Saturday, June 6, 2015

Phillies Offense Can’t Match Giants’ Power

GAME RECAP: Giants Top Phillies 5-4

The Giants snapped a five-game losing streak Friday night with a 5-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Giants catcher Buster Posey hit a solo home run with two outs in the seventh inning to give San Francisco a one-run lead. Matt Duffy and Justin Maxwell also homered as Tim Lincecum got the win, allowing five hits and four runs in six innings. Posey entered the game in a 4-for-28 skid. "Good for Buster," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I know he has been fighting himself a little bit at the plate." Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in the first inning to make it 2-0. He entered the game in a 2-for-33 slump. Maikel Franco hit a game-tying homer in the sixth, his third game-tying homer in four games. "It's nice to see a little bit of power in the middle of our lineup with Howard and Franco," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Franco continues to show pop in his bat."

  • It seems hard to believe the Phillies' bullpen entered the night with a 3.42 ERA, which ranked fifth in the National League. That is because its 1.47 WHIP and 46 inherited runners scored percentage ranked last in the league. Left-hander Elvis Araujo allowed an inherited runner to score in the fifth to hand the Giants a 4-3 lead. Right-hander Luis Garcia allowed the homer to Posey in the seventh to give the Giants a 5-4 lead.
  • The Phillies had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh when Jeff Francoeur hit a fly ball to right field. Ben Revere, who was on first, broke for second base on the pitch, but had to return to first as Maxwell made the catch. One problem: Revere never retouched second base, so the Giants doubled up Revere for a costly inning-ending double play.
  • Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams' struggles continue. He allowed nine hits and four runs in just 4 2/3 innings. He has pitched more than five innings just once in his last eight starts, in which he has compiled a 6.81 ERA. His 63 1/3 innings among pitchers with 12 or more starts this season are the fewest in baseball. "It's been happening a lot where I'm not locating the ball and I'm getting hit hard," Williams said. "It's about location with me. That's the main thing, I think."
  • "Starting pitching sets the tone for the game. We got early runs tonight and they weren't able to hold up." -- Sandberg, on the Phillies' rotation, which has struggled when Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang have not pitched. Phillies starters have thrown fewer than six innings 25 times this season (45 percent of their starts).
Severino Gonzalez pitches for the first time since May 25. The Phillies skipped him in the rotation because of a couple days off recently. After Williams lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Friday, they could use some length from Gonzalez, who hasn't pitched more than five innings in any of his first four starts. San Francisco is 10-7 in day games entering Saturday's 3:05 p.m. ET/12:05 p.m. PT matinee at Citizens Bank Park. That could bode well for starter Madison Bumgarner, who is 29-18 with a 3.12 ERA in 60 lifetime day games (59 starts).


Missed One! – It all happened so fast in the Phillies' 5-4 loss. It was the seventh inning. The Giants led 5-4. Men were on first and third with one out. Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland kicked his leg. Ben Revere, standing on first base, darted for second. Strickland delivered to the plate. Jeff Francoeur swung underneath the ball, popping it high to right fielder Justin Maxwell. Andres Blanco waited with one foot on third base, ready to tag and score as soon as the ball entered the webbing of Maxwell's glove. Revere had reached second base, but he needed to get back to first. He turned and retreated to first. Maxwell called Blanco's bluff and hurled the ball toward home. Blanco stayed put. It was a routine flyout. Except for one thing. Revere overstepped second and didn't touch it again before returning to first. The Giants relayed the ball back in to second base. Revere was out. The inning and the threat were over. "Ben was stealing and overran the base and did not retouch it coming back," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He went right over the top. I don't know that he knew he has to do that." Despite Sandberg's comments, Revere said he was fully aware of the rule, he just didn't realize he had overstepped the bag altogether. It wasn't a lack of knowledge that beat Revere; he was a victim of his own speed. "I was in momentum about to slide and then I kind of turned and saw the right fielder in," Revere said. "I went to go turn back and I thought I kept my foot on the bag. I didn't. In that situation, everything is going so fast. Him being shallow with a good arm, I was trying to get back as quick as possible." Revere added that the decision to run was entirely his own. A hit-and-run had not been called. He was only stealing to try to get into scoring position with the middle of the lineup due up behind him. As the one Phillies player with a direct line of vision to the play, Blanco said he thought Revere followed the protocol of what to do perfectly, adding that the only reason he feigned tagging up was to draw Maxwell's throw home and allow Revere to get back to first safely. From the Giants perspective, the play was a collaborative effort from those not on the field. Manager Bruce Bochy said that pitching coach Dave Righetti was particularly vocal about relaying the ball into second base. Second baseman Joe Panik, on the other hand, didn't single anyone out. "That was a heads-up play on everybody in the dugout's part," Panik said. Friday marked the second time in two days that the Phillies lost in large part due to a blunder on the basepaths after Carlos Ruiz was ruled to have blocked home plate, which swung Thursday night's game out of the Phillies' favor. Blanco said that while this is unfortunate, it happens. "That's going to happen," Blanco said. "It's baseball. We scored runs. We had a good at-bat, they had a good at-bat. That's baseball."

