Monday, July 27, 2015

Nola Earns First Win As Phillies Sweep Cubs

GAME RECAP: Phillies Sweep Cubs 11-5

Aaron Nola didn't need to throw a no-hitter to shut down the Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard each hit two-run homers and Domonic Brown had four RBIs to back Nola, who picked up his first big league win in his second career start as the Phillies romped, 11-5. Nola gave up five hits, including a two-run homer by Addison Russell in the eighth, over 7 2/3 innings for the win to help the Phillies post their third sweep this season, and first on the road. They're now 8-1 since the All-Star break. "It's hard to follow up," Nola said about pitching less than 24 hours after Hamels' dramatic no-hitter. "I was just going out there and my mindset was just get outs, get as many outs as I can, as many ground balls and popups as I can. It was amazing to watch yesterday. My palms were sweating on the bench in the ninth. Once he got it, it was awesome. To be a part of it my first week up here is pretty amazing." Brown hit an RBI double, a two-run triple and a single as the Phillies totaled 17 hits off four Cubs pitchers, including starter Jason Hammel, who served up six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Chicago has lost four of its last five games. "That definitely wasn't the way the weekend was supposed to go," Hammel said. "My role today was just garbage, unacceptable. … Hats off to them. They came out swinging and things are going right for them right now."

  • Nola could not match Cole Hamels' no-hitter, but he pitched well enough to help the Phillies sweep their first series on the road since July 7-10, 2014, in Milwaukee. He allowed five hits, four runs, two walks, two home runs and struck out six in 7 2/3 innings to earn his first big league win. Nola also singled in the fourth inning for his first career RBI. "Nola made it look easy," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Boy, was he painting."
  • The Phillies have not hit for much power this season, but they tied a season high with eight extra-base hits in the series finale. It included triples from Odubel Herrera, Cody Asche and Brown, and home runs from Franco and Howard. Sunday's effort followed a season-high eight extra-base hits Saturday and five on Friday. They were the most extra-base hits for the Phillies in a three-game series since June 14-16, 2001. "We've seen our offense the whole year," Mackanin said. "But the reason you play the young guys ... Freddy [Galvis], and [Cesar] Hernandez and Franco. All these guys in the game. Brown is starting to come around, Asche is starting to come around, Herrera looks like he's learned a lot. You kind of hope it comes around in this manner to where you're putting some runs on the board and consistent at-bats. And we're getting more consistent at-bats from these guys, and I think that's why we're scoring more runs."
  • For the second time this season, catcher David Ross was called on to pitch. The 38-year-old, who threw one inning in relief on May 9 against the Brewers, entered the game in the ninth and retired the side on eight pitches. Ross helped himself by hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom half. Ross is the first Cubs reliever to homer since Carlos Marmol did so on Sept. 7, 2006, against the Pirates.
  • The Cubs and Phillies split the six-game series last year, but the Phillies now have a 3-0 lead, notching their first sweep at Wrigley Field since May 16-17, 2012.
  • The Phillies reviewed Anthony Rizzo's strikeout in the fourth inning, when he initially reached first base on a wild pitch. But replay showed the ball hit Rizzo's back leg as he swung, making it a clean strikeout.
  • "I'll stick with some water." -- Nola, referring to Hamels getting a bottle of Dom Perignon for pitching Saturday's no-hitter. Nola got the game ball for his efforts Sunday.
  • Morgan has been up-and-down in his first five starts. He allowed nine hits and three runs in just 4 1/3 innings last week against the Rays, but he has allowed two or fewer runs in 5 2/3 innings or more in three of his first four.
  • The Blue Jays are 8-0 against the Phillies since Roy Halladay beat them on July 2, 2011.
  • Doubront has made three starts for the Blue Jays, and he has gone more than five innings just once. He allowed seven hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start last week against the A's.

If the Blue Jays decide to make a serious push for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon they will have the opportunity to see him up close and personal beginning Tuesday night in a two-game series at Rogers Centre. Sources told that the Blue Jays, Cubs and Nationals are three teams that have expressed interest recently in Papelbon, although the Blue Jays' interests might be elsewhere. The Phillies would have to eat plenty of Papelbon's salary to make it happen, but they have said they are willing to do that. Games will be played regardless, and Phillies rookie left-hander Adam Morgan and Blue Jays left-hander Felix Doubront will start the opener Tuesday night.


