Monday, July 20, 2015

Phillies Complete Sweep Despite Hamels’ Struggles

GAME RECAP: Phillies Sweep Marlins 8-7

Jeff Francoeur has enjoyed a pretty nice renaissance with the Phillies this season. Francoeur hit a game-winning, two-run home run off Marlins closer A.J. Ramos in the bottom of the ninth inning in Sunday's 8-7 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. It was the third walk-off homer of Francoeur's career, and his first since 2008. It also gave the Phillies their first series sweep since May 15-17 against Arizona. "We probably have the best record in baseball in the second half," Francoeur said with a smile. The homer wasted an RBI single from Ichiro Suzuki in a two-run eighth inning against Ken Giles, which handed the Marlins a short-lived one-run lead. "A.J. walking the leadoff guy, that's tough," Miami manager Dan Jennings said. "But he's done such a great job. He just centered a ball and Francoeur got it. I'm very proud of this team with the way they played today."

  • The Phillies hope to trade Cole Hamels before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he is not helping himself. He allowed eight hits and five runs in three innings, which follows a July 10 start in San Francisco, where he allowed nine runs in just 3 1/3 innings at AT&T Park. That is a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts. "I think my track record speaks for itself," Hamels said. "But sometimes you can get yourself in a rut and you've got to get yourself out, and sometimes you get on a hot streak and you can go for months, so it's just being able to start back over and see what I can do from the first pitch."
  • Francoeur signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies in November, but he has played well since making the Opening Day roster. He had a pinch-hit, three-run homer in Friday's victory over Miami -- the first pinch-hit homer of his career -- before homering Sunday. He has emerged as a potential trade chip before the Trade Deadline. "I've been traded at the deadline before and I haven't," Francoeur said. "You just have to go out there and play. I let them know that I really like it here, but I know it's a business, and at the same time, if it happens, it happens. I'm going to enjoy today and this weekend."
  • The Phillies challenged a play in the ninth inning. It appeared Galvis threw out Adeiny Hechavarria at first base, but first-base umpire John Hirschbeck ruled him safe. It took 53 seconds for the replay official to overturn the call and rule Hechavarria out.
  • "It looks as if that has an effect on it, but the way I look at it, is this guy was the World Series MVP in 2008. He's pitched in two World Series. He's been an outstanding, quality starter for many years. I'd like to believe that hasn't affected him. It might have a little bit, but that's no excuse. I just think he's in a little bit of a rut." -- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, on the constant trade speculation affecting Hamels' performance recently.
  • Howard hit the 350th home run of his career when he crushed a 2-0 fastball from Haren into the second deck in right field in the second inning.
The Phillies open a three-game Inter-league series Monday night with David Buchanan facing the Rays at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 ET. The Phillies are 7-14 against the Rays in Inter-league Play, although that does not include the 2008 World Series, when the Phillies took four of five in the best-of-seven series.


Hamels Struggles Amid Trade Talks – If Cole Hamels made his final start for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, it will be a forgettable conclusion to a memorable career. Hamels allowed five runs on eight hits and struck out one in just three innings in an 8-7 victory over the Marlins, which gave the Phillies their first series sweep since May. Hamels' poor effort Sunday followed his July 10 start at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where he allowed a career-high nine runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants. "What I've done in the last week and a half hasn't been up to my standards or the expectations of many," Hamels said afterward. Hamels has one more start officially scheduled before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he might need to pitch well Saturday afternoon against the Cubs at Wrigley Field to ease the minds of teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers, who have expressed interest in him. That is not to say teams will forget about Hamels' lengthy and successful career -- he has the eighth-best ERA out of 101 qualified pitchers from 2010-15 -- but it might be difficult to trade a top prospect or two for a pitcher with a 19.89 ERA in his last two starts. "I think my track record speaks for itself," Hamels said. "But sometimes you can get yourself in a rut and you've got to get yourself out, and sometimes you get on a hot streak and you can go for months, so it's just being able to start back over and see what I can do from the first pitch." Hamels, who said falling behind in the count has hurt him these last two starts, has allowed five or more runs in six of 19 starts this season. He has not had more than seven of those starts in any other season in his career. His pronounced struggles recently and his season-long inconsistencies have raised a few questions about him. Is he healthy? "Yeah, I am," he said. Is he distracted by the incessant trade talk? "It can become an exciting time or difficult times for others," Hamels said. "It is what it is. I know that being able to play the game of baseball and being able to pitch for this city or for any city, I'm fortunate to be able to do so and I want to do it for as long as I possibly can and help whatever team. Just to be able to go out there and help win a ballgame, I think that's what I focus on. That's the only thing I can control. There's a lot of scenarios and situations that you look to, and I don't have that type of control." So Hamels seems confident he will bounce back Saturday. The Phillies hope he will. They would like to trade him to help their rebuilding efforts. "You're never really safe until the game's over, I guess. Until you're retired," Hamels said. "It's a business and I'm just happy enough I get to play in it."

