down enormously. One walk in one inning so far. He got a bunch of help from a very nice play by Rollins for the first out last night.

Papelbon started the ninth in a tie game. Coming into the game, opponents were hitting 406/472/719 against him for the year in tie games. He walked Hanigan to start the inning and pitcher Mike Leake ran for Hanigan at first. Lefty Xavier Paul hit for the pitcher Sam Demel and bunted Leake to second with the first out. Cozart flew to Mayberry for the second and Papelbon struck Stubbs out swinging 0-2 to leave Leake stranded.

Better results in a tie game for Papelbon. He’s allowed one runs in 12 1/3 innings over his last 12 appearances while striking out 14.

Horst struck out Bruce and Ludwick in a 1-2-3 tenth.

Back with the team after the birth of his son, Horst continues to give the Phillies fantastic work out of the bullpen, dropping his ERA to 1.00 after 18 innings. In his last four appearances he has struck out nine in six scoreless innings. Hasn’t allowed a home run this season. Has walked seven in 18 innings, which is too many.

Valdes set the Reds down in order in the eleventh. Righty Chris Heisey hit for Valdez and grounded to second for the second out.

Valdes was pitching for the second straight day. He has a 1.23 ERA in eight August appearances and an 0.77 ratio for the year.

Five scoreless innings for the pen in the game in which they allow two walks and no hits while striking out four. Everyone was really good, perhaps most interestingly Rosenberg throwing a 1-2-3 seventh and Aumont making his debut in a big spot in the eighth.

Valdes has thrown two straight days and threw eight pitches in the game. Aumont threw 18. Everyone else was under 15.

The Phillies lineup against righty Johnny Cueto went (1) Pierre (2) Frandsen (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Brown (6) Nix (7) Kratz (8) Martinez. Rollins on the bench with Martinez at short. Pierre leads off. Mayberry on the bench with the lefty Nix starting in center for the third time this season. Kratz catches with the lefty Schneider on the bench. Four lefties in a row for the Phils three through six in the order.

The Phils were down 1-0 when they went in order in the bottom of the first.

Nix and Kratz singled back-to-back with two outs in the second. Martinez had a good at-bat, but popped up to first to leave them both stranded in the ninth pitch of his at-bat.

Cueto had thrown 42 pitches through two innings. He had the option of pitching around Martinez to face Hamels, raising an interesting question about which of them is the better hitter. Hamels 168/196/202 in 490 plate appearances. Martinez 187/247/276 in 298. So Martinez takes it and it isn’t real close. Hamels was out-OPSing Martinez coming into the game for 2012 — .559 to .461.

Pierre walked with one out in the third and Frandsen was hit by a pitch behind him. Utley followed with a single to center. Pierre tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. Howard walked to load the bases for Brown, but Cueto struck Brown out swinging 2-2 to leave them loaded.

Would have been better not to get thrown out at the plate, but the Reds got a great throw from Stubbs and a nice block of the plate from Hanigan to get the out. Pierre was also likely slowed a little by the very wet base paths. Even given that out Cueto was at 68 pitches after three innings. Would have been nice to make him throw some more.

The Phillies went in order in the fourth.

Hamels singled to right to start the fifth and Pierre bunted him to second with the first out. Hamels took third on a balk before Cueto struck Frandsen out swinging 2-2 for the second out. Utley lined to right to leave Hamels at third.

No run for the Phils after putting Hamels on third with one out. Frandsen can’t put the ball in play, striking out for the second out.

The Phillies were down 3-0 when Howard started the bottom of the sixth with a walk. Brown was next and doubled to left, moving Howard up to third. Righty Jose Arredondo came in to face Nix and Nix flew to right, deep enough for both runners to move up. Howard scored to make it 3-1 with one out and Brown on third. Kratz was next and flew to left. Brown tagged and scored. 3-2. Rollins hit for Martinez, who had failed to handle the hard ground ball by Ludwick in the two-run top of the inning, and went down on a ground ball handled by the catcher Hanigan.

Another extra-base hit for Brown, his third in two games. Howard is really slow, but did a nice job to tag and score on Nix’s ball to right. Likewise, if Brown doesn’t take third on Nix’s ball he can’t score on Kratz’s.

