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Five Teams to Watch In the Second Half

The second half is underway and there are a handful of teams looking to get back to the post season, some waiting longer than others.

The National League features a pair of teams who find themselves shockingly in first place. Meanwhile, the American League has an early three-team race for the Wild Card with one newcomer in the second half post season race.

Here are a list of five teams to watch heading into the second half of the season.

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Pena’s 8th Inning Homer Overshadows Pitcher’s Duel

Rays 3, Phillies 2
WP – David Price (10-4, 2.95)
LP – Antonio Bastardo (2-2, 3.75)
SV – Fernando Rodney (21)

PHILADELPHIA — The game was living up to it’s billing.

Cole Hamels and David Price were dueling in a 1-0 game through seven innings. Hamels pitched seven shutout innings in his start, holding a slight advantage over Price by putting his team in the best position to win.

With both pitchers throwing 223 pitches combined, they gave way to their bullpens after seven. There, the Rays won the important battle in their 3-2 win over the Phils.

A gassed Antonio Bastardo, who threw 29 pitches yesterday, struggled in the 8th inning, costing Hamels a shot at his 11th win of the season. Bastardo walked two hitters before giving up a one-out three-run homer to the left-handed hitting Carlos Pena to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

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Papelbon Paid Thome $5,000 For Walk-Off Homer

One of the coolest things you’ll hear this season, easily.

Jonathan Papelbon was frustrated after giving up two runs in the top of the 9th to blow a 6-4 lead the Phillies gave him. It was Papelbon’s first blown save of the season.

So what did he do? He offered up a sum of money for someone to hit a walk-off homer off Rays reliever Jake McGee.

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Thome Mashes Walk-Off Tater

Phillies 7, Rays 6
WP – Jonathan Papelbon (2-2, 2.83)
LP – Jake McGee (1.88)

PHILADELPHIA — The nine-game American League road trip was all Jim Thome needed to get a jump start.

Thome hit a pinch-hit walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th in the Phillies 7-6 win over the Rays. It came moments after Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save of the season.

Papelbon blew a 6-4 lead in the top of the 9th prior to Thome’s heroic blast.

Busy weekend. We’ll have more about the game later tonight.

 

Series Preview: vs Tampa Bay Rays

PHI: 33-38, 5th in NL East; TB: 38-31, 3rd in AL East

When: June 22-24
Where: Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)

Probable Pitchers
Friday: Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.48) vs James Shields (7-4, 3.72)
Saturday: Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 5.29) vs Alex Cobb (3-3, 3.82)
Sunday: Cole Hamels (10-3, 3.25) vs David Price (9-4, 3.08)

Broadcast Info
Friday, 7:05, CSN
Saturday, 4:05, CSN
Sunday, 1:35, PHL 17
All Games on 94.1 FM

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Phillies Trade AAA OF Thompson

OF Rich Thompson hits a single in last year’s International League playoffs. (Photo via Express Times)

The Philadelphia Inquirer was fresh off of running a feature on career minor leaguer Rich Thompson this past weekend.

It looks like someone in the Tampa Bay system has a subscription.

The Phillies traded Thompson to Tampa Bay for outfielder Kyle Hudson. Thompson is currently on his way to join the Rays now, the first time he has been on a big league club since having one Major League at-bat with the Royals in 2004.

“It’s awesome,” Thompson told Matt Gelb from the airport in Charlotte.

Thompson, 33, was hitting .307 with four doubles, two triples and 11 RBIs in 29 games with the IronPigs this season. In his last game yesterday, he went 3-for-4, falling a home run shy of the cycle.

Hudson, 25, was hitting .291 with a double and triple in 31 games with the Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay’s AAA affiliate. He will join the IronPigs.

Hudson played in 14 games last season with the Orioles, hitting .143 (4-for-28) with two RBIs.

Burrell to Retire as Phillie

In 2008, Pat Burrell led the parade down Broad Street. (John Russo/TTB)

The Phillies will have one more campaign with left fielder Pat Burrell, though it will only last a day.

The 35-year-old slugger, who retired after last season, will sign a one-day contract with the Phillies so that he could retire with the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft.

Burrell, who is currently a professional scout for the San Francisco Giants, will be honored before the Phillies May 19 game against the Boston Red Sox.

Burrell played 12 seasons in the Major Leagues with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and San Francisco.

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Season Preview: AL East

Expectations: Better than the Yankees
Key Addition: 1B Carlos Pena (signed from Chicago Cubs)
Key Loss: OF/DH Johnny Damon (free agent)
Projected Record: 103-59
Summary: The odds on favorite to win the division, the Rays have it all: great young hitting, great young pitching, solid veteran presence. With guys like Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and Desmond Jennings anchoring the offense along with key players like Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez, it will power them to a division crown.

They can also pitch with any team. David Price (my pick for CY Young in 2012) combined with James Shields and youngster Jeremy Hellickson can pitch with the big boys any day of the week. Most exciting prospect to watch is in their rotation too: Matt Moore. The kid has electric stuff.

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Phils split their squads again

PHILLIES 6, TAMPA BAY 6 – Michael Scwimer pitched the 8th and 9th innings, blowing a two-run lead to the Rays in the 9th to end the game in a tie.

Joel Pineiro got the start, going two innings in the outing. He gave up a run on two hits and is most likely not making the Phils as a starter if he’s only pitching two innings this late in March.

On offense, Ty Wigginton doubled and Hector Luna had a pair of hits.

Scott Elarton was less than good in his second stint of the spring. After sitting down 12 straight a few days ago, he gave up three runs on four hits in only two innings of work.

Domonic Brown was scratched from this start at DH today with a stiff neck.

PHILLIES 6, ATLANTA 4 — Joe Blanton gave up three runs on four hits while striking out four in five innings. He have up a solo home run to Matt Diaz in the 2nd.

Jim Thome and Placido Polanco each had a pair of hits and a run batted in.

The Phils broke a 4-4 tie in the 7th when Scott Podsednik and Brian Schneider hit back-to-back RBI singles to make it 6-4.

Where Are They Now?: The 2008 Phillies

(Michael Heiman/Getty Images/AFP)

A lot had changed in the last three years. And this off season saw four more members of the 2008 squad bite the dust.

Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson, the unbreakable 8th and 9th inning tandem that closed the door on 48 games in 2008, found new homes this off season with the Nationals and Reds respectively.

Pat Burrell and Matt Stairs, who both had huge hits in the post season, both hung up the cleats. With the final chapters of their baseball careers completed, they will look forward to the memories of a parade down Broad Street.

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