Not A Bad Way To Follow A No No – Cole Hamels got a bottle of Dom Perignon as a gift for pitching Saturday's no-hitter against the Cubs. Aaron Nola got Sunday's game ball. Nola earned his first big league win in an 11-5 victory at Wrigley Field, which completed the Phillies' first series sweep on the road since July 7-10, 2014, in Milwaukee. Nola allowed five hits, four runs and two walks, and he struck out six in 7 2/3 innings. He also singled to score a run in the fourth inning for his first career RBI. "It's hard to follow up," Nola said about pitching less than 24 hours after Hamels' dramatic no-hitter. "I was just going out there and my mindset was just get outs, get as many outs as I can, as many ground balls and popups as I can. "It was amazing to watch yesterday. My palms were sweating on the bench in the ninth. Once he got it, it was awesome. To be a part of it my first week up here is pretty amazing." Really, what a week for Nola. He was promoted to the big leagues early last week, and he allowed one run in six innings in his debut Tuesday against the Rays at Citizens Bank Park. He watched Hamels throw the 13th no-hitter in franchise history in possibly his final start for the Phillies. And then Nola pitched well against the Cubs. Pretty surreal, huh? "Absolutely," Nola said. "I'm just soaking as much as I can in. Being a part of all this is pretty amazing." Nola allowed just two runs and threw just 74 pitches through seven innings before he surrendered a two-run home run to Addison Russell in the eighth. But for those first seven frames, he made quick work of a team challenging for a postseason berth. "I was just getting ahead of guys, just keeping the ball down," Nola said. "I was getting early ground balls and early popups, which definitely helps. It speeds the game up and keeps everybody in a rhythm. But I missed some balls over the plate and they hit them." "Nola made it look easy," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Boy, was he painting." The Phils hope that continues. They certainly will need Nola if they trade Hamels before the end of the week. "It's fun to watch and learn from him," Nola said. Maybe one day, Nola will pitch a no-hitter and get a bottle of Dom for himself. Until then? "I'll stick with some water," Nola said.

Sinking In – Cole Hamels celebrated his no-hitter Saturday night with family and friends, but the once-in-a-lifetime moment still had not sunk in Sunday morning. "Not really," Hamels said in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field. "It's weird. I think the postseason has a bigger impact because it comes at the end of the season. Here, you can't dwell on it because you're still playing. You still have basically a half-season to go and you have to get ready to go again in five days." Hamels is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies on Thursday night against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, but he could be traded by then. Sources told that the Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Giants are most aggressively pursuing Hamels, with Texas and Los Angeles possibly in the lead at this point. Time will tell. "I felt great," said Hamels, who threw 129 pitches. "Everything felt more in sync than it had. I feel great today. I don't feel like I threw as many pitches as I did. That's a good sign. It means I was throwing correctly." Hamels said he heard from plenty of people afterward, including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers. "That was nice, because those guys all helped impact me," Hamels said. To the Hall: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum collected a couple things from the game, including Hamels' Phillies cap. "That's cool, but unfortunately it probably smells pretty bad," Hamels said. Pete follows Whitey: Ben Revere replaced Cody Asche in left field in the ninth inning, which is kind of a no-win situation for Revere. If he catches a ball hit to him, he did his job. If he does not, he is the defensive replacement that lost the no-hitter. But Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin felt comfortable with the move. He played for the Rangers in 1973, when Jim Bibby threw a no-hitter against the A's. Texas manager Whitey Herzog approached Mackanin in the eighth inning and told him to replace shortstop Jim Fregosi. "If it was good enough for Whitey, I figured it was good enough for me," Mackanin said Sunday morning. Mackanin made two plays in the eighth inning to preserve Bibby's no-hitter. Revere didn't have a ball hit to him. "I would have dived through the brick wall to catch a ball," Revere said. "I don't care. Every time they swung, I thought a line drive was coming my way, or a ball would knuckle on me. A lot of things were running through my head. But I died for two seconds when [Odubel] Herrera made that catch in center. Luckily, he caught it." Mack's "code": Mackanin has been part of several no-hitters and perfect games, including Halladay's perfect game and postseason no-hitter in 2010. Mackanin wrote out the lineup cards for those games, and if you ever get a look at them in the Hall of Fame, you will see Mackanin's initials in the lower right-hand corner. Former Phillies coach Sam Perlozzo told him to do that before every game just in case something historic happened. "So I'm in the Hall of Fame," Mackanin said with a smile.

