Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Phillies Flustered By Former Teammate

GAME RECAP: Pirates Pound Phillies 7-2

It looks like the Pirates are getting their groove back. Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison homered and A.J. Burnett was strong in Tuesday night's 7-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Pirates (17-16) have won four consecutive games and five of their last six to push past the .500 mark for the first time since May 1. "We stayed focused on offense after some early hard-hit balls didn't find grass, and A.J. got us off on the mark, throwing zeros up," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "A big three-run homer [by Harrison] a big two-run homer [McCutchen] with a big two-run single, [Gregory Polanco] sandwiched in-between." It has been a much different run recently for the Phillies, who have lost 11 of their last 14 games. The Phillies (11-23) are off to their worst start since 1971. They need to win Wednesday's game to avoid their worst start since 1961, when they were 11-24. "It's definitely frustrating," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "We have to keep going."

  • O'Sullivan had not earned a win in a big league game since May 12, 2011, exactly four years ago Tuesday. But it was not meant to be. He allowed three runs in five innings to take the loss. O'Sullivan is 0-9 in 18 appearances since he earned that win, which is the longest active losing streak in the big leagues.
  • The Phillies' bullpen entered the night with 59 walks, 11 more than any other bullpen in baseball. Right-hander Luis Garcia walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning, which led to the first two runs in a four-run inning and turned a one-run deficit into a five-run deficit.
  • "I didn't really see what happened until I looked down and the ball was in my hand." -- O'Sullivan, on his unlikely bare-handed catch off a Burnett comebacker.
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley singled to right field in the fourth inning to give him a very modest four-game hitting streak. He has four hits in his last 10 at-bats, which is progress considering his average dropped Friday to .099.
  • The Phillies are a season-high 12 games under .500. They have not been this far under .500 this early in the season since May 15, 1971, when they opened at 9-22.
  • Facing Hamels will be a rare occasion for the Pirates as he will be just the fourth left-handed starter the Bucs have faced in 2015. The Pirates are batting just .204 versus left-handed pitching this season.
  • Cesar Hernandez is expected to continue playing third base for the Phillies after regular starter Cody Asche was sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday night. If Hernandez isn't the starter, it will likely be Andres Blanco.

The Phillies and Pirates will play the third game of their four-game series Wednesday, notable because of the marquee pitching matchup and the opposite directions the teams are trending. Cole Hamels will take the mound for the home team after making one of his best starts of the season in his previous outing. Hamels threw seven innings of one-run baseball Friday versus the Mets, improving his record to 2-3 and his ERA to 3.68. Starting against Hamels for the Pirates will be Francisco Liriano, who enters the game in the top 10 in the National League in strikeouts with 44. Liriano is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA. After a slow start to the month, the Pirates have slowly been gaining ground back in the NL Central and a series win versus the Phillies would be their second straight after a rough stretch in early May when the team lost five in a row. Meanwhile, the Phillies haven't improved after their slow start and are looking to avoid their worst start since the turn of the century with their ace on the mound.


O’Sullivan Looked Spectacular For A Single Play – Sean O'Sullivan picked up pretty much where he left off. After missing nearly a month due to injury, O'Sullivan came off the disabled list Tuesday and lost his ninth straight decision dating back to 2011 as the Phillies lost 7-2. He threw 88 pitches in five innings of work, allowing three runs, striking out two, walking one and hitting one batter. All three of the runs he allowed came on a home run by Josh Harrison in the fourth inning. Despite the runs he allowed and his relatively advanced pitch count, O'Sullivan said he didn't just feel well, but he felt well enough to go back in for another inning. "I was lobbying for them to send me back out there in the sixth, but they didn't want to stretch me too thin on my first game back," O'Sullivan said. "I only went 72 pitches or so in the rehab start. Hopefully next one they let me go full board." The right-hander's performance Tuesday night didn't deviate too far from what he had done in his starts prior to the injury. He threw the fewest number of pitches he had all season, but was just three pitches away from tying his season high. His three runs allowed sat nicely between the two he allowed in his first start and the four he allowed in his second start. He even hit a batter, something he did in both of his April starts as well. But while O'Sullivan's numbers matched up well with his past outputs, his demeanor did not. When reflecting on his day, O'Sullivan mentioned that he succumbed to a few jitters early. "I think a little bit [of jitters] in the first inning," O'Sullivan said. "But that may have been a little bit of over-anxiousness, you know first game back. I was fine the rest of the game." O'Sullivan traded his first-inning anxiety for quick reactions in the second, as his most favorable highlight of the night came on a comebacker off the bat of opposing starter and former teammate A.J. Burnett. Burnett half-swung at a pitch and sent it right back at O'Sullivan, who, having to react quickly, stuck his throwing hand in front of the ball and recorded the out. The funny thing was, catching the ball wasn't even O'Sullivan's intention. "I didn't really see what happened until I looked down and the ball was in my hand," he said. "It was just one of those things where I wasn't going to be able to get the glove to it, so I just stuck my hand out trying to just knock it down and I held on to it." O'Sullivan said his hand felt fine after the catch, as did the knee he had injured. But despite how well O'Sullivan said he felt, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he wouldn't be surprised if it took his starter a few more games to look 100 percent. "Well, this was his first time pitching in a few weeks so I would imagine there was a little bit of rust there," Sandberg said. "We'll see how he does next time."