Polanco hit for Rosenberg and grounded to third for the first out in the seventh. Pierre grounded to second before Frandsen drew a walk. Lefty Sean Marshall came in to pitch to Utley and struck him out to leave Frandsen at first.

Brown singled to center off of Marshall with one out in the eighth. Mayberry hit for Nix. Righty Sam LeCure came in to pitch to Mayberry and Mayberry moved Brown up to second with a single into center. Kratz followed that with a single to left that loaded the bases for Rollins. Rollins his a fly ball to left. Brown tagged from third and slid in just safe ahead of the throw from Ludwick, tying the game at 3-3. Wigginton hit for Aumont and struck out swinging to leave the runners at first and second.

Mayberry would win the game with a single in the bottom of the eleventh, but also had a big hit in the eighth-inning rally that tied the game.

Righty JJ Hoover started the ninth for the Reds. Pierre led off with a walk. Frandsen followed with a bunt. Cairo fielded and Frandsen stopped in the middle of the base path on the way to first. Cairo swiped at him while taking a look at Pierre, but Frandsen dodged the tag and was safe at first, putting men on first and second for Utley with nobody out. Utley flew to center for the first out. Howard hit a ball in-between first and second that a diving Cairo gloved, but dropped trying to transfer to his glove. Howard had a single and the bases were loaded for Brown with one out. Brown grounded into a double-play to turn the Phillies away.

Ew. Utley can’t move the runners up and Brown hits into a huge double-play when the Phillies could have won the game with a different kind of out.

The Phillies left another army on the bases in the tenth. Kratz singled off of Hoover with one out and moved to third when Rollins followed with a double. Schneider hit for Horst and grounded to third for the second out with the runners holding. Pierre popped to third to end the inning.

Nothing for the Phils after putting runners on second and third with one out. Schneider grounds to third for the first out with Kratz holding third.

Frandsen singled to center off of righty Alfredo Simon to start the eleventh. Frandsen moved to third on a double by Utley and Howard was walked intentionally, again loading the bases for Brown. Brown grounded to first with Cairo fielding and throwing home for the force out Frandsen. Mayberry was next with the bases still loaded and he chopped a ball through the left side of the infield and into left, scoring Utley to give the Phils a 4-3 win.

Second big hit of the game for Mayberry in three at-bats.

Brown had three at-bats in the game with the bases loaded. None of them went well. He struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the third. With a chance to win the game in the ninth with one out and the bases loaded, he grounded into a double-play. With one out in the eleventh and the bases loaded again he grounded to first.

Pierre was 0-for-3 and walked twice. He was 0-for-11 with two walks in the series. 256/302/314 over his last 136 plate appearances. 301/343/366 for the year.

Frandsen 1-for-3 with a walk. Struck out with a runner on third for the second out in the fifth. 5-for-8 in the series with a walk and a triple. 357/400/440 on the year in 91 plate appearances.

Utley 2-for-6 with a double. 5-for-18 with two doubles in the series. 250/354/464 for the year.

Howard 1-for-3 with three walks and struck out twice. 4-for-14 with a home run and five walks in the series. 250/335/464 on the year. 322/394/593 over his last 66 plate appearances.

Brown was 2-for-6 with a double and left nine men on base. Had some trouble in his at-bats (three of ‘em) with the bases loaded. 6-for-17 in the series with a walk, three doubles and a home run. 286/362/405 for the year.

Nix 1-for-2 with an RBI and an error in center that required an impressive effort from Hamels not to cost the Phils a run. 1-for-5 in the series. 253/323/410 for the year. 178/240/200 over his last 50 plate appearances.

Kratz was 3-for-4 to raise his average to .319. He started three of the four games in the series and went 6-for-10 with a walk, a double and a home run. 319/383/725 on the year in 81 plate appearances. Across both leagues there are 445 players with at least 75 plate appearances for the year. His .725 slugging percentage is best among those players by a whole lot. Justin Ruggiano is second at .615.

Martinez 0-for-2 with a big no-play on the Ludwick single that helped the Reds score two runs in the sixth. 0-for-2 in the series. 148/200/246 in 66 plate appearances for the year. Rollins was 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI in the game. 4-for-16 with three doubles in the series.

