Thursday, April 30, 2015

Harang Falters In Final Start Of The Month

GAME RECAP: Cards Beat Phils 5-2

Buoyed by a four-run fifth against a pitcher that had allowed that many runs in his first four starts combined, the Cardinals grabbed a 5-2 win over the Phillies at Busch Stadium on Wednesday to ensure that they'll end April without losing a single series. All five runs came against Philadelphia righty Aaron Harang, now 7-16 in his career against the Cardinals. Harang held a 2-1 lead until the Cardinals batted around in the fifth while scoring four runs in an inning for the first time this year. Kolten Wong, who had earlier delivered an RBI hit, sparked the big inning with a leadoff single. Five consecutive batters then reached with one out to run the Cardinals' lead to three. The support was sufficient for Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, who, in covering six innings, has pitched at least that deep in all four of his starts. He served up a game-tying solo homer to Ryan Howard -- the St. Louis native's 11th in 33 games at Busch Stadium -- and scattered five other hits. "He gets in trouble a little bit, just missing with some changeups to Howard, but he challenges him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a guy who can hurt you when you get into those counts. … He had a nice changeup today, used his breaking ball, had guys chasing out of the zone and still had all the velocity he needed." Martinez's ability to wiggle out of trouble after allowing two hits and two walks in the fifth set up the Cardinals' come-from-behind win. "Yeah, actually the whole game I thought was decided in the fifth," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, referring to the Phillies' offensive deficiencies in the top half and the Cardinals' execution in the bottom half. "It would've been nice to get one more run there for Harang and who knows, that might've made a difference in the bottom half."

  • Harang had been one of the team's few bright spots this month, but he struggled in his final start of April. Harang had allowed a combined four earned runs in 26 1/3 innings in four starts before allowing five earned runs in six innings. A four-run fifth inning turned a 2-1 Phillies lead into a 5-2 Cardinals lead.
  • The Cardinals' defense helped bail Martinez out of the fifth by catching Ben Revere straying too far from third. Revere rounded third after Odubel Herrera's go-ahead single, but he was held up there as right fielder Jason Heyward fired the ball home. Yadier Molina then made a snap throw to third to start a rundown that ended with Revere as the second out of the inning. Martinez worked around further damage with an inning-ending strikeout of Jeff Francoeur.
  • The Phillies had an opportunity for a big fifth inning, but scored just once. It involved a botched bunt, a big base-running mistake and a big spot for cleanup hitter Francoeur, who struck out to end the inning.
  • "That was one of those ones where you're running thinking, 'Let's slide. No, I don't need to slide. Yeah, I need to slide. No, I'm not going to slide. Yeah, let's slide.'" -- Harang, on advancing to third on a wild pitch in the fifth inning. He decided late and awkwardly slid over the base.
  • The Phillies lost a challenge in the fifth inning. Bourjos scored on a play at the plate, but the Phillies thought Howard's throw and Carlos Ruiz's block of the play had nabbed Bourjos. The play stood as called. "As he hit me, my foot popped up," Bourjos said. "I knew it was close. I didn't know how close until I came in here [to see it on video]. I think it's a good thing they called me safe because it would have been tough to overturn."
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is hitting .114 this month, which is tied for the lowest batting average in April in franchise history (minimum 40 plate appearances). Roy Sievers hit .114 in April 1962. Third-lowest on the list is Billy Kelly, who hit .119 in April 1928.
Phillies right-hander David Buchanan hopes to build off his last start Saturday against the Braves. He allowed two hits, three runs, three walks and struck out three in 6 2/3 innings, easily making it his best start of the season. Buchanan had allowed 14 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings in his previous three starts.


Bad Game, Good Month – Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang had been one of the team's few positives in April, but the good times could not continue forever. One inning spoiled Harang's final start of the month Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He allowed a combined four earned runs in 26 1/3 innings in his first four starts this month, but he allowed five runs in six innings as the Cardinals try to win the four-game series with a victory Thursday. "They're a good ballclub," Harang said. "They've kind of got everything over there. When they put it together they can make things happen." Harang actually looked like himself through four innings, allowing a run in the second inning as the Phillies had a 2-1 lead. But trouble came in the fifth. Kolten Wong stood on second base with one out when Peter Bourjos tripled to right field to tie the game. Matt Carpenter followed with a ground ball to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard threw home, trying to nail the lightning-fast Bourjos. But Bourjos beat the throw and the tag from Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz to hand the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. "He's pretty quick," Howard said about Bourjos. "It was one of those bang-bang plays and it was actually a lot closer than I thought it was on the replay, because it looked like his foot was still in the air when they showed the other angle." Matt Holliday walked, Matt Adams doubled and Jhonny Peralta singled to score two more runs to give the Cardinals a three-run lead. Harang allowed nine hits, one walk and struck out six. He fell to 2-2 with a 2.51 ERA.