Breaking Out In Chicago – If the Phillies trade Cole Hamels before Friday's 4 p.m. non-waiver Trade Deadline, they would love to get at least one power hitter in return. The Phils entered this weekend's three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field ranked 26th in baseball with just 242 extra-base hits. But they had 21 in the series against Chicago, including a season-high eight Saturday and again Sunday in an 11-5 victory. They were the most extra-base hits in a three-game stretch for the Phillies since June 14-16, 2001, when they also had 21. The power surge helped Philadelphia to its first road series sweep since July 7-10, 2014, in Milwaukee. "We've seen our offense the whole year," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "But the reason you play the young guys ... Freddy [Galvis], and [Cesar] Hernandez and [Maikel] Franco, all these guys in the game. [Domonic] Brown is starting to come around, [Cody] Asche is starting to come around, [Odubel] Herrera looks like he's learned a lot. You kind of hope it comes around in this manner to where you're putting some runs on the board and consistent at-bats. And we're getting more consistent at-bats from these guys, and I think that's why we're scoring more runs." Ryan Howard and Franco homered Sunday. Herrera, Asche and Brown tripled. Franco, Brown and Cameron Rupp doubled. Six Phillies had multihit games, including Brown, who went 3-for-4. Brown needs to step up if he wants to keep playing. He is batting .333 (15-for-45) with two doubles, one triple, five RBIs and a .770 OPS in his past 14 games. But the Phillies need to see more power from Brown. Sunday was a start. "Just out there really just grinding, really," Brown said. "I'm just doing whatever I can do for the team. Having a lot of fun, though, for sure. I just play baseball, man. "I know what I can do on the field. It ain't nothing with confidence or anything like that. I just play. It's just a matter of time before stuff starts falling. It's baseball."

Trade Talk Heating Up – Even before Phillies ace Cole Hamels pitched a no-hitter against the Cubs on Saturday, trade discussions between Philadelphia and multiple postseason contenders had escalated. Hamels' dominant performance at Wrigley Field certainly has not slowed those talks. Several sources have told that the Dodgers and Rangers lead the race to acquire Hamels, with the Rangers privately bracing themselves to finish second. The Yankees, Giants and Cubs are the other teams most actively pursuing Hamels. The Dodgers are willing to deal, but they are expected to hold onto shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias, whom considers the fourth- and fifth-best prospects in baseball, respectively. Right-hander Grant Holmes ranks 75th overall, and right-hander Jose De Leon is 89th, but the Phillies need power bats. Dodgers outfield prospects Alex Verdugo and Scott Schebler have power potential. The Dodgers also have a couple of catchers in their system who could interest Philadelphia. Perhaps the Phillies and Dodgers get will creative again, as they did last December, when they included the Padres to help facilitate the Jimmy Rollins deal. Of course, the Rangers still have a shot, because the Phillies like their farm system. Texas is becoming more comfortable with the prospect of taking on Hamels' remaining salary, which pays him $22.5 million through 2018, plus a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option for 2019. Texas catching prospect Jorge Alfaro and outfield prospect Nomar Mazara, who rank 34th and 42nd overall, respectively, could be part of a package for Hamels. Both have power. Sources said that no deal is imminent, but with five days remaining before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, there is plenty of time to make something happen. The feeling around baseball is that Hamels finally will be dealt. But will anybody else from the Phillies? The Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals have been pursuing closer Jonathan Papelbon. Philadelphia almost certainly will have to eat some of Papelbon's salary to get a prospect it desires. That is the reality of the game these days. The more money a team pays, the better the prospects they receive. Ben Revere, Jeff Francoeur and, perhaps surprisingly, Chase Utley have been receiving interest. The Angels still like Revere, and they are monitoring Utley's return from an ankle injury. But if Utley is traded, it likely would be a waiver trade next month, because he is still on the disabled list.

