Thursday, July 23, 2015

Phillies Walk Off Takes Series From Rays

GAME RECAP: Phillies outlast Rays 5-4

Odubel Herrera's two-out single in the bottom of the 10th gave the Phillies a 5-4 walk-off win over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Domonic Brown singled off Brad Boxberger to start the Phillies' 10th and moved to second on Carlos Ruiz's sacrifice bunt. One out later, Herrera laced a single to left-center on the 11th pitch of the at-bat and Brown raced home with the winning run and a series win. "He did a good job of just battling," Boxberger said. "Left a pitch up there and he hit it." The Phillies scored first when they touched Rays starter Jake Odorizzi for two in the first when Ryan Howard grounded into a bases-loaded double play and Andres Blanco singled home another run. But the Rays battled back to take the lead in the fifth via RBI doubles by Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe and an RBI single by James Loney. The Phillies regained the lead in the sixth when they scored twice via Cody Asche's RBI double and an error by Loney at first. Forsythe then tied the game with his 10th home run of the year, a solo shot off Jake Diekman in the seventh.

  • After garnering criticism Tuesday for not running out a ground ball, Herrera didn't start Wednesday, but he came through when his team needed him. Herrera, pinch-hitting in the 10th inning for Jonathan Papelbon, worked an 11 pitch at-bat from Boxberger, fouling off seven pitches, before lining a sinking drive into left-center field, scoring Brown and securing the Phillies' second straight series win. "I said I felt pretty good," Herrera said with first-base coach Juan Samuel translating. "They let me know ahead of time that I was going to be the third hitter. It gave me enough time to go down to the cage and do some long toss and I was very loose for that at-bat."
  • Papelbon came on for the Phillies to pitch the top of the ninth inning in a 4-4 game, but struggled from the start, walking Forsythe and allowing a single to David DeJesus. He settled down after that, forcing ground balls and letting his infield do the rest. Papelbon got Loney to ground into a 4-3-6-3-4 double play for the first two outs, but the third out came in a flashier manner. Papelbon sawed off Jake Elmore, whose swinging bunt barely made it past the pitcher's mound. Charging on the ball, Blanco made an off-balanced throw that beat Elmore and prevented Forsythe from scoring. "I knew it was a tough play, but I always say, 'If I chase a ball and I catch it, I want to be able to make that out because it will be the sacrifice I made and it will be worth it,'" Blanco said. "I'm happy. I'm proud of it."
  • With the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Freddy Galvis dribbled a ground ball to Loney. Loney decided to tag first for the forceout before throwing home to try to get Asche, who was running from third base. The tactic appeared to have backfired, as Loney's throw came in a little late and Asche seemed to slide in underneath Rivera's tag for the go-ahead run. However, the Rays challenged the call on the field and after a three-minute, 42 second review, the call was overturned and Asche was ruled out at the plate, keeping the game tied. "I thought he was out," Loney said. "I knew the throw had beat him. I was just hoping he didn't get his foot in there. From the replay it is hard to tell."
  • Brandon Guyer led off the third inning for Tampa Bay with a first-pitch blooper down the right-field line. On the field, first-base umpire Gabe Morales ruled the ball foul, but upon further review the ball actually kicked up some chalk, landing in fair territory. The call was overturned and Guyer was granted a single. The review lasted two-minutes and 13 seconds. Phillies starting pitcher Adam Morgan picked Guyer off at second base two batters later.
  • "I saw one angle that looked like it was conclusive, but I guess I was fooled. I'm not second guessing their decision. But Cody, he thought he was safe." -- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, on the overturned call in the eighth inning.
  • Jerome Williams will make his first start in over a month for the Phillies after being activated from the disabled list on Monday night. Williams has underwhelmed in production this year compared to last as he is 3-7 with a 6.43 ERA in 14 starts. Williams was 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts for the Phillies in 2014.
  • Rookie third baseman Maikel Franco was out of the Phillies' lineup Tuesday and Wednesday with elbow soreness. Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin indicated Tuesday that it is likely the rookie will return to the lineup Friday.
  • If the rest of the season is any indication, this likely won't be a series where starters provide many innings. The Phillies and Cubs have combined to pitch 606 innings from the bullpen this year, an average of just under 3 1/3 innings per game. The two teams are second and fifth, respectively, in the NL in bullpen innings.

Already the lowest-scoring offense in the National League by runs scored per game, the Phillies run into a pitcher who isn't just hot, but has a dominant track record against them. They'll face Jon Lester when they visit the Cubs for the first game of a three-game weekend series Friday. Lester (5-8, 3.37 ERA) has an ERA of 1.27 over 28 1/3 July innings spanning four starts, and in two of those he allowed just two hits. In five lifetime starts against the Phillies, Lester is 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA, a .912 WHIP and 31 strikeouts versus just eight walks. The seven Phillies on the active roster who have at least one at-bat against Lester are a combined 10-for-61 with 18 strikeouts. Ryan Howard, Jeff Francoeur and Carlos Ruiz are a combined 3-for-37 with 13 of those strikeouts.


