Game 1: Second inning

werthHad a early-game browser change on the old (literally) laptop a few seconds ago. A few bugs and kinks in Firefox and Opera led to some research and now I’m running Flock.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime the first dramatic play of the series occurred in the top of the second when Clint Barmes skied out to Jayson Werth in right and catcher Yorvit Torrealba was thrown out on a three-hopper at third trying to tag from second. Replays showed that Torrealba was safe, and that the decoy on the cut off by Jimmy Rollins was pretty solid, so mark that one down for the Werth and the Phillies.

To follow it up, Werth laced a one-out single to left for the Phillies’ first hit.

But that didn’t lead to anything. A handful of pitches after the hit, Ubaldo Jimenez got Raul Ibanez to ground into an inning-ending double play. He also struck out Ryan Howard on and 80-mph curve that was set up with fastballs ranging from 97 to 99.

That’s not fair, is it?

End of 2: Rockies 0, Phillies 0

Who needs a nap?

I’m tired,
Tired of playing the game
Ain’t it a crying shame
I’m so tired

– Lili Von Shtupp

MILWAUKEE — This is the time in the baseball season where the days grow longer, the nights shorter and the turnaround so much more quicker. Not only is there no rest for the weary, but also the only recourse is adrenaline.

Yes, we’re beat, but dammit we’re having fun, too. No one wants to go home because the action starts in October. Sure, we’re tired. All of us. The players, the coaches, the front-office types and, of course, the scribes. We’re beaten down to a bloody pulp like an aimless old boxer who just got his ass waffled. But really, what better place to be?

October baseball is why the players play and why the writers write.

It’s also why the scouts scout. For those who make the rounds from city to city with the Phillies, there are a few more regular faces on the scene. Like writers, scouts travel in packs even though they work for competing organizations. Call it safety in numbers.

But only one of these packs of people has any true bearing on the outcome of games and that ain’t the scribes. In fact, advance scouting offers so much insight into the opposition that birddoggers from all of the Phillies’ potential opponents have been at the ballpark for every game for the past two months. Shoot, even a scout from the Twins has been watching the Phillies in the outside chance that they meet in the World Series.

Most notable though are the guys from the Dodgers, Cardinals, Rockies and Braves, who happens to be ex-Phillies manager Jim Fregosi. Aside from Fregosi, the scouts from the National League-playoff clubs and a handful of American League teams have been out every day.

There are a couple of things to know about scouts. One is they watch the game differently than even the most astute fan or writer. They look for tendencies, nuanced little tells and tips that might not happen but one time in 100 pitches, but that one time could be the difference. Plus, the scouts look at the game objectively. Unlike coaches or the manager, the scouts are looking for what their team can exploit. They zero in on weaknesses like a big schoolyard bully.

At the core, though, the scout is an overt spy. As such, they trade in information and every once in a while they leak like a sieve. Because writers have access and insight that the scouts do not, there is often a quid pro quo between scout and scribe.

Wanna know what a few of them think about the Phillies’ chances in the playoffs? Well, it’s not really that much of a surprise.

“They’re going to have to ride their starting pitchers for as long as they can,” a scout said, noting that the Phillies’ bullpen is a mess.

This will be an interesting week for watchers of the Phillies because reliever J.C. Romero has been activated from the disabled list on Monday, Brett Myers could return to action this week along with Chan Ho Park, and Scott Eyre has not pitched in a game since Sept. 7. Before that, the lefty specialist had pitched just once since Aug. 16.

Then there is the issue of the ninth inning where it appears as if Brad Lidge will not see any significant action aside from mop-up duty to restore his fastball command and confidence. Ryan Madson pitched spectacularly in the ninth inning to save Sunday’s win at Miller Park, but if the lanky righty takes over the ninth, who gets the eighth?

Tyler Walker? Sergio Escalona? One of the guys trying to cram in some work before the playoffs begin? Not Brett Myers, says one scout.

“His stuff was pretty unimpressive in the few games he pitched when he got back [from hip surgery],” a scout said.

The biggest issue just might be the starting rotation, particularly Cliff Lee who is 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last six starts. One of those six starts was a complete game shutout, which reveals how poor those numbers were in the other five outings. Meanwhile, pedro Martinez missed his last start with a strained neck and J.A. Happ very well could be the answer in the bullpen.

Still, Lee and that rough patch with just one more start to go in the season is also something for folks to pay attention to.

