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2011 Moments: #1 Baez, Valdez unlikely relief heroes for Phils

Wilson Valdez pitches to Jay Bruce in the 19th inning of the Phils 5-4 win over Cincy. (Photo by John Russo)

The beautiful thing about sports is that you’re never going to know what to expect.

As a player, coach or fan, the game is built on mostly skill. But factored into that equation is a thing called luck. Like it or not, the luck factors into the bizarre and the bizarre factors into the shock value.

For the sold out attendance at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, it was just another game against the Cincinatti Reds. To the few thousand on their feet in the 19th inning nearly five hours later, it was something they will most likely never witness as baseball fans again.

No one is ever lucky enough to witness a 19-inning game — the term luck is used, not for the five hours of baseball that included a 7th and 14th inning stretch, but for how the game ended.

Put aside the fact that the game went 19 innings. Instead, look at the two heroes of that game, heroes in ways they thought unimaginable to fans, and even to those two players themselves.

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The stage is set: Cardinals to face Rangers in World Series

One team has unfinished business to settle.

The other has destiny on it’s side.

On Wednesday, those two teams will meet in the 2011 Fall Classic. The St. Louis Cardinals, who capped off a miraculous September run to steal the Wild Card from the Atlanta Braves. They will host the Texas Rangers, who are playing in their second straight World Series.

St. Louis is the first Wild Card team since the 2006 Detroit Tigers to have home field advantage in the World Series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the last Wild Card team to host the World Series and win it. The latter knows a little bit about miracles, especially when the comeback against the New York Yankees in the ALCS and the end of an 86-year curse were complete with a sweeping of the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.

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Roy-Freshing: Oswalt K’s season-high 9 in win

Phils starter Roy Oswalt struck out a season-high nine in eight shut out innings of work against the Nationals. The Phils won, 5-0. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Ryan Zimmerman punched the Phillies’ gut with a walk-off grand slam Friday night, but in typical Phillies fashion, they bounced back and took down the Nationals on, what I guess you could call ‘the road.’

It took until the fourth inning for a team to tally a run tonight’s game at Nationals Park, when Wilson Valdez sliced a two-run triple to right field, scoring John Mayberry Jr. and Carlos Ruiz. The scoring on that play was a bit favorable to Valdez, being that Jayson Werth played a game of hop scotch out in the right-outfield corner, allowing Valdez to score.

The Phillies tacked on three more runs en route to a 5-0 victory.

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Immediate Impact

The acquisition of Hunter Pence has already had a positive impact on the Phillies' lineup. (Photo: phillysportslive.com)

Since becoming the General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies back in November of 2008, Ruben Amaro Jr. has proven one thing; his only concern is on the immediate future.

Trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt have taxed the Phillies’ farm system, sacrificing the team’s long term future for immediate success.

Last Friday’s trade for outfielder Hunter Pence was just another example of Amaro choosing “now” over “later,” trading away highly rated prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton in a four-player package to Houston for Pence’s services. Just like the Lee trade in 2009 and the Oswalt trade in 2010, the Pence trade fell on the same day, July 29th.

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It’s not you Bautista, it’s me.

Cheaters like Barry Bonds have me convinced that every home run hitter is on the juice. (Photo Courtesy:sanfranciscosentinel.com)

With one swing of the bat, Jose Bautista sent his 27th baseball into the seats on Sunday.

With one swing of the bat, Bautista gave his Blue Jays a 5-4 lead over the Phillies in the bottom of the eighth inning.

And with one swing of the bat, Bautista instantly put one thought in my mind.

Steroids.

How quickly the word came to my mind took me by surprise. It was as if the word had become synonymous with Bautista. And why not? Bautista sends every 90 mph fastball over the fence like it’s batting practice.

He has come out of nowhere too. He has hit 81 homeruns in the last year and a half, and before that he hit just 74 homeruns in his six previous seasons. Guys don’t hit 13 homeruns one year and hit 54 the next. Guys don’t do that, unless…

Steroids.

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The Natch: The Designated Fence Sitter

Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is leading the NL among pitchers with a .313 average (10-for-32).

It’s the most wonderful time of year, but this isn’t Christmas.

It’s that time of the baseball season when the Phillies are in Seattle, the Yankees are in Wrigley, and Ben Francisco is a designated hitter.

Ah, Interleague play, my favorite time of year. The only time of year that almost breeds as much anger, frustration, and debate as the All-Star game (Thanks, Bud Selig).

I love turning on ESPN this time of year, only to hear the exact same arguments I have heard debated for the last decade:

“Should Interleague play be abolished?” “Is it fair that the Mets have to play the Yankees every year, while the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins do not?” “Which league is better?” “Should the designated hitter be abolished?” “Should the National League grow up, put down the Walkman, turn off the VHS, and adopt the designated hitter?” “Was George W. Bush a good president?”

Alright, I made up that last one, but every time I see interleague play I think of Bush Jr. because he was the only owner at the time to vote against interleague play. Maybe he saw all of this coming – the debates, the criticism, the uproar.  Maybe he was just choking on another pretzel, and couldn’t raise his hand to vote “yes” for interleague play.

Either way one thing is for certain: Interleague play isn’t going anywhere. You know why? Because it’s a cash-cow.

