Thursday, June 18, 2015

Turning The Suck Up To 11

GAME RECAP: Orioles Beat Phillies 6-4

The Orioles would like to have the Phillies on their schedule more often. They jumped to an early lead and held it in Wednesday night's 6-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Chris Parmelee and Travis Snider each homered to help the Orioles, who won both contests earlier this week against the Phils in Baltimore. They have won 11 of their last 13 games. "April and May, it's like fighters in the first few rounds, kind of feeling their way around trying not to get knocked out, see what the other guy's got, see what they've have," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his team's change in approach in recent weeks. "But sooner or later, you've got to start throwing punches.” The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games and 19 of their last 22. It is their longest losing streak since an 11-game skid in September 1999. "I think we can do better," shortstop Freddy Galvis said. "For sure, we can do better. It's not happening right now."

  • The Phillies entered the night averaging 3.03 runs per game, the lowest average of any team in baseball since 1972. An example of their offensive shortcomings came in the fourth inning, when Maikel Franco singled and Ryan Howard doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Domonic Brown struck out looking, Cameron Rupp struck out swinging and Cody Asche struck out looking to end the inning. The Phillies finished the night 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. "The fourth inning was a big inning," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The four unearned runs we gave up. And then in the bottom of the inning, we had our opportunities. Those things add up."
  • Galvis committed his 10th error of the season to start the fourth inning, and it led to four unearned runs. Galvis' strength is supposed to be his defense, but his 10 errors are tied for the sixth most in baseball. He had been struggling offensively, too. He entered the night batting .137 (13-for-95) with a .313 OPS in 24 games since May 15, but he hit a three-run home run to right field in the seventh inning to cut Baltimore's lead to 6-4.
  • The Phillies' first-inning ERA is 6.31 (47 earned runs in 67 innings), which is the second highest in baseball. Only the White Sox (7.29 ERA) have fared worse in the first inning. The Phillies also have allowed 14 first-inning home runs, which is second only to Toronto (15).
  • Getting a win this series is a priority for the Phillies for more reasons than one, one of which is that they have been swept in each of their past five Interleague series, including the two-game series Monday and Tuesday in Baltimore. It has been four years since the Phils won a series against an American League East opponent, dating back to July 2011.
  • Baltimore has not been kind to O'Sullivan in the past. Among all the teams against whom he has made more than two appearances, O'Sullivan has a higher career ERA vs. the Orioles than any other team at 8.64. For his career in Interleague Play, O'Sullivan is 1-0 with a 6.43 ERA.
  • Adam Jones was out of the lineup for the Orioles again Wednesday, but before the game, manager Buck Showalter hinted at the possibility that Jones could return Thursday, though it still isn't a guarantee. Showalter did say that Jones could play off the bench if needed.

Two pitchers who have had tough seasons match up against one another in the final game of the second consecutive series between the Orioles and Phillies on Thursday in Philadelphia. Bud Norris and Sean O'Sullivan will start for the O's and Phils, respectively. Though Norris is having the less successful year in terms of ERA at 8.29, the Orioles are 4-4 in games he has started. O'Sullivan, by contrast, has a lower ERA at 5.08, but the Phillies are 3-6 when he has taken the mound. Despite the relative similarities between O'Sullivan and Norris, their teams are trending in opposite directions. The Orioles have won 11 of 13, including a 7-1 homestand, while the Phillies lost all eight games on a road trip over the same span, and have lost nine straight and 19 of 22 overall.


Hurting And Helping The Team – The Phillies kept their 2015 expectations more than reasonable for Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis. If he could hit .250, they would be thrilled, because he plays such good defense. But Galvis' error to start the fourth inning Wednesday night in a 6-4 loss to the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park led to four unearned runs. The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games, which is the team's longest losing streak since an 11-game skid in Sept. 1999. They have lost 19 of their last 22 to drop to 22-45, which is their worst start since '97. "Nobody wants to make errors," Galvis said. "Nobody wants to make a bad pitch. Everybody wants to get a home run. Sometimes you have to let it go. When you try too much, sometimes that happens." Galvis has committed 10 errors this season, which is tied for the sixth most among shortstops. His .965 fielding percentage entering the game ranked 18th out of 25 qualified shortstops. "I have to make some adjustments on my throws," Galvis said. "Most of the errors have been on my throws. I've been working on it. I hope everything will be all right." But this one came on a slow ground ball. Galvis charged the ball, but came up empty. "I don't think he's a guy that should have 10 errors at this stage of the game," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "This was a hard one, charging in, but it's one I've seen him make." Galvis also has been struggling offensively after a hot start. He was batting .355 (43-for-121) with an .827 OPS in 35 games through May 15. But Galvis entered the night batting .137 (13-for-95) with a .313 OPS in 24 games since. Perhaps a three-run home run to right field in the seventh inning -- his second homer of the season -- gets him back on track. "I'd prefer the 'W' tomorrow, the win tomorrow for us," said Galvis, asked if he hopes the homer gets him going offensively. "Like I said, man, play hard every day, go hard. That's all we can do."

