ST. LOUIS — David Freese homered, doubled and drove in four runs as the St. Louis Cardinals tagged playoff nemesis Roy Oswalt and beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 Wednesday night, forcing a deciding fifth game in their NL division series.
Center fielder Jon Jay made a sliding catch on Placido Polanco's soft fly for the final out, and was already pointing his index finger before he got to his feet.
Now it's back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Friday night. Roy Halladay, who won the opener for the Phillies, will face St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has already called it a dream matchup.
The 102-win Phillies are favored to win it all. But first they must dispose of the wild-card Cardinals, who clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the season and have gotten the best of two members of the Phils' star-studded rotation.
And suddenly, this first-round series has gotten squirrelly for the Phillies. An omen, maybe: Right after Oswalt threw a pitch in the fifth, a squirrel darted across the plate.
Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats in what could have been his final home game with the Cardinals. He received thunderous cheers every trip to the plate from a standing room crowd of 47,071, second-largest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium.
Pujols made his presence known on defense, catching Chase Utley going for an extra base in the sixth. Utley drew a leadoff walk and kept running on Hunter Pence's grounder to short, but Pujols alertly jumped off first base to catch the throw and made a sharp relay to third for the out.
Edwin Jackson recovered from a rocky beginning to win his first playoff start. After giving up two runs on his first five pitches, he wound up throwing six solid innings. Jason Motte worked a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.
Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for 8 the last two games with five strikeouts and has hit only one ball out of the infield.
Oswalt had been 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 previous postseason starts, the biggest closing out old Busch Stadium and the Cardinals in 2005 to get Houston to its first World Series. The right-hander also worked seven shutout innings against St. Louis in the Phillies' NL East division clincher in mid-September.
The biggest jolts for the Cardinals came from their seventh-place hitter. Freese was 2 for 12 the first three games with one RBI before punishing the fourth of the Phillies' aces.
Freese's two-run double down the third-base line in the fourth put St. Louis up 3-2. His two-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth whipped the crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.
Oswalt walked Lance Berkman and hit Matt Holliday, making his first start of the series, to start the fourth. Right fielder Hunter Pence made a fine running catch at the warning track to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases, but Freese jumped on a hanging curveball with a drive down the left-field line.
Holliday singled with one out in the sixth and Freese hit a 1-0 pitch to the pasture in straightaway center, not far from where a squirrel made an early appearance, for a three-run cushion. A squirrel also interrupted play in the fifth, racing across the plate an instant after Oswalt's pitch to Skip Schumaker passed for a ball.
Oswalt argued with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, asking for no pitch. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also argued without success and Schumaker, flied out to center on the next pitch.
In Game 3 Tuesday, a squirrel was seen scampering in foul territory along the third base line.
Five pitches into the game, the Phillies had a 2-0 lead with an assist from the late-afternoon playing conditions.
Jay, standing in bright sunshine while shadows, took one step in on leadoff man Jimmy Rollins' drive on the first pitch of the game and retreated too late for a ball just over his glove that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
Utley tripled just inside the first-base line three pitches later and Pence lined an RBI single on the next pitch.
NOTES: 2B Schumaker was taken out with a left hamstring cramp after a flyout in the fifth — the same at-bat the squirrel made its appearance. After disrupting play, the squirrel scampered through the stands. Schumaker is 5 for 8 in the series. ... Rollins doubled and had an infield hit his first two trips and has nine hits in the series. He has 14 multihit games in the playoffs, passing Howard for most in franchise history. -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — Four aces and still a bust.
Armed with the best rotation in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies watched their dream season end well short of a World Series with a 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of their NL playoff Friday night.
Roy Halladay did his part under pressure. It was the bats that flopped with the season on the line.
The fizzlin' Phillies came up empty in the clutch and have all winter to wonder how their championship-or-nothing season ended at home with their No. 1 pitcher on the mound.
Carpenter was the one dealing all the right cards, tossing a three-hitter to send the 102-win Phillies packing.
Expected to peak in October, the Phillies instead simply flopped — the latest disappointment for a team that has turned into the second-biggest spender in the majors.
They followed their 2008 World Series title with a loss to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. A year ago, it was a surprising NL championship series loss against San Francisco.
Now comes the biggest heartache of 'em all — losing to the Cardinals in the NL division series.