An Inning To Sum Up The Month – The top of the fifth inning Wednesday seemed to encapsulate why the Phillies have the lowest-scoring team in baseball. Freddy Galvis and Aaron Harang started the inning with a single and a walk, respectively, in the Phillies' 5-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Ben Revere then bunted a ball in front of the plate and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina threw to third to get Galvis for the inning's first out. It is the fourth time this season the Phillies have bunted with runners on first and second and had the lead runner thrown out at third. It has happened three times with no outs and once with one out. "Why do I like it?" Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about the decision to bunt there. "First and second and no outs with a bunter up there." Sandberg pointed out that the Phillies have improved their bunting recently. They lead baseball with 12 sacrifice bunts. But giving away outs has proved costly at times for a team averaging 2.76 runs per game, the seventh-lowest average of any team in baseball since 1900 (if stretched over a full season). In this case, the failed bunt put the slow-footed Harang on second base, potentially clogging the bases. Fortunately for the Phillies, Harang and Revere advanced a base because of a wild pitch from Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez. Odubel Herrera followed with a single to right field to score Harang to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. But Revere took a wide turn at third and was slow to get back to the bag. Molina, who had the ball after a throw home from Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, fired a ball to third. Revere was out after a rundown. "There needed to be some quick effort to get back to third base once he stopped," Sandberg said. So instead of runners at the corners and one out, the Phillies had a runner on second and two outs. The Cardinals then intentionally walked Chase Utley. He enters the final game of the month Thursday hitting .114, which is tied for the lowest batting average in April (minimum 40 plate appearances) in franchise history. Intentionally walking a .114 hitter made sense to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny because it matched Martinez with the right-handed hitting Jeff Francoeur, who struck out swinging to end the inning. In search for a balanced lineup, Sandberg has been hitting Francoeur fourth recently. But Francoeur has hit .125 (5-for-40) with one double, five walks and nine strikeouts in that spot. He is hitting .286 (6-for-21) with two doubles, two home runs and four RBIs everywhere else he hits. "We need to get better in the middle of the order," Sandberg said. "That needs to pick up." Ryan Howard homered to right field in the fourth inning. He has homered four times in his last eight games. Perhaps he finds himself back in the cleanup spot in the near future. "Do I think it's time?" Howard said. "That's something you've got to ask the manager. I'm just trying to do the best I can wherever I am. … I feel I'm a four-hole guy. I've been there most of my career. But, again, that's his call."

Defensive Shuffle – The Phillies made a significant move Tuesday when Cody Asche spent part of batting practice at Busch Stadium catching fly balls in left field. Asche is likely headed there in the future, particularly once the Phillies promote Triple-A Lehigh Valley third baseman Maikel Franco, who is hitting .333 (28-for-84) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 11 RBIs and an .883 OPS in 19 games. "You've got to do what you're asked and play hard," Asche said Wednesday. "I'm a strong enough player. I can handle it. If I'm not good enough to be a big league third baseman I can handle that. If I have a future in left field I'll handle that. You have to roll with it and just play." The only thing communicated to Asche is that he needs to work more in left field, so it remains to be seen how everything unfolds. But while Franco's promotion is not imminent, it is inevitable. If the Phillies promote Franco before May 15 he could become a free agent in 2020 rather than 2021, so it would be surprising to see him in Phillies pinstripes before then. The Phillies also could avoid Super 2 salary arbitration status for Franco if he is promoted after the first week of July. But whether it is next month, close to the All-Star break or some other time, Franco is coming. "At some point we need to make sure that Cody is prepared," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday afternoon. "It's no secret that Maikel is doing very well down there. We want to try to create as much versatility with our guys as we possibly can." Asche worked a little in left field before Spring Training but the Phillies pulled the plug because they wanted him to prepare to be the team's everyday third baseman. But when Franco joins the team, Amaro wants him playing nearly every day. Franco can play first base, but he is regarded as a strong defensive third baseman, which is why they are seeing what else Asche can do. "That's his best position," Amaro said about Franco at third. "That's where I think his future lies. But his future could also lie at first. Again, it's about creating as much versatility as you possibly can, particularly with our young guys and particularly with our younger guys who can swing the bat. We're looking for people who are going to help us offensively. The whole point is getting as many of those guys as we can on the field." Asche has not played in the outfield since he became a professional, so throwing him out there midseason could be a challenge. But it has happened before. The Phillies moved Placido Polanco to the outfield in 2005 after he spent his entire career in the infield. They did the same in 2013 with infielder Freddy Galvis. "He's a pretty good athlete," Amaro said about Asche. "If it's something we choose to do, we would have to feel comfortable. Will he be a Gold Glover if he gets a chance to go out there? No. But we'll have to decide if he's athletic enough to do that. We think he is." Franco's arrival and Asche's potential move to left involves other players, too. For instance, what does this mean for left fielder Ben Revere and first baseman Ryan Howard? Amaro said Revere can play center field and right field, if needed. Odubel Herrea could be a candidate to move to right, although Amaro said Herrera seems much more comfortable in center. And the Big Piece? "Howard is our first baseman," Amaro said. Amaro said Asche is not a candidate to move to second base, despite playing 64 games there for Class A Williamsport in 2011. "Playing second base is very difficult for someone who has not played on the right side of the field," Amaro said. "He did it briefly, but the pivot and the process of learning that is very difficult and a lot more difficult than people think. Middle infielders are more born. They're not developed, necessarily." Asche started at third base Wednesday night against the Cardinals. That should surprise nobody. It might be some time before Franco is promoted, plus Asche needs more time to learn left field. The Phillies also need time to figure out how the rest of the dominoes might fall.

