Friday, July 31, 2015

Harang Steps Up To Take Opener Against Former Team

GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Braves 4-1

Aaron Harang and Shelby Miller came into Thursday night's Braves-Phillies game a combined 0-14 since May 17. Harang broke his streak. Miller didn't. Harang threw five innings in his first start since July 1 -- when he went on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis -- in the Phillies' 4-1 win at Citizens Bank Park. The winning decision for Harang ended a streak of eight straight starts in which he registered the losing decision and nine straight winless starts in total. He allowed just one run despite the nine hits he surrendered and struck out three. "All of his pitches were sharp," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He threw strikes. He just had a higher pitch count than we like. That's why we took him out of the game. But he certainly looked like a different guy than he was while he was pitching with that foot injury. We were real pleased with his performance." The loss for the Braves was their fourth in a row and seventh in eight games. Phillies bats found Miller's pitches early as he worked up to 59 pitches through the first three innings, but it wasn't until the fourth -- when four Phillies in a row singled -- that Philadelphia was able to break through against the right-hander. Limited run support has led Miller to go winless while posting a 3.19 ERA over his past 13 starts. "It was definitely hot, but I don't think that was the reason at all," said Miller, who changed his jersey multiple times while sweating profusely throughout the outing. "You play the game in humidity. Atlanta is hot and here is hot. You've got to get used to that. There is no excuse for that."

  • Miller entered this game with 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Phillies and a 2.03 ERA in six career starts against them. But Atlanta's All-Star hurler started to waver after he allowed four consecutive one-out singles in the fourth and then three consecutive one-out singles in the fifth. The 11 hits he surrendered matched the career high he allowed on July 10 at Coors Field vs. the Rockies.
  • Playing in his 1,000th game as a Phillie, catcher Carlos Ruiz came to the plate for his second at-bat of the night with the bases loaded in the fourth inning after the three players before him all reached with singles. Ruiz joined in on the action with a single of his own, plating Odubel Herrera and Freddy Galvis and giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
  • Domonic Brown continued the turnaround he's been in the middle of for the last eight games on Thursday. Brown smacked two hits, including his first home run of the season, marking his fourth multi-hit game in 10 days. The home run was Brown's first since Sept. 16, 2014. "He hit a missile," Mackanin said. "It was nice to see. I think he's been so concerned about the outer half of the plate. I think he's got to remember that mistakes are made over the plate and on the inner half. I think that he's got to get back to that.
  • After Miller allowed four straight Phillies to single, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead, Harang stood at the plate with Ruiz on first and Brown on second base. Brown ventured a little too far off second and Pierzynski threw down to second with Andrelton Simmons covering. On initial appearance, Brown looked safe and such was second-base umpire Gabe Morales' call. However, replay showed that when Brown stood up out of his slide, there was a brief moment where neither his hand nor foot were on the bag while Simmons still had the tag applied and the call on the field was overturned. The review lasted an estimated one minute and 20 seconds.
  • "He might've been lurking in the shadows somewhere, but I haven't seen him." -- Mackanin. on whether or not Cole Hamels was in the clubhouse on Thursday in the wake of his potential trade to the Texas Rangers.
  • Outfielder Cody Asche wasn't in the lineup for the Phillies on Thursday night and if his track record versus Atlanta is any indicator, he might not play on Friday either. Despite the fact that he has played the Braves more times than any other team, Asche is just 13-for-113 lifetime against Atlanta pitching after pinch-hitting and going 0-for-1 on Thursday. Though two of those 13 hits are home runs, his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are both below .200, combining to create his lowest OPS against any National League opponent.
  • The end of July marks the ends of opposite months for the two teams. By record, July will easily go down as the Phillies' best month of the year -- with a win Friday, they have the chance to finish above .500 in a month for the first time in 2015. The Braves, on the other hand, will be glad to see July end. After Thursday's loss, they are five games under .500 this month, tied for their worst month of the year.