Howard Hits #350 – Ryan Howard hit his 350th career home run in the second inning of the Phillies' 8-7 win over the Marlins on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies slugger crushed a 2-0 fastball from Marlins right-hander Dan Haren into the second deck in right field, sparking a five-run inning. It was Howard's 16th homer of the season.

Frenchie Earning More Playing Time – The Phillies' lineup for Monday's game against the Rays hasn't been announced yet. But Jeff Francoeur has already been assured that he'll be in it. "I think I'm going to play him tomorrow," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's earned the right to play tomorrow. And he's been bugging me about playing." Mackanin went on to say that he listens to what his players have to say and tries his hardest to satisfy their requests, but it wasn't so much Francoeur's pleas as his play that ensured him a start Monday. In Sunday's 8-7 win over the Marlins, Francoeur supplied the theatrics, going 2-for-2, twice scoring the go-ahead run, including one on a two-run, walk-off home run. Francoeur said he knew from the second the ball left his bat that he had ended the game. And it showed. The outfielder barely made it out of the batter's box before he thrust his arms in the air and flashed a smile all the way around the bases. The home run was Francoeur's eighth of the season, his second in three days, and his first walk-off since May 24, 2008. According to Francoeur, this recent hot streak is just a product of his circumstances. "That's the one great thing about the National League: You get opportunities," Francoeur said. "It's nice being a bench player in the National League, because you know you're going to get some opportunities like that." Sunday was the 29th time Francoeur had entered the game off the bench for the Phillies out of 70 total appearances. He double-switched into the game in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement in left field, taking over the pitcher's spot in the lineup. He proceeded to lead off the home half of the seventh inning with a single and came around to score two batters later, giving the Phillies a 6-5 lead. In the 26 games he's played since early June, Francoeur has scored eight runs, driven in 17 and is batting .279. On the season as a whole, Francoeur has 47 hits, just five shy of the 52 he notched in 2013 and '14 combined. In his opinion, this boost in production can be traced back to the time he spent in the Minor Leagues last season. "One of the best things that happened to me was going back to Triple-A last year and playing every day and working my butt off," Francoeur said. "You have to play well and work hard to be up here. You don't just deserve it and you don't just earn it. To work like I did and come to Spring Training, it feels good to have earned to be back here." But on a smaller scale, Francoeur was just happy he did enough to help his team complete a sweep coming out of the All-Star break. "We've probably got the best record in baseball in the second half," he quipped. "It feels good."

Sleep Tight – Aaron Nola doesn't think he's going to have any trouble falling asleep tonight. "[It's] just a regular night," Nola said. "I feel like I'll sleep pretty good." That being said, Monday night might be the last regular night Nola has for a few months. As of now, the 22-year-old right-hander is the No. 2 prospect in the Phillies' organization and No. 28 in all of baseball. But when he wakes up Tuesday morning, he won't be a prospect; he'll be just hours away from making his Major League and Citizens Bank Park debut when the Phillies host the Rays. Nola arrived in Philadelphia on Monday a few days after the Phillies announced he is scheduled to start Tuesday's game. He said his callup caught him by surprise, given that he struggled through his final start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but now his focus is on silencing the expectations and starting his MLB career as best as he can. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the plan to bring Nola up didn't deviate much from what he and the rest of the front office expected when they drafted Nola with the seventh pick of the first round in the 2014 Draft 13 months ago. The prime factor to Nola's development was how he was able to adjust to throwing every fifth day, which Amaro said he has done well. Despite this, Amaro said he is cognizant that Nola's arm isn't used to throwing 200 innings a year and will adjust his innings limit according to what he feels the youngster is capable of. "We'll kind of monitor his progress as far as innings, etc.," Amaro said. "He had about 172 of them last year between college and official innings, so we'll probably not go too far beyond that. I guess we'll have to play some of it by ear, but we probably won't go too far beyond that this year." Nola said that he hasn't discussed an innings cap with anyone in the organization and plans to throw as many innings as he is allowed. Given interim manager Pete Mackanin's emphasis on starting pitchers lasting deeper into games than five innings, Nola's reputation as an innings-eating control pitcher fits well into Mackanin's plans for 2015. However, Mackanin's plans for Nola in 2015 pale in importance to what the expectations are for the rookie moving forward. Nola said he fancies himself adept at "blocking out" fan and media hype, but regardless of this, how he fares in limited work in 2015 will likely shape how he is perceived for some time. With that in mind, Nola said the best way to take advantage of the rest of 2015 is to learn how to compose himself on and off the field from the veterans in the clubhouse. "I watched them on TV before," Nola said. "I want to see them on the field, how they actually handle themselves and how they go about success and failure. I think that's pretty cool to actually be on the same field as them now and get to learn from them."

Phanatic Victorious – You're familiar with everyone's favorite Christmas ballet (favorite by default -- there aren't a lot of Christmas ballets): Aided by a little girl named Clara, a Nutcracker Soldier defeats the Mouse King and everyone gets to hang out with the Sugar Plum Fairy. But did you know there's an alternate version that takes closer to two minutes than two acts? The Phillies shared their staging of the classic ballet during Sunday's Christmas in July celebration, starring everyone's favorite premier danseur. 

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 32-62. 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 53-55-0 on this day.

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