“There are a lot of innings for those starters. Some of them look pretty tired,” another scout said. “But then again, there are a lot of guys out there that look tired.”

Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are a few names that pop to mind when talking about tiredness. Better yet, if a scout from another team notices how tired the Phillies look, Manuel ought to, as well.


Well, yes and no. Sure, Manuel acknowledges that a couple of his guys are a little burnt, but it’s too late to do anything about it. With a four-game lead with six to go, Manuel can’t give Werth a day off even though he is 3 for his last 30 with just three singles and 14 strikeouts.

The tiredness is even more noticeable in Utley, who, like Werth, is struggling at the plate. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Astros, Utley is 3for his last 27 and batting .222 in September.

Manuel says his all-star second baseman is in need of a day off, but he won’t get one until the NL East is sewn up.

“I think he’s dragging some, but he’s trying really hard. When we don’t play well he takes it real hard and he tries to do too much,” Manuel said. “But at the same time he can come out of it. He can handle it.”

Can he, or is that just wishful thinking by Manuel? The old adage is the regulars get to take a break after the division is won, but even then the Phillies will have home-field advantage on the line. They don’t want to go to Los Angeles for the first round, do they?

Heck, the way the Braves are playing the Phils might have to go to St. Louis.

“A day of rest would be nice. Of course, we could have been getting plenty of days of rest. But things don’t always go the way we want,” Rollins said about the Phillies’ inability to close out the division in a timely manner. “What happens is that at times you have lapses in concentration. You think you have the pitcher right where you wanted him and then, wham! You miss that one pitch.”


Sixth inning: Roof ball and sausage races

MILWAUKEE – I have seen a lot of baseball games, but this is the first one where I saw a fly ball hit the roof of a dome and bounce back toward the infield so that the third baseman had to make a diving catch.

No, that doesn’t happen very much.

Here’s what happened:

With one out, Jayson Werth hit what looked like a can-of-corn to left field. Suddenly, though, the left fielder pointed at the roof and the infielders started to scamper about. Next thing we knew, Craig Counsell was sprawled out on the infield dirt with the ball in his glove for the second out.

I’m not sure about the ground rule for a roof ball, but I bet it’s goofy.

Speaking of goofy, the Mexican chorizo sausage won today’s big race between the sixth innings. Yesterday the Italian sausage went wire-to-wire in a closely contested race for the victory, which cost our pal Todd Zolecki a few dimes. You see, Todd is a compulsive gambler and he will bet on anything from a dog, horse, sausage, flip of a coin, cockfight, a mouse in a maze or an arm-wrestling bout. Yet with a strategy of always betting on the Polish sausage in the Milwaukee race, Todd is 0-for-2 this series.

Tony Gwynn Jr. singled to open the sixth to make those thunder sticks pound away, but Joe Blanton quieted them by retiring the next three, including Ryan Braun on a whiff.

That’s 99 pitches in six for Blanton.

End of 6: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Third inning: Feel the thunder

MILWAUKEE – Things seem to have settled in here at Miller Park. Sure, those annoying thunder sticks are still clamoring, but not with the same volume as during the beginning of the game.

If, however, the Brewers stage a rally or something, we might all need some ibuprofen or something.

Nevertheless, Shane Victorino got a hustling double on a little blooper just over third base with one out and then moved to third on a ground out by Chase Utley

Yes, once again the middle of the order failed with runners in scoring position.

That didn’t last, though. For the first time in a long time, the Phils delivered a HUGE hit with runners on when Pat Burrell smacked a bomb off Jeff Suppan following an intentional walk to Ryan Howard.

Needless to say, the thunder sticks got a little quieter.

For some reason the noise coming out of those thunder sticks sounded a lot like boos after Jayson Werth pasted a long homer to the concourse in center field. That one spelled the end for Jeff Suppan:

3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 HR – 65 pitches, 41 strikes.

Go ahead and book your flights to LA, folks. The Phillies will be hard-pressed to blow this one. That’s especially the case after they had an inning without a runner left on base.

End of 3: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Third inning: Swings and misses

MILWAUKEE – The Phillies’ ineptitude with runners in scoring position continued in the third inning when Jimmy Rollins laced a two-out double to left and remained there when Jayson Werth whiffed again.

In 10 at-bats so far this series Werth has struck out five times. Interestingly, the five strikeouts have come when Charlie Manuel put Werth in the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Actually, the fact that Werth was in at all against right-hander Dave Bush is a bit odd. Though the right fielder hit .303 against lefties this season, he batted just .255 vs. righties. Moreover, Werth slugged 16 of his 24 homers against lefties in nearly half as many at-bats.