Before Game 1, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel proclaimed, "We're going to win the series."
He needed plenty more help from an uptight lineup.
Ryan Howard was 2 for 19 in the series and flied out in the seventh on a 3-0 pitch. He grounded out to end the game and hurt himself while breaking out of the batter's box, crumpling to the ground before he was helped off the field by the training staff.
Howard grabbed his left ankle and went to the turf as the Cardinals celebrated behind him.
Placido Polanco was 2 for 19. Carlos Ruiz was 1 for 17.
Even Chase Utley, who had a solid series, was caught stealing for the first time this season when he was nailed at second in the sixth. When Hunter Pence ended the inning with a weak grounder, boos, an almost-extinct noise in Philly these days, could be heard at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans were distraught, most standing in silence with their hands in their pockets for the final out. Then, they glumly filed out for the last time this season.
Halladay tossed six-hit ball and threw 126 pitches over eight innings, striking out seven with one intentional walk. He had his second straight shaky first inning, allowing a triple and a run-scoring double to open the game, before settling down and keeping the Phillies in the game.
Led by Halladay, the Phillies cruised to their fifth straight NL East title and their franchise-record 102 wins led the majors for the second straight season.
This year at Citizens Bank Park was never about regular-season achievement.
Anything less than a World Series title will be considered a failure by fans, players and management.
They can pin this one on the lineup.
Shane Victorino was stranded at second after a one-out double in the second inning. Victorino, who had two of their three hits, singled in the fourth to give Philadelphia runners at the corners with two outs. Raul Ibanez flied out to right to end the rally.
Utley gave the ball a ride to deep center to open the ninth, but was out. Pence grounded out to third.
Howard ended it — like last season when Giants closer Brian Wilson struck him out looking with the tying run at second base to end Game 6 of the NLCS.
Halladay beat the Cardinals in the opener, despite a shaky start. He allowed a three-run homer to Lance Berkman in the first inning, but dominated the rest of the way.
The Cardinals tagged him in the first again. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple and scored on Skip Schumaker's double.
Somehow, that was enough.
What hurts worse for the rally-towel waving die-hards was that St. Louis wouldn't even be here without help from the Phillies.
The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10½ games on Aug. 25, but went 23-8 the rest of the way and earned a wild-card berth after game No. 162 when Philadelphia completed a three-game sweep in Atlanta.
NOTES: Philadelphia's postseason record is 49-54. ... The Phillies hadn't played a decisive postseason game since losing Game 5 of the division series against Montreal in the strike-shortened 1981 season. -- (AP)
HOUSTON — This is the time of year when manager Charlie Manuel would like to see his Philadelphia Phillies playing their best baseball.
Instead, they dropped their second straight game against the worst team in baseball on Tuesday night to keep them from wrapping up a playoff spot.
Clint Barmes hit a three-run homer and J.A. Happ pitched six solid innings against his former team as the Houston Astros beat Philadelphia 5-2.
The Phillies needed a win over Houston or a loss by St. Louis to clinch at least a wild-card berth. But the NL East leaders will have to wait to secure their place in the postseason after the Cardinals beat the Pirates 6-4 on Tuesday night.
"We talk all year long about where we want to go, and that's to the World Series and win it," Manuel said. "We're sitting in a (heck) of a position, and when we come out and play kind of sloppy and we don't have a lot of life and stuff like that, we have to play better than that."
It's the first time the Phillies have dropped three in a row since losing four straight from May 31 to June 4. They get their next chance to clinch Wednesday afternoon with Roy Halladay on the mound in the series finale.
Manuel was unhappy with the two errors his team committed Tuesday.
"If we come out and play right, we hustle and we make physical mistakes by hustling, you can buy into that," he said. "But when we start making mental mistakes and getting sloppy and things like that, and taking things for granted, we don't want to play that way. I feel we're much better than that."
Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels (14-8) fell to 0-3 in his last five starts against the Astros after going 3-0 in his first four career starts against them.
The Phillies were swept by the Astros in a four-game series late last season in Philadelphia.
Hamels suggested his team might not have the right mindset playing against Houston.
"Their motivation was a little bit more than I guess what we had," he said. "I guess that's where they are beating us. They are motivated and we are not taking it as serious."
