Monday, June 22, 2015

Rookie Captains Phillies To Victory

GAME RECAP: Phillies Pluck Cardinals 9-2

The Cardinals seemed primed to sweep the Phillies this weekend at Citizens Bank Park, but the Phillies managed eight hits and five runs in five innings against Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha in Sunday afternoon's 9-2 victory. The Phillies, who had lost 11 of their last 12, also enjoyed a solid Major League debut from rookie left-hander Adam Morgan, who fared well against a Cardinals offense that had torched the Phillies for 22 runs in the first two games of the three-game series. "Morgan really stepped up with the opportunity and was outstanding," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "A lot of composure out there, good stuff, good control, mixed his pitches against a very good offensive lineup. For his debut, to face them and do the job he did, he was terrific." The Cardinals managed their only run against Morgan in the fourth inning when Jhonny Peralta homered. Jason Heyward added a solo homer for the Cardinals in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon.

  • Morgan became the first Phillies starter to earn a win since May 23, when Cole Hamels picked up a win in Washington. It snapped a franchise-record 25 consecutive games without a win from a starter. Morgan did it in his big league debut, too. He allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, which was welcome relief for an overworked bullpen. Sandberg said Morgan has earned another start. "I was more anxious and excited to see how my stuff played," said Morgan, asked if he was nervous at all. "Asking these guys some first-time advice about their debuts, and they're like, 'Don't look up.' [Cameron] Rupp did a good job just telling me, 'Just me and you catching.' That's what I did. I didn't look up and played the game of baseball."
  • The Phillies had hit .229 with a .612 OPS in 28 games since May 20, averaging just 2.8 runs per game in that 5-23 stretch. But they jumped on Wacha early and often, and most of the damage came from the Phillies' younger hitters, like Ben Revere (3-for-4) Hernandez (two RBIs), Franco (3-for-5), Domonic Brown (1-for-3) and Cody Asche (1-for-3). It was the most runs for the Phillies in a game since Sept. 5, 2014, when they also scored nine.
  • Hernandez made his fourth start in seven games at second base, although Chase Utley started two of those four games (once at first base, once as a designated hitter). It will be interesting to see if Hernandez continues to get more playing time. Utley, who is hitting .182, needs 500 plate appearances this season to vest a $15 million club option for 2016. He has 244 through the team's first 71 games. "I'd like to see him play more," Sandberg said about Hernandez. "I've been trying to get him in there."
  • Morgan was the 11th pitcher to start for the Phillies this season, which leads baseball. The Astros and Dodgers each have had 10 pitchers make starts.
  • Correia allowed nine hits and one run in six innings in his only start against the Yankees, which came last year when he pitched for the Twins.
  • It will be interesting to see how much Utley plays in New York. He has struggled all season, and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has started Cesar Hernandez four of the past seven games at second base.
  • Pineda faced the Phillies just once in his career: June 17, 2011, when he pitched for the Mariners. He allowed two hits, one run, three walks and struck out five in six innings. The only Phillies hitters in the lineup that day that remain with the organization are Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.

The struggling Phillies do not catch a break this week when they open a three-game series Monday night against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have won 12 of their last 18 games. Meanwhile, the Phillies limp into Yankee Stadium with the worst record in baseball, having lost 11 of their last 13 games and 23 of their last 29. Phillies right-hander Kevin Correia (0-1, 1.69 ERA) faces Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda (8-3, 3.54 ERA) in Monday's series opener.


Good To Go – Cole Hamels threw his bullpen session Sunday morning at Citizens Bank Park without incident. He offered the thumbs-up afterward. Hamels remains on target to pitch Wednesday afternoon against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He missed Friday's start against the Cardinals because of tightness in his right hamstring. Hamels said Friday he never considered the injury serious. Hamels' health is important with the July 31 Trade Deadline approaching. The Phillies intend to trade him to speed up their rebuilding efforts.

Morgan’s Solid Debut – The Phillies had waited almost an entire month for a starting pitcher to earn a win, so it seemed fitting that a pitcher who waited a long time for his opportunity to pitch in the big leagues finally made it happen. Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in his big league debut Sunday afternoon in a 9-2 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. It was the rotation's first win since May 23, snapping a franchise-record 25 consecutive games without one. "Just was very, very happy for the opportunity," Morgan said afterward. "Just very grateful." Morgan, whom the Phillies drafted in the third round in 2011, was on the cusp of pitching in the big leagues in 2013, until he suffered a left shoulder injury that May. He tried rest and rehab, but he required surgery in January 2014. If the injury had not happened, he almost certainly would have started for the Phillies in 2013. That season started with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan in the rotation. Halladay and Lannan suffered injuries, which allowed Jonathan Pettibone, Tyler Cloyd, Ethan Martin, Zach Miner and Raul Valdes to make a combined 42 starts. "Obviously, when you start your rehabbing, it feels like forever away," Morgan said about Sunday's start. "That's where my support team comes in -- my family, my fiancĂ©e, her family, everybody around me, my good friends. Everybody helped me out. But it was a long road." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Morgan has earned another start, although because of Thursday's off-day, it is unclear when it will happen. "He was given the opportunity and really stepped up," Sandberg said. "Really showed maturity out there and just under control. That was the most impressive part of it, and the way he made pitches." Morgan said he felt no nerves before the game, although some veterans told him not to look up into the stands. Keep his head down, they told him. He did just that, too. But when Sandberg pulled him from the game in the sixth inning, he received a standing ovation from Phillies fans. He could not help but look up then. "That's something I wanted to see," Morgan said. "It was amazing." "Couldn't have been happier," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "Couldn't have happened to a better guy. He deserves it. He's worked hard to get back to where he is from where he was when he got drafted, and I couldn't be happier for him."