Veteran Matt Stairs or even ex-Brewer Geoff Jenkins might have been a suitable alternative in Game 3.

In other news, Milwaukee native Todd Zolecki’s sister is at the game wearing a Ryan Braun t-shirt. During the second inning word filtered through the press box that Todd’s sister caught a foul ball… well, she didn’t catch it out of the air. After the bounced around for a bit, Todd’s sister showed the famous Zolecki quick first step and pounced like a jaguar.

As a result, Todd’s sister is going home with a souvenir from a playoff game.

Nice work.

End of 3: Brewers 2, Phillies 0

Third inning: Victorino’s grand slam

According to whiz kid Kevin Horan of, Shane Victorino clubbed the first-ever post-season grand slam by a Phillie.

In fact, the Phillies have only hit 45 playoff homers, a list in which Lenny Dykstra tops with six, followed by Gary Matthews and Greg Luzinski with five each.

My partner in crime at, Andy Schwartz, pointed out that the chart should show:

Dykstra, 6*

Victorino is quickly climbing the charts with his second post-season blast. He also hit one in Game 3 at Coors Field last season for the Phils’ only run in the deciding game.

Needless to say, the affable (and boisterous) centerfielder will undoubtedly have a lot to chirp about amongst his teammates on the charter to Milwaukee after the game. Better yet, Victorino needs a triple and single for the cycle. In his first two innings he already has a double, stolen base and the slam.

Good move by Charlie for putting Victorino in the No. 2 hole and sliding Jayson Werth down to sixth.

Meanwhile, Myers sailed through the third inning with his second straight perfect frame. Perhaps he needed to shake out the jitters in the first inning in order to settle in? If so, it worked.

CC Sabathia whiffed the next two hitters after Victorino’s slam, but Werth smacked another double and then swiped third . Interestingly, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard account for four of Sabathia’s five strikeouts.

End of 3: Phillies 5, Brewers 1

Second inning: Charlie says, ‘Relax’

In the playoffs, the game is all about pitching and defense. Actually, those two things are not mutually exclusive. The stat geeks all seem to agree that half of good pitching is really defense and the best indicator of how good a pitcher is comes from the whiffs-per-nine-innings ratio.

So when the game is all about pitching and defense it makes it difficult for the guys in the throes of a hitting slump. For the Phillies, that means Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth.

Burrell’s late-season swoon has been well documented. In fact, if the left fielder is back with the Phillies in 2009, I’m just going to write a whole bunch of stuff about a massive hitting slump and save it for the inevitable moment when he goes into the tank. Why not? It happens every season.

Burrell’s woes are exclusive to the last two months of the season while Werth has slowly been falling into a slide of the last two weeks. Though he has five hits and a homer since Sept. 20, Werth has whiffed 13 times during that span, including a hat trick in Game 1.

As a result, Charlie Manuel dropped Werth from the No. 2 spot in the order to No. 6 tonight.

“It might help Werth relax a bit,” Manuel said. “He’s been trying too hard. I told him to slow down and stay on top of the ball more, relax. Also, I like Victorino hitting second off CC. Left-handers that throw hard, especially when Victorino makes the pitcher bring the ball down, he can have strong games at times.”

Guess what? Charlie might be on to something.

Werth smacked an 0-1 offering to left-center for a one-out double to start a game-tying rally highlighted by Pedro Feliz’s double just inside the chalk line in left.

That was where it ended for the Phillies. Myers has thrown 32 pitches through two, while the Phillies’ plan to get Sabathia to throw, throw, throw and then throw some more appears to be working as the big lefty fired 51 pitches to this point.

The fans really got into a nine-pitch at-bat from Myers, who worked the count full, fouled off three pitches and then walked. Jimmy Rollins followed with a four-pitch walk to load the bases.

Then it happened…

… and my question was, “Has a Phillie ever hit a grand slam in the playoffs?”

Shane Victorino has. He just did it. I saw it… CC Sabathia laid one tight and Victorino put it in the left-field seats.

Is it over already?

End of 2: Phillies 5, Brewers 1

Seventh inning: Sage advice

My goal after this game is to find out what Jamie Moyer was telling Cole Hamels during the bottom half of the sixth inning. While the Phillies were hitting, the elder and younger lefties were shown on TV deep in conversation in which Moyer appeared to be doing a lot of talking and Hamels was doing a lot of listening.