The Astros won their second straight game to avoid setting a franchise record for losses. Their 97 defeats are tied for the club mark, which has been reached three other times, most recently in 1991.
J.B. Shuck singled in the fourth inning and stole second base before Happ reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Howard with one out. Jason Bourgeois drove in Shuck with a single to put Houston up 2-1 before Barmes' first-pitch homer.
Hunter Pence hit his 20th home run on a ball that bounced high on the wall in left-center to tie it at 1 in the fourth. The former Astro, traded to Philadelphia in July, received a standing ovation from a group of fans sitting near the Phillies dugout.
Happ (6-15), acquired from the Phillies last year as part of the Roy Oswalt trade, allowed four hits and one run with four strikeouts. Fernando Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings before David Carpenter took over for the ninth.
Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out solo homer off Carpenter to make it 5-2.
The Phillies had a shot to cut into the lead in the fifth inning when Jimmy Rollins singled with two outs before Happ walked Placido Polanco and Pence to load the bases. Howard took Happ to a full count on an eight-pitch at-bat before J.D. Martinez made a leaping catch at the left-field wall to end the inning.
"Obviously relieved to get out of that situation and keep the lead where it was," Happ said. "I was a little frustrated I got myself into it, but to get out of it was huge."
Houston manager Brad Mills was impressed with Happ's composure.
"J.A. did a real good job of keeping his emotions under control," Mills said. "Sometimes he put everything right on the edge, but stayed down in the zone which I thought was absolutely outstanding. He kept getting behind in the count but getting himself back in the count, which was big."
Martinez had an RBI double to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Barmes doubled to set up the score. Carlos Lee singled after the double by Martinez, before Matt Downs was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.
Hamels escaped the jam by retiring the next two Astros.
Downs looked to have been spiked in the finger when John Mayberry Jr. slid into second base on a double in the second inning. Downs was checked by trainers, but remained in the game.
Downs singled with two outs in the third and reached third on the play on an error by Mayberry when the grounder rolled between his legs in center field. Downs was left stranded when Chris Johnson grounded out to end the inning.
Right fielder Jason Michaels robbed Howard of a hit with a diving catch, which injured his left hand in the second inning. Michaels finished the inning, but was replaced by Shuck in the third. The team said Michaels broke a bone in his left hand and would have season-ending surgery Wednesday.
NOTES: Despite the loss, Philadelphia is 30-10 against lefties this season. ... The teams wrap up the three-game series Wednesday when Houston's Bud Norris faces Halladay, who allowed four hits and one run while striking out nine over eight innings in his last start, a 5-3 win over Milwaukee. Norris has won just once in his last 11 starts. ... Lee has hit safely in 21 of his last 22 games. -- (AP)
It’s been a great year for Ryan Howard on the field. He leads the Philadelphia Phillies with 33 home runs and 112 RBI. Howard has guided the Phillies to playoff a berth along with the best record in baseball.
The Phillies first baseman has also done well off the field. Major League Baseball recently announced that Howard was named the 2011 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.
Howard is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
The award pays tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. It is named for the 12-time MLB all-star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The Ryan Howard Foundation, which was launched in 2009, has a mission of improving the quality of life for others, in particular for disadvantaged youth and families. This is achieved primarily through the development and implementation of programs that advance education, health and fitness, and social economic status. The foundation currently helps to fund programs in both the Philadelphia and St. Louis areas.
One of the foundation’s first initiatives was to award a $50,000 grant to Hunting Park in North Philadelphia, which is being used to restore a baseball diamond. When the project broke ground in 2010, Howard was inspired to add another $100,000 to his previous donation. He was there when the teams stepped onto a neighboring field using $10,000 of equipment and uniforms donated by the Phillies slugger and Howard is as excited as the players, coaches and families for the project’s completion.
Howard also believes that while the children should enjoy playing baseball, they should also put an emphasis on school.
“I still remember seeing my dad graduate. It meant so much to him and to be able to do that and it meant so much to me,” Howard said. “Growing up, education was very, very important. If you didn’t get your homework done you couldn’t play sports.”
It is the emphasis on education within his family that propelled the foundation to develop a relationship with the United Negro College Fund to provide promising ingoing freshman pursuing higher education at a four-year accredited institution with financial assistance. In 2010, the foundation awarded $90,000 in scholarships to college-bound students in the Philadelphia and St. Louis metropolitan areas and an additional $90,000 will be awarded for the 2011–12 school year.
