Friday, May 1, 2015

Phillies Finish Month In Historic Fashion

GAME RECAP: Cardinals Flatten Phillies 9-3

Despite the less-than-desirable debut from lefty Tim Cooney, the Cardinals ended a four-game series against the Phillies with a 9-3 win at Busch Stadium on Thursday behind a blitz attack from the top half of their lineup. In the third straight game featuring Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams as the team's No. 2-4 hitters, the Cardinals saw those three combine for seven hits, six runs, two walks and six RBIs. Successive hits by the three in the first inning dropped Phillies starter David Buchanan into a quick three-run hole. "When those guys are swinging the bat well and you have tough at-bats one after another, it just puts the pressure on the pitcher and presents a different look for our lineup," Carpenter said, after reaching base four times. "I think it was a good move that [Cardinals manager] Mike [Matheny] made the other day and it has paid off for us this week." Buchanan (0-5) would be chased in the fifth, which saw Holliday and Adams deliver two more RBI hits. A two-run blast by Adams in third was the biggest of the four extra-base hits the three tallied. Buchanan, with his 4 1/3-inning start, actually lasted longer than Cooney, who was pulled after allowing eight of the 15 batters he faced to reach. He fell behind all but one hitter his first time through the order and was stung by a Darin Ruf homer in the Phillies' two-run third. Philadelphia tied the game against him but then got nothing going against the Cardinals' bullpen. "We've struggled to put up some crooked numbers," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We haven't been good on some of the bunt attempts to give us some other chances to get some runs. Those are things we can improve on. Everybody will continue to get some opportunities."

  • Buchanan continues to struggle. He allowed eight hits, seven runs and three walks in just 4 1/3 innings. He finished April at 0-5 with an 8.76 ERA, which is the highest ERA in the Majors. "I just want my team to win a game that I pitch in," said a visibly frustrated Buchanan. "I'm not looking at my record. I just want my team to win when I pitch in a ballgame. I don't care how it happens. 0-for-5 right now. But -- I want my team to be confident when I take that mound. I want to make sure that I start pitching that way."
  • Phillies left fielder Ruf made his first start since April 23, and he went 2-for-3 with one home run, one RBI and one walk. Ruf is tied for third on the team with five extra-base hits, despite being a distant ninth in plate appearances.
  • "Just try to stay positive. That's all. Try to set a good example. Try to conserve my helmets. The helmets are still alive. Bats? … The helmets are still alive." -- Chase Utley, on how he is keeping his composure following a .114 batting average in April.
  • Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley made his fourth rehab start Thursday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He allowed five hits, two unearned runs, one walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. His next start could be next week with the Phillies.
  • The Phillies finished April with an 8-15 record, their fewest wins in April since they went 7-17 in 2000. The Cardinals, in contrast, matched their franchise-best 21-game start with 15 wins.
  • Ryan Howard tied Fred Luderus for the most games played at first base in franchise history (1,298).
  • Phillies left fielder Ben Revere is 8-for-16 in his career against Koehler. Chase Utley (5-for-13) and Ryan Howard (4-for-12) also have had success against the Marlins' right-hander.

The Marlins had an off-day Thursday before facing the Phillies on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Marlins Park. It will be the second meeting this season between the National League East rivals, both of whom are battling to get to .500. The Marlins took two of three games in Philadelphia on April 21-23. Tom Koehler will be trying to notch his third win for the Marlins in the opener, while the Phillies will counter with right-hander Jerome Williams. The Saturday and Sunday games are afternoon contests.


Buchanan (0-5) Makes Phillies History – The Phillies hoped to see more from David Buchanan in 2015, but the wait continues. Buchanan had another rough start Thursday afternoon in a 9-3 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Buchanan allowed eight hits, seven runs, three walks, one home run and struck out one in just 4 1/3 innings as he fell to 0-5 with an 8.76 ERA. "I just want my team to win a game that I pitch in," said a visibly frustrated Buchanan. "I'm not looking at my record. I just want my team to win when I pitch in a ballgame. I don't care how it happens. 0-for-5 right now. But -- I want my team to be confident when I take that mound. I want to make sure that I start pitching that way." Buchanan is the first Phillies pitcher in at least 100 years to finish April at 0-5. Seven Phillies pitchers had finished the month at 0-4, including Jon Lieber (2006), Curt Schilling (1994) and Shane Rawley (1988). "He's trying to make some adjustments," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said about Buchanan. "I thought his last two [starts] showed some signs of improvement. Maybe this was just catching a hot group of hitters at the wrong time, possibly. We'll see. He has to make adjustments and go out there with some adjustments and do better next time." The Cardinals started the bottom of the first inning with four consecutive hits to take a 3-0 lead. The Phillies tied the game in the top of the third, but Matt Adams hit a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the third to give the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. Buchanan allowed two more runs to score in the fifth. Buchanan has allowed 32 hits and 15 walks in just 24 2/3 innings. It has left him with the highest ERA and WHIP (1.91) in the Majors. "It's frustrating," Buchanan said. "I don't like walking guys. It's not what I was known for. I didn't do it in Spring Training and all of a sudden it's happening now. It's got to stop."

