Monday, May 11, 2015

Phils Drop Another Series Despite Billingsley’s Blast

GAME RECAP: Mets Beat Phillies 7-4

It had been two-plus weeks since the Mets had won more than a two-game series, but they returned to their winning ways Sunday afternoon against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Bartolo Colon had pitched better, but he performed well enough in the 7-4 victory to help the Mets take the three-game series on Mother's Day. He allowed four runs in six-plus innings to become the Majors' first six-game winner this season. Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson crushed a two-run home run to right field in the fifth inning, and Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit back-to-back doubles in the sixth build the lead. "You can't say enough about [Colon]," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "At his age [41], if you look around baseball, you have to look at this guy. You can't marvel at him, you have to figure out how he gets outs, and it's all about location. He never gives you the same look, and he's tough to get a bead on." Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley struggled in his second start of the season. He allowed five runs in five-plus innings as the Phillies fell to 11-21, their worst start since they opened the 1997 season at 10-22. "I don't think anybody wants to be where we're at," Phillies third baseman Cody Asche said. "But, you know, we've got to live with it and we've got to find a way to get better."

  • The Mets won a replay-review challenge in the bottom of the first inning, when Ben Revere led off with a ground ball to Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores. Flores' throw appeared to beat Revere on a bang-bang play, but first-base umpire Angel Hernandez called Revere safe. After a brief review, replay officials overturned the call and Revere was out.
  • Billingsley hit a solo home run to left field in the third inning to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead, but he could not follow that up with a shutdown inning. He allowed a run in the fourth to tie the game, and after the Phillies took a one-run lead in the fourth, he allowed Granderson's two-run homer in the fifth.
  • Chase Utley's batting average dropped to .099 Friday, the lowest among MLB qualified hitters through a team's first 30 games since 1914. He hit a pinch-hit single Saturday night, and on Sunday doubled and scored in the fourth inning, raising his average to .116 with the 1-for-3 day. It was Utley's first double of the season, which the Phillies hope is a sign things are going to pick up offensively for him.
  • "It was a minus situation, and I hate to use some of those guys in a minus situation. [Jeanmar Gomez] is a ground-ball pitcher and was one pitch away from getting a ground ball and out of the inning. He wasn't able to get it done." -- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, on why he chose Gomez to pitch the eighth inning with the Phillies trailing by a run. Gomez allowed two runs as the Mets took a three-run lead.
  • The Mets have dominated the Phillies over the past three seasons, and on Sunday made it six straight series wins at Citizens Bank Park. Overall, the Mets have taken 22 of the last 29 games against their National League East rivals.
  • Asche snapped a 0-for-23 slump with a double to left field in the seventh inning. "This game is tough," he said. "It will wear on you. That's why it's important to just rely on your teammates and keep being the same person every day when you show up to the park. Don't quit on yourself, don't quit on the team. Keep working. Things will turn around."
  • One matchup to watch will be the duel between Williams and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is 3-for-6 lifetime vs. Williams with two home runs, both solo shots. Only Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton have more career home runs off Williams.
  • This series will pit one of the Pirates' defensive strengths against one of the Phillies' offensive strengths. The Pirates enter the series among the best in baseball in catching attempted steals on the basepaths, having caught a Majors' best 13 entering Sunday's action. The Phillies have only been caught stealing five times this year, the third-fewest in the National League.
The battle for the Keystone State hits Philadelphia on Monday as the Phillies welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates to town for the opener of a four-game series. Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the Pirates. The 2011 first-overall Draft selection will look to rebound from his worst start of the season, when he allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings of a 3-0 loss to the Reds. He was dominant in his four starts prior to that, going at least six innings in each outing, allowing just three earned runs and striking out 29. Veteran right-hander Jerome Williams will make the start for the Phillies. He is 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA and is coming off an outing of six runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves.


