Sunday, May 31, 2015

Harang Continues To Show Value Despite Worthless Offense

GAME RECAP: Rockies Stifle Phillies 5-2

Eddie Butler may not have expected to start Saturday, but his performance proved he was ready. Thanks in large part to the efficient work of Butler, who was a last-minute substitution for scheduled starter Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies continued their winning ways Saturday, defeating the Phillies 5-2. Butler settled down after allowing a run in the first inning and hurled five shutout innings to finish what was statistically his most effective start of the season. He needed just 78 pitches to dispatch the Phillies in a six-inning, four-hit, one-run performance that brought the rookie to 3-5 and dropped his ERA from 4.60 to 4.22. "I attacked the zone, got early contact and let the guys make some plays," said Butler, who accumulated 11 outs on grounders, including one double play. The Rockies homered three times for the second straight game, scoring their first three runs via home runs from Nolan Arenado, Michael McKenry and Ben Paulsen. The team has won six of its last seven and seven of 10. Colorado also clinched its first regular-season series win at Citizens Bank since Aug. 9-12, 2004. "When you hit the ball out of the park and get good starting pitching, usually you're in good shape," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. For the Phillies, the loss extended their losing streak to six games for the second time this season. The team is now a season-high 13 games below .500. Starting pitcher Aaron Harang threw six quality innings, only allowing two runs on four hits and striking out seven, but his offense was unable to back him up after the first inning. "That was a quality start for Harang," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Threw 109 pitches and gave up two runs. He pitched well with men on base. We struggled out of the bullpen with command and leaving pitches up in the zone and gave some runs up. On the offensive side of things we had men left on base and couldn't get the big hit."

  • After scoring all of their runs on homers in a 4-1 victory Friday night, the Rockies went deep twice in the second against the usually homer-stingy Harang. Arenado parked his 11th homer of the year and McKenry hit his third. McKenry is hitting .367 with three homers and eight RBIs in 30 career at-bats at Citizens Bank Park. Harang had given up just two homers in his 10 previous games. "When things aren't going right, it's just tough," Harang said. "It's tough because I thought I made two good pitches there. I went back and looked at them. They were down. They were able to stay through it and get a pretty good bat on it."
  • The last time he faced Butler, Ryan Howard hit a mislocated curve for a prodigious homer, and he doubled in a first-inning run Saturday. But with two on and two out in the third, Butler challenged Howard with three fastballs in the strike zone. The last was a hard grounder to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, already shifted behind second base.
  • Just one day after the Phillies stranded runners on first and third down two runs in the eighth inning, the team found itself in nearly the same scenario and came up with same result. Saturday the Phillies trailed the Rockies by three runs with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth but came out of the situation empty thanks to a Howard strikeout and a Maikel Franco groundout. "For a stretch there a couple of weeks ago, we were getting the big hit and the timely hit and we had a winning streak, and we blanked out in this cold streak with men on base," Sandberg said. "It's keep knocking at the door, keep having runners out there and somebody needs to come up with the big hit."
  • In the top of the seventh inning, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis made a no-look flip behind his back to Chase Utley on a sliding stop to force Rafael Ynoa out at second base. Utley collected the ball cleanly and threw to Howard, who was unable to make the catch to execute the double play. Galvis' play was met with cheers across the stadium and multiple replays on the Phillies video board.
  • With two out in the eighth, the Phillies' Jeff Francoeur launched a fly ball to deep left against Rockies reliever Scott Oberg. A fan reached over the wall with his glove but failed to make the catch. Francoeur was awarded a double, and an umpire crew chief check of the replay confirmed the call.
Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles (2-5, 5.10 ERA) left his last start with a sprained left big toe, but is in line to start Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET against the Phillies and righty Jerome Williams (3-4, 5.33). Williams will make the start for the Phillies Sunday. Williams is tied with Arizona pitcher Josh Collmenter for the National League lead in hits allowed with 70 this season. This will be the right-hander's last start of a rough May where he has allowed 22 runs in 30 1/3 innings for an ERA of 6.53.


