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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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So Moyer’d

Veteran lefty Jamie Moyer gave the Yankees a lesson in baseball Wednesday. Seth Wenig/AP.

There were moans and groans coming from the fans knowing that after Roy Halladay’s shelling and Jamie Moyer’s most recent debacle of a start that Wednesday’s game was not going to look good. Well we were all wrong as Moyer pitched eight innings of great baseball to lead the Phillies to a 6-3 win in the Bronx over the red-hot Yankees.

The 47-year-old lefty allowed only two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five in eight innings. The two runs he allowed were solo homers by Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. Moyer earned his 265th win on the same day as his 24th year anniversary of his first career win as well.

The Phillies scored six runs on only six hits. Shane Victorino hit a three-run triple off A.J. Burnett in the second inning and Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back homers in the third inning.

Burnett, who was rocked for six runs in his last start against the Phillies in game five of the World Series, was tagged for six runs on six hits and four walks in only 3 1/3 innings pitched. The Yankees bull pen came in and pitched 5 2/3 of hitless, one-walk baseball.

Brad Lidge struck out the first to batters in the ninth. But Alex Rodriguez gave Yankees some hope when he hit a two-out RBI double with two strikes on him to make it a 6-3 game. Cano followed up with another two-strike hit to put runners on the corners. But Lidge sat down Posada to end the game.

3B: Victorino (7). HR: Howard (11), Werth (11).


5 Teams to Watch in the AL

Yankees – They’re the 2009 World Series champions and still kept intact the solid nucleus that got them there. They traded top prospects to land centerfielder Curtis Granderson, a much better defensive asset than Johnny Damon. They also traded Melky Cabrera to the Braves for Javier Vazquez to bolster the starting rotation. With guys like C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Brunett, and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees boast a very good pitching unit. Mariano Rivera is still the best closer in the game and the aging offense led by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira can still put a ton of runs up on the score board. If things go right, they could have another parade down Broadway.

Red Sox – The pitching is truly phenomenal. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka form the best top-four in baseball. The offense is led by top young stars Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Marco Scutaro is hoping to end the revolving door at the short stop position and Adrian Beltre is an offensive upgrade at third. Offensive depth is the only thing that should concern the Sox but they have the pitching to get the job done. David Ortiz is a shell of his old self but it still the DH.

Twins – It’s safe to say that Joe Mauer is the scariest hitter in the AL. The reigning MVP is one of the reasons Minnesota is buzzing prior to the 2010 season. Along with a new outdoor park and a very dangerous lineup featuring Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer, the fans and Twins have high expectations for this year. The only problem with them this year though is pitching. If their starters can have decent years, they could beat out Detroit for the division.

Mariners – Seattle is truly going to be a serious contender in the AL. The addition of Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, and Milton Bradley will revamp a pitching staff and offense in need of fire power. Lee became a hot pitcher again after his last season transformation with the Phillies and will look to create a formidable 1-2 punch with Felix Hernandez. Figgins will add speed and Bradley will look to add power to a Mariners lineup that hit 160 homer (12th in the AL) last season.

Angels – Surely they make their case for a serious playoff contender every year but there has to be a breaking point. They improved an already solid lineup with Hideki Matsui and bolstered their bull pen with Fernando Rodney but the team still doesn’t jump out at anyone. The core of the offense is aging in Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Matsui and they lost Figgins to the division rival Mariners. Jared Weaver, Joe Saunders, and newly acquired Joel Pineiro will need to have season like 2009 to give the Mariners a fighting chance in an AL crowded with contenders.

East: Yankees
Central: Twins
West: Mariners
Wild Card: Red Sox

Pennant: Yankees over Mariners

Hamels Blasted; Phils Win

It was one of those games where both teams were thankful that their pitchers are still trying to work things out in Spring Training. Both Hamels and A.J. Burnett were knocked around in their starts. The Phillies came back from a 7-5 deficit to win 9-7 over the Yankees on Monday thanks to a two-run walk-off homer by Wilson Valdez, his second walk-off hit of the Spring against the Yankees.

Hamels allowed seven runs, six earned in five innings. He walked one and allowed nine hits while striking out two. It was Hamels’ first bad outing of the spring. Burnett gave up five in the first inning alone and lasted four innings totaled.

Placido Polanco hit a two-run homer in the first inning, Ryan Howard had a pair of hits, and Ben Francisco homered in the fifth off of Phil Hughes. Catcher Dane Sardinha had a monster game where he doubled, homered, and drove in four runs. Mark Teixeira went 4-4 with a homer for the Yankees. Sardinha was in for the Carlos Ruiz, who had the flu.



Though no roster decisions were made final by Charlie Manuel, he did say that the Phillies will carry 12 pitchers and 13 players. That was expected with the Phillies having eight starters and five bench players.

