Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bullpen Gives Up Lead, Loses Game In Unique Way

GAME RECAP: Brewers Top Phillies 4-3

The Brewers found an interesting way to win, 4-3, Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Or it could be said the Phillies found an interesting way to lose. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz called time on a 0-2 pitch to Carlos Gomez with two outs in the eighth inning, which Gomez swung at and missed. Ruiz's call for time extended Gomez's plate appearance against Phillies right-hander Ken Giles. Gomez singled and the inning continued from there as the Brewers scored twice to take a one-run lead, then stranded a slew of Phillies runners to complete Milwaukee's sixth victory in eight games. "It's a good win," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a win you feel like you kind of snatched from them a little bit." The Phillies' eighth-inning meltdown wasted another fine start from Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who allowed just two runs in seven innings. "It's tough," Hamels said about Ruiz calling time and Giles' subsequent struggles. "Sometimes it works to your advantage. Sometimes it doesn't. It's part of the game. You know you have to get the next guy. I think that's what I've had to learn. Bad situations where you think you have the guy, but you have another pitch and you have to get the job done. It just teaches guys in general that you just have to bear down a little bit more sometimes."

  • Giles appeared to have the eighth inning over when he threw a 0-2 pitch to Gomez, who swung and missed. But Ruiz's call for time kept the Brewers alive. Gomez followed with a single to left field to put runners on first and second. Aramis Ramirez then singled to score Ryan Braun to tie the game. Giles imploded at that point, walking Gerardo Parra in an 11-pitch at-bat and pinch-hitter Adam Lind to force in the go-ahead run. "I think he knows what he did," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about Giles. "He made a couple of bad pitches after that. But Kenny has done so well for us. He's going to be part of the future."
  • Lind stayed in the game to play first base and saved the Brewers' lead with his glove. Milwaukee reliever Jeremy Jeffress inherited a bases-loaded, one-out jam and induced a double-play grounder to third base off the bat of Darin Ruf, with Lind making a terrific scoop of second baseman Scooter Gennett's one-hop relay throw. "We made plays at the end," Counsell said. "The double play was huge. It was good all the way around, all three guys. Scooter with a nice turn, Adam with a nice pick, [Jeffress] getting the ground ball."
  • If Hamels wants contending teams to step up to the plate to acquire him, he will need more nights like this before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He allowed five hits, two runs, one walk and struck out seven in seven innings, putting a disappointing start last week against the Yankees (five runs in five innings) behind him. But once again, he did not get the win. He is winless since May 23.
  • Ruiz homered for the first time since Sept. 5, 2014, in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. It snapped a run of 244 plate appearances without a home run.
  • Braun collected four more hits and boosted his lifetime average at Citizens Bank Park to .438 (42-for-96). The only player with a higher average in 40-plus at-bats here is Brewers teammate Lucroy, at .479 (23-for-48).
  • Brewers manager Craig Counsell is among the many who have taken notice of the month Phillies rookie third baseman Maikel Franco has been having. Counsell said that though Franco might have "flown under the radar" compared to other hyped rookies such as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant or Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, he thinks Franco has "played as well as any of them so far."
  • Just as Lohse has struggled in recent weeks, so too has Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. That being said, their matchup will be an interesting one. Howard has batted below .200 since June 10, but is a lifetime 12-for-31 with three home runs and 11 RBIs vs. Lohse. The only players who have more RBIs off Lohse than Howard are Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez and Alfonso Soriano, each of whom have at least 25 more plate appearances against Lohse than Howard.
  • Outfielder Khris Davis, who the Brewers placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 31, will begin a rehab assignment at Class A Wisconsin Wednesday. He has been sidelined with a right knee injury.

Two veteran right-handers who endured forgettable Junes will look to reset on July 1, as the Phillies' Aaron Harang and Brewers' Kyle Lohse will start Wednesday's third game of a four-game series in Philadelphia. Over five June starts, Lohse allowed 19 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings for an ERA of 5.83. Harang's month was even rockier. The 37-year-old allowed 24 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings (a 7.28 June ERA), raising his 2015 ERA more than 1.50 points. Both pitchers have losing records, with Lohse at 4-9 and Harang at 4-10, but Harang has been more of a hard-luck loser -- his 3.56 ERA is almost half of Lohse's 6.28.