The New Dichotomy – Maikel Franco has had one heck of a week. He hit his third game-tying home run in four days in Friday night's 5-4 loss to the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. His first came Tuesday, when he hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning against Reds pitcher Jumbo Diaz. The second shot came Wednesday, when he hit a three-run home run in the ninth against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. Friday's blast came in the sixth inning against Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum. "I feel pretty good right now," said Franco, who is 7-for-17 with two doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs in his last four games. "I'm trying to make good contact. I was looking for a slider there because I know he throws soft. I was just looking for everything because the fastball was 86, 88 mph. I'm pretty feeling comfortable right now." But Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia surrendered a solo homer to Buster Posey in the top of the seventh to stop the momentum. The lack of shutdown innings has been a problem for the Phillies this season. They score a run or two, but the pitching staff gives up a run or more the following inning. "Not able to put a zero up," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Yeah, that's been a problem, at least the last two games as far as allowing us to get runs, have a lead and try to add onto that. That's been a problem." Garcia seemed baffled at what happened in the seventh. He threw Posey a 2-0 four-seam fastball, but the pitch inexplicably had some sink to it. "That's happened twice," Garcia said. "It happened once in Colorado, too. A fastball outside and the ball sinks." Left-hander Elvis Araujo allowed an inherited runner to score in the fifth inning. The Phillies bullpen entered the night allowing 46 percent of their inherited runners to score, which was the worst mark in baseball.

Try To Do Better This Time – Even while he was in Lehigh Valley, Dustin McGowan never really left Philadelphia. "I was still living in Philly, I was just doing the commute to Lehigh when I was in town," McGowan said. "So I was coming home anyway." McGowan got to come home Friday as he was officially called back up to the Major League club as a replacement for left-handed reliever Jake Diekman who was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley Thursday night. Manager Ryne Sandberg said that he had been impressed by the mechanical adjustments the 33-year-old right-hander made as an IronPig. "Dustin's been throwing the ball real well," Sandberg said. "He does have a power arm which we saw. He went down and worked on some mechanics and throwing more consistent strikes which had been going well. So he was the guy." McGowan's power arm was evident in the appearances he made in the Majors in 2015 before being sent to Triple-A. The righty's fastball averaged between 93-95 mph in his 10 games in April and May, but he was unable to control it as 16 walks led to nine earned runs in 14 innings. McGowan did seem to improve upon that issue in Triple-A, as he walked just two batters in seven innings, allowing no runs and amassing four saves. In sending down Diekman and recalling McGowan, the Phillies have just one left-hander in the bullpen on the active roster: Elvis Araujo. Even though this dearth of left-handed depth appears to leave the Phillies in a precarious situation against a Giants team that features four lefties and a switch-hitter, none of whom are hitting below .288, in its everyday lineup, Sandberg isn't concerned. He believes the right-handers he has in the bullpen throw well enough against lefties that they should succeed. McGowan agreed with that sentiment. "Hopefully the righties can get lefties out," McGowan said. "At the Major League level we should be able to get both out."

A Musical Night – The Phillies honored Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees The O'Jays and R&B and jazz singer Jean Carne before Friday night's game against the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. Friday was the Phillies' 12th annual African American Heritage Celebration night. The O'Jays and Carner were presented with the Phillies' Gamble and Huff Community Partnership Award. Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who founded Philadelphia International Records, are Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Carne sang her hit "Don't Let It Go To Your Head." Songwriter and producer Bunny Sigler sang the national anthem. The O'Jays scored several hits, including "Backstabbers," "Love Train," "Put Your Hands Together" and "For The Love of Money."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 21-35. 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 52-56-1 on this day.

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