Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bullpen Can’t Back Up Solid Return By Buchanan

GAME RECAP: Giants Fluster Phillies 8-5

Matt Duffy smacked a two-run triple as part of the Giants' five-run sixth inning Saturday night to help San Francisco come from behind to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-5, at AT&T Park. Ryan Vogelsong, who allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings, served up home runs to Ryan Howard and Cody Asche in the top of the sixth. But the Giants answered right back in the bottom half with Angel Pagan's two-run double, Duffy's triple, and Buster Posey's RBI single. "These guys have been champions for a reason," Howard said of the Giants. "Champions don't quit. They get down early and these guys just continue to fight." David Buchanan, who made his first appearance in the Majors since April 30, fired five innings of one-run ball, only to watch his successors squander a three-run lead.

  • Howard stepped to the plate with no one on and two outs in the sixth and drove a 1-1 curveball to right-center field that barely cleared the "Levi's Landing" sign. Replay officials took a second look at the play and determined the ball hit the green roofing above the brick wall, confirming the call on the field of a home run. Howard's homer, his 15th of the season, gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead.
  • Two batters after Howard's blast, Phillies left fielder Cody Asche chased Vogelsong from the game with a two-run bomb that landed with a splash in McCovey Cove. The homer stretched the Phillies' lead to 4-1, which the Philadelphia bullpen could not hold. "You score five runs and get nine hits, you should win those games," interim Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to win those games."
  • With Saturday's loss, the Phillies lost their 61st game of the season, the most losses the team has had before the All-Star break since 1997. Philadelphia is the first team to lose that many games before the break since the Houston Astros in 2011 (30-62).
The Phillies send Chad Billingsley (1-2, 6.67) to the mound as they attempt to take the series finale Sunday at 4:05 ET. The right-hander is coming off a 7-2 win over the Dodgers, his former team, in which he threw six innings of two-run ball. Billingsley is 8-6 with a 3.16 ERA against the Giants in his career. Chris Heston (8-5, 3.51) has been a big surprise for the Giants rotation and he'll try to wrap up the first half of the season on a high note against the Phillies in Sunday's series finale at 1:05 p.m. PT. Heston, who has tossed three straight quality starts, has never faced the Phils.


Solid Return – Even on a night when Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan threw well enough to win, his team came out on the losing end. Buchanan, who entered Saturday without a victory in five starts this season, allowed one run on eight hits in five innings of an 8-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants. For the first time this year, the Phillies right-hander gave up fewer than three earned runs and did not walk a batter. Buchanan had issued 5.47 walks per nine innings prior to Saturday's outing, so the command was a sign of improvement for the 26-year-old. "Didn't walk anybody, which was my biggest thing that was kind of hurting me earlier this year," Buchanan said. "Keeping the ball in the strike zone and executing my pitches, that was my goal." The Giants were able to get runners on base with Buchanan on the mound, but the second-year starter consistently worked out of jams to keep them off the board. Buchanan allowed a one-out single to Joe Panik in the first inning before Matt Duffy ripped a line drive off the pitcher's left arm. He stayed in the game, got Buster Posey to line out to right field and then struck out Hunter Pence with a nasty full-count breaking ball. In the second, the Giants managed to push a run across after Brandon Belt led off the inning with a double and Brandon Crawford tripled him home. But Buchanan bounced back, retiring the next three hitters to strand Crawford at third base. Buchanan allowed runners into scoring position in each of the next three frames as well, but did not allow a single one to cross home plate. "When guys start hitting the ball around, you might try to nibble and start leaving balls in the middle of the plate, start walking guys," Buchanan said. "I think that was the biggest thing mentally -- to pound the zone with confidence." After Ryan Howard and Cody Asche went deep in the top of the sixth inning, Buchanan exited the game with a 4-1 lead. Interim manager Pete Mackanin said he pulled his starter after just 72 pitches because the Giants had three lefties coming up in the sixth. "It was a perfect matchup for a left-hander," Mackanin said. "It didn't work as well we [hoped] it would work." But by the end of the inning, the Giants stormed back for five runs off the Phillies' bullpen, and Buchanan was slapped with a no-decision. "When a team goes ahead, you like to see them shut it down," Buchanan said. "You have to win those games."

But Will He Start When He Returns? – Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is making slight progress in his rehab process after being on the 15-day disabled list since June 23 with right-ankle inflammation. Utley said he has been doing some light running this weekend and the six-time All-Star took ground balls before Friday's game at AT&T Park. He said he's noticed some improvement in his ankle since he was placed on the DL. "The ankle is definitely in a better place than it was two weeks ago or three weeks ago," Utley said. The Phillies don't know when Utley will be able to return to the playing field, but he said he will stick to running and fielding grounders until after the break. Utley said he hopes to begin swinging again after the All-Star break. "Probably some point after the break," Utley said of when he'll pick up a bat. "There's no exact date on it, but it's a good sign that I'm able to run and take ground balls and I feel very comfortable doing it." When asked if he's still a few weeks away from being fully healthy, Utley said, "That's fair to say." Utley was hitting .179 with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 65 games before the injury.

Revere Setting Example – The Philadelphia Phillies, who hold Major League Baseball's worst record, have not given their fans much to cheer about this season. The team is in the rebuilding stage, with its main focus on developing its younger crop of players. The Phillies have talented youth already on their roster in Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera, among others. But those without experience learn from veterans, and players like outfielder Ben Revere, who is in his sixth MLB season, are tasked with showing the younger guys what it takes to consistently produce at the big league level. While Philadelphia's lineup struggles to score runs, Revere continues to find ways to get on base -- and then swipe the next one. His 21 stolen bases were fifth best in the Majors entering Saturday and he is the only player to steal 20 or more bases in each of the last five seasons. A career .292 hitter, Revere got off to a slow start to the 2015 season, batting .215 in the month of April. The Phillies' leadoff hitter credits the tough start to bad luck, and rightly so: Revere's .250 batting average on balls in play in April was 72 percentage points lower than his career average. "This is the first time I hit the ball as hard as I did in April," Revere said. "Balls [weren't] falling." The 5-foot-9, 170-pound center fielder has seen his batting average rise in every month since. Revere hit .286 in May, .346 in June and is batting .391 in seven games in July. Entering this month, he was one of 18 Major League players (with a minimum of 50 at-bats in each month) to raise his batting average in each month by at least 10 percentage points, according to Sports Features Group. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish," Revere said. Revere went 2-for-2 with a walk against 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on Friday night and is now 7-for-14 off the left-hander in his career. "You want to face the best and compete against the best," Revere said. "Facing those guys, I really get excited." Revere said he's pleased with his success, but insists he's more concerned with helping his teammates get better. "As a leader, as a veteran, I try my best to help the team, try to spark the team as much as I can," Revere said. "We're going to help these guys become better professional baseball players."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 29-61. 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 36-52-0 on this day.

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