Thursday, April 9, 2015

Harang Deals And Frenchie Goes Deep In Phillies Victory

GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Boston 4-2

It had been a long time for the Phillies and Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur hit a three-run home run off Rick Porcello to left-center field in the sixth inning, giving the Phillies a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. They were the first runs the Phillies scored this season -- snapping a 14-inning scoreless streak -- and the first home run Francoeur hit in the big leagues since June 16, 2013, when he played for the Royals. "I hammered it," Francoeur said about the ball hit on a windy and rainy night that registered just 40 degrees at first pitch. "Actually, I was like, 'I hope it goes.' It was tough tonight with the wind and rain. But we battled through it, and that's the key." The Red Sox scored twice in the eighth inning when Ken Giles walked three batters to help force in a run. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon got out of the bases-loaded jam, but only when Hanley Ramirez flew out to the warning track in left-center. "Yep," Ramirez said, when asked if he thought he had a grand slam. "The wind is something that I can't control. We've just got to come back tomorrow and get it."

  • Right-hander Aaron Harang allowed two hits, one walk and struck out eight in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. The Phillies certainly hope there are more starts like this from Harang, who signed a reasonable one-year, $5 million contract in December. "You don't want to come in and be the goat," Harang said about his first start with Philadelphia.
  • Francoeur entered Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but the veteran made the Phillies' Opening Day roster because he was one of the only right-handed bats in the organization with a potential for power, and because he can play solid defense in right field. That decision paid off Wednesday. "A lot of hitting is getting confidence. You get beat down, man. Two thousand and thirteen took a lot out of me to be honest with you. ... Even last year, just go out in Triple-A, but just to have fun again and play again. Like I said, when I hit that one today, it was pretty cool just for the whole fact that you grind and you battle in this game, and when you get an opportunity you try to make the most of it."
  • Chase Utley picked up the 887th RBI of his career with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. It tied Jimmy Rollins for fifth place on the franchise's all-time RBIs list.
  • The Phillies setup man could not get out of the eighth inning, walking three batters and allowing two runs, both unearned. His fastball topped out at 96 mph. The right-hander said he is healthy, but he has not looked like himself all spring.
  • The right-hander bailed out Giles in the eighth and picked up the 107th save of his Phillies career. Papelbon is five shy of tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record. Papelbon told The Boston Globe before the game he doesn't "really feel much like a Phillie." Will he once he breaks the record?
  • Buchanan went 6-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts last season as a rookie. Buchanan entered camp as the presumed No. 5 starter, but he became the Phillies' No. 3 following Cliff Lee's left elbow injury and a strong spring (1.29 ERA in 21 innings).
  • Jeff Francoeur is a .310 hitter lifetime against Masterson, clubbing two doubles and driving in three. Allen Craig and Pablo Sandoval are the only Boston hitters who have faced Buchanan, and they are both 0-for-3.

In the finale of this three-game series, Justin Masterson pitches his first game for the Red Sox since 2009. Meanwhile, Phillies righty David Buchanan will pitch against Boston for the first time in his career. The Phillies hope right-hander David Buchanan can carry a strong Spring Training into the regular season. He posted a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings during the Grapefruit League season, which bumped him up to the season's No. 3 starter. This will be the last meeting between the Red Sox and Phillies until Sept. 4-6, when the clubs meet for a three-game set at Fenway Park.


One Foot On The Bench – Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera did not start Wednesday because of a sore left foot. Herrera, who made the Opening Day roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick, fouled a ball off his foot in Monday's season opener at Citizens Bank Park. He remained in the game, but it has been bothering him since. "Still pretty tender," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Nothing that's too serious." Sandberg said Herrera's foot is a "day-to-day" situation, and that Herrera could pinch-hit Wednesday if needed.

