Mo'ne Davis and Taney Youth Baseball set to make history

Davis has become a national sensation, leading a Philly team to the Little League World Series.

Ryan Howard's future in question as struggles at plate continue

Phillies officials are considering possibly relasing the three-time All-Star at season's end.

New book due out this fall looks at importance of baseball post 9/11

Gordon explores the symbiotic relationship between baseball, journalism and nationalism.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giles and Diekman star as Phillies edge Mariners; take series

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 19 2014, 4:00PM EDT.

PHILADELPHIA - On a day that originally looked to be highlighted by two of baseball's hottest starters, it was the Phillies bullpen that dominated on Wednesday afternoon.

Ken Giles and Jake Diekman combined for seven strikeouts over three innings in relief in a 4-3 victory for the Phillies over the Mariners at Citizens Bank Park. Johnathan Papelbon tossed a scoreless ninth to secure the win and notch his 30th save of the season.

"It's just nice to know that if you can't go deep into the ballgame you have the guys out there that can get the job done," said starter Cole Hamels. "They're growing out there and it's great to see."

Hamels entered Wednesday having tossed eight consecutive quality starts, but the Mariners offense chased him after five innings, collecting three runs on nine hits to snap his streak.

"Those guys are pretty good hitters," Hamels said. "When I was able to locate well I was getting foul balls or  check swings, but when I left the balls up that's when they would hammer them. That was the case for quite a few of their guys and the situations I was in - the pitches just needed to be located better."

Tied 1-1 through the first three innings, the Mariners jumped ahead in the fourth. Phillies third baseman Cody Asche made a diving stop to his left on a hard hit bouncer by Chris Denorfia, but then made an errant throw from his knees to second allowing Kyle Seager, who reached earlier in the inning on a walk, to move around to third base. Logan Morrison then followed with an RBI-double to left before eventually crossing the plate himself on a wild pitch to give the Mariners a 3-1 lead.

The Phillies, however, answered back in the bottom of the frame with Wil Nieves hitting a lead-off single and Andres Blanco following with a liner up the middle that Mariners starter James Paxton deflected and threw over Kendrys Morales' head at first base. A passed ball eventually allowed Nieves to score and Ben Revere and Chase Utley each chipped in with RBIs via a groundout and single respectively to give the Phillies a 4-3 advantage.

Paxton, who had entered the contest having won six of his first nine major league starts, lasted just four innings for the Mariners, surrendering four runs on seven hits - though only one run was earned.

"It was a struggle today for Cole and today he wasn't quite himself," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. "He was up in the zone, but he battled through and the bullpen was outstanding with the four zeroes they put up out there."

The Phillies bullpen has posted a 1.91 ERA over their last 15 games, led by Papelbon who has made 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. Giles isn't far behind, having now tossed eight consecutive scoreless appearances himself.

"Having the bullpen come in and put up the type of numbers they did, they're great pitchers out there and certainly developing into to top caliber guys," Hamels said. "You have to like what you see out there."

"We just try and help each other out," Giles said. "Our goal is to pick each other up and we did just that today."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Mo'ne Davis and Taney Little League one win away from U.S. final

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 19 2014, 12:45PM EDT.

Mo'ne Davis and the Taney Dragons hope to continue their storybook ride through the Little League World Series later today when the club faces Las Vegas in a semifinal contest in Williamsport.

Davis is expected to start for Taney who advanced via a memorable 7-6 win over Texas on Sunday.

"She's phenomenal," said Las Vegas manager Ashton Cave, speaking of Davis. "She knows what she's doing out there."

The Las Vegas club has outscored its opponents 25-4 so far in Williamsport with the top of their order leading the attack, hitting a combined 17-for-24 while driving in 17 runs. 

The winner of Wednesday's contest earns a berth in the United States Little League final on Saturday. The loser will play again on Thursday for another shot a spot in the final. The winner of Saturday's U.S. final will face the international champion on Sunday for the World Series. 

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mo'ne Davis and Philly's Taney Dragons ready to make history

Mo'ne Davis (pictured far right) celebrates with teammates after winning Mid-Atlantic regional.
 By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 15 2014, 7:00AM EDT.

Mo’ne Davis cracked a smile as she made her way down the last few steps of a tight stairwell in Volunteer Stadium prior to Thursday's opening ceremonies for the Little League World Series in South Williamsport.

“There’s the girl, that’s her,” said one parent, pointing directly at Davis. Others in the crowd took pictures and simply shouted her name.

Davis tossed a three-hit shutout in the Mid-Atlantic championship last weekend to secure Taney Youth Baseball Association a spot in the Little League World Series. The victory also catapulted her name to the masses as highlights of her performance circulated nationally, airing on ESPN and other major sports media outlets.

With her trademark braids thrashing beneath her cap when she pitches, the 13-year-old Davis has become an American sensation. In a sport populated mostly by boys, it’s she who dominates.

“Just having fun out there, that’s all I ever want to do,” Davis said.

The eighth grader from South Philadelphia routinely hits 70-m.p.h. on the radar gun with a lively fastball, mixing in a curve and knuckler for good measure.

“They strikeout and sometimes don’t even recognize she’s a girl,” said Taney coach Alex Rice. “That shows how good she really is, people are blown away when they see her play. She’s a one of a kind.”

Talk shows and media outlets from across the country have bombarded Davis over the past two weeks with interview requests as her story reads like something out of a movie script.

An honor student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Davis wakes up at 5:45 every morning to embark on a one-hour, 20-minute bus trip to school. She excels in the classroom and plays basketball and soccer.

“She brings the same intensity that she has in sports to her academic work,” Dr. Priscilla Sands, the president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, told the New York Daily News. “She’s going to go far. There are no limits for this child.”

Based in downtown Philadelphia but playing on fields scattered throughout the city, the Taney Youth Baseball Association formed in 1994 and became a chartered member of Little League two years ago. Their berth in the Little League World Series marks the first time a club from Philadelphia has reached Williamsport.

The 12-player roster, comprised entirely of 12 and 13-year-olds, is as ethnically and racially diverse as the city it represents with most players residing in West Philadelphia and University City.

Their journey to Williamsport, on the diamond at least, was relatively easy as the team won 17 of 19 contests over the span of four different tournaments to reach the Little League World Series.

“I never thought it was possible this soon,” Rice said of reaching the World Series. “I didn’t think we had a chance yet being so new.”

As for Davis, she will become just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series when Taney opens bracket play on Friday afternoon against South Nashville. Even more importantly, she will become the first African-American girl to play in the tournament since its creation in 1947.

She's expected to start for Taney on Friday.

"I'm thrilled to be here," Davis said. "Now I just need to focus and do what I can on the field."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball in the Philadelphia region.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Howard's last inning heroics lift Phillies past Mets

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
August 9 2014, 6:45PM EDT.

PHILADELPHIA - Ryan Howard felt an arm tugging at him as he rounded first base in the ninth inning on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. Seconds later he found himself on the ground at the bottom of a team celebration.

"I think it was a combination of Cody [Asche] and then he went down and I fell on him after [Domonic] Brown got there," he said with a smile..

Howard ripped a 3-2 Jenny Meija slider to right field to drive in Marlon Byrd and lift the Phillies past the Mets in walk-off fashion, 7-6.

He entered the final frame 0-for-4 on the day with a strikeout.

"[Zack] Wheeler was making pitches," Howard said. "We hit some balls hard and I hit a few to the warning track, we just had misses. You just aren't out of it until the 27th out. We took advantage of the opportunities we had when we were able to get them."

Chase Utley played a pivotal role in the win, finishing 3-for-4 with a homer and a triple. He also drove in three runs and was intentionally walked in the ninth before Mejia faced Howard.

"It was pretty much to be expected," Howard said. "Chase had three hits in the game and with the winning run in scoring position, I didn't have any hits.Who you going to face? The guy with three hits or the guy with no hits? I forgot about everything else that happened in the game and just wanted to win that at-bat."

Twice within the last week Howard has come through with a winning hit after Utley has been intentionally put on base.

"Ryan's been driving in runs for a long time," Utley said. "He's got a knack for driving in runs, especially big ones."

Through the first five innings on Sunday it looked as if the Mets dominance of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park would continue.

Kyle Kendrick again struggled with his command, throwing just 49 of 81 pitches for strikes. The right-hander surrendered six runs on 10 hits over five innings, walking three while striking out one.

"All in all, obviously it wasn't good," Kendrick said. "I fell behind and didn't have command of my off-speed pitches, so I had to go hard and that makes it tough because they can sit on one pitch. I really didn't have command of anything today."

Curtis Granderson opened the contest with a hard grounder that went through the legs of Howard. He later scored on a David Wright RBI-single. Utley answered in the bottom of the frame, launching a Wheeler slider to right center for his 11th homer of the season.

With one out in the third and David Wright on first, Travis d'Arnaud hit a fly ball to left that nearly fell at the feet of Brown. Two batters later, Juan Lagares laced a double to right scoring Wright and d'Arnaud. If Brown had caught d'Arnaud's fly-single the frame would have been over before Lagares came to the plate, meaning the Phillies would have entered the bottom of the third trailing by two runs instead of four.

Brown redeemed himself in the sixth though, clubbing a two-run double scoring Utley and Grady Sizemore to trim the deficit to the 6-3

Utley then cracked a 96-mph Vic Black fastball to the right field corner with two outs in the seventh, scoring Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins to bring the Phillies to within a run.

"It was a nice come from behind win," said manager Ryne Sandberg. "Shows a lot about the character of this team."

Waiver Claim
The Phillies claimed right-hander Jerome Williams off waivers on Sunday. The nine-year veteran opened the season with Houston and appeared in 26 games out of the bullpen before being released in early July. He then signed with the Rangers as a free agent and made two starts, surrendering 11 earned runs over 10 innings. He comes to Philadelphia sporting a 6.71 ERA on the season and a 4.51 for his career.

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.