Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Phillies Fall To Mets Despite Utley’s Power Surge

GAME RECAP: Mets Edge Phillies 6-5

Matt Harvey delivered another six quality innings Tuesday in his first home start since 2013, leading the Mets to a chaotic, 6-5 win over the Phillies at Citi Field. Mets manager Terry Collins was ejected and Harvey received a warning for plunking Chase Utley, who paced the Phillies with two home runs and three RBIs. But the Mets outslugged the Phillies on the night, knocking starter David Buchanan out of the game in the fifth. The Mets, who won their third game in a row to improve to 5-3, will look for a sweep in Wednesday's series finale.

  • Buchanan is still looking for his first solid start of the season. He lasted just three innings in his season debut last week, then allowed nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed four of those runs in his first two innings.
  • The Phillies lost a challenge in the fifth inning when they thought Carlos Ruiz tagged Lucas Duda before he touched home plate. It took 1 minute, 24 seconds for replay officials to confirm that Duda's right leg touched the plate without Ruiz applying a tag.
  • After facing fireballers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey in back-to-back games, the Phillies will be wise to sit back against the crafty Niese, who threw more changeups in his first start than any other pitch.
  • Williams -- who resurrected his career with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts for Philadelphia last season -- is one of just six active players from the state of Hawaii. Astros pitcher Scott Feldman, Red Sox and former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki and Rays Minor League pitcher Kirby Yates are the others. Williams is the only one from Honolulu.

The three-game series between the Mets and Phillies concludes tonight on Jackie Robinson Day at Citi Field, home of the 19,000-square-foot rotunda built to remember the legend who broke the color barrier. The ballpark's main entrance features a nine-foot sculpture of Robinson, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947-56. Jon Niese, who fell victim to errors in his first start, will start for the Mets. He will be opposed by veteran Philly righty Jerome Williams, who settled for a no-decision his first time around. Right-hander Jerome Williams promised he would fix the problems that ailed him at the end of Spring Training and he appeared to follow through with a strong showing Friday against the Nationals. The trick will be repeating that success in Wednesday's series finale against the Mets at Citi Field.


Strong Beginning To The Season – Chase Utley's first week of the 2015 season will not be remembered as a strong one. "Yeah, you could say that," Utley said. "It's not how you envision coming out of Spring Training." Utley entered the Phillies' 6-5 loss to the Mets on Tuesday at Citi Field hitting .091 (2-for-22), with three RBIs, two walks and six strikeouts. It was the worst start of his career through the Phillies' first seven games, but everything changed against Mets ace Matt Harvey. Utley homered in the first inning and singled in a run in the third inning before Harvey drilled him in the back with a pitch in the fifth. Harvey may have retaliated after Phillies right-hander David Buchanan hit two Mets batters (Wilmer Flores and Michael Cuddyer) on their hands. "Getting hit by a pitch is part of the game," Utley said. "It's not the first time I've been hit by a pitch, and it won't be the last." Did it hurt? "It kind of grazed me," he said. But Utley kept going. He homered in the eighth inning off Mets left-hander Sean Gilmartin to finish the night 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Utley's first-inning homer snapped a 175 at-bat homerless streak, the longest drought of his career. He had not homered since Aug. 10, also against the Mets. He is now hitting .293 (54-for-184) with 11 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 35 RBIs and a .927 OPS in 47 games at Citi Field. "Have I had some success here?" Utley said. "Obviously, it has a great hitters' background, big park, there's a lot of hits here." The Phillies just hope they have Utley back on the right track. They need him badly. "It was just a game he needed to play, to get under his belt," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was just a matter of time. Sometimes when a great player faces another great player, it brings the best out of him. That was our guy today. Chase rose to the occasion, rose to the challenge of facing a very good pitcher. I think he stepped up and gave us a boost early and gave us another boost with a base hit to drive in a run. That's the type of player Chase is and he showed that tonight."