Robbing A Former Teammate – Life as a pitcher in the National League is hard enough as it is. You've got a super-prospect coming up seemingly every other week, and then someone's actually cruel enough to make you turn around and have to swing a piece of wood at a tiny white ball moving all over the place at high speed. The results: oy. So you'd expect that adversity to foster some kind of pitcher-to-pitcher brotherhood, a mutual understanding that -- hey, man, we know you've got it rough, and we're here for you. Well, Phillies starter Sean O'Sullivan apparently never got that memo. When fellow pitcher-in-arms A.J. Burnett managed to defy the odds and hit a little line drive during Tuesday's Pirates-Phillies game, O'Sullivan responded not with kindness and support, but the cold, bare hand of the law. Look at that swing, Sean. Does that look like the swing of a man who deserves to be robbed of even the slightest chance at a hit? Pitchers fly together, man!

The Makings Of A Historic Year – Ken Giles had not appeared in a game since Friday and had thrown just 11 pitches since May 4, which is why Phillies fans watched him pitch the eighth inning in Tuesday's 7-2 loss to the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. He needed work. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth. He also had not pitched since Friday, and had thrown just 22 pitches since May 4. The appearances of the team's two best relievers in a five-run loss summed up the past couple weeks for the Phillies, who have lost 11 of their last 14 games to drop to 11-23. It is the Phillies' worst start since 1971, when they also started 11-23. The Phillies need to win Wednesday to avoid their worst start since 1961, when they opened at 11-24. "It's definitely frustrating," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg made a point not to use Giles in the eighth inning Sunday when the Phillies trailed the Mets, 5-4. He instead chose right-hander Jeanmar Gomez, who allowed two runs in the eighth inning, which halted any momentum the Phillies had after scoring two runs the previous inning to cut the deficit to one. Sandberg said Sunday he did not want to use Giles in a "negative" situation, meaning the Phillies trailing by a run or more. But while Sandberg did not want to use Giles in a one-run deficit Sunday he had no choice but to use Giles and Papelbon in a five-run deficit Tuesday. After all, they cannot pitch only in tied or "plus" situations. This team is not in enough of them. "That's frustrating. It is," Sandberg said. "That situation [Sunday] as with one day off. And now [Giles] has to pitch on his fourth day off because we can't have a lead and pitch him in that situation. That is frustrating." The Phillies turned a 3-0 deficit into a 3-2 deficit with a couple runs in the sixth inning but Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia walked the first two batters he faced to spark the Pirates to a four-run inning to take the five-run lead. The Phillies' bullpen entered the night with 59 walks, 11 more than any other team in baseball. The Phillies had no chance to come back. They are averaging just 2.82 runs per game, which is the lowest scoring average in baseball. No other team is averaging fewer than 3.16 runs per game. The Phillies actually are on pace to have the second-lowest scoring team in baseball since 1909. Only the 1942 Phillies averaged fewer runs per game (2.61). "That has been the story of late," Sandberg said. "Fall behind, chip away, get close and then not be able to take the lead. Tonight having to use Giles and Papelbon in a situation like that just to get their work in that's the effect of the last four games. That's a frustrating part of it. "We get close and aren't able to get over the hump and get a lead and then let a couple guys like that pitch in a win-type of a situation."

Phillies Lend Support Off The Field – Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg and representatives from Citizens Bank joined up with Philabundance on Monday to combat hunger in the Delaware Valley. Philabundance is a non-profit organization that provides relief for the hungry in the metro Philadelphia area by receiving food donations from farms, manufacturers, importers, retailers, wholesalers and through food drives and distributing that food through various methods. President of Citizens Bank Dan Fitzpatrick was in attendance along Sandberg to kick off the "Phans Feeding Families" initiative. Additionally, Fitzpatrick donated a $40,000 grant to another Philabundance initiative, KidsBites, which gives healthier food options to the youth of Philadelphia who otherwise wouldn't have access or be able to afford it. Several other members of the Phillies' organization and Citizens Bank were on hand, including the Phillie Phanatic, who was there to ceremonially turn on the conveyer belt that officially started the Phans Feeding Families initiative.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 11-23. 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 44-53-1 on this day.

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