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Lee shuts out Marlins 3-0 to complete series sweep

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee rips a two-out, RBI double in the 4th. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

For the third straight start, Cliff Lee was on his game.

Lee provided a complete game shutout, and the offense provided enough run support to give the Phillies the 3-0 win. The win completes a four game sweep of the Marlins and extends the Phillies’ winning streak to seven games. The Phillies finished this most recent home stand with nine wins in eleven games.

Lee went nine innings, allowing no runs on just two hits while striking out four. Lee has now allowed a total of two runs in his last three starts, and has three wins during this home stand.

Instead of piling up the strike outs, Lee was using his breaking pitches to pile up the easy ground ball, pop up and fly outs for his defense. His plan was so effective, it took until Mike Stanton’s two-out single up the middle in the 6th to end his no-hit bid.

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Rare Polly blunder, Madson BS costs Phils the game

Phillies fans at the ball park and on the couch stayed up through the rain delay and through extra innings, hoping for another memorable extra-inning game. But a rare throwing error by Placido Polanco allowed Tyler Colvin to score in the 11th to give the Cubs a 4-3 win.

Fans have named every fifth day, “bullpen day” because of the poor performance by Phillies’ fifth starters. Tonight was once again a “bullpen day,” but not because of poor pitching.

After the Phillies’ first rain delay of the season and a blown save by Ryan Madson, the bullpen got a lot of work in the 4-3 loss. The Phillies bullpen allowed a respectable three runs in eight innings, but were outdueled by the Cubs bullpen which allowed no runs in 8.2 innings.

Jimmy Rollins opened up the scoring in the bottom of the second, homering to right to score Raul Ibanez and Dane Sardinha to make it 3-0. It would be the only three runs the Phillies would score tonight. After an easy top of the third for Kyle Kendrick, the tarp had to come on to the field in the bottom of the inning for a rain delay.

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Phillies select outfielder with 39th pick in MLB Draft

UPDATE – With their second selection (66th overall), the Phillies chose outfielder/second baseman Roman Quinn. Quinn is labeled as being one of the fastest prep school players in this year’s class.

He attended Port St. Joe High School in Gulf County, Florida. He played second base, shortstop, and center field during his high school career. Quinn committed to Florida State so it will be interesting to see if he signs with the Phillies.

With the 90th overall pick, the Phillies chose University of Miami third baseman Harold Martinez. Martinez is 6’3″ and 212 pounds and is a right-handed hitter.

He was previously selected in the 19th round of the 2008 Draft by the Texas Rangers but decided to go to Miami.

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While the Phillies lost their true first round pick when signing Cliff Lee, the Phils picked up a supplemental first rounder when right fielder Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals.

The Phillies used that pick on a future corner outfielder, drafting Larry Greene with the 39th overall selection.

The 6’2″, 235 pound athletic outfielder is from Berrien High School in Nashville, Ga. He batted .562 in 30 games as a center fielder. Despite playing center, Marti Wolever, the Phillies scouting director sees Greene as a corner outfielder in the Majors.

“He’s a man amongst young men,” Wolever said. “He’s really strong and powerful and just really a very good athlete . . . We think he’s a corner outfielder with above-average power. He stays on the ball when he hits and has a chance to drive the ball to the left side, left-center. He’s got above average power pole-to-pole.”

Wolever also said the left-handed hitter reminds him of Jonathan Singleton, an eighth-round pick in 2009 whom the organization regards highly.

The MLB draft resumes today at noon with rounds 2-30. The Phillies pick twice in the second round (66 and 90 overall) and have the 120th overall pick in the third round. They pick 151st overall in the fourth round, and draft a player every 30 picks after that.

Video of Greene hitting.

Phillies get shutout by Harrison 2-0

Chase Utley, your return tomorrow could not come at a better time.

Once again the Phillies offense failed to give their starter the run support he needed, as they wasted a great outing by Roy Oswalt, and were shutout by the Rangers 2-0. The abysmal offense left six runners on base and were just 1-6 with runners with scoring position. This is the fourth time this season the Phillies have been shutout.

Both starters were on their game today with neither allowing a single run through the first five innings. For Texas, lefty Matt Harrison allowed no runs on five hits in eight innings pitched. Despite only having 1-2-3 inning once, Harrison only allowed one Phillie to reach third base.

Oswalt also pitched great in his second start since returning from the disabled list. Oswalt went seven innings and allowed just one run on eight hits while striking out three batters. Oswalt also recorded his 100th and 101st career sacrifice bunts, but the anemic offense could not get the runners home from scoring position.

Oswalt didn’t allow a run until the sixth inning when Mitch Moreland hit his eleventh double of the season to score Michael Young from second base to make it 1-0 Rangers. After striking out Mike Napoli, Oswalt intentionally walked Craig Gentry to get to Harrison. Harrison hit a ground ball that was run down by Jimmy Rollins who had to jump and throw against his body to get Harrison out at first and end the inning.

The Rangers would add an insurance run in the top of the eighth when Craig Gentry pulled off what seemed like an impossible suicide squeeze to score Adrian Beltre to make it 2-0. The pitch from Phillies reliever David Herndon appeared to be heading right towards the face of Gentry, but Gentry was able to get that bat up in time to lay down the bunt as he fell down.

2B: Murphy (4), Moreland (11), Beltre (10)

WP: Harrison (4-4) LP: Oswalt (3-2) S: Feliz (9)