The foundation held the inaugural Celebrity Servers fundraiser that raised $116,000 to benefit the foundations good works. This season’s event, held July 21, raised nearly $200,000.
Howard received an honorary badge from the Philadelphia Police Athletic League during “PAL Night at the Phillies” in August 2008, recognizing his community service. He will be recognized on Sept. 19 on the field at Citizens Bank Park. In addition to being honored as the club’s nominee, he will also receive the Phillies Community Service Award.
All fans are encouraged to participate in the selection process for the national award recipient by visiting www.chevybaseball.com/clemente, a site powered by MLB.com and created specifically for the award to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. The voting ends on October 9.
HOUSTON — Roy Halladay pitched his 20th career shutout and the Philadelphia Phillies became the first team to reach the playoffs this season with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
The NL East leaders clinched at least a wild-card berth and will appear in the postseason for the fifth straight year. Philadelphia won the World Series in 2008 and took the NL pennant in 2009.
Once the club signed ace pitcher Cliff Lee last winter to round out a dominant rotation, another playoff berth for Philadelphia seemed a foregone conclusion.
The Phillies said this week there would be no champagne celebration for wrapping up the wild card, and when Halladay finished off Houston he and his teammates barely cracked a smile.
Phillies players and manager Charlie Manuel simply lined up for handshakes following their 95th win, just as if it were any other. The goal this season is a World Series championship, and anything short of that would hardly satisfy.
Philadelphia's magic number is four for clinching its fifth division title in a row.
The Phillies, who had lost three in a row, needed just a win over Houston or a loss by St. Louis on Wednesday to wrap up a playoff spot. The Cardinals beat Pittsburgh 3-2.
Shane Victorino doubled in the first inning and scored the only run on Placido Polanco's single to help Philadelphia avoid a three-game sweep.
Halladay (18-5) escaped trouble in the second and seventh, finishing with seven strikeouts and one walk for his first shutout of the season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner gave up six hits and threw 114 pitches for his eighth complete game of the year, tops in the NL.
Houston loaded the bases in the second on Polanco's error at third, a single by Brian Bogusevic and a bunt single by Jose Altuve. The threat ended quickly when Carlos Lee was forced at home and Humberto Quintero hit into a double play.
Halladay struck out pinch-hitter Matt Downs with a runner on second in the seventh to end that threat. Downs leads the majors with 12 pinch-hit RBIs.
The Phillies spoiled a strong seven innings by Bud Norris (6-10). Victorino doubled to start the game and scored on Polanco's single.
After that, Norris retired 15 batters in a row before escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth. He struck out Ryan Howard with a 94 mph fastball and Raul Ibanez flied out to end the inning.
Norris allowed four hits, struck out three and walked one.
NOTES: The Phillies are 17-24 at Minute Maid Park. ... The Astros are 32-21 against Philadelphia since 2004, the best record of any NL team against the Phillies. ... The Astros currently have 16 rookies — 10 pitchers and six position players. ... Philadelphia clinched a playoff spot in a franchise-best 146 games. The 1915 Phillies did it in 147 games. -- (AP)
CLEARWATER, Fla. — An older, wiser Jimmy Rollins has ditched his annual rite of spring: Trading trash talk with National League East counterparts.
But as the new-look Philadelphia Phillies prepare for the season after seeing their five-year reign atop the division end in 2012, Rollins isn't conceding anything either. The longtime shortstop remains confident in the talented nucleus assembled here.
"Everybody is in the right mind frame," Rollins said. "We're a complete team. We're not going out there with role players. We're going out there with everyday players, every game."
Rollins, 34, was drafted by the Phillies out of high school in 1996 in the midst of the organization's 13-year playoff drought. But prior to the 2007 season, Rollins famously declared a young-and-upcoming Phillies squad "the team to beat."
The Phillies made good on Rollins words. They chased down the New York Mets in September and won the division on the final day of the regular season. They then went on a tear that resulted in two World Series appearances, and one title.
Rollins, in 2007, won National League MVP, but that was six years ago. Many of the names in the clubhouse have changed since then. And those that remain — Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels — are not in the same point in their careers.
