Friday, June 5, 2015

Phillies Fade As Game Goes On

GAME RECAP: Reds Top Phillies 6-4

It seems hard to believe, but the Reds on Thursday night won their first road game in nearly a month in a 6-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton each had two RBIs, while Anthony DeSclafani allowed six hits and four runs in seven innings to snap Cincinnati's nine-game losing streak on the road. The Reds last won on the road May 9 against the White Sox in Chicago. "There was really over the course of this series three innings that got away from us and unfortunately cost us the first two [games]," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We [can't] dwell on this game and [just] stay in the present. Enjoy this game and use it as something that feels good. We're going to get in early in the morning on Friday and it's nice coming to the ballpark after a win." The Phillies won the first two games of this three-game series with late-inning heroics from Maikel Franco. But there would be no comeback in the finale as Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang suffered his worst start of the season, allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings. He said an instant replay delay of four minutes, 35 seconds in the fifth inning, which allowed the Reds to score the go-ahead run, made things difficult. "It changed the pace and feel of everything," he said.

  • Harang has been one of the Phillies' few bright spots this season. He entered the game with a 2.02 ERA, which ranked fifth in the National League. But Harang struggled against the Reds. He allowed six hits, six runs, five walks and struck out one in 5 2/3 innings, which was his shortest start of the season.
  • Ben Revere tripled, Chase Utley doubled and Franco doubled in the first inning as the Phillies took a 2-1 lead. But the Phillies managed just two more hits until they scored twice in the eighth.
  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had been on a roll until recently. He is hitting .061 (2-for-33) with two doubles, one RBI, one walk and 11 strikeouts in his last nine games, while Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis is hitless in his last 26 at-bats.
  • The Phillies made a highlight reel of nice defensive plays in the first three innings before things fell apart. Franco made a catch over the railing in foul territory in the first. Howard followed with a catch over the railing on the other side of the field in the second. Cody Asche and Utley then made nice catches in the third inning.
  • The Reds had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning when Todd Frazier hit a ground ball to Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, who threw to home plate for the forceout. But instead of stepping on the plate, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz tagged out DeSclafani. The Reds thought Ruiz blocked the plate, which would be a violation of the home-plate collision rule. Four minutes, 35 seconds later, the replay official in New York overturned the call. He ruled that because Ruiz never attempted to touch home plate and instead attempted to tag the runner, he violated the collision rule. It was a costly mistake for Ruiz because it allowed the Reds to take a 3-2 lead.
  • "You always know how many options you have left. It just got frustrating." -- Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman, who was optioned to Triple-A after the game.
  • Williams, who will start Friday's game, is a former Giants first-round Draft pick. Williams played two full seasons for San Francisco before being traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 2005 season.
  • The Phils have played better as of late. Philadelphia's team ERA dropped to 4.01 in May from 4.28 in April, while its team batting average rose to .248 in May from .223 in April.

The San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies open up a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, the first time the two teams will meet this season. The Giants project to start Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, in that order, against a Phillies team that has struggled over the first two months of the season. The Phils counter with three right-handers, Jerome Williams, Severino Gonzalez and Sean O'Sullivan, none of whom has an ERA below 5.00 this year. Philadelphia has fared slightly better at Citizens Bank Park this year, but will have its hands full with the defending World Series champions coming to town. The Giants took five out of seven games from the Phillies last season.


Bad Rule Costs Phillies – Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz knows the home-plate collision rule. Every catcher in baseball does. But the rule cost Ruiz and the Phillies dearly Thursday night in a 6-4 loss to the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. "It was a big momentum play," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. The Reds had the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning of a tie game when Todd Frazier hit a ground ball to Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis. Galvis threw home for the forceout, but instead of stepping on the plate, Ruiz blocked the plate and tagged out Anthony DeSclafani for the second out. Reds manager Bryan Price asked the umpires to look at instant replay to see if Ruiz violated the home-plate collision rule, which states the catcher must leave a path to the plate for the baserunner. Four minutes, 35 seconds later, the replay official in New York overturned the call. DeSclafani was safe and the Reds had a 3-2 lead. "Freddy was very heads-up, making an outstanding read on a slow ball," Sandberg said. "It just looked like it caught Chooch a little bit off guard and he was blocking the plate. It was the right call by the umpires, but it was a big momentum swing there." Asked if Ruiz might have simply forgotten the Reds had the bases loaded, Sandberg said, "I think he was just a little bit caught off guard and surprised that it came to him. He straddled home plate with no lane to the runner." Ruiz left the clubhouse before it opened to reporters. "The thing I thought was unusual was that it took so long," Price said. "I thought it was very clear-cut. I don't know necessarily if Ruiz was expecting that throw to the plate because it looked like the only play may be at first. But it was very clear that he immediately put himself between the plate and the baseline." "I felt like the tempo of the game changed in the fifth," Phillies starter Aaron Harang said. "It changed the pace and feel of everything. The guy's out by 10 feet and they claim the catcher is blocking the plate. "Well, if they look, the bat is blocking the plate and the catcher is behind the bat and it doesn't matter where he slid."

