Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Phillies Falter In Late Innings Ending Their Winning Streak

GAME RECAP: Rockies Stop Phillies 6-5

Nick Hundley homered to left-center field with two outs in the eighth as the Rockies won, 6-5, and snapped the Phillies' win streak at six games on Tuesday night at Coors Field. Hundley's homer, his third this season, came off Phillies righty Justin De Fratus (0-1). It gave the usually strong-at-home Rockies their first victory at Coors since April 24, after six straight losses. "It started with Wilin [Rosario] getting the big two-run triple with two outs in the first," Hundley said. "We need big two-out hits. It has to continue. We have to go out and earn these victories. We have to expect that out of ourselves." The homer came after the Phillies tied the game on Maikel Franco's two-run single off Boone Logan. Scott Oberg (2-1) replaced Logan with the bases loaded and coaxed a Carlos Ruiz double-play grounder to end the threat. "We have the best infield defense in baseball, so I just wanted to make sure I got something on the ground and let them do their job," Oberg said. John Axford earned his fifth save in just his fourth appearance this month. The victory came on a night when the Rockies struck out 10 times -- their seventh straight game finishing in double figures in strikeouts. The Major League modern-era (since 1900) record is eight games, owned by the Padres (July 9-20, 2011).

·         Phillies third baseman Franco's throwing error in the first inning led to three unearned runs and a 3-0 deficit. But he went 3-for-4 with one double and three RBIs -- the hits and RBIs set career highs -- including game-tying hits in the third and eighth innings. "Just a bad throw," Franco said. "But I know what I'm doing wrong. Just one mistake. Everybody makes mistakes."
·         Aaron Harang allowed three unearned runs in six innings, but the Phillies' bullpen could not keep the Rockies off the board. Left-hander Diekman allowed two runs in the seventh inning to hand the Rockies a 5-3 lead. Everything in the seventh happened after Diekman struck out the first two batters he faced. Right-hander De Fratus then allowed a two-out solo home run to Hundley in the eighth after the Phillies tied the game in the top of the inning. "I meant for it to go in the dirt and it just went to the one spot it could not go, you know what I mean?" De Fratus said. "It was right in his bat path. That's not where I wanted it to go."
·         The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth when Odubel Herrera was ruled to have been hit by a pitch by the Logan. The Rockies challenged, believing the ball hit the knob of Herrera's bat before his hand, but the call stood.
·         The Phillies announced after the game they optioned right-hander Hector Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. They are making room for right-hander Severino Gonzalez, who is starting Wednesday night. Gonzalez will officially be added to the roster before the game.
·         The Rockies had just one hit between the first and the seventh, but strung together three straight productive plate appearances with two outs against Phillies reliever Jake Diekman -- DJ LeMahieu's single to right, Charlie Blackmon's walk and Troy Tulowitzki's two-run bloop double. "We didn't get a bunch of them [hits] but they came at big times," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
·         Wednesday's contest will serve as an introduction of sorts on both sides. Colorado's 12 position players have never faced Gonzalez, while Philadelphia's 13 position players have never seen Butler.
·         Gonzalez will have to pitch carefully when facing Wilin Rosario, who entered Tuesday with a .338 career batting average versus Philadelphia in 76 plate appearances. Rosario had two hits in the series opener and started Game 2 with a two-run triple.
·         Chase Utley will look to continue his career-long assault on Rockies pitching. After going 1-for-3 in the series opener, Utley entered Tuesday hitting .340 lifetime against Colorado -- his highest career batting average against any National League team. He added an RBI double in the second inning Tuesday.


Philadelphia rookie Severino Gonzalez (1-1, 10.57) returns to the Phillies' rotation on Wednesday at Coors Field -- his first Major League appearance since tossing five innings of two-run ball in a May 3 win against the Miami Marlins. Since then, Gonzalez has made a pair of starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but his services were needed with the Phillies after right-hander Chad Billingsley was sent to the disabled list on Tuesday. Opposite Gonzalez is Rockies right-hander Eddie Butler (2-4, 4.24), who'll likely be hoping for a longer outing than his previous start. He surrendered four runs (three earned) and six hits in a road tilt vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, needing 83 pitches to get through just 2 2/3 innings.


Falling Short – The third out proved problematic for the Phillies' bullpen Tuesday night at Coors Field. Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman allowed two runs with two outs in the seventh inning to hand the Rockies a two-run lead in an eventual 6-5 loss, which snapped the Phillies' six-game winning streak. Everything in the seventh happened after Diekman struck out the first two batters he faced. Phillies right-hander Justin De Fratus then allowed a two-out solo home run to Nick Hundley in the eighth inning to give the Rockies the lead after the Phillies scored twice in the top of the inning to tie the game. "I meant for it to go in the dirt and it just went to the one spot it could not go, you know what I mean?" De Fratus said about the 1-2 slider to Hundley. "It was right in his bat path. That's not where I wanted it to go. It's a pitch I'm trying to get in the dirt. It's a pitch I've thrown in the dirt hundreds of times and been successful with it, and it just did not go there." The killer for De Fratus is that the Phillies had just tied the Rockies for the second time in the game. Of course, the Phillies actually could have scored more than twice in the eighth. They had the bases loaded with one out, but Carlos Ruiz grounded into an inning-ending double play. Ruiz has grounded into a team-high five double plays this season. "I have a lot of confidence with him coming through there," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, who did not consider pinch-hitting for Ruiz. "He drives the ball to the outfield. He's going to put the bat on the ball." Sandberg also had right-hander Ken Giles warming up in the bullpen, but chose De Fratus to pitch the eighth. Giles had pitched five of the previous seven days, so Sandberg said he only wanted to use Giles in a "plus" situation, meaning with the Phillies holding the lead. "But even that was questionable," Sandberg said. If De Fratus buried that slider like he wanted, it might not have mattered. "That's the most deflating part about it," De Fratus said. "Our offense grinded so hard all day and we were behind all day and they kept coming back and coming back. And then we tied it and you get two quick outs and you're feeling really good about yourself and then literally one pitch changes the entire game. It's just tough. But we'll be back here tomorrow fighting. There's a lot of good things that happened today."