Certainly it’s no secret that Hamels really, really looks up to Moyer. In fact, whenever he has a question about the game or certain situations, Moyer is the first person the kid seeks out. Better yet, Hamels often tells anyone who will listen that one of his goals in baseball is to have a career as long as Moyer’s.

Based on the way Hamels adheres to a holistic regimen and gets those regular chiropractic/A.R.T. treatments, he could do it.

Neither team got a hit or a base runner in the seventh. Worse for the Phillies, Carlos Villanueva struck out the side while Jayson Werth got a hat trick.

Through seven, Hamels has thrown 90 pitches. He’ll get one more inning before the Phillies turn it over to Brad Lidge

End of 7 Phillies 3, Brewers 0

Third inning: No big threat

Just like the raindrops, the strikes keep pouring out there for Cole Hamels. After three innings, the crafty lefty is still perfect with four whiffs and 36 pitches (24 strikes).

Because of the early perfection, the no-hitter cards are out. That means Mike Radano of the Courier Post walks around with 10 cards in which other scribes will select after they give him $5. If the player in the position of the batting order coincides with the a number on the card, that person wins all the $5 bills.

If Hamels tosses a no-hitter, the person with the King gets the cash.

Clever little contest, huh?

Carlos Ruiz got the first hit of the game to lead off the third. When Hamels reached base on an error a few pitches later, the Phillies had a bona fide rally going.

Trouble for the Brewers, right?

Guess again. First, Jimmy Rollins popped out to left after swinging at the first pitch from Gallardo. Then Jayson Werth whiffed on a 2-2 pitch for his second strikeout of the game.

Just when it looked as if the Phillies were going out with barely a whimper, Chase Utley laced a two-run double to center that nearly landed in the webbing of Mike Cameron’s glove.

Cameron is as good as any center fielder out there (at least he used to be), so when he put his left arm up it looked as if he was easily going to haul it in. However, on his first jump it looked like Cameron came in instead of back to get the liner.

Just like that the Phillies finally broke through for a lead in a playoff game. Better yet, with the way Hamels is pitching the two runs might be more than enough.

But just to show they weren’t kidding around, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Shane Victorino drew consecutive walks with two outs. Victorino’s came with the bases loaded to give the Phils three, unearned runs.

Center City has come back into view. Maybe the storm has blown over?

End of 3 Phillies 3, Brewers 0

Fifth inning: Finding the groove

One of the worst-kept secrets around the Phillies during the second half of the season was that Chase Utley had been playing through some type of injury. Close observers of the game – like scouts for instance – knew something was up based on how the All-Star took his swing or ran to receive a ball.

Clearly something was bothering Utley because he went from 25 home runs during the first half of the season, to just eight after the All-Star Break. In fact, all of Utley’s power numbers waned, though his batting average remained steady.

Utley ripped a few loud fouls off the lefty John Lannan, but went down on strikes when the pitcher fooled him with a slider. Regardless, Utley’s stroke seems solid.

The Nats got on the board in the fifth when Jayson Werth could not hang onto a long drive hit by Anderson Hernandez when he crashed into the right-field fence. Werth appeared to be shaken up a bit on the play, taking an extra minute to loosen up his shoulder and/or catch his breath after relaying the ball back to the infield.

Moyer, meanwhile, is up to 72 pitches. He should be able to get through seven innings.

Nevertheless, fears that Werth was a little banged up were allayed in the bottom half of the frame when he led off with home run just over the out-of-town scoreboard in right.

Call it a “Citizens Bank Park Special.”

Lannan survived big trouble when Shane Victorino’s long drive was caught at the fence.

The Phillies are 12 outs away from wrapping things up.

End of 5: Phillies 3, Nats 1

Post-game: Phillies in Control

Needless to say, it was quite a bizarre scene in the Phillies’ clubhouse following the 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday night. One would have to imagine the scene was downright surreal at the other end of the corridor deep in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park at the visiting team’s clubhouse.

There, sprinkled in amongst the members of the local press were ballplayers eyeing the television sets hung from the ceiling in the middle of the clubhouse all tuned to the final inning of the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter against the Astros. Strangely, while Zambrano was tossing a no-no against the home team Astros, the packed house was jumping and dancing in the aisles all clad in Cubs shirts. In fact, it was a home game in name only for the Astros.

Hurricane Ike forced Major League Baseball to move the game to Milwaukee’s Miller Park – just 90 miles away from Chicago – while Houston gathers itself after the crippling storm.