Rewarded With Losses – Control in baseball has two meanings. When it comes to putting a pitch where he wants to, Aaron Harang has control. Of the 109 pitches he threw Saturday in the Phillies' 5-2 loss, 74 were for strikes and for the first time this season, Harang didn't issue a walk. And he controlled his pitches in the zone, allowing just four hits and two runs in six innings while striking out seven. But when it comes to the defense behind him and run support, Harang has zero control. This is something the veteran has come to accept over his 14 seasons in the Majors. "You can't really go out and try to change too much," he said. "You've got to go out and keep doing what you can do. You've got to do what you can do to contribute to the team. Things will eventually change and the numbers will show the overall outcome of your season." The numbers to which Harang were referring are his season marks, which are far better than anyone would expect a pitcher with a losing record to have at the end of May. Despite his 4-5 record, Harang has an ERA of 2.02 and is striking out more than 6.5 batters per nine innings. In six May starts, Harang never allowed more than two earned runs in a game but the Phillies won just two of those outings. Though Harang admitted that this can be frustrating, he is accustomed to this. When Harang was younger and just coming into his own as a starter in Cincinnati, his team was rebuilding just as the Phillies are now. One thing he learned over that period was that having "ups and downs" is a natural part of baseball. Thus, Harang said he doesn't think about his win-loss record or things that are out of his control. Harang's attitude on getting through tough situations can be summed up by how he reacted to his early adversity Saturday. Harang entered play Saturday as the best in the National League in home run prevention among starting pitchers, having allowed just two home runs all season. But he gave up two home runs in the second inning alone against the Rockies. He thought he made good pitches on both of the home runs, and when he went back and watched the tape, it confirmed his suspicion. But even though the pitches were where he wanted them, Harang said he understood why the balls were hit as well as they were. "Once I let go of the ball, it's kind of out of my control," Harang said.

Where’s The Offense? – Twice in 10 days, Eddie Butler has started against the Phillies. But based on the disparity of results, Philadelphia might as well have faced off against two pitchers. On May 20, the Phillies feasted on Butler. The Rockies right-hander struggled to survive three innings, requiring 77 pitches to find nine outs against 18 batters. The Phillies jumped on the rookie, scoring four runs, two earned, on six hits, two walks and a home run. Fast forward to Saturday, and Butler manged to avoid Phillies' bats this time. He stifled the Phillies' offense in the Rockies' 5-2 win, allowing just four hits and one run in six innings with an economical 78 pitches. If you were to watch Butler's two starts back-to-back, you would think he was starting against two different Phillies teams. And given the way manager Ryne Sandberg assessed his team's play over its current six-game losing streak, he kind of did. "For a stretch there a couple of weeks ago, we were getting the big hit and the timely hit and we had a winning streak, and we blanked out in this cold streak with men on base," Sandberg said. Saturday was no exception to this "blanking out." The Phillies were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. In the eighth and ninth innings alone, the Phillies stranded four runners, two of whom were in scoring position. This continued a trend from Friday when they stranded runners in the last two innings of a 4-1 loss. Power has been lacking for the Phillies. Before Cesar Hernandez's eighth-inning solo home run, the team hadn't put a ball in the stands over the losing streak. To Sandberg, this is one area where the offense needs to turn things around immediately. "It's pretty good hitting weather out there," Sandberg said. "The flags are blowing. We have guys capable of that. We like to see more contact first and then the ball going out of the park will definitely give us a jumpstart with the offense." The Phillies are now a season-worst 13 games below .500. Two weeks removed from a six-game winning streak, the team is now on its longest losing streak of the year. With the offense stagnating, the bullpen struggling and the starting pitching doing everything it can to keep this team in games, Philadelphia looks to have lost its way. To Saturday's starter Aaron Harang, this is a by-product of being on a young baseball team and can easily be remedied. "It's just a matter of kind of getting everybody synced together," he said. "You have some games where your pitching isn't doing well and your offense has got to pick that up, and other games where your offense isn't doing well and your pitching has got to pick that up. It's just you've got to find the right lane on the road and make sure you get on it and go from there."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 19-32. 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 40-61-0 on this day.

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