Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Phillies Should Play All Their Games In The Bronx

GAME RECAP: Phillies Stun Yankees 11-6

Maikel Franco ripped a two-run double off Dellin Betances in the top of the ninth inning, capping a second consecutive five-RBI night for the rookie infielder and lifting the Phillies to an 11-6 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Franco's go-ahead hit came after Ben Revere opened the ninth with a double and Cesar Hernandez was hit by a pitch while attempting a bunt. Andres Blanco ripped a three-run triple off Nick Rumbelow as the Phillies improved to 9-28 on the road this season, while Betances absorbed his first career loss. "I don't even know," Franco said, after being asked when he has felt this good at the plate. "I'm just like locked in right now, and I'm just in a good moment. I see a lot of good pitches to hit, and that's what's happening right now." The Yankees hit four home runs off Philadelphia starter Sean O'Sullivan, who surrendered 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. Garrett Jones and Brett Gardner cleared the fences in the second and third innings, respectively, while Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez hit back-to-back shots in the fifth to set up Chris Young's game-tying RBI double. New York's mid-game surge took CC Sabathia off the hook after an ineffective outing. Sabathia permitted six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, the third time this season that he has allowed five runs or more. Cameron Rupp hit his first Major League homer and Franco slugged a three-run blast, powering a five-run Phillies fourth inning against the former Cy Young Award winner. "It's tough, especially the way we've been swinging the bats," Sabathia said. "These guys are on fire, and you just want to get them in here and try to score some runs. It hasn't been working out for us." The game started after a rain delay of 1 hour and 21 minutes.

  • Franco hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning, his third homer of the series. He has 10 home runs in 37 games this season, making him the first Phillies rookie to hit 10 homers in 37 or fewer games since Buzz Arlett (33 games) in 1933. He then ripped the game-winning double down the left-field line in the ninth.
  • Phillies right-hander Ken Giles struck out the side in the eighth inning, flashing a 99.5 mph fastball at one point. Giles' velocity has been inching upward since the beginning of the season, which is a good sign for the Phillies' bullpen.
  • The Phillies announced after the game that they have placed Chase Utley on the disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle. Utley will receive a cortisone injection in the ankle Wednesday. Utley's trip to the DL frees up regular playing time for Hernandez.
  • The Phillies have won their first road series since Sept. 5-7, 2014, in Washington. They were 0-13-1 in 14 road series since then. They had not won a road series against an American League East opponent since July 1-3, 2011, in Toronto.
  • The Phillies have scored 31 total runs in their previous three outings. In the 10 games before that, they had scored 19 total.
  • Franco has 10 RBIs through the first two games of the series. He is the first Phillies player to record at least five RBIs in back-to-back games since the RBI became an official stat in 1920.
  • The Yankees have scored a Major League-best 67 runs in the first inning, and they have scored in the opening frame 30 times in 71 games.

Ivan Nova will make his 2015 debut for the Yankees on Wednesday, coming off of Tommy John surgery, and Cole Hamels will start amid trade rumors as the Yankees and Phillies play the finale of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, with Philadelphia eyeing a sweep. Hamels, who was scratched on Friday due to a strained right hamstring, looks for his sixth win of the season and will assuredly be pitching in front of interested scouts -- as reports have indicated that the Phillies and Rangers have had conversations about a potential deal for Hamels. "Obviously the challenge is great in facing Cole Hamels. He's an outstanding pitcher, and he's been an outstanding pitcher for a long time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm curious to see him pitch tomorrow." Nova is coming off three Minor League rehab starts. He was 2-2 with an 8.27 ERA over four starts in 2014.


