Sunday, April 19, 2015

Phillies Find Spark And End Losing Streak

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Nationals 5-3

Ben Revere scored the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice by Grady Sizemore as the Phillies defeated the Nationals, 5-3, at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon. The score was tied at 3 when the Phillies went ahead in the seventh inning. With Revere on third, one out and left-hander Matt Thornton on the mound, Sizemore hit into a fielder's choice, and Revere scored ahead of the throw from first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. After having one of his worst outings on Monday against the Red Sox, Jordan Zimmermann was solid against the Phillies, pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing four runs -- two earned because of an error by shortstop Ian Desmond in the third -- on four hits. Zimmermann also struck out four batters. Aaron Harang picked up the win for the Phillies with six innings of three-run ball. [Zimmermann] wasn't as sharp as he normally is," Nats manager Matt Williams said. "He got through it."

  • Revere entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-runner for Ryan Howard, who drew a leadoff walk off Zimmermann. Revere then utilized his speed to give the Phillies the lead, stealing second base and moving to third on a flyout by Cameron Rupp, just beating Bryce Harper's strong throw from right field. Sizemore followed with a rocket to first base against the drawn-in Nationals infield, but Revere's speed was too much, as he easily beat the throw from Zimmerman. "That was big, no question," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He got three bags on his speed. That was huge. That was a big part of the game."
  • Herrera capped off a big game with a ninth-inning RBI single up the middle to extend Philadelphia's lead to 5-3 and give the rookie three hits on the day. After grounding out to short to open the game, Herrera followed with a third-inning double, a fifth-inning walk and stolen base, and singles in the seventh and ninth to raise his average to .308. "I'm just trying to get on base to start a rally and let the other guys behind me take a good approach and bring me home," Herrera said through a translator.
  • With the Nationals threatening to tie the game in the seventh inning, Utley made a fantastic play to preserve the Phillies' lead, showing off his range at second as he went far to his right and dove to snag a ball hit by Zimmerman that seemed ticketed for center field. Utley popped up and threw Zimmerman out to end the threat and was greeted by teammates as he came off the field. "Utley's diving stop in the seventh that preserved the lead, that was huge at the time," Sandberg said. "There was some good defense on both sides out there."
  • In the third inning, Harang hit what looked like a routine ground ball to Desmond, who bobbled the ball before throwing to first to get the out on a close play. But the Phillies thought Harang beat the throw to first, so they challenged the call and it was overturned. It was Desmond's eighth error in 12 games.
  • Home-plate umpire Brian Knight had to leave the game in the ninth after he was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Blake Treinen. The ball missed catcher Jose Lobaton's glove and struck Knight, who fell to the ground. After receiving aid from Nationals assistant trainer Steve Kober, Knight left the game. Second-base umpire Larry Vanover replaced Knight behind the plate.
David Buchanan is in need of a quality start after two rough outings to begin the season, in which he's allowed 11 runs and 16 hits in just 8 2/3 innings of work. Buchanan hasn't gone longer than 6 2/3 innings in any of his last 10 starts, and he allowed seven runs and 10 hits last June in his only appearance against Washington. The game is scheduled for Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET.


Phillies Find Bats – The Phillies entered Saturday as the second-worst hitting team with runners in scoring position, but it was a series of clutch efforts with runners on base that helped make a difference in their 5-3 triumph against the Nationals. Philadelphia entered the game hitting just .154 (12-for-78) with runners in scoring position, so even going 3-for-12 in that category against Washington represented improvement. The Phillies also recorded productive outs, as well. Odubel Herrera capped the victory with the kind of big insurance run that Philadelphia has been unable to secure for most of the season, driving in Ben Revere from third base with a ninth-inning single to give the team a two-run cushion. "I'm taking the opportunity to learn how they pitch at this level, and obviously with the strike zone being smaller, I'm adjusting and that's why I'm feeling more comfortable," Herrera said of his late hit. Freddy Galvis had two big hits with runners in scoring position. First, he drove in Philadelphia's first run with a third-inning single. Then, with two outs in the fifth inning and Herrera on second base, Galvis fought off a 2-2 pitch from Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, sawing his bat off in the process. The bat landed near the mound while the ball fell in short left field, just out of the reach of shortstop Ian Desmond, to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Galvis, who improved to .333 (8-for-24) on the season against the Nationals, now has four RBIs with runners in scoring position, two behind Chase Utley. In addition to the hits, the Phillies registered some productive outs, as Utley and Grady Sizemore each plated runs by putting the ball in play in key situations in the game. "That's what we did well, we put the ball in play," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "They had to make some good plays to minimize some baserunners with men on base, but we were able to score in those situations. But just to put the ball in play and make some things happen, that all added up in this game for us."

