Saturday, June 27, 2015

Phils Begin MacKanin Era With Loss

GAME RECAP: Nats Beat Phils 5-2

For the third consecutive start, Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter, but after 16 straight full hitless innings, Scherzer proved to be human on Friday as the Nationals defeated the Phillies, 5-2, at Citizens Bank Park. Six days after pitching a no-hitter against the Pirates, Scherzer retired the first 16 Phillies he faced. Once he was able get through the order the first time, Scherzer was thinking something special was happening. He had a chance to join Johnny Vander Meer as the only pitchers to throw consecutive no-hitters. "It's so hard. It takes luck. You have to be on point. You make mistakes, they have to mishit it," Scherzer said. "I made a few mistakes early. They hit some balls hard. Fortunately, they were right at people." Freddy Galvis then broke up the no-hit bid with a double down the right-field line. Scherzer allowed five hits in the game, including an RBI double to Domonic Brown and a solo homer to Ben Revere. The first run ended the scoreless streak by Nationals starters at 47 1/3 innings. "It's awesome. Any time the starters are going out there and doing their job, it does so much for the ballclub, does so much for the pen," Scherzer said about the scoreless streak. "It allows the offense to relax and continue to score runs. It keeps the pressure on their guys and the back end of their bullpen." The Phillies played their first game under interim manager Pete Mackanin, who replaced Ryan Sandberg after the latter resigned Friday. Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang went to the mound, lasting six innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits. "It was pretty uneventful, strategically," Mackanin said of his Phillies managerial debut. "I didn't have to make any huge moves or anything like that. There was just not a whole lot going on for most of the game."

  • Galvis might have been the least likely candidate to break up Scherzer's perfect game bid. The shortstop entered the game 13-for-72 in June, a batting average of .181, and he had only recorded eight extra-base hits all season. Magnifying things, Galvis was just 1-for-11 lifetime vs. Scherzer. But in the sixth inning, Galvis beat the averages and ripped a double into right to give the Phillies their first baserunner and break up Scherzer's chance at a second consecutive no-hitter.
  • In the top of the fifth inning, Domonic Brown made a costly error on a two-out line drive off Ramos' bat. The ball popped out of Brown's glove, giving the Nationals their third run of the game. Two innings later, Brown connected on a 95-mph Scherzer pitch, the eighth of the at-bat, over Michael Taylor's head off the wall for an RBI double, giving the Phillies their first run of the game. However, Brown's carousel of a day ended on another negative note, as a baserunning blunder he made rounding third in the ninth inning ended the game and the Phillies' chances for a comeback. "I guess I've got to pick it up faster," Brown said of missing the signal to stop at third in the ninth inning. "I was running hard. I know the tying run was coming up and like I said, I was running hard from second."
  • Mackanin seized his first opportunity to use a managerial challenge early in Friday's contest. In the top of the third inning with one out, Nationals left fielder Clint Robinson bounced a grounder to Cesar Hernandez, who went to tag Dan Uggla running from first to second before throwing to first. On the field, second-base umpire Jerry Meals ruled that Hernandez's glove did not make contact with Uggla, but the replay proved otherwise, giving the Phillies an inning-ending double play. The review lasted one minute and eight seconds.
  • "I thought it was a pop fly at first, so I'm just going to run the ball out. Then I heard the crowd start cheering. I thought it was off the fence and I was like, 'I don't see it.' Then I saw the umpire waving his hand around." -- Ben Revere, on what was going through his mind as he rounded the bases during his eighth-inning home run, just the third of his career.
Adam Morgan will make his second career Major League start Saturday. His first start fared better than anyone predicted, as he allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Cardinals, recording not just his first MLB win, but his first win of 2015 at any level. Morgan had allowed 15 runs in his previous 25 1/3 innings in Triple-A. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez takes the mound and hopes to win his second consecutive game. In his last start, Gonzalez pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-0 victory over the Pirates. Gonzalez will face the the Phillies for the 15th time in his career. He is 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA against them.