Herrera Comes Through – Odubel Herrera fought off a game's worth of pitches in a single at-bat. The rookie outfielder made his way into the batter's box for the first time in Wednesday's 5-4 Phillies win in the 10th inning, pinch-hitting for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Herrera forced Rays closer Brad Boxberger to throw him 11 pitches -- more than half of what Papelbon threw in two innings -- with Herrera fouling off seven pitches to extend the at-bat. On the 11th pitch, however, Herrera found one he liked and, with Domonic Brown on second base, lined the ball into left-center field for the game-winning single. Herrera said through translator and first-base coach Juan Samuel that he was briefed earlier in the game that he would be the third pinch-hitter used and that he should prepare himself for such an occasion. This gave him time to warm up his bat and his arm down in the cages behind the dugout while the game went on. For Herrera, the walk-off single might've meant more than just his second-career walk-off hit. Tuesday night, Herrera received some criticism for the lack of effort he exhibited on a groundout to first base during which he walked out of the box rather than ran. To Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, Wednesday's hit was redemption. "We had a talk and I let him know that we didn't like what he did," Mackanin said. "Needless to say, that doesn't mean that we're giving up on him or we're down on him. He gives it 100 percent and he works hard. It was almost fitting after we spoke to him that he got the big hit to win the game." The conversation with Mackanin resonated with Herrera, as he said that his outlook has been changed since Tuesday's events. "I learned that I need to hustle at all times and never assume that a ball is going to go foul and play hard on a consistent basis," Herrera said. "That's what I need to do." The RBI single secured the Phillies' fifth win in six games since the All-Star break and their first string of back-to-back series victories since Sept. 1-7 of 2014. With the team energized by both the recent success and the go-ahead hit, players and coaches alike stormed onto the field to chase down and dog pile Herrera in celebration. Herrera laughed when he was asked which player got to him first. Turns out, it was the man for whom he secured a win. "Papelbon," Herrera said. "[He doesn't hit] that hard, but it hurts a little."

Blanco’s Defense Key To Victory – Andres Blanco just wants to be like his friends. Blanco has played in a little more than half of the Phillies' games this season, filling in as a first baseman, a second baseman, a third baseman and a shortstop, but he's barely averaging more than half an at-bat per appearance. So when a day like Wednesday's 5-4, 10-inning win comes around where Blanco sees his name on the lineup card, his main objective is to make his mark on a game the same way his teammates do every day. "Our starter [Adam] Morgan throws a great game," Blanco said. "Then we end it with Jonathan [Papelbon]. Jonathan we know has already pitched every day. And what have I done? I'm not a part of it." Regardless of Blanco's contributions, Morgan would've still started the game and Papelbon would've still ended the game. But Blanco's play at third base with the game on the line in the ninth inning was the difference between a win in extra innings and the possibility of a loss in nine innings. With Papelbon on the mound, Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe on third base and two outs in the ninth inning of a tie game, infielder Jake Elmore squibbed a ball into no-man's land between the mound and where Blanco was at third base. Blanco instinctively charged in on the ball and grabbed the bouncer with his bare hand. With his forward momentum drawing him toward home, Blanco mustered enough strength to fire the ball to Ryan Howard at first base and catch Elmore by a step. Given the rare opportunity to make a play, Blanco said he was just fulfilling his purpose. "I knew it was a tough play, but I always say, 'If I chase a ball and I catch it, I want to be able to make that out because it will be the sacrifice I made and it will be worth it,'" he said. "I'm happy. I'm proud of it." Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, who made the decision to start Blanco for the second straight day to give regular third baseman Maikel Franco some extra days to rest a sore elbow, said he was far from surprised to see Blanco make that play. "He's a natural out there with great fielding actions," Mackanin said. "He's got Major League experience, played at every position, and he works his tail off. These guys really work at it. He's out there taking extra ground balls. It doesn't surprise me at all because he's a real good defender."

Utley Making Progress – Hours before Wednesday's game versus Tampa Bay, Chase Utley trotted onto the field at Citizens Bank Park for some soft toss. Utley, who is on the disabled list retroactive to June 23 with inflammation in his right ankle, resumed baseball activities earlier in the week, saying he's "ramped it up" coming out of the All-Star break and feels that he is making progress toward a return. He went on to confirm that he will opt to go on a rehab assignment rather than return straight to the Phillies when he has a clean bill of health. He was unsure both of when the rehab assignment will be and how long it will be, estimating he could be in the Minors for between two and 10 games. As a result of the recovery process, Utley said he feels he has regained some of the power he was lacking before the injury when he was batting .179 with a slugging percentage of just .275. "I do feel a little bit better," he said. "I have a little bit more motion in my ankle that I was lacking before. But it's still going to take a little bit of time to have the muscle memory remember the right way to do it." With the swelling "pretty much out" of the ankle, Utley said he is going to continue to take soft toss and field ground balls with the team on the road trip in Chicago before making a decision as to when he will come back. "I think continue to do this and feeling more comfortable taking ground balls, hitting, just try to make progressions on all of that," Utley said. "And once we feel it's time to go on a rehab assignment, we will do so."

Utley Still Has Heart And Hustle – Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been named the team's 2015 Heart and Hustle Award winner. Given by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, the award honors active players who demonstrate a "passion for the game of baseball and best [embody] the values, spirit and tradition of the game." The MLBPAA said the award is the only one voted on by former players. "We are proud to present this award to Chase for the sixth time," MLBPAA director of communications Nikki Warner said in a statement. "He embodies all the qualities the Heart and Hustle Award represents and is an inspiring role model to young players." Every team has one Heart and Hustle winner, who becomes eligible for the MLB Heart and Hustle Award, selected via a vote by fans, alumni and active players. Previous winners include former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay (2010).

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 34-63. 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 45-52-1 on this day.

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