Franco Putting On Clinic In Bronx – Maikel Franco is making a heck of a name for himself in the Bronx. He went 2-for-3 with one double, one home run, one walk and five RBIs in the Phillies' 11-8 victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. He hit a three-run home run to right field in the fourth inning to become the first Phillies rookie to hit 10 home runs in 37 or fewer games since Buzz Arlett (33 games) in 1933. Franco then ripped a game-winning two-run double down the left-field line in the ninth inning against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, becoming the first Phillies player to have back-to-back five-RBI games since the statistic became official in 1920. "I don't even know," Franco said, asked when he has felt this good at the plate. "I'm just like locked in right now and I'm just in a good moment. I see a lot of good pitches to hit, and that's what's happening right now." Franco is 6-for-8 with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs in two games against the Yankees. The kid looks legit. The Yankees seem to have noticed. Coincidence or not, Yankees left-hander Justin Wilson drilled Franco with a 95-mph fastball to start the top of the seventh inning. It was Franco's first at-bat following his three-run homer. "I don't think it fazed him," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. Franco is hitting .319 (46-for-144) with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and a .972 OPS. He almost single-handedly has helped the Phillies score nine or more runs in three consecutive games for the first time since July 29-30, 2006, when they scored 32 runs over three games in two days against Florida. Franco's homer in the fourth carried into the short porch in right field, but he ripped a breaking ball against Betances in the ninth. Betances had been dominant this season. He entered the night 4-0 with a 0.26 ERA, striking out 57 batters in 35 innings. "I'm just thinking about adjustments," Franco said. "I knew he was going to throw me a lot of breaking pitches." Franco smiled easily in the clubhouse afterward. Why wouldn't he be? He is on fire offensively, and his family got to watch his heroics in person. "I'm just in a great moment right now," he said. "I want to preserve the moment. I want to have fun."

Utley Goes Down – Chase Utley is down. The Phillies announced after Tuesday night's 11-6 win over the Yankees that they have placed him on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle. It is the same ankle that Utley badly sprained in January during offseason workouts, and the same ankle that forced him to miss the beginning of Spring Training. "It's hard to tell," Utley said, asked how much the ankle has affected him at the plate. "Obviously, it's been bothering me for a little while. Most players have aches and pains through the year. So I'm not shocked with that. It's really showing no improvement. So I think it's a good time to get it right. We will have a cortisone shot tomorrow. We'll take a little time off, and hopefully that will get it squared away." Utley is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. His batting average and OPS are last among 163 qualified hitters in baseball. The Phillies almost certainly do not mind Utley's trip to the DL because he has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 through the team's first 73 games. Depending on how much time he misses and how well Cesar Hernandez plays as his replacement, the option could no longer be an issue upon his return. "Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly," Utley said. "I don't have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days." Utley said his knees, which have been an issue in the past, are healthy. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he was surprised by the news, because he said Utley told him he had been fine. "My communication with Chase throughout this season about playing is that he's been up and willing to go, and no real reports of anything holding him back," Sandberg said. "I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards. "I don't know if it's affected him, but to get it taken care of with a stint on the DL is the next step to see if that helps him get that behind him. But the way that he's moved around and run the bases and run hard and played defense, I don't think it was holding him back all that much, in my opinion. But to have it bothering now -- as he said it has kind of crept up on him to the point of getting it rechecked and re-evaluated -- that's what he feels." Sandberg's comment that he was unaware of any issues with Utley's ankle is interesting, because the Phillies said Utley had an MRI on May 16, which showed some inflammation and swelling. "It was present on the bone itself," Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. "Most of the ligaments on the outside are healing pretty well. The ligament on the inside still had some healing to still go. He has some symptoms that we want to take care of. So we'll place him on the DL and try to get him healthy."

