By Bill Campbell
I was watching the Phillies in the middle of last week and, for one of the few times this season, I felt a bit of encouragement for the future. Kyle Kendrick was pitching against the Chicago Cubs and, though he had a 7.11 ERA at the time for his previous 6 starts, he settled in and pitched pretty well. Also, there were many unfamiliar names on the field – and that may have had something to do with it. I saw young players taking advantage of opportunities on defense. Plus, the offense had a promising night. Domonic Brown was back from the DL and knocked in 2 runs. Cody Ashe had 2 hits, Chase Utley had 3. Darin Ruf hit a homer. Even Michael Young looked better with 2 hits. These are all to the good.
It all started when Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley had back-to-back singles in the third inning. Then Brown and Ruf backed them up with back-to-back doubles. Ruf has had a stretch of 33 straight games in which he reached base, the longest active streak for any major leaguer and the longest for any player since Utley had a 33-game streak in 2009. Utley also had a triple that could have been an inside the park home run but he was stopped at third by Coach Ryne Sandberg. It was the right call with nobody out, by the way. But Ruf followed with a big shot for a homer, his fourth since joining the Phillies lineup a month ago. Since his promotion, Ruf is hitting 25 for 81, with 960 OPS and 4 home runs, 7 doubles in 24 games. Ruf was making his first professional start in right field. He’s looking good.
The Phillies held on even as the Cubs got it to 8-5 but with a Ruiz home run in the 8th inning, the ream held on to the lead. The final score was 9-8 with a win for Kendrick. It was the first Phillies win in 7 games and only their third victory since the All Star break. Even Jonathan Papelbon, who has had a tough time lately, took the mound with a 9-5 lead in the 9th inning and made no mistakes. He has blown 6 of his last 13 opportunities of late but Papelbon, the highest paid reliever in baseball history, managed to put out the fire.
The thing that was encouraging to me was that no one man had to carry the team on this particular night. Instead, the whole offense contributed despite a third inning 5-2 deficit. The Phillies hung tough and played together, something they haven’t done with any consistency all year. In a year with few positives, this game gave us more than a few.
Tiger and Big Ben
The 95th PGA Golf Tournament at Oak Hills Country Club in Pittsford, New York, had begun at this writing. Of course, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were expected to be in the spotlight. Woods was the favorite if for no other reason than he already had 5 victories this season and only 2 other players have even won twice this year. Last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Woods shot a 61 for one round and easily won the tournament by 7 shots. It was his second world golf championship of the year. Though he’d been in contention in both the Master’s and the British Opens, Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008. As he approached the PGA, Tiger acknowledged that he’d been practicing intently. “I feel like my game is pretty good right now,” he said, adding that he “hopes it continues for 4 more days.” Reflecting on the year, Woods noted, “This year for me has been great and will be great even if I don’t win this week. We have 4 more events after this week and a lot of things can happen. But this week I am focused on trying to win this one.” As he contemplated the start of this PGA, Woods said, “These are the biggest events with the most pressure, the best fields; this is what we all look forward to, having these opportunities.” Sounds like he’s ready to play. There could be another battle between Woods and Phil Mickelson who also is at the top of his game. Unless Mickelson wins another 10 majors in the next 10 years, he will go down as the second best golfer of the Tiger Woods era. Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson all took turns placing second to Jack Nicklaus. So Mickleson, who really felt the loss of the U.S. Open at Merion in June, knows how that feels. But he bounced back to win both the Scottish and British Opens with some spectacular play and surely comes ready to compete at Oak Hills.
You’ll remember that Mickelson has finished second 6 times in the U.S. Open but won the British Open with a great round of 66 at Muirfield. Like Woods, Mickelson feels that he’s playing the best golf of his life right now and their competition with each other should make this PGA memorable. Tiger is hungry to win a major. Mickelson is hot to keep his winning year going. This should be one of the best weeks in golf all year.
Notes Around the Game
Sixty-two-year-old Dave Parker, who led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the 1979 World Series with his prodigious plugging in the 70’s has told the Pittsburgh Tribune that he was diagnosed in February 2012 with Parkinson’s Disease and is just speaking publicly about it now. He says he has no other comments about it other than, “I’ve had a great trip.”
Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro, Jr., was shocked and disappointed to discover that Antonio Bastardo would serve a 50-day suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis, the Florida anti-aging clinic accused of dispensing performance-enhancing drugs. “We are very disappointed, obviously,” Amaro said, as the team must complete the season without the reliever’s services. At 27, Bastardo was leading the Phils in bullpen appearances this season. In 48 games his ERA was 2.32. Manager Charlie Manuel said he found out about Bastardo when everyone else did, and he shared Amaro’s reaction.
In Cleveland last week, Justin Verlander (12-8) dominated for 8 innings and Dan Kelly hit a 3-run homer to lead the Detroit Tigers to their 10th straight win over the Indians. Out in Kansas City, the Royals won their 9th straight, extending their longest winning streak in more than a decade, beating the Minnesota Twins 7-2. That game ended with Lorenzo Cain leaping to catch a sure home run struck by the Twins’ Trevor Ploufe, saving the game for reliever James Shields. Royals manager Ned Yost said after the game, that his young team is made up of players who “love winning, they get into it.” It looks like the Royals are making a run for the play-offs.
When he joined the Phoenix Suns last year, forward Michael Beasley promised the NBA that his drug problems were in the past. However, he was arrested earlier this week in Scottsdale, Arizona, after police smelled and then found what they believed to be marijuana in his car during a routine traffic stop. Does this ever end?
Remembering Jerry Wolman
Nearly 50 years ago, Jerry Wolman had his hand in most of Philadelphia sports. He owned the Eagles, which he bought in 1963 for $5.5 million. He’d have his problems getting a single player for that today. He also owned Connie Mack Stadium where the Phillies had played for decades. He was part owner of the Flyers and the Spectrum along with Ed Snider. He also purchased the Yellow Cab Company. But Wolman found himself in financial difficulties due to a failed construction project in Chicago, and he and Snider wound up in a tussle over Wolman’s desire to sell the Flyers. Wolman said he had to make that move to provide collateral for a loan to salvage his failing business interests in the Windy City. Snider wouldn’t agree and a break occurred between the two men which never was repaired. They went their separate ways, with Snider taking control of the Flyers and leading them to great success. Wolman sold the Eagles to trucking executive, Leonard Tose, in the spring of 1969 for $16.1 million. He later found success in the housing market in suburban Maryland. Jerry Wolman was 86.