Phils Prevent No No – Max Scherzer's résumé is well known. After the Phillies' 5-2 loss Friday night, outfielder Ben Revere said he believes the numbers Scherzer had been posting coming into the game were on his teammates' minds. And how could they not be? The right-hander had tossed back-to-back shutouts and allowed just one hit and three total baserunners in those games while he struck out 26. As Phillies starter Aaron Harang put it, Scherzer "is the best pitcher in baseball right now." So as a player who came into the game off the bench, Revere said he observed his teammates' approach and thought they were trying to do a little too much at the beginning of the game. "A bunch of young guys today, I think they just went after him, trying to get him early as much as possible," Revere said. "That was the main thing. I guess everybody was thinking about him trying to throw another no-hitter." In trying to prevent a no-no, the Phillies almost walked into one. Scherzer was perfect through 5 1/3 innings Friday night, not allowing a baserunner until Freddy Galvis doubled down the right-field line in the sixth. After that hit though, the Phillies exposed some of Scherzer's mistakes, recording four more hits and two runs, one of which came via an unlikely source. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Jeanmar Gomez in the eighth inning, Revere pulled a 93-mph fastball over the right-field wall for a solo home run, just his third homer in 2,194 career at-bats. Not used to exercising his power stroke, Revere was taken aback by the sheer fact that he hit a home run. "I was just trying to put the ball in play," Revere said. "I thought it was a pop fly at first, so I'm just going to run the ball out. Then I heard the crowd start cheering. I thought it was off the fence and I was like, 'I don't see it.' Then I saw the umpire waving his hand around." Revere's home run was the Phillies' second run off Scherzer. The first came off a Domonic Brown double in the seventh inning that plated Cesar Hernandez. But despite the fact that Brown was the one who broke up Scherzer's streak of 24 2/3 scoreless innings, he couldn't focus on the positives after the game, as that hit was far from his only contribution of the night. Brown made a fielding error in the fifth inning that allowed a run to score with two outs, and he got himself caught in a pickle between third base and home and was tagged out by Nats closer Drew Storen to end the game. Interim manager Pete Mackanin bluntly said that Brown did not make the right decision. "Dom's got to realize that his run doesn't mean anything, and almost anticipate that he's not going to be sent," Mackanin said. "He was very aggressive trying to make something happen, and it was the wrong move."

Sandberg Shocks Everyone! – Ryne Sandberg has resigned as Phillies manager. Pete Mackanin, the third-base coach, has been named interim manager. The Phillies' record under Sandberg, who debuted as a Major League manager in August 2013, was 119-159. They are 26-48 this season and in last place, 14 1/2 games out in the National League East. "It's a difficult day, a challenging day and a tough day for myself," Sandberg said at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. "It was not an easy decision. In a lot of ways I'm old-school and I'm very, very much dissatisfied with the record and am not pleased at all by that." Mackanin, 63, has 106 games of experience as a Major League manager, both times as an interim skipper, first for the 2005 Pirates and then for the 2007 Reds. His career record is 53-53. Assistant hitting coach John Mizerock will coach third base. "Ryne shouldn't feel like he should shoulder all the blame," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We do things as a team. It is disappointing. Ryne, he was here as our manager for a reason. He showed us he was prepared to take on this task but I completely understand and respect the decision he's made."