Hamels On Display – If a contending team needs a starting pitcher, bet the farm it has called the Phillies about Cole Hamels. He is very much available. Hamels is pitching Wednesday afternoon against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, so expect plenty of scouts in attendance. He missed Friday's start against the Cardinals because of tightness in his right hamstring, but he gave the thumbs up following a bullpen session Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. "There's been a lot of talk about him since the offseason: 'How many more starts does he have in a Philadelphia uniform?'" Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night's game. "Nobody knows. I don't really get too caught up in it. Could he end up in our division? I guess. There are six divisions he could end up in, so I guess the chances are he could end up in ours. But I'm curious to see him pitch tomorrow." reported Tuesday that the Phillies and Rangers have had continuing talks about Hamels, although one source told that a Hamels trade with Texas is "not on the board." Not yet anyway. Phillies scout Gordon Lakey was in Chicago last week scouting the Rangers-White Sox series. Sources said that the Phillies and Rangers have been discussing Hamels since at least the offseason. The two teams actually have been talking for years about Phillies starting pitchers, including injured left-hander Cliff Lee. The Phillies have been talking to other teams, too. That group includes the Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros and more. Hamels is 5-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts this season, and he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years. His 3.17 ERA from 2008-15 ranks 10th out of 103 qualified pitchers. His 1.13 WHIP ranks eighth, and his 3.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio is ninth. The Phillies hope Hamels can land them their greatest haul of prospects before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. There are obstacles. Hamels has a limited no-trade clause, and he can block trades to 20 teams. The Rangers and Yankees are not believed to be on that list, with The New York Post reporting that Hamels would waive his no-trade clause to join the Yanks. The Astros are also on the no-trade list, and KHOU-TV in Houston said Hamels has "blocked any possible trade" to Houston for now. But more important than that, Hamels is making $22.5 million this season and is owed at least $73.5 million from 2016-19, which includes a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option. Phillies president Pat Gillick said Sunday the Phillies are willing to take on a portion of a player's salary to get the right players back in a trade. But at the moment, teams have said that the Phillies are asking for too much, while the Phillies have privately said teams are not offering them much of anything. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. These things happen more than a month before the Trade Deadline. Quite often, once the Deadline gets closer, teams interested in making a deal come together to find one that works. Nobody is there yet, but that time is expected to come.

Is Franco An All Star? – Cole Hamels or Jonathan Papelbon remain the favorites to represent the Phillies on the National League All-Star team, but Maikel Franco at least has entered the conversation as a long shot on the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot, as the latest round of NL voting was released Tuesday. Franco, who set career highs in hits (four), homers (two) and RBIs (five) in a game in Monday's 11-8 victory over the Yankees, drove in five more runs in Tuesday night's 11-6 win over the Yanks -- including a three-run home run and the tiebreaking two-run double in the ninth. He is hitting .319 with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 154 plate appearances since his May 15 promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. But his late start means it is very unlikely he earns a nod. The NL has had 21 rookie position players make the All-Star team. Phillies outfielder Del Ennis and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper both made the latest debuts of those rookies, playing their first games of the season on April 28, 1946, and April 28, 2012, respectively. If Franco had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would rank second among NL third basemen in OPS. Only Cincinnati's Todd Frazier (.993) is better. Fans can cast their votes for starters at and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots. Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info. Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities. The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit

Splitting Time – Carlos Ruiz still considers himself the Phillies' No. 1 catcher, but he also sees what is happening in front of him. Cameron Rupp has started three consecutive games behind the plate, including Tuesday night's game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He also has started six of the last nine and 10 of the last 18. Ruiz, who is one of the only remaining pieces from the 2008 World Series championship team, said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has not discussed his situation with him, but said, "I'm good. I'm ready to go. I'm not swinging the bat well. I have no excuse. At the same time, I'll keep working and stay in good shape. That's the only thing I can control. But I feel good." Ruiz entered Tuesday night's game hitting .227 (37-for-163) with six doubles, 11 RBIs and a .560 OPS in 49 games. Rupp is hitting .265 (22-for-83) with four doubles, one triple, four RBIs and a .671 OPS in 26 games. It is a very similar situation to what is happening at second base with Chase Utley and Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez has started three consecutive games at second base and six of the last nine, although Utley started two of those games as a designated hitter and one game as a first baseman. "I don't know what they're thinking, but I will play when they give me the chance, and we'll see what happens," Ruiz said. The Phillies have looked into trading Ruiz, like every other veteran on the roster. It is unclear if anything has been close, but there certainly are hurdles. First and foremost, Ruiz has a little more than half of this year's $8.5 million salary on the books. He also makes $8.5 million next season, plus has a $500,000 buyout on a 2017 club option. The Phillies would need to eat a large portion of that contract. "I don't have any control over that," Ruiz said. "But I'm happy I'm still in a Phillies uniform. We'll see." Ruiz remains the consummate team player, which is why he has been one of the most liked and well-respected players in the Phillies' clubhouse for years. He sees his struggles, he sees Rupp swinging a good bat and he understands the team is trying to win. "When given the chance, I have to improve with my bat," Ruiz said.

