Sunday, May 17, 2015

Offense Comes Alive To Secure 4th Win In A Row

GAME RECAP: Phils Beat D-Backs 7-5

Before Friday, the Phillies didn't have a three-game win streak in 2015. Now the streak is four. The Phillies, who improved their record to 15-23 with the win, defeated the D-backs 7-5 in an offensive affair Saturday that saw a combined 23 hits and 11 pitchers used. "Well, I like what I've seen," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about the team playing better offensively, including tying a season-high seven runs Saturday. "It's coming from different guys. It's more consistent up and down the lineup. I don't know. Warmer weather, having some at-bats under the belt, whatever it might be. The timing seems to be good right now." Jerome Williams went five innings of two-run ball for the Phillies, giving up seven hits and striking out four in a winning effort. Archie Bradley took the loss for the D-backs in his return from the DL, only lasting two-plus innings and allowing four runs on five hits and three walks. "It kind of snowballed on me," Bradley said of the three-run Phillies third. "I couldn't get it back. Up here, you have to make adjustments quicker than that. It kind of unraveled and I couldn't get it back." Jonathan Papelbon closed the game out and is now nine-for-nine in save opportunities this season.

·         Despite the wet environment, the Phillies bats awoke with 13 hits, six of which were for extra-bases. Jeff Francoeur started the offense off for the Phillies in the second inning with a home run over the left-field wall and doubles followed from Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, pinch-hitter Andres Blanco, Grady Sizemore, who finished with his first four-hit game since August 2008, and Chase Utley, who recorded his second two-hit game of the season.
·         Though he was forced to wait about an hour and a half between throwing the third and fourth innings, Williams came back out and threw two innings post rain delay. He swiftly sat down the first two hitters he saw in the fourth innings before two singles and an error by Utley charged Williams with an unearned run. "No hesitation at all," Williams said about coming back out. "My arm is durable enough to go out there and pitch, even with the delay. I just wanted to go back out there and help the guys out."
·         "He has a resilient arm. He didn't throw a lot of pitches. He was able to stay warm." -- Sandberg, on his decision to send Williams back out to pitch, despite a 1 hour, 17 minute rain delay.
·         A rain delay halted this game in the bottom of the third inning. The Phillies had scored two runs off of three hits and two walks and had the bases loaded with no outs before the delay, which began at 8:10 p.m. The delay lasted for one hour and 17 minutes before the game resumed at 9:27 p.m.

Right-hander Sean O'Sullivan makes his fourth start for the Phillies, and second since returning from the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his left knee. O'Sullivan is looking for his first big league win since May 12, 2011. He is 0-9 in 18 appearances since.


Returning To Form – Sometimes a hitter just needs some opportunities. Over his last six games, Grady Sizemore is proving this to be true. The outfielder came into Saturday's game hitting just .238 on the season but was 5-for-15 in his previous five games. Already swinging a hot bat, Sizemore turned that 5-for-15 into a 9-for-20 streak Saturday with a 4-for-5 performance in the Phillies' 7-5 win, in which the lefty singled three times, doubled once and scored a run. Sizemore, who hasn't hit particularly well since his return to baseball in 2013, said that this steady stream of at-bats is what has triggered his offensive prowess. "It felt good to have some good swings and get the win," Sizemore said. "I felt like I didn't have a lot of at-bats or a lot of consistent at-bats, so I try to just do what you can to stay sharp and relax up there and keep grinding it out." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed, saying the progression from pinch-hitter to regular player really eased Sizemore into a comfort zone, leading to this recent hot streak. "Grady just seems to be clicking right now," Sandberg said. "He gave us some real good pinch-hits, he got some hits and I think that got him rolling. Now with some starts, he seems to be in a groove. He's just seeing the ball real good, squaring it up." Being that Sizemore is one of the many Phillies' outfielders in danger of losing his job when Cody Asche and Domonic Brown are recalled from Triple-A, one would naturally assume that Sizemore's jump in production is coming from the place of a guy wanting to keep his job. However, Sizemore said that as a Major League Baseball player, he needs no extra incentive to try his hardest. "You can't really worry about what you can't control," he said. "There's no need for motivation for any player. You want to go out there and get better every day. So you just focus on what you can control and go from there." That being said, Sizemore also acknowledged that the team has been struggling offensively this season and though the offense has looked good over the team's four-game winning streak, changes probably will be made to the outfield and to the lineup in coming weeks. But, as one of the veterans of the clubhouse, Sizemore said he knows how to look past both the struggles that have happened and the adversities that may be coming. "You look for the positive and you work off of that," Sizemore said. "We had some tough breaks and obviously we weren't playing very well, but you know it's going to turn around. You just keep doing what your routine is, whatever that works and you make adjustments every day and you work from there."

Moving Down To Move Up – It might be a coincidence, but Chase Utley must love the results. He is 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs in two games since Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg dropped him from third to sixth in the Phillies' lineup. Utley went 2-for-3 with one double and two RBIs in Saturday night's 7-5 victory over Arizona at Citizens Bank Park. "Nothing different," Sandberg said. "He's hitting balls away from the glove and defense. It's good to see." It was Utley's second multi-hit game of the season and his first since April 14, when he homered twice and had three hits against the Mets at Citi Field. Utley singled to center field in the third inning Saturday to score Grady Sizemore to hand the Phillies a 3-0 lead. He doubled to score Maikel Franco in the fifth to make it 5-3. Arizona right-hander Addison Reed intentionally walked him in the sixth to face the right-handed-hitting Jeff Francoeur. There has been plenty of discussion about Utley because his struggles have extended for nearly a year. He has hit .217 with 17 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .612 OPS in 587 plate appearances since May 29. Could Utley abruptly retire like Mike Schmidt in May 1989? Could the Phillies bench Utley to prevent him from reaching 500 plate appearances this season, which would automatically vest a $15 million club option for 2016? Utley left the clubhouse almost immediately Saturday night and was unavailable to comment. But Utley has run into some bad luck. His .118 batting average on balls in play entering the game was 178 points below the game's average and 182 points below his career average. "I thought he's looked really good," Sizemore said. "It's a small sample of what we've seen. 120 or 130 at-bats isn't a lot for anybody. So we can't get too carried away with what anybody's doing right now. A couple things fall here or there it's a different story." this week compiled's Statcast™ information on batted ball velocity. It wrote: "Utley's batted ball velocity is a little below average, not elite -- but below average would be an incredible improvement from Utley's (.455) OPS." In other words, Utley might not be the player he once was, but he is not a .138 hitter, either. "In Utley," wrote, "we have a player whose Statcast™ data doesn't match the conventional narrative. If the commentators and traditional data sources are correct, Utley is headed toward a premature retirement. If Statcast™ is right, Utley has an about average bat, one that should recover. The Phillies just have to stick by him long enough to let him do it."

Welcome Back To Philly – The Phillies on Saturday acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Orioles for cash considerations. Nix will report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Nix appeared in 18 games last season for the Phillies. He has spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .167 with a .388 OPS in 25 games.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 15-23. 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 49-46-0 on this day.

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