Billingsley Up And Down Day – Through three innings Sunday, Chad Billingsley looked like the best player on the field at Citizens Bank Park. The veteran right-hander had allowed just two hits, needing just 28 pitches to get through three innings. As a nice add-on, Billingsley flicked a Bartolo Colon pitch over the short porch near the left-field foul pole for his third career home run and the first homer by a Phillies pitcher since June 2011. Billingsley's outing slowly disintegrated from there as the Phillies dropped the series finale, 7-4. He allowed five runs in a losing effort, logging five innings and facing two batters in the sixth, both of whom reached base with doubles, before he was replaced by Justin De Fratus. Billingsley has allowed five earned runs in both of his starts this season. He allowed his first run in the fourth inning on a single by shortstop Wilmer Flores that drove home first baseman Lucas Duda. The Phillies' offense rallied back in the home half of the inning to regain the lead, but Billingsley gave it right back on a two-run home run by right fielder Curtis Granderson. Three outs, three hits and two runs later, Billingsley's day was done. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he was disappointed his team was unable to sustain a lead. "We lacked shutdown innings today all the way through the game," Sandberg said. "Every time the offense would bounce back and we'd close or threaten, we wouldn't be able to keep numbers off the board." Billingsley, who missed most of 2013 and all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and a procedure to repair a torn flexor tendon, said he felt the game was a step in the right direction for him. "I definitely felt a little bit more comfortable out there than the first time," Billingsley said. "Nerves were a little bit better today. One mistake to [Granderson], but it was a positive day." The home run to Granderson came in an especially aggravating situation for Billingsley, as it came on a full count after a near-strike on ball three. Billingsley said he wasn't focused on what could have been. Rather, he said he missed his spot with a fastball that was intended to be low but ended up in the middle of the zone. As for his home run, Billingsley was modest about his power stroke. "It was a nice 0-2 approach," he said. "It was exciting to do that today. It was a heater that just came right back into my bat. I wasn't really trying to do it, but it happens."

First Double A Good Sign? – Chase Utley said wryly late last month that he had not smashed any batting helmets out of frustration because of his slow start. The same could not be said for his bats. "Bats? The helmets are still alive," he said. Utley had been quiet since. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg benched him two games last week in an effort to clear his mind. But Utley's batting average dropped to an unfathomable .099 following an 0-for-4 effort Friday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, which gave him the lowest batting average among MLB qualified hitters through a team's first 30 games since 1914. He probably heard the loudest boos of his career that night. "I've seen better days," Utley said after Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Mets. "But you can't change the past. You try to move forward, make some adjustments and see what happens." Utley hit a pinch-hit single Saturday and went 1-for-3 with a double and hit by pitch Sunday to raise his average to .116. It was Utley's first double of the season. "Chase is gaining on it," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It's small steps. Some balls are falling in, so that's a good sign for him. Maybe he can get a nice little hitting streak put together." Utley's .101 batting average on balls in play is last out of 180 qualified hitters in baseball. The average big leaguer entered Sunday with a .295 BABIP. Utley's career BABIP is .301. Those numbers indicate Utley has run into some bad luck, although BABIP also factors in the opponents' defense. "I'm not one to make excuses," Utley said. "I feel like I've swung the bat better than the numbers indicate, but I feel like I haven't swung the bat as well as I can." Utley has hit .216 with 15 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .611 OPS in 564 plate appearances since May 28, 2014. So, Utley's slump is not just a five-week thing. But the Phillies obviously hope the past two days are enough to get things turned in the right direction. "Any time you have some hits, it's a good thing," Utley said. "Confidence is a big thing in this game and that's what I'm trying to keep." But Utley also would not mind a few breaks, too. "Hitting some balls where nobody is playing will be good," Utley said. "That would be beneficial. But I'm just trying to stay positive. As a professional athlete, results build confidence. And when you don't have those results, it's hard to keep that confidence going. So it's just a matter of going up there, putting a good at-bat together and seeing what happens."