Miscues Accentuate Issues – The Phillies are hanging their red caps on the fact they have been losing close games lately. They said it shows they can compete. "Maybe notwithstanding [Tuesday's 19-3 loss], we've actually been battling pretty well," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. "It was good to see late fight with the guys," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said afterward. "But we came up short." The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games, their longest losing streak since an 11-game skid in September 1999. They also have lost 19 of their last 22, losing nine of those games by two or fewer runs. But a close loss is still a loss, and the Phillies have dropped to 22-45. The biggest culprit is an anemic offense that entered the night averaging just 3.03 runs per game, the lowest average of any team in baseball since 1972. "The frustrating part of it is one ball away, one ball in play, on base hit away from I don't know how many more wins than we have," Sandberg said. "Those start to add up. We find ourselves in a losing streak because we don't scrap out a couple of those wins, and maybe change the momentum the other day. That's not getting the job done and not executing." The fourth inning encapsulated the Phillies' season-long offensive struggles. Maikel Franco singled and Ryan Howard doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Domonic Brown looking, Cameron Rupp swinging and Cody Asche looking to end the inning. "It's possible to get two runs there with no hits," Sandberg said. "When you don't have a swing and you take pitches to drive and you go at balls in the dirt, that's where it becomes hard." The Phillies finished the night 1-for-7 with runners in scoring positon. "We're just trying to keep our heads up and keep moving forward," said Brown, who struck out on a pitch that appeared to be above the zone. "I don't think that I was pressing there. We've just got to get the job done right there. Good teams capitalize right there. I'm not going to say any bad calls or anything, because you get pitches to hit."

Front Office Frustrations – It has been so bad lately for the Phillies that Ruben Amaro Jr. unexpectedly popped into the home dugout Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park to talk about it. The Phillies entered Wednesday's series opener against the Orioles with the worst record (22-44) in baseball. They have lost 18 of their last 21 games, and they just completed an 0-8 road trip, their first winless road trip of eight or more games since an 0-9 stretch in the team's inaugural 1883 season. "We knew that were not going to be necessarily challenging for the National League East title, but at the same time, we need to see improvement, and that's what we expect," Amaro said. "We're not seeing it right now." Could changes be coming? Possibly, but they do not seem imminent. A report earlier this week said longtime baseball executive Andy MacPhail, 63, is the organization's top target to replace Phillies president Pat Gillick, who is not expected to remain in his position beyond the season. But until Gillick's replacement is announced, he seems unlikely to make wholesale changes with the front office or coaching staff. "I really don't have any comment about that," Amaro said about MacPhail's possible arrival. "That's not my area. That's for people who are much higher than my pay grade." Could MacPhail's arrival be bad for him? "I'll answer that the same I just answered the first question," Amaro said. But Amaro, whose contract expires at the end of the season, said he is "fully supportive" of Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, and he expects Sandberg to finish the season. "As far as I'm concerned, yes," Amaro said. Of course, it might not be entirely Amaro's decision to make at this point. Sandberg said he isn't worried about his job status. "I worry about the game today and what has to be done today," Sandberg said. "That's the focus and the mindset for me." But the pressure certainly is on the Phillies, who are rebuilding for the future. They hope to trade Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang and potentially others before the July 31 Trade Deadline in an effort to speed up the rebuilding process. The Phillies' intentions are known, but so far, they have not pulled the trigger. There are reasons for that. The Phils might argue teams are low-balling them. Other teams might argue the Phillies are asking for too much. "All I can say about that is people have their opinions," Amaro said. But if MacPhail is going to join the organization, a strong Trade Deadline performance might be Amaro's best bet to save his job. "I don't worry about doing my job to save my job," Amaro said. "I have to do my job well so this organization can get back on its feet and do the things that we need to do to be a perennial contender. That was the plan at the outset of this offseason. We were going to rebuild. We were not going to be a great ballclub. We were not going to be a contending team. We knew that. We know that we were going to take some lumps. "I see a lot of positive things that are happening in our Minor League system. There's a lot of lights at the end of the tunnel for us."