The Braves have rarely fared well when facing a Cole Hamels-led Phillies team. Luckily for Atlanta, they probably won't have to deal with him much anymore. Hamels was scheduled to start for the Phillies on Friday, but with a trade to the Rangers all but confirmed, the chances of Hamels -- who has a 3.11 ERA in 225 2/3 innings versus Atlanta -- matching up against the struggling Braves are growing increasingly slim. This comes at an opportune time for an Atlanta offense that has lacked output in recent days. The Braves had scored a grand total of 15 runs in their last nine games, being shut out as many times, twice, as they have won. Instead of Hamels, this ailing offense draws David Buchanan, who the Phillies plan to call up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in advance of Friday's game. Buchanan is 0-2 with a 4.02 ERA in three starts lifetime versus the Braves.


Finalizing The Details – Cole Hamels is going to be a Texas Ranger. The eight-player trade between the Phillies and Rangers is taking a little longer than expected to become official, but sources told late Thursday night that everything is in place and that it will happen. An announcement is expected Friday. Sources said Wednesday night that the Phillies agreed to send Hamels, Jake Diekman and about $9.5 million to the Rangers for five prospects -- outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher -- and left-hander Matt Harrison. Major League Baseball needed to approve the trade because of the money involved, but a source said it has been approved. The teams also needed to go through extensive medical records, which can take time. The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday the Rangers needed to transfer the insurance policy they held on Harrison to the Phillies, which involves a third party. Complicated, administrative stuff, but the fact is the trade is going to happen. Hamels remained out of sight Thursday. If he ever appeared at Citizens Bank Park, nobody seemed to know it. "He might have been lurking somewhere in the shadows, but I didn't see him," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. Diekman was at the ballpark, waiting for somebody to tell him something about his future before the 4-1 victory over the Braves. Word never came. He eventually got into his Phillies uniform and walked with his teammates to the bullpen, knowing he would pitch only in an emergency situation. He sat there the entire night, contemplating his fate. "I didn't do anything until 6:30 p.m.," Diekman said. "Then I went into the hot tub and got ready for the game. I mean, it sucked. Like, this could be the last time I walk in here. I mean, I have no idea, but just sitting out there thinking about it sucked." The Phillies and Rangers had worked for some time to complete this deal. It certainly did not happen overnight. But after Hamels rejected a trade to Houston -- which means the Astros offered an even better package of prospects than Texas -- the Phillies and Rangers reached an agreement. The Phillies still like what they got. They received three of the Rangers' top six prospects, according to Thompson (fourth), Williams (fifth) and Alfaro (sixth). Eickhoff ranked 17th and Asher ranked 29th. Thompson, Williams and Alfaro are ranked 60th, 64th and 69th, respectively in MLB Pipeline's Top 100. The Phillies wanted hitters in any trade for Hamels, and they believe they got two good ones who project to be everyday players with Williams, 21, and Alfaro, 22. Williams, who was a second-round pick in the 2012 Draft, was hitting .300 with 21 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .837 OPS with Double-A Frisco. Alfaro, who signed a $1.3 million bonus in 2010, will miss the rest of this season following left ankle surgery in June, but before that, said he had "the best combination of raw power and pure arm strength among Minor League catchers." Thompson, 21, was traded from Detroit to Texas last year for Joakim Soria and became Texas' top starting pitching prospect. He was 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 17 starts with Frisco. Eickhoff, 25, was 8-4 with a 4.47 ERA in 17 games with Triple-A Round Rock. Asher, 23, was 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts with Round Rock. In time, the Phillies hope a few of those players catapult the Phillies to their next postseason run, similar to how Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins led the Phillies to five consecutive National League East titles from 2007-11. The Phillies had to sacrifice one of their greatest postseason performers to get them. "Just a surreal moment," Hamels said following Saturday's no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It turned into a surreal week, including Thursday with everybody in limbo.