Something To Prove – Aaron Harang pitched pretty well last season with the Braves, but he remained a free agent through the end of December. The Phillies finally signed him to a one-year, $5 million contract on Dec. 30, which will be a steal if he continues to pitch anywhere near the way he pitched Wednesday night in a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Harang, 36, allowed two hits, one walk and struck out eight in 6 1/3 scoreless innings as the Phillies improved to 1-1. "You don't want to come in and be the goat," Harang said about his Phillies debut. "To be able to come in and be aggressive and get us deep in the game -- you know, save the bullpen from any major innings -- is always nice." Harang retired the first 11 batters he faced, including six by strikeout. Pablo Sandoval singled to center with two outs in the fourth inning, but Harang then set down the next seven batters. Harang walked Dustin Pedroia to start the seventh inning. Sandoval followed with a single to right field to put runners on first and second with no outs. Harang got Hanley Ramirez to fly out to center field for the first out when Jeanmar Gomez entered the game. He got Mike Napoli to hit a soft line drive to Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, who threw to second to double up Pedroia. "I was able to really locate my fastball," said Harang, who went 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts last season. "That was a big thing. I was able to throw some of my offspeed stuff for strikes early in the count and get ahead and work off that. But the biggest thing was being able to locate to both sides of the plate with the fastball." "Harang was outstanding," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Very effortless and very smooth. He was fun to watch."

Giles Not Worried – The Phillies hope this is nothing but a blip for Ken Giles. But Giles (aka 100 Miles Giles) has not looked like himself this spring. The right-hander entered Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the Red Sox with a four-run lead, but he left with the bases loaded, two outs and a suddenly slim two-run lead. He walked three batters. His fastball topped at 96 mph. "I'm physically fine," Giles said. "Nothing is wrong with me." Giles went 1-1 with a 6.08 ERA in 14 Grapefruit League appearances with his fastball never hitting more than 95 mph. He walked 12 and struck out 15 in 13 1/3 innings. Compare that to 2014, when he went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA and one save in 44 appearances. He allowed 25 hits, 11 walks and struck out 64 in 45 2/3 innings. Giles' 0.79 WHIP was fifth among rookie relief pitchers since 1914. His 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio is sixth, and his 12.61 strikeouts-per-nine innings average ranked 10th. His fastball also sat in the 98-100 mph range. "He's just been down in his velocity," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We'll just have to see. He said he feels fine." "You know what? I've just got to make adjustments, and I didn't make adjustments tonight," Giles said. "So I've got to continue doing that." Are those adjustments mechanical? "Nope, overall," Giles said. "Mentally getting the feel of a long season ahead of me, just getting the feel back of the baseball season."

Hollands Officially Done For The Season – Phillies left-hander Mario Hollands seemed resigned a couple weeks ago to having surgery on his injured left elbow. He finally had it Wednesday, when team physician Michael Ciccotti performed the Tommy John procedure. It typically takes a pitcher about a year to recover from the surgery, which means Hollands' 2015 season is finished. Hollands had a torn common flexor tendon. He tried to rehab from the injury once, but it caused him problems again in Spring Training. The Phillies also announced right-handers Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Ethan Martin had MRI exams and both revealed inflammation in their right shoulders. The Phillies said both will not throw for the next two to three weeks before being re-evaluated. Gonzalez is in the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract. He originally agreed to a six-year, $48 million contract in July 2013, but the Phillies renegotiated the deal because of concerns about his arm following his physical. Those concerns have been more than deserved. Gonzalez, 28, opened last season on the 60-day disabled list because of a right shoulder injury. Martin, 25, also missed time last season because of a shoulder injury.

Chasing Down Jose Mesa – Jonathan Papelbon could make Phillies history in the next few weeks, but will anybody care -- including himself? Papelbon picked up a four-out save Wednesday in a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, although Hanley Ramirez came a few feet from hitting a grand slam against him in the eighth. It was the 107th save of Papelbon's Phillies career. He needs just six more to pass Jose Mesa's 112 for the franchise record. It would be a heck of an accomplishment for Papelbon, whose 219 saves with the Red Sox is a franchise record. "Having an opportunity to be the saves career leader in two historic franchises means a lot to me, and I don't take that lightly by any means," he said. But before the game, Papelbon told The Boston Globe that despite signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies he does not "really feel much like a Phillie." That should not surprise anybody. Papelbon has made his frustrations with Philadelphia well known numerous times over the past few years. Asked about Wednesday's comments to the Globe, Papelbon said, "What is a Phillie? What is a Phillie? A horse? That's what it is? I feel like a horse, yeah. I feel like a horse. I felt like a horse tonight, yeah." Actually, it's the team with the red pinstripes. "Yeah, of course," he said. Papelbon finally explained. "It's like, 'Where are you from?'" he said. "I'm from Baton Rouge, La. So that's what I will always say. That's where I feel like I'm from, that's where I grew up, that's where my roots are. So you ask me what runs deep in you, the Red Sox still run deep in me. It's where I'm from, it's where I grew up, it's who I became as a pitcher, so it will always stick with me no matter what. Doesn't really change how I go about my business." Interestingly, the Red Sox expressed no interest in bringing back Papelbon following the 2011 season. He said he does not feel slighted. "No. It's business, baby. Straight cash," he said. Papelbon could make another $13 million next season if he finishes just 47 more games this year. (It will trigger a vesting club option.) But will he still be in Philadelphia? The Phillies have been trying to trade him for some time, but without success. Until that happens, he will have to live with the Phillies. "Like I said earlier, I feel like the Red Sox run deep in my blood," he said. "It's who I became as a pitcher. That will always stick with me. It's like any time you have to move on. You have to adapt to a new team, and I haven't had any problem doing that here."