Saving Them The Trouble – The fact Ryne Sandberg will not manage the Phillies in 2016 should not shock anybody. The fact he pulled the plug on himself with more than half the '15 season to play should. The Phillies announced Friday afternoon that Sandberg had resigned as manager. Pete Mackanin will be the interim manager at least through the weekend, but what happens after that is very much up in the air. "It was better now than later," Sandberg said in a news conference at Citizens Bank Park with Phillies president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "It is not an easy decision. In a lot of ways, I'm old-school. When you wear the shoes I was in and felt what I was feeling on a daily basis and felt how dissatisfied I was with what was going on the field and the record, that weighed a lot on me. "I have thought about it for some time, and we've come to this day. I think it was important for me ... with the way things have gone this year. It allows the organization to go forward and really get this thing going." The Phillies have the worst record in baseball and are on pace to lose 105 games. Sandberg promised a return to fundamental baseball, but the results never materialized on the field. Of course, the talent on the roster played the biggest role in that. But Sandberg never seemed to connect with his players, with players questioning the manager and coaching staff since the beginning of last season. He also ruffled feathers with the way he benched former shortstop Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training 2014 and how he announced a plan to bench first baseman Ryan Howard that July. But Sandberg, who said he had been thinking about resigning for at least a week, also repeatedly mentioned the imminent changes to the front office as a factor in his decision. Sources told that Andy MacPhail will join the organization in a significant leadership position before the end of next week. If MacPhail replaces Gillick in the president's role, he is expected to reshape the front office. A new manager and coaching staff also are expected. "I didn't know if I would be in the plans or not," Sandberg said. "But being dissatisfied with the record and not being pleased with that, I didn't feel like I had a leg to stand on with any changes." In other words, Sandberg saw the writing on the wall. "I guess he knew or had a feeling they would make some changes and he didn't want to be part of that, so he said, 'You know what, I'm going to go ahead and step down now,'" Phillies outfielder Ben Revere said. "You know sometimes, honestly, sometimes some managers ain't made to be a manager sometimes. I mean sometimes you got a guy out there, you kind of struggle and all that pressure may have gotten to him, and he knew maybe it was time to go. Only thing about it was I guess he didn't want see himself be let go, so he stepped down." Sandberg arrived at the ballpark at around 10 in the morning and informed Gillick and Amaro about his decision. "Frankly, this is a pretty sudden decision that Ryne had made," Amaro said. "It's surprising. I don't know that Ryne should feel like he should be shouldering all the blame. We do things as a team, as an organization. We win as an organization and we lose as an organization. It's really a team effort. I take my level of responsibility for the things that are happening on the field as well. "We're in the process of getting our feet on the ground. Pete has graciously accepted [to be interim manager]. He's had experience in this area. He's a good baseball man. We'll see where it goes. Frankly, it's a little open ended right now," Sandberg said he does not believe this will affect his legacy as a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Cubs. He said he does not know if he plans to try to pursue another managerial job. "Managing a team is very challenging," Sandberg said. "I enjoyed the challenge and I enjoyed coming to the ballpark every day. I enjoyed thinking about the players as individuals and what we needed to do every day. I enjoyed my coaching staff and our desire to get the most out of our players. I know I gave 100 percent every day when I came here with the attitude of winning the game every day. That was the mindset, and I enjoyed that part."