No Hurry – Ruben Amaro Jr.'s cell phone rings and buzzes pretty much constantly, but the calls and texts have picked up lately. The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the season. The Dodgers lost Brandon McCarthy. The Red Sox rotation has a 6.03 ERA, which is the worst in baseball. The Blue Jays have a 5.37 ERA, which is 27th in baseball. There are other teams with rotation problems, too. Just like there are teams with bullpen problems. But the Phillies have no plans to rush to trade Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. Why hurry now? The Phillies already have waited this long to trade their remaining veterans because they said they have not liked the deals proposed to them. So they will take their chances that Hamels and Papelbon continue to perform and stay healthy, while other teams become more desperate to fill the voids on their roster. "What people don't understand is nobody is holding a gun to our head to trade a player," Amaro said Wednesday. "Typically, if a team wants a player they typically will try to go get that player. If you really wanted to make a trade with the Phillies or any other club you would be the aggressor." But that does not mean Amaro is not talking to teams about his players. He is. "We have continued dialogue with a lot of clubs on several fronts," he said. Many have criticized the Phillies for not trading Hamels, Papelbon or others before they potentially suffer an injury. Amaro sees that as flawed logic. "The reality is this: There are a lot more chances for the 29 other teams to get people hurt than the one or two guys that we have," he said. "That's basic math." The Phillies also have been criticized for not considering other players if an organization's top prospects are deemed untouchable. Amaro sounds like somebody willing to wait for what he considers to be the right deal. "Yeah, we don't want any good players," Amaro said sarcastically. "I have no mandate to trade players. These are not financial deals. These are baseball deals. That's the beauty of the flexibility our ownership group is giving us. This is really about doing baseball deals. We don't have to move money." In fact, Amaro reiterated something he has said several times over the past year: The Phillies would consider paying some of a player's salary to acquire the talent they like. "We haven't changed any of our thought process as far as our open-mindedness with our club," he said.

Tough Vote – If somebody had to pick a Phillies position player to make the National League All-Star team, they would have to look at two of the youngest players on their roster: shortstop Freddy Galvis and third baseman Cody Asche. Each is probably a long shot, but each player is on the NL All-Star ballot, which Major League Baseball announced Wednesday. Other Phillies on the ballot include catcher Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, left fielder Ben Revere, center fielder Odubel Herrera and right fielder Domonic Brown, who has not played a game for the Phillies this season. Fans can cast their votes for starters at and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots. Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info. Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities. The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 8-14. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 41-49-3 on this day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Not A Memorable Debut

GAME RECAP: Cards Crush Phillies 11-5

Responding to manager Mike Matheny's shakeup of the batting order, the Cardinals spoiled Severino Gonzalez's Major League debut by knocking the Phillies righty around for seven quick runs in an 11-5 win at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night. Gonzalez allowed multiple runs in the first, second and the third innings before an RBI hit by opposing starter Michael Wacha ended his evening. A two-run fifth off reliever Jake Diekman helped the Cardinals reach a season high in hits (15) and runs scored. For the Cardinals, who came in averaging 3.7 runs per game, this marked the first time all season that they had scored at least two runs in five different innings. "I thought we did a good job tonight of trying to jump out early with good at-bats and putting the ball in play hard," Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward said. "I think that's the best thing you can do against a new pitcher. We didn't come out of our strike zone tonight, but got good pitches to hit." Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Kolten Wong each enjoyed multihit nights. Heyward, who was bumped down to the sixth-hole, reached base four times. "I was facing one of the best clubs in the Major Leagues, good hitters that take some pitches," Gonzalez said through translator Juan Samuel. "I knew I was facing a good club." In their first look at Wacha, the Phillies did have some success. Freddy Galvis jump-started a two-run third and two-run fifth with leadoff singles in both frames. Odubel Herrera and Chase Utley drove in runs in each of those innings. Wacha went on to finish 5 2/3 innings to improve to 4-0 in four starts.