Meanwhile, the Brewers watched as the Cubs celebrated on their home field. After the game the Cubs probably sprayed champagne and danced the night away in the Brewers’ clubhouse. Odder yet, the Brewers and the Cubs play each other on Tuesday night – in Chicago. When the Brewers go back to Miller Park the clubhouse will probably stink of stale champagne, a scent the home team likely won’t have to worry about come the end of the season.

The Brewers’ Ryan Braun could only shake his head as he wondered about the celebration going on in his home clubhouse. There Braun was in Philadelphia suffering after a fourth straight loss to the Phillies as their season spirals out of control while a party raged in Milwaukee.

“They’re probably drinking champagne and having a beer shower right now in our locker room while we sulk about what happened here,” Braun said. “It’s ironic, where we’re at as a team and how we feel at the end of this series and see them celebrating a no-hitter on our field.”

He’s certainly right on that point. At least he was on Sunday night after Brett Myers and Joe Blanton combined to pitch 16 innings of seven-hit ball to guide the Phillies to a day-night doubleheader sweep. As a result, the Phillies gained four games in a single weekend to forge a first-place tie in the National League’s wild-card race. With 12 games to go in the season, the Brewers and Phillies have identical 83-67 records. The only difference is that the Phillies have won seven of their last 10 after dropping two of three in Washington.

The Brewers, on the other hand, have lost 11 of their last 14 games and trail the Cubs by 7½ games in the NL Central.

The Phillies have a magic number of 13 in the wild-card race with a two-game advantage on the Astros. However, the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel don’t have all their eggs resting in one basket. Oh no. That’s because a second straight NL East division title is still within reach.

Don’t look now, but the Mets lead the Phillies by just one game after the New Yorkers lost for two of three against the Braves.

Do the Phillies have the momentum going into the final two weeks? Charlie Manuel thinks so.

“I believe in momentum. I believe in what do you call it, attitude, charisma and when you come to the ballpark everything is OK,” Manuel said. “Everybody is in a good mood and upbeat. Everybody’s happy. People ain’t walking around sulking because they ain’t making enough money or something happened at the house. I don’t know but those things happen.”

Credit the Phillies starting pitching for the surge. Actually, in the case of Brett Myers and his complete game two-hitter pitched on just three-days rest, maybe the Phillies can give the Brewers an assist.

In an effort that will create positive aftershocks for the bullpen heading into the six-game road trip through Atlanta and Florida, Myers needed just 95 pitches to spin his gem. Then again, that’s nothing new. After all, the Brewers were quite generous with 45-year old Jamie Moyer last Friday night when he beat them despite working on three-days rest as well.

According to Myers, the pitcher figured it out early that he didn’t have to be overpowering.

“They were really aggressive,” Myers said. “Then again, I wasn’t looking for the strikeout and I usually go for it.”

Myers threw just eight pitches in the first and second innings and worked up to 30 through the first three. But after a 15-pitch fourth inning, Myers needed just 43 more pitches to complete the eighth inning.

Just to show they were in a hurry to get out of town, the Brewers saw just seven pitches in the ninth. It’s a good thing, too, because Myers said he knew his stuff was less than electric when warming up before the game.

“On three-days rest it’s difficult to give max effort,” Myers said. “I knew that when I was throwing in the bullpen [before the game] that I was going to have to be efficient.”

Who knows if Myers would have been able to come to that conclusion during the first half of the season. After limping out of the gates to a first half that lead to a July demotion to the minors, Myers has returned with a vengeance. A 3-9 first half with an ERA barely south of 6 has morphed into a post-minors stretch in which Myers is 7-2 with a 1.78 ERA.

Even his teammates can’t believe it.

“It was almost like a deadline acquisition,” said Jayson Werth, who had a pair of hits in the twinbill. “The way he’s throwing it’s deadly.”

Manuel says the biggest difference is Myers’ mental approach – a theory that the pitcher wholeheartedly agrees with. After the game the Myers said he needed to go to the minors in order to re-learn how to be a starting pitcher because the season working as the team’s closer in ’07 changed everything.

“I had the closer mentality to get strike one and then strike ‘em out,” he said.

Manuel says it’s a complete 180-degree change.

“I think it’s his focus,” the manager said. “I give him credit for his focus and staying calm. He stays in control a lot more.”

Control is a big thing with the Phillies these days because it appears as if the team has a ton of it. Clearly, the team is well aware of how they sit these days after the four-game sweep.