Everybody Limbo! – It was three hours before first pitch of the Phillies' 4-1 win over the Braves on Thursday and interim manager Pete Mackanin glanced down at the partially completed lineup card on the desk in front of him. He half-smiled, half-shrugged. He only knew so much. He could say even less. By Thursday afternoon, The Big Trade had been a hot topic since the news started breaking late the previous night: ace left-hander Cole Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman to the Rangers for veteran starter Matt Harrison and five prospects. The deal had been discussed, dissected, critiqued and analyzed from every angle. It just hadn't been completed -- which created a weird vibe as the Phillies prepared to play the Braves at Citizens Bank Park in the first game of the homestand. Mackanin didn't know whether to list Diekman as being one of his available relievers; when the game started, he was sitting in the bullpen. It also wasn't clear whether Hamels was at the park. He was scheduled to start Friday night against the Braves. The official game notes listed TBA instead. Mackanin wasn't even sure what to say to Hamels before the Phillies boarded their charter from Toronto back to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. "I didn't say goodbye," he explained. "Unless it's done, I don't want to do that. That's what made it uneasy." As always, the lack of solid information left a void that was filled with rumors and speculation. As the hours passed, conjecture mounted. Most of it centered on the possibility that one of the players involved may have been red-flagged for medical reasons. Maybe the deal would have to be reworked. Maybe it would be scuttled entirely. The Phillies and Rangers, however, are expected to announce the deal Friday, sources tell's Todd Zolecki and T.R. Sullivan, before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. The clubs have not confirmed. Still, uncertainty can be draining. To the Phillies' credit, it didn't prevent them from winning for the 10th time in 12 games since the All-Star break. After the game, some of the picture began to come into better focus. Hamels apparently stayed home. His locker appeared undisturbed. "I didn't see him, but he might have been lurking in the shadows somewhere," said Mackanin, drawing a laugh. David Buchanan will start Friday night, he added. The manager conceded that he was supposed to stay away from using Diekman. And the hard-throwing reliever spoke about the emotional toll the previous 24 hours had taken on him. "I really don't know what to say," he said. "I haven't been told anything. I walked in [after Wednesday night's game] and three of my buddies texted me. Congrats and stuff. Then I check online and it's all over." Still, when he got to the park, nothing. "I didn't do anything until 6:30," he said wryly. "Then I went in the hot tub and got ready for the game." He was told he would only pitch in an emergency. "This could be the last time I walk in here. I have no idea. Just sitting out there thinking about it sucked. I feel like it would be a good opportunity if it happens, but leaving here would suck. I mean, I'm 28. I've been here nine years. I've been here a while. "I don't know if I feel anything right now. Until something happens, I'm still here. I'm still a Phillie. I was a Phillie when I woke up. I was a Phillie during the entire game. I love it here. Just because I've been here for nine years, it's tough." Making trades in baseball, with bigger money and more intricate contracts, has become more complex. It can take longer to finalize deals. At the same time, social media means news breaks instantaneously and circulates with breathtaking speed. Those two realities clashed Thursday, and the result was a general awkwardness all around. And there was nothing anybody could do about it. "Everybody's got concerns. Everybody's got anxieties. The old guys. The young guys. I'd like to know who to put on my lineup card," Mackanin said. "It's uncertainty, but you just go with what you're given. The people who do it the right way and get after it are the people you're looking for. "You can't take anything for granted in this business. That's the way you have to look at it. It's a bottom-line business. You either succeed or you don't. And if you look at it that way, you're not going to worry about it and you're going to be more successful. You'd like to know what's going on, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way."

Stepping Up – David Buchanan is 26. Adam Morgan is 25. Aaron Nola is 22. And then there's Aaron Harang. With word of Cole Hamels' trade to the Rangers expected to come Friday, the Phillies' clubhouse is losing more than just an ace; it's losing a veteran presence to help guide the new guard of Philadelphia starters in times of confusion. Enter Harang. The 37-year-old said after Thursday's 4-1 win over the Braves that he has filled the role of sage veteran a few times over the five-year journey that has taken him from San Diego to Los Angeles to Seattle to Queens to Atlanta to Philadelphia. But now with Hamels gone, Harang is the likely figure to step in and take over as the intellectual leader of the young rotation. This is a mantle Harang said he is happy to assume. "The nice thing is I've been able to be around and go on a couple of the road trips and be there to kind of answer questions and talk with Morgan and Nola. Watching how guys are working hitters and maybe giving them ideas on situations. How to set guys up to be able to establish another pitch for them," Harang said. To Harang there is a value in learning through listening. That being said, Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin is pleased to have Harang as more of a visual professor of the game. "He's important in the respect that hopefully all the guys recognize what he did tonight," Mackanin said. "He used all his pitches, he used the whole plate up and down. His command wasn't the best, but still in all, he knows how to pitch, he knows how to hold runners. And the players see that and get to understand what he did." Harang started Thursday night for the first time since he went on the disabled list on July 1 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He threw five innings of one-run ball, allowing nine hits, but keeping the ball mostly on the ground being that all nine of the hits were singles. His pitch count reached 96 pitches after five innings, but the strategy succeeded, leading to a win for his team and for his record. Putting a new notch in the win column is a bit of a foreign experience for Harang. Prior to Thursday's win, Harang had been the loser in each of his previous eight starts, the first Phillies pitcher to achieve that not-so-desirable feat since 1972. Counting the no decision he earned prior to the beginning of the losing streak, it was Harang's first win since May 14. The right-hander said he was proud to break the streak, saying it was a testament to how hard he worked to get back into the rotation. "It's been a little while," Harang said. "It's been kind of a grind this last month."

