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.

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