“We keep going back to last year, but that’s the way it’s lining up,” Werth said.

Said Myers: “It kind of feels how it did last year. Tonight we went out there and got some hits and had some fun.”

Who knows – maybe it will end with a big champagne-filled celebration in the home team clubhouse.

Fourth inning: Burrell goes deep

Is this irony or a coincidence? Ray Durham, a player for the Giants in the game that Kevin Millwood threw the last no-hitter for the Phillies busted up Brett Myers’ bid with a two-out single in the fourth inning.

I’m going with coincidence.

Meanwhile, just to show the single was not a harbinger of things to come for the Brewers, Myers whiffed Prince Fielder to end the inning as well as to pick up his first K of the game.

Myers threw 15 more pitches in the fourth – he’s up to 45 now.

And the hits just keep on coming …

Pat Burrell just might be out of his two-month long slump. After driving in the go-ahead run in the first game, the streaky slugger smashed a looooooooong homer to left off Jeff Suppan to open the bottom of the inning. Had Burrell’s blast – his 31st – been struck a few feet to the right, the ball would have landed in the upper deck.

So what’s the deal with Burrell? Is he coming back next year or will the Phillies allow him to test free agency? If I were a betting man (which, I guess I am on occasion), I would probably guess that Burrell will be playing for a new team in 2009.

Call it a hunch, but with big power numbers Burrell might be able to command a big salary again next season. However, since his production graph looks like the boom and bust of a bear and bull market, the Phillies might choose to pocket the money and go with the less costly Jayson Werth as the everyday left fielder.

Maybe Werth’s hot streak during the second half forced the Phillies hand?

And maybe that cash they save on allowing Burrell to walk could be spent on a top-of-the-line starting pitcher like… oh, I don’t know… CC Sabathia?

Ol’ CC has a relationship with Charlie Manuel and he just might be ready to get away from the free-falling Brewers now.

Apropos of nothing, has a manger ever been fired mid game?

Anyway, after Burrell’s homer, Werth picked up an RBI with a bases-loaded walk. That also forced Ned Yost to slink out of the dugout to give Suppan the hook.

Suppan’s line: 3 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 1 HBP…


Phillies 6, Brewers 0

First inning: Picking up where they left off

Ed. Note: Comcast SportsNet’s Leslie Gudel is here at the ballpark and sitting directly to my left. As such, it appears as if she might have a few thoughts to offer to the array of posts during tonight’s game. Certainly Leslie’s keen insight will offer a different slant to things.

The scene in the Brewers’ clubhouse following the opening game of the split doubleheader certainly told the story – those guys are cooked.

Well, maybe not. Certainly a lot can happen in the two weeks remaining in the season, but it’s quite evident that the Brewers are tighter than a drum. After the late-inning blow up to lose the opening game, no one talked or even glanced in the direction of another player. One writer – a veteran of some tense and bad-vibe filled clubhouses – called the scene “surreal.”

That bodes well for the Phillies.

Conversely, there is nothing that seems to make the Phillies tense. Since Charlie Manuel came aboard as manager, the ballclub has been loose and fancy free. Players know that their manager is going to allow them to do their jobs without interference or second-guessing. For instance, when Chase Utley bunted with Jayson Werth on first base and no outs in the eighth inning of a tied game, Manuel didn’t go into his post-game meeting with the scribes and wonder aloud, “What was Chase thinking? By sacrificing in that situation he took the bat out of the hands of the hottest hitter in the game… geez!”

Instead, Charlie talked to Utley on the spot. Nothing lingered or carried over to create undue animosity. Charlie told Utley to hit away and give Ryan Howard a chance to smash a homer.

Nevertheless, the move ended up working out for the Phillies anyway. Howard was intentionally walked and Pat Burrell singled in the go-ahead run. All is well that ends well.

Perhaps all is well that starts well, too. Brett Myers got through the top of the first on just eight pitches – and two long, loud outs – while the offense picked up right where they left off this afternoon.

After Jimmy Rollins stretched a single into a double to start the frame against Jeff Suppan, and next season’s everyday left fielder (OK, speculation on my part, but educated speculation) Jayson Werth singled, the Phillies opened the scoring with a run despite a double play from Utley.

One in the books. The Phillies are 24 outs from a tie for the wild card.