Staying Focused – As he came, so too he may go. Outfielder Ben Revere came to the Phillies in December 2012 via a trade that sent Trevor May and Vance Worley to Minnesota. Now in his third season with the Phillies and less than 24 hours away from the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Revere is speculated to be the last piece the Phillies are shopping. With former closer Jonathan Papelbon already in Washington after Tuesday's trade and the deal to send ace Cole Hamels to Texas all but complete, Revere is the remaining talent most likely to be dealt before Friday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. When asked if he is prepared to be traded if a transaction is to occur, Revere said that he has to remember baseball is a business, as hard as it may be to think of it that way. "Anything can happen in baseball," Revere said. "Someone could go down. They're like, 'Okay, we need a guy.' Choose me or choose him. Anything can happen. One phone call or one trade could happen. But really I'm not thinking about it." A reliable contact hitter and a fleet-footed threat on the basepaths, Revere is batting .298 this season with 24 stolen bases and is on pace to score about 80 runs, which would be a career high. Over his five full MLB seasons, Revere has twice batted .300 or better and twice stolen more than 30 bases. He did both in 2014. Pragmatic about the chances of being traded, Revere said he is not scared despite the fact that his fate isn't in his own hands. He emphasized that as of right now, he is a member of the Phillies and that his sole focus has to be on doing what he can to help the Phillies thrive as long as that is true. That being said, the prospect of being traded to a contender is an interest proposition for Revere. "I've known guys who have been with a team that was struggling who got traded to a team that won the World Series," he said. "You never know what will happen in the game of baseball, a 180 just like that."

Welcome To Alumni Weekend – It is unlikely Cole Hamels will stick around for the Phillies' alumni weekend. But the Phillies have plenty planned without him. Here is a look at the weekend's festivities: Friday: Pat Burrell will be the 37th player inducted onto the Phillies' Wall of Fame. Wall of Famers participating in the pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park include Jim Bunning (inducted 1984), Steve Carlton (1989), Mike Schmidt (1990), Larry Bowa (1991), Dick Allen (1994), Greg Luzinski (1998), Garry Maddox (2001), Tony Taylor (2002), Bob Boone (2005), Dallas Green (2006), Juan Samuel (2008), Darren Daulton (2010), John Kruk (2011), Mike Lieberthal (2012) and Charlie Manuel (2014). Fans will receive a commemorative print of Burrell. Saturday: The Phillies will dedicate their mural on the Walnut Street Bridge at 11 a.m. ET. The mural is part of the city's Mural Arts Program. Located at 24th and Walnut, it is eight stories high and faces the Schuylkill River and I-76. Later that night at Citizens Bank Park, more than 50 Phillies alumni will be introduced before the game. Phillies alumni will be signing autographs at various parts of the ballpark from 5:45 p.m. ET to 6:15 p.m. ET. The John Vukovich Award will be presented to Steve Schrenk, who is the pitching coach for the Gulf Coast Phillies. The John Vukovich Award is presented annually to an instructor in the Phillies organization who embodies the characteristics of the late Vukovich, the longest-tenured coach in team history. Sunday: Fans will receive a Fathead that features Carlton, Daulton, Allen, Schmidt and Burrell.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 39-64. 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 60-52-1 on this day.

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