Thursday, April 23, 2015

This Is The Ugliest Phillies Game Of The Year So Far…

GAME RECAP: Marlins Fluster Phillies 6-1

The Marlins needed a victory in the worst way Wednesday night, so if the Phillies wanted to help them with a handful of errors in the field, they would not complain. Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria scored the go-ahead run on a balk in the seventh inning in a 6-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. Errors by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and center fielder Odubel Herrera in the eighth inning led to four insurance runs. "We haven't gotten the breaks," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We needed a ball to drop or something to go our way, and tonight we got some breaks and took advantage of them." Miami ended a five-game losing streak and has a chance to win the series with a victory in Thursday's finale. Despite the skid, the Marlins could win two of the three series on this 10-game trip. The Phillies could not carry the momentum from Tuesday's seven-run effort into the next night. They scored their only run when Cody Asche homered off Jarred Cosart in the second.

  • With a single into left-center in the first inning on Wednesday night, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley ended an 0-for-21 drought at the plate. Utley entered the night hitting .109 with two home runs and a team-high nine RBIs.
  • Home runs had hurt Phillies ace Cole Hamels in his first three starts, but his own error allowed a run to score in the second inning to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. The unearned run would be the only run Hamels would allow in six innings.
  • Luis Garcia has been one of the Phillies' few bright spots this season, pitching himself into a seventh-inning role. The righty reliever had not allowed a run in seven appearances before he balked home the go-ahead run in the seventh to make it 2-1.

The Marlins and Phillies will complete a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday with a pair of pitchers who opened the season in the bullpen. Miami will go with right-hander David Phelps, while Philadelphia will counter with a spot start for right-hander Dustin McGowan. This will be the first encounter between Phelps and the Phillies. Phelps spent the last three seasons in the Bronx, where he compiled a 15-14 record and a 4.28 ERA with the Yankees. In his first and only start this year, Phelps got a no-decision after he allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings in a 4-1 loss at the Mets. Right-hander Dustin McGowan makes a spot start for the Phillies because righty Sean O'Sullivan landed on the disabled list Wednesday with tendinitis in his left knee. McGowan hopes to go three to four innings in the series finale against the Marlins. McGowan, who signed with the Phillies during the opening week of the season, had eight starts last season with Toronto, but he has been a reliever since last May. Just how deep McGowan can go will bear watching, but he indicated he expects it will likely be just three or four innings.


At Least He Didn’t Give Up A Homer – Cole Hamels aims for perfection, but he is seeing that the Phillies are far from perfect this season. Hamels allowed one unearned run on five hits and three walks while striking out five in six innings in a 6-1 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. Hamels allowed his only run in the second inning. The Marlins had runners at the corners with two outs when Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart hit a ground ball past a diving Ryan Howard at first base. Chase Utley moved to his left, fielded the ball and threw to first. Hamels got to the bag in time, but the ball popped out of his glove as Marcell Ozuna scored to make it 1-0. "That was all on me," Hamels said. "Chase gave me a great throw and I wasn't able to catch it." Of course, it appeared Hamels struck out Cosart on a 1-2 pitch, but home-plate umpire Toby Basner thought otherwise. Hamels chose not to complain about the strike zone, although pitching coach Bob McClure expressed his displeasure to Basner during a meeting on the mound after the Cosart at-bat. Hamels entered the night 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA, having allowed seven home runs and nine walks in 18 innings. A notoriously slow starter in April, Hamels at least kept the ball in the park Wednesday. "There's still a lot of work to do," Hamels said. "You strive for perfection and you never really seem to reach it. That's kind of the case."

Utley Snaps Hitless Streak – Maybe Chase Utley can start fresh Thursday. The Phillies' second baseman singled to right-center field in the first inning Wednesday night in a 6-1 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. It snapped a hitless streak of 21 at-bats, which was the second-longest hitless streak of his career. "It always feels good to hit where they aren't playing," Utley said. "We'll continue to try to make some improvements and move on." Utley had a career-high hitless streak of 24 at-bats in June 2008. He also had a 0-for-18 slump in July-August 2014, which means two of his three longest hitless streaks have come since last year's All-Star Game. But the first-inning single Wednesday did not open the offensive flood gates. Utley grounded out in the fourth, struck out swinging with a runner on third to end the sixth and grounded out to the pitcher in the ninth to end the game. Utley also dropped a throw from Cody Asche at second base with two outs in the top of the eighth. It allowed the Marlins to load the bases and eventually score four insurance runs. "He made a good throw," Utley said. "I missed it. Bottom line, that play needs to be made." Utley entered the night hitting .109, which was the second-lowest batting average out of 193 qualified hitters in baseball. He had not gotten a hit since he homered in the eighth inning April 14 against the Mets at Citi Field. Bad luck had something to do with it. He entered the night last in baseball with a .079 batting average on balls in play. The average player had a .289 BABIP. Still, the Phillies need much more from their No. 3 hitter. Asked if the hitless streak had been on his mind, Utley said, "It's not the first time I've haven't had some hits. So I don't know."