  • Gonzalez certainly hoped for better in his big league debut, but the Cardinals chased him from the game after just 2 2/3 innings. Gonzalez allowed 10 hits, seven runs and two walks. He became the first Phillies starter since 1996 to last fewer than three innings in his Major League debut.
  • "I was not nervous at all. I was very calm. I was concentrating on keeping the ball down and trying to throw strikes. Unfortunately, things did not work out." -- Gonzalez, on jitters possibly playing a role in his struggles.
  • The Phillies' pitching staff entered the night with 80 walks to lead Major League Baseball. Their command problems continued with six walks Tuesday: two from Gonzalez, three from Diekman and one from Justin De Fratus. Five of those walks scored.
  • Galvis had three hits, giving him five three-hit games this season. He is tied with the Marlins' Dee Gordon for the most three-hit games in Major League Baseball.
  • A big reason the Phillies are struggling offensively is because they have the worst production in the three and four spots in the lineup. They entered Tuesday with a .491 OPS in the No. 3 spot and a .404 OPS in the cleanup spot.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez will present a serious challenge for the Phillies on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The Phillies are struggling to score runs and Martinez has dominated through four games (three starts). He is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA, allowing 11 hits, three runs, seven walks and striking out 21 in 20 innings. His 0.90 WHIP is 14th in the Majors. Right-hander Aaron Harang has been the Phillies' most consistent starter. He is 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA. He has pitched at least six innings in each of his four starts, including eight scoreless innings against the Braves in his last outing.


Learning A Tough Lesson – Phillies rookie Severino Gonzalez made history Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. He and teammate Carlos Ruiz became the first Panamanian-born battery to start a game in Major League Baseball history. But Gonzalez's historical debut deteriorated soon after he threw his first pitch to Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay in the bottom of the first inning. The Cardinals battered Gonzalez for 10 hits and seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings in an 11-5 victory. "I tried to hit the catcher's mitt every time, but unfortunately my command was not there," Gonzalez said through a translator, Phillies first-base coach Juan Samuel. Gonzalez became the first Phillies starter to last fewer than three innings in his big league debut since Rafael Quirico lasted 1 2/3 innings on June 25, 1996. "One thing I learned is that I need to keep the ball down up here," Gonzalez said. "That's definitely for sure. I learned that." "It seemed like he really didn't establish both sides of the plate with his fastball, keeping them honest," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg added. "It seems like most of the balls were over the plate and they would get extended and have good swings at them. It was an experience for him. I'm sure that he'd like to make some adjustments the next time out." Matt Carpenter got the ball rolling for St. Louis in the first inning. He ripped a triple to right-center field with one out and scored on Matt Holliday's double to left-center field. Holliday scored on a single from Matt Adams to make it 2-0. The Cardinals picked up three more hits and a walk in the second to score two more runs to make it 4-0. They scored three more runs in the third, when Sandberg removed Gonzalez. The Cardinals finished the inning with a 7-2 lead. "We cranked some balls today that were held up," Jay said. "As soon as Jon Jay goes up and as soon as Matt Carpenter scores, he comes through and starts telling guys what he saw," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that helps, but they did just need to stick with their own game plan and trust their stroke, and right from the top, they all had a pretty nice approach." The Cardinals certainly looked comfortable in the batter's box against Gonzalez, taking healthy cuts at everything he threw. Gonzalez is expected to make another start Sunday against the Marlins at Marlins Park. Sandberg expects they will talk more about Gonzalez's game plan. That could include getting him to pitch inside more frequently and maybe make the hitters move their feet a little bit. "I'm going to stay calm," Gonzalez said. "I'm going to take some of this experience and use it in my next start."

Not So Fast – Domonic Brown probably had a few reasons to assume he would rejoin the Phillies on Wednesday. But after finishing a 20-day rehab assignment, the Phillies on Tuesday announced Brown had been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is a significant decision, considering Brown is a former National League All-Star making $2.5 million this season. The Phillies have not optioned a player with that type of salary since July 2008, when they sent Brett Myers ($8.5 million) to Triple-A. But Myers had to accept his assignment because he had five years of service time. Brown had no choice. "Clearly, as one can imagine, if you were in the same shoes you wouldn't be happy, either," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who spoke with Brown. "I mean, I don't blame him for not being happy. And I don't know that he necessarily agrees with the decision, but it is our decision to make. And I do think we're doing it in the best interest of Domonic Brown and the Phillies." Brown opened the season on the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. He hit .294 (5-for-17) with one double, one home run, three RBIs and a .929 OPS in six games on a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Clearwater. But in nine games with Lehigh Valley, he hit .139 (5-for-36) with one double, three RBIs and a .405 OPS. Brown had spent the past 12 days with Lehigh Valley, but The Express-Times reported he was not with the team Tuesday. Brown has 72 hours to report to the team after being optioned. Brown told Lehigh Valley reporters Sunday he would be in St. Louis on Wednesday. But Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Monday at Busch Stadium that "from what I've seen, I don't know that he's ready for Major League pitching or to come up and really give us a punch, the way that things have gone for him there." That is saying something because the Phillies are desperate for offense. They entered Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals averaging 2.65 runs per game, which is the lowest average in baseball this season and the fifth-lowest average in baseball since 1900. Outfielder Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur have been sharing right field while Brown has been out. Sizemore, who hits left-handed like Brown, entered Tuesday hitting .133 (4-for-30) with one double, one RBI and a .328 OPS. Francoeur, who hits right-handed, was hitting .200 (11-for-55) with three doubles, two home runs, four RBIs and a .630 OPS. "We're not trying to hold anybody back if they're able to help us," Amaro said. Brown, 27, certainly has plenty to prove this season. He hit just .235 with 22 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 144 games last season. His OPS ranked 139th out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .641 OPS as an outfielder ranked 60th out of 64 outfielders, and his .641 OPS as a left fielder was the lowest of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch's .582 OPS for Kansas City in 2002. "The bottom line is we think he's a very talented player and needs to play a little better and at a higher level to be back here playing at the Major League level," Amaro said. "He's getting closer. I talked to Charlie [Manuel] today. He's getting closer to having that rhythm. He hasn't gotten there yet. We don't think he's very far away, but he's got some things to work on to be a more consistent performer. "It's a performance-based industry and we know Domonic has the ability to do things at a very, very high level at the Major League level. We're working to try to get him back there as soon as possible. At this stage of the game we don't feel he's ready to do that consistently. When he is and when he does he'll be back."