Losing Takes A Toll – For six seasons, nearly 1,000 games, Ryne Sandberg knocked around the Minor Leagues. He rode the buses and paid his dues. When he had a setback, he brushed himself off and continued to chase his big league dream. What distinguished Sandberg from all the prospects and suspects trying to climb that most difficult ladder is that he was already an unqualified success. In his playing career, he won a National League Most Valuable Player Award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. Still, he was driven to become a Major League manager. So Sandberg's decision to step down as Phillies manager on Friday, less than two years after taking over the team late in the 2013 season, was stunning. That he resigned after pouring so much of himself into the quest says more than words ever could about how the drip-drip-drip of losing must have gnawed at him inwardly even as he outwardly displayed little emotion. Sandberg alone made the decision. There's no doubt about that. Sitting to his left on the podium in the conference room at Citizens Bank Park were club president Pat Gillick, who looked stricken, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who appeared grim and sad at the same time. It's hard to believe that Sandberg and the organization arrived at this point so quickly. When he replaced Charlie Manuel on Aug. 16, 2013, his managerial resume was impeccable. Named Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America in 2011 after leading the team to its first winning record in Triple-A Lehigh Valley history. Manager of the Year in the Pacific Coast League with the Iowa Cubs in 2010. A Double-A Southern League championship with Tennessee in 2009. Still, managing in the big leagues is a whole new ballgame and Sandberg may have provided a clue to what went wrong with the fourth sentence of his announcement. "In a lot of ways, I'm old school," he said. Look, everybody understood that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for a team that won 102 games as recently as 2011. There are a lot of young players with potential who haven't reached their peak and several veterans who are past their prime. The Phillies have the worst record in baseball and probably would no matter who was putting on the hit-and-run. Sandberg admitted the losing got to him. Ya gotta believe the criticism that accompanied it wasn't pleasant, either. Nobody likes to be ripped and it's not something that he's had to deal with that much in his professional life. Sandberg also conceded that the uncertainty in the front office left him feeling vulnerable, even though he has a year-and-a-half remaining on his contract. "I do not like to lose. I hate to lose. That was the biggest thing that weighed on me. And with some changes at the top looming, I did not want to be in the way of the progress going forward," he said, a reference to rampant speculation that former Twins, Orioles and Cubs general manager Andy McPhail will soon be named president of the team and that sweeping changes could follow. That's all there was to it, Sandberg said again and again. But he also took the position with firm ideas about how the game should be played. And while he wouldn't confirm it, he certainly left the impression that he was frustrated by his inability to get the team performing up to those standards. As a Minor League manager, if Sandberg was displeased with what he had seen during a game, he was known to wait for the stands to clear, order the grounds crew to leave the lights on and then bring the team back out onto the field for more work. After a particularly sloppy Grapefruit League loss this spring, he called for extended fundamentals instead of hitting the following morning. A few of the veteran big leaguers did little to hide their displeasure. Sandberg openly talked last year about how he planned to examine various options at first base after the break. That lasted three games. It was widely reported at the time that he was overruled and told to continue to play Ryan Howard nearly every day. There were a spate of incidents involving pitchers late last season. Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick showed their displeasure at being taken out of games by stalking off the mound almost before the manager arrived. David Buchanan complained to the media after he thought he had come out of a game too early. A.J. Burnett mouthed an obscenity that was captured by the television cameras after a mound visit by pitching coach Bob McClure. During Spring Training in 2014, Jimmy Rollins, the longest-tenured Phillies player at the time, said Sandberg never gave him an explanation before benching him for three straight days. Earlier this year, second baseman Chase Utley could clearly be seen questioning McClure when he visited the mound for leaving right fielder Jeff Francoeur in to pitch a second inning even though he was clearly tiring. It turned out that nobody was warming up because the bullpen phone was off the hook. Sandberg and McClure jumped all over reliever Ken Giles for showing his unhappiness at being told to issue an intentional walk. Each of these incidents was captured on video for posterity. Not all of that is Sandberg's fault. But for a self-admitted old school manager who is such a stickler for doing things the right way, being helpless to make meaningful changes finally became too much to take.

The Reaction – The Phillies aren't pretending the news doesn't hurt. "I'm still numb," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think the whole team is. Everybody is kind of surprised that it happened. He just woke up this morning and came to the conclusion that that was what he was going to do. It's not fun. It's kind of a somber day." Former manager Ryne Sandberg surprised the entire organization Friday by announcing his resignation. Sandberg, who was 119-159 over his three seasons at the helm, said he hadn't made the decision to resign until the morning of, and he didn't address his players and coaches about it until after he had formally made his announcement to the media. After Sandberg addressed the team, some of the Phillies' veterans held a closed-door meeting in the clubhouse to address the news. Afterwards, most players were discreet about what Sandberg said to them, with first baseman Ryan Howard saying he believes that discussion should be left "in the clubhouse." Outfielder Jeff Francoeur, on the other hand, said Sandberg left the team with the parting wisdom that this was his decision, and he felt it was his time to move on. "Talk about some changes coming, and mostly just told us it was time for him to get out of the way and let something else happen," Francoeur said. "I know, for me, thoroughly, I enjoyed playing for him." Though Sandberg said he thought it was time to resign, Mackanin, some of the players and even general manager Ruben Amaro said they believe accountability should belong to more than the manager. In their minds, the manager has some bearing on a team losing, but the players and the front office have just as much control over this. Cole Hamels agreed with this idea, swinging the pendulum of accountability further toward the players. "I think we have to be responsible for everything we do," Hamels said. "The losses are all on us too. If we go 0-for-5 or if I lose a ballgame, we're not able to close out a game properly, that's all on us." With that accountability in mind, the players were aware there is a game to be played Friday and that their minds needed to shift back onto baseball. Howard was particularly vocal about this, saying that he understands this news is "tough to soak in," but that baseball has to be the first priority right now. And though that assertion might sound idyllic, Mackanin said he would be surprised if any player is thinking about their former manager when they step onto the diamond. "I've gone through things like this before myself. I've been released, fired, traded," Mackanin said. "And it's funny, but the minute the game starts, the guys will be into the game and they'll be concentrating on that; for the game at least, they won't be thinking about it. Afterwards and maybe for a day or two it stays with you, but after that you move on. That's the way the business is."

