Thursday, May 21, 2015

Phillies Bounce Back To Beat Rockies

GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Rockies 4-2

Ryan Howard crunched a 454-foot home run among his three hits as the Phillies won for the seventh time in eight games, 4-2, over the Rockies at Coors Field on a chilly Wednesday night. Howard's third-inning blast accounted for one of the four runs (two earned) and six hits against Rockies starter Eddie Butler (2-5), who was gone after three innings. Butler was chased in 2 2/3 innings of his previous start, against the Dodgers. "He's having good swings," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Howard. "He crushed that ball to center tonight. There was no help at all on that." Phillies starter Severino Gonzalez (2-1) held the Rockies to one run on five hits in five innings.

·         Howard hit a home run to center field in the third inning to make it 3-0. He is averaging a home run every 3.375 games since he hit his first home run of the season April 21. If Howard can maintain that pace through the season's remaining 120 games, he would finish with 35 home runs. "It would be great to get back to that kind of flow," Howard said.
·         Gonzalez rejoined the Phillies' rotation following an injury to Chad Billingsley. He was pulled after throwing 65 pitches.
·         Phillies second baseman Chase Utley returned to the No. 3 spot in the lineup after hitting sixth his previous four games. He went 2-for-4 with one walk. He is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with four doubles and three RBIs in his last five games to raise his batting average to .159. He was hitting .118 last Thursday.
·         Phillies first-base coach Juan Samuel will miss Thursday's and Friday's games because he is attending his daughter's graduation from law school at Barry University in Orlando. Assistant hitting coach John Mizerock will be the first-base coach in his absence.
·         "That was a little strange. We were joking he almost overran it and then he almost overthrew the first baseman." -- Sandberg, on Herrera's leaping catch in right-center field in the fifth, which turned into a rally-killing double play.
·         Williams will make just his second career start at Coors Field and the first since 2004 -- his second Major League season. Williams made that start as a member of the Giants and received a no-decision, giving up three earned runs in five innings.
·         The Phillies have not been kind to De La Rosa over his career. In seven starts, he is 2-4 with a 5.67 ERA and has surrendered more hits (40) than innings pitched (39 2/3).
·         De La Rosa hasn't found much success when facing Carlos Ruiz. In 15 career plate appearances, Ruiz is hitting .545 with six hits and two doubles.


A Thursday afternoon tilt at Coors Field showcases a pair of veteran starting pitchers -- Philadelphia right-hander Jerome Williams (3-3, 5.02) vs. Colorado left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (1-2, 6.56). Both hurlers have been in the Majors Leagues for more than a decade, and each enters Thursday's contest with effective performances in their rear-view mirrors. Williams tossed five innings and yielded just two earned runs in Saturday's victory over Arizona, signaling his first win since April 26. De La Rosa, meanwhile, was nearly flawless against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, tossing 7 1/3 scoreless frames with just a pair of hits surrendered. The only issues he had that evening were health-related -- De La Rosa limped to the clubhouse after aggravating his left groin -- but he reported Wednesday afternoon that his groin "feels good."


Crushing It! – Ryan Howard obliterated a baseball in the third inning Wednesday night at Coors Field. He sent a 1-1 slider 454 feet to center field for a solo home run in a 4-2 victory over the Rockies, giving the Phillies seven wins in their last eight games. Statcast™ data said the ball left his bat at 108 mph, making it one of his hardest hit balls of the season. "I'm trying to get into [Giancarlo] Stanton range," Howard said. It was Howard's longest home run since he hit one 465 feet in August 2011, according to ESPN. In October of that year, Howard ruptured his left Achilles in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. "I felt like I hit it pretty good," he said. "I got the sweet part of the bat on the ball. It had some good backspin on it." Howard also singled and scored in the first inning and doubled in the seventh inning to finish the night 3-for-5. He is hitting .292 (28-for-96) with five doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a .961 OPS in 27 games since April 19. From April 21 through Wednesday, the only hitters with more home runs than Howard are Bryce Harper (11), Stanton (10), Ryan Braun (10), Mike Trout (nine) and Todd Frazier (nine). Howard is averaging a home run every 3.375 games since he hit his first home run of the season. If he can maintain that pace through the season's remaining 120 games, he would finish with 35 home runs. Howard has not hit 30 or more home runs in a season since he hit 33 in 2011. "It would be great to get back to that kind of flow," the slugger said. Teams needing a first baseman or designated hitter might take notice. The Phillies have tried to trade Howard in the past, but found scant interest. First, Howard had $60 million remaining on his contract, which expires following the 2016 season. Second, he posted a .720 OPS from 2012-14. Howard looks like a much different hitter lately. "I mean it's not doing a whole lot different than the first month, it's just finding real estate out there," said Howard, referring to his .175 batting average and .464 OPS through April 19. Said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg: "He's having good swings. He crushed that ball to center tonight. There was no help at all on that. If anything, it was fighting against the rain at the time. Just looks like he's real comfortable at home plate and getting real good contact on his pitches."