Revere’s Olympic Tryout – Ben Revere found himself in a bit of a predicament during the Phillies' loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday. After running down a fly ball near the left-field line, Revere looked up ... only to find a Cardinals ball attendant (and some bleachers) about five feet in front of him. So, faced with a tight spot, he did what any normal person would do: he just decided to hurdle over the dude and avoid the whole thing entirely. Also, a slow clap for the ball attendant, who doesn't seem to be fazed in any way by any of this. When life hands you an athlete wearing spikes sprinting directly at you, just hang in there and chuckle.  

Walks This Way – The Phillies have a command problem. They already have a razor thin margin for error, so the last thing the Phillies can do is give opponents free baserunners. But they continued that trend Tuesday night in an 11-5 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Phillies walked six batters and five of those batters scored. "That didn't do us any favors," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. The Phillies have walked a Major League-high 86 batters. Phillies rookie Severino Gonzalez allowed two walks in 2 2/3 innings and both scored. Left-hander Jake Diekman allowed three in two innings and two scored. Right-hander Justin De Fratus allowed one in 1 2/3 innings, which scored. The Phillies are averaging 4.21 walks per nine innings this season. They averaged 3.19 walks per nine innings last season. "We're not helping ourselves in that department," Sandberg said. "We talked about starting off over the plate at the knees, then expanding." The biggest culprit is the Phillies' bullpen. The relievers are averaging 5.21 walks per nine innings, which is the highest average in baseball. The Phillies cut the Cardinals' lead to 7-4 in the fifth when Diekman entered, and he allowed two runs with the help of two walks to make it 9-4. "The other thing we lacked were those shutdown innings," Sandberg said. "We'd score, we'd bounce back and we didn't have a shutdown. With the matchups, [the fifth] set up pretty nicely for him. There just wasn't command of the baseball."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 8-13. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 46-47-0 on this day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hamels Dominates Perspective Trade Suitors

GAME RECAP: Phils Shock Cards 4-1

Phillies ace Cole Hamels is getting plenty of attention this season because of his availability in a trade. He showed Monday night in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium why he should have plenty of pursuers before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Hamels allowed four hits, one run, four walks and struck out nine in seven innings as he improved to 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA. "Cole really seemed to step it up a notch after he got the run support," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. Cards starter John Lackey opened the evening with six scoreless innings before being knocked around in a three-run seventh. He was staked to an early lead when Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday singled in succession with two outs in the third. However, lack of execution on Lackey's attempted sacrifice and Jon Jay's caught stealing on a botched hit-and-run thwarted a bigger inning for the Cards. "He's got good stuff," Jay said of Hamels. "Everyone talks about the changeup, but he's got a cutter, curveball and fastball, too, and [Carlos] Ruiz is a good catcher back there. He did a good job of mixing it up back there."

  • The Phillies entered the night averaging 2.58 runs per game, which were the fewest in baseball and fourth-lowest average by a team since 1900. They also had scored just three runs for Hamels in his first four starts this season. But they scored three runs for Hamels in the seventh, thanks to a hit-and-run and Ben Revere's ground-rule double, which dropped on the left-field line.
  • The Phillies announced after the game that right-hander Hector Neris has been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez, who will make his big league debut Tuesday night.
  • Jonathan Papelbon picked up the 111th save of his Phillies career, putting him one shy of tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record. Ken Giles pitched a scoreless eighth. The Phillies have won 16 consecutive games when they have pitched in the same game.
  • "I don't think I'm going to address that. Sorry." -- Hamels, with a chuckle, when asked if he would welcome a trade to St. Louis. Hamels had just finished raving about pitching at Busch Stadium, and how the Cardinals always are one of the top teams in the National League Central.
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley enters the game with one of the lowest batting averages on balls in play in baseball (.096). He hopes to finally start catching a break this week against the Cardinals.

Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez makes his big league debut Tuesday night against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Phillies hope the rookie can keep his cool against one of the best teams in the National League. Gonzalez, 22, is ranked by as the Phillies' No. 15 prospect. He went 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Right-hander Michael Wacha pitches for the Cardinals. He is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA this season.


Focusing On The Present – Cole Hamels has always been important to the Phillies, but he is quickly becoming more and more important in the rest of the baseball world. Hamels pitched Monday night in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He allowed four hits, one run, four walks and struck out nine in seven innings to improve to 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA through five starts this season. Hamels' starts always receive a little extra attention because he is regarded as one of the best left-handers in baseball -- he has the third-best ERA in the Majors since June 1, 2014 -- but his start Monday received a little more attention because of his availability on the trade market and what is happening to starting pitching around baseball. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright ruptured his left Achilles over the weekend and will miss the rest of the season. Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy has a torn UCL and will likely have season-ending Tommy John surgery. Tigers ace Justin Verlander has not thrown a baseball since April 15 because he has inflammation in his right triceps, although the Tigers said his condition has improved. And the Red Sox's rotation has a 5.84 ERA, which is the worst in baseball. Hamels said he is not paying attention to those things and how they might relate to him. "I'm living in the moment, and that's kind of all I can do," Hamels said. "In order to be accountable for what I have to do, I can't think in the future or the past. I've got to be here in the present." Hamels allowed a run in the third inning when he allowed three consecutive two-out singles to Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday. Hamels allowed a one-out double to Carpenter in the fifth, but he struck out Peralta and Matt Adams to end the inning. "He got them in big situations," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Hamels' strikeouts. The Phillies scored three runs for Hamels in the seventh. They had scored just three runs for him in his first four starts. The support helped him improve to 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA in eight career starts at Busch Stadium, including one start in the 2011 National League Division Series. He had faced Wainwright in two of those eight starts. "It's definitely unfortunate what happened to him," Hamels said about Wainwright. "I definitely feel for him. You don't ever want that, especially to a guy as great as he is personally and as a competitor for St. Louis." Hamels had high praise for St. Louis. "This is a great stadium," he said. "It's pure enjoyment to go out there. You know you're playing a great team every year. Every year I've pitched against them they're one of the top teams in the division. It shows with the World Series [titles] they have." So would Hamels welcome a trade to St. Louis, if the situation presented itself? "I don't think I'm going to address that. Sorry," he said, with a chuckle. Hamels is living in the moment. But if he continues to pitch well and starters around baseball continue to fall, his future could be decided soon.

Finally Some Support – In a bit of a shock, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels found his way to the mound in the bottom of the seventh with a lead after the Phillies scored three runs for him in the top half of the inning on Monday night at Busch Stadium. The Phillies had scored just three runs for Hamels in his first four starts this season, which was the fourth-worst run support in baseball. "It really does energize anybody, because you want to hold the lead for your team," Hamels said after the 4-1 victory over the Cardinals. Cody Asche led off the inning with a single. The Phillies then executed a hit-and-run to perfection with Carlos Ruiz lacing a single to right field to put runners on the corners with no outs. "That's our game," said Ruiz, who went 4-for-4 with a double to raise his batting average from .196 to .260. "That's what [Phillies manager Ryne] Sandberg said in Spring Training. We have to do the little things and make something happen. We had a big hit right there. That was great baseball." Freddy Galvis hit a ground ball to Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who caught Asche in a rundown for the inning's first out. Sandberg then elected to have Hamels hit for himself, rather than calling for a pinch-hitter. Hamels had allowed one run in six innings to that point. "It played in the decision to let him have an at-bat in the seventh inning," Sandberg said. "Not only can he handle the bat and bunt, but also to give him another chance for a win. I thought that would be big for him." Hamels executed a sacrifice bunt to advance runners to second and third. Ben Revere then dropped a ground-rule double on the left-field line to score both runners to make it 2-1. Odubel Herrera followed with a single to score Revere to make it 3-1. It would be plenty for Hamels. Then again, on most nights, it is more than plenty.