Money Doesn’t Guarantee A Win – We've reached a point where money is often viewed as just another statistic. The expectations for a player may be measured by his traditional stats, his advanced metrics and his salary. Teams with a high payroll have the aura of contenders, clubs with lower player costs are usually viewed as underdogs. There's some merit in that, too. The big stars generally get the big bucks, especially once they get closer to free agency. And talent usually prevails in the long run. But here's the thing: Once the lineup cards are exchanged, once the national anthem is played, once the between-innings timer is activated, it all comes down to performance. For the next three hours, give or take, the number of zeroes on the paychecks don't matter. For further reference on that subject, we need look no further than Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. The Phillies beat the Red Sox, 4-2, even though the pitching matchup seemed to heavily favor Boston, which sent Rick Porcello to the mound to face right-hander Aaron Harang. Porcello was fresh off signing that four-year, $82.5 million contract extension before throwing his first regular-season pitch for the Red Sox. Harang is with his seventh team in the past six seasons and is making a base salary of $5 million, barely above the Major League average. Porcello pitched pretty well, registering a quality start. Harang was even better on a night when a dank mist drifted lazily through the bright night lights for most of the game. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out eight, six of them in the first three frames. Harang gave up just two singles and retired 18 of the first 19 batters he faced. Not bad for a guy who was with the Reds in 2010, Padres in '11, Dodgers in '12, Mariners and Mets in '13 and Braves last season. Not bad for a guy who turns 37 next month and twice had Grapefruit League outings pushed back because of back problems. Not bad for a guy who was facing a lineup that mashed five home runs on Opening Day. Harang has an interesting perspective on the whole phenomenon. After all, about a decade ago, he was in Porcello's position. Harang led the National League in strikeouts and complete games in 2006. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting the following year. Harang also had three straight seasons of pitching more than 200 innings. "When guys are slotted as top-tier pitchers, it's fun to go out and compete against those guys," Harang said. "I used to be in that role. I spent a number of years in that role. As you get older, you kind of fall out of that role, because younger guys come up. I've been fortunate enough to be in that situation. I've made enough money to where I'm not worried about that. I want to go out and play and have fun and win. "[How much money a player makes] depends on where you're at in your career, what organization you're with at the time, how you've been doing at the time. ... Don't get me wrong. Porcello is a great pitcher. I've faced him for a number of years. You're happy for those guys when they do sign deals like that. It's just one of those things." Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson were all brought in by the Red Sox during the offseason to bolster the rotation. Harang, apparently, wasn't on their radar. He didn't sign with the Phils until January. "Not that I knew of. Obviously it was a situation where there were other guys ahead of me," Harang said with a shrug. "For me, anymore, it's just going out and winning. Giving the team a chance to win. I know what I'm out there to do. I know what my job is when I go out there. That's to get us deep into the game and give us a chance to win. That's what it comes down to for me." The Red Sox were thrilled to lock up the 26-year-old Porcello now. Manager John Farrell talked before Wednesday night's game about how important it was to ensure that a talented young pitcher entering what should be the prime years of his career won't be going anywhere for a while. And there's no reason to suspect that this won't turn out to be an astute move for Boston. Ultimately, though, that will be determined by how well Porcello pitches, not how much money he makes. After all, the Phillies' biggest hit of the night was a three-run homer off Porcello in the sixth. And you can be sure that Jeff Francoeur wasn't thinking that his Major League base salary is $925,000 when he nailed it.