Can You Hear Me Now? – One of the roughest moments of Tuesday's 19-3 loss to the Orioles is the fact the Phillies could not call to the bullpen to get a pitcher warmed up because the bullpen phone literally was off the hook. It was an embarrassing moment for the organization. "It's not our greatest moment, but it's been addressed," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday afternoon. "It's a mishap that can happen, but it should never happen again. It's as simple as that." Amaro also touched on a couple other topics Wednesday: Aaron Nola: Amaro said the Phillies will not rush Triple-A right-hander Aaron Nola to the big leagues, despite the rotations' struggles and Jerome Williams landing on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. (The Phillies recalled Hector Neris to temporarily take his spot on the roster.) "We have to do what's right for Aaron Nola and his development, and that's not going to change," Amaro said. "And he's going to be in the big leagues at some point this year. I don't think there's any question about that, if he continues to progress the way he's progressed so far. There's no reason to think that he won't be. We'll just have to do it at the right time." Cliff Lee: Left-hander Cliff Lee, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a left elbow injury, saw the doctor Tuesday, but he is still three to four weeks from throwing again. "Best case, he'd be throwing right about how," Amaro said. "He's not ready to do it."

Phillies Introduce Randolph – It is time for Cornelius Randolph to get to work. The Phillies introduced Randolph, whom they selected with the 10th overall pick in last week's Draft, in a news conference Wednesday evening at Citizens Bank Park. Randolph signed a $3,231,300 signing bonus, which was full value for his Draft slot. He is set to begin his professional career Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. "This is amazing," Randolph said. "It's unbelievable. It's just a dream come true." The Phillies have signed or reached agreements with 28 of the 29 players they hoped to sign immediately following the Draft. (The others are draft-and-follow selections, which must be signed by July 17.) The only holdout is UNLV senior right-hander Joseph Lauria, who was a 25th-round pick. Randolph's agreement came quickly. "It's always nice in the Draft when you have an agreement," said Scott Boras, who is Randolph's agent. "I think [scouting director] Johnny [Almaraz] and his staff, they certainly placed Cornelius up in the Draft, and certainly Cornelius' performance throughout the course of the year, he got better as his senior year went on. And his bat is certainly something special. So it's always nice in baseball when a lot of veteran baseball people get together and share a common dynamic, and certainly that was the case here." The Phillies plan to move Randolph from shortstop, where he played in high school, to left field. Randolph said he is OK with the move. "I'm open to anything," Randolph said. "I played the outfield before. During the summer, I've been out there. So I feel like I'll be able to adapt to anything." Randolph hopes to be another quick riser through the system like Double-A Reading shortstop J.P. Crawford, who was a first-round pick in 2014. The two have spoken since the Phillies drafted Randolph. Randolph also met some of the Phillies' veterans Wednesday, such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. "The key words were, 'Stay hungry,'" Randolph said. "'Don't ever quit, don't ever be content with where you're at.' When I watched them when I was little, I was just watching a couple of my favorite players play. Now I'm a part of the organization. It's crazy. It's a dream come true."

Asche Visits School – "G" stands for "Giving up is not an option." "R" means "Ready for giving 100 percent." You get to "I" when you can say "I've reached my goal." And finally, "T" symbolizes taking on a challenge. At John Barclay Elementary School in Warrington, Pa., this acronym embodies the meaning of the word it spells out: Grit. It is the word the school teaches its students to live by and, with the school year coming to a close this week, the school's entire student body was rewarded for a year's worth of grit and determination. Two of the school's students, Liam and Katie Petersen, won a contest their parents entered on Mother's Day to be driven to school Wednesday in a limousine. But that perk wasn't the last of the prizes for winning the contest; they also helped escort in the school's surprise guest of honor, Phillies left fielder Cody Asche. After the teachers and student body of the school formed a chorus to sing the Barclay Elementary fight song and recite the meaning of G.R.I.T., Asche was introduced to an auditorium filled with kindergartners through fifth graders donning red Phillies jerseys and waving towels with the words "Fightin' Phils" emblazoned across them. Impressed by the school's commitment to hard work and dedication, Asche spoke about what the words meant to him as a professional athlete. "I think grit and determination is a real important lesson to learn, especially at a young age," Asche said. "Things might not always go the way you want them. But I think if you stick to who you are, you have high character and you do the right things, then things can work out for you in the end." Asche went on to answer questions about life as a professional ballplayer, ranging from how hard it is to hit a baseball to what it's like to take a pie in the face after a walk-off win. He and the rest of the auditorium then partook in singing a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and enthusiastically dancing to "YMCA" before the kids had to return to their respective classrooms. With the echo in the air, the applause and cheers the kids had directed at Asche seemed to mimic the one he hears at the park each day. Aside from a select few, nearly every student in attendance was either wearing Phillies gear or at the very least something red, including Liam and Katie Petersen, who both donned No. 25 Asche jerseys. When asked why he supported Asche and the Phillies, Liam Petersen gave an unsurprising answer. "They show a lot of grit," he said. "They don't give up."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 22-45. 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 42-55-0 on this day.

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