Brown’s Uncertain Return – Domonic Brown told reporters Sunday he would rejoin the Phillies on Wednesday. Not so fast. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium that while there has been no official conversations about Brown's status, "From what I've seen, I don't know that he's ready for Major League pitching or to come up and really give us a punch the way that things have gone for him there." Brown has been on the 15-day disabled list since the season started because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. He has been on a rehab assignment since April 9. Once a position player begins a rehab assignment, he has 20 days to be activated from the DL. Brown's 20th day is Tuesday, which means a decision must be made by Wednesday. Brown might have assumed he would be activated and join the Phillies. But the Phillies could activate him and option him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has hit .129 (4-for-31) with one double, two RBIs, four walks and six strikeouts in eight games with the IronPigs. "Maybe it's just not enough at-bats," Sandberg said about Brown's struggles in the Minor Leagues. "He's had some fly-ball outs. He just hasn't connected and hasn't hit for average, which you'd like to see." Asked if he would prefer Brown did not tell people he would be back before a decision had been made, Sandberg said, "Unless he's player-GM."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 8-12. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 39-49-0 on this day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

In A Rare Occurrence, Phillies Take Series…

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Braves 5-4

The Phillies have been searching for any type of momentum this month, and they hope they found some Sunday with a 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won just their second series of the season as they begin a 10-game road trip Monday through St. Louis, Miami and Atlanta. Ryan Howard and Ben Revere led the way offensively, knocking in four of the Phillies' five runs, and Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams settled in after a rough first inning, allowing one run over his final 5 2/3. "It's a great feeling," Williams said about winning the series. "Keep this momentum going." Braves right-hander Trevor Cahill continued to struggle, allowing four runs in six innings, as Atlanta went 3-6 on its road trip.

  • Howard hit a three-run home run to right-center field in the first inning to lead the Phillies' offense. He has hit three home runs in his past five games, after hitting no home runs in his first 11 games.
  • Freddy Galvis went 3-for-3, scoring the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and an insurance run in the seventh inning on a heads-up baserunning play. Galvis has an .868 OPS this season after entering the year with a .621 OPS in 550 big league plate appearances and a .625 OPS in 2,631 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues.
  • Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia picked up a big out in the seventh inning, inducing a groundout from Freeman with one man on base. His role is expanding with left-hander Jake Diekman and others struggling in the Phillies' bullpen.
  • Papelbon recorded his 329th career save in the ninth, despite allowing his first run of the season. He is two saves shy of tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record of 112 saves.
  • Right-hander Phillippe Aumont made a spot start Sunday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, which is the Phillies' top affiliate. He allowed three hits and struck out two in five scoreless innings. Aumont had not started since Sept. 2, 2010, when he pitched with Class A Clearwater. It also was the first time he had pitched more than two innings without issuing a walk since April 2010. Aumont has a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings this season.
  • Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown told Triple-A Lehigh Valley reporters that he will be on his rehab assignment just two more days before rejoining the team. Brown has been on the DL since the season started with tendinitis in his left Achilles.

It is a coincidence that Phillies ace Cole Hamels will open a four-game series against the Cardinals on Monday, the same day Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright is set to have an MRI on his left Achilles and ankle. But it is worth noting because Hamels is on the trading block, and St. Louis could be looking for a starter with Wainwright out.


Power Surge – Ryan Howard has taken to the phrase "that's baseball" to describe his play this month. Slow start? That's baseball. Signs of improvement recently? That's baseball. Howard hit a three-run home run against Braves right-hander Trevor Cahill in the first inning of Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, helping the Phillies to their second series victory of the season. Howard hit his first home run of the season Tuesday and his second Saturday, giving him three home runs in his last five games. "That's baseball," Howard said. "You just continue to go out there and swing. I feel like I've been swinging it well. The results may not necessarily show, but it's all about how you are feeling with the swings. Eventually, they will drop." Howard went 0-for-4 Friday, but he made good contact and had a solid approach in each of those at-bats. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg predicted a good game Saturday, and Howard came through. It appears the at-bats have been carrying into the next day. "He's made real good strides as far as contact," Sandberg said. "[Sunday], it was key for him off Cahill to lay off some breaking stuff down in the dirt. Made him come to him with strikes, and so I think Howie is a guy that can hit the ball when it's in the zone. He's in a good groove, making good progress." Howard is hitting .235 (4-for-17) with three home runs, seven RBIs, two walks, three strikeouts and a 1.080 OPS in his last five games. He had hit .175 (7-for-40) with three doubles, two RBIs, two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .464 OPS in his first 11 games. Howard not only struggled offensively early, but Sandberg dropped him from fourth in the lineup to seventh. Since being bumped from the cleanup spot April 17, Howard has hit seventh three times, sixth twice and fifth four times. He hit fifth Sunday. "Not really," Howard said, asked if the drop in the lineup motivated or relaxed him. "It's baseball. You are going to have ups and downs in this game."