Second Chance – Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez has a pretty nice opportunity ahead of him. He allowed one run in five innings in Wednesday night's 4-2 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. Gonzalez rejoined the Phillies' rotation following an injury to right-hander Chad Billingsley, which will keep him on the 15-day disabled list four to six weeks. The Phillies have few options behind Gonzalez, so he could get a few more starts. Triple-A right-hander David Buchanan suffered a severely sprained right ankle, which will sideline him six to eight weeks. Triple-A right-hander Phillippe Aumont is pitching well in the IronPigs' rotation, but he is not on the 40-man roster. Double-A Reading right-hander Aaron Nola pitched another gem Wednesday, going seven scoreless innings, but Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that Nola is nowhere close to being promoted to the big leagues. Relax, Amaro said he could see Nola in the big leagues before the end of the season. Just not right now. That leaves Gonzalez. "My first outing wasn't that good," Gonzalez said through translator Juan Samuel, referring to an April 28 start in St. Louis in which he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. "I was nervous. I kind of feel more settled down now with a few more starts. I feel like the jitters are gone so I'm looking forward to it." Gonzalez retired the first nine batters he faced Wednesday, which included a fantastic play from Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis in the third inning. He backhanded a ball hit into the hole by DJ LeMahieu. Galvis jumped and threw to first base for the out. "It was unreal," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. Galvis also bailed out Gonzalez in the fourth inning when he allowed his only run. Wilin Rosario tried to stretch a single into a double play, but Galvis got the throw from left fielder Ben Revere and fired to second base to get him. Odubel Herrera then crushed the Rockies' hopes of another rally in the fifth when he leapt in the air to steal a hit from Nick Hundley. Ben Paulsen was running on the play, so Herrera threw to first for the double play. "That was a little strange," Sandberg said with a laugh. "We were joking he almost overran it and then he almost overthrew the first baseman." Sandberg pulled Gonzalez after five innings and just 65 pitches. "They started to get some wood on the ball and then it was the start of the third time through the lineup, a third look at it," he said. Gonzalez's next start comes Monday in New York.

Trade Talk – Cody Asche is in Triple-A, preparing to become the Phillies' everyday left fielder. Domonic Brown's bat is heating up, too. Both will rejoin the Phillies at some point, possibly soon. Their inevitable arrivals seem to leave Ben Revere as the odd man out in the Phillies' outfield, with Odubel Herrera in center field, which is why, sources told, the Phillies and Angels have been talking about a trade in recent weeks. The Angels have been scouting Revere for some time and like him, but the Phillies and Angels have not agreed on compensation. It is safe to say the Phillies are seeking Minor Leaguers in return. There is no timetable on Asche's return. He has played only eight games so far in left field. The Phillies optioned Brown to Triple-A in April, despite his $2.5 million salary. He is hitting .272 (34-for-125) with five doubles, one triple and 16 RBIs in 30 games, although he is hitting .462 (12-for-26) in his last six games. Revere is making $4.1 million this season, and he will not become a free agent until after the 2017 season, which could make him more attractive to teams.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 18-24. 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 47-48-1 on this day.

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