Mayberry was 2-for-3 with a game-winning single. 5-for-15 with a home run in the series and 238/279/399 for the year.

Kendrick (6-9, 4.20) faces righty Edwin Jackson (7-8, 3.69) tonight as the Phils faced the Nats. Kendrick has thrown 15 scoreless innings over his last starts, allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out 13. He has a 1.93 ERA over his 12 appearances since the end of June, five of which have been starts. Jackson’s hit rate is the best of his career — he has allowed just 124 in 144 innings and opponents are hitting just .232 against him (righties .218 and lefties .245). He’s coming off one of his best starts of the year, having allowed two runs on two hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out 11 Mets his last time out.

Break, way down

The Phillies finished out their miserable first half yesterday, falling to Atlanta as the Braves completed a three-game sweep.

Jason Pridie, a late addition to the lineup after Victorino was scratched, provided all the offense the Phils would get in the game, going 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and three RBI. Raul Valdes surrendered a solo shot to Brian McCann in the top of the seventh, breaking a 3-3 tie in a game the Braves went on to win 4-3.

It was McCann’s third home run in the series and the second time in the three games the bullpen failed the Phils. In game one of the set the teams went into the eighth in a scoreless tie and Bastardo was charged with five runs.

Any hope that the return of Utley and Howard would spark the Phils to better play is all but vanished. The team is 1-9 in the games in which Utley has played and 0-2 in the games where Howard has played.

The Phillies are 37-50 on the year after losing to the Atlanta Braves 4-3 yesterday afternoon. The Braves sweep the three-game series. The Phillies go into the All-Star break in last place in the NL East, 14 games behind the first-place Nats. They’ve lost ten of 11 and are 9-25 over their last 34 games.

Worley got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks. Three of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and a home run. He struck out five.

He walked Martin Prado and Jason Heyward back-to-back with one out in the top of the first, but got Brian McCann to hit into a double-play to turn Atlanta away.

He threw a 1-2-3 second. Up 2-0, Worley allowed a two-out single to Michael Bourn in the third, but got Martin Prado on a fly ball to center for the third out.

Freddie Freeman doubled with two outs in the fourth. Dan Uggla was next and homered to center, tying the game at 2-2. Andrelton Simmons followed that with another double and Worley walked Juan Francisco ahead of the pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens grounded to first to leave Simmons stranded.

Three straight extra-base hits, the only three he allowed in the game.

The Phillies were back ahead at 3-2 when Worley started the fifth. Prado and Heyward reached on back-to-back singles with one out. Brian McCann was next and singled into center, scoring Prado (3-3) and moving Heyward up to second. Freeman flew to left before a walk to Uggla loaded the bases for Simmons. Lefty Eric Hinske hit for Simmons and struck out to leave the runners stranded.

Worley set the Braves down in order in the sixth.

Valdes started the seventh. He got the first two before McCann hit a 1-2 pitch out to center, putting the Braves up 4-3. Freeman followed with a single to center. Schwimer took over for Valdes and got the righty Uggla on a ball handled by Ruiz for the third out.

Valdes has been charged with at least one run in three of his last four appearances. Schwimer has a 1.32 ERA and an 0.95 ratio over his last 15 outings

Horst threw a 1-2-3 eighth. He’s allowed one hit and two walks in five scoreless innings over five appearances with the Phils.

Papelbon started the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Bourn. He got the next two, with Bourn stealing second as he struck out Heyward for the second out. McCann struck out swinging to leave Bourn a second.

Papelbon has a 5.40 ERA in his 11 appearances since the start of June.

The Phillies lineup against righty Jair Jurrjens went (1) Rollins (2) Pierre (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Ruiz (6) Pence (7) Pridie (8) Fontenot. Victorino was a late scratch with Pridie in center against the righty. Pierre in left against the righty and Fontenot at third.

Utley singled with two outs in the bottom of the first, but Howard struck out behind him.

Ruiz singled to start the second. Ruiz struck out for the first out, but Pridie was next and homered to right, putting the Phils up 2-0. Fontenot followed with a single and Worley bunted him to second with the second out. Rollins popped to Francisco in foul territory for the third out.