Amaro Speaks – Pete Mackanin is the guy for now. What happens in the future is a mystery. Ryne Sandberg surprised the Phillies on Friday when he announced his resignation to president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Sandberg said the team's poor record and imminent changes to the front office -- sources told that Andy MacPhail will join the organization in a prominent leadership role before the end of next week -- played a factor into his decision, which he had been mulling for more than a week. Amaro said Mackanin will be the team's interim manager through this weekend's series against the Nationals, which began with a 5-2 loss on Friday, although his stint could be longer. "I'm still numb," Mackanin said. "I think the whole team is surprised that it happened. In speaking to Ryno, he just woke up this morning and came to the conclusion that that's what he was going to do. It's kind of a somber day." So what happens after the weekend? Amaro offered little insight, but it could be that the Phillies only wanted to commit to Mackanin through the weekend because Sandberg caught them by surprise. They certainly could announce Mackanin will finish the season as manager. Mackanin has experience with this. He replaced Reds manager Jerry Narron on an interim basis on July 1, 2007, when the Reds had the worst record in baseball. The Reds went 41-39 the rest of the way. He replaced Lloyd McClendon as the Pirates' interim manager on Sept. 6, 2005. The Pirates finished 12-14. "He's a good baseball man," Amaro said of Mackanin. "We'll see where it goes. Frankly, it's a little open-ended right now. ... Pat, myself and others, we're in the process of seeing how things move forward. Right now, we'll have Pete move forward and we'll take over from there." As luck would have it, Mackanin's Philadelphia managerial debut happened to come on the day the hottest pitcher in baseball, Max Scherzer, rolled into town to make a start. The Nationals' ace and former American League Cy Young Award winner started off Mackanin's tenure with 5 1/3 perfect innings before the Phillies were able to knock hits in each of the final four frames. "His first game, you face a good pitcher," Revere said. "It's kind of tough when your first game is against Scherzer. From here on out, I'm real excited to play for this man." The rest of the first game of Mackanin's third stint as an interim manager was relatively uneventful. Aside from a challenge he made in the top of the third inning, there weren't many key managerial moves to make. He pulled his starting pitcher for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, a wholly unsurprising move, and the only other pinch-hitter he used was again in the pitcher's slot in the eighth inning. "It was pretty uneventful, strategically," Mackanin said. "I didn't have to make any huge moves or anything like that. There was just not a whole lot going on for most of the game." Prior to the game, Mackanin said he felt bad for Sandberg, who had little chance of success with a roster that may not have had enough talent to be competitive. "Deep down, he's really sincere and he gives it his all," Mackanin said. "We lost a good guy today, regardless of the reason or what happened." But now that Mackanin is in charge, he needs to try to lead the Phillies as long as he is asked. "This is my third time as an interim manager, and it's not fun," Mackanin said. "It's not a pleasant thing to do, because you have to make sure you keep the guys pointed in the right direction and at the same time, everybody's feeling a little bit funny. You've got to try to put it behind you as quick as possible, and that's not an easy thing to do. A lot of guys really enjoyed playing for Ryno and we enjoyed working for him. It's not a fun day."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 26-49. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 43-59-0 on this day.

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