Last season offered proof. The Phillies finished 81-81, to post their first non-winning season in 10 years. But they also didn't play a single game in the first half with Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay healthy at the same time. All three missed large chunks of the season with injuries.
With all three healthy this year — and the additions the Phillies made this winter, too — Rollins thinks the team can once again be a contender.
"We did what we needed to do (in the offseason)," Rollins said. "We just needed to fill a couple of holes and get the other guys back healthy, and we've done that. (Relief pitcher Mike) Adams is going to be huge from what he's done, and being able to continue that, it's going to be great. Mikey Young, he's just a professional hitter. The little man out in center field, Tootsie Pop, Ben Revere, he's going to bring that energy. Shane (Victorino) left, and we've got a guy who can come in and steal bags, so we don't miss a beat there.
"It's different, but it's a great dynamic what we have now. It's a good feeling. As you can see, it's nice and calm. Last year, everybody was uncertain. There's a lot more certainty around here."
Rollins may have retired his panache for making bold statements. But it wasn't all that long ago that he made one worth remembering.
After the Phillies finished the 2012 season in Washington, Rollins said the Nationals, who won the division, would have been a second-place team if the Phillies were healthy. Rollins isn't reliving the past, but he's also hasn't lost faith in his team's ability to return to the top of the division.
"That was last year," Rollins said. "And this year is different. Nothing has changed in our mentality or my mentality about how I feel about where this team should be or will be. The players we have, I like it. I was talking to (manager) Charlie (Manuel), the bullpen is good. The lineup has an opportunity to be real deep.
"Play some good quality baseball on both sides, the mental side of the game, it's going to be a fun team."
NOTES: Utley, a second baseman, will play in Friday's intrasquad game and will also likely start in the Phillies' first Grapefruit League game Saturday, according to Manuel. Utley hasn't played in a spring exhibition game in each of the last two years while battling chronic knee pain. Hamels will start in the opener Saturday against the Houston Astros, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan scheduled to follow in the next week. Halladay will pitch opposite Justin Verlander in Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. If that rotational order holds up through the spring, Hamels could get the start on the regular season's opening day. ... Hall of Fame 3B Mike Schmidt arrived in Phillies camp on Wednesday for his annual work as a hitting instructor. . The Phillies' intrasquad game on Friday will begin at noon at Bright House Field and admission is free to the public. -- (AP)
Treneal Chambers, a fifth-grade student at Chester Community Charter School, nominated her fourth grade teacher, Shannon McGarry, as part of the Philadelphia Phillies 2012 Teacher All-Star Contest.
Chambers earned four tickets for her, and her teacher, to attend the May 11 Philadelphia Phillies Teacher Appreciation game. The Phillies beat the San Diego Padres 7-3.
Chambers’ essay was chosen out of 1,500 submissions, as an honorable mention, among 30 other essays, with 10 essays winning the overall prize, two sets of complimentary tickets and an opportunity to participate in an awards ceremony prior to the first pitch.
The contest, in its 12th year and hosted by The Philadelphia Phillies and the Newspapers in Education Department of The Philadelphia Inquirer, is open to people of all ages.
The contest provides recognition for teachers who demonstrate mentorship, going above and beyond the set curriculum, who believe there is no such thing as “can’t” and who make every student feel loved and accepted.
Chester Community Charter School opened its doors on September 9, 1998, serving 97 students from four meeting rooms in the lobby of the Howard Johnson Hotel.
Since that time, the school has steadily grown to include more than 3,000 students in nine state-of-the-art buildings spanning two campuses. The school is the largest K-8 charter school in Pennsylvania.
“Our teachers are superb and it’s great that our students recognize and appreciate them,” said David Clark, CEO of Chester Community Charter School. “Ms. McGarry is just one member of our dedicated staff whose members continuously go above and beyond the call of duty for our students, making their education a personal goal. We, the leadership of the school, parents and students, are extremely fortunate to have teachers like Ms. McGarry instructing our youth. Kudos to both Treneal and Shannon for this most deserving award recognition.”
Chambers’ story is unique in that her family recently relocated to Atlanta, Ga. in search of a better life and opportunities. Upon notification of the award, Chambers opted to stay behind to attend the ceremony and game.