Rotation Shuffle – The timing could not be worse for Phillies right-hander Sean O'Sullivan. The Phillies placed him on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with tendinitis in his left knee. The team recalled right-hander Hector Neris from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace O'Sullivan on the roster, and announced right-hander Dustin McGowan will start in O'Sullivan's place Thursday afternoon against the Marlins. O'Sullivan's time as the Phillies' No. 5 starter could be finished for the foreseeable future. "I told them I wanted to pitch, just because I don't want that opportunity to slip away," O'Sullivan said. "But at the same time, if I do go out there and try to gut through it ... if I have to alter my mechanics, I think I can be effective, but at what cost?" O'Sullivan had been the team's No. 5 starter, filling in temporarily until Chad Billingsley is ready to join the rotation early next month. Billingsley will make his third of five rehab starts Saturday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is not impossible to think Billingsley's timetable could be pushed up with O'Sullivan injured, but that remains to be seen. McGowan is not believed to be a full-time replacement until Billingsley is ready. He has started in the past, but he has said he no longer can start on a long-term basis because of shoulder surgeries in 2008 and '10 and another shoulder injury in 2013. McGowan said he hopes to give the Phillies three to four innings Thursday. "I obviously can't go five or six," he said. "As long as I am feeling good and strong, I'll take the ball as long as I need to." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said the team had no conversations about calling up one of the team's top pitching prospects -- like Double-A right-hander Aaron Nola -- to replace O'Sullivan in the rotation. "There wasn't any young pitcher that was an option," Sandberg said, "at this time."

Fielding Issues – Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has preached the importance of fundamental baseball since Spring Training in February. But not much of anything has gone as planned, including Wednesday's 6-1 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Three Phillies errors and one balk led to every Miami run, leaving Philadelphia needing to win Thursday's series finale to take the three-game set. The Phillies have 15 errors this season, which is only one behind the Nationals, who lead Major League Baseball. "We didn't do too much right tonight," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. Cole Hamels dropped a throw from Utley at first base in the second inning to allow the Marlins to take a 1-0 lead. Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia then balked home the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. It was the first run Garcia had allowed in eight relief appearances this season. "It's OK," Garcia said. "Tomorrow is another day." Utley dropped a throw from Cody Asche in the eighth, which loaded the bases with two outs. "He made a good throw. I missed it," Utley said. "Bottom line, that play needs to be made." Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon then ripped a fly ball to center field. Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera was playing shallow, but he broke back on the ball. Herrera got twisted around and made a last-second attempt to dive to catch the ball. The ball hit his glove, but he could not hold onto it as three runs scored. "I got a good jump on it," Herrera said through translator Andres Blanco. "The wind was blowing in a different direction, and as soon as I noticed that the ball kept moving to my left side, I passed the ball a little bit. I tried to catch it at the end. That's why I tried to jump at the end. "It's something that just happened. I'm going to work on it."

Phranchise Phan Phavorites – Nobody should be surprised Mike Schmidt is first among Phillies players nominated in Major League Baseball's "Franchise Four" campaign. The campaign has fans vote for the four most impactful players in Phillies history. Steve Carlton, Richie Ashburn and Chase Utley round out the top four in the first voting update. The other nominees are Jimmy Rollins, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning and Chuck Klein. Perhaps surprisingly, Rollins is not in the top four. He is first in Phillies history in hits (2,306) and doubles (479); second in games (2,090), extra-base hits (806) and stolen bases (453); third in runs (1,325) and triples (111); sixth in RBIs (887) and ninth in home runs (216). He also won the 2007 National League MVP and four NL Gold Glove Awards, while helping the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, 2009 NL pennant and five NL East titles from 2007-11. More than 11.8 million votes have been cast in the Franchise Four voting, and you can cast your ballot here. Voting ends on May 8, and winners from all 30 clubs will be announced at the 2015 All-Star Game, which will take place on July 14 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 5-10. 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 46-45-1 on this day.

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