Bowa Backs Sandberg – Larry Bowa knows the Phillies and their fans better than anybody. After all, this is his fourth tour through the organization as a player, third-base coach, manager and now bench coach under his buddy, Ryne Sandberg. The Phillies, at 25-47, have the worst record in Major League Baseball, and the fans are howling in disapproval. Right now, Bowa doesn't know whether Sandberg will be back next year to serve out the final season on a three-year contract or whether even Bowa will be asked to return. This is the back end of his own two-year deal. Bowa has been dismissed twice in his career as a manager in San Diego and Philadelphia, and the one thing he does know is that too much heat for this lost season is being placed on Sandberg and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "Yeah, I do, and that's just my opinion," Bowa said during a wide-ranging interview in the Phils' dugout at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night before they played the Yankees. "You just don't become stupid after winning a World Series and winning division titles. Sandberg knows how to play the game, and he knows the strategy of it. If you don't have the horses, it doesn't matter how good a manager you are." The Phillies, as you might imagine, place a high premium on loyalty to those who have made a commitment to the organization. Amaro was named general manager in 2008 just after the Phils defeated the Rays to win the second World Series in club history. Before that, Amaro had spent a decade as an assistant to Pat Gillick and Ed Wade. Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel as manager on Aug. 16, 2013. The Hall of Fame second baseman was a 20th-round Draft pick of the Phillies in 1978, played 13 games for them in 1981, and was traded with Bowa to the Cubs prior to the '82 season. With Bowa at shortstop and Sandberg at second base, the Cubs won a division title in 1984, the year Sandberg won the National League MVP Award. Bowa and Sandberg have been tied at the hip ever since. History. Loyalty. This is the main thing everyone needs to understand about the Phils. They're all trying to weather a very difficult storm, particularly Sandberg. "Ryno's doing good. He's been patient as heck. I told him the other day, 'I don't know how you do it,'" Bowa said. "He's never complained about the hand he's been dealt. He just keeps moving along. We do all the extra work at home. We take infield every day, bunting, PFP [pitchers' fielding practice]. Nobody does that. "He's just trying to get these young guys to improve. He's never once said, 'This is bad!' He just goes about his business, and he's getting a lot of heat for it." Bowa, the shortstop on Philadelphia's first World Series-winning team of 1980, has no compunction about speaking his mind. He never has. "This team is bad, at least as far as wins and losses are concerned," Bowa said. "It doesn't take a genius when you look at the pitching we run out there. You don't win if you don't have pitching. It's as simple as that. It's going to take a while." And the reaction of the local Phillies fans to all that? "They're not very happy," Bowa said. "When you've played there long enough and coach and manage, you get a feel for the pulse of the city. I go into a grocery store and people ask me, 'What's going on?' They're disgruntled. They don't like the product we're putting out there. They take it as a slap in the face." It wasn't supposed to be this way. Amaro thought he had built a starting rotation to last, adding Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay at considerable cost behind Cole Hamels, the MVP of both the NL Championship Series and World Series in 2008. The trio was intact for only the 2011-12 seasons. In 2011, they combined to win 50 games, and in Game 1 of their NL Division Series against the Reds, Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in postseason history. Less than two years later, Halladay had right shoulder surgery, and by the end of the 2013 season, he was gone for good. Retired at the age of 36. Lee has made only 13 starts the past two seasons, hasn't pitched at all this year and is currently on the disabled list with a left forearm strain. At 36, he also appears to be done. That leaves a makeshift rotation behind Hamels, whom Amaro has reportedly shopped all year, thus far to no avail. Bowa said he's wary of that move and obtaining a new host of prospects instead of having a proven starter. "If we don't trade [Hamels], we won't get anything, and we'll have to continue to build through the Draft. And that's no lead-pipe cinch," Bowa said. "Say you did trade Hamels and you get three guys. You could miss on all three. It's a tenuous situation. Nobody knows if this is a short- or long-term fix." Regardless, the Phillies are on their fourth .500-or-lower season in a row and haven't made the playoffs since their last run of five straight ended in 2011. It's not the type of scenario anybody envisioned. Still, if Bowa remains healthy and vibrant, even at 69, he wants to remain involved.