Chambers, unable to receive help on the hand-written essay, worked tirelessly to ensure it was mailed on deadline, even going as far as seeking out neighbors and nearby relatives to provide an envelope and stamp to send the nomination.
In her nomination, Chambers wrote, “I nominate Ms. McGarry because she is a wonderful teacher. She takes her time out to help me. When I can’t get anything right, she would come over and say, “You can do it. I believe in you. I will always believe in you. She’s also on my side when I don’t have a friend. No other teacher ever treated me like she does. I will never ever forget her.”
It’s been a rough week for Philadelphia fans. The St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Phillies – who were supposed to give us a parade down Broad Street — in five games in the National League Division Series.
The Phillies had the best pitching staff in baseball with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Moreover, they won a historic 102 games with just 60 losses. They finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but couldn’t even score a run in the final elimination game at Citizens Bank Park, where they played in front of a sold-out crowd all season.
The Eagles are 1-4 coming off another disastrous loss, this time to the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles “Dream Team” is turning into a nightmare, dropping its fourth straight game. Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback, threw four interceptions, but did throw for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He had five carries for 90 yards. He also broke Randall Cunningham’s all-time rushing record with 4,948 yards. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough. And now the Eagles will face divisional rival Washington on the road Sunday, October 16.
One thing is for sure: the Phillies and Eagles are in for some interesting days ahead. With the Phillies season ending so abruptly, everything comes into question. This team has to wonder what next year is going to be like with first baseman Ryan Howard on the shelf with a rupture of the left Achilles tendon. He sustained the injury on the series’ final out as he tried to run out a ground ball.
Howard cannot have surgery until the swelling resolves. Recovery time won’t be known until after the surgery is complete and there is no guarantee he will be ready for spring training. Howard is a big man in the Phillies batting lineup with his home run and RBI power. He hit .253 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI in 2011. But the Phillies slugger really struggled against the Cardinals, hitting just .105 with one home run and six RBI. If Howard isn’t ready when the season begins in April, the team will have a big hole to fill.
The Phillies could have a big hole at shortstop, too. Jimmy Rollins is a free agent. Rollins hit .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI during the regular season. He had great year with the glove and was the Phillies best player position player in the postseason. Although he went 0-for-4 in the last game, he did hit .450 for the series.
Rollins, the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, led the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship. He has been the team’s catalyst and is reportedly seeking a long-term contract. The Phillies need him, but will they give Rollins what he wants? This makes for a very unsettling offseason.
The Eagles situation appears to be shaky as well. There are only five teams who have started 1-4 and made the playoffs. The Eagles will have to go 9-2 the rest of the way to more than likely secure a playoff spot. With the way the way the Eagles have been playing defense, this seems very unlikely.
If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs, head coach Andy Reid should be on thin ice. He has been here for 13 years, been to a Super Bowl and has won a lot of games. But it’s time for a change. He has to take weight for this debacle. This is one of the most talented teams in the NFL. In spite of that, they have an offensive line that can’t protect the quarterback, a defense that struggles tackling and play calling that has been questionable. The coaching staff has been unable to make the right adjustments.
This was supposed to be an exciting time for the Philly fans. It’s been anything but.
When the Philadelphia Phillies host the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series (best of five) at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, the Phillies will begin their postseason journey.
The Phillies have great pitching with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and although pitching is the key to success, it’s not the only important aspect.
There are other factors like experience, talent and confidence. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies shortstop, has all those ingredients. Rollins will be one of the keys in the Phillies playoff run that could bring the city another world championship.
Rollins, 32, has been here through thick and thin. This is his 11th season with the Phillies. When he started playing with the Phillies, he was wearing braids. In fact, Rollins and former Sixers all-star guard Allen Iverson were the city’s pro athletes with that style. The Phillies were still trying to get better. The team wasn’t selling out when he started his career in Philly.
A few years ago, he was the player who labeled the Phillies as “the team to beat.” He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series title. He played a huge role in getting them back to the 2009 World Series before losing to the New York Yankees. In 2010, he carried the Phillies to the National League championship series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies were eliminated by the Yankees and Giants; both teams won the World Series.
“I’ve been around here through transition,” said Rollins, 32, who this season batted .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI. “It’s been for the better obviously.
Rollins remembers those early days when there were too many empty seats when the Phillies took the field.
