Monday, May 18, 2015

A Shutout And A Sweep…

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shutout Diamondbacks 6-0

It'd been a long time since the Phillies last swept a team. It'd been even longer since Sean O'Sullivan added to his win column. With a 6-0 victory over the D-backs on Sunday, the Phillies did both. For the first time in 20 series, the Phillies completed a sweep, continuing a torrid 31-16 streak versus the D-backs dating back to 2008. O'Sullivan, who hadn't earned a win since May 12, 2011, hurled six shutout innings, allowing just five hits and striking out four while walking two. "Everyone's kind of feeding off each other," O'Sullivan said. "The rotation is kind of feeding off each other. It's almost like everyone's kind of accountable for their part because you don't want to be the guy that's not accountable for his part. I think everyone's really playing as a unit right now." Josh Collmenter was on the losing end of the decision for the D-backs, allowing four earned runs off of six hits in six innings. This was Arizona's fourth straight loss and seventh in nine games. "I thought he kept us in the game," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "Early it looked like he didn't have his control, the ball wasn't moving like he wanted it to. I thought later on he started to really get it going. He had a low pitch count, which is typical of him. He was fine."

·         O'Sullivan allowed five baserunners on three hits and two walks, one of which was intentional, through the first 2 2/3 innings of the game. However, after an official review turned what appeared to be the D-backs' fourth hit of the game into a 6-3 putout, wiping a run off the board and ending the inning, O'Sullivan settled down, retiring the next eight batters he faced.
·         In just his third game since a callup from Triple-A, third baseman Maikel Franco came through with his first signature hit, an RBI triple in the sixth inning that put the Phillies up 3-0. Franco came in to score on Cesar Hernandez's second double of the day. Two innings later, Franco pulled a ball over the left-center-field wall for his first Major League home run, a solo shot.
·         O'Sullivan's win Sunday came on the anniversary of the loss that started his four-year losing streak. A member of the Kansas City Royals at the time, O'Sullivan was teammates with current Phillie Jeff Francoeur. O'Sullivan allowed six runs in five innings in that game. "It's something I wasn't even aware of and then I saw it and was like 'Man, I need to get a win,'" O'Sullivan said of his losing streak. "Today I was more focused on doing my job to keep our winning streak going than for personal gain.
·         Replay took a run off the board for the D-backs in the top of the third inning after what was initially ruled as an RBI infield single for Pollock by first-base umpire Sean Barber. The call was overturned by the review team in New York, preserving Philadelphia's early 1-0 lead after a 1-minute, 10-second review.
·         The Phillies announced after the game that starter Chad Billingsley is headed to the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. Right-hander Hector Neris was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to fill Billingsley's roster spot.
·         The Phillies' biggest bats will be well-rested for the start of this series. Freddy Galvis, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley all were given days off by manager Ryne Sandberg on Sunday versus Arizona. Being that this series begins a 10-game road trip, the rest may be warranted.
·         The Rockies will be without Justin Morneau, who will still be on the seven-day concussion disabled list. However, all indications from manager Walt Weiss lead to the assumption that Troy Tulowitzki will be back in the lineup for the series against the Phillies after leaving Friday's game and missing Saturday's due to a leg injury. Hamels is probably the last pitcher Tulowitzki would want to return from injury to see, as the shortstop is just 1-for-13 all time when facing Hamels, though the one hit was an RBI triple.


Jordan Lyles retired every batter he faced in his last start. The way his Monday opponent, Cole Hamels, has been pitching recently, Lyles is going to need to be pretty close to perfect again to keep his Rockies in the game. The Rockies and Phillies start a four-game series in Colorado Monday. Lyles exited early in his last start, facing only three batters before an Albert Pujols line drive struck him on the hand at the end of a 1-2-3 first inning against the Angels. Despite only having four days' rest between the injury and this game, Lyles -- who is 2-3 with a 4.30 ERA -- is expected to start. After a rough start to 2015 by the ace's usual standards, Hamels has looked more like himself in his last two starts. The lefty has allowed just three runs and nine hits in his last 14 innings of work, racking up 17 strikeouts and two wins over that span. These two outings have dropped his ERA more than half a point from 4.14 to 3.53.