Gaining Confidence – Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis said Sunday he is not surprising himself. But he is surprising plenty of people with his torrid start to the 2015 season. Galvis went 3-for-3 in Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, scoring a go-ahead run in the fifth inning and the necessary insurance run in the seventh inning. Galvis is hitting .361 (22-for-61) with one double, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and an .868 OPS in 18 games after posting a .621 OPS in 550 plate appearances in previous seasons with the Phillies and a .625 OPS in 2,631 plate appearances in his Minor League career. He finished the afternoon fifth out of 30 qualified shortstops in OPS. "No, my approach was good," Galvis said, asked if he is surprised with his start. "I was hitting in Spring Training, and I feel good." Galvis said confidence is "100 percent" responsible for his improved play, and knowing he will continue to play every day helps, too. In the past, Galvis served as a utility infielder, knowing he only would have an opportunity to play for an extended period of time if Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley or another infielder was injured. If he went 0-for-4 on a given day, he might have to sit on it for a week. "You have the opportunity to go out there the next day and do something," Galvis said. "It gives me a lot of confidence, and I feel really good." Said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg: "Completely different mindset from Day 1 in Spring Training. Being explained to him what his job is as an offensive player on the team. Have a good line drive, ground-ball stroke, and stay with that. He's always had a knack for defense, very creative at shortstop, very good instincts. I always thought there was no reason why his baseball instincts wouldn't take over and he would do it with the bat."

Arms Emerging In The Bullpen – The Phillies said Jonathan Papelbon could not pitch Friday night because of a migraine. Ken Giles picked up his slack. But Papelbon got back to work Sunday, earning the save in a 5-4 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed a home run to Braves pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, the first run he had allowed in seven appearances this season. He also had two runners on base when left fielder Ben Revere caught the game's final out against the outfield wall. "He hung in there," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about Papelbon. "Little scary there at the end, going up against the pads, but he got the job done." Papelbon is worth watching as teams like the Nationals, Blue Jays and Tigers are seeing their bullpens struggle. But so is Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia, who is emerging as one of the team's most valuable bullpen pieces. Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams had a runner on first with two outs in the seventh inning when Garcia entered the game to face Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who hits left-handed. It was a noteworthy choice. Garcia entered the afternoon with a 1.08 ERA in nine appearances. Left-handers had hit .600 (3-for-5) against him this season, although they had hit just .231 against him in his career. But Sandberg chose the right-hander with left-hander Jake Diekman unavailable after pitching three of the previous four days. Garcia got Freeman to ground out to end the inning. "That was a big out," Sandberg said. "That was big," Williams echoed. Especially with Diekman (10.29 ERA in nine appearances) and Justin De Fratus (5.00 ERA in eight appearances) struggling early. Sandberg needs options for those games when the Phillies are holding a late lead. Garcia is becoming a big one. "He's a power pitcher," Sandberg said about Garcia. "The biggest thing with Garcia right now is the command of the baseball. He has two power pitches, and when he's ahead of the hitters, he can be very effective."

Gonzalez Gets The Call – Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez pitched three scoreless innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Braves in March. He said afterward that while he felt a little nervous when he stepped on the mound for his first big league appearance, he reminded himself: "It's the same kind of baseball." He will put that theory to the test on Tuesday night when he makes his Major League debut against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Gonzalez, 22, is the No. 15 prospect in the organization, according to He is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's allowed 20 hits and two walks and struck out nine in 17 2/3 innings. "I love Severino," Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He's got a real good feel for the baseball -- where it's going with all of his pitches. He can't get by with mistakes -- he's not a power guy -- but he can pitch. We simply felt like he was the best option." None of the Phillies' highly-regarded pitchers in Double-A Reading received consideration for the start. "They need experience," Looper said about the Double-A rotation, which includes Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Zach Eflin, Tom Windle and Ben Lively. "They need success. And I like for guys to get Triple-A experience. There has been success calling guys up from Double-A, and we probably will again. But the better progression is have some success there, then go to Triple-A and pitch against the more veteran hitters. "They have some developing to do. We just felt like Severino is the right guy for the spot. It's a tough spot to break in, in St. Louis, but he'll be up for the challenge." The Phillies need a starter for Tuesday because Sean O'Sullivan is on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left knee. Dustin McGowan started in his place last week, but he is not a long-term solution in the rotation. Gonzalez could make at least one more start before right-hander Chad Billingsley potentially joins the rotation. Billingsley made a rehab start Saturday with Lehigh Valley.

Recovering From The Phanatic Birthday Party – Think about the most fun birthday party you've ever had. Really focus on it. Remember how delicious that cake tasted; remember how all of your best friends were there. Wasn't it great? Now accept the knowledge that no matter how amazing it was, it will never be as good as the Phanatic's birthday party. That cake you loved so much pales in comparison to this. And your best friends might be cool, but are they a football-playing eagle and what appears to be a rodeo ostrich? Not only did other Philly-area mascots show up, the Phanatic's childhood friends from the Galapagos Islands came too. And they had moves -- well, except for the Phanatic's turtle buddy. He had a little trouble. Even the party favors were amazing. So when your next birthday is coming up, ask the Phanatic's mom to plan it. Because there ain't no party like a Phanatic party, because a Phanatic party has … whatever this is. Seriously, Iggy the Iguana will make sure no one else gets the spotlight on your special day. 

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 7-12. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 39-49-0 on this day.