Something Missing – Through four innings, Aaron Harang was almost exclusively throwing strikes. Reds batters worked the veteran right-hander, who entered the day fifth in the National League in ERA, into just one three-ball count, that one coming in the fourth inning. But once the fifth inning rolled around, Harang just didn't have it anymore. "I didn't feel as sharp," Harang said. "I felt like I was leaving the ball up in the zone. My control wasn't as pinpoint as it had been." Harang's control disappeared in the fifth and sixth innings of the Phillies' 6-4 loss on Thursday. Harang entered the top of the fifth inning with a 2-1 lead and promptly walked left fielder Skip Schumaker on five pitches. Harang walked one more that inning, two more the following inning and worked two other batters three-ball counts. Over those two innings, Harang saw the score teeter from 2-1 in his favor to 6-2 against him. In total Harang lasted just 5 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. He allowed five earned runs on six hits and five walks while striking out only one batter. He only allowed seven earned runs in six May starts and the five earned runs tied his season high. His five walks were the most free passes he had registered since June 8, 2014, when he was a member of the Atlanta Braves. The turning point of the game in Harang's mind came in the fifth inning when an official review turned a fielder's choice at home plate into a run for the Reds. The review lasted almost five minutes and knocked Harang out of sync, something he said he thought was evident from the second he retook the mound. "That kind of changed the pace and feel of everything," Harang said. "The next hitter in I was behind 3-0 right away. It was just one of those things." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed, saying he noticed a change in his pitcher's demeanor before and after the review and added that he thought the lack of run support from the offense weighed on Harang a little bit as well. That being said, Sandberg acknowledged that the Harang he saw on Thursday wasn't the same Harang he has seen all season. "He was a little off as far as up in the zone and missing spots tonight," Sandberg said. "So that was the one thing that was uncharacteristic of him." For Harang, the loss carries a little more weight being that it was against Cincinnati, his home for eight seasons from 2003-2010. But after the game, Harang didn't seem too disappointed by the loss to his former team. Rather, he more so seemed driven to keep his pitches down and hit his spots next time. "It's just one of those things you've got to rub it off and look forward to my next start against them," he said.

Bullpen Shuffle – Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman figured this might be coming for the past couple weeks. It finally happened Thursday night following a 6-4 loss to the Reds at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley with the hope that time in the Minor Leagues can get him back on track. "You always know how many options you have left," Diekman said. "It just got frustrating. I need to get out of my own way. I'm just in my way. I just harp on things too much. I just over-think [stuff]." Diekman is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 25 appearances. He has a 2.02 WHIP. He has walked 17 and struck out 29 in 21 1/3 innings. He posted a 3.80 ERA in 73 appearances last season, striking out 100 batters in 71 innings. "He just needs to work on some things," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We just talked to him, and he agreed. There are some things that he needs to fine-tune and be more consistent with. He's going to go there and work and be back as soon as possible and hopefully have some things ironed out." The Phillies had high expectations for Diekman and the rest of the Phillies' bullpen. They expected closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles and Diekman to be a formidable trio in the late innings. But because of Diekman's struggles he had been used in low-stress, mop-up situations recently. "I've just got to go down and work on stuff," Diekman said. "Get better at first-pitch strikes and executing pitches when they don't have to be in the zone. Controlling the running game."  "I think he will be [a big part of this bullpen]," Sandberg said. "I think he's a big part going forward. He's a good part of the bullpen when he's right. This is for him, for his betterment and for the team's betterment going forward that he goes and brushes up on some things. He gains some confidence and comes back ready to go." The Phillies called up right-hander Dustin McGowan to replace Diekman on the 25-man roster. McGowan opened the season with the team before being outrighted to Triple-A. He had a 5.79 ERA in 10 appearances with the Phillies, walking 16 batters in 14 innings. He did not allow a run in 7 1/3 innings with the IronPigs. He allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six. 