The Franco File – Background: It appears that right-handed-hitting Maikel Franco has supplanted Cody Asche at third base for the Phillies. Asche has assumed a new role in the outfield. Franco received a brief big league look last season, appearing in 16 games and hitting only .179. But the strong 6-foot-1, 215-pound native of the Dominican Republic is having much better offensive results so far this season. Franco looks like he belongs in the Major Leagues. He is hitting for both power and average, and he is driving in runs. Franco is a major part of the Phils' future. Signed as an international free agent in 2010, Franco completed parts of six Minor League seasons in the Phillies' development program. He has a .280 batting average in 2,355 Minor League plate appearances. Franco was enjoying his best season, hitting .355 with 12 doubles, a triple and four home runs at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before his May promotion to Philadelphia. Batting: Franco feasts on fastballs. He has the power to let the pitcher's velocity combine with his upper-body strength to drive the ball. Franco has strong hands that form an important part of his hitting mechanics. Using a slight uppercut swing, Franco uses the barrel of the bat well, creating enough lift to put the ball out of most Major League parks. Franco can scuffle against slower breaking balls due to the long load and setup he uses as his timing mechanism. By the time he is ready, the breaking ball or offspeed pitch can be past his wheelhouse. Even so, Franco's swing is incredibly fast. As Franco likes to extend his hands to attack fastballs in the middle of the plate or even a bit outside, he has also shown some vulnerability to pitches in on his hands. An aggressive middle-of-the-order hitter, Franco doesn't like to walk. Throughout his career, he has shown low strikeout totals for a player of his strength and a low walk rate as well. That career strikeout and walk trend will likely continue as a big league hitter. Defense: Franco can play both corner infield positions. He is a bit sluggish and doesn't have the best ground-ball instincts at third base. Franco may be challenged coming in on slow ground balls hit in front of him. Franco's offense is ahead of his defense. He has a strong, accurate and reliable arm. Best tools: Franco's best tool is his power. He could ultimately hit between 25 and 30 home runs in his home park. Franco's aggressive approach at the plate could cut into his batting average, making his hit tool rather average. Franco's arm strength is an asset that can help him remain at third base. Due to the strength of his arm, he can afford to take a bit of extra time to settle himself prior to throwing. Strengths: Anytime a player can hit with the type of power Franco projects, it can help in a hitter-friendly park. Franco's hands can burst through a fastball. He recognizes pitches fairly well and can cover the center and outside of the plate as well as high and low fastballs. Franco's eye-hand coordination is a plus. Weaknesses: Franco recognizes breaking balls but has difficulty making solid contact against those pitches. He will have to adjust to big league pitchers that avoid throwing him fastballs and count on him swinging aggressively at offspeed breaking pitches. Franco has worked hard to overcome a "hitch" in his swing. Franco isn't very fast. Stolen bases will not likely be among the qualities he brings to his game. Interesting fact: Former Phils manager Charlie Manuel has worked with Franco. Manuel is a terrific hitting coach, and it is not a coincidence that Franco has improved markedly following Manuel's assistance. The Future: For now, Franco can be content playing third base. In the future, however, he may be converted to first base when Ryan Howard departs. An improving defensive infielder, Franco can play both corners adequately. Franco in a word: Aggressive.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 26-47. 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 57-59-0 on this day.

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