Finding New Ways To Lose – The Phillies found a unique way to lose, 4-3, Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, and the Brewers could not have been happier about it. Phillies right-hander Ken Giles had not allowed a run since May 30, striking out 18 in 12 scoreless innings, when Carlos Gomez stepped into the batter's box with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth inning. The Phillies had a one-run lead, but a series of missteps turned a win into an improbable loss. "It's a win you feel like you kind of snatched from them a little bit," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. That is because the comeback started with Giles appearing to strike out Gomez swinging on an inning-ending 0-2 pitch. Except … wait a minute. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz called time before the pitch, which meant the strikeout never happened. Gomez had a second life and he took advantage. He fouled off the next pitch before singling to left field to put runners on first and second. "I don't know if I heard 'timeout' or 'balk,' so that's the reason that I swung. I didn't lose anything," Gomez said. "If it's a timeout, it's a free swing. If it's a balk, maybe I put on contact. The big thing is we won the game." Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said Ruiz called time because he was concerned about Ryan Braun at first base. "Part of holding a runner is varying your delivery to the plate," Mackanin said. "Braun is the kind of guy that will try to time the pitcher so he can get a jump. Sometimes you come set, you pitch. Sometimes you count to two and you pitch. Sometimes you hold it a little longer. [Giles] just held it longer than Chooch wanted to, basically." Braun has nine stolen bases this season, but shouldn't have Ruiz just forgotten about him, considering Giles has been almost unhittable for a month? "You might say he should have done that, but I don't have a problem with it," Mackanin said. "Because if you don't pay attention to that runner and he gets a jump and steals and gets in scoring position, you don't want that, either. It happens." Aramis Ramirez followed Gomez and stroked a 0-1 fastball to center field to score Braun to tie the game. Giles punched his glove behind the plate as Braun crossed home. He had the inning in hand, but suddenly everything seemed to spiral out of control. Did the 0-2 pitch to Gomez affect Giles? Nobody could say. Not even him. He left the clubhouse almost immediately. Ruiz left almost immediately, too. "Regardless of whether he did or not, I still have a lot of confidence in him," Mackanin said, asked if Giles let the sequence with Gomez unravel him. But the inning got worse for Giles. He walked Gerardo Parra in an 11-pitch at-bat to the load the bases. Giles thought he had Parra struck out on a 3-2 slider, which hit the top of the strike zone, according to MLB Gameday. Home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro thought differently. Giles then walked pinch-hitter Adam Lind on four pitches to score Gomez to give the Brewers the one-run lead. "It was kind of a crazy inning with a lot of possibilities," Counsell said. "Aramis had the big hit, and then we made plays at the end."

Hamels Continues To Be Solid – As the frustration mounts, Cole Hamels knows the only way to stay sane is to stay optimistic. "It's something I've learned to control and learned to get over," Hamels said after the Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Brewers Tuesday night. "Just try to focus and be positive for the guys." Hamels tossed seven innings and allowed two runs, striking out seven Brewers in an effort where his name was left off the win column. It was the 10th time this year Hamels threw at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. It was also the fifth time he had done that and didn't get a win to show for it. Hamels, who is 5-6 with a 3.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.15, was in line to earn the win at one point as he left the game with a one-run lead, but that lead and the Phillies' chances for victory slipped away in the eighth inning. Since he threw 111 pitches and he'll have to make his next two starts with no built-in rest day, Hamels said he didn't think he could've trotted back to the mound for the eighth. And with the game out of control, Hamels said all that was left for him was to root for his teammates and hope for the best. As small of a cushion as one run may have been, three runs of support is still more than he's been accustomed to this season, especially as of late. Coming into Tuesday, the Phillies had scored three runs in the last 33 innings he had thrown and just 27 runs in all of his starts combined. That averages out to 1.8 runs per start, and that is without factoring out the outlier of when the Phillies scored eight runs in one game. That number rose to 1.875 runs per start after Tuesday. The runs Hamels did allow came early. The 31-year-old gave up two runs on two singles and a walk in the first inning. Both of the RBIs came off one swing, as Aramis Ramirez took advantage of a poorly placed 2-2 cutter to plate Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun. "The cutter just stayed straight and Aramis hit it," Hamels said. "It's probably more of a frustration pitch because I know I've been able to throw that pitch successfully nine out of 10 times. That was the one time it didn't work out, and with two guys on it makes it tough, especially to put your team down early." One of the logical assumptions to make is that Hamels' early struggles were a result of the one-hour, 19-minute rain delay that preceded the game and the fact that it messed with his warmup schedule. Hamels didn't think so, however, because of the entertainment on the team's video board. "I thought it was awesome," Hamels said. "I got to watch the [U.S. Women's National Team] soccer game. So at least I got to watch some soccer with the fans. That was kind of enjoyable."