The Phillies went in order in the third.

The game was tied at 2-2 when they hit in the fourth. Pence walked with one out and scored when Pridie followed with a double to right, putting the Phils up 3-2. Fontenot and Worley went down behind Pridie.

A double, a home run and three RBI for Pridie in his first two at-bats.

It was 3-3 when the Phillies went in order in the fifth.

Ruiz singled with one out in the sixth, but Pence hit into a double-play behind him.

Down 4-3, the Phils went in order in the seventh. With the righty Jurrjens still on the mound, Wigginton hit for Schwimer with two outs and the bases empty and grounded to third.

Righty Kris Medlen set the Phillies down in order in the eighth.

Righty Craig Kimbrel threw a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Howard and Ruiz and getting Pence on a fly ball to right.

Rollins was 0-for-4 in the game and 1-for-12 in the three-game series. He’s hitting 256/310/402 for the year. 210/262/315 away from home.

Pierre was 0-for-4 yesterday and 1-for-11 with a double in the series. 307/344/378. Your team has a whole lot of problems when you give Juan Pierre 262 plate appearances in the first half of the season, virtually all of which came as a corner outfielder, and that’s not even close to the top of the list of things that are wrong with the team. He’s hitting 250/283/364 over his last 95 plate appearances.

Utley 1-for-4. 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in the set. 8-for-34 (.235) for the year with a walk and two home runs.

Howard 0-for-4 and struck out twice. 2-for-8 with a double in the series in his first action of the year.

Ruiz 2-for-4 with a strikeout yesterday. 3-for-12 with a double in the series. 350/412/584 for the year. Fourth in the NL in average, fourth in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging.

Pence 0-for-3 with a walk, which was the only walk of the game for the Phils. 2-for-9 with two walks in the series. 285/352/482 for the year. 357/438/607 over his last 64 plate appearances.

Pridie 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and three RBI. He’s 3-for-5 on the year. Victorino didn’t play yesterday but was 1-for-7 with a walk and the series and hits the break at a miserable 245/311/369 and 2-for-his-last-16. 223/288/304 against right-handed pitching.

Fontenot 1-for-3 in the game and 1-for-6 on the season. 325/364/386 in 88 plate appearances for the season. Polanco was 0-for-3 in the series and is hitting 266/311/342 for the year. 197/282/250 over his last 86 plate appearances. 235/295/358 against lefties.

Next game for the Phillies in Friday night in Colorado.

Phils work their oft questioned keep-it-close-and-try-to-get-Luna-to-the-plate-late playbook to perfection

The Phillies scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning last night, blowing a close game open on their way to a 9-2 win over the Cubs.

Kyle Kendrick made a strong start in the game, holding the Cubs to two runs on three hits over six innings. Only one of the runs was earned, thanks to an error on a dropped fly ball by Pierre in front of an Alfonso Soriano home run.

The bullpen, still miserable, didn’t blink in a close game. Jose Contreras, who came into the game with a 9.00 ERA for the season, threw a scoreless seventh with the game tied at 2-2. Bastardo, who has allowed one hit in nine appearances so far in May, struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth with the Phils up a run. Raul Valdes made his debut with the Phillies in the ninth, striking out two more in another perfect frame after a two-run single by Wigginton and a grand slam from Hector Luna had broken the game open in the top of the inning.

By ERA, the Phillies bullpen is no longer the worst in all of baseball. At 5.02 they have passed the Tigers and the Mets.

The Phillies are 19-19 on the year after beating the Chicago Cubs 9-2 last night. They have won five of their last six games and four in a row for the first time this season.

Kendrick got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing two runs on three hits. Only one of the runs was earned. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter, dropping his ERA to 5.94 with the outing.

Over his last three starts, Kendrick has thrown to a 2.12 ERA with a 1.06 ratio.

David DeJesus doubled to right to start the bottom of the first. Tony Campana bunted him to third with the first out. Kendrick struck Starlin Castro out swinging 0-2 for the second out and got lefty Bryan LaHair on a fly ball to left to end the inning.

Big strikeout of Castro for the second out with a runner on third helps Kendrick keep Chicago off the board.

Up 1-0, Kendrick set the Cubs down in order in the second.