“We’re still looking at guys,” Manuel said after a 9-7 victory over the Yankees at Bright House Field. “We’ve got guys here, but we’re still looking at them. We’ll continue looking at them. We don’t give away jobs. You’ve got to get them.”

Phils Stay Alive, Head Back to NY

For the Phillies, every game is a must win game. After taking the first game of the series, they fell three straight to the Yankees. After last night’s offensive outburst, the Phillies got back into this series, only trailing 3-2. The bats came alive and Cliff Lee pitched well enough to win as the Phillies fought off a late Yankees rally to win 8-6.

Lee went 7 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out three. Though he gave up five runs, his ERA is an incredible 1.56 in five post season starts and boasts a 4-0 record. His counterpart, AJ Burnett was bounced in the third inning with no outs, only lasting two innings, allowing six runs on four hits and four walks, striking out two.

The offense got going early after the Yankees managed to score a run in the first inning. The Phillies responded the only way they know how to: a lead off single by Jimmy Rollins, a scary hit-by-pitch taken by Shane Victorino, and a no-out three-run homer by Chase Utley. Victorino got hit in the hand and it affected him all game but he will be fine. It’s only a contusion and not a break or fracture.

The offense didn’t stop there as they tacked on three more runs in the third. After back-t0-back walks by Utley and Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth drove in Utley on an RBI single. Raul Ibanez then drove in Howard on a single and Werth hustled all the way to third. Carlos Ruiz was able to beat out a potential double play ball to allow Werth to score, making it 6-2.

The Yankees were able to add one in the 5th to make it a 6-2 game but the Phillies responded in the 7th with a pair of solo homers by Utley and Ibanez. Utley’s HR was his 5th in the World Series, tying Reggie Jackson’s record in 1977.

This is when it got scary. Lee came in the top of the eighth and was credited with all three runs. Chan Ho Park came in and pitched incredible but it was an 8-5 game. Ryan Madson came out in the 9th and got into early trouble. With runners on 1st and 3rd, he got Derek Jeter to hit into an RBI double play. With an 8-6 score, he walked Johnny Damon and then got Mark Teixeira to strike out to end the game and earn the save.

Utley finished the day 2-3 with three runs, four RBI’s and a pair of HR’s. Rollins had a pair of hits from the lead-off spot and Ibanez also had two hits and two RBI’s and a homer. Lee also had a hit, his 3rd of the post season.

Star of the Game:
Game 1: Cliff Lee
Game 2: AJ Burnett
Game 3: Nick Swisher
Game 4: Johnny Damon
Game 5: Chase Utley

Next Game: Wednesday in New York, 7:57 EST
Series: Yankees lead 3-2
Pitching Probables: Pedro Martinez vs. Andy Pettitte
Gameday Discussion: Liberty Bell Sports

The Phillies are still on the ropes but they are punching back. Pedro Martinez is back in New York and back in the spot light. He loves the added attention and I wouldn’t blame him. He has been excellent in his two post season starts and is only win-less because he hasn’t gotten the offensive support he deserved. With the Phillies offense obviously heated back up, he just needs to go out there and pitch like he has.

Andy Pettitte hasn’t pitched on three days rest since 2006. He has a 2.40 ERA in five career starts on that short rest but he is much older now. He will need to stay focused in this outing. He last pitched in game three, giving up four runs in seven innings, allowing five hits and three walks, striking out seven. He certainly is beatable and the Phillies know this.

For extra pumping up, click here.

Phils Fail at Comeback, Yanks Up 3-1

All Brad Lidge had to do was get Johnny Damon out. But he was resilient. Damon fought off every strike-two pitch by Lidge until he got the one he like. After his base hit and steal of second and third, Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez drove in Damon to make it a 5-4 game. Jorge Posada tacked on two more with a double to make it 7-4, the final of game four as the Yankees take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series. For the record, this was not Brad Lidge’s fault.

Joe Blanton pitched well, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks in six innings of work. He also struck out seven. His counterpart, C.C. Sabathia went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, three walks, and striking out six. He was yanked after Chase Utley made it a 4-3 game with his solo homer in the 7th. Mariano Rivera pitched a quick 9th to earn his second save of the series.

The Phillies had to come back twice in the game. Down 2-0 in the first, the Phillies added a run in the bottom half. They then got another in the 4th off a Pedro Feliz double that scored Ryan Howard from second. Howard appeared to have never touched home plate but was ruled safe. In the top of the 5th, Blanton gave up two more runs to make it a 4-2 game.

After Utley made it 4-3 in the 7th, Pedro Feliz hit a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the 8th off Joba Chamberlain to tie it up. The the wheels fell off as Lidge had to face the top of a Yankees order that scored the most runs in the majors and 95 more than the Phillies, who were 4th.