Post-Game Questions – Phillies second baseman Chase Utley came alive Tuesday at Citi Field as the Phillies homered four times, but plenty of other interesting things happened to them in their 6-5 loss. Three things begged questions: Why did Freddy bunt? Phillies right-hander David Buchanan started the fifth inning with a double into the right-field corner. Odubel Herrera flied out to right for the first out, which advanced Buchanan to third. Freddy Galvis then popped out to Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud on a failed bunt attempt. "It was a safety squeeze attempt with the first baseman just moving back, a good pitch to do it on," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. It is the Phillies' fifth failed bunt attempt since Saturday. "We're going to continue to do what we do," Sandberg said about working on their bunting. "We do it inside the cages off fastball machines and off breaking pitches. The pitchers do it every day at home on the field. We'll continue with that routine and hopefully the results will show." Why double-switch? Sandberg employed a double-switch with runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth inning. He had left-hander Jake Diekman replace Buchanan and Jeff Francoeur replace Grady Sizemore in right field. Diekman finished the inning and Francoeur hit to lead off the seventh, but the Phillies had right-hander Dustin McGowan pitch the seventh inning. McGowan served up a first-pitch home run to left-handed hitter Lucas Duda to make it 6-3. Theoretically, Diekman could have remained in the game to face the lefty before leaving the game. "I did it just in case," Sandberg said about the double switch. "I was going to have Frenchy bat ninth anyway, so it was just a safety just in case. Diek has had some work. I just wanted a fresh inning for McGowan, with the workload Diek's been doing, that was kind of his role tonight." Sandberg later said he also wanted Francoeur on the field for defensive purposes. Testing Recker at third? Ben Revere said he considered starting the ninth inning with a bunt toward third baseman Anthony Recker, who is a catcher by trade and had never played third base in his career. But he decided against it when facing Mets closer Jeurys Familia. "He's tough to bunt off," Revere said. "His ball is sinking a lot at 98 mph. It's kind of tough. If anybody else was in there I would I have thought about it, but [Recker] was playing way in, too. So I was trying to smack one by him, but I didn't want to pop up a bunt and waste an out."

The Future Of Baseball – Tony Reagins has spent decades in the game of baseball, and he's worked in everything from marketing to baseball operations. Reagins, formerly the general manager of the Angels, has taken on a new assignment with Major League Baseball as the senior vice president of youth programs, and he took some time Tuesday to discuss his plans for the future. Reagins, under new Commissioner Rob Manfred, will be in charge of consolidating the league's relationships with youth, high school and college baseball organizations around the country. Reagins attended the Civil Rights Game instructional clinic Tuesday at Rancho Cienega Recreation Center, and he spoke a bit about Jackie Robinson, the Urban Youth Academies and the future of the game. Can you tell us a bit about your new role with MLB? Tony Reagins: We are really excited about this opportunity. It's one where there's an opportunity to change lives at the grass roots level. It's an opportunity to enhance lives and give kids an opportunity to play baseball around the country in all communities. We're really excited about the opportunity and it's one that we plan to grow. It's one that's really important to Commissioner Manfred and one we take very, very seriously. We're excited. We think there's a lot of growth potential, and we have a chance to impact lives in a positive way. Is it refreshing and fun for you to work with kids after being at the big league level? Reagins: It is, because that's what baseball is all about. It's a kid's game. There's an innocence to it. I'm just excited to be able to touch lives. If we can offer baseball to all kids in all communities, you can't lose with that. We can't wait to hit the ground running. We already have a number of programs in place that we plan to build upon. We just can't wait to get started. How important is it to you to emphasize being in the community? Reagins: Extremely important. It's not just to be in the community, but to be a part of the community, and to be a part of the community for a long-term basis. We obviously have academies around the country in place today, and there are plans to even grow that. But we want to not just be inserted into the community. We want to stay in it. That's really important. Can you talk a little bit about today's event in relation to Jackie Robinson and the Civil Rights Game? It's Jackie Robinson Day [today], here in Los Angeles, with Jackie's team. Reagins: It's special. When you hear the stories [of what] Jackie Robinson went through. ... I had the chance to work with Preston Gomez, who was a coach with Jackie, and we talked at length about Jackie and what he went through in being the only person of color on the Dodgers at that time. Not being able to shower in the same shower, eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels as his counterparts. Those are powerful experiences. To fast-forward to this where kids have the opportunity to play baseball, I have an opportunity to do what I'm doing. So many others that have gone before me and have had tremendous opportunites to this game. You can attribute most of it to Jackie Robinson. Do you think that the kids understand the opportunity in front of them? Reagins: We have to keep in mind that the kids are still kids. I think they still have to go through life's experiences, but it's important to give them the opportunity and to insert knowledge at the same time. Knowledge is king. If we can educate and give these kids an opportunity to gain that knowledge -- about not only the game of baseball but life in general -- we're ahead of the game. Does it always help to have former players here to show the kids how to play? Reagins: This is the part of the game that is extremely important, where we have former players and former coaches coming out on an afternoon where they don't have to come out. They're showing that they're supportive of what we're doing and what we're trying to accomplish. They care about kids, and they care about the legacy of baseball. That speaks volumes about the individuals that are here and about the Dodgers' organization for really being a part of this program and for providing this baseball field as a renovation project. Can you talk to us about the growth of the Urban Youth Academies? Reagins: It is important. I think what you see is that given the opportunity -- in Compton, it's 2006 when we started -- but given the opportunity, there's ballplayers out here. Some players didn't even know there was an opportunity to play. Given the opportunity and given a chance to play, players can have a chance to go to the Major Leagues. It's exciting, being able to see players develop and get better on a day-to-day basis. And I think we're just scratching the surface of what it can be.

The Phillies are starting the season better than expected and are now in a competitive position in the NL east at 3-5. 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 35-27-1 on this day.

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