Patching Things Up – Chase Utley said Sunday he meant no disrespect to Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure. "It's unfortunate that a heartfelt conversation has turned into a controversy," Utley said in the Phillies' clubhouse before their 9-2 win in the series finale against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. The typically stoic Utley showed some emotion on the mound in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 19-3 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore. The Phillies had asked outfielder Jeff Francoeur to pitch to save an overworked bullpen, but Francoeur began to tire in his second inning of work. Knowing it would make no sense to have Francoeur blow out his elbow in a meaningless game, Utley expressed his concerns to McClure, who had made a visit to the mound. "I was concerned for Jeff's well-being, to be honest," Utley said. "I know he's pitched a little bit in the past. He threw a lot of pitches that night and he wanted to continue to be out there. I just expressed my concern for him. By no means was my intention to be disrespectful to Bob. I've talked to Bob about it. We're both on the same page. Over the course of my career these types of conversations happen every year, whether it's between players and players, coaches and coaches or players and coaches. I have the utmost respect for Bob and the entire coaching staff." McClure said this week he had no problem with what Utley said on the mound. Many perceived Utley's atypical public display of frustration as another sign that Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg and the coaching staff had lost the clubhouse. Sandberg has ruffled some feathers in the past with the way he benched Jimmy Rollins in Spring Training 2014, and handled Ryan Howard's playing time in July 2014. Communication has been an issue at times and the front office discussed it with Sandberg in the offseason. But Utley said Sandberg and the coaching staff are respected in the clubhouse. "Obviously, we're not playing very well," Utley said. "What I've seen over the course of my career is that when times are tough that's when more controversy is made about stuff that shouldn't be controversial. Overall, I think we're playing hard. We're not getting the results that we would like, but the effort and the desire is there."

Not So Fast – In retrospect, Phillies president Pat Gillick may have been overly optimistic when he said it might take the Phillies until 2017 or 2018 to contend again. He acknowledged Sunday he might have underestimated the team's timetable to rebuild. "It might take a little longer," Gillick said. The Phillies beat the Cardinals, 9-2, on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, but they still have the worst record in baseball with the lowest runs per game average in more than 40 years. The organization is in a state of flux with Gillick almost certainly stepping down from his current role before next season. reported last week that long-time baseball executive Andy MacPhail has been targeted as Gillick's replacement. The talk around baseball since then is that MacPhail's arrival is only a matter of time. "I can't confirm anything in regards to Andy MacPhail," Gillick said. But until MacPhail (or somebody else) is announced, it is believed Gillick will keep the status quo in regards to the front office, manager and coaching staff. In other words, he is not going to make significant changes shortly before his replacement arrives. Gillick disputed that to an extent, although he said "there will be no change" with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "While I'm president, if Ruben and I and ownership want to do something, we're going to do it," Gillick said. "I mean, if we think it's the right thing. If the opportunity presents itself -- and timing is very important -- we're going to act on it. We're not going to leave it for whoever it might be. We're not going to be locked up. As long as I'm here, and as long as Ruben's here, it's going to be business as normal. We're not going to hesitate." But wouldn't it be unusual for two men who might not be in their current positions in a few months to make moves that could shape the organization for the next decade? Perhaps. While Amaro's contract expires after the season, Gillick, who has said Amaro's future would not be addressed until after the season, has an ownership stake in the Phillies. "People forget that he was the general manager in 2009, 2010 and 2011," Gillick said about Amaro. "He went to the World Series in 2009, and had the best record in baseball in 2011. He had to make some right decisions in those years. And we were together before that. There's a history. I know the fans and media don't worry about what happened in the past. But he didn't get dumb all of a sudden." But one thing should be made clear: Gillick is running the show. Everything is brought to him. Every trade proposal, every significant personnel decision. "We're pretty well in lockstep," Gillick said. But what about Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg? Is he the right man for the job? "Well," Gillick said, "as I said before the season, we knew what a challenge we would have on wins and losses. If you want to judge a guy on wins and losses then no, he hasn't done a good job. If you want to judge the way he's conducted the club, the way he's kept them battling in games, that indicates to me that he's keeping these guys in a positive frame of mind and that's the most important thing." Gillick said he is "hopeful" the Phillies will make some trades before the July 31 Trade Deadline. He reiterated the Phillies are willing to eat a portion of a player's remaining salary to facilitate a trade. He also disputed reports the Phillies continue to ask for unrealistic returns for their players. "That's real bull, I'll tell you that," said Gillick. "They think we're desperate and we're in a fire sale and we've got to dump salary. We're not going to do anything we don't think is in the best interest of the ball club. "We knew coming into the season we had our challenges. But we have a good ownership group here. I think they're patient and they're willing to spend money wisely when an opportunity presents itself. They know it's not going to be an overnight thing. They've always been in it for the long run."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 24-47. 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 54-56-3 on this day.

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