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.

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