Historic Hall Of Fame Weekend – For anyone who has been there to make the comparison, Sunday's induction ceremony for the National Baseball Hall of Fame was much like a World Baseball Classic contest with the defending-champion Dominican Republic participating. Dominican flags were waving in clusters as the rhythmic sound of cymbals clanging and congas beating resounded throughout the grounds behind the Clark Sports Center. The Class of 2015 was dominated by three of the greatest pitchers of their era, plus a versatile position player who ended his 20-year career, all with Houston, with 3,060 hits -- Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. The estimated crowd of 45,000, was highly partisan with fans from Texas supporting Biggio -- the first Astros player elected to the Hall -- and Latin American fans there to see Martinez inducted. He was the first Dominican to enter since Juan Marichal in 1983 and just the second overall. Biggio led off among the speakers, and he encouraged Astros fans, who had made the trek to upstate New York. "Let me hear you," Biggio said. "Pedro is going to give you guys a run for the money." And that he did. Martinez was decked in a light blue suit boasting a patch below his right shoulder detailed with the Dominican national coat of arms and another on his left shoulder representing the U.S. His tie had wide slanted stripes of red, white and blue, the Dominican national colors. The coat of arms is in the middle of the flag, too. Of course, Martinez said after the festivities that he had a reason for all that. "I wanted to make sure I recognized both sides," said Martinez, who played for the Dodgers, Expos, Mets and Phillies in his career, but went into the Hall as a member of the Red Sox. "The Dominican because I was born there, and a lot of the people -- as you saw -- showed up from all over the country and the Dominican Republic and different places to support one of their sons being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "At the same time, I'm a U.S. citizen. I respect America. I wanted to recognize America. I wanted to give America the same props I gave the Dominican Republic, because without America, I wouldn't be standing in Cooperstown, N.Y., being inducted into the Hall of Fame." It was perhaps one of the most festive, and at the same time emotional, induction ceremonies in recent memory. It was presided over for the first time by new Commissioner Rob Manfred, who read the inscription on each plaque to all the inductees before they launched into their respective speeches. Biggio, who grew up on Long Island, admitted leading up to the speech that he might cry, and he began to tear up when remembering his parents, who had passed away long before his election this past January in his third appearance on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. The other three men honored on Sunday were overwhelming first-ballot electees. Biggio went in with a vintage Astros star on his cap that he donned for the final eight years of his career etched into the bronze plaque. "My journey started in the little town of Kings Park, N.Y., not too far from here," Biggio said to a smattering of applause. "I hear you," he added in an aside before continuing. "My mother, Johnna Biggio, and my father, Lee Biggio, were two hard-working people, who are no longer here. But I know they're watching." That's when Biggio began to choke up. "This was very special," Biggio said afterward. "When you think about the amount of people who were here from Houston, it's a long journey, and obviously it's not easy to get here. For them to come to enjoy this together, and so many of them to come to enjoy this together, it was just a great day." Johnson conducted his speech stoically, but he said afterward that he is a highly emotional person and that the experience was, indeed, a very emotional one. Johnson won 303 games pitching for the Expos, Mariners, Astros, D-backs (twice), Yankees and Giants. He chose the D-backs over the Mariners and was torn about that decision, which Seattle officials in attendance actually endorsed. The Big Unit is the first D-back to enter the Hall, and with Ken Griffey Jr., heading up the next BBWAA ballot, he should be the first Mariner. "It was extremely emotional talking about the things I care about," Johnson said. "There have been a lot of events in the last two weeks. I'm pretty relaxed now. I don't know why I wasn't nervous in front of a crowd of 50,000. Go figure!" Johnson, whose 4,875 strikeouts rank No. 2 all-time behind Nolan Ryan's 5,714, said the day was about thanking all those who helped him get to the Hall of Fame. Johnson also pitched a no-hitter for the Mariners, a perfect game for the D-backs and was the co-MVP of Arizona's seven-game win over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. "It's very humbling to look behind me and see the best who have played this game," Johnson said in the speech. "So many of the reasons that I've been inducted into the Hall of Fame are long gone now. My fastball is gone. I no longer have a mullet. And my scowl is long gone. I'm so happy to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and be in the greatest fraternity of all time." Smoltz played his first 20 seasons with the Braves, finishing after right shoulder surgery in 2009, starting that season with the Red Sox and ending it with the Cardinals after Boston released him. Smoltz went in wearing the script Atlanta "A" on his plaque. Smoltz missed the entire 2000 season and his career was bifurcated by Tommy John elbow surgery. He won 213 games, 210 of them as a starter, and saved 154 as a closer. The right-hander is the first Hall of Fame pitcher to have had Tommy John surgery. Smoltz admitted the best way to describe his career was "unique," and said that he's received four major phone calls in his life. The first two were from the Tigers, first finding out he was drafted and then later traded to the Braves. The third was from Tommy John, the first pitcher to undergo ligament replacement surgery, encouraging him to continue his career. "That phone call, at the age of 34, meant the world to me," Smoltz said. "Emotionally, I'd given up. I thought no one would wait for a pitcher my age on my contract. That was a pivotal moment in my career." Smoltz also spoke about the rising number of Tommy John surgeries, calling it an epidemic and reminding young players and parents that "baseball is not a year-round sport." The fourth call came in January, when he found out he'd been elected to the Hall of Fame. But the lion's share of the love on what turned out to be a warm and sunny afternoon was for Martinez -- 219-100 in his career, a winning percentage of .687 that ranks sixth all-time and trails only Whitey Ford's .690 among pitchers in the modern era with at least 150 victories.  With the crowd in a melodic frenzy, Pedro actually boogied on the stage beneath the white canopy and in front of 48 returning Hall of Famers as Manfred recited the text off his plaque. He adlibbed the entire speech, beginning it with a tad of Spanish, went into the next portion of it in English and pretty much concluded in Spanish. In a finishing flourish, he called on Marichal, the Giants' great right-hander, to come forward, and the two of them unfurled the Dominican flag. "I thought today, which is Father's Day in the Dominican Republic, I didn't think there would be a better image for the people down there than to see me and Marichal together," Martinez said. "We cleared the way for us to Cooperstown. I don't think I could give a better gift on Father's Day for the people of the Dominican Republic."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 37-63. 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 59-63-0 on this day.

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