Now Open! – The Urban Youth Academy movement is maturing and simultaneously bearing new fruit. Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies opened the latest Urban Youth Academy on Thursday, expanding the league's revolutionary project to all sectors of the country. The first UYA was opened in California in 2006, and the next three were placed in the South and Midwest. Philadelphia represents the first time the Urban Youth Academy concept has come to the East Coast, and it's a market that may be perfectly suited to take the next step. The Phillies already boast one of the league's most active RBI programs, which stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities. More than 8,000 kids are involved in the RBI leagues administered by the Phillies, and that number may increase exponentially after the academy gains some momentum. The new facility, situated in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, boasts two baseball fields and two softball fields. If you look down the left-field line on the stadium field -- which can seat as many as 450 people -- you can see the distant towers of Liberty Place, a skyscraper complex in downtown Philadelphia. And if you look down the right-field line, you can see the structure of Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles. The community turned out in force to see the Urban Youth Academy open Thursday, but there's still pieces of the project that need to be finished. The Phillies are also building an indoor facility at the existing Marian Anderson Recreation Center. Philadelphia is the first multi-site facility among the Urban Youth Academies, and the new structure -- which is expected to be completed by November -- will feature 7,500 square feet of room for a baseball and softball training center. The Phillies and MLB were aided in the construction process by the city of Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. Ashburn Field, which is adjacent to the new academy field, received some minor alterations in the form of enhanced dugouts and a new playing surface. "The city has been a spectacular partner from Day One in this effort. It's been a long effort," said David Montgomery, chairman of the Phillies. "We're very proud as an organization that we have 8,000 young people that participate in the RBI program at this point, and we're proud we're one of the largest and most active RBI programs in Major League Baseball. ... We're so fortunate. We have so many people that want to play our game here in this area." The Urban Youth Academy, first built in 2006, aims to provide free baseball instruction and tutoring to inner-city children, and it also provides vocational training to kids who want to stay in the game without actually playing it. The lives of more than 20,000 children have been touched by the four existing academies, and like the others, Philadelphia's facility will provide free educational support in the form of preparation and tutoring for standardized tests. The facility in Compton, Calif., was the first to crop up, and it was followed by similar projects in Houston, New Orleans and Cincinnati. Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president for youth programs, said Thursday that he was excited to see the Philadelphia academy open, and he lauded the city for seeing the construction process through to the end. Now, he said, the academies have a presence on both sides of the country. "That's part of the overall vision," said Reagins of growing the academy concept. "We want to be accessible to young people in all communities and all areas. To be on the East Coast -- as well as on the West Coast and in the Midwest -- is important. Now, we just need to kind of add to that." Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it plans on building another Urban Youth Academy in San Francisco, but that project is probably a few years away from reaching fruition. And on this day, that potential academy took a back seat to the brand new one in Philadelphia. The Phillies helped open the field in style, welcoming three of the greatest players in franchise history to the park. Dick Allen, a seven-time All-Star who won both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards during his career, was on hand Thursday. So was Gary Matthews, former Rookie of the Year and MVP of the 1983 National League Championship Series, and current Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, the 2006 NL MVP. Allen, who hit 351 home runs over 15 years in the Majors, was thrilled to be part of the Philadelphia story. "Very much so," said Allen of how proud he was to be part of the academy unveiling. "And to be a part of this city. I'd really love to see the black people of our city take advantage of this where we come out and participate and play with mommas and daddies and starting them young." "Once you get that kid testifying, 'Hey, I made it through this program,' that's when you have a number of kids following through," added Matthews, who works as a local broadcaster. "To tell you the truth, this field would be good for some Major Leaguers. I can't remember the fields in the Minor Leagues being as nice as this field at all. I think it just gives you that much more added incentive when you come out and you see a plush field like this that you're able to play on."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 21-34. 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 53-49-1 on this day.

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