Mother’s Day Gift – No one had a better Mother's Day than this new mom in Philly. Mets infielder Daniel Murphy fouled a ball up into the seats behind home in the top of the fourth inning and a dad with a baby strapped to his chest made a barehanded grab. More than that, the dude flexed and reveled in his own greatness, much to the delight of everyone in his section: The souvenir also proved to be one of the greatest Mother's Day gifts ever. Gregg Murphy of the Comcast SportsNet broadcast crew caught up with Mike Capko, who was at the game with his wife Alyssa and their seven-month-old son Kolton. The family hails from Conshohocken, Pa., and it was the first foul ball he's ever caught. "You know, it was already a special day for, of course, Mother's Day and his first game, but now we'll never forget it," Capko said. Your browser does not support iframes. He's not even left-handed! He didn't even play baseball as a kid! "I have no words now. I'm blown away," he said. The play actually occurred in front of the owner's box and, according to the Associated Press, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. saw the entire thing: 'I was going to go down there and sign him. I almost did,' Amaro said. See, your mom wasn't wrong when she told you that the best gifts don't come from stores.

Players Celebrate Mothers – It's not every Mother's Day that Mary Ruf gets to see her son. In fact, it's sort of just this one. For the first time in the seven years since her son, Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf, has been in professional baseball, Mary and Darin were in the same place for the holiday, as the Phillies flew Mary into town. The not-so-intimate 27,935-person setting wasn't conducive for much interaction, however. "I haven't spoken to Darin before the game," Mary said. "I'll speak to him after it's all over." Even if the two weren't able to communicate early in the day, the occasion was still special for the pair. The Mets' 7-4 victory was the first time Mary was able to make it to the ballpark this season, something for which her son was appreciative. "It's awesome when your family can come watch you play, especially on a day like today," Darin said. "I wish I could've done a little bit better for her, but it's great of the Phillies to do that for her and my family, and I'm very thankful for that." Darin finished the day 0-for-4 with two flyouts and two groundouts to shortstop. However, Mary said statistics wasn't what she was looking for from her son. "I think he's going to try to do something special for everyone here," Mary said before the game. "[I just want him to] have fun and try to do his best." Ruf wasn't the only member of the Phillies honoring mothers Sunday. Pitcher Jerome Williams, who regularly wears a pink glove in honor of his mother who died from breast cancer, surprised Roni Storti -- the team's Honorary Bat Girl -- with a signed glove pregame, and many of his teammates did their part by using pink bats and wearing pink cleats and undershirts. Right-hander Chad Billingsley said he was pleased he had the chance to take the mound. "It was nice to pitch on Mother's Day for all the mothers out there," Billingsley said. But for the mother and son who had the opportunity to reunite at the ballpark, the day was nice, if not a little too short. "[She's] actually flying out tonight," Darin said. "She has to get back to work on Monday."

Honoring Mothers – The Phillies honored breast-cancer survivor and longtime fan Roni Storti as the team's Honorary Bat Girl on Sunday before their game against the Mets. The tribute was part of MLB's annual Mother's Day "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" campaign. Storti, a native of Trappe, Penn., was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She is now cancer-free but hasn't distanced herself from the disease, working to raise awareness and funds to find a cure. She has participated in events for the American Cancer Society, Unite for Her and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. "Roni Storti is an inspiration when it comes to going to bat against breast cancer," said Mary Ann Moyer, the Phillies' director of community initiatives. "Roni is committed to the cause, and we are honored to have her as our Honorary Bat Girl." Storti said she was both excited and nervous about the opportunity, and she understands that what she's doing is about much more than her story. "The opportunity to represent breast-cancer survivors is bigger than I am," Storti said. "It's amazing. To be a survivor is amazing. To represent them, I can't even say." She said that as a lifelong fan, this was pretty close to a perfect day -- but one thing could make it even better. "They're going to need to win," she said.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 11-21. 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 47-50-0 on this day.

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