Off To A Good Start – Maikel Franco, the Phillies' No. 3 prospect according to, had one of the hottest bats in Triple-A when they recalled him on Friday. He has continued to hit in the bigs. Franco went 3-for-4 with one double and three RBIs in Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. Franco doubled and scored in the second inning, singled to plate the tying run in the third inning and singled to score two runs to tie the game in the eighth inning. He is hitting .350 (7-for-20) with one double, one triple, one home run and five RBIs in five games. Franco set career-highs in hits and RBIs Tuesday. "He had a heck of a game at the plate," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. But Franco also made a very costly error in the first inning which led to the Rockies scoring three unearned runs against Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang. Troy Tulowitzki hit a ground ball to third and Franco fielded the ball cleanly, but threw high to first baseman Ryan Howard. The ball tipped over Howard's glove, allowing Tulowitzki to reach safely. "Just a bad throw," Franco said. "But I know what I'm doing wrong. Just one mistake. Everybody makes mistakes." "We talked to him about playing a little too deep, generally speaking," Sandberg said. "The ground balls were getting to him so he had to rush it." If Franco continues to hit like this and he makes that adjustment at third base, he could be a big boost to the Phillies' lineup moving forward. In fact, he already has.

Recalling Letterman Appearances – Cole Hamels spent the night of Oct. 29, 2008, partying and celebrating with his teammates. The Phillies had just won their second World Series in franchise history, and Hamels had been named World Series MVP. He got home around 6 a.m. when the bleary-eyed pitcher received a telephone call. 'The Late Show with David Letterman' wanted him on that night's show to read its Top 10 list. "No way, I'm tired," Hamels said. Hamels' agent, John Boggs, called back. He said he should reconsider. He told him that it would be a great experience. Hamels ultimately agreed and eventually found himself on a helicopter flying from West Chester, Pa., to New York for the show's afternoon taping. "It was the first time I had ever been on a helicopter," Hamels said. "I was a little nervous. I didn't know what he wanted me to do. When they said the Top 10, I said, 'Top 10?' It was pretty cool." Hamels is one of the privileged few to have appeared on Letterman's iconic show. Letterman is retiring this week, with his final broadcast Wednesday night on CBS. So it seemed like a good time to ask Hamels and other Phillies like Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard and Mike Schmidt, about their experiences on the show. Hamels appeared with Paul Rudd, John Legend and Ashley Olsen. He said he talked baseball with Rudd, who is a Royals fan. "I also asked him, 'What do I do out there?'" Hamels said. "He said just be yourself, be cool. I was like, 'Oh, OK.'" Hamels said he rehearsed the Top 10 list in his dressing room, reading the cue cards over and over again. "I tried to memorize them as much as possible," he said. "But they had the cue cards there if I needed them. I was spot on, though. Thank God. It was just a different experience. You get brought in, right up to the dressing room, read the cue cards, thrown out there, then, boom, out. It was really quick. It was the quickest 24 hours. Winning the World Series, straight to Letterman, straight to a party that night, then the parade the next day. It was a whirlwind." Papelbon appeared on Oct. 31, 2007, following the Red Sox's second World Series championship in four years. He entered doing an Irish jig as the Late Show band played the Dropkick Murphys' 'I'm Shipping Up to Boston.' "I remember Letterman being pretty cool and down to earth," Papelbon said. "He was cool, man. He's a Mets fan. Huge Mets fan. He knew baseball real well. I thought that was very cool. There was depth to the conversation." Papelbon's recollection of his experience is a little fuzzy after that. He kind of remembers David Spade being on the show, but little else. After all, when Letterman asked Papelbon how he spent the days between winning the World Series on Oct. 28 and his appearance on the show three days later, Papelbon said, "Other than not sleeping, partying." The memories of Schmidt and Howard are hazy, too. Schmidt appeared in 1986 and twice in '88, when Letterman hosted Late Night on NBC. Back then, World Series broadcasts used players like Schmidt to offer scouting reports on players competing in the postseason. Letterman had Schmidt give scouting reports on that night's guests, which one night included L.A. Law's Susan Dey. Schmidt touted a good story about Dey's recent wedding, among other things. Schmidt watched video of that appearance Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. It didn't jog his memory. Howard appeared once in April 2007 and once again during the 2010 postseason, where he read the Top 10 List from the Phillies' dugout. "It was cool," Howard said. "He was a crazy cool guy. The show was just a lot of fun. It was cool just seeing how it was set up. I think that was probably the biggest thing." Hamels remembers Letterman walking over to him after he finished reading the Top 10 list. "Thanks for coming on," Letterman said. Hamels thought to himself, "Wow. You're thanking me? I should be thanking you." As it turned out, it was worth the helicopter ride to make it happen.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 17-24. 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 47-56-0 on this day.

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