Turning The Page On A Historic Month – Chase Utley has tried to remain upbeat in what has been the worst month of his Phillies career. He has tried to set a good example, which sometimes means exercising restraint. "Try to conserve my helmets," Utley said after Thursday's 9-3 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, which dropped the Phillies to 8-15. "Helmets are still alive." What about his bats? "Bats?" Utley said. "The helmets are still alive." Utley finished April hitting .114 (8-for-70) with two home runs, 11 RBIs and a .398 OPS. His batting average ties Roy Sievers for the lowest in April in franchise history (minimum 40 plate appearances). Sievers hit .114 in April 1962. Utley's poor month coincided with the organization's worst April finish since 2002, when the Phillies opened at 9-18 (.333). The eight wins this season were the fewest at the end of April since the team went 7-17 in 2000. Utley said he is hopeful he and his team can turn things around. "As we all know, you need some breaks here and there to get that momentum going as an individual and as a team," he said. "So we haven't really caught those breaks yet, but sometimes it's up to us to make those breaks happen. So we'll kind of see how it goes. The guys are playing hard and we're battling. So that's a good sign." Utley is hitting more ground balls than at any point in his career, which could be a factor in his struggles. His 1.42 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is 0.45 higher than his career average (0.97). But Utley also has run into some bad luck, especially lately. He has a .102 batting average on balls in play, which is the lowest mark of qualified hitters in the Majors. The average big leaguer has a .293 batting average when putting a ball in play. Utley's career average on balls in play is .302. Utley crushed three balls to the warning track in right-center field this week in St. Louis. He has hit other balls hard over the past couple weeks. It just seems those balls are hit at somebody. "It all evens out. That's what they say," Utley said. "So far they haven't. Whoever they are, they say that. You just kind of stick with it. I don't think I've swung the bat as poorly as my numbers show. But by no means have I swung the bat to the best of my capabilities." So Utley is happy to turn the page on April. Bring on May, right? "I'll be honest with you, I didn't know it was the last day of April," he said. "Every day is kind of the same." But maybe he will find the May days and beyond feel a little better.

Just Around The Corner – Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley made his fourth rehab start Thursday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He allowed five hits, two unearned runs, one walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. Billingsley threw 99 pitches (66 strikes). "I thought everything was sharp, located really well with the fastball today, which I didn't have last time out," Billingsley said in a transcript provided by the team. "I was moving my fastball in and out, up and down, which makes it a little easier to pitch. "My arm feels normal, I'm really happy with it. It's been a journey." Billingsley, 30, is recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries. He has a 4.74 ERA in four rehab starts. It could be his final rehab start, although that remains to be seen. Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez will make his second start Sunday against the Marlins in Miami. Billingsley cannot pitch Sunday, but he could rejoin the rotation after that. "It'd be awesome," Billingsley said, when asked what it would mean to make his next start in the big leagues. "It's been a long road with a lot of hard work and a lot of grinding. Just to be pitching at a big league field again and being back out there would be awesome."

Filling In With Power – The Phillies are desperate for power, so they appreciated Darin Ruf's at-bat in the third inning Thursday at Busch Stadium. He crushed a solo home run to left-center field in a 9-3 loss to the Cardinals. Ruf's five extra-base hits are tied with Jeff Francoeur and Ben Revere for third on the team, despite finishing a distant ninth in plate appearances. Ruf has 44 plate appearances. That is 20 fewer than Carlos Ruiz, who is eighth on the list, and eight more than Grady Sizemore, who is 10th on the list. "Trying to keep the routine the same, whether I'm playing or not playing," Ruf said about staying sharp at the plate. "When I'm not I obviously sneak down there [to the batting cage] to get ready in case I have to have an at-bat." Ruf started four consecutive games April 15-18, but he went 2-for-14 with one double, one RBI, one walk and six strikeouts. He has started just twice since, including just once since April 23. He started in left field Thursday and hit third. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said earlier in April that he thinks Ruf could play in right field, although general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. disagreed. Phillies right fielders entered the afternoon with a .473 OPS, which ranked 29th in the Majors. Despite hitting .179 (7-for-39), Ruf has a .660 OPS this season and a .792 OPS in his career. "I'll continue to try to see some guys in different spots and see who's getting hot and also mix and match a little bit," Sandberg said.

Multi-Talented Former Ace – Roy Halladay has been a busy man since he retired from professional baseball. He's been spotted at the zoo and sneaking up on fans at amusement parks, and it looks like his next stop is the circus. The former ace took to Twitter on Thursday to show off a very particular set of skills that don't involve baseball. There's no amount of money we wouldn't pay to see Halladay on a unicycle juggling and racing a clown. In fact, we might even move to nominate that contest as America's new pastime. Any objections? We didn't think so.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 8-15. 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 45-43-0 on this day.

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