Hard Work Paying Off – Manager Ryne Sandberg said Wednesday he will not pull a hot bat from the Phillies' lineup. A single home run might not make a hitter hot, but Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur's three-run home run to left-center field in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park might earn him another start Thursday. They were the first runs the Phillies scored this season, snapping a 14-inning scoreless streak following Monday's shutout loss on Opening Day. It was Francoeur's first home run in the big leagues since June 16, 2013, when he played for the Royals. "I hit [15] in El Paso last year," Francoeur said. "It was nice. It was a lot of hard work last year. It makes you appreciate being back up here and getting those opportunities. And you don't want to miss them. It's a lot of fun." Francoeur hit a combined .204 with a .536 OPS in 256 plate appearances with the Royals and Giants in 2013 before spending most of last year with Triple-A El Paso. He signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies in November. He hopes this is the beginning of something. So do the Phillies, who need the help offensively. "A lot of hitting is getting confidence," said Francoeur. "You get beat down, man. Two thousand and thirteen took a lot out of me to be honest with you. ... Even last year, just go out in Triple-A, but just to have fun again and play again. Like I said, when I hit that one today, it was pretty cool just for the whole fact that you grind and you battle in this game, and when you get an opportunity you try to make the most of it."

Fun Frenchie Facts – Think back to the summer of 2013. Those beautiful, warm months when "Get Lucky" was in constant rotation, people were constantly asking "What does the fox say?" and, more importantly, "Fast 6, Furious 6" came out. (That's the title, right?). That was also the last time that Jeff Francoeur hit a home run. Back in the Majors with the Phillies this year, and one week after the release of "Furious 7," Francoeur has gone deep again. Turns out, it's been a career-long connection between the right fielder and the greatest films about the man/car connection since the Herbie series. Just look: "The Fast and the Furious" (2001): A junior in high school, Francoeur hit an even .500 with 20 home runs. Not too shabby. "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003): Francoeur's first full season in the Minors. He hit .281/.325/.445 with 14 home runs and nine triples. The season boosted him from Baseball America's 95th-best prospect to its 27th. "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006): Francoeur played his first full season in the Majors, hitting a career-high 29 home runs and driving in 103 runs. "Fast and Furious" (2009): After hitting only .239 with just a .359 slugging percentage in the non-Fast '08, Francoeur bounced back with a .280 average and a .423 slugging percentage. There was even a delayed movie bump as the right fielder hit .311/.338/.498 following a mid-season trade to the Mets. "Fast Five" (2011): Francoeur had his only 20/20 season with 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases, while also posting the third-highest OPS+ of his career (119). "Fast and Furious 6" (2013): In addition to the previously discussed dinger, Francoeur also ripped a double on the film's May 24 release date. "Furious 7" (2015): Not only has Francoeur hit his first home run since the last film, but on "Furious 7's" April 3 release date, the right fielder helped secure his spot on the Major League roster with a 3-for-4 showing in the Phillies' Spring Training game. Just look at how so many of the film's tenants apply to Francoeur's career. And though there's no release date for an eighth installment yet, the veteran ballplayer should be heartened to know that the studio is hoping to make 10 films. At a rate of one every two years, that should keep Francouer in the Majors until at least 2021. 

Freddy “Ninja” Galvis – Before this season, the Phillies were pretty set at shortstop. Jimmy Rollins had manned the position for 15 years -- winning a World Series, an MVP Award and four Gold Gloves. But during the offseason, he was traded to the Dodgers. So what did the Phillies do? They did the same thing any other team would do. They replaced him with a ninja. KIDDING. It's actually just a really, really cold Freddy Galvis.'s Todd Zolecki reported that Galvis has used the mask in Double-A Reading and Class A ball. Asked if it was comfortable, the shortstop said with a laugh, "Oh, it's good." But imagine if he was a ninja? The reflexes, the speed, the flexibility ...

The Phillies are starting the season better than expected and are now in the middle of the pack in the NL east at 1-1. 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 18-18-0 on this day.

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