Star of the Game:
Game 1: Cliff Lee
Game 2: AJ Burnett
Game 3: Nick Swisher
Game 4: Johnny Damon

Next Game: Monday in Philadelphia, 7:57 EST
Series: Yankees lead 3-1
Pitching Probables: AJ Burnett vs. Cliff Lee
Gameday Discussion: Liberty Bell Sports

This is for the Phillies. They are on the ropes. They need to win the next three versus the Yankees, two in New York. An easy task? Hell no. A doable task? Yes it is. Cliff Lee has been incredible this post season and will need to give the Phillies some momentum going into New York. The series isn’t over and the Phillies don’t give up. Not ever!

No matter the out come of this series, I’ll still be writing this blog and I will still be loving the Phillies. This is a team that has been the basis of my sports-loving life since I was five and I have never given up on this team. No matter what happens tonight or Wednesday or Thursday, the real fans will still love this team. Go Phils!

Lee, Utley Lead Phils in Game 1

The weather was ugly but Cliff Lee and Chase Utley were the complete opposite. Lee went pitched a complete game and Utley hit two homers en route to a 6-1 Phillies win and putting them ahead 1-0 in the World Series over the Yankees.

C.C. Sabathia was once again thwarted by the Phillies as he lasted seven innings, allowing both of Utley’s home runs. He gave up two runs total on four hits, walking three and striking out six. Lee dominated his former team mate, going nine and allowing a run on six hits, no walks, and matching a career and Phillies best 10 strike outs in the post season (Lee in the NLCS, Schilling in the 1993 World Series, and Steve Carlton in the 1980 World Series).

Utley was on fire at the plate, hitting solo homers in the third and sixth inning. Ryan Howard tacked on two doubles and an RBI, Raul Ibanez had two RBI’s, and Victorino drove in another. Derek Jeter had the only multiple-hit game for the Yankees, getting three. Alex Rodrigue struck out three times.

It was the first World Series game versus the Yankees since they were swept in 1950 and the Phillies completely turned the tables on them. If the Phillies can keep this up for the remainder of the series, you will be looking at your back-to-back world champion Phillies.
On a side note, Utley reached base in his 26th straight game, a new record.

Next Game: Game two in New York, 7:57 EST
Series: Phillies lead 1-0
Probables: Pedro Martinez vs. A.J. Burnett
Game Discussion: Liberty Bell Sports

The Phillies already did what they needed to do and that was take at least one game in New York. If they can take game two, that would be perfect. For the Yankees, they do not want to go to Philadelphia down 0-2 in the series with Hamels set up for game three.

This will be a big spot for Pedro Martinez. He has a lot of bad blood with the Yankees. He is also one of the best big-game pitchers of all time. When he gets in the zone, he is the Pedro of old. AJ Burnett has not been effective in the post season with his 4.42 ERA in 3 starts. He will look to give the Yankees a strong outing versus a very tough offense.

Phils Take 2 in the Bronx

The Phillies capped a 10 game road trip with a series win at Yankee Stadium. They went 8-2, starting the trip with a 4-game sweep of Washington. They won Friday night 7-3, lost 5-4 on Saturday, and won 4-3 on Sunday.

Friday’s game featured a slug fest as the Phillies used 4 home runs to out muscle the AJ Burnett and the Yankees’ high powered offense. The Yankees posted 3 solo shots of their own but weren’t nearly enough to beat Philadelphia. Brett Myers got the start, going 8 innings and giving up 3 runs with 5 strike outs. He pitched well but is still giving up too many homers.

The offense Jimmy Rollins’ 2-hit day including his first pitch lead off homer. Raul “the Animal” Ibanez added another homer to his ridiculous season. Carlos Ruiz also hit his first homer of the season.

On Saturday, the Yankees magic struck again as they earned their league leading 17th come-from-behind win. Up 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th, Brad Lidge surrendered a walk to Johnny Damon and watched Alex Rodriguez go yard as the Yankees tied it up. A couple batters later and Melky Cabrera is driving in Robinson Cano for the win.

A couple of positive notes included John Mayberry Jr’s first career hit being a 3-run homer, Ibanez tacking on another homer, and JA Happ doing great in his debut.

On Sunday, Lidge struck again as he gave up a no outs RBI single to allow the Yankees to tie it up at 3. The Phillies would get a 2-out RBI double from Ruiz to go ahead and win.

Series MVP: Ruiz (6-8 with 3 RBI’s, a homer, and a game winning double)

Next series vs. Florida:
Monday: Volstad (3-3, 3.64), Moyer (3-4, 7.62)
Tuesday: Miller, A (1-1, 4.94), Blanton (2-3, 7.11)
Wednesday: TBA