Phillies 1, Brewers 0

Hello, Von Hayes, hello

Von Hayes was one of the more intriguing players in the history of the Phillies. Actually, it’s Hayes’ legacy as a Phillie that is the interesting part. That’s much more the case than Hayes’ actual baseball performance. Hayes was a good player – there’s nothing more to parse in that statement. Perhaps if he had played for another team he would be remembered differently. Perhaps with less animosity.

Apparently, Hayes heard a boo or two at the ol’ Vet.

That last part might have more to do with Philadelphia and the Phillies than Hayes. After all, it wasn’t Hayes’ fault the Phillies sent five players to the Indians in the trade for him. It also isn’t Hayes’ fault that he landed in Philadelphia when the Phillies were transitioning from their golden age to mediocrity.

Anywhere else Hayes would have been a nice complimentary player – maybe like Jayson Werth for the current club – and not counted on to be a star.

Again, not Hayes’ fault.

But there certainly are perks to showing flashes of brilliance on the field in Philadelphia. Hayes, of course, once belted two home runs in the first inning of a 26-7 victory over the Mets in 1985. For many adolescents of the ‘80s who followed baseball religiously before the proliferation of cable TV and the mass media, that two-homer inning was enough to make fans for life. Back then there wasn’t a game on TV every night, so we lived vicariously through the box scores in the paper. Here in Lancaster, on the distant end of the Philadelphia media market, Hayes’ name stood out.

Actually, the positive media reports regarding Hayes’ potential was what made the most impact. He had a swing like Ted Williams, we were told. A contender for the rookie of the year in ’82, the Phillies were right to deal five guys (Manny Trillo, Julio Franco, George Vukovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard) to get him, they claimed.

Based on the numbers – which look quite skimpy in the post-steroid era – Hayes seemed like the quintessential Phillie of that age. He was a .267 lifetime hitter, but hit .305 in 1986. He hit 124 home runs in 9½ seasons for the Phillies, (an average of around 13 per season), but in ’89 he slugged 26 to finish seventh in the National League.

There were the flashes of brilliance, but mostly Hayes never quite lived up to the hype. In hindsight, those flashes proved to be aberrations.

But one of the best parts about sports is romanticizing the past. Playing remember-when works well in any time regardless of demographics or media dynamic. Though the games look different and our experiences with them have morphed from following along on the radio and newspapers and TV to the Internet, but the sentimentalizing transcends all that. For instance, yesterday I was visiting with a friend who is going to a game at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since he was a kid in the early 1960s. He remembered the last trip so vividly it sounded damn-near Rockwellian.

Mantle, Maris, Yogi, Rizzuto and his dad. Top that. I’m anxious to hear about how his return trip went.

Anyway, what stirred the Von Hayes memories was a story written by Jeff Pearlman for, about a group of guys that formed a lo-fi alt-rock combo named for the ballplayer. No, they aren’t a Hayes tribute band or anything silly like that. They just claim to be inspired by the old Phillie.

There were two things that piqued my interest about the story. One was the subject matter. These days Von Hayes is the manager of the Lancaster Barnstormers, who play in the independent Atlantic League. The Barnstormers ballpark is located just on the other side of Franklin & Marshall College from my house. From a second-floor window I can see the light towers from the ballpark and on weekends the non-stop fireworks shows launched after ballgames annoy the crap out of the entire town.

But think about that for a minute… Lancaster, Pa., Von Hayes and fireworks. If I had a Turkey Hill slushey, some Atari games or APBA baseball, I’d hop onto my Mongoose bike and roll over to the games. It would be like I was 13 all over again.

The most interesting part about Pearlman’s story, however, was the few grafs near the end where he wrote about his attempts to contact the club’s front office. Apparently, the PR department or some other group in the team office didn’t return Pearlman’s calls.

And here I thought it was just me.

Pearlman and I are in the same boat in this regard. The fact is, I’ve called and e-mailed the Barnstormers’ president and a few folks in the PR department and have never, ever had my messages returned.

Never, ever.

Look, I just work for Comcast SportsNet. We’re bigger than anything in Lancaster, but we’re not as big as ESPN. Nor are we as big as Pearlman’s former employer, Sports Illustrated. So if the Barnstormers aren’t returning calls for Jeff, I guess I shouldn’t be so upset.



Pearlman just finished up an in-depth book about the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys. He also wrote a book about the 1986 Mets and Barry Bonds. He famously wrote about John Rocker for SI and even cracked The New York Times best seller list. Not too shabby.