Mackanin To Remain For Remainder – General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced Tuesday that the Phillies will retain Pete Mackanin as interim manager through the rest of the season. Mackanin took over as interim manager Friday after former manager Ryne Sandberg resigned from his post. At the time, Amaro and team president Pat Gillick said that Mackanin would hold the post at least through the homestand before a decision on the rest of the season was made. Now, with the security of 83 more games to manage, Mackanin said he will be able to do what he and Amaro feel is best for the organization. "Because I have priority players that are young players that we want to try to develop, I'm just going to continue to try to develop them as much as possible and try to get them to where we think they can be and move on to the future," Mackanin said. But despite Mackanin pledging to make future-minded moves, Amaro said that this job does not guarantee Mackanin a managerial job any later than October. "I think it's pretty clear, this does not necessarily mean that he's a candidate to take the job beyond the year by any stretch of the imagination," Amaro said. "I think we're going to have basically a clean slate to make that decision. Pete may or may not be part of that decision-making process, and Pete understands that." Amaro said that though there were some internal candidates to take over aside from Mackanin, he did not believe this was the time to interview outside candidates for any jobs. The factors that differentiated Mackanin from other Phillies coaches with managerial experience, such as Larry Bowa and Juan Samuel, was Mackanin's history as an interim manager -- this is his third time doing so -- and his overall demeanor. To offset the gap on the coaching staff Sandberg left, special assistant director of player personnel Jorge Velandia will take over as a coach. Mackanin said that he will not be given a specific position but will use his rapport with the players to aid Samuel, Bowa and the rest of the staff.

Will Utley Be The Next Pipp? Now that Pete Mackanin is the Phillies' interim manager the remainder of the season, he will be making some important decisions the rest of the way. Like, who plays second base once Chase Utley returns from the disabled list? Mackanin had no update Tuesday afternoon on Utley, who was scheduled to have a cortisone injection in his right ankle last week. But he said Cesar Hernandez is earning the right to play more the rest of the season. "I would like to think that Cesar has proven that he deserves a chance to be the everyday second baseman," Mackanin said. "That remains to be seen. I don't know. I don't want to get ahead of myself. Let's just wait to see when Chase is healthy and how he feels and we'll go from there." Hernandez has hit .436 (17-for-39) with four doubles, seven RBIs and a 1.016 OPS in his last 10 games. He was hitting .277 with 10 doubles, one home run, 16 RBIs and a .730 OPS in 172 plate appearances entering Tuesday. Utley is hitting .179 with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 249 plate appearances. Utley also has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. But depending on how much time he misses, the option might no longer be an issue upon his return. "When you see part-time players and perhaps at times they're not doing as well as you'd like them to do, you can see now the benefit, obviously, of playing on a daily basis," Mackanin said about Hernandez. "Cesar has been fantastic. We always felt he had it in him. It's been a long process. I think he's making a good statement for himself in the future." Said Hernandez: "When you play every day, you kind of get used to seeing things. Now that I am playing every day, I am staying comfortable."