“If you sell out, it’s not 13,000 … [it’s] 23,000 on the big board, and everybody likes 23,000,” Rollins said. “That’s a good thing. But it’s the attitude towards us, the Phillies and baseball … the feeling around the city is a lot different.
“I think as far as sports in general football has always had the attention. The season is 16 games as opposed to 162. You can get together once every weekend as opposed to every single day. The excitement of the newness is still there with football.
“(With baseball) Everybody realizes it’s a grind. So, if I miss 10 (home) games. I still have 71 more games. That’s changed because [at] every single home game we have 44,000 (fans). That shows the product on the field along with the marketing and advertising. The most important element is winning.”
The Phillies have certainly done that. The team finished with an amazing 102-60 record. Now, they’re in a really good position to do something special again during this historic season where manager Charlie Manuel became the Phillies’ winningest manager with 646 wins. Rollins has been the catalyst for a lot of those victories.
“The team has evolved tremendously,” Rollins said. “Prior to the season in 2007, I made a firestorm out of a barnstorm (when he said the Phillies were the team to beat). I said it very casually in my response. The point I wanted to make was portrayed. I wanted people to recognize us for who we are. You’re our media covering us. We’re going to be that team. For years, they’ve always talked about the (Atlanta) Braves in spring training or the (New York) Mets. I’m not here to talk about them. I did that for five or six years now. I’m good.”
Rollins has been good throughout his career. He has been selected to three all-star games. He has won three Gold Glove Awards. In 2007, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League.
Rollins grew up in Oakland, Calif., where he was an All-American baseball player at Encinal High School, which happens to be the same high school where Dontrelle Willis attended who pitches for the Cincinnati Reds this season. Rickey Henderson was his favorite baseball player. He watched him play during his career with the Oakland Athletics. Rollins was recruited by Arizona State before he decided to play professional baseball.
Rollins hails from a sports family. His brother, Antwon, played minor league baseball with the Texas Rangers and the Montreal Expos. His sister, Shay, played college basketball at the University of San Francisco. Baseball wasn’t the only sport he played as a youngster. He played football and basketball, too.
“I played Pop Warner football,” Rollins said. “I played all the way up to high school. I played from 9 to 14. I was playing football, basketball and baseball year round. I never had a break. I said to my mother (Gigi) that if we win the championship I wouldn’t play high school football. I was tired. So, low and behold we win the championship.
“I go to practice one day with my dad (James Sr.) at Encinal High School. We were on the baseball field. The football coach, who was the baseball coach, asked me if I was going to play football. I started smelling the grass. I went and got my permission slip. I went to my mother and asked her if I could play football. Then, she sent me to my dad. He sent me back to her. My mother said, ‘Remember, you told me that you would not play football if you won the championship.’ So, that was the end of my football career.
“I was a big (San Francisco) 49ers fan. They had Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young. I played quarterback. I played running back, too, but mostly quarterback.
“I was a two guard in basketball. I was a slasher. Some people thought I would stay outside and shoot the jumper all the time. I hit the jump shot. I shot some threes. But I was quicker than a lot of guys. I liked to take it to the basket. I remember watching Run TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin) with the (Golden State) Warriors. I enjoyed playing football and basketball, but baseball is my best sport.”
Rollins has been playing baseball for a long time. He will be a free agent after the season. According to SI.com, he would like to have a five-year contract with the Phillies. Rollins has been a crucial part of the Phillies’ success. His focus right now is on bringing another championship to Philly, and this could be the year.
“This team is solid,” Rollins said. “It’s definitely the best pitching staff we’ve had. Other than that, everybody is a year older and a year more seasoned.”
That could be enough to be a factor in the postseason.
ST. LOUIS — Ryne Sandberg, ruled out earlier this week for the Chicago Cubs’ managing vacancy, is among the candidates who will be interviewing with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sandberg managed the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A team last season and the Phillies said they have granted the Cardinals permission to talk to him.
General manager John Mozeliak said in an email that the Cardinals had not determined a public strategy for the search to find a new manager. Tony La Russa resigned this week, three days after the team won the World Series.
Terry Francona and an in-house candidate, Jose Oquendo, are also believed to be on the Cardinals’ list. New Cubs general manager Theo Epstein has told Sandberg he isn’t a candidate to replace the fired Mike Quade. — (AP)