Meanwhile, I’m just used to professional courtesy. In fact, every team in Major League Baseball has always returned my calls or e-mails (some faster than others), and every U.S. Representative, Senator and governor I ever have needed a response from has followed through promptly, too. But if the Lancaster Barnstormers don’t call back Jeff Pearlman for a fun story for ESPN, I guess that Von Hayes story I wanted to write is a no-go.

Oh well.

Here’s a funny part: As I was preparing research and awaiting a reply for access from the Barnstormers for a potential story on Hayes, I contacted the front office of Oakland A’s, whom Hayes worked for as a manager in the minors. Not only did someone from the A’s return my call, but actually showed up in Philadelphia at the ballpark to answer a few questions and talk about baseball. It was a really fun afternoon.

I was told the A’s liked Hayes, among other little nuggets. It might have made for a nice story.

Instead, this is all I got out of it…

And you just got a little whine.

P.S. One more thing about Von Hayes: When I was a kid I was a prolific letter writer. I wrote to anyone and everyone. Once I even wrote a letter to Von Hayes, and guess what?

He wrote back!

Based on that, what’s he doing with the Barnstormers?

You don’t see that everyday

Jayson WerthIf a guy gets the chance to get out to the ballpark a lot during the course of a baseball season, chances are that guy will see some anomalies every once in a while. Sometimes it’s deviant behavior like a dude (or dudette) in his underwear dashing around on the outfield grass. Other times the notable event is a cycle or a no-hitter or something that borders on the historic.

And by historic we mean how it pertains to baseball and its string of seasons.

Eight years into the gig of watching baseball games and making up sentences about them, I’m into collecting the anomalies. It’s kind of like baseball cards for the brain, but instead of pictures on cardboard, I have lines and symbols in a scorebook.

So far here’s what I’ve gathered:

  • I’ve seen a game decided when a pitcher named Jose Santiago missed the routine throw back to the mound from the catcher.
  • I saw two cycles (David Bell and Brad Wilkerson).
  • Incredibly, I saw a guy dressed as Thomas Jefferson take a header on the infield turf at RFK Stadium.
  • One no-hitter… ever. And that’s counting little league.
  • I watched a stadium implode.
  • I saw pitcher Robert Person smash two homers for seven RBIs in game against the Expos.
  • I saw the Phillies play in the World Series (talk about an anomaly.)
  • I saw a media dude fall down the dugout steps on his back and another writer work out mathematical equations to determine that the distances on the outfield fence were wrong.

There are other crazy things, too, though I’m saving those for the book. Meanwhile, I saw a new one at the Bank last night that was kind of lost in the shuffle of the big story of the Phillies’ 10-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

How about a caught stealing that went 2-unassisted? Anyone ever see that one?

Here’s what happened: Shane Victorino took off from first in attempt to steal second base only to find Jimmy Rollins standing on the bag. Apparently Victorino may have thought a sign was flashed for a double steal, which didn’t seem to be a call that made much sense considering there were no outs and Chase Utley was up. No, I’m not one of those trendy stat heads that shudder at the thought of bunts and stolen bases, but sometimes with the Phillies’ offense, the Earl Weaver approach to managing might be the best tact.

With two on and no outs and Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell due up, there’s a better than average chance that the Phillies will score a run. I’m not basing that idea on any proven mathematical theory, but I’d say it is a pretty good hunch that the Phillies get something in that situation unless some sort of oddity occurs.

That’s where Victorino came in sprinting toward second base with his head down and arms pumping. When he finally looked up and caught a glimpse of Rollins standing like a statue on second, Victorino quickly became a meek, cornered deer. First he lurched back to first, then changed direction, did a little juke move and then just gave up and stopped in his tracks.

That’s when catcher Gregg Zaun, running with the ball in the infield lest an errant throw allowed Rollins to circle the bases, finally slapped a tag on Victorino.

There it was. CS-2U.

You stick around long enough and you get to see something new every day.

As far as three home runs in game goes – yeah, I’ve seen that. Actually, I think I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve seen three homers in a Major League game. I remember Andruw Jones doing it at the Vet in a meaningless September game during the 2002 season. I also seem to recall Mike Lowell doing it for the Marlins during the opening homestand at the Bank in 2004.

Ryan Howard did it in 2006 in a September game and of course Jayson Werth did it in last night’s game.

But one thing I had never seen before was a guy picking up eight RBIs in one game. In fact, Jayson Werth was still three years away from behind born the last time a Phillie had eight RBIs in a game.

Hey… why don’t you do yourself a favor and read Bob Ford’s column from Pimlico? You can thank me for the suggestion later.