Revere Finding Ways To Contribute – Ben Revere can't put his finger on why April has been such a tough month for him at the plate, but he realizes that his slow starts are an ongoing issue that's been difficult to shake. "It's just one of those unlucky months," he said Saturday after finding out he wouldn't be in the Phillies' starting lineup against the Nationals. "I think this is the first time in April that I've hit the ball as hard as I have -- I don't know how many times I've lined out to guys, but that's the game of baseball." But there are other ways to contribute besides with a bat, and Revere did just that Saturday to help the Phillies end a six-game losing streak, entering the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning and scoring the go-ahead run thanks to his speed. He stole second, moved to third on a flyout and scored on pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore's hard-hit ball to first in the Phillies' 5-3 victory. "I just try to do everything I can, especially with me being on first and no outs -- everybody in the whole stadium knows I'm about to steal, so that was big," Revere said. "It's all about fundamental baseball." Revere is 2-for-14 on the road trip and hitting just .158 on the season, numbers that fall below his normal April output. Revere is a career .229 hitter in April, but from May 1 on, he holds a career .296 average. "I can't find nothing right now," he said before Saturday's game. "But you have to keep your head up. It's a long season. Hopefully I've got a lot more at-bats and a lot more games to play. If I can do that, I'll be alright. I've started slow before. As soon as the ball starts falling, the sky's the limit." Revere struggled in Spring Training, as well, hitting just .205 in 23 games, and he noted that for some hitters, including himself, finding a groove can take a while. "It does," he said. "Some guys just don't hit that well in April. I've seen guys who are hitting .500 in April, and by the end of the season, they're down to .230. Then you see a guy around the Mendoza Line for most of the first half end the year all the way up to .300. You never know what's going to happen. Like my grandfather says, 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish.'" Revere has been out of the starting lineup for three consecutive games, but the speedster showed Saturday he always keeps his head in the game. "You just have to have energy for your team," he said. "That's what matters. I was trying to get the funk out of this locker room a little bit."

Confidence In Starting Rotation – The Phillies' starters have had a rough start to the 2015 campaign, but for one of the men whose job it is to catch them, the numbers put up thus far can be easily remedied. "It's a pitch here, a pitch there," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "It's been a little rocky start, but they can turn it around in one night, in one afternoon." Perhaps the Phillies will look back at Aaron Harang's effort in Saturday's 5-3 victory as the turning point. Harang threw six solid innings, allowing three runs while striking out six and walking two. "He's a veteran guy out there," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He doesn't give in, he makes big pitches, he minimizes. He hung in there and gave us the quality start we needed." Harang doesn't necessarily view himself as a stopper, but he did register just the second win of the season by Philadelphia's starters -- both of which belong to him. "Every one of these starters in here wants to be that guy," Harang said. "You never want to see your team go on a slide like that, but to be able to go in and try and keep the guys on their toes, help keep a positive attitude and try to get in and out of innings very quick, that's always key in those situations. The quicker you can get the guys off the field, the more they're going to go to bat for you." Rupp, who was making his fourth start of the season behind the plate, said it was too early for any kind of panic around the starting five, who saw their collective ERA dip to 4.84 after Harang's effort. "When they've made mistakes, hitters have taken advantage of it, so obviously you want to eliminate those mistakes," Rupp said. "But Aaron has pitched well for us so far. Cole [Hamels], for the most part, has been good. In certain situations, you may get out of a jam instead of giving up a hit, but that's part of the game. And it's what? April 18? There's 150-something games left." Rupp said he and fellow catcher Carlos Ruiz have not seen the starters waver in their approach despite the early season woes, a fact Rupp noted will eventually pay dividends. "They're all confident in their game and their game plan, as well," he said. "You make adjustments on the fly when you need to and go from there."

Umpire Down! – Home-plate umpire Brian Knight had to leave the game between the Phillies and Nationals in the ninth after he was hit in the head by a pitch from Nationals right-hander Blake Treinen. With Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis at the plate and Odubel Herrera at first base, Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton was looking for Treinen's sinker to go down in the zone, but the pitch stayed up, missed Lobaton's glove and hit Knight, who fell to the ground even though he had his mask on. "The ball stayed straight and then went up, which is different [than what I'm used to]," Lobaton said. "When I tried to catch the ball, it was too late. I feel sorry for the umpire. I hope he gets better." After receiving aid from the Nationals' assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober, Knight left the game. Second-base umpire Larry Vanover replaced Knight behind the plate. There is no word on Knight's condition. Vanover, who is also the crew chief, was not available for comment.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 4-8. 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 41-50-1 on this day.

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