Changing The Business Model – The Phillies formally introduced Andy MacPhail, who has had success as an executive with three franchises, as their next club president Monday. At first glance, it looked like a safe, conservative decision. A tee shot down the middle rather than trying for the green with a more risky drive over a water hazard. A second glance, to MacPhail's immediate right on the dais at Citizens Bank Park, disproved that assumption. There sat John Middleton, a member of the ownership group. That's a big deal. It was the first outward and visible sign that the way the Phillies now conduct their business has changed significantly. And it's not just that Middleton revealed that the Phils will jump headfirst into advanced analytics for the first time when their own proprietary computer program -- to be called PHIL -- comes on line in September. For the last 34 years, the Phillies' partnership agreement gave new meaning to the concept of silent partners. The team president, first Bill Giles and later Dave Montgomery, had the final say on all decisions and spoke for the group. The investors remained unseen and unheard, and that's just the way it was. No more. Middleton said he believes it's important that the president represent the organization for baseball-related issues after Pat Gillick steps aside and MacPhail ascends at the end of the regular season. But the 60-year-old billionaire also made it perfectly clear that he isn't going to be content to passively sit in the shadows and root, root, root for the home team. "I foresee it being more of a public role when it deals with more significant ownership-level kinds of decisions," Middleton said. Middleton owns just under half of the Phillies' stock, as do cousins Pete and Jim Buck. He certainly can't be faulted for wanting to have a more active role in looking after his investment. Middleton has been exerting more influence for a while now, attending the quarterly Owners Meetings, for example. Now that involvement is out in the open. Monday's unveiling of MacPhail was his coming-out party as well. This isn't to say that the Phils didn't want to win before. The fact that they've had one of the highest payrolls in baseball for years demonstrates that. Still, the emphasis being placed on success has never been stated quite this bluntly and specifically. "When we were interviewing Andy, we made it clear to him that we expected him to devote the majority of his time to the baseball side of the business," Middleton said early in his preamble. "To improve the farm system and ultimately the Major League team. Every other consideration was secondary to that goal." Turning to MacPhail: "The pledge Jim, Pete and I made to you when we extended the offer is that you will have access to whatever resources you need to succeed." During the question-and-answer portion of the news conference, Middleton was asked directly if his presence signaled a change in approach from ownership. "I think the single most important thing an ownership group does is hire the person in charge of the business," he said. "And I think when you made a decision of that magnitude, the ownership group has to come forward and make sure that people understand that they are the ones who made the decision. Jim, Pete and I had the conversations. Jim, Pete and I had the deliberations privately. Jim, Pete and I reached out to different people. "This is not a decision that we delegated, much less abdicated. We own this decision. That's an important part of the accountability that we think we had." Middleton went on to dispute any notion that his goal is to gain a majority ownership stake in the team. "I'm very happy where I am now," he said. Where Middleton is now is front and center, although he joked that he hopes he doesn't have to appear about hiring a new president any time soon. But he conceded that there's been a significant change in the way the Phillies do business, partly because many of the original owners have sold their shares. "There's been an evolution within the franchise over the last several years," Middleton said. "As the ownership group has shrunk, the Bucks and my family have had an increasingly larger position. And with that comes a responsibility that's a little different from what it was 25 years ago, and you have to kind of step up. "Pete, Jim and I have been much more involved with the issues at an earlier stage than we were five years ago, for example. And that's not going to change. We're going to be there asking questions. You don't want us making baseball decisions, trust me. But I think we need to be asking hard questions of the people who are involved in that process. We need to be comfortable that they're crossing all their T's and dotting all their I's." And, if need be, nudging the organization along. It's not just a coincidence that there will be more of an emphasis on sabermetric analysis in the future. Middleton shook his head when asked if he was surprised at how the Phils have lagged in that area. "No, because I was aware enough with what was going on in previous years to kind of know where we are," he said. And why has that changed? "Because I'm in the position to make a hiring decision and make that happen," Middleton said without hesitation. Make no mistake. Hiring MacPhail is hugely significant with possible longlasting repercussions. But it only begins to suggest the way the Phillies are now a different operation than they've been.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 27-52. 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 56-57-0 on this day.

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