- The Phillies had the fewest extra-base hits (70) in the National League in 34 games through May 12, but have had a league-leading 40 in 11 games since. They picked up four extra-base hit against Strasburg, including a two-run home run from Maikel Franco in the third. Howard homered against A.J. Cole in the fifth. "He keeps his aggression throughout the entire at-bat," Howard said about Franco. "He's going to continue to grow and get better. The more experience he gets at this level against this pitching, the better he'll get. He just needs to play."
- As the July 31 Trade Deadline gets closer, Hamels' asking price keeps inching upward with every strong start he makes. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out five in eight innings to pick up the win. "Cole was in control," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He was good attacking the zone, good fastball, mixing his pitches well. He pitched backwards at times. He was outstanding."
- Howard has hit 10 home runs since April 20, which ties Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton for the second-most in baseball in that stretch. The only player with more home runs in that span is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, who has 11.
- "I have two good ones now, I guess. They might have thrown an extra in there." - Howard, who said he has not felt this healthy since he had two healthy Achilles, referring to the one he ruptured in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Phillies Demonstrate Rare Dominance
GAME RECAP: Phillies Dominate Nationals 8-1
Left-hander Cole Hamels proved to be too much for the Nationals, who lost to the Phillies, 8-1, at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon. Hamels pitched eight solid innings, allowed the one run, five hits and struck out five batters. He received plenty of run support as the Phillies scored a season-high eight runs. Ryan Howard had three hits and drove in two runs. "They're a great lineup," Hamels said. "One through nine, they've got some pitchers who hit. Every single one of them can start a rally faster than you can possibly imagine, so you just have to keep bearing down with them, you can't give in. Sometimes you look at the National League as being the weaker division, but that kind of team is an American League-style team." Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg had an outing to forget. He couldn't get past the fourth and allowed six runs -- five earned -- in 3 2/3 innings. "He had a lot of hitters at two strikes and couldn't put them away. A lot of damage with two strikes in the count," manager Matt Williams said. "I know that he is out there throwing hard. He had a good fastball again. Early fastball command was there, but when he got them to two strikes, he just couldn't put them away. It something that happens sometimes." The loss snapped the Nationals' six-game winning streak, while the Phillies improved their record to 19-26. They have won eight of their last 11 games.
OTHER NOTES FROM THE DAY:
It has been a heck of a season for Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang, who faces the Nats in Sunday's series finale at Nationals Park at 1:35 p.m. ET. He is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA, which is the sixth-best ERA in baseball. His 0.98 WHIP ranks 10th. That type of production could make him a top target come the July 31 Trade Deadline. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will face the Phillies for the 14th time in his career on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. He is 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against them. In his last start against the Yankees, Gonzalez was perfect through the first three innings, but struggled the next two innings, allowing six runs. He ended up with his second straight no-decision.
Offense Comes Alive – Break up the Phillies. They pounded the Nationals in an 8-1 victory Saturday at Nationals Park. They picked up four extra-base hits against Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg in 3 2/3 innings and one more against Nationals right-hander A.J. Cole as they scored a season-high eight runs. The Phillies had just 70 extra-base hits in 34 games through May 12, when they were 11-23 with the worst record in baseball. But since they opened the season with their worst record since 1971, they have 40 extra-base hits in 11 games, which leads Major League Baseball. Maikel Franco crushed a two-run home run to center field in the third inning to hand the Phillies a 4-0 lead. Ryan Howard smashed a solo home run to center field in the fifth inning to make it 7-0. Howard, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera also doubled in the victory. Franco is hitting .286 (10-for-35) with one double, one triple, two home runs, seven RBIs and an .885 OPS in nine games since the Phillies recalled him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 15. "To be honest, it's what we've all known he's capable of and just people letting him play," Howard said about Franco. "It's not fair to put expectations on him. You just let him go out there and play and do what he does, and good things happen. "He's going to continue to grow and get better. The more experience he gets at this level against this pitching, the better he'll get. He just needs to play." Franco had one hit in his previous 12 at-bats before he homered in the third. Strasburg actually struck out Franco on three pitches in the second. He had him 0-2 again when Franco crushed a 96-mph fastball to center field. Statcast™ said the ball left Franco's bat at 103 mph and travelled 406 feet. "I'm just trying to see a good pitch to hit," Franco said. "He threw me a couple fastballs the first AB, and I was just ready for the fastball. He threw me one there, and I made good contact." Howard is hitting .303 (33-for-109) with seven doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS in 30 games since April 20. He has homered three times in the past four games. His 10 homers have come since April 20, which is tied for the second-most homers in baseball in that stretch. Only Bryce Harper has more with 11. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said a mixture of Howard being healthy and more confident at the plate has translated into his improved results. Howard agreed, saying this is the healthiest he has felt since he ruptured his left Achilles in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series. "I have two good ones now, I guess," said Howard, referring to his Achilles. "They might have thrown an extra in there."