Darwin Barney led off the third with a single and pitcher Matt Garza bunted him to second with the first out. DeJesus flew to left for the second out with Barney moving up to third. Kendrick struck Campana out to leave Barney stranded.

With one out in the fourth, LaHair hit a fly ball to left that Pierre dropped for an error that left LaHair on second. Alfonso Soriano was next and hit a 2-2 pitch out to left, putting the Cubs on top 2-1. Kendrick got Ian Stewart and Geovany Soto on a pair of ground balls to end the inning.

Would have been a nifty time to catch the really routine fly ball to left in front of Soriano’s homer.

With the score tied at 2-2, Kendrick set the Cubs down in order in the fifth.

He struck out Campana in a 1-2-3 sixth. Mayberry made a nice diving play at first to rob LaHair of a hit, flipping to Kendrick covering first to end the inning.

Contreras started the seventh with the game still tied and got Soriano, Stewart and Soto in order.

Seems nutty to me to put Contreras into a tie game, but it worked out well for the Phils. Contreras is not charged with a run in his appearance for the first time in three outings, dropping his ERA on the season to 8.00.

Bastardo started the eighth with a 3-2 lead. He struck Barney out swinging for the first out. Righty Jeff Baker hit for the pitcher Shawn Camp and Bastardo got him swinging for the second out. DeJesus grounded to short for the third out.

I like Bastardo pitching the eighth in a tight game a whole lot better than Contreras pitching the seventh. Bastardo hasn’t allowed a run in nine appearances in May, giving up just one hit and three walks in 8 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine. He has pitched three of the last four days, but got Tuesday off.

Raul Valdes pitched the ninth with a 9-2 lead, making his Phillies debut. He set the Cubs down in order, striking out pinch-hitter Joe Mather and LaHair.

Three shutdown innings from the pen in which they do not allow a hit or a walk while striking out five.

Bastardo threw 21 pitches in the game, Valdes 20 and Contreras 13. None of that group has pitched more than one day in a row, but Bastardo has thrown three of the last four days.

The Phillies lineup against righty Matt Garza went (1) Rollins (2) Pierre (3) Victorino (4) Pence (5) Ruiz (6) Polanco (7) Mayberry (8) Galvis.

With one out in the top of the first, Pierre bunted down the first base line. Garza fielded, but made an awful throw to first for an error. Pierre stole second and Victorino bunted him to third with the second out. Pence grounded to third to leave Pierre stranded.

Really, really not a fan of bunting with your three-hitter in the top of the first inning even if it works.

Pierre was almost surely out at first on his bunt attempt, but got the call.

Ruiz started the second with a single into center. Polanco flew to center for the first out before Mayberry moved Ruiz up to second with a dribbler out in front of the plate for the second. Galvis was next and ripped a double down the first base line, scoring Ruiz to put the Phils up 1-0. Kendrick struck out looking to leave Galvis at second.

Rollins and Pierre singled back-to-back to start the third, putting runners on first and second for Victorino. Victorino popped to second for the first out before Pence walked to load the bases. Ruiz grounded into a double-play to end the frame.

Can’t believe they didn’t bunt with Victorino. Just kidding. No run for the Phils after putting runners on first and second with nobody out.

Pierre’s single was another bunt. Again Garza made an absurd throw to first. This time it was called a single instead of an error.

The Phils went in order in the fourth.

They started the fifth down 2-1. Kendrick led off with a single and moved to third on a one-out double by Pierre. Victorino was next and reached on an infield single on another close play at first. Kendrick scored to tie the game at 2-2 and Pierre moved up to third. Pence hit into a double-play to end the inning.

Garza walked off the mound remarking to the umpires that it was the second time they had missed the call at first. The first was on Pierre’s bunt in the first and this time Victorino looked out at first.

The Phils went in order in the sixth.

Galvis fouled out trying to bunt for a hit to start the seventh. With Garza still on the mound for Chicago, Fontenot hit for Kendrick and singled softly to right. Rollins lined to left for the second out. Lefty James Russell came in to pitch to Pierre. Wigginton hit for Pierre and walked, putting runners on first and second. Victorino struck out to leave them both there.

