Saturday, April 18, 2015

Streaking Phillies Fall Again

GAME RECAP: Nationals Blast Phillies 7-2

Max Scherzer earned his first victory in a Nationals uniform on Friday night, leading the club to a 7-2 victory over the Phillies. It was the third consecutive win for the Nats after a 2-6 start and set them up to clinch their first series win on Saturday afternoon. After signing a seven-year, $210 million contract this offseason, Scherzer posted a 0.66 ERA through his first two outings but was 0-1. This time, the Nats backed up his stellar pitching with ample run support and solid defense. "I feel like I'm pounding the zone," said Scherzer. "As long as you pound the zone and don't allow any free passes, it's usually a good sign of what you're doing. Fortunately tonight I had some great defensive plays behind me, and we had a great team win." Bryce Harper provided some early cushion with his third home run of the season, a three-run shot in the first inning off Sean O'Sullivan. Danny Espinosa added a solo shot in the fourth, and in the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a double before aggressively scoring on Wilson Ramos' infield single and a Chase Utley throwing error. Scherzer tossed his third straight quality start to open the year, going eight innings and giving up one run on four hits, with no walks and a season-high nine strikeouts. The Phillies' first run came in the third, when rookie Odubel Herrera tripled off the right-field wall and scored on Freddy Galvis' groundout. Ryan Howard added an RBI single in the ninth for the Phillies. "He understands how to pitch," manager Matt Williams said. "He's got a game plan going in and adjusts during the course of a game if it's not there for him in a certain inning or if he just doesn't have what he wants that night, he can go to other pitches That's experience and understanding how to pitch." O'Sullivan had held the Nats to two runs over six innings on Sunday in Philadelphia, but this time Washington reached him for four runs over five frames. The Phillies couldn't fight out of the early hole and lost their sixth straight game, matching their longest slide since June 27-July 2 of last year.

  • O'Sullivan's struggles began in a 31-pitch first inning where the right-hander gave up three runs -- all on the Harper homer -- and three hits. He threw only 16 strikes and faced eight batters, leaving two. The little mistakes also hurt O'Sullivan. He hit Ian Desmond to put runners on first and second with one out for Harper, who crushed a pitch far over the center-field fence. O'Sullivan (0-1) later walked Espinosa to put two on with two outs but escaped that jam.
  • The Phillies gave up two more homers in this game and already have allowed 15 in the first 11 games this season. O'Sullivan gave up a three-run homer to Harper in the first inning and Espinosa's solo shot in the fourth. Cole Hamels has given up seven himself already this season. They led the National League in homers allowed before this game, and it's something their pitchers will need to get under control.
  • "We need a big hit. I'll say this, we're fighting. I doubt if there's anybody in baseball that's probably faced the starting pitching we have coming out of the block this year. We've faced some damn good pitching. We need to have a hit in the first inning or second inning that [will] make us breathe a little bit ... and get a three- or four-run lead." -- Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur on the team's offensive struggles.
  • The Phillies aren't hitting as much these days, but Friday was the 39th anniversary of a day when Mike Schmidt sure did. The Hall of Fame third baseman blasted four straight homers to give the Phils a wild 18-16 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He homered in the fifth, seventh, eighth and then 10th inning that day.

Aaron Harang has given the Phillies two very strong starts this season. He threw 6 ⅓ shutout innings in a 4-2 victory over Boston his first time out. After that, Harang gave up just one run on four hits in six innings, but the Phillies gave himself no offensive support in a 2-0 loss to the Mets.He comes into this game with a 1-1 record and an 0.73 ERA.


Phillies Hemorrhaging Homers – Phillies starter Sean O'Sullivan pitched effectively for most of his five-inning stint Friday night against the Nationals. There were just two pitches he'd love to have back. The first came in the first when Bryce Harper smacked a 1-2 pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run homer. O'Sullivan wasn't as disappointed with the other pitch he'd like to have back, a solo homer to Danny Espinosa in the fourth, but those pitches were big reasons that Washington handed the Phillies a 7-2 loss, the team's sixth consecutive defeat. Harper crushed a curveball that hung and deposited it over the fence in center. That gave the Nationals a quick 3-0 lead, and the slumping Phillies (3-8) never drew closer than two after the Harper blast. "For me, it was just a matter of not getting that pitch where I needed to get it," O'Sullivan said. "I felt like I had him set up for the pitch and didn't execute." Manager Ryne Sandberg said the pitch, which O'Sullivan (0-1) was trying to throw down and in, didn't break sharply enough. "The three-run homer was a big blow," Sandberg said. "That was kind of a tumbler of a breaking ball. It wasn't his hard one at all. It was right in the zone. That was one pitch he'd like to have back, for sure." The second homer gave the Nationals a 4-1 lead in the fourth. But homers have been a problem for the Phillies' staff throughout this young season, as they've now allowed a National League-high 15 already. The Phillies have allowed four in the first two games of this weekend series. Cole Hamels gave up two in Thursday's loss, and he's surrendered seven himself in 2015. O'Sullivan said he could only speak for himself, but plans on trying to correct his problems in this area during his next bullpen session. For now, he said the main thing that all the pitchers can do is simply keep working. "We've got to keep grinding as a pitching staff, you know, put as many zeroes as we can up, and on the offensive side, scrap as many runs together as we can," he said. "Just keep grinding it out."

Getting Some Work In – Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had another tough issue to deal with as his team took a five-game losing streak into Friday -- getting his bullpen enough work. Sandberg put closer Jonathan Papelbon into Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals, and the right-hander threw a scoreless inning. Papelbon last pitched five days before, and Sandberg said he needed to get into a game. Same situation with right-hander Luis Garcia. He also threw a scoreless inning in relief on Thursday after going without work for the previous four days. Right-hander Ken Giles entered Friday's game against the Nationals in the same situation, as well. However, Sandberg was able to put Giles in for the eighth inning of Friday's 7-2 loss to the Nationals. Giles gave up two hits and struck out two but did not allow a run, so the pitcher got his tune-up work in. Giles had last pitched on April 12, and Sandberg talked before the game about wanting to get him some work -- along with everyone in the bullpen -- during this losing streak. "That's something I'm well aware of, and I have to stay on top of that to get them their tuneup work," Sandberg said. "Garcia needed to pitch last night; Papelbon, the same way. [Giles], he kind of falls into that category [now]."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 3-8. 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 39-46-0 on this day.

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