Talent On Display – Maikel Franco is going to need some new headgear. First off, he probably needs a new batting helmet. Twice in two days the rookie's helmet has flown off his head while rounding the bases. Saturday it was while he was charging toward home. Sunday it happened while he was barreling toward third base. More importantly though, he's going to need a new cap. His old one is all covered in shaving cream. The 22-year-old had a breakout day in his third game since his callup from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored, helping lead the Phillies to a 6-0 win over the D-backs, the team's fifth straight win. After the game, Carlos Ruiz ambushed the youngster with a towel filled with shaving cream to the face, thus initiating the new guy into the locker room and signifying how well he had played. As if Franco hadn't done enough. "I see him settling in," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It's great to see him swing the bat and connect. Maybe getting the home run out of the way might go a long way with him, not thinking about hitting the home run but having quality at-bats. I think he showed today much better quality at-bats and good contact. It's good to see that from him." In the locker room before Franco's big game, relief pitcher Justin De Fratus seized Franco's attention. When he and the rookie locked eyes, De Fratus told his newest teammate that Sunday was going to be the day that Franco hit his first home run. Franco agreed. After the game, De Fratus gambled on his hot streak and made another prediction. "He's gonna hit 30 home runs and 120 RBI," De Fratus said. "I called the home run. He's going to take us to the playoffs." While Franco didn't go that far when talking about his contributions, he did say he was grateful to even have the opportunity to hit home runs and triples at a Major League level. And while his eighth-inning solo shot might have been the biggest blast on the scorecard, Franco didn't think it was his most impressive swing of the day. "The triple that I hit, I hit it better," Franco said. "But the last one that I hit, I think the ball was going my way. Because the first one I hit better and it didn't go. But it did go finally." Though Sunday's game saw Franco supply his first home run and triple, this hasn't been his first exposure to the Majors. Franco earned a callup last September but wasn't much of a factor. However, this time up Sandberg has seen something different from Franco, likely stemming from how well the third baseman was hitting in Triple-A. "I think he's more comfortable," Sandberg said. "He knows the players well and I think coming here as a player that's going well is a big thing for him. I think that's probably the biggest thing, giving him so much confidence with what he was doing at Lehigh Valley." As for the headgear situation, Franco said he might need to make a change. "Maybe I'll try a different helmet because every time when I run my helmet comes off," Franco said.

Long Awaited Win – Pitching wins still matter to some people. Exactly four years ago Sunday, Sean O'Sullivan, then a member of the Kansas City Royals, lost a decision against the Cleveland Indians. That began a streak of 18 consecutive starting appearances spanning four years that O'Sullivan didn't notch a single win. And he wasn't particularly hurt by no-decisions: His teams went 2-16 in those games. But all that changed Sunday, as O'Sullivan threw six shutout frames, striking out four and allowing just five hits while receiving enough run support -- four runs while in the game -- to cruise to his first victory as a Phillie and first in four years by a score of 6-0. In an era where some say that pitching wins are an overrated, almost useless stat, O'Sullivan still acknowledged that getting his first win since May 12, 2011, still motivated him. "It's something I wasn't even aware of and then I saw it and was like, 'Man, I need to get a win,'" O'Sullivan said. O'Sullivan continued to say that his personal achievement was secondary to the team's success, as his win secured the Phillies their fifth straight victory. However, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that in the larger scheme of O'Sullivan's season, he believes that getting a win is a bigger deal than just one game. In Sandberg's mind, earning a tick mark in the first column of his win-loss record is going to lead to a more confident and positive-thinking O'Sullivan. "I think getting a win for a pitcher is very important," Sandberg said. "It builds confidence. It's something he can build on. I think there's something to that no question." The win wasn't without some difficulty for the right-hander. In the top of the sixth inning with runners on first and third base, O'Sullivan worked D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill into a full count. At that point, first baseman Darin Ruf gestured to attract O'Sullivan's attention. Catcher Cameron Rupp also thought he had O'Sullivan's full attention and returned the ball his direction. By the time Rupp could alert O'Sullivan the ball was coming his way, O'Sullivan turned around to a baseball in between his chin and collarbone. "I didn't see the ball for one second," O'Sullivan said. "It's like I got punched in the throat from around the corner. It was kind of shocking. Then I realized I can't breathe and there are runners on base. So I was like 'I have to go get this ball, and then hopefully someone will call timeout real quick.'" Sandberg came out of the dugout and convinced O'Sullivan, who admitted after the game it was still somewhat difficult to swallow, to throw a warmup pitch before attempting to finish off Hill. O'Sullivan relented, did so, and then needed just one last pitch to end the inning, forcing Hill to fly out to left field. Though the event wasn't a laughing matter at the time, Sandberg after the game acknowledged both the levity and the value of the situation. "It wasn't pretty when it happened, but there was a little bit of humor there afterwards," Sandberg said. "He was able to hang in there and make the one pitch to get out of there so that was good."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 16-23. 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 45-57-0 on this day.

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