Glad to see Wigginton hit for Pierre against the lefty. Fontenot has one pinch-hit on the season. There are only two players on the team with more than one pinch-hit on the season. Mayberry has three and Pierre has two. 185/267/259 for the pinch-hitters this year for the Phils. They have struck out 24 times in 61 plate appearances.

Righty Shawn Camp got Pence on a fly ball to left for the first out in the eighth before Ruiz hit a 1-1 pitch out to left for his seventh homer of the year, putting the Phils up 3-2. Orr hit for Contreras and struck out for the second out. Mayberry struck out for the third.

Galvis doubled to left off of lefty Scott Maine to start the ninth. Fontenot was hit by a pitch behind him and Rollins walked, loading the bases with nobody out. Righty Michael Bowden came on to pitch to Wigginton and Wigginton singled into right. Galvis and Fontenot scored, putting the Phils up 5-2 with nobody out and runners on first and second. Victorino popped to short for the first out before Rollins and Wigginton pulled off a double-steal. Pence popped to second for the second out. With first base open, the righty Bowden walked the righty Ruiz, loading the bases for Bastardo’s slot. Luna hit for Bastardo and hit an 0-1 pitch out to left for a grand slam, putting the Phils on top 9-2. Mayberry struck out looking to end the frame.

Big swings for Luna and for Wigginton. Galvis is tied for fourth in the NL in doubles.

Rollins was 1-for-4 with a walk in the game. The Phillies are tenth in the NL in on-base percentage in the #1 spot in the order at .303. Rollins has on-based .310 in 85 PA as the #1 hitter, Pierre .333 in 60 PA and Victorino .259 in 27 PA.

Pierre was 2-for-3 with a double. Twice he bunted and got on base, one of the attempts was called an error. He dropped a fly ball in left field that cost the Phils one of the two runs they allowed in the game.

Victorino was 1-for-5 with an RBI on his infield single on a very close play at first (and by that I mean he was out). He left seven men on base. He’s 2-for-his-last-14. 235/278/390 over his last 144 plate appearances. For the year, Phillies hitting out of the #3 spot in the order have put up a .601 OPS, which is 15th-best of the 16 NL teams. Victorino has been bad (254/293/394 in 75 PA) and Rollins worse (216/253/243 in 80 PA).

Pence 0-for-4 with a walk and left five men on base. The Phillies score nine runs in the game and their three and four hitters combine to go 1-for-9 with an infield single and 12 men left on base.

Ruiz 2-for-4 with a walk and a home run. He’s on pace to hit 30 home runs, which would be more than his career high of nine. He’s 8-for-his-last-17 with two walks and two homers. He’s tied for eleventh in the NL in RBI with 24.

Polanco 0-for-3. He came into the game hitting .362 over his last 74 plate appearances.

Mayberry was 0-for-5 and struck out three times. He’s 3-for-his-last-16. The Phillies need to try someone else at first base against right-handed pitching and I’m guessing they will — Mayberry is hitting 207/246/241 for the year against right-handed pitching. Ty Wigginton obviously isn’t the ideal guy at first against righties, but he may be a better choice than Mayberry in the short term with Thome, Nix and Howard out. Wigginton was 1-for-1 with a walk and two RBI last night. He’s 3-for-his-last-26 overall and hitting 262/324/311 against righties for the year.

Galvis 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He’s 5-for-his-last-11 with a walk and two doubles. Hitting 298/340/489 in 50 plate appearances so far in May.

Halladay (3-3, 3.20) faces righty Chris Volstad (0-5, 6.92) tonight. Halladay has had two starts of his seven on the season in which he has allowed more than two runs. One of them, May 2 against the Braves, blew up his numbers for the season badly as he allowed eight runs over 5 1/3 innings and was unable to hold a 6-0 lead. Since that start he’s had two outings in which he has allowed four runs over 14 innings (2.57 ERA, 1.00 ratio while striking out 17). Volstad has allowed four or more runs in five straight starts, one of which came against the Phillies. On April 30, he allowed four runs over six innings against the Phils. The Phillies rallied late to win that game 6-4. The righty Volstad has been better against lefties than righties so far this season. Righties have hit 307/354/466 against him and lefties 261/311/391.

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