Hamels Increases Value – The Phillies' front office loves this. Cole Hamels pitched beautifully in Saturday's 8-1 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out five in eight innings to improve to 5-3 with a 2.98 ERA. He is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last seven starts. "They're a great lineup," Hamels said about the Nationals, who lead the National League in scoring. "One through nine, they've got some pitchers who hit. Every single one of them can start a rally faster than you can possibly imagine, so you just have to keep bearing down with them, you can't give in. Sometimes you look at the National League as being the weaker division, but that kind of team is an American League-style team." Hamels pitched seven scoreless innings before the Nationals scored a run in the eighth, preventing him from picking up his first shutout since Aug. 13, 2012, which was the second of back-to-back shutouts. "It's a dangerous team, so that's the least of my worries," Hamels said about the shutout possibility. "They can put up a run or runs within a second. So you just have to be able to make quality pitches and hope they hit it to your defense. That's all I can really say was going through my head." The Phillies scored eight runs for Hamels for the first time since May 17, 2014, when they scored 11 runs for him against the Reds. He had gone 34 starts in between that much run support. Hamels' name is going to remain a popular one as the July 31 Trade Deadline draws closer. If he keeps pitching like this, the Phillies' asking price is not going to drop. In fact, it might inch upward. "He was outstanding," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Mind Games – The U.S. military bombarded Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega with heavy metal music to force him from his compound and surrender in 1989. Britney Spears' music has blared from merchant ships to scare away pirates off the horn of Africa. The Nationals have chosen "Somewhere Out There" by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, seemingly to annoy their opponents. They have been playing pop ballads during opposing teams' batting practices this season, and the playlist has varied every day. But the past couple days the Phillies have been fortunate (or unfortunate) to hear Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind," Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight," Anne Murray's "You Needed Me," Dan Hill's "Can't We Try," and Spandau Ballet's "True." "We'll take care of that," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said before Saturday's game against the Nationals at Nationals Park. "We're going with the silent treatment at our place. "It's bush league. And irrelevant. What's the point?" Some of the Phillies are amused at the tunes. Some could not care less. Others want mercy. "I don't think there's any malice behind it," Phillies right-hander Justin De Fratus said. "I think it's funny. They played that 'Fievel Goes West' song yesterday. If anything, it's a change of pace from some of the stuff we hear every day." "I mean, come on," Jeff Francoeur said. "If you did it one time it's funny. But we come here so many times." The Phillies actually had a bigger beef than the music. They feel they get on the field for batting practice late at Nationals Park compared to other ballparks, giving them less time to get ready between BP and first pitch. But according to the Phillies' and Nationals' respective media guides, batting practice starts only five minutes later for opposing teams at Nationals Park than at Citizens Bank Park. "It's very inconvenient," Sandberg said. "That will be another adjustment. That seed was planted about six weeks ago." Nevertheless, the yacht rock continues. "I didn't even notice it," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said with a hint of a smile. "But it's nice soothing music they've got going on here. It's nice for the fans at the ballpark before the game. Yeah, maybe get a beer, a pretzel, enjoy BP."
The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 19-26. 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.