Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sunday, May 16th - Friday, May 21st

No it's not a 'misprint', yes this is our second time to Philly in a row! Not exactly one of our more favorite destinations, because of their sports teams, we found ourselves in the Philadelphia area for the second time in two weeks. Jill had another bootcamp, at the same hotel as the preceeding week, and this time I tagged along to keep her company.

We left on Sunday after getting everything put together at home. It was a miracle, but we actually made it all the way down 476 without being held up by an accident! We found a good restaurant for dinner - Capone's on West Germantown Pike - lots of beers on tap, and good eats! Afterwards, we checked into our hotel for the week, the Summerfield Suites on Germantown Pike in Plymouth Meeting.

The rest of the week was spent with Jill teaching her class during the day, and me tooling around the SE PA region. On Monday night we went to the Phillies game, which ended up being a bit of a dud (we really don't like the Phillies ya know?). Tuesday night we went to dinner at a good Mexican place called Plaza Azteca on Plymouth Road. Wednesday night we actually went to the Whole Foods Market for dinner and to sit in their 'bar' area! (very cool!). Thursday night, Jill taught her classes. On Friday, when she was done, we packed up and headed home, but not before stopping at the Redstone American Grillfor lunch. Made the drive up 476 home after that!

I went to a Lancaster Barnstormers game on Tuesday, as well as a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game on Thursday.

Philadelphia Phillies 12, Pittsburgh Pirates 2

PHILADELPHIA -- Through its first 37 games, perhaps the only thing missing from Philadelphia's season has been a lineup card penned with all the regulars. So far for the Phillies, it seems, nothing comes without a cost.

On Monday, the return of shortstop Jimmy Rollins was dampened by the absence of second baseman Chase Utley, who was scratched with flu-like symptoms. The Phillies are growing accustomed to such give-and-take.

But even with Utley out, and Rollins in an unusual spot in the order (third), Philadelphia hammered Pittsburgh, 12-2, at Citizens Bank Park on Monday -- a reminder that the pieces they do have active can do serious damage.

And the prospect of what the team is capable of with its ordinary lineup grew even more enticing.

A three-run home run by Jayson Werth capped a five-run third inning, and Ryan Howard added a grand slam to dead center field in the eighth -- his ninth career slam. The Phils pounded out 13 hits to back right-handed starter Kyle Kendrick, who went eight innings for his second win.

"This lineup is so versatile," Howard said. "Everybody is going out and contributing. One through nine."

All eyes were on Rollins, activated before the game after sitting out since April 12 with a strained right calf. Rollins's return brings Philadelphia a step closer to feeling whole again. With him at the top of the order -- or near it -- the rest of the offensive pieces can trickle down into place.

The star shortstop didn't seem to miss a beat, and he proved why Philadelphia missed him. He finished 2-for-4 with a double, RBI groundout and two runs scored. He was on base three times.

"He knows his swing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He was ready."

"I thought I was going to be [batting] like seventh or something today," Rollins said. "[Manuel] threw me right in the fire."

Rollins was tested early, too. The third batter of the game, speedy Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, hit a hard grounder into the hole which Rollins had to backhand. He fielded it cleanly and made a strong throw to first for the out.

"After that," Rollins said, "things started coming back."

The game began ominously for Kendrick, who surrendered a leadoff home run to Delwyn Young on the fourth pitch of the night. But Kendrick never allowed the long ball to rattle him. He gave up five hits and two runs in eight strong innings.

Through a steady drizzle, Kendrick worked quickly and efficiently -- he never threw more than 18 pitches in an inning -- and kept his sinker low in the zone.

"His location was better," Manuel said. "He threw the ball to both sides of the plate.

Kendrick's pitching can baffle opposing hitters, and the Phils' coaching staff, too, as he has shown flashes of brilliance and ineptitude at various points this year. It was his third start of seven-plus innings with two runs or fewer; in his four other starts, he has a 9.97 ERA.

"My results are better," Kendrick said. "I feel the same, but my results are better. That's obviously what's nice. But I feel like I haven't pitched any different, honestly. But it feels good."

The Phillies, as they've done all year, will take the good with the bad. It's been a year filled with volatility in the roster.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz returned to the lineup after missing three games; closer Brad Lidge received a cortisone shot on his ailing right elbow. Utley battled through illness during the weekend series at Milwaukee, but never told anybody, Manuel said. And Werth left the game in the ninth inning after fouling a ball off his left foot.

So perhaps Philadelphia will go another day with a missing piece to its offense. Not that anyone's noticing. The Phillies lead the National League in average, runs and slugging percentage.

And they've won 12 of 15 with an offense that's scored nine or more runs in four of the past six games. Still, with Rollins finally back, the team believes there's more to come.

"It definitely brings a spark," Howard said. "Jimmy brings a lot of energy to the team and it was good to see him back. The crowd enjoyed it."

Trip Notes:

Our seats for the Phillies game were Section 327, Row 5, Seats 23-24. Seats were purchased on StubHub for $42.00 per seat, for a grand total of $97.35 with tax and fees included.

My seat for the IronPigs game was Section 107, Row X, Seat 5. Seat was